Tape may end speculation over EgyptAir crash

THE MYSTERY of the EgyptAir Boeing 767 crash off the US coast two weeks ago may be solved this week when the tape from the cockpit voice recorder is transcribed and analysed.

Speculation in the British and American media has - without any evidence - blamed mechanical failure, a struggle between the crew, a bomb, a hijack and a suicidal crew member. The lack of any "steer" from America's National Transportation Safety Board investigators has to some extent encouraged the theories. But the nationality of the crew and the plane has also apparently encouraged reporters' irresponsible guesswork.

In previous crashes, infighting between American investigating agencies has contributed to conflicting theories. This time, the authorities have sought to stop speculation by focusing on the facts. But anonymous sources from one US agency have repeatedly leaked their views to the press.

The earliest indications from the cockpit voice recorder are that there was a problem with the aircraft, the crew tried to deal with it, but things went rapidly from bad to worse.

"Something happens. Alarms go off. Both [pilots] work to try to fix it," an unnamed source said after the investigators listened to the tape for the first time. "There is some kind of problem that they're dealing with. It gets progressively worse. And the tape stops."

This source, however, apparently did not speak Arabic and had not understood anything on the tape, which tends to undermine his credibility.

From the aircraft's flight data recorder, it is known that for some reason the crew disengaged the autopilot. The plane began dropping from 33,000ft at a 40-degree angle, almost reaching the speed of sound and zero gravity inside the cabin. The engines were apparently manually shut down during the dive. The plane reached 16,000ft and then climbed back to 24,000ft before falling rapidly and breaking up. This pattern of events does not fit with any known course of action in response to a problem.

There was no indication of a fight between the crew, who were speaking "like pals," said the source who has heard the tape. Nor was there any sign that someone had entered the cockpit. Indeed, there was never any evidence for this theory.

A US government official told Newsweek magazine that Boeing was "pushing" the theory of a cockpit struggle. Boeing denied this. If mechanical failure is the cause, there might be serious implications for Boeing, including legal action.

The supposition of a cockpit fight was based on the fact that the flight elevators had been moved in opposite directions moments before the crash. From this, the inference was drawn that the pilot and co-pilot acted against each other. Equally, it assumed the decision to shut off the autopilot and the engines was irrational, something that cannot be judged until the cause of the problem is known.

The accusation that one of the crew might have tried to kill himself, or have fought with his colleagues, was based on no evidence. It seems highly unlikely that US newspapers would have made these accusations against an America pilot who had died in similar circumstances, and the families and friends of the crew have understandably responded angrily.

Captain Ahmed al-Habashy, the lead pilot, was stable and happy, his wife and brother have said. He was close to retirement. "He never smoked or drank alcohol," his brother said. "He had no bad habits. He was very religious and prayed and was always reading the Koran," he said. The Boston Herald felt it necessary to add that he was "not an extremist".

Co-pilot Adel Anwar was due to be married five days after the flight and had exchanged slots with another flight officer to return home sooner.

Other theories with equally little evidence have also surfaced. The first was that the reverse thrusters might have malfunctioned, based on a similar crash of a Boeing 767 in Thailand - an aircraft that was made at the same time as the EgyptAir plane. The data recorder seemed to rule this out.

More than one newspaper has blamed terrorism, citing the flight profile, the suddenness of the problem and the lack of a distress call. It has also been noted that the aircraft had a large number of Egyptian military personnel on board. The FBI has given no signs that it is actively looking at terrorism as a likely cause. But the leaks from the inquiry may come from the FBI, which has been criticised for a number of investigations recently, and is seeking funds for, among other things, a new counter- terrorism unit.

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting

£400 - £550 per day: Orgtel: Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting ...

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Senior Networks Architect

£65000 per annum + 15% Pension, Health, Travel & Bonus: Progressive Recruitmen...

SAP BW/BO Consultant

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW/BO CONSU...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices