Searchers who had been hunting for weeks for a missing memory component of the Boeing 737-500 operating as Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 that crashed in the Java Sea on January 9, 2021, shortly after taking off in heavy rain from Jakarta. Investigators found the plane’s Flight Data Recorder (FDR) shortly after the crash, and they did manage to locate the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) unit. But in a most unusual development, they found that the orange-colored “black box” was broken and missing the data recording medium that presumably has the voice recording on it.
These units are designed to be beyond robust, having the ability to survive crashes that are unsurvivable to humans aboard the planes in which the devices are mounted. In this case, for whatever reason, the CVR’s case was breached and the memory unit was lost.
But why, if they had the FDR and all of its remarkably detailed data about every imaginable physical aspect of the flight, would they so desperately need the voice evidence, too?
In this case, investigators know how the plane crashed—it apparently lost power in one of its two wing-mounted engines and rolled out of control into the sea. But asymmetrical thrust by itself isn’t a catastrophic mechanical failure. Pilots train for this all the time. Perhaps, investigators posit, the pilots would have expressed aloud what they were struggling against when the failure occurred.
Investigators are trying to get the voice data off of the recovered hardware and will presumably share their findings if they succeed. We’ll update this story as new details emerge.