As the search for EgyptAir Flight 804 continues, there have been contradicting reports as to the final moments of the aircraft’s flight.
Five days after disappearing en route from Paris to Cairo, some signs of the plane — including life vests, personal belongings and human remains — have been recovered.
Still missing, however, is the plane’s fuselage and the critical black boxes, which will provide vital clues of the fate of the doomed airliner.
At the heart of the confusion over the final moments of flight are conflicting reports from Greek and Egyptian authorities.
The flight was at 37,000 feet when it lost contact above the Mediterranean, shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to exit Greek airspace and enter Egyptian airspace.
Initially, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that, upon entering Egyptian airspace, the aircraft swerved “90 degrees left and then 360 degrees” before plunging dramatically.
The head of Egypt’s National Air Navigation Services Company is challenging that account. Administrative board chairman Mohi El-Din Azmi told Egyptian state-run media Al-Ahram on Sunday that the plane did not swerve or lose altitude before it disappeared off the radar.
The plane was at an altitude of 37,000 feet within the flight path, without any deviation, Azmi said. It disappeared from the radar screens less than a minute after it entered the Egyptian airspace.
Time is working against the investigators — as is the scope of the search area, with teams searching in waters as much as 10,000 feet deep. Egyptian and French submersibles are working in the area, in an attempt to find the flight data recorders before their transponder batteries expire.
“The investigators are up against the clock,” says aviation analyst Justin Green. “If they don’t find the black boxes in the next 30 days the job of finding them is going to be much harder because the black boxes may no longer be sending out a sonar ping which will help them identify i
A representative of an organization devoted to families of French passengers said relatives aren’t sure they can trust the Egyptian investigation and want more involvement from France.
“We need the French government in the diplomatic game to put diplomatic pressure and in the search and the identification of the bodies,” said Stephane Gicquel, secretary general of the French National Federation of the Victims of Catastrophes.
“We want that the gendarmes can go and work with the Egyptian authorities. So I think there will be a way to track the investigation put in place by the French government with an appointed official to defend the interests of the families in the weeks and years to come,” she said.
Gicquel said the families are distrustful of Egypt, in part due to how the country handled the investigation of the 2004 crash of a jet carrying mostly French tourists taking off from the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Egyptian investigators “cooperated very badly with the French authorities” at that time, she said.
Egyptian government and airline officials have promised to be transparent in the investigation into what happened to the plane.