EgyptAir Flight 804, with 66 passengers and crew, flying non-stop from Paris to Cairo has been reported missing and authorities have assumed the plane has crashed. Anxious family members are gathered at Hotel Mercury, near the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, where counselors and medics are attending shocked family members, and in Cairo, the destination of the aircraft.
On board the Airbus A-320 were seven cabin crew and three Egyptian security officers, reported the French transport chief Alain Vidalies, who said that “is the usual practice.”
The nationalities of the 56 passengers on board included: one Canadian, one Briton, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Algerian, one Iraqi, one Kuwaiti, one Belgian, one Saudi Arabian, 15 French, and 30 Egyptians, one child, and two infants. At this time, no Americans appear to have been on board.
The Washington Post reported that Greek air traffic controllers had been in touch with the EgyptAir flight crew as the aircraft flew over Greek airspace. Constantine Lyzerakos, the director of the Greek Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that the Airbus A320 did not report any problems. The plane was flying at 37,000 feet, flying at 519 mph.
Ten miles before the aircraft was out of the Greek FIR (Flight Information Range), not far from the Greek Isand of Karpathos, air traffic controllers tried to reach the pilot, yet there was no response. Their were many attempts to contact the aircraft, but it disappeared out of radar range at 3:39 a.m. Greek time, 12:39 GMT. The aircraft vanished when it reached the Cairo FIR.
Just south of the Greek island, a Greek merchant ship captain said he “saw a flame in the sky.” Greek officials are still investigating this. This is the presumed area of the plane crash. Greece has now joined the Egypt-led investigation team search and rescue team. Planes that are normally out searching for migrants on the Mediterranean are now searching for the aircraft. Helicopters are on standby on Karpathos for any medical emergencies should there be survivors, and two planes and a frigate are en route to the search area.
At this time, there is no known cause for the plane crash. The plane was flying in excellent conditions, comfortably cruising during the safest part of the flight. This was the fifth leg of this aircraft. Earlier in the day, the plane flew to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, Tunis, the Tunisian capital, and Brussels, Belgium.
There is a possibility that this was a terrorist attack. There is concern that if this was indeed true, that there are issues with the security at the Paris airport. After the horrific attacks in Paris last November, airport security has been ramped up. French police now have more id checks and patrol the airport more frequently. The Guardian reported that as the aircraft was only on the ground for less than two hours, so there may not have been a proper inspection by the security officers at the Paris airport.
The former chief of the BEA national investigation unit, Jean-Paul Troadec indicated that this could indeed have been a terrorist attack.
“A technical problem, a fire or a failed motor do not cause an instant accident and the team has time to react.
The team said nothing, they did not react, so it was very probably a brutal event and we can certainly think about an attack.”
His assessment that there was not a distress call made would indicate “a brutal event.”
The Airbus A320 is a French made, commonly used workhorse. Plane capacity is 150 people and the range is 3,000 miles. The flight crew was very experienced. The captain had logged in 6,000 hours of flight time, with a third of that time flying the A320.
[AP Photo byPetros Karadjias]