EgyptAir Jet Rapidly Declined In Altitude

Time: 2:32 p.m. CEST

French online edition of LeMonde publishes the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis confirmed on Saturday, the EgyptAir flight 804 that crashed into the Mediterranean sent automatic messages shortly before it disappear of the radar. The real-time messaging between the flight crew and air traffic control, known as ‘Acars’ indicated on flames in the cabin.

The messages are generated and automatically transmitted by camera during the flight and indicate a smoke in the cockpit and in the plain restroom, as the data, reported by the said. Robert W. Mann, who is a former airline executive writes on this online site for the air incidents and explains, “the jargon in the messages said a compelling, although incomplete, story,” the New York Times republishes.

At 2:26 a.m., a message indicated that the right cockpit window had been opened. This could have been done to vent smoke, Mr. Mann said, or something else could have caused the breach.

Over the next two minutes, there were two smoke indications, one in a bathroom and another in the avionics bay, the part of the plane where much of its electronic equipment is housed.

Mr. Mann cautioned that these messages did not necessarily mean that there was a fire. The messages could also have been prompted by rapid decompression of the aircraft, which can produce condensation that the plane’s sensors could mistake for smoke.

Finally at 2:29, there were two more alerts having to do with the plane’s flight control computer systems.

“The last two are troubling,” Mr. Mann said. “You are starting to really see things rapidly degrade.”

First, there was a problem with the auto-flight control computer. The jet would have been flying near its maximum speed and elevation at that time. That is the most efficient way for jetliners to fly, and it is safe, but pilots prefer to rely on autopilot systems in those conditions because if they were to ever lose control of the plane, it could be hard to regain, Mr. Mann said. That is why pilots sometimes call those conditions the “coffin corner.”

The last message had to do with the spoiler elevator controller, which essentially controls the flaps responsible for pitch and roll control. The computer controlling these failed as well.

“It looks to me like you have a progressive flight control system failure,” Mr. Mann said. It is over the course of two minutes, which might have seemed like an eternity on that plane, but is relatively fast.

This is also when the plane left Greek airspace, and at 2:29:40 a.m., Greek controllers lost the aircraft’s trace, just inside Egyptian airspace, about halfway between Crete and Egypt.

Shortly afterwards, the plane turned a 90-degree to the left and a full circle to the right, with dropping in altitude from 37,000 to 15,000 feet, and to 9,000 feet before it vanished of the radar.

But, BEA stressed that it is too early to conclude on the basis of those messages. A spokesman for BEA said, “It is too much to interpret and understand the causes of the accident until we found either the wreckage or the recorders. The priority is to find wreckage and flight recorders.”

French authorities, which participate in the investigation, said every possibility is investigated. “At this moment, all hypothesis are examined and there is no preferred,”, further the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said on Friday after a meeting in Paris with family the victims.

As LeMonde writes, Airbus did not give any comment yet. The manufacturer is subject to the restrictions set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in such circumstances.

The EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday with 56 passengers and 10 crew on board.

An aircraft and ships deployed by the Egyptian army spotted the first debris of the Airbus A320 at about 290 kilometers north of Alexandria in Egypt.


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