EgyptAir crash: What we know so far

20th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Egyptian search teams on Friday found wreckage and debris including body parts from an EgyptAir plane that mysteriously crashed into the eastern Mediterranean carrying 66 people, but investigators remain baffled about what brought it down.

Here is what we know so far:

What happened?

EgyptAir flight MS804 disappeared off the radar 0029 GMT on Thursday morning while flying over the eastern Mediterranean en route from Paris to Cairo.

The Airbus A320, which was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members, had just crossed from Greek airspace into Egyptian airspace and was about 35 minutes from its destination.

Greek aviation officials told AFP the plane crashed off the island of Karpathos. It had not sent out a distress signal.

Greece and Egypt launched a joint search effort and early Friday, the Egyptian military found wreckage, luggage and body parts in the sea some 290 kilometres (180 miles) north of the coastal city of Alexandria.

How it happened

The pilot's last contact with Greek air traffic controllers was around 0005 GMT when he appeared to be in good spirits and made no mention of any problem.

But it ran into trouble just over 20 minutes later as it was flying at 37,000 feet, (more than 11,200 metres) with Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos saying the plane swerved sharply to the left, then to the right, falling 22,000 feet, before disappearing from radar screens at around 10,000 feet.

Why it did not send out a distress signal remains unclear. And investigators so far have no indication as to what caused the plane to suddenly swerve before plummeting out of the sky.

A sailor told Greek media he saw a ball of fire in the sky, but those reports are unconfirmed.

Was it brought down deliberately?

Egypt's aviation minister said a "terrorist attack" was a more likely cause than technical failure for the crash, voicing widely-held fears of a repeat of an October attack over Sinai that brought down a Russian passenger jet, killing 224 people.

Aviation experts agree there is little chance that a mechanical fault, such as the explosion of an engine, was responsible. And they say it is unlikely the plane was shot down.

But despite fears the plane was deliberately brought down, there is no evidence so far to support that thesis.

"We have absolutely no indication on the causes," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday.

Was the plane safe?

Airbus delivered the plane to EgyptAir in November 2003 and it had logged 48,000 hours of flying time. Experts say the A320 has an excellent safety record as the best-selling medium-range airliner in the world, with one taking off or landing around the world every 30 seconds.

Before taking off from Paris on Wednesday evening, the plane had been in Eritrea, Egypt and Tunisia, according to the website FlightRadar24.

It began the day in the Eritrean capital Asmara, then returned to Cairo before flying to Tunis. It then headed back to Cairo where it stayed for two hours before flying to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. It took off from the French capital at 2100 GMT and was to have landed in Cairo at 0105 GMT on Thursday.

What remains unclear is whether the plane was checked at each location, or how thoroughly.

© 2016 AFP

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