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.