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Philippines-Emergency 07-29

Investigator: Cockpit flight recording lost during Qantas mid-air crisis

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AP Photo XBM104, XBM109

By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press Writer

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Investigators will not be able to review the cockpit voice recording of a Qantas jet’s mid-air crisis because it was overwritten as the crew made a harrowing emergency landing, an official said Tuesday.

The focus into what caused a hole in the 747-400’s fuselage last Friday continues to narrow on a missing oxygen tank that appears to have burst while the plane was flying at 29,000 feet over the South China Sea last Friday, Neville Blyth, a senior investigator from the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau, told a news conference.

"The explanation regarding the loss of the cylinder is the most probable," Blyth said, adding that the 44-pound green tank was stored adjacent to the car-sized hole in the plane’s metal skin and close to where a valve was found in the passenger cabin, likely blown through a hole in the floor.

While tests still must be conducted on the valve and other fragments at an Australian laboratory, "It’s safe to say that those components are from the missing cylinder," he said.

With air rushing out of the hole, the pilots made a rapid descent, then an emergency landing in Manila last week. Flight QF 30 had been en route from London to Melbourne and had just made a stopover in Hong Kong.

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder arrived Monday in Canberra, where officials discovered that the period when the crew was dealing with massive depressurization had been recorded over, Blyth said. The device operates on a two-hour loop.

A full search of the plane has yielded no trace of the missing cylinder, leading officials to conclude that it probably exited the plane through the fuselage.

Blyth showed reporters another tank that was stored next to the missing No. 4 cylinder. It was still in place and showed no signs of damage. The cylinders are used to provide oxygen to the passengers and crew during a high-altitude emergency.

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