NTSB, USN, USCG: Please call these people

I think the time has arrived for some urgent unsolicited advice to Indonesian authorities. This is not just supremely ridiculous, it’s embarrassing and maddening. Future editions of dictionaries might do well to reference this in their definitions of farcical.

A fresh attempt to lift the sunken fuselage of the doomed AirAsia plane from the Java Sea today failed when a wire rope snapped after the wreckage reached the surface of the water, Indonesian officials said.

Efforts to lift the fuselage or the main section of the Airbus A320-200, expected to contain remaining bodies of victims of the December 28 crash that killed all 162 people on board, have failed so far.

“The fuselage appeared at the surface, but the rope broke and it fell down again,” said Supriyadi, director of operations and training for Indonesia’s search and rescue agency.

Earlier, rescuers tried to lift the section with balloons, a procedure they also used to hoist the tail of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501, en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore.

Yesterday, efforts failed again when sharp parts of the debris sliced through a strap connecting the fuselage to a giant balloon and the wreckage sank to the seabed once again.

Several bodies fell from the fuselage when the piece of wreckage sank yesterday.

It’s not even the entire fuselage, but a 43-foot section. The phrase ‘reckless and bumbling incompetence’ keeps coming to mind.

A rusty showboat

I’m confident that I’d be drummed out of the Indonesian military in a New York minute, because in both of these cases, I would probably be the lowly corporal shouting from the back of the press room, “Hey, chuckleheads! Yes, you! Stop taking the goddamned recorder out of the goddamned water! Jiminy Cricket on a velocipede!”




When a DFDR or CVR is immersed in water after an accident, it must be kept stored in water after recovery, and not pulled out and posed with every time a photographer is in the vicinity. Why? Because once immersed in water – especially salt water – the internal components are highly susceptible to corrosion, which begins the instant the recorder is taken out of the water. That’s why the NTSB’s FDR and CVR recorder recovery manuals both state:

4.5. If the CVR is recovered in water, it shall immediately be packed in water (fresh, if possible) and not be allowed to dry out.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of grandstanding. It’s good that they finally found the two recorders in about a hundred feet of water, but novice air crash investigators need to stop boasting and playing about like this. This is real life, not some Dingleface update upstaging your friends’ dull lives. Treat it as such. If you don’t know the rules, find out about them. Hey, look, someone’s linked them for you a graf or two upstream.