'Black boxes' pulled from Air India plane wreckage

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Depsite the nickname, black boxes are usually painted orange to aid in their recovery after a crash.
Image: Olli-Jukka Paloneva.

The black boxes from an Air India flight that crashed into a valley of near the southern Indian city of Mangalore Saturday, killing 158 of the 166 onboard, have been found by investigators. The flight data recorder was recovered late yesterday and the cockpit voice recorder was located today.

Air India Express Boeing 737 at Mangalore Airport

At the end of Sunday, 146 of the 158 bodies have been identified, and all have been recovered.

According to reports, the plane touched down at Mangalore's Bajpe airport, overshooting the touchdown point by several thousand feet; one tire did not hit the runway at all. Sudden braking occured, the airliner's wings hit a neighboring cliff, and the plane careened into a heavily forested ravine where it burst into flames. "The plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke," said survivor Umer Farooq, "I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out." "I didn't think of anything at the time. All I knew was that I had to get out and get far away from the plane. The fire was spreading fast. Behind me I could feel other people jumping out but I didn't turn back to look," said survivor Koolikkunnu Krishnan.

The black boxes record communication data, technical information such as speed, altitude, etc., as well as conversation in the airplane cockpit, which could help investigators determine why the jet crashed. "The black box has been recovered from the crash site. It is vital in finding information about key details like the last moments of the flight and whether there was any error from the pilot's side. The box will be brought to the accident lab of the Director General of Civil Aviation in the national capital where it will be opened and to find out what exactly went wrong," reported investigators. They did not clarify which box they were refering to, but both have been recovered.

The Air India Express Boeing 737-800, which had departed from Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, was bound for Mangalore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The Bajpe airport has a "tabletop" runway which means it is set atop a hill surrounded by a deep gorge. The airport, which was constructed in 2006, has seen over 32,000 successful landings since opening. After visiting the eight survivors, Arvind Jadhav, chairman of Air India said, "My heart goes out to those who died and who lost friends and relatives."


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