The flight data recorder from the wreckage of Air France 447 has finally been recovered, almost two years after the plane went down.
The cylindrical Honeywell ruggedised Flight Recorder stores data from the plane's many systems, but does not record cockpit conversations — that's the job of the 'black box', which has not yet been found.
It's not yet known whether any data has survived on the flight recorder, which has been submerged at extremely high water pressures 12,800 feet deep for 23 months.
However, a spokesperson for France's air safety investigator, BEA, said there was a good chance the unit would retain retrievable data, given it is designed to withstand the forces of plane crashes.
The maker of the recorder, Honeywell, told Bloomberg that the units were designed to withstand water pressures of up to 20,000 feet for 30 days, as well as impacts 1,500 times the force of gravity.
BEA's Martine Del Bono said the investigators had been focusing on retrieving flight data recorders, and then they would start lifting bodies to the surface.
The analysis of the wreckage is vitally important for airlines and their passengers worldwide, as the aircraft that went down — the Airbus A330 — is a commonly flown plane all over the world.
It is used within Australia — mainly on longer East to West coast routes — by Qantas and Virgin Blue, and to Singapore by Jetstar, as well as around the world by many international airlines on which Australians travel.
So far, the preliminary explanation that air speed sensors on the plane failed due to iced-up pitot tubes is merely a theory based on a sequence of messages the plane automatically radioed back to base seconds before crashing.
If information can be retrieved from the flight data recorder, airlines and travellers will be able to get a more complete picture of why this particular plane crashed — and reassure themselves about the safety of flying on Airbus planes in the future.