Investigators hunt black box from jet crash

Afp May 24, 2010

MANGLAORE: Investigators on Monday widened the search for the “black box” data recorder of an Air India Express that crashed into a gorge killing 158 people, as the airline denied lax safety claims.

Indian authorities said the cockpit voice recorder from the Boeing 737-800 was found late Sunday but the hunt was still on for the “black box” that records all flight data and could hold the answer to the disaster. “We still have not recovered the digital flight data recorder and now we are holding meetings with the administration to further expand the combing operation,” Director General of Civil Aviation SNA Zaidi told AFP.

Only eight people among the 166 passengers and crew on the flight from Dubai to the southwest port city of Mangalore survived the crash on Saturday morning, after the plane veered off the runway and burst into flames. The airline rejected Indian media reports alleging that its operations did not match international norms. “We wish to reiterate here that Air India Express meets all regulatory requirements and has been always well equipped to handle the operations and maintenance of its fleet to established standards,” it said in a statement. Pilots and engineers were fully trained and qualified, while regulators had audited every aspect of its work, the airline said.

Mangalore police commissioner Semant Kumar Singh told reporters that 22 bodies had yet to be identified – prolonging the agony for grieving families waiting to claim their loved ones. He said DNA samples had been sent to Hyderabad for tests to determine their identities by matching samples taken from relatives. Specialists from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said they had inspected the airport’s runway and are studying tapes of air traffic control contact with the plane in its final moments.

The DGCA said the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) had been affected by fire but “is expected to yield the desired information”. The digital flight data acquisition unit, which is similar to the “black box” digital flight data recorder but stores information over a shorter period of time, has also been recovered, it added.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.