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Searchers Recover Flight Recorder from China Air Crash - 2002-06-18

Search teams recovered one of two flight recorders from China Airlines flight 611 on Tuesday. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet crashed mysteriously into the ocean on May 25 twenty minutes after taking off from Taipei en route to Hong Kong.

Strong currents and rough seas have made the recovery of the data recorders from the China Airlines flight difficult. As time passes, the locator signals emitted by the so-called black boxes fade, and after about 30 days, the signals stop altogether.

On Tuesday, the recovery team located the cockpit voice recorder and brought it to the surface.

"We're working on the black box recovery, I think over a week," said Tracy Jen, the China Airlines coordinator for the recovery effort. "It's a very difficult job because we received the signal with the positioning receiver. Actually we had a very difficult [time] to have accurate positioning. So it's been a trial and error process."

More than 23 days after the crash, the Taiwanese Navy and several American deep sea salvage companies are still searching for the flight data recorder (FDR). "By our prediction, the FDR should be very near by and we are very optimistic we can recover the FDR as well, since we actually received the same strong signal nearby," said Tracy Jen. "It's a matter of time. Maybe today or tomorrow but we are very optimistic about this."

The cockpit voice recorder contains conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers. The flight data recorder logs flight information, including speed, altitude, wind and engine performance.

Very little of China Airlines flight 611 has been recovered. That means finding the cause of the crash may rest on what the data recorders reveal. A U.S. team of crash experts are in Taiwan to determine the cause of the crash, the airline's fourth since 1994.

The 23-year-old plane broke up at 9,000 meters above sea level. The pilots never sent out any distress signals or indicated there was a problem. The crash killed 225 people. Rescue workers have recovered 121 bodies from the ocean.