In the latest findings in the ongoing investigations into the deadly EgyptAir MS804 plane crash earlier this month, Egypt’s investigations committee announced that they received reports of European and American satellites receiving a distress signal from the airplane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). The committee added that they directed search units to the coordinates that the signal was sent from.
EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea as it was flying from Paris to Cairo on May 19, with 66 people on board.
A source from EgyptAir’s communications office, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explains to Mada Masr that the ELT sends an automatic signal if the aircraft hits a body of water in order to help in find the wreckage, adding that this does not indicate the cause of the crash.
However, the coordinates could help in the search for the plane’s black boxes. According to the EgyptAir source, the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, colloquially referred to as black boxes, send out a detectable signal for a period of 30 days. Therefore, search teams must locate the black boxes within the next 20 days or the search becomes much more challenging.
Since the crash, debris has been identified in the Mediterranean Sea, and parts of the plane wreckage have been transported to a criminal investigations lab in Cairo. However, the black boxes have yet to be found.
On Sunday, local press reported that the Civil Aviation Ministry has contracted Deep Ocean Search, an international company specialized in deep-water recovery missions, to help find the plane’s black boxes. The ship, which left the Irish Sea on Saturday, will not arrive at the suspected crash site for another 12 days, AFP reported on May 29.
Egypt has already deployed a submarine owned by a petroleum services company, which began its search on May 24.
A few days later, on May 27, France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA), which is handling the technical investigation, announced that a French navy vessel was also joining the search for the black boxes. The French vessel, commissioned by the company Alseamar, has detection systems able to capture “pings” as deep as 5,000 meters below sea level. It left its port in Corsica on Thursday and should be arriving to its destination early this week.
Once the plane is located, aircraft manufacturing company Airbus should be able to provide technical support to the investigations teams in both Cairo and Paris. A source from Airbus, who also spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, clarifies that the company’s team of engineers will be able answer technical questions, identify pieces of the aircraft, explain their functions, inspect the wreckage and attempt to identify the reason behind the crash.
The source adds that once the site is identified, then the company’s engineers can help identify where the black boxes could be.
However, the source adds that they cannot comment on speculations on the cause of the crash, especially if these speculations “are not agreed upon.”
Speculations over the cause of the plane crash have ranged from theories of an explosion, possibly caused by a terrorist attack, to a technical malfunction.
On May 21, France’s BEA claimed that the EgyptAir flight had sent out a distress signal indicating that smoke had been detected on the plane. The next day, privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that Cairo warned the French government against jumping to conclusions to explain the cause of the crash.
Additionally, on May 25, a source from the Forensics Authority was quoted in Al-Shorouk newspaper as denying claims published in AP concerning the size of recovered body parts. The source stated that the body parts do not indicate that there was an explosion and that other factors could have led to them being small in size.
The Airbus source explains that nothing is clear at this point, adding that all parties are working toward locating the black boxes. The source adds that once something is confirmed then it will be made public, and shared through proper channels.
The source from EgyptAir reiterates that there is no point in thinking about hypothetical situations, adding that if a technical error is proven, then it may be the responsibility of EgyptAir, the manufacturing company of the plane or even the airport the plane took off from. This will be determined by technical experts, the source adds.