Deep-sea robot in Egypt to search for crashed plane

9th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

A vessel with an underwater robot arrived in Egypt on Thursday and is set to begin searching the Mediterranean for the wreck of the EgyptAir plane that crashed last month, authorities said.

The "John Lethbridge" research vessel, which Egypt has hired from the Deep Ocean Search company, would begin combing the seabed on Friday in the crash zone between the Greek island of Crete and Egypt.

What caused the Airbus A320 operating Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo to go down on May 19, killing all 66 people on board, remains a mystery.

The vessel, whose equipment can locate and retrieve black boxes from the seabed, arrived in Alexandria on Thursday, said Egypt's civil aviation authority.

"The aircraft accident investigation committee for MS804 was at the port upon the arrival of the vessel," the authority said in a statement.

Committee members along with experts from Airbus are expected to embark before the ship leaves for the crash zone some 290 kilometres (180 miles) north of the Egyptian coast, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

A French navy vessel using deep-water listening devices picked up signals from one of the black boxes over a week ago, but so far it has failed to locate either it or the second recorder.

"For the moment we are hopeful of managing to locate these recorders while they continue to emit (pings)," said Remi Jouty, director of the French aviation safety agency BEA.

But he acknowledged "we have to be quick", in remarks to reporters in Paris.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have enough battery power to emit signals for four to five weeks.

The area where the plane went down is believed to be about 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) deep.

The "John Lethbridge" has a side scan sonar that provides digital images of the seabed, as well as a robot capable of diving to 3,000 metres.

Some small pieces of wreckage were retrieved from the Mediterranean last month, along with belongings of passengers, but no bodies have been found so far.

Investigators have said it is too soon to determine what caused the disaster.

While speculation initially centred on a terror attack, a technical fault has also not been ruled out, with automated messages sent by the plane shortly before its demise indicating smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control unit.

The crash took place seven months after the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula in October that killed all 224 people on board.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack. There has been no such claim over the EgyptAir crash.

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© 2016 AFP

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