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Investigators Find One Black Box In Indonesia 737 Crash

Early clues point to a conventional, if still tragic, probe.

A Sriwijaya Airlines 737-800, similar to the plane that crashed on Saturday.
A Sriwijaya Airlines 737-800, similar to the plane that crashed on Saturday.
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Divers have discovered one of the two so-called black boxes on the Sriwijaya Air 737 operating as Flight 182, which crashed shortly after takeoff from Jarkata, Indonesia, killing all 62 aboard. While searchers are still hopeful of finding the second recorder, and are optimistic that they will, the one they did find was arguably the more telling of the two. Additionally, other evidence speaks to the likelihood that the accident will be both explicable, though surprises might still arise.

One factor that has helped the search enormously was that the plane crashed into just 75 feet of water, so divers could fairly easily search the wreckage. And the recorder that divers soon recovered was the Flight Data Recorder (FDR), which on the 25-year-old Boeing that crashed, still recorded hundreds of parameters of flight data, everything from flight instrument readings to systems health to pilot inputs, along with flight control configuration and movement. While investigators have not yet begun to analyze the data on the FDR, its integrity, authorities reported, was good, and the reliability of such recorders, when they can be found, is high.

The other recorder, which divers have not yet recovered, is the voice data one, which records sounds on the flight deck, chiefly the pilots’ voices, but also the sounds of chimes and alerts, among other things. Given the short duration of the flight, the pilots might not yet have been able to troubleshoot whatever malfunctions the plane was experiencing, if indeed there were some kind of mechanical problem. Such mechanical failures are often recorded on the FDR, allowing investigators to pinpoint an issue.

Down the line, such discoveries can also be used to pass maintenance orders intended to help prevent similar future accidents.

Another big clue that investigators got right off the bat is that the aircraft’s wreckage is confined to a small area, meaning that it did not come apart in the air, as would be the case if the plane had been brought down by a bomb.

We’ll update the story as more information emerges.

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