Indonesian navy divers retrieved part of the "black box" from the crashed AirAsia jet on Monday, the first crucial piece of wreckage to be found on the floor of the Java Sea, officials said.
Divers found the flight data recorder, which carries information about the aircraft's movement and engine performance, but had not yet recovered the cockpit voice recorder. Both are expected to contain clues to what caused the aircraft to crash on Dec. 28.
The recorders were wedged between two pieces of the aircraft on the sea floor at a depth of about 100 feet. The Indonesian Transportation Ministry said Sunday that crews had zeroed in on the devices during the day but put off retrieving them until Monday "because time was limited."
Relatively little of the wreckage of the Airbus A320 has been brought to the surface as recovery teams struggle against stormy weather in the waters off Borneo island. Search crews used inflatable balloons to hoist the plane's tail from the water Saturday, but most of the plane's cabin remains submerged, presumably with the bodies of passengers and crew inside.
Ships equipped with sonar devices had detected signals coming from the seafloor for several days, but until Sunday had been unable to determine the exact location of the recorders. Officials said the devices would stop emitting electronic "pings" 30 days after the crash, lending urgency to the task of finding them.
Investigators say the recorders should contain information about the final moments of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed with 162 passengers and crew members aboard midway through a two-hour flight to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia. No survivors have been found.
The pilot asked air traffic controllers whether he could raise the plane's altitude to avoid a thunderstorm, but the request was not granted because of other planes in the area. Moments later, the flight disappeared from radar.
Pathoni is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Bengali reported from Mumbai, India.