The crashed EgyptAir plane, an Airbus A320 registration SU-GCC, is seen here taking off from Vienna in August 2015
The crashed EgyptAir plane, an Airbus A320 registration SU-GCC, is seen here taking off from Vienna in August 2015

EgyptAir flight MS804: Interference with flight controls 'likely to have caused crash'

Former head of flight operations for the Civil Aviation Authority says most likely theory is a struggle in the cockpit

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 20 May 2016 09:56

One man is certain about what caused the loss of EgyptAir flight MS804 and the deaths of the 66 people on board.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, said: “If anyone thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you are 100 per cent wrong.” But no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the loss of the jet from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo. Investigators are considering a wide range of possible causes of besides a terrorist bomb.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault said: “We're looking at all possibilities, but none is being favoured over the others because we have absolutely no indication on the causes.”

Even though the Airbus A320 has an excellent safety history, a catastrophic mechanical failure cannot be ruled out. Investigators will be checking the plane’s maintenance record.

Human intervention on the flight deck is another possibility; Greek military sources have suggested that the jet made a series of violent swerves as it lost altitude.

Captain Mike Vivian, former head of flight operations for the Civil Aviation Authority told Radio 4’s Today programme there could have been a struggle on the flight deck.

EgyptAir flight MS804 - What we know so far

“One’s inclined to go towards the theory that there had been some interference on the aircraft, and on the flight deck, with the control of the aircraft," he said.

In 1999, an EgyptAir flight from New York to Cairo crashed in the Atlantic. A US investigation concluded that one of the pilots had deliberately downed the Boeing 767, though Egypt insists the cause was a mechanical problem. Last year, the first officer of a Germanwings Airbus A320 killed himself and 149 others on board a Barcelona-Dusseldorf flight by crashing into a mountainside.

If terrorism was involved, the modus operandi could take many possible forms. It is believed that the Metrojet flight from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg airport was downed by a bomb placed on board at the airport in the Egyptian resort. If the same method was used to destroy MS804, a device could have been loaded at Paris, Cairo or one of the other locations the jet had recently visited, including Tunis and Asmara.

Investigators will look carefully at the passenger manifest, because of the possibility of a suicide attack. They will also study CCTV images of the security search area, to see if any weapon or explosive could have been smuggled through.

After the shooting down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, the possible use of a ground-to-air missile will be considered.

The only factor which is unlikely to feature prominently in the investigation is weather, which was fine. Jamie Bowden, a former British Airways executive, was on a flight on a very similar track to the EgyptAir jet at the same time. He said: “Flying conditions over the Med were perfect.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments