EgyptAir MS804: Egyptian submarine sent to crash location

Ahmed Abbas
7 Min Read
Egypt Air is studying an offer from the French company Airbus allowing it to contribute to the plan of updating Egypt Air’s fleet until 2025. The offer comes among other offers under study (AFP Photo)

An Egyptian submarine has been sent to the location where EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed in the Mediterranean Sea to help search for remnants of the wreckage, said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Sunday.

The EgyptAir aeroplane crashed into the sea on Thursday morning, claiming the lives of all 66 people onboard.

Al-Sisi said no one can confirm any theory or cause behind the crash as of yet, pointing out that all theories are possible. “We will announce the results once they are revealed,” he added.

The Egyptian president commended the efforts of other countries assisting in the search through the supply of aircrafts and ships.

The search to find the aeroplane’s black box is still ongoing. This find may play an important role in identifying the reasons behind the tragedy.

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos announced earlier that the aeroplane made two sharp turns before it plummeted into the ocean.

On Saturday, the French Air Accident Investigation Agency said that there was evidence that smoke had been detected in the aeroplane prior to it going off radar.

Leaked Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) messages from the aeroplane indicated there was smoke detected in the lavatory and a sudden increase in temperature near the cockpit window, according to the Aviation Herald, which says it received information through three independent channels.

ACARS is used to monitor specific systems in commercial aircraft.  These discrete messages are used to validate the health of a variety of critical systems.  The systems that ACARS monitors vary from carrier to carrier and aircraft to aircraft.

It has been reported that at 00:26 GMT a SMOKE LAVATORY indication was received by EgyptAir.

Professor Robert Jones, department chairperson of Aviation and Transportation Studies at Lewis University, told Daily News Egypt that there are active and passive systems on board commercial aircraft to deal with these scenarios.

“However, I think the combination of multiple SMOKE indications by the ACARS is troubling, specifically the AVIONICS SMOKE indication at 00:27 GMT.  Many of the pilots’ flight indication systems are connected to, and received from, the avionics control units,” said Jones.

Furthermore, the AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT at 00:29 GMT would be an indication that these systems were indeed failing.

Airbus A-320 is a highly sophisticated aircraft with many active and passive systems onboard to prevent it from mishap. The pilots flying that day were highly experienced in this fleet type and would have gone through rigorous training, and recurrent training, to operate the A-320.

“It is incredibly difficult to infer any meaning by these early reports,” explained Jones. “Aircraft accident investigations normally take years before a full report is made by any federal agency as to causation. However, I would suspect that chemical analysis of the debris will be made sooner than later to rule out criminal wrong doing. It would be irresponsible to jump to any specific conclusions, such as a bomb, at this early stage.”

Regarding the two sharp divergences reported by the Greek minster, Jones suggests that it could be a sign of manoeuvres carried out by the pilots in an attempt to avoid a certain situation.

“The 90 degree turn that was initially made, and the subsequent 360 degree turn while descending from 37,000 ft to 15,000 ft and then loss of radar contact at 10,000 ft could indicate that the pilots were making a dramatic effort to escape an unsafe situation and reach a lower altitude. In the case of depressurisation, smoke, or a fire, these manoeuvres could have been made to save the aircraft and its passengers and crew,” Jones added.

The other theory, which suggests it was a terrorist attack, is still on the table. However, no group has yet claimed responsibility.

The pilots of MS804 were not reported to have sent any distress signs. However, Jeff Price, a professor at MSU Denver and lead author of Practical Aviation Security, believes that the first priority for pilots is to gain control of the aeroplane.

“The crash of ValueJet 592, in 1996, was the result of unsecured oxygen generators in the cargo hold, causing smoke, then fire, then the downing of the plane. The pilots were able to send a distress call out though, although they had just departed the airport and were still in routine communications with ATC at the time,” Price told Daily News Egypt.

The crash of TWA 800, also in 1996, was the result of a fuel vapour ignition, even though the industry was convinced it was a bomb for over a year. No prior communications from the cockpit to ATC were received.

Another example was the tragedy of the Air France 441crash in 2009, which was due to icing of the pitot tube responsible for giving speed measures and the failure of the pilots to recognise the condition in time. No distress call went out and the plane went down in the Atlantic. It was two years before the black box was found.

“The issue is that when a plane is experiencing an emergency, pilots will prioritise their work accordingly. They call it: aviate, navigate, communicate,” Price added.


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Ahmed Abbas is a journalist at DNE’s politics section. He previously worked as Egypt based reporter for, and interned as a broadcast journalist at Deutsche Welle TV in Berlin. Abbas is a fellow of Salzburg Academy of Media and Global Change. He holds a Master’s Degree of Journalism and New Media from Jordan Media Institute. He was awarded by the ICFJ for best public service reporting in 2013, and by the German foreign office for best feature in 2014.
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