French investigators searching the ocean depths have recovered the cockpit voice recorder, known as the “second black box,” from an Air France flight that crashed into the mid-Atlantic off the coast of Brazil while traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris nearly two years ago.
On Sunday, the flight data recorder, which contains information on the plane’s speed, altitude and direction, was also retrieved during a search by a robot submarine at a depth of 12,800 feet. Investigators hope that the two black boxes will help them to determine the cause of the crash, which killed all 228 people on board when it plunged into the ocean on June 1, 2009 after running into a high-altitude thunderstorm.
The voice recorder, which records conversations in the plane’s cockpit, was found on Monday and recovered from the ocean on Tuesday, according to France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA), The Associated Press reports. But the condition of the recorder was not immediately known.
Both black boxes are to be placed aboard a French Navy ship that is heading to the crash site from French Guyana, and then transported to Paris, which will take 8-10 days, after which investigators will try to download and decrypt the contents.
Flight recorders are constructed to be able to resist the effects of impact, corrosion and pressure. But the French defense ministry has expressed concerns about whether information on the recorders could be preserved after more than 18 months underwater.
Locating the black boxes is a critical step in trying to determine what caused the Airbus A330-200 to crash some 600 miles off the Brazilian coast. This has proved newly urgent since March, when a French judge placed Airbus and Air France under investigation for involuntary manslaughter.
So far, all that is known is that the aircraft was receiving false air speed readings from sensors known as pitot tubes. Investigators have said that there were likely other problems involved in the crash, not just the false sensor readings.