Indonesian authorities say searchers have lifted to the surface of the Java Sea the tail of an AirAsia plane that crashed on December 28, killing all 162 people on board.
"Yes, it's true that we have already lifted it (the tail of the AirAsia)," said Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi, National Search and Rescue Operations Director. We can see the floating bag (now emerged). We can see 'Asia' written on the tail (of the plane)."
Recovery teams attached balloons to the wreckage Saturday to float the tail section to the surface.
"It will be towed here (Pangkalan Bun) -- that could take seven hours at least or up to 15 hours,'' said Supriyadi.
Investigators hope the cockpit voice and data recorders are still inside the tail. Their recovery is essential to finding out the cause of the crash.
Searchers detected ping signals from the black boxes of Flight 8501 on Friday, but officials said the boxes seemed to be separated from the tail section.
"They are trying to find the position of it (black box) and pinpoint the coordinates, so that they can narrow the search area and so that divers don't have to search a wide area,'' said Supriyadi.
The tail was located Wednesday on the sea bed about 30 kilometers from the plane's last known location at a depth of around 30 meters.
The Airbus 320 vanished from radar screens over the northern Java Sea less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore.
There were no survivors of the crash. Only 48 bodies have been recovered so far.
"What is important is to know where the main body (of the aircraft) is, the place where the bodies have been trapped, because this is what the families have been waiting for. They have been crying for the last 14 days waiting for the bodies of their families to be brought to Surabaya," said Supriyadi.
Authorities hope most of the rest of the victims can be recovered from the several large pieces of wreckage on the ocean floor.
Before takeoff and during the last moments of the flight, the pilots requested to fly at a higher altitude to avoid a storm. The request was not approved because other planes were in the area.