Dubai: An operation to salvage the wreckage of an Italian plane that crashed off Dubai's coast earlier this month could take ten more days to complete because of low visibility under water, officials said.

The prototype aircraft crashed off Deira Palm Island on November 18 while on its way back to Italy after participating at the Dubai Air Show.

The two crew members managed to eject safely from the aircraft prior to the crash.

The UAE Air Force, Dubai Police Rescue Team, and the Italian Air Force have been working together since then to recover the wreckage.

"The low visibility under water is a factor in the salvage operation," a high-ranking official from the UAE Air Force told Gulf News.

"We have to go very close to the pieces [of the prototype aircraft] and it's a lot of pieces, so finding one piece will take you hours and hours. If [visibility under water is] clear, you can go directly to it."

In the days following the crash, authorities have been working to complete the assessment report for the crash site and all paperwork needed for the operation.

Contrary to earlier reports, the actual retrieval of the plane began on Saturday.

Very helpful

"We received great help from the Dubai Police and the Emirati Air Force because they gave us resources in terms of equipment, boats, scuba divers, logistics support and so they were very helpful particularly the scuba divers in the entire team of the rescue police," a ranking military officer from the Defence Attache Office of the Italian Embassy told Gulf News.

"The scuba drivers were able to exactly produce a map of all the pieces [of the aircraft]."

The M-346 aircraft crashed in waters that are 20 metres deep. The black box and other computer devices that capture flight date are yet to be recovered.

Quick response

The Italian Embassy commended the quick response of the UAE authorities in the rescue of the pilots and the salvage operation.

The officials said that the cause of the crash is still under investigatation.

Once the salvage operation is complete, the plane will be brought to Italy for further investigations.

Meanwhile, the flight test engineer who fractured his left leg on ejecting from the doomed plane, will be discharged from Rashid Hospital today and will fly back to Italy with his family.

The other pilot who was with him in the plane is already back home.