Dec. 30, 2014: Debris and bodies have been found and confirmed coming from AirAsia Flight QZ8501, bringing closure for the families and friends of the flight that disappeared on Sunday local time.
Reports of shadows that could be a wing or fuselage in water about 30 meters deep have also been seen.
Some debris and bodies have already been recovered.
If the main body of the wreckage has also been spotted, recovery of the all-important flight data and cockpit voice recorders could come rather quickly.
Recovery of bodies will enable autopsies to be performed and could provide some of the quickest clues about the final moments of the flight. If death was due to blunt force trauma, this could suggest passengers were alive upon impact with the water. If death came from other circumstances, this could suggest an explosive decompression and in-flight break up occurred.
Forensic analysis of the debris recovered floating on the surface may or may not provide enough indication of the condition of the airplane during the final moments. Recovery of the main wreckage will provide more definitive clues. But the black boxes will be the key to what happened and how. The flight data recorder will provide thousands of data points that will give the altitude, engine operating status, flight control status, flight parameters, etc., that will paint a picture of what happened.
The cockpit voice recorder will provide audible evidence of what was going on in the cockpit and even the passenger cabin, as well as any sounds of the airplane breaking up. The data from the FDR and CVR assumes these vital pieces of equipment were working properly right up to the point of destruction of the airplane.
While the fundamentals of the accident will be learned fairly quickly once wreckage and the recorders are recovered and analyzed, a final determination of the probable cause of the accident typically takes 12-18 months. Information from the airline’s dispatch office, weather forecasts and background checks on the pilots will be analyzed. As a matter of routine mechanical issues and potential sabotage will also be considered.
Initial information may result in procedural changes that could help avoid future accidents. Also likely to be considered is whether to finally mandate real-time flight tracking, which would have enabled quicker location of the crash site.
AirAsia was in the process of equipping its fleet with tracking devices that would transmit a flight’s position every two minutes when Flight 8501 disappeared Sunday local time, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. AirAsia began the voluntary upgrade after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared nine months ago. It still has not been found.
The airplane in question had not been upgraded, the newspaper reported.
We urged Monday that real-time tracking be implement, and several other media chimed in as well. Mary Kirby’s Runway Girl Network has been advocating this and has this report.