Pride and prejudice cloud the search for crash facts

INVESTIGATORS, POLITICIANS and officials in Washington were last night trying to calm the growing row over the EgyptAir disaster.

Egyptian officials were examining the voice recorder, the transcripts from which convinced US investigators that the co-pilot deliberately put the aircraft into a steep dive. So far the Egyptians are far less certain of this, though unlike their American counterparts they have not been prepared to speculate anonymously to the press about their own theories. The truth probably lies in the fragments of wreckage spread across miles of the seabed, and it may never be clear to everybody's satisfaction.

The issue has become not just an argument about what caused EgyptAir's flight 990 from New York to Cairo to crash, but a dispute about motives and prejudice. The Egyptians believe the US is trying to protect Boeing, and that it automatically suspects Muslims of being guilty of reckless acts if not terrorism. The Americans privately believe the Egyptian government is trying to protect the national carrier.

The American theory turns on a few facts, whose interpretation is disputed. The cockpit voice recorders apparently show that the aircraft's captain, Ahmed al-Habashi, left the flight deck, leaving Gamil al-Batouti at the helm.

Batouti is reported to have said "I made my decision now," before repeating a Muslim prayer, which is variously translated as "I put my faith in God's hands," or "I depend on God." The aircraft's autopilot was then disconnected and the plane went into a steep dive. The engines were cut off, and the aircraft's two elevators were moved into different directions, so that one was pointing the plane down and one up.

Much in this is still unclear. Some leaked versions of the cockpit voice recorder do not include the comment about "I have made my decision now." Everyone agrees that Muslims use the prayer on many different occasions - when starting a car, or for something as simple as peeling potatoes.

The series of events on the data recorder and the voice recorder have had to be synchronised, which leaves some uncertainty. It is not clear who turned off the engines - some versions of the story say that it was the pilot who did this, apparently to slow the aircraft in its dive. And the significance of the elevators is unclear, although the US media have portrayed a struggle for control in the cockpit. The sensitivities of the case have led the US National Transportation Safety Board to hold back on handing the case over to the FBI, which has apparently been the source of the leaks but a decision is still expected in the next few days.

Nabil Fahmi, Egypt's new ambassador to Egypt has spent the week flitting between his embassy, the investigators and the State department. "It's a professional, cooperative effort between professionals belonging to governments who have very strong relations," he said. "Both sides want to know the truth and we're working to achieve that."

Washington, too, has sought to play down the media's theorising about the crash, though even the terms in which it has put its side have hardly been guaranteed to give the impression of evenhandedness. "We're appealing for calm, and calm can only come if there is a minimum of speculation about conclusions in this country, and a minimum of wild, exaggerated, unfounded conspiracy theories in other media in the Middle East,'' said the State Department spokesman James Rubin.

The efforts to recover the wreckage of the aircraft continue and the salvage vessel Carolyn Chouest has resumed its search. Rough weather has complicated its task, and with winter moving in , its task will not become any easier. The political turbulence, too, shows few signs of abating. And now the lawsuits have started, raising the stakes for everyone concerned with the incident.

The wreckage of TWA Flight 800, which crashed nearby three years ago, was recovered, but there is still no conclusive proof of what brought it down. The mainstream explanation is that an electrical fault caused vapour in the fuel tank to explode but theories about missiles and bombs still circulate.

Suggested Topics
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree - £18k Starting Salary

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London