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Black Box From Missing EgyptAir Flight 804 Is Said to Be Detected

by: New York Times - June 1, 2016
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A French soldier aboard an aircraft searching in May for debris from the crashed EgyptAir Flight 804 over the Mediterranean Sea. Credit Alexandre Groyer/French Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A French soldier aboard an aircraft searching in May for debris from the crashed EgyptAir Flight 804 over the Mediterranean Sea. Credit Alexandre Groyer/French Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

CAIRO (New York Tims) — A French naval vessel fitted with sophisticated underwater sensors has picked up a signal believed to have emanated from one of two data recorders from EgyptAir Flight 804, Egyptian investigators said on Wednesday.

The flight crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on May 19 while en route to Cairo from Paris, killing all 66 people on board. Data signals, and the discovery of wreckage and human remains, have suggested a rapid loss of control just before the crash.

But the cause of the disaster remains a mystery. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility. The data recorders would help determine whether the crash was an accident, and if so, how it happened.

The vessel that detected the signal, the survey ship Laplace, was taking part in the search for the data recorders from the Airbus A320 when it “received through its search equipment signals from the seabed of the wreckage search area,” according to a statement on Wednesday from the Egyptian Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee, which is leading the inquiry into the crash. The signals are “assumed to be from one of the data recorders,” the committee added.

Although it is not certain the signal detected “corresponds with” a beacon from the data recorders, it was “almost certain to be coming from one of the black boxes, said a European official who had been briefed on the search operation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Another research vessel, the John Lethbridge, is being prepared to join the search team within a week and to retrieve the recorders if they are found, officials said. The vessel is operated by Deep Open Search, a company based in Mauritius.

The search for the EgyptAir plane has narrowed to an area within a three-mile radius of the point in the Mediterranean where satellite data indicate that the plane probably went down.

Locator signals emitted by flight data and cockpit voice recorders, also known as black boxes, can be picked up even when they are deep underwater.

The battery-powered beacons are certified to emit a distinct metronomic “ping” for about 30 days after a crash, which means the EgyptAir plane’s black boxes are likely to fall silent around the middle of June — a deadline that has added urgency to the search.