JAKARTA, Indonesia—Search teams combed the waters of the Java Sea on Friday, hunting for pings from the second black box of a downed Lion Air jetliner as crews recovered wheels and other wreckage from a crash that killed 189 people.
The wheels, lifted by crane from choppy waters, were the largest pieces of wreckage found so far of the new Boeing 737 Max 8 that disintegrated upon high-speed impact shortly after takeoff Monday. The shattered fuselage of Flight 610 lay in pieces across a large debris field on the ocean floor, search officials said.
Many bodies were also found in the area, those officials added, including some still strapped into their seats.
The crash was the first major accident involving the Boeing 737 Max 8, the latest variant of the popular single-aisle 737. The plane was delivered to Lion Air, one of Asia’s largest low-cost carriers, in August.
The deadly crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 aircraft in Indonesia is one of the worst aviation catastrophes of 2018. The WSJ looks at some big questions that have emerged as investigators try to determine the cause of the crash. Photo: AP Images
The memory unit of the flight data recorder, one of the jet’s two so-called black boxes, was recovered by divers Thursday from mud at a depth of about 100 feet. The second black box, the cockpit voice recorder, hadn’t been located Friday and officials said four locaters were seeking its pings.
“Yesterday I heard two [pings], but one was weak,” said Muhammad Syaugi, the head of the search and rescue agency. “But since then, there’s been no ping.”
The beacons are designed to emit signals for at least 30 days.
Officials said that more-sensitive detection equipment from the U.S. was being deployed to help find the cockpit voice recorder. Both recorders are considered crucial to determining what caused the accident.
Crash investigators said Friday they were preparing to open the memory unit, which officials said was stripped from its casing by the impact of the crash. The long process involves precise steps to dry and clean it.
“The black box isn’t in normal condition [and] we worried the data could be spoiled,” said Haryo Satmiko, deputy head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee. “This morning we cleaned it up, and the process of opening it is ongoing.”
Experts from the U.S. and Singapore are assisting.
The flight-data recorder stores at least 25 hours of detailed information on how the plane’s systems performed. On a modern aircraft like the 737 Max 8, it would record more than 1,000 parameters ranging from basic speed and altitude to the position of flight-control surfaces and flight-control inputs by the crew.
The length of the recording and the short nature of the flight potentially could allow investigators to also review actions taken by the crew on a previous flight Sunday from Bali to Jakarta unless the data was erased, as sometime happens.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s air-traffic controller said the pilot of that flight requested and received priority landing in Jakarta. Lion Air said the flight had experienced what it called a “technical issue” that was resolved.
Data collected by Flightradar24, a flight-tracking network, indicated the plane encountered possible erratic speed and altitude readings on both the flight from Bali and the flight that crashed.
Herson, head of the airport authority for the Bali area, said the jet had experienced a problem before Sunday night’s flight but that it was resolved and the pilot opted to fly to Jakarta. Mr. Herson, who goes by only one name, didn’t elaborate on the problem.
Indonesia has a history of aviation disasters, and its carriers were restricted for many years from flying to the U.S. and Europe for safety reasons. The last restrictions were lifted in June this year.