48 hours after the plane crashed near the Birmingham Shuttlesworth Airport, investigators now have a key piece of the evidence that could help piece together what happened. Officials with the NTSB are now saying they could have more information on the plane crash by noon on Friday.
The voice recorder and flight data recorders were retrieved from the wreck site on Thursday and taken to the NTSB laboratory in Washington D.C. Lead Investigator Robert Sumwalt says the section of the plane in which the black boxes were stored was too hot for retrieval until Thursday, and even then, investigators needed pickaxes to chip away at metal and plastic that had melted on top of them.
Sumwalt says the NTSB will know sometime around noon on Friday if the data is good. The data will consist of the pilots' conversations in the cockpit in the voice recorder box. The flight data box will hold the information like flight speed, altitude and engine parameters. According to Sumwalt, crews worked overnight to get into the recorders.
"As you can imagine, these boxes are not made to be opened up," said Sumwalt. "They are made to withstand crash forces and heat. It can be difficult to get into them."
The lead investigator says the arrangement of the debris of the crash stood out to him. He described it as somewhat surreal.
"It was interesting that the wreckage was on top of the hill," said Sumwalt. "It was laid out like a movie scene."
Teams with the NTSB will remain in Birmingham for approximately 5 more days. After gathering the information needed, the investigation will move to Washington. Sumwalt says there are still many days left in the investigation and lots of data to examine.
A press conference is expected to take place at 4 p.m Central Time on Friday. Sumwalt says the NTSB may also release information from the interview of the air traffic controller who was on duty during the crash.
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