24 May 2016

EgyptAir flight didn't swerve - officials

10:58 am on 24 May 2016

An EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean did not swerve and change direction before disappearing, an Egyptian official says.

The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard when it vanished from radar early on Thursday.

Greece's defence minister said the plane turned 90 degrees left and then did a 360-degree turn towards the right before plummeting.

But a senior Egyptian aviation official said there was no unusual movement.

EgyptAir plane

Photo: 123RF

Ehab Azmy, the head of Egypt's state-run provider of air navigation services, told Associated Press the plane had been flying at its normal height of 37,000ft (11,280m) before dropping off the radar. Some debris has since been found.

"That fact degrades what the Greeks are saying about the aircraft suddenly losing altitude before it vanished from radar," he said.

Greece's defence minister Panos Kammenos had said the radar showed the Airbus A320 making two sharp turns and dropping more than 25,000ft (7,620m) before plunging into the sea.

Mr Azmy added that there were no problems with the plane as it entered Egyptian airspace, where it was tracked for "nearly a minute or two before it disappeared".

Greek aviation officials had said air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot when he entered Greek airspace and everything appeared normal.

They tried to contact him again at 02:27 Cairo time, as the plane was set to enter Egyptian airspace, but "despite repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond".

Last week, the Aviation Herald reported that smoke detectors went off in the plane's toilet and the aircraft's electrics three minutes before it disappeared.

In a statement to Egypt's al-Ahram newspaper, Mr Azmy also denied a report there had been contact between the pilot of the plane and Egyptian air traffic control.

Mr Azmy did not elaborate on his denial to al-Ahram in further interviews with AP and Reuters.

On Sunday, Egypt deployed a robot submarine to search for the flight data recorders of the missing EgyptAir plane.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said there was "no particular theory we can affirm right now" for what caused flight MS804 to crash.

Egypt's civil aviation minister has said the possibility of a terror attack was stronger than technical failure, but Mr Sisi said establishing the cause could take a long time, adding "all scenarios are possible".

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian military spokesperson on May 21, 2016 and taken from an undisclosed location reportedly shows some debris.

Debris has been found. Photo: AFP/ Egyptian military spokesperson's Facebook page

The Egyptian military released images on Saturday of life vests, personal items and debris showing the EgyptAir logo which were found during the search in the Mediterranean Sea.

The search has also reportedly found body parts and luggage. The main body of the plane and the two "black boxes" which record flight data and cockpit transmissions have not yet been located.

Air accident investigator Hani Galal told Reuters that, when found, the flight recorders would be analysed in Egypt, unless they were badly damaged. They are believed to be in waters between 2500m and 3000m deep.

- BBC

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs