Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Unloading information

Investigators hope to finish repairing the heavily damaged black box recorders of EgyptAir Flight 804 to try to find out why it crashed, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptian aviation investigators were expected to finish repairing the memory units of the black box recorders retrieved from the doomed EgyptAir flight MS804 on Monday.

According to Reuters, a senior investigation official said that “the repairs will be complete within hours” and that it was only after the repairs were finished that the committee would be able to determine how easy or difficult extracting the data will be.

The investigation committee’s inspection of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) began Saturday with the assistance of representatives from France, where the aircraft was manufactured, and the US, where the plane’s engine was made.

The plane crashed into the Mediterranean on 19 May while en route from Paris to Cairo, about 290 kilometres north of the Egyptian coast, killing all 66 people on board.

The investigation committee of the EgyptAir plane received the CVR and FDR from the general prosecution after the two devices were retrieved last week. The search vessel John Lethbridge, owned by the company Deep Ocean Search (DOS), was able to locate and retrieve the FDR a day after retrieving the CVR.

Search teams recovered the CVR on Thursday and said at the time that it was “damaged but the memory unit was still intact”. The following day, the FDR was discovered and “it had been broken into pieces” but still had a memory unit.

“The memory units of the CVR and FDR were extracted in the civil aviation labs,” the investigation committee said in a statement on Monday.

“The extraction of both memory units preceded the drying stage that was conducted in the Technical Research Centre of the Armed Forces. The process took eight hours,” a statement said. Meanwhile, the electrical tests of the memory units are currently underway, which will be followed by the unloading phase of data.

Extracting data from the memory units of the CVR and FDR should help investigation committee explain why the plane went down last month.

The data on the two units is to be unloaded before it is analysed in a procedure that is expected to last several weeks. If badly damaged, the black boxes will be sent abroad for repairs. Otherwise, the work could be done in Egypt.

“If the memory units of both recorders turn out to be in good condition, the data analysis may take up to several weeks,” the committee said.

Although a terror attack has not been ruled out, investigators have said it is too early to determine what caused the plane to crash. Last month, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said that a terrorist act appeared a more likely cause than mechanical failure.

The Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement that analysing the contents of the two boxes may take weeks. The statement added that if the boxes suffered from extensive, severe damage then the analysing process will take place outside Egypt.

The investigation will not end once the boxes have been analysed. That is only one step in the larger process, the statement said.

Egyptian investigators confirmed on Monday that the aircraft made a 90-degree left turn followed by a 360-degree turn to the right before hitting the sea. Such information was previously given by the Greek Defence Ministry hours after the crash. Nevertheless, no distress call was received.

From its side, France’s aviation safety agency has said that the aircraft transmitted automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control unit minutes before it disappeared from radar.

The chairman of EgyptAir, Safwat Mosallam, said on Monday that the company has agreed to give the families of the victims of the plane crash $25,000 as compensation.

Mosallam said in a press statement that EgyptAir has agreed with insurance companies on the amount as an initial tranche until further procedures can be taken.

“The amount is temporary compensation based on international regulations regarding insurance. It will be issued to everyone, including [family members of] the deceased crew,” the chairman said.

The accident was the third blow in eight months to Egypt’s travel industry. A Russian plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in October last year, killing all 224 people on board in an attack claimed by Islamic State. In March, an EgyptAir plane was hijacked to Cyprus by a man wearing a fake suicide belt. There were no casualties.

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