Divers and an unmanned underwater vehicle spotted the tail of the missing AirAsia plane in the Java Sea today in the first confirmed sighting of any major wreckage 11 days after Flight 8501 disappeared with 162 people on board, officials say. Powerful currents and murky water continue to hinder the operation, but searchers managed to photograph the debris after it was detected by a survey ship, Indonesia's national search-and-rescue chief told reporters. One released image appears to show an upside-down "A'' painted on a piece of metal.
The find is particularly critical because the all-important cockpit voice and flight data recorders are located in the aircraft's tail. Smaller pieces of the plane, such as seats and an emergency door, have already been collected from the surface. "I can ensure that this is part of the tail with the AirAsia mark on it," the search chief told reporters, stressing that the top priority remains recovering more bodies along with the black boxes. So far, 40 corpses have been found, including one recovered today, and officials hope many of the more than 120 bodies still unaccounted for will be found entombed in the fuselage. (Read more AirAsia stories.)