Salvage operation begins to retrieve black boxes from Adam Air Flight 574

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

A salvage ship owned and operated by the United States firm Phoenix International has arrived in the Makassar port on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. It intends to recover the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder (collectively referred to as "black boxes") from the wreckage of Adam Air Flight 574, which crashed into the ocean nearby early on new year's day, killing all 102 on board.

Adam Air spokesman Danke Drajat told reporters that the company would first survey the area, and that "If their studies show it is possible to do so, they will immediately try to retrieve the black boxes," adding, "it is our moral commitment to have the black box retrieved." He also said the survey alone would take several days.

A US navy vessel, the Mary Sears, sent to the scene of the plane's disappearance had located the black boxes within weeks of the disaster, along with the rest of the wreckage, but recovery was significantly delayed because of a dispute over who would foot the bill for their recovery. With the recorders at a depth of approximately 1,700 meters (1 mile), salvage operations could cost as much as US$6 million (4.45 million).

Experts have predicted that the recovery could be further complicated by strong currents in the area, which may have buried the recorders in sediment or else dislodged them from their original location.

According to one crew member, the recovery vessel - the Eas - has a 16-member crew and carries a mini submarine, which can reach depths of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet), as well as being equipped with sonar and deep sea cameras.

The crash is one of three this year, which in combination have caused all Indonesian airlines to be added to the list of air carriers banned in the EU. The other two are Adam Air Flight 172 and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200.

The cause of the Boeing 737s loss currently remains a mystery. It is known that while cruising at 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) the aircraft encountered a storm immediately before its disappearance, and, based on the distribution of wreckage on the seabed, it is also known that the aircraft did not experience an in-flight breakup.

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