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Found: Lion Air flight JT610's black box

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JAKARTA: Indonesian divers have retrieved a black box from crashed Lion Air flight JT610 and brought it back to a ship on the surface, an Indonesian official said on Thursday (Nov 1).

"We found one of the black boxes," Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, told AFP.

"We don't know yet whether it's the FDR (flight data recorder) or CVR (cockpit voice recorder)."

The black box could provide clues to what happened after the Boeing 737 MAX jet lost contact with ground staff just 13 minutes after taking off early on Monday from Jakarta, on its way to the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang.

There were 181 passengers and eight crew members on board. No one survived.

The box was recovered at around 10.15am in waters off Tanjung Karawang, West Java, Kompas TV reported. TV stations showed images of the device as it was transferred from an inflatable vessel to a ship in a large white container.

A diver identified as Hendra told broadcaster Metro TV that "we dug and we got the black box" from among debris in the mud on the sea floor.

It was orange in colour and intact, he said, without saying whether it was the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder, which are both usually referred to as black boxes.

Only "small pieces" of the aircraft had been found, the diver said, adding that the search had gradually closed in on the black box.

Despite their name, the two black boxes are in fact bright orange with reflective stripes, and all commercial planes are required to have them on board.

The flight data recorder gathers information about the speed, altitude and direction of the plane with enough storage for 25 hours of data, while the cockpit voice recorder keeps track of conversations and other sounds in the pilots' cabin.

The treasure trove of information in black boxes helps explain nearly 90 per cent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

Each box weighs 7kg to 10kg and can survive as deep as 6,000m underwater, or an hour at 1,100 degrees Celsius. To make them easier to find, they are fitted with a beacon which can emit a signal for one month.

"Data from the plane - the engine, all the instruments - are recorded there," said aviation analyst Dudi Sudibyo told AFP.

"If there is an anomaly, some technical problem, it is recorded there too."

Officials have said it could take up to three weeks to download their data and up to six months to analyse it.

As part of the search operation, Indonesian authorities deployed divers, search and rescue vessels, four sonar detectors and an underwater acoustic beacon.

A "ping" sound believed to be emitted by one of the black boxes had been getting clearer, Haryo Satmiko, deputy chief of the national transport safety panel, told Reuters earlier on Thursday.

An underwater drone had detected an object suspected to be part of the fuselage, he added.

A team of divers had gone down since 5am to map the area where the black box is thought to be, Haryo said, describing sea conditions as normal.

Strong currents on Tuesday hampered the search, with the effort further complicated by the presence of energy pipelines nearby.

However, officials had said they were confident they were searching in the right area, having found items, such as life jackets, trousers and magazines, thought to be from the plane.

If found, the fuselage would be lifted using a crane, because of the many bodies likely to be trapped inside, Muhammad Syaugi, the chief of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said on Tuesday.

Flight JT610 sped up as it suddenly lost altitude in the minutes before it disappeared, according to flight data tracking websites, with authorities saying witnesses saw the jet plunge into the water.

Indonesian officials named the captain of the flight as Bhavye Suneja, an Indian national who had been with the airline for seven years, local media reports said.

According to Lion Air, Suneja and his co-pilot, Harvino, had 11,000 hours of flying between them and had undergone medical checkups and drug testing recently
 

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