Wreckage from EgyptAir flight MS804 has been found in the Mediterranean Sea alongside passengers’ belongings / EPA

Investigators are believed to have already found wreckage of the fuselage, wings and tailplane in several locations and the race is now on to find the flight data recorder containing all the commands made by the pilots

Egyptian accident investigators have found one of the “black boxes” from flight MS804, the jet that crashed in the Mediterranean on 19 May with the loss of 66 lives. 

The Egyptian Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee announced that that the deep-ocean search vessel, RV John Lethbridge, had found the cockpit voice recorder. Even though it was damaged, the vessel equipment managed to pick up the memory unit. It has been taken to the city of Alexandria to be interrogated by the technical investigation committee. 

The search team is working in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean, at around 10,000 feet below sea level. They are believed to have already found wreckage of the fuselage, wings and tailplane in several locations.

With the help of photographs taken from the seabed, and “pinger” transmissions from the cockpit voice recorder, investigators were able to direct the extraction of the device.

A race is now on to find the second “black box,” the flight data recorder containing all the commands made by the pilots. It is believed the battery on the automatic beacon will expire within about a week.

The EgyptAir Airbus A320 was at 37,000 feet and nearing the end of a routine scheduled flight from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar screens about 180 miles north of Alexandria. No distress calls were made from the flight deck.

If the memory unit from the cockpit voice recorder is successfully downloaded, it will reveal the conversations that took place on the flight deck in the two hours before the crash.

Investigators will focus on the latter stages of the flight. Greek officials have said that the plane made a 90-degrees left turn and then made a complete 360-degree right-hand circuit as it descended.

Seven minutes before radar contact was lost, a sequence of automated messages sent from the doomed aircraft indicated multiple threatening events on board - possibly including fire in a lavatory and the main electronics bay.

The range of possible causes of the loss is still wide, encompassing anything from hijacking to mechanical failure. While investigators in Alexandria analyse the cockpit voice recorder, the team aboard the RV John Lethbridge will be mapping the wreckage field. The distribution of wreckage will help investigators decide whether an on-board explosion may have taken place.

No extremist group has claimed responsibility for the crash.

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