NTSB to Finally Examine Long Lost Black Box of Eastern Airlines Flight 980


The National Transportation Safety Board is arranging plans to retrieve the remains of the black box belonging to Eastern Airlines flight 980 from a Boston apartment, according to an email from an NTSB official that was shared with ABC News.

The email says Bolivian authorities have requested that the NTSB obtain the evidence and examine it in its lab in Washington, D.C.

In May of 2016, best friends Dan Futrell and Isaac Stoner of Boston climbed Bolivia’s Mt. Illimani and, at an elevation of 16,000 feet, recovered remains of what appears to be the black box of the doomed U.S. airliner.

Two Americans search for black box from Eastern Airlines Flight 980, which crashed into a Bolivian mountain in 1985. https://t.co/H0Wuw4nFn0 pic.twitter.com/a7Z9VBF5xz

— ABC News (@ABC) December 15, 2016

Flight 980 crashed on Jan. 1, 1985, on approach to the airport outside La Paz, Bolivia. There were 29 people on board including eight Americans. No one survived and multiple international efforts to recover the flight recorders ended fruitlessly due to the inaccessibility of the crash site, the NTSB has previously said.

International regulations dictate that the nation where the accident occurs is in charge of any investigation. After the discovery by Futrell and Stoner this spring, the NTSB offered its services but the agency would need the green light from the Bolivians before proceeding.

Futrell and Stoner said their phone calls, emails and certified letters sent to the Bolivian Embassy in Washington went unanswered.

ABC News’ efforts to reach Bolivian diplomats in the United States were unsuccessful.

On Dec. 1, Capt. Edgar Chavez, the operations inspector at the General Directorate of Civil Aviation of Bolivia, told ABC News that the Bolivian government would allow the NTSB to look at the tapes.

He was unable to say when that would occur, however, adding that his agency was “still working on the paperwork.”

Chavez did not responded to follow-up calls and emails from ABC News requesting an update or another interview.

Wednesday’s news that the NTSB received permission to examine the black box is a significant step forward in the search for answers to what many call the biggest aviation mystery of the 20th century. Many experts, including those at the NTSB, thought finding the flight recorders would be impossible, given the conditions of Mt. Illimani.

It is unclear when, where or how the evidence will be handed over to the NTSB. Today, the recorders remain in Futrell’s suburban Boston apartment.