Sriwijaya Crash: Voice Recorder Found on Final Day of Search

Indonesia has retrieved the cockpit voice recorder of the Sriwijaya Air passenger jet that crashed in the Java Sea on Jan. 9, potentially leading to crucial information on what caused the disaster.

The device was recovered at around 8 p.m. Tuesday and has been handed to the National Transportation Safety Committee for examination, Indonesia’s Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said at a briefing Wednesday.

Sriwijaya Crash: Voice Recorder Found on Final Day of Search

Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crashed minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 62 aboard. Investigators haven’t said what caused the Boeing Co. 737-500 to plunge from almost 11,000 feet (3,354 meters) into the sea.

The flight-data recorder was recovered in the days after the crash, but the memory unit that stores recordings of pilot communications and sounds in the cockpit -- a key piece in the puzzle of finding out what happened in the flight’s final moments -- was more elusive.

Tuesday evening was due to be the final night of the search, according to NTSC Chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono.

“We finally found it,” he said Wednesday.​

Sriwijaya Crash: Voice Recorder Found on Final Day of Search

Divers were used in search and recovery efforts for the first one-and-a-half months after the crash, and then on March 25 a dredger was deployed to scour the murky seabed. The vessel is equipped with a suction system that can go 1-meter-deep into mud.

“Tonight we will dry it to avoid damage, the drying process will take about eight hours or more,” Nurcahyo Utomo, the NTSC’s lead investigator, said of the recorder at a separate briefing Wednesday evening. “Tomorrow morning, we will continue with the process of cleaning the salt as it has been under the sea for quite a long time. Only then will the data be retrieved.”

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A preliminary report from the NTSC on Feb. 10 said the left engine began reducing power less than three minutes into the flight while the right engine’s setting stayed the same. It said there were indications the pilots couldn’t maintain their assigned heading, while also attempting to avoid a storm.

The search was hampered by bad weather initially, and the fact that the aircraft hit the sea so hard that it was obliterated. Divers retrieved the battered casing of the cockpit voice recorder a week after the crash, but the crucial memory chip containing its data wasn’t there.

Ony Soerjo Wibowo, who led the team searching for the cockpit voice recorder, said Wednesday that parts of the so-called crash survivable memory unit were scratched.

“We have special technology and unique technique to process the CSMU,” he said. “We’ll put it in a special oven and will gradually raise the temperature every eight hours. We will also clean and analyze it using a microscope.”

The NTSC will carry out the data-recovery efforts, while officials from other regulatory bodies, including the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, will be present and acting as observers, Wibowo said.

Boeing issued a safety bulletin last month following the NTSC’s preliminary report, reminding pilots of the steps needed to ensure they maintain control of an aircraft. It didn’t specifically address the Sriwijaya Air flight.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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