The aeroplane operated by Egyptair, which was flying from Paris (France) to Cairo (Egypt) as flight MS 804, disappeared off the coast of Egypt at around 00 h 30 UHT. It had taken off at around 21 h 00 UTC.
BEA PRESS RELEASE – 19 MAI 2016 18H30
Following the accident to an Airbus A320, registered SU-GCC, off the Egyptian coast, the Egyptian civil aviation authorities have informed the BEA of the initiation of a safety Investigation.
The aeroplane, operated by Egyptair, was flying the Paris (France) – Cairo (Egypt) route as flight MS804.
The Airbus A320 had taken off from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday 18 May 2016 at around 23 h.
In accordance with international provisions the BEA, representing the State of Design of the aeroplane, is participating in the investigation.
A team of three BEA investigators, accompanied by a technical advisor from Airbus is travelling to Egypt in the next few hours.
The BEA will be able to advise the Egyptian authorities on the organisation of underwater sea-search operations with a view to locating the aeroplane and the flight recorders.
Undersea search operations to locate the wreckage of the Airbus A320 registered SU-GCC, flight MS 804, off the coast of Egypt
A campaign of undersea searches will begin in the next few days with the arrival in the accident area of the French Navy hydrographic ship the "Laplace". This ship is equipped with three DETECTOR 600s, belonging to the French company Alseamer, a submersible system to listen for and localize the signal from the flight recorders' locator beacons.
The "Laplace" is sailing today from Porto Vecchio bound for the search area, off the Egyptian coast, with two BEA investigators on board.
Discussions are continuing today to complete this operation with a second ship equipped with a remotely operated exploration vehicle, along with salvage equipment appropriate for the great depths in this search area, estimated at 3,000 metres.
The Egyptian authorities, who are leading the investigation, are co-ordinating these undersea search operations with technical assistance from the BEA.
The Egyptian authorities yesterday, 27 May, signed an memorandum of understanding with the international company Deep Ocean Search (DOS) to complete the team searching to recover the two flight recorders.
Progress report n°3 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"CAIRO - 27 May 2016
The Ministry of Civil Aviation signed a memorandum of understanding today with the international company Deep Ocean Search “DOS”to carry out the search and retrieval process of the two data recorders of the A320, downed last week in the Mediterranean.
DOS is one of the best companies in this field; thatuses the most advanced technology in reading the signals of the two boxes in addition to its ability to conduct extensive sonar scan for the search area.
It is worth mentioning that the French vessel used in the search process is equipped with Alseamar, which is considered as one of the best equipment used in this field.
On the other hand, the investigation committee has started studying the information received from theGreek air traffic control about the accident; more information of the records of the radar that had followed the path of the plane before the accident, is expected to be also received."
The Egyptian authorities confirmed today that a signal has been identified that could come from one of the flight recorders from the Airbus A320, operated by Egyptair, that disappeared on 19/05/16.
Progress report n° 5 published by the Egyptian authorities :
"Cairo, 1st of June 2016
Investigation Progress Report (5) by the Egyptian Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee.
The French vessel “Laplace” of the French navy; participating in the search for the two data recorders of the A320 that was downed in the Mediterranean mid of last month; has received through its search equipment signals from the seabed of the wreckage search area; assumed to be from one of the data recorders.
Extensive search efforts are being carried out to locate the two data recorders in preparation for their retrieval by “JOHN LETHBRIDGE” which is a vessel that belongs to DOS "Deep Ocean Search", which will join the search team within a week."
> Official site of the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry
The Egyptian authorities yesterday, May 13, published a progress report on the radar data received, the transmission time of the locator beacons as well as the participation of the NTSB in the investigation as representative of the State of Manufacture of the engines. They also stated that the sea searches are continuing as planned on board the Laplace and John Lethbridge ships.
Progress report n° 7 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 13th of June 2016
Investigation Progress Report (7) by the Egyptian Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee
The Egyptian air force investigation committee received radar images of the A320 route before its crash; which identified that the aircraft swerved and changed direction to the left then turned for a full circle. This comes in accordance with the British and Greek radar images; however investigation can not only count on such information.
