EgyptAir flight MS804 with 66 passengers onboard to Cairo has crashed

As confirmed by the airline on Twitter, an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo went off the radar on Thursday morning. The flight had 59 passengers and 10 crew members aboard

FP Staff May 19, 2016 09:37:40 IST
EgyptAir flight MS804 with 66 passengers onboard to Cairo has crashed

An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo, which went off the radar on Thursday morning, has crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Greek island of Crete, according to Egyptian and Greek officials.

As confirmed by the airline on Twitter, the flight had 66 people on aboard. An official statement released by EgyptAir said that the passengers included one child and two babies.

EgyptAir flight MS804 with 66 passengers onboard to Cairo has crashed

Egyptians gather outside the arrivals section of Cairo International Airport, Egypt. AP.

The Airbus A320 had vanished 16 kilometres after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 kilometres, off the country's coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

The Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to say whether a technical problem or a terror attack caused the plane to crash. "We cannot rule anything out," he told reporters at Cairo airport. EgyptAir also said that the cause of the disappearance of its Paris-Cairo flight, on Thursday, was still unclear as search teams scoured the waters off the Egyptian coast.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said "nothing is confirmed" regarding the disappearance of the EgyptAir flight and is warning against some unverified information in circulation. Ayrault, speaking after meeting with families gathered at a hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport, tells journalists the priority is "solidarity" with them and extended a "message of compassion and support." He says French authorities are in direct contact with Greek and Egyptian authorities.

The French military said that a Falcon surveillance jet monitoring the Mediterranean for migrants has been diverted to help. Military spokesperson Col Gilles Jaron said that the jet is joining the Egypt-led search effort, and the French navy may send another plane and a ship to the zone. He said the Falcon was on a surveillance mission as part of EU efforts to monitor migrants crossing the Mediterranean toward Europe.

MarineTraffic, a ship-tracking service app, has confirmed on its verified Twitter page that nearby vessels were helping with the search.

Nearby vessels scrambling to help with #MS804 search. Our thoughts are with the #EgyptAir passengers & families. — MarineTraffic (@MarineTraffic) May 19, 2016

French international news channel France 24 tweeted that Ayrault had convened a "crisis cell" at the French embassy in Cairo. The French and Egyptian foreign ministers exchanged "condolences over the plane incident".

The director of Greece's Civil Aviation Authority, Konstantinos Lintzerakos, said that air traffic controllers were in contact with the pilot of the EgyptAir flight as it passed through Greek airspace. He added that the plane was at 37,000 feet, traveling at 519 mph, and did not report any problem. Lintzerakos told a private television channel that controllers tried to make contact with the pilot approximately 16 kilometres before the flight exited the Greek Flight Information Range (FIR), but the pilot did not respond. Lintzerakos said that controllers continued trying to contact the pilot until 3.39 a.m. Greek time (1239 GMT), when the plane disappeared from the radar. Lyzerakos says the plane was in Cairo's FIR when it vanished. Airbus put out a statement on its official Twitter page:

Egypt's state news agency quoted the prime minister as saying there was no "distress call", but there was a "signal" received from the plane. The spokesperson of the Egyptian army, Brig Gen Mohammed Samir, also echoed the same point: a statement posted on the army's official Facebook page says that the army has not received any distress call from the missing plane. France's transport chief said there were three Egyptian security officers on the EgyptAir flight. Alain Vidalies told reporters on Thursday, after an emergency government meeting, that the plane had seven crew members and three Egyptian security officers, "which is the usual practice." He also said the plane was not carrying freight. According to the airline's Twitter feed, the Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has been following up the situation of the EgyptAir flight from the their crisis centre. Ismail was presented with a detailed briefing about the situation from the crisis team and he has directed all the concerned authorities to take necessary action.


The Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister even cut short his visit to Saudi Arabia and is returning to the country. France has offered to send military planes and boats to help search for the EgyptAir flight. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government is in constant contact with Egyptian authorities, since the plane's disappearance early Thursday. "We are at the disposition of the Egyptian authorities with our military capacities, planes, boats to help in the search for this plane." He spoke after French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting at the Elysee Palace. Ayrault confirmed 15 French people were on the flight. "We imagine the anguish of the families," he said. Hollande also spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone, and agreed to "closely cooperate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances" surrounding the incident, according to a statement issued in Paris. In Cairo, el-Sissi convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, the country's highest security body. The council includes the prime minister and the defense, foreign and interior ministers in addition to the chiefs of the intelligence agencies.

EgyptAir flight MS804 with 66 passengers onboard to Cairo has crashed

An Egyptian woman, who said her brother is among passengers, grieves as she leaves the Egyptair in-flight service building where relatives are being held at Cairo International Airport. AP

The Egyptian Armed forces have also intensified search operations using a number of aircraft and marine units; Greece has sent two aircrafts to help with the search. Officials said that the search is now underway for the debris and they say the "possibility that the plane crashed has been confirmed," as the plane hasn't landed in any of the nearby airports. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press. Speaking on RTL radio, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls Valls said the Paris airport authority has opened a crisis center to support the families coming to Charles de Gaulle Airport. EgyptAir, in its official Facebook page, relased the list of passengers' nationalities: 15 French, 30 Egyptian and one each from Britain, Belgium, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada. The French government said that President Francois Hollande spoke with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi over the phone, and that they agreed to "closely cooperate to establish the circumstances" in which the EgyptAir flight disappeared. The government statement cited Hollande as saying he shares the anxiety of families, in a written statement. The costly, painstaking search for a crash site has yet to yield results, but five pieces of debris have been identified as either definitely or probably from the jet, all found thousands of kilometres from the search zone, likely swept there by ocean currents.

Some theories to explain the disappearance include a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action. Around 15 family members of passengers on board the missing flight arrived at Cairo airport on Thursday and authorities have arranged for doctors (and translators) to the scene, after several distressed family members collapsed. Ahram, an Egypt-based newspaper, quoted an airport official as saying that the pilot had not sent a distress signal before it disappeared and that the last contact with the plane was 10 minutes before it vanished. Meanwhile, an Airbus spokesperson, Jacques Rocca said that the company was aware of the disappearance but had no official information "at this stage of the certitude of an accident." Airbus said that the missing Egyptian flight was delivered to EgyptAir in 2003 and had logged 48,000 flight hours. The European plane-maker said in a statement, on Thursday, that the plane had engines made by Swiss-based engine consortium IAE, and had the serial number 2088.

Greece is also participating in the search and rescue operation for the missing EgyptAir flight. Helicopters are on standby on the southern island of Karpathos for potential rescue or recovery operations. The Hellenic National Defense General Staff said one frigate is also heading to the area where the plane disappeared and is about 100 nautical miles or 4 hours away at this time. Ihab Raslan, a spokesman for the Egyptian civil aviation authority, said that it was too early to tell if the plane had crashed into the sea. Meanwhile, the Paris airport authority and the French civil aviation authority would not immediately comment. EgyptAir, in its Twitter feed, said that the aircraft commander has 6,275 of flying hours including 2101 flying hours on Airbus 320 and that the co-pilot has 2,766 flying hours. The manufacturing date of the aircraft was in 2003.

EgyptAir has offered toll-free numbers for passengers' relatives in its Twitter feed: 080077770000 from any landline in Egypt and +202 25989320 from any mobile phone or from outside Egypt.

Flightradar24, an app that tracks air traffic in real time, tweeted an image of what it believes to be the last received position of the MS804 flight.

According to Sky News Arabia, the plane was last detected in the skies over Greece, about 40 minutes from Athens.

He surrendered after a six-hour airport standoff, which ended peacefully.

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