Search underway for missing Airbus A320 that disappeared from radar screens en route from Paris to Cairo
An EgyptAir plane headed to Cairo from Paris with 66 people on board disappeared from radar in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, reviving memories of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that went missing in March 2014.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was lost from radar at 2:45 a.m. local time when it was flying at 37,000 feet, the airline said. It said the Airbus A320 had vanished 16 kilometres after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 km off the country’s coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
A Greek aviation source said the aircraft crashed into the sea off the southern Greek island of Karpathos while in Egyptian airspace. The official said the last communication with the pilot was three minutes before the plane disappeared, and that there had been no distress call.
An Egyptian official said a signal had been picked up from the plane two hours after it disappeared from radar, thought to have been an emergency beacon.
In water crashes, an underwater locator beacon attached to the aircraft’s flight recorders starts to emit a signal or ping. This helps the search and rescue teams to locate the boxes, and the location of the crash.
Egyptian military aircraft and navy ships were taking part in a search operation off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to locate the plane. The plane was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, and 10 crew members. The pilot had 6,000 flight hours.
EgyptAir later said those on board included 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, one Briton, two Iraqis, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Belgian, one Algerian and one Canadian.
French president Francois Hollande spoke with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone and agreed to “closely cooperate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances” in which the EgyptAir flight disappeared, according to a statement issued in Paris.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said no scenario could be ruled out at the moment as for what caused the plane to disappear. France, he told RTL radio, was “ready” to join the search operation if Egyptian authorities requested his country’s assistance.
An Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Metrojet crashed in the Sinai in October 31, 2015, killing all 224 people on board. Russia and Western governments have said the plane was likely brought down by a bomb, and the Islamic State militant group said it had smuggled an explosive on board.
An informed source at EGYPTAIR reported that EGYPTAIR Flight No MS 804 has lost communication with radar tracking system at 02:45 (CLT)
Reuters reported in January that an EgyptAir mechanic, whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria, is suspected of planting the bomb, according to sources familiar with the matter.
In March, an EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus by a man with what authorities said was a fake suicide belt. He was arrested after giving himself up.
The disappearance of the jet on Thursday comes more than two years after the start of one of the most enduring mysteries in aviation history.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew onboard, mostly Chinese and Malaysians.
Authorities believe the Boeing 777 detoured to the remote southern Indian Ocean and then plunged into the water.
The costly, painstaking search for a crash site has yet to yield results, but five pieces of debris have been identified as either definitely or probably from the jet, all found thousands of kilometres (miles) from the search zone, likely swept there by ocean currents.
Theories to explain the disappearance include a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Bloomberg