Following the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 on Thursday, authorities continue to put together clues to determine if the incident was an act of terrorism, mechanical malfunction, or possibly human error. The weather in the area was optimal at the time of the flight. The latest news is that there were smoke alerts on the EgyptAir plane just minutes before it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, according to CNN. Though it doesn’t help to clarify whether the incident was intentional or accidental, it does give the investigators a focus.
At least two smoke sensors alerted on the Egyptair plane prior to the crash. This information was obtained through flight data stored through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS). The time stamps of the smoke alerts are around the same time the plane went silent. ACARS relays messages between planes and ground facilities. The smoke alert came from a lavatory and the avionics area, according to Bloomberg.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was en route from Paris to Cairo and disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea. It appears that the plane did a rapid, emergency decent from a cruising altitude just prior to losing contact with air traffic control. There were no warnings, no signs of distress, no emergency signals from the EgyptAir plane or crew.
Jean-Paul Triadic, former head of France’s BEA air-safety authority said the lack of alerts indicates a “brutal” event. “Normally if there’s a technical problem with engines, or a problem of pressurization, or something else, there are tools that let a pilot warn he’s got a problem,” Triadic said in a radio interview. “Nothing of the sort happened.”
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos announced the discovery of debris of EgyptAir Flight 804, including passenger seats, aircraft pieces, luggage, and human remains. Debris continues to be collected. Some of these items were recovered on shores about 180 miles north of Alexandria, Egypt. No survivors have been found. There has been no mention of the cockpit voice and flight-data recorders.
The debris can help officials to determine more about the incident. Small pieces of plane debris indicate a mid-air break of the plane; larger pieces indicate it broke apart upon hitting something hard, like land or water.
EgyptAir Flight 804 left Charles de Gaulle airport late on Wednesday night carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members for a three and a half hour flight. The crew and passengers are all being investigated to determine if any of them had terrorist links. They are also investigating everyone who came in contact with the plane prior to its departure from Paris, including baggage handlers and food service personnel.
Some 86,000 personnel have access to secure areas at Charles de Gaulle airport. Last year, 85 workers had their security clearance revoked for alleged ties with extremists. Another 600 were denied secure access for having criminal records. French authorities said all personnel are under continuous review.
Egyptian officials suspect terrorists, saying the probability is higher than mechanical malfunction. Greece has joined in the search for debris from the EgyptianAir crash. The area where the plane crashed into the Mediterranean has waters as deep as 9,800 feet. The depth of that area can make it especially difficult to find the black boxes. The boxes, which contain flight metrics and sounds from the cockpit, are fortified to protect the data. The black boxes are actually painted orange to aid in recovery should a plane crash. The boxes emit a ping that can last several weeks. The U.S. is on standby in case Egyptian officials request help with the investigation.
Finding the black box of EgyptAir Flight 804 is no easy task. It took salvage crews years to locate the black box from Air France AF447 flight that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. Two years after Malaysian Air MH370 went missing, only small pieces have been retrieved.
[Photo by Thomas Ranner/AP Images]