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Sriwijaya Air crash: Cockpit recorder casing found, US joins probe

written by Hannah Dowling | January 18, 2021
Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-200 (Wikicommons)

Divers in Indonesia have reportedly found the casing of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 that crashed into the Java Sea last week.

However, authorities are still searching for the device’s memory unit, according to an Indonesian Navy officer, which is hoped to contain vital information on the cause of the crash, and the actions of the aircrew in the minutes prior.

“We’ve found the [CVR] body or casing, we’ve found the beacon and now we’re looking for the memory,” naval officer Abdul Rasyid told reporters.

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Authorities are expecting that the rest of the CVR, including its critical memory unit, will be located within the next coming days, in light of the casing’s discovery.

Flight SJ 183 crashed into the Java Sea just minutes after take-off from Jakarta on Saturday, 9 January 2021, killing all 62 passengers and crew on board.

Last week, divers recovered the 26-year-old plane’s flight data recorder (FDR), which investigators hope will help determine the likely cause of the crash, however authorities are also actively seeking out the voice recordings of the crew in the cockpit, stored in the CVR.

Indonesia’s aviation investigation bureau, the National Transportation Safety Committee (known locally as KNKT), has already successfully downloaded information from the FDR.

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The flight recorder contained 330 parameters, which refers to the amount of data recorded from various systems in the aircraft, including the flight path, speed, engine power and flaps configurations.

All 330 parameters are in “good condition” according to the KNKT.

The Indonesian investigators were able to confirm that both the aircraft’s engines were still in operation when the plane hit the water, as it had earlier hypothesised based on the wreckage found.

The plane had been out of service for nine months in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both the airline and Indonesian officials have said the plane was inspected prior to its return to service in December, including checks for possible engine erosion – an outcome previously flagged by Boeing and the FAA as possible when 737s are parked for over seven days.

The KNKT said it plans to issue its preliminary report on the crash within 30 days of the incident, in line with international standards.

The search operation, which was initially planned to only be performed for one week, has now been extended by three more days, in attempt to find more victims and recover parts of the aircraft.

Meanwhile, a team from the US National Transportation Safety Board has joined Indonesian investigators in Jakarta to assist in investigations.

Joining them are representatives from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), planemaker Boeing, and engine supplier General Electric.

The US officials were also joined by personnel from Singapore’s Transportation Safety Investigation Bureau.

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