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Indonesian Divers Find AirAsia Flight Data Recorder

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Crew members of Crest Onyx ship prepare to unload parts of AirAsia Flight 8501 from a ship at Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun, Jan. 11, 2015.

Crew members of Crest Onyx ship prepare to unload parts of AirAsia Flight 8501 from a ship at Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun, Jan. 11, 2015.

Authorities in Indonesia say divers have retrieved the flight data recorder from downed AirAsia Flight 8501.

Search and rescue chief Bambang Soelistyo told reporters Monday that divers are still trying to find the other black box - the cockpit voice recorder - which will give investigators a clearer picture of what was happening in the cockpit during the crash.

The recovery of the flight recorders is likely to be critical in learning why the aircraft went down on December 28, killing all 162 people onboard.

The Airbus 320 vanished from radar screens over the northern Java Sea less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Forty-eight bodies have been recovered so far.

Authorities hope most of the rest of the victims can be recovered from the several large pieces of wreckage that have been detected on the ocean floor.

Before takeoff and during the last moments of the flight, the pilots requested to fly at a higher altitude to avoid a storm. The request was not approved because other planes were in the area.

Recovery efforts hampered by low visibility

Search teams working off the coast from the West Kalimantan town of Pangkalan Bun have sought the wreckage in water up to 30 meters deep, but are facing very low visibility due to large amounts of silt stirred up by strong currents.

An initial report into the crash could then take several weeks, with a formal report expected to take up to one year.

Initial investigations by Indonesia’s meteorological department said a heavy monsoon storm was the key factor in the crash.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said the accident exposed “widespread” problems in the management of the air transportation sector in Indonesia.

Regional aviation sector under review

The Indonesian Transport Ministry has already launched an audit of the aviation sector and an investigation into AirAsia’s operations on the Surabaya-to-Singapore route.

Asia’s fast-growing aviation sector has come under the spotlight over the past year with the disappearance in March 2014 of Malaysian Airlines MH370 with 239 passengers and crew. Despite intense efforts off the west coast of Australia, that aircraft’s wreckage has still not been located.

In July, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, carrying 298 passengers and crew, was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Ron Corben contributed to this report from Bangkok. Some material came from Reuters, AFP and AP.

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