Fire in cockpit likely cause of 2016 EgyptAir crash: French investigators

Adham Youssef
5 Min Read

French investigators have said a cockpit fire was likely behind the 2016 EgyptAir MS804 crash, challenging the findings of Egyptian authorities, who said traces of explosives were found on the victims’ remains, according to AFP.

France’s civil aviation accident agency, Le Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA), said Friday that information from the flight recorders suggested that “a fire broke out in the cockpit while the plane was at cruising altitude, and the fire spread rapidly, causing the loss of control of the aircraft.”

Mutual accusations between Egypt and France have taken place, while the former insists that the crash happened as a result of a lack of security measures at France’s Charles De Gaulle Airport, implying that the crash was the result of a terrorist attack. France said that failures in the regular check-ups on the aeroplane were the cause, an accusation that Egypt refused.

The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo on 19 May 2016 when it crashed into the south-eastern Mediterranean, killing 66 people, including 40 Egyptians and 15 French citizens.

The BEA said the cockpit voice recorder revealed the crew discussing a fire and that the plane’s automatic ACARS messaging system had signalled there was smoke on board.

The BEA said it was waiting for Egypt’s final report to understand how the two countries have come to different conclusions.

In defiance to the French narrative, the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation said in December 2016 that traces of explosives were found on some body remains of the victims of EgyptAir flight MS804, which will push Egyptian investigators to investigate a possible criminal act behind the crash.

Since Paris started a manslaughter inquiry into the crash in June 2016, it said that there is no evidence of terrorism and that the French authorities are not in favour of the theory that the aeroplane was brought down intentionally.

The plane had disappeared from the Egyptian and Greek radars with no distress signal emitted. Investigations into the aeroplane crash are ongoing. Since the aircraft was manufactured in France, the BEA was involved in analysing the data.

Evidence suggesting the narrative of a fire started to surface in July 2016, as the black box belonging to the crashed plane reportedly indicated that there were attempts to put out a fire on the aircraft before its crash, a claim that the Ministry of Aviation neglected, saying that “the data needs time to be verified and analysed. The experts of the committee are expected to verify the flight recorder data with the timeline of the events and the records from the cockpit.”

On 29 June 2016, authorities investigating the crash said the data from one of the black boxes confirms that smoke was detected on board the plane before it went down.

In several instances, France has pressured Egypt to declare their investigations’ findings. In August 2016, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault reminded Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry to pay attention to the rising concerns of the families of the victims of the crashed EgyptAir flight MS804. He stated that the families of the victims had not received a clear explanation about the reasons behind the aeroplane crash.

Similarly, to the case of the MS804, the Russian government said that a bomb that allegedly caused the crash of Russian aeroplane Metrojet A321 in Sinai was placed at the back of the plane by “terrorists,” while the Egyptian government is still conducting ongoing investigations to reveal the initial location of the explosion.

Two weeks after the crash, which took place in October 2015 and killed all 224 on board, the Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed to have used a drink-can bomb to bring down the plane.

Egypt’s tourism significantly declined following the 25 January Revolution; however, tourism suffered even more when a Russian aeroplane crashed shortly after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh Airport in October 2015. All 224 passengers and crew members on board were killed.

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