Following up on my earlier post about the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) found at the Superjet 100 crash site on May 15.
As predicted, the solid-state recording chip in the CVR was in good shape, despite the unit's battered appearance in news photos. Indonesia's investigative agency is running the last 20 minutes past three interpreters to put together a common transcript. (Why 20 minutes? The passenger jet had been aloft for just 12 minutes, following takeoff from Jakarta.)
That text may be all we ever learn about the cockpit chatter; as in most crashes, there are no plans to release the audio itself.
Local residents found the FDR last week. It was in good condition under a heap of dirt. The maneuvers of the aircraft near Mt. Salak are already documented from radar tracks, but if the plane had some kind of mechanical problem, data on the FDR should reveal that.
Meanwhile, given the news vacuum, one Russian tabloid blames American sabotage, but most articles cite alleged recklessness by the pilot to impress customers about the RJ's agility.
Pushing the maneuvering envelope to show off a new plane wouldn't come as a big surprise, but I haven't seen a convincing explanation why the pilot would ask ATC to descend from a safe altitude so he could fly through the mist, among the volcanoes. One maneuver near the volcano was a 360-degree turn.
It was truly an odd request assuming that he knew his whereabouts, and wasn't distracted.