Update: The black box from EgyptAir flight MS804 has been found and recovered, according to the BBC. An underwater robot was able to retrieve the recording device from the plane and the remains of the memory unit will be taken to Alexandria, Egypt, to be studied.
“The vessel’s equipment was able to salvage the part [of the recorder] that contains the memory unit, which is considered the most important part of the recording device,” investigators said in a statement.
It is still not clear why the plane crashed.
Egyptian officials announced that wreckage of EgyptAir flight MS804, which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea last month, has finally been found.
The Associated Press reports that a vessel named the John Lethbridge had detected pieces of the wreckage, uncovering several large pieces using radar and sonar.
The biggest challenge will be finding the airplane’s black box. Researchers have detected signals emitted by the black box to show its location, but have not been able to find it in the depths of the Mediterranean. As the black box’s signals will expire on June 24, investigators are under a serious time crunch to find it before then.
The black box, which records an airplane’s last moments, will be crucial to determine why the EgyptAir flight crashed, killing 66 people.
Uncovering the mystery
Even though it has been more than a month since the plane crashed without even sending a distress signal, investigators are still unsure of the cause. While many suspected a bomb when news of the crash first broke out, mechanical failure or a hijacking are other possibilities.
Even the plane’s final actions are something of a mystery. While Egyptian officials initially stated that the plane suddenly disappeared off the radar, Greek investigators stated that the plane sharply turned to the left, then veered towards the right before disappearing. Egyptian radar later corroborated the Greek account.
Automated signals indicate that smoke detectors went off in several area in the plane in its final minutes, including at the front of the plane, within electrical components, and in the toilet. The fact that the plane appeared to commit strange actions before crashing indicates that a bomb was likely not the cause, but this does not rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack.
It will be possible to find the black box even if investigators cannot find it before the signal expires, but it will be harder. But finding the wreckage means that investigators can have further clues towards the cause of the plane crash.
For example, the BBC notes that if the debris is spread out over a large area, it would indicate that the plane broke up in mid-air. But if it is more intact, it would suggest that the plane hit the water and then broke up.
Investigators could also put the wreckage together to see if the plane received bomb damage or if key engine parts are missing.
Retrieving the black box
The black box is currently in the depths of the Mediterranean, about 3,000 feet below the ocean surface. The John Lethbridge will likely a play key role in retrieving the box if it is found.
The first step will be to make sure that the signals are still with the black box. David Meams, a salvage expert who often helps find lost shipwrecks and aircraft, told the BBC that “It is not unusual for the underwater locater beacons, or pingers, to have been knocked off the black boxes during the crash.”
If the beacons are still with the box, then the Lethbridge will likely send a robotic submarine down to find the box. From there, the submarine can pick the box up with metallic claws and carry it up to the surface.
The EgyptAir crash represents another incident where rescue officials have had great difficulty finding answers when a plane crashes into the sea. In addition to the infamous Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 which crashed into the Indian Ocean for undetermined reasons, there was the case of Indonesian AirAsia Flight 8501 which crashed into the Java Sea in 2014. There, divers had to battle strong currents and tides to retrieve the fuselage and black box.
[Photo By Chris McGrath/Getty Images]