The elusive black box finally found

Umer Nangiana July 31, 2010

ISLAMABAD: After days of controversy, investigators on Sunday found the black box (flight data recorder) and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) from the wreckage of the Airblue passenger jet that crashed into the Margalla Hills earlier this week. The discovery has raised hopes for a breakthrough in investigations into the July 28 crash that killed 152 people on board.

A seven-member investigation team of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), accompanied by a five-member French team, supervised the search for the black box at the crash site.

The black box was found from the bulkhead of the crashed plane.  French experts had suggested that the black box of the doomed Airbus A321 was located in the bulkhead. “On Friday the investigation team identified the bulkhead, most of which was buried under the wreckage” said CAA Director-General Junaid Amin. “On Saturday the team, aided by rescuers, dug out the bulkhead and found the black box,” he added.

The 40-member team, comprising rescuers and policemen  led by DIG Bani Amin dug the area identified by CAA officials. Interestingly, CAA officials could not identify the black box once it was recovered from the wreckage.

“They did not know that it was the black box. The French experts identified it,” said a police official who participated in the digging work. “Had there been no French experts, our aviation officials would have not been able to identify the black box,” he added.

The black box, also called Flight Data Recorder (FDR), captures all technical details, including altitude and speed variations of the aircraft during flight. The data captured in the box will reveal if the aircraft had developed any technical fault before it crashed. The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the plane, which records conversation between a captain and his co-pilots, was also recovered from the site.

The CAA officials said the two devices would be sent to France for interpretation of data since Pakistan does not have the facility to decode the black box.

“The Black Box and the CVR will be sent to France within three to four days. A team of CAA officials will also go to France for decoding the data,” said the CAA chief. He said the process of decoding and interpretation of the data might take more than two months.

“We must not proceed in haste and must not compromise any aspect of investigation in the process. It will take time but we will ensure accuracy,” Junaid Amin told The Express Tribune.

Sceptics fear that in an attempt to cover up the findings, investigators are deliberately avoiding to give a timeframe for the completion of investigation. “If the links do not break we will be able to complete investigations quickly. However, if the links break, we will have to start from the beginning which will take time,” the CAA chief said. He said the French experts would assist in collecting more evidence from the site before returning with the black box.

Earlier rescuers recovered more body parts from the site and shifted them to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for autopsy. Over 102 coffins have been handed over to the relatives of the victims. And more than 80 coffins are still lying in the mortuary.

Meanwhile, relatives of the deceased passengers continued to give their DNA samples at the collection centre. They were informed by Pims officials that the results of their DNA tests would be conveyed to them by phone within seven days.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2010.

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Meekal Ahmed | 10 years ago | Reply | Recommend There was hardly any "controversy". They were bound to find the black box sooner or later since this wasn't a crash into the Atlantic or some other inhospitable terrain. Rescuers are unlikely to recognize the black box but I am sure there were experts up there too. I don't really believe that it was only the French who knew it was located in the tail. It is always there because the tail usually survives intact.
Shahzad | 10 years ago | Reply | Recommend What a shame, our own investigators, most of them retired air force or military aviation, failed to, in the first instance recover the Black Box and CVR, and than when it was found with help of French Airbus team investigators, could not identify it. This explains the cause for the catastrophe that has rendered CAA, PIA etc in shambles. Political appointments of incompetent and corrupt men have rendered our civil aviation sector unreliable. Instead of a highly regulated industry, which it is internationally, it has become hostage to pressure groups and its focus is more on generating revenues than on regulation. Within two days of this incident a PIA flight PK 302 had a miraculous escape, just because nature was very kind. It should ring a lot of RED Alarm Bells, but nothing seems to have changed. What is the role of CAA and its ATC or Radar Controllers. If the airline operators are cutting corners, CAA should be raising hell and crying murder. What purpose will this investigation conducted by the blind serve, other than a foreign junket, or domestic travel with allowances. CAA has the resources to hire the best on its payrolls, who have no links with any airline, so that it can regulate with some credibility. 152 people have lost their lives. Blood is on the hands of all those responsible for coverups, compromises and appointments not made on merit. There should be no union in CAA, except for unskilled labor class. There was time when PIA was amongst the best airlines in the region. Look at what has happened to it. What PIA and CAA needs are men of integrity, who can withstand pressures, and not those engulfed by endless controversies. It is CAA's role to investigate and regulate the Maintenance Repair Overhaul contracts signed by airlines like PIA, Air Blue , Shaheen etc. If they fail to comply, their AOCs can be suspended. Who does not know the involvement of individuals in the MRO contracts. Some of these foreign based MRO companies are partly owned by senior executives of these airlines, including PIA. Human lives are at stake. Can sombody compensate the loss of the two old grandparents, who lost three innocent grandchildren and their son and daughter in law. These are human tragedies of immense proportion and cannot be ignored, just because of politics, bribes and cronyism. Airlines regulated by regulatory bodies are not required to have direct personal contacts with the regulatory body, so that there is impartial regulation. Here an MD is instrumental in getting a man of his choice appointed as head of CAA. This is criminal negligence and all those responsible guilty of culpable homicide for the muder by neglect of 152 persons who died on Margalla Hills.
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