- Associated Press - Saturday, July 31, 2010

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Recovery workers found the “black box” flight data recorder Saturday in the wreckage of Pakistan’s worst-ever plane crash, and it appeared to be in good condition, officials said.

An analysis of the data on the recorder could provide clues as to why the Airblue flight crashed Wednesday into the hills overlooking the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, killing all 152 people onboard, including two Americans. The recorder’s decoding may take weeks, however.

The black box was found during a difficult recovery effort hampered by rain, mud and a lack of proper roads in the heavily forested Margalla Hills. It has been handed to aviation officials, said Ramzan Sajid, a spokesman for the Capital Development Authority, a government agency. He said the box was found in wreckage of the plane’s tail section.

Pakistan does not have the proper expertise to decode information stored on the recorder, so it plans to send it to another country that does, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The authority’s spokesman, Pervez George, said Friday the decoding process could take a month.

The plane — an Airbus A321 model — was ordered to take an alternative approach to the runway at Islamabad airport but apparently veered off course, the Civil Aviation Authority said earlier this week.

Officials said the plane, which was flying to Islamabad from the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, lost contact with the control tower before the crash, which occurred during stormy weather.

The impact of the crash was devastating, scorching a wide swath of the hillside and scattering wreckage over a half-mile (1-kilometer) stretch. Most bodies were so badly damaged that identification will require DNA testing, officials said.

Airblue is a Pakistan-based carrier that has flown since 2004. The airline has said the plane that crashed had no known technical problems.

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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report from Rawalpindi.