The cockpit voice recorder from the Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea on October 29 has been recovered, Indonesian officials said on Monday, a discovery that should help investigators piece together the details of the doomed flight that killed all 189 people on board.
Indonesian Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Agung Nugroho told reporters that the “black box” voice recorder of the Boeing 737 was found near the site of the crash at 9:10 a.m. local time, Indonesian newspaper Kompas reported.
Coordinating maritime affairs and fisheries minister Luhut Pandjaitan confirmed the finding, the Jakarta Post reported.
“It’s very good progress. I think the information in the box might make things clear,” Luhut said.
The voice recorder was one of the two black boxes used on the flight; the other, a flight data recorder, was recovered days after the crash.
A preliminary report based on the flight recorder’s data, issued in November by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), found that pilots struggled to control the plane as its automatic anti-stall system repeatedly pulled the plane’s nose down.
According to the report, the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 first encountered the problem just minutes after takeoff and continued to manually override the automatic control more than two dozen times, with data showing the plane’s erratic flight path.
Contact was lost with the plane just 13 minutes after it took off from the capital, Jakarta, en route to the city of Pangkal Pinang.
The jet, a new Boeing 737 MAX 8, had experienced similar problems on a flight the night before but pilots had turned off the automatic safety feature.
The aircraft had also recorded problems measuring airspeed and altitude on four flights in the three days prior to the doomed, the report noted. Two days prior to its final flight, an “angle of attack” sensor that measures air flow over the plane’s wings was replaced.
Boeing has been hit with several lawsuits by family members of the victims of the crash, alleging that the automated safety system was faulty and that the aircraft manufacturer had failed to sufficiently document the system in its operations manual and train pilots on its use.
In a statement on the preliminary report, aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was “deeply saddened by the loss of Lion Air Flight 610” but defended the safety of the Boeing MAX, calling it “as safe as any airplane that has ever flown the skies.”
Jakarta-based Lion Air, which was founded in 1999, has had some safety and maintenance issues in the past and was banned from flying into European airspace from 2007 until 2016. The airline had a crash in 2004 that killed 25 people and has had a number of other incidents, including a crash landing in the sea near Bali in which all 108 passengers survived.
If the black box discovered on Monday is undamaged, its recordings of cockpit conversations and background noise could provide vital information on what went wrong with the flight.
Human remains were also discovered at the seabed site where the black box was recovered, said Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy maritime minister, according to the Associated Press.