PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia – Indonesian divers retrieved Thursday six more bodies from waters around the sunken fuselage of the AirAsia jetliner that crashed last month.
Divers were struggling against strong current and poor visibility to lift the fuselage and what appears to be the plane's cockpit from the seabed at a depth of 30 meters (100 feet).
So far, 59 bodies have been recovered from AirAsia Flight 8501, which plunged into the Java Sea with 162 people while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, to Singapore. Officials believed the rest are still inside the main fuselage.
National Transportation Safety Committee head Tatang Kurniadi on Wednesday ruled out sabotage, as investigators downloaded and began analyzing data from the aircraft's cockpit voice and flight data recorders with advisers from Airbus, the plane's manufacturer.
Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told Parliament earlier this week that radar data showed that the plane was climbing at an abnormally high rate — about 6,000 feet a minute — then dropped rapidly and disappeared. He did not say what caused the plane to climb so rapidly, but the pilots asked to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet to avoid threatening clouds and were denied permission because of heavy air traffic. No distress signal was received.
An excessively rapid ascent is likely to cause an airplane to go into an aerodynamic stall. In 2009, an Air France Airbus A330 disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean in bad weather while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Investigators determined from the jet's black boxes that it began a steep climb and then went into a stall from which the pilots were unable to recover.
Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon said that it was too early to comment on possible similarities between the two crashes.
A preliminary report on the AirAsia accident is expected to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization next week, in line with a requirement that it be filed within 30 days of a crash, Kurniadi said, adding that a full analysis of what went wrong with the plane could take up to a year.