Manufacturers of the Flight data recorders stated that signals will continue to come out of the so-called black boxes till the 24th of June 2016.
The investigation committee has approved the request of the National Transportation Safety Board to assign one of its approved representatives to join the investigation team as the United States of America is the engine manufacturer; in addition to an expert of the flight recorders manufacturing company.
It is worth mentioning that both vessels La Place; responsible for the search process and John Lethbridge; the vessel responsible for the search and retrievel of the wreckage are carrying out their mission at the wreckage designated area"
The Egyptian authorities published a progress report on May 16 indicating that some fragments of the wreckage have been observed in several locations.
Progress report n° 8 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"John Lethbridge, the vessel contracted by the Egyptian government to join the search efforts for the data recorders and the wreckage of the doomed A320; had identified several main locations of the wreckage, accordingly the first images of the wreckage were provided to the investigation committee. Based on the wreckage locations; The search team and investigators onboard of the vessel will draw a map for the wreckage distribution spots.
Immediately a meeting was held between the investigation committee members to study thoroughly the progressive actions taken during the past period and in order to plan how to best handle the wreckage in the coming period.
It is worth mentioning that the debris retrieved earlier are still in possession of the forensic evidences under supervision of the criminal prosecution; to carry out standard procedures then it will be handed to the technical investigation committee after concluding such procedures."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 17/06/16 indicating the discovery and recovery of the FDR (Flight Data Recorder). A BEA investigator is travelling to Cairo today in order to add his technical expertise for the readout of the two flight recorders.
Progress report n° 10 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 17th of June 2016
After the sucess in retrieving the cockpit voice recorder of the doomed A320; John Lethbridge, the vessel contracted by the Egyptian Government; has managed to retrieve the second black box which is the flight data recorder.
The flight data recorder was also retrieved in several stages but the vessel equipment managed to pick up the memory unit; which is considered as the most important part of the above-mentioned recorder.
Immediately the General prosecution was notified that the second data recorder was also found and accordingly issued its decision to hand over the two data recorders to the technical investigation committee to carry out analysis and unload the voice conversations.
Transfer process of the two data recorder from the vessel to Alexandria is under process; which will be received by members from the general prosecution and the investigation committee."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 17/06/16 at 16H30 detailing the next steps in the the safety investigation following the recovery of the two flight recorders (FDR & CVR).
Progress report n° 11 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 17th of June 2016
The Technical Investigation committee for the A320 downed in the Mediterranean mid of last month; has received the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) from the general prosecution; after being retrieved from the aircraft wreckage location.
The two data recorders will be handed over to the Central Department for Aircraft Accident at the Ministry of Civil Aviation to start analysing them in order to unload their data.
The analysis of data may take several weeks; if the memory units at both recorders are in good condition; then the unloading process will start right away at the labs of the Central Department for Aircraft Investigation. Whereas if there is a minor damage at both or either of them; the damage will be repaired locally; but if the damage is major ; then the repair process will be conducted abroad under the supervision of the Investigation Committee.
It is worth mentioning that the technical investigation for the accident does not end by extracting data from the retrieved recorders; which is considered of a major importance but still act as part of the exclusive investigation process."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 19/06/16 at 23H00 on the technical operations techniques undertaken on the flight recorders as well as on the continuation of the underwater searches intended to map the debris area.
