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Egyptair Flight MS804 Almost A Year Later

Egyptair Flight MS804 Almost A Year Later

Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

Egyptair Flight MS804 (AKA EgyptAir Flight 804) was a Paris to Cairo flight that ended in the Mediterranean on May 19, 2016. Sixty-six people lost their lives: three security crew, fifty-six passengers, seven crew.

Egyptian authorities published a progress report on 28/06/16 that the BEA repaired the recorders. On 17/06 that the Technical Investigation Committee of the A320 accident studied FDR data as well as performing time correlation between FDR and CVR data and cockpit voice recordings before the occurrence of the accident where the existence of a “fire” was mentioned. That report did not determine the reason or location where that fire occurred. Smoke was reported during the flight in the bathroom and the avionics bay.

The investigation has been fraught with controversy. On 22 May, 2016, M6 (French TV) reported that a pilot told Cairo air traffic control about smoke in the cabin, and the pilot consequently made an emergency descent.

On May 20th 2016 The Aviation Herald received information from three independent channels, that ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) messages with following content were received from the aircraft:

  • 00:26Z 3044 ANTI ICE R WINDOW
  • 00:26Z 561200 R SLIDING WINDOW SENSOR
  • 00:26Z 2600 SMOKE LAVATORY SMOKE
  • 00:27Z 2600 AVIONICS SMOKE
  • 00:28Z 561100 R FIXED WINDOW SENSOR
  • 00:29Z 2200 AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT
  • 00:29Z 2700 F/CTL SEC 3 FAULT
  • no further ACARS messages were received.

No sooner did the report come out that the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry dismissed it as false.

One truism I have found in accident investigation is that it takes time to find the truth. Another is that facts can be misleading. Reportage from official sources moves slowly; reportage from commercial, so-called “news,” or social sources is frequently speculative, unsourced, or purely imaginary. Sometimes it is actually correct. It is difficult to tell the difference. Contradictions are a frequent finding, such as this:

  • Le Figaro reported that no explosives were found on Egyptair flight MS804 French victims’ bodies. The flight crashed in the Mediterranean in 2016.
  • On Dec 15th 2016 Egypt’s Civil Aviation Authority announced that forensic examination on behalf of the Accident Investigation Commission found traces of explosives with some of the human remains recovered. In accordance with Egypt law, the states prosecutor was informed, and a technical commission formed by the prosecution office opened their investigation into the crime.

How does a close reader respond to a statement that “traces of explosives were found WITH human remains?” A close reader finds more questions. With the remains is not ON the remains. But it could be either way since we are dealing with languages. In English, WITH the remains could mean a bomb was floating in the water near the bodies, or ashes, or gasoline or TNT residue. And what constitutes near? Inches? Miles? It all is relative. Or if the original report is loosely translated, did the original document use a preposition such as ON the remains? And then, there are the forensic questions. Were explosive remains washed off of bodies that were submerged in the ocean?

If the case goes to court, the court will want to know if something failed on the plane, and if so, what it was. Manufacturers of failed components are considered responsible parties. No matter what the cause, international treaty determines carrier responsibility to the victims of the crash.

The determination of failed components provides additional responsible parties. The discovery of a bomb would make airport security one of the potential responsible parties. In addition, international treaty provides guidelines for what carriers owe to the families. (Which treaty is involved depends on which treaty/treaties the involved country/countries are signatory to. If it sounds like it can get complicated, you are correct.)

It has been nearly a year since the accident, and though some things may be believed in the court of public opinion to be one way or another, questions remain unanswered. How grievous and how difficult for the families that must wait so long to find out what brought about this tragedy that took their loved ones.

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