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Flight 8501

Underwater photos reveal tail of crashed AirAsia plane (and that's where the black boxes should be)

Indonesia has fired a transport official over the incident.

Indonesia Plane An picture of the wreckage underwater, taken by Indonesia's National Search And Rescue Agency. AP Photo / BASARNAS AP Photo / BASARNAS / BASARNAS

INDONESIAN OFFICIALS HAVE said the tail of AirAsia Flight 8501 has been found, potentially marking a major step towards locating the plane’s black boxes and helping shed light on what caused it to crash into the sea ten days ago.

Search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said he was sure of the discovery after seeing photographs of the underwater wreckage, on which the company logo could be seen.

The “black box” flight data recorders, crucial to determining the cause of the crash, are usually housed in an aircraft’s tail.

“We have successfully obtained part of the plane that has been our target. The tail portion has been confirmed found,” Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia Plane AP Photo / BASARNAS AP Photo / BASARNAS / BASARNAS

The plane vanished from radar screens during a storm on December 28 when it was flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board, most of them Indonesian.

Despite a huge recovery operation assisted by various countries, progress has been patchy with poor weather conditions hampering the search. So far 39 bodies have been found, all of them floating on the sea.

Search chiefs earlier said five large parts of the plane had been detected but had not confirmed which parts of the aircraft.

AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes tweeted:

Indonesia alleges the plane was flying on an unauthorised schedule when it crashed and AirAsia has since been suspended from flying the Surabaya-Singapore route.

The country’s transport ministry said earlier today that it had fired one transport official and disciplined several others in a crackdown following the crash, as it investigates how the flight was able to depart without permission.

“To date, we have taken action against eight officials — two from the transport ministry, four from state navigation operator AirNav, and two airport officials,” transport ministry official Hadi Mustofa told AFP.

Indonesia Plane AP Photo / BASARNAS AP Photo / BASARNAS / BASARNAS

“One of the transport ministry officials was fired and the other official was temporarily suspended. As for the other six officials, some have been temporarily suspended and some have been transferred.”

AirAsia Indonesia has declined to comment on allegations it violated its permits. Singapore authorities say the Sunday flight schedule had been cleared at their end.

The airline is a unit of Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia, which previously had a solid safety record.

© AFP 2015

Read: Search area expanded as divers continue recovery of AirAsia victims >

More: Icy weather likely “triggering factor” of AirAsia crash >

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