Jakarta/Singapore, Jan 1: Doomed AirAsia jet's black box which is crucial to solve the mystery surrounding the crash may take a week to be found, an Indonesian official said today, as searchers raced against time and weather to recover bodies and plane wreckage in the Java Sea.
Indonesian Transportation Safety Committee member Antonius Toos Sanitioso said finding the wreckage of the Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people would not be easy if the bad weather off Pangkalan Bun persists.
"It may take about a week to retrieve the flight recorder and that is if the sea was calm and there are no disruptions such as noise or other obstacles," Toos said.
The aircraft would also have to be discovered first before the flight recorder can be retrieved, he said, suggesting there was still doubt over the plane's exact location in the sea.
Clear skies in the morning over the Java sea increased hopes of searchers to locate the wreckage of the Singapore- bound AirAsia Flight QZ8501 that went missing on Sunday after taking off from Surabaya, Indonesia. But within a few hours, the weather worsened again.
S B Supriyadi, another search and rescue official, said the weather worsened in the afternoon, with heavy rain grounding helicopters, but ships were continuing operations. Sunarbowo Sandi, search and rescue coordinator in Pangkalan Bun, said he is hopeful divers would be able to explore the wreckage site. "It's possible the bodies are in the fuselage.
So it's a race now against time and weather," Sandi said. "I am hoping that the latest information is correct and aircraft has been found," airline boss Tony Fernandes tweeted. "Please all hope together. This is so important."
The search area for the wreckage has been doubled to 13,500 square nautical miles, Malaysia's Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar said in a tweet. Frantic efforts are on to locate the plane's fuselage with Singapore's navy deploying an unmanned underwater vehicle capable of surveying the seabed to try to help pinpoint the wreckage and the black box while Indonesia is using a minesweeper and a private survey ship for the purpose.
Aircraft capable of detecting metal has also been deployed. "We are focusing on finding the body of the plane," Indonesia air force spokesman Rear Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters. "There was something like a dark shadow once seen from a plane, but it cannot yet be proven as wreckage," he said.