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Taiwan plane's cockpit voice recorder recovered.

TAIPEI, June 18 Kyodo


Efforts to solve the mystery surrounding the deadly crash of a Taiwan airliner into the Taiwan Strait last month gained new momentum Tuesday as salvage workers retrieved one of the plane's two ''black boxes'' from the sea and pinpointed the other.

Kay Yong, managing director of Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council, said salvage workers were able to determine the location of the flight data recorder during dives in the afternoon after picking up weak acoustic signals emitted from it early Tuesday.

He said they would try to retrieve the flight data recorder in further dives Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, weather and sea conditions permitting.

Over the past weeks, unfavorable weather, choppy seas and strong undersea currents hampered the search for the two recorders as well as the recovery of bodies and debris from China Airlines' Boeing 747-200 aircraft.

The May 25 accident claimed the lives of all 225 people aboard.

The cockpit voice recorder was found north of the Penghu island group earlier in the day and taken back to Penghu Island.

The Penghus, located midway between Taiwan and China in the strait, are closest to the crash site and have been the base for search and rescue as well as salvaging efforts.

Yong said investigators hope to send back to Taipei the two black boxes together for processing Wednesday, but would consider starting analyzing the cockpit voice recorder first if the second black box cannot be recovered shortly.

The cockpit voice recorder records radio transmissions and sounds inside the cockpit such as the voices of the pilots and engine noise. The flight data recorder monitors parameters such as altitude, airspeed and the heading of a plane.

If the recorders are immersed in water, they automatically emit an acoustic signal that can be detected with a special receiver from depths of up to 460 meters.

Information from the two recorders is considered crucial for determining the probable cause of the crash of the CAL Flight CI611, which occurred less than half an hour into the airliner's flight from Taipei to Hong Kong.

So far, radar and satellite data suggest that the 22-year-old plane broke into four major parts midair at an altitude of more than 9,000 meters before plunging into the sea, but the cause remains unknown.

Radar data provided by China's civil aviation authorities indicated the plane was still on its ascent to its cruising altitude when it suddenly lost altitude and speed before pulling up again and suddenly disappearing from the screen.

Yong's independent council is spearheading the investigation into the cause of the accident and includes representatives from U.S. aircraft maker Boeing Co., engine maker Pratt & Whitney as well as officials from the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

Flight CI611's cockpit crew had not reported any technical problems and did not send any distress signal before the plane went missing.

Many bodies recovered from the sea were still strapped into their seats and not wearing life vests, indicating the disaster happened without any warning.

So far, only 121 bodies have been recovered, with most of the missing believed trapped in submerged plane parts. While debris from the plane has been collected from a wide area, no major part of the passenger cabin has been salvaged.
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Date:Jun 24, 2002
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