Progress report n° 12 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 19th of June 2016
On Saturday the 18th of June; the investigation committee started the process of inspecting parts of both the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR), the approved representative of France and his consulting experts witnessed this process. Whereas approved Representative and consultants from the United States of America; the engine manufacturer; had also joined the investigation committee. Memory units of both recorders were removed at the labs of the Central Department for Aircraft Investigation at the Ministry of Civil Aviation as a preparation to start the drying stage which was conducted at the Technical Research Center of the Armed Forces using modern high-Tech drying ovens. The drying stage took 8 consecutive hours and it was made in attendance of members of the investigation committee and the adviser to the approved representative of France, who has a wide expertise in dealing with the plane recorders. Electrical tests of memory units of the recorders are in progress which will be followed by the data unloading phase. It is worth mentioning that John Lethbrige, the vessel contracted by the Egyptian Government to join the search for the plane wreckage, is proceeding its tasks of drawing a map of the wreckage distribution at the bottom of the Mediterranean."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 23/06/16 at 23H00 specifically indicating that, taking into account the damage noted on the two flight recorders, the technical operations currently undaer way in Cairo would be continued at the BEA in France. The two flight recorders will we transported there by the Egyptian investigators next week.
Progress report n° 14 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 23 June 2016
Reference to the damage of the memory units of both the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of the doomed A320; which led to incompatability of tests readings with the approved standards of the recorders manufacturer; The Investigation committee will escort the electronic boards of the data recorders to France next week to carry out repair and removal of salt accumulations at the French Investigation Bureau then back to Cairo to perform data analysis at the labs of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
John Lethbridge; the vessel contracted by the Egyptian Government; continues retriveing the plane wreckage and locating victims' remains; whereas French forensic doctors wil join their counter Egyptian doctors to supervise the retrieving of remains in accordance with standard procedures."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 28/06/16 at 1H45 indicating that the FDR (Flight Data Recorder) had been repaired with success by the BEA experts and that the repair operations on the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) would start this morning.
Progress report n° 17 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 27 June 2016
The electronic board of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of the doomed A320 was successfully repaired at the labs of the French aircraft investigation bureau; where accurate tests for the board was conducted to make sure that the aircraft data file is on the recorder. The repair process was carried out by experts from the French investigation bureau and was witnessed by the technical investigation committee immediately after their arrival to Paris this afternoon.
Tomorrow the repair process for the electronic board of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) will commence; then it will be transferred to Cairo for data analysis at the Central Department for aviation accidents at the Ministry of Civil Aviation of Egypt."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 28/06/16 at 20H00 specifically indicating that the dats downloaded from the FDR (Flight Data Recorder) had today been sent to the Egyptian laboratory in Cairo in order to be decoded, validated and then analysed, and that these operations could take several days. The work on the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) is continuing on the premises of the BEA.
Progress report n° 18 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 28 June 2016
Following the successful repair of the FDR board of the doomed A320 at the laboratories of the French Investigation Bureau; the data file was transferred to Cairo today for decoding, validating and studying of data at the laboratories of the central department for aircraft accidents at the Ministry of Civil Aviation; which might take several days to ensure the accuracy of reading the data recorded.
Today repairing of the electronic board of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) has started; in attendance of the investigation committee members. The repair process will continue until the damage of the board is fixed and being able to read its data. A meeting was also held today between the investigation committee members and the accredited French and American representatives to evaluate the work accomplished up till today.
John Lethbridge; the vessel contracted by the Egyptian government to map the entire location of the plane wreckage and victims remains; will continue its mission till recovery of wreckage and remains"
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 29/06/16 at 21H30 .
Progress report n° 19 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo, 29 June 2016
Following the successful download of the data of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of the doomed A320, decoding and validation of more than 1200 parameter is in progress in order to commence the next phase of reading and analyzing the data.
Preliminary information shows that the entire flight is recorded on the FDR since its take off from charles de gaulle airport until the recording had stopped at an altitude of 37 thousand feet where the accident occured.
Recorded data is showing a consistency with ACARS messages of lavatory smoke and avionics smoke.
Some recovered wreckage parts of the front section of the aircraft showed signs of high temperature damage and soot .
Analysis will be carried out to try to identify the source and reason for those signs.
Regarding the CVR, repairs are still under progress at the French aircraft accident investigation bureau.
Noteworthy; Collection of identified human remains is still ongoing and will continue till full recovery of all the remains at the crash location."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 02/07/16 at 15H00 specifically indicating the end and the success of the repair operations on the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) undertaken by the BEA.
