Faint Signal May Come From Air-India Jet’s Recorders
A faint signal has been detected from the seabed that could be from the flight recorders of the Air-India jumbo jet that crashed in the North Atlantic with the loss of 329 lives, investigators said Thursday.
The Challenger, a British seabed survey ship, “has intercepted a weak and intermittent signal, but we can’t confirm that it is from the flight recorders,” said a spokesman at the Royal Navy’s command center at Northwood, northwest of London.
The ship “has not been able to hold the signal long enough to locate and analyze it,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators fear the missing “black box” recorders are about a mile under the surface, possibly buried in mud. The Boeing 747 crashed Sunday about 120 miles southwest of Ireland.
Could Provide Clues
The black boxes, which record both instrument readings and cockpit conversation, could provide clues to whether the crash was caused by a bomb.
Experts examining the wreckage say the jet broke up in the air on the flight from Canada to India via London. Debris was scattered over an area five miles long, and only 131 bodies were recovered.
Investigators are seeking possible links between the Air-India crash and a bomb that exploded in luggage unloaded from a CP Air jetliner at Tokyo’s Narita airport about an hour earlier. Extremists from India’s minority Sikh community are being sought in connection with that explosion.
The Challenger has been equipped with radio-detection gear for scanning the crash area. It is expected to be joined today by another sonar-equipped British vessel, the civilian seabed exploration ship Gardline Locator, chartered by India.
Canada said it is sending the John Cabot, a coast guard cable repair ship, to help recover the flight recorders if they are located.
Remote Video Gear
If the recorders are found, the John Cabot will attempt recovery with a long “umbilical arm” carrying remote video equipment, according to the Canadian coast guard commissioner, Ranald Quail.
He said the arm was designed for laying cable on the ocean floor.
Kenneth Lauterstein, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s representative in Britain, said that small, unmanned submarines from the U.S. Navy also could be used to recover the flight recorders.
“I don’t believe any substantial airplane wreckage has ever been brought up from that depth,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible.”