Retrieval of the data recorders heralds the end of the beginning for the AF 447 accident investigation
The search was aided by the fact that the debris came to rest on the abyssal plane rather than in mountainous terrain. If the debris had fallen there then we’d still be looking.
We’ll know in a couple of weeks whether there remains any worthwhile data in either of these units. If there is, the long hard slog of data reduction and analysis will commence.
In the mean time we can note that the presence of major structural parts of the aircraft ‘relatively’ intact and close together is consistent with the BEA’s hypothesis that the aircraft struck the surface of the sea in a complete state, rather than disintegrating in-flight.
It will be interesting to see whether the protracted nature of the search leads the air safety regulators to consider the solution proposed by Dave Warren, the inventor of the black box, to the difficulty of recovering data recorders form deep water.