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Egypt dispatches submarine to aircraft crash zone as mystery over disaster remains

Leaked flight data has painted a picture of the chaotic final moments of the doomed EgyptAir flight.
May 22nd 2016, 5:40 PM 50,970 52

Mideast Egypt Plane An Egyptian dinghy collecting wreckage of EgyptAir flight 804 Source: AP

Updated 17.40

EGYPT’S PRESIDENT SAYS that a submarine belonging to his country’s Oil Ministry is headed to the site of the crash of EgyptAir flight 804 in the eastern Mediterranean to join the search for the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, commonly known as black boxes.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi also said Egypt is jointly investigating last Thursday’s crash with the French government. “It is very, very important to us to establish the circumstances that led to the crash of that aircraft,” he said in comments broadcast live on Egyptian TV channels.

He said the submarine, which has the capacity to operate at a depth of 3,000 metres (9,842 feet) below the surface, left for the site today. He gave no further details.

Mideast Egypt Plane A life vest from EgyptAir flight 804. Source: Apexchange

Making his first public comments since the crash of the Airbus A320 while en route from Paris to Cairo, el-Sissi says it “will take time” to determine the exact cause of the crash, which killed all 66 people on board.

He thanked the nations that have joined Egyptian navy ships and aircraft in the search for the wreckage and started his comments with a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims.

El-Sissi also cautioned the media against premature speculation on the cause of the crash.

“There is not one scenario that we can exclusively subscribe to… all scenarios are possible,” he said.

Mideast Egypt Plane Personal belongings and wreckage salvaged from the crash site Source: AP

El-Sissi was speaking a day after the leak of flight data showing trouble in the cockpit and smoke in a plane lavatory aboard the doomed aircraft, bringing into focus the chaotic final moments of the flight, including a three-minute period before contact was lost as alarms on the plane screeched one after another.

Officials have been cautioning that it was still too early to say what happened to the aircraft, but mounting evidence points to a sudden, dramatic catastrophe that led to the crash.

Egypt’s military on Saturday released the first images of aircraft debris plucked from the sea, including personal items and damaged seats. Egypt is leading a multi-nation effort to search for the plane’s black boxes and other clues that could help explain its sudden plunge into the sea.

“If they lost the aircraft within three minutes that’s very, very quick,” said aviation security expert Philip Baum. “They were dealing with an extremely serious incident.”

Authorities say the plane lurched left, then right, spun all the way around and plummeted 38,000 feet (11,582 metres) into the sea – without issuing a distress call.

Mideast Egypt Plane An Egyptian ship trawling the crash site for the wreckage of EgyptAir flight 804 Source: AP

Greek officials say at 2.24am local time the flight entered the Athens sector of Greek airspace. Twenty-four minutes later, controllers chatted with the pilot, who appeared to be in good spirits.

In Greek, the pilot quipped: “Thank you.”

At 3:12 a.m., the plane passed over the Greek island of Kasos before heading into the eastern Mediterranean, according to flight data maintained by FlightRadar24.

Less than 15 minutes later, about midway between Greece and Egypt, a sensor detected smoke in a lavatory and a fault in two of the plane’s cockpit windows, according to leaked flight data published by The Aviation Herald.

Messages like these “generally mean the start of a fire,” said Sebastien Barthe, a spokesman for France’s air accident investigation agency. But he warned against inferring too much more from the reading. “Everything else is pure conjecture.”

Investigators have been poring over the plane’s passenger list and questioning ground crew at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where the airplane took off. Besides Egypt, ships and planes from Britain, Cyprus, France, Greece and the United States are taking part searching a wide area of sea 180 miles (290 kilometres) north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.

The EgyptAir tragedy deepens the country’s struggle to revive its battered economy. While it may not reflect directly on security at Egypt’s airports – which has been under international scrutiny since a Russian airliner crashed in the Sinai Peninsula last October after taking off from an Egyptian resort – the country’s association with yet another air disaster will further damage its vital but currently depressed tourism industry.

Originally published 8.07am

Read: First pictures of EgyptAir wreckage emerge but reason for disaster remains unclear

Read: Body part and luggage found in search for missing EgyptAir plane

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Associated Press

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