The Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department joined in the search for the missing plane in late January in the waters of Frederick Sound near Kake. (Photo courtesy of the PVFD)

An air ambulance company says it has recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the plane that crashed with three onboard in Southeast Alaska’s Frederick Sound in late January.

Guardian Flight has been using sonar and a remotely operated vehicle to search the sea floor in the area where the Beechcraft King Air 200 plane crashed en route from Anchorage to Kake to pick up a patient January 29th. Guardian Flight says the search has successfully located most of the downed aircraft, dispersed in pieces over the sea floor. The search team has located engines, landing gear, propeller blades along with parts of the wings, fuselage and tail of the plane. The company hopes to recover major pieces of the wreckage to help with the investigation into what happened.

Clint Johnson, chief for the Alaska regional office of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the NTSB has taken custody of the cockpit voice recorder and confirms it is from the crashed aircraft.

“We’re working right now to get a plan formulated to be able to get that cockpit voice recorder back to our Washington D.C. vehicle recorder lab where they hopefully can download that information and hopefully give us a little bit more insight of the sequence of events of this tragic accident,” Johnson said Tuesday morning.

Johnson said it’s still unknown whether the recorder was working or if it captured information from the crash.

“It could possibly record conversations with either air traffic control or intercom systems within the airplane,” he explained. “We won’t really know exactly what the quality or if there is in fact a recording that would give us a better idea of the sequence of events until we have a chance to audition that cockpit voice recorder. Hopefully that will take place probably within a day after reaching our Washington D.C. vehicle recorder lab and we’re anxiously awaiting that information.”

The NTSB has an investigator onboard the recovery boat in Frederick Sound. Johnson said the NTSB hopes to know more about plans for recovering other parts of the plane within the next 24-48 hours.

In an email, Randy Lyman, Guardian Flight’s senior vice president of operations, calls the discovery a “positive development in the search” but also a “heartbreaking time” for the company and families of the lost crew. Three people a pilot, nurse and a paramedic died in the crash. Guardian Flight says it continues to search for the crew members and hopes to recover them as well. The company has been using side scanning sonar and a submersible ROV with robotic arms to search 7.5 square miles looking for the recorder and parts of the plane scattered on the sea floor hundreds of feet below the surface.