Progress report n° 20 published by the Egyptian authorities:
"Cairo,2 july 2016
Extensive examinations that were carried out at the French aircraft accident Investigation Bureau; on the electronic board components of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the A320’; showed that none of the memory ships of the electronic board was damaged .
However some other supportive components associated with communication to and from the memory chips had to be removed and replaced with new ones; whereas advanced high technology will be used to extract the recordings of these units .
After the replacement of the CVR board components; tests results were satisfactory as it enabled the reading of the recorders of the CVR memory unit .
The investigation committee members are planning to return back soon to Cairo with the fixed boards to continue reading and analyzing the FDR and CVR at the central department for aircraft accident at the Ministry of Civil Aviation .
It is worth mentioning that collecting human remains continues according to planned standard procedures."
The Egyptian authorities published a new progress report on 05/07/16 at 23H00 :
"Cairo, 5 July 2016
he technical investigation committee would like to assert that it is the only official source of all the releases about the A320 accident and is not responsible for any information released by other sources.
The committee has gathered information that need time to be analyzed and matched to reach some very basic conclusions.
During the coming period, the experts will verifying the information downloaded from the Flight Data Recorder and establish time correlation with the records downloaded from the Cabin Voice Recorder.
The committee urges media to be cautious while issuing press releases about the accident and to only rely on official reports issued by the committee itself."
A new progress report (N° 25) was published by the Egyptian authorities on 16/07/2016 :
CAIRO - 16 July 2016
« The Technical Investigation Committee of the A320 accident had primarily studied FDR data as well as performing time correlation between FDR and CVR data.
The committee had also unloaded CVR and started listening to the cockpit voice recordings before the occurrence of the accident; where the existence of a "fire" was mentioned. Still it is too early to determine the reason or the place where that fire occurred.
Additional work on the CVR, the FDR and the recovered debris is continuing.
The Vessel John Lethbridge had reached the port of Alexandria today after the end of its mission, which had been extended for the second time, after making sure of the recovery of all human remains at the site of the accident. Required coordination with the Department of Forensic Medicine were made to receive the vessel in preparation for the transfer of the remains to Cairo to complete the DNA analysis and carrying out standard procedures followed in this regard. »
A new progress report (N°24) was published by the Egyptian authorities on 07/09/2016 :
"Cairo, 09 July 2016. In the context of the Egyptian Government's keeness to recover all the human remains at the crash location of the A320; it was decided to extend the work period of John Lethbridge for a second additional period to last on the 18th of July.
John Lethbridge; the vessel contracted by the Egyptian Government; continues to scan the seabed of the Mediterranean to ensure the absence of any other human remains left at the crash location; whereas forensic doctors onboard of the vessel supervise the transfer of the human remains to the department of forensic medicine in Cairo in order to carry out standard procedures taken in this regard.
A new progress report (N° 21) was published by the Egyptian authorities on 07/03/2016 :
"Cairo, 3 July 2016. John Lethbrdge; the vessel contracted by the Egyptian government; had retrieved all the human remains that were mapped at the crash location of the A320. The retrieval process was supervised by Egyptian and French forensic doctors onboard of the vessel. The vessel departed from the crash location to the port of Alexandria to deliver the human remains to the general prosecutors and forensic doctors; in the presence of the technical investigation committee members; then for an immediate transport of the human remains to the forensic department in Cairo to start DNA analysis and to carry out standard procedures taken. As the Egyptian government is persistent to stand in solidarity with the victims’ families; the mission of John Lethbridge was extended as it will return back to the crash location to conduct a new thorough scan of the seabed and to search for any human remains till being fully assured of the absence of any more human remains at the crash location."
