EgyptAir flight MS804 investigation committee receives black boxes for analysis

Ahmed Abbas
5 Min Read

The investigation committee of the crashed EgyptAir flight MS804 has received the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) from the general prosecution after the two devices were retrieved on Friday

The devices will be handed over to the Central Department for Aircraft Accidents at the Ministry of Civil Aviation for inspection in order to unload their data, according to an official statement.

The committee also said that data analysis may take up to several weeks, “if the memory units of both recorders are in good condition”, before starting the unloading process in the labs.

If there are minor damages to the devices, they will be repaired locally. If damage is major it will likely need to be repaired abroad under the supervision of the committee.

On 19 May, EgyptAir flight MS804, flying from Paris to Cairo, crashed into the Mediterranean, claiming the lives of all 66 people on board.

The search vessel John Lethbridge, owned by the company Deep Ocean Search (DOS), was able to locate and retrieve the FDR only one day after retrieving the CVR.

The same vessel on Wednesday discovered aeroplane wreckage at several locations. Both the search team and investigators onboard of the vessel will draw a map marking the wreckage distribution spots.

Professor Robert Jones, department chairperson of Aviation and Transportation Studies at Lewis University, told Daily News Egypt that the retrieval of these two devices, the CVR and the FLR, are invaluable for accident investigators.

“Both are an incredibly crucial piece of the puzzle regarding the final moments of flight MS804.  The FDR will give investigators systemic data on the Airbus A-320’s flight attitude, air speed, engine performance, and a host of other information to give context to the information they already have,” Jones said.  “Again, the Cockpit Voice Recorder, or CVR, will allow investigators a glimpse into the conversations between the first officer, captain, and air traffic controllers”.

These items will be added to a host of evidence that has already been compiled since the aircraft went down.  However, these are indeed significant evidentiary finds.

“Regrettably, there are no guarantees of the expedient conclusion as to what exactly brought the aircraft down.  Many aircraft accidents have found these devices and still took investigators years to crack the code of what exactly precipitated these events,” Jones added.

Once processed, this information will be added to the other information the investigators already possess, such as the flight timeline, passenger manifests, crew experiences, the component trend analysis, and other pertinent data.

The technical investigation for the accident will not end by extracting data from the retrieved recorders, but these devices will provide a major contribution to the investigation process.

According to a statement released by DOS, the company is contracted to assist in the process of extracting the black boxes with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) deployed on the debris field 3,000 metres deep.

The ROV position, computed by an IXBlue Inertial Navigation System, is projected in real time over the sonar mapping imagery generated during survey operations. Operators can then follow the precise ROV actions on the debris field.

Once spotted, a black box is gently retrieved by the ROV and placed in a special metal basket until its controlled extraction on the surface.

Last week, the radar images received by the investigation committee of the MS804 aeroplane crash from the Egyptian Armed Forces showed that the aeroplane swerved and changed direction to the left then turned for a full circle, said the investigation committee in an official statement.

The images are in accordance with the radar images previously received from the Greek and British radars, “however, investigation cannot only count on such information”, the statement added.

The committee has also approved the request of the US National Transportation Safety Board to assign one of its representatives to join the team as the aeroplane’s engine was manufactured by the US company Pratt and Whitney.

An expert from the black box manufacturer, Honeywell International, will also participate in the investigations.

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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.