Egypt Air

Sarah Vizz

Recently it seems that the news is plagued with stories of planes crashing or disappearing. During this prior month, unfortunately, another jet has been added to the fastly growing list. Flying en route from Paris to Cairo, EgyptAir Flight 804 contained fifty-six passengers along with three security officers and seven crew members. Among them were a French rock ’n’ roll photographer, a Portuguese engineer and father of four, a young man from Chad on his way to see his family after his mother’s  death, and dozens more fathers, mothers, sister, brothers, and friends.  

All transmissions from the Flight 804’s cockpit seemed normal until 1:48 a.m. Nearly half an hour later, however, around 2:27 a.m., something felt peculiar;  controllers in Athens were unable to reach the pilot by radio, even attempting to use an emergency frequency. Nevertheless, the plane’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), responsible for providing status updates, still conveyed technical data automatically. Even though officials are skeptical to believe the authenticity of the transmissions, the only data we have comes from ACARS. The program let operators know that the right cockpit window had been opened, possibly to vent smoke. Minutes later, smoke indicators went off—one in the bathroom and the other where electronic equipment is housed on the plane. Professionals reason that the detectors may not have been set off by smoke, but rapid decompression of the aircraft instead. Finally, at 2:29 a.m. the last messages came, indicating the plane’s flight control computer systems and spoiler elevator controller, which essentially controls the flaps responsible for pitch and roll control, failed. The plane appeared to have swerved 360 degrees before finally going off radar and crashing.      

Published weeks later, through an aviation journal, cohesive data transmitted from ACARS indicated the last minutes before the plane plummeted into the Mediterranean Sea. Even with this knowledge, government officials are still trying to piece together the specific cause. Adding to the mystery is that by the books the airplane seemed safe; it was equipped with a good safety record and experienced pilots, with no incriminating information discovered about the plane’s staff.   

Currently, no terrorist group has taken responsibility for the crash, although the possibility has not been abandoned. Other theories that are surfacing include human error, bomb explosion, pilot error or simply mechanical malfunction. With little physical evidence, it is hard to confirm anything. Working with European countries, Egypt is attempting to locate the plane’s black boxes, recorders that could provide more substantial evidence to the cause of a plane crash.

While the government is working at sea, families and the airline company work to piece their lives back together. Families are forced to mourn the death of their loved ones, but with no body. For the airline, which is the largest in the continent by passengers carried, no one is rushing to cancel their flight, regionally. However, plane’s crash will have an impact on the country’s tourists. Internationally, Egypt’s reputation is already damaged after the downing of the Russian jetliner last October. ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack prompting the United Kingdom to cease all flights to Sharm El Sheikh, and Russia to not only suspend all flights to Egypt, but also prohibit EgyptAir from flying into the country. This crash puts a further dent in their global standing.