EgyptAir Pilot Made Distress Call, Spoke With Air Traffic Controller For ‘Several Minutes’ Before Crash

Despite initial reports that there was no distress call from pilots of the doomed EgyptAir MS804, new evidence suggests that the pilot spoke to a Cairo air traffic controller for “several minutes” before the crash about smoke filling the cabin. The new revelation in the case makes it “less likely” that the crash was the result of a terrorist attack, but investigators say they haven’t ruled out anything regarding the crash just yet, as the source of the fire is still unknown.

The Daily Mail reports that new information regarding the EgyptAir MS804 plane crash indicates that pilots contacted Cairo air traffic controllers about a potential fire on board the aircraft prior to the crash. In fact, it was noted that the pilot spoke to an air traffic controller for “several minutes” before the crash.

The new information is in stark contrast to initial reports which indicated that no distress call was made. The new information indicates that not only was a distress call made, but the pilot indicated he was going to attempt an emergency descent and landing.

“It was initially claimed that Mohamed Said Shoukair lost all radio contact before the Airbus A320 plunged into the sea last Thursday, with the loss of 66 lives, while travelling from Paris to Cairo. But according to aviation sources in Paris he was in fact worried about smoke filling the plane and said he was going to make an emergency landing.”

The distress call was reported by French television channel M6. According to the Independent, M6 reports that authorities working on the EgyptAir crash revealed that one of the MS804 pilots contacted Cairo air traffic control about smoke filling the cabin before detailing that they were making an emergency descent in an attempt to depressurize the cabin and remove smoke from the air.

Though M6 reports that claims were verified by Cairo officials, the French aviation authority has not confirmed the distress call, and Egyptian officials have yet to release the data. However, the idea of a distress call is not new. Shortly after the confirmed crash of EgyptAir MS804, airline officials reported that the pilot made a distress call and that the incident was being investigated. Despite the airline’s claims, Egyptian authorities quickly denied a distress call, and the airline was forced to withdraw the statement.

“Just after the Paris-Cairo flight vanished on Thursday, there were contradictory claims about distress calls or signals. An airline spokesman initially said that there had been a distress call from the airbus. This statement was denied by the Egyptian military and withdrawn by EgyptAir.”

With contradicting statements, it is unclear exactly what happened on the doomed flight but all aviation security specialists seem to agree that it was something quick and catastrophic. Aviation security expert Philip Baum notes that for the plane to be lost in just three minutes, the event had to be “extremely serious.”

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

While the incident was obviously serious, if the pilot did make the distress call as M6 is reporting, the chance of a terrorist attack is smaller. Instead, it could be a catastrophic mechanical issue that caused the fire or an accidental fire started by a cigarette or other object in the lavatory. Even with the distress call, given the nature of the accident involving fire, terrorism cannot currently be ruled out.

Multiple reports indicate that the black boxes for EgyptAir MS804 have been found and that it is only a matter of time before the full story is released to the public.

[Image via Mehmet Mustafa Celik/Wikipedia Commons]