With few immediate clues on what happened after takeoff, investigators will rely heavily on the flight recorders to determine what went wrong.
The aircraft in this instance was a almost 27-year-old 737-500, not the much newer Boeing 737 Max. The B-737-500 model involved in Saturday's crash was an earlier generation not affected by the grounding.
Indonesia's transport ministry said earlier on Tuesday the jet, which was grounded during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, had passed an airworthiness inspection on December 14 and had returned to service shortly after. It resumed commercial flights on December 22, according to ministry data.
Indonesian search teams have retrieved one of the two "black boxes" from the Boeing 737 plane that crashed into the Java Sea on Saturday, killing all 62 people on board. "It tends to keep everything lubricated, and it reduces the likelihood of corrosion building up in places you don't want it to be".
John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said preparing a long-grounded jet can be an intensive and expensive chore, taking a team of mechanics up to two weeks to check engines and make sure that electronic, hydraulic and fuel systems are operating and free of contamination.
Military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said the plane's other "black box", the cockpit voice recorder, was likely to be found soon because its beacon was being emitted in the same area.
At least 160 divers were deployed Wednesday to boost the search for the recorder that holds conversations between pilots.
More than 3,600 rescue personnel, 13 helicopters, 54 large ships and 20 small boats are searching the area just north of Jakarta where Flight 182 crashed and have found parts of the plane and human remains in the water at a depth of 23 metres (75 feet).
The search in the Java Sea had to be halted due to bad weather that whipped up waves of up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in height, officials said.
Indonesian police made the first identification of a victim from the crash on Monday. Anguished family members have been providing samples for DNA tests to the disaster victim identification unit, which on Tuesday said it had identified four victims.
Once the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are recovered, Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) has said it expects to be able to read the information in three days.
The NTSB has expertise in operations, human performance, airplane structures and systems, the safety board said, adding it will be joined by personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration, General Electric and Boeing. Still, both pilots of the Sriwijaya Air flight were experienced and the carrier has a solid safety record. Afwan's co-pilot, Diego Mamahit, was equally qualified.
Meanwhile, per Reuters, Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) surmised that the plane possibly "ruptured" when it hit the Java Sea, as the debris was not scattered widely, unlike in the case of a mid-air explosion.
Indonesia's fast-growing aviation sector has always been plagued by safety concerns, and its airlines were once banned from United States and European airspace.
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