A submarine from the Egyptian oil ministry is heading to the site of the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804. It will join the search for the cockpit voice-and-flight data recorders, or black boxes, the country’s president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, said.
El-Sisi also said Egypt was jointly investigating the crash with the French government. “It is very, very important to us to establish the circumstances that led to the crash of that aircraft,” he said, on Egyptian TV channels yesterday.
He said the submarine, which has the capacity to operate at a depth of 3,000 metres (9,842 feet) below the surface, left for the site yesterday.
Making his first public comments since the crash of the Airbus A320, in the eastern Mediterranean, while it was en route from Paris to Cairo, el-Sisi said it “will take time” to determine the cause of the crash, which killed all 66 people on-board.
He thanked the nations that have joined Egyptian navy ships and aircraft in the search and began with a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims.
El-Sisi also cautioned the media against premature speculation on the cause of the crash. “There is not one scenario that we can exclusively subscribe to. All scenarios are possible,” he said.
El-Sisi spoke a day after the leak of flight data showed trouble in the cockpit and smoke in a plane lavatory, bringing into focus the chaotic final moments of the flight, including a three-minute period before contact was lost, as alarms on the plane screeched one after another.
Officials have been cautioning that it is too early to say what had happened to the aircraft, but mounting evidence points to a sudden, dramatic catastrophe.
Egypt’s military, on Saturday, released the first images of aircraft debris plucked from the sea, including personal items and damaged seats. Egypt is leading a multi-nation effort to search for the plane’s black boxes, and other clues that could explain its sudden plunge into the sea.
“If they lost the aircraft within three minutes, that’s very, very quick,” said aviation security expert, Philip Baum. “They were dealing with an extremely serious incident.”
Authorities say the plane lurched left, then right, spun all the way around and plummeted 38,000 feet (11,582 metres) into the sea — never issuing a distress call.
Investigators have been poring over the plane’s passenger list and questioning ground crew at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, from where the plane took off.
The Facebook page of Brigadier General Mohammed Samir, the chief spokesman for Egypt’s military, showed the first photographs of debris from the plane, shredded remains of plane seats, life jackets — one seemingly undamaged — and a scrap of cloth that might be part of a baby’s purple-and-pink blanket.
Brig Gen Samir later posted a video showing a piece of blue carpet, seat belts, a shoe, and a white handbag. The clip opened with aerial footage of an unidentified navy ship, followed by a speedboat heading towards floating debris.
Besides Egypt, ships and planes from Britain, Cyprus, France, Greece, and the United States are searching the sea 290km north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.
EgyptAir pilot joked with controllers
The first audio available from the doomed EgyptAir Flight 804 indicates that all was routine as the plane checked in with air traffic controllers in Zurich, Switzerland — and joked with their Greek counterparts — not long before the aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean, killing all 66 on board.
The recording was released as leaked flight data showing trouble in the cockpit and smoke in one of the toilets brought into focus the chaotic final moments of the Airbus 320, which was on its way to Cairo from Paris.
The pilot contacted Zurich late on Wednesday night, before being handed over to Italian air traffic controllers in Padua (Padova). The Zurich controller says: “EgyptAir 804, contact Padova 1-2-0, decimal 7-2-5, good night.”
The pilot responds: “This is 0-7-2-5 Padova control. (Unintelligible) 8-0-4. Thank you so much. Good day, er, good night.”
The communication occurred around midnight local time, about two and a half hours before contact was lost with the plane.
The leaked flight data from Flight 804 includes a three-minute period before contact was lost as alarms on the Airbus screeched. Mounting evidence points to a sudden catastrophe that led to its crash in the eastern Mediterranean early on Thursday.
As French authorities question staff who had access to the EgyptAir plane at Charles de Gaulle Airport, cleaning crews are among those drawing attention.
One theory is that a bomb could have been placed in the plane while it was on the tarmac in Paris, or at its previous stops in Cairo or Tunis.
Officials say the Airbus entered Greek airspace at 2.24am local time. Twenty-four minutes later controllers chatted with the pilot, who appeared in good spirits, quipping in Greek: “Thank you.”
At 3.27am, about midway between Greece and Egypt, a sensor detected smoke in a lavatory and a fault in two of the plane’s cockpit windows.
At 3.27am Greek time, air traffic controllers in Athens attempted to contact the plane. There was no response . At the same time, a sensor detected smoke in the aircraft’s avionics, the network of computers and wires that control the plane.
Two minutes later, the aircraft reached Egyptian airspace. Alarms suggested major structural problems, and the plane fell off radar.
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