Review of situation on 6 july 2018 18H15
Following the accident on 19 May 2016 over the Mediterranean Sea involving an Airbus A320 registered SU-GCC operated by EgyptAir, a safety investigation was immediately opened. In compliance with the international texts in force, as the accident occurred in international waters, Egypt, as the State of Registry and State of the Operator of the aeroplane, is in charge of carrying out this investigation. The BEA appointed an Accredited Representative to represent France as the State of Design of the aeroplane, assisted by technical advisers from the aircraft manufacturer, Airbus. The NTSB (1) also appointed an Accredited Representative to represent the United States as the State of Manufacture of the engine.
France contributed to the safety investigation from the very outset. Initially, the BEA’s work consisted in acting as advisor to its Egyptian counterpart and then in participating in sea search operations for the aircraft wreckage. At the same time, the three States collaborated in collecting and analysing the first elements available - in particular the ACARS (2) messages.
Once the wreckage had been found, the debris was inspected and the flight recorders were located, retrieved and immediately sent to Cairo in order to start the initial work to recover and read the data. These operations, collectively decided on and carried out by the Egyptian, American and French specialists, did not succeed in reading the recorded data due to the severe damage to the data media. Advanced repair work was then necessary and the BEA was asked to carry it out in its laboratory in France.
The work on the flight recorders was carried out under the authority of the Egyptian Investigator In Charge, on the BEA premises, and at the beginning of July 2016 the data from the two flight recorders was extracted, read and decoded.
During this work, the Egyptian authorities published the following elements about the accident:
- The flight recorders stopped operating while the aircraft was in cruise at an altitude of 37,000 feet;
- The aircraft systems sent ACARS messages indicating the presence of smoke in toilets and the avionics bay;
- The data from the data recorder confirms these messages;
- The playback of the cockpit voice recorder reveals, in particular, that the crew mentioned the existence of a fire on board;
- Several pieces of debris were retrieved from the accident site. Some of these had signs of having been subject to high temperatures, and traces of soot.
Once the data from the flight recorders had been retrieved, the Egyptian authorities continued their work in Egypt.
In addition, the BEA had collected the following elements:
- A signal from an emergency locator transmitter was sent at 00:37 (source CNES (3) ) i.e. around eight minutes after the transmission of the last ACARS message;
- Data from a Greek primary radar (sent by the Greek authorities to the BEA) shows that the aeroplane had descended in a turn until collision with the surface of the water.
Based on these elements, the BEA considers that the most likely hypothesis is that a fire broke out in the cockpit while the aeroplane was flying at its cruise altitude and that the fire spread rapidly resulting in the loss of control of the aeroplane.
For its part, the BEA’s Egyptian counterpart announced in December 2016, the discovery of traces of explosive on human remains. It stated that, in accordance with Egyptian legislation, this finding led it to transfer the file to the Egyptian Attorney General who would from now on be responsible for carrying out the investigation.
The BEA’s proposals concerning further work on the debris and recorded data were not, as far as the BEA knows, followed up. The technical elements of the investigation already collected by Egypt, including those provided by the BEA, are protected by the Egyptian judicial investigation.
In an effort to continue the safety investigation mission, the BEA asked to meet the Egyptian Attorney General. This took place at the end of May 2018. In this meeting, the Egyptian authorities explained that as it had been determined that there had been a malicious act, the investigation now fell within the sole jurisdiction of the judicial authorities.
The BEA’s Egyptian counterpart did not publish the final report which would have allowed the BEA to set out its differences of opinion as authorized by the international provisions.
The BEA considers that it is necessary to have this final report in order to have the possibility of understanding the cause of the accident and to provide the aviation community with the safety lessons which could prevent future accidents.
As mentioned above, the BEA considers that the most likely hypothesis is the rapid spread of a fire and would like investigations into this hypothesis to be continued in the interests of aviation safety.
The BEA is ready to continue its collaboration with its Egyptian counterpart should the latter restart the safety investigation into this accident.
(1) National Transportation Safety Board: the BEA’s counterpart in the United States.
(2) ACARS: system for sending messages between the aeroplane and the operator, allowing, in particular, the transmission of information for maintenance operations.
(3) Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (National Centre for Space Studies.