Ship arrives in Indonesia to seek plane's black box

JAKARTA Thu Aug 23, 2007 11:55am BST

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - A U.S.-operated salvage ship has arrived at the coastal area where an Indonesian plane crashed with 102 passengers on board, and will try to recover the aircraft's black box, an airline official said on Thursday.

The Boeing 737-400, operated by budget carrier Adam Air, went down on New Year's day in the sea off south Sulawesi in one of the country's worst air disasters.

No survivors were found, and while wreckage from the plane showed up weeks after the crash, the black box has never been retrieved, making it difficult to determine the cause of the disaster.

A U.S. navy ship with specialised equipment detected signals in January which were thought to be from the plane's flight recorder, when the ship was part of the search for the missing plane.

Adam Air spokesman Danke Sudrajat said that crew from the salvage ship, operated by Phoenix International, would first survey the area where the plane crashed off Sulawesi island.

"It is our moral commitment to have the black box retrieved," Sudrajat said, adding that the survey would take several days.

Efforts to recover the black box, which refers to the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, were delayed due to disagreements between the government and Adam Air over who should bear the cost.

Experts said in January that retrieving the flight recorder, set up to give off a signal for 30 days to aid detection, may be difficult as it could be at a depth of up to 1,700 metres (5,600 feet).

Locating the black box may be even tougher now as it may have shifted position or been covered by sediment.

The 17-year-old plane was heading from Surabaya in East Java to Manado in northern Sulawesi when it vanished in bad weather. The plane made no distress call, although the pilot had reported concerns over crosswinds.

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