EgyptAir has retracted its statement that wreckage from flight MS804 has been found near Greece’s Karpathos Island, according to CNN.
“We stand corrected on finding the wreckage,” Ahmed Adel, EgyptAir’s Vice President, told CNN on Thursday.
Flight MS804 crashed heading from Paris to Cairo early Thursday morning.
Greek officials initially said they had located pieces of plastic and two life jackets in the Mediterranean Sea, near where a transponder signal from the plane was emitted sometime before it fell off the radar. But that information turned out to be incorrect – Greek officials now say that nothing was found, and that the plane is still considered missing.
There were 66 people on board: 53 adults and three children, plus 10 crew members consisting of three security members, five cabin crew members, the pilot, and the copilot.
The flight took off from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and was scheduled to land at Cairo Airport at 3:05 a.m. It lost contact with radar at 2:45 a.m. Cairo time (8:45 p.m. ET Wednesday), according to the airline.
The Airbus A320 had been traveling at 37,000 feet when it”swerved 90 degrees left, then 360 degrees right at 2:37 a.m. (Cairo time), while it was at 10-15 miles within Cairo’s airspace at 37,000 feet,” the Greek defense minister, Panos Kammenos, said in comments broadcast live on the state-run ERT TV. It then dropped to 10,000 feet and was lost from radar.
- REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he had no special information about why the plane disappeared and added that he would not speculate on the cause.
“Relevant authorities are doing everything they can to try and find out what the facts are of what happened today,” Kerry told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Reuters reported.
Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that it “does appear that it [the crash] was an act of terrorism.”
Egypt and Greece have deployed military aircraft and a frigate to search the area, and a sea search is still underway. The French military says a Falcon surveillance jet monitoring the Mediterranean for migrants had been diverted to help the sea search.
Terrorism ‘more likely’ than technical failure
Egypt’s aviation minister, Sherif Fathy, said in a news conference that an act of terror was more likely to be the cause of the crash than a technical failure.
US officials later told CNN that there are early indications a bomb took down the plane. Israeli officials have definitively ruled the crash a terror attack.
Still, some experts say there is nothing about the evidence so far that points directly to a terror attack.
“It could be a catastrophic mechanical malfunction, some kind of crew error, and so on,” Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the book “Cockpit Confidential,” told Business Insider on Thursday. “The plane’s maneuvers by themselves don’t indicate a whole lot. It’s just too early to be speculating so broadly.”
Weather conditions in the area of the plane’s last known location over the Mediterranean were “clear and calm,” CNN meteorologist Michael Guy noted.
British pilot Alan Carter, who was flying a Boeing 747 in the same airspace at the same time as MS804, told the BBC conditions were “perfect” and “all air traffic communications were operating normal.”
- REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Greece’s civil aviation department said that while it was in contact with the pilot, he seemed “in good spirits and thanked the controller in Greek,” after he was cleared to exit the Greek airspace, according to Reuters. The pilot had logged more than 6,000 flying hours, EgyptAir said on Twitter.
Controllers apparently tried to contact the pilot 10 miles before the flight exited Greek airspace, but the pilot did not respond. Controllers continued trying to make contact until the plane disappeared from the radar but received no response.
“They did not radio for help or lose altitude,” Ehab Mohy el-Deen, the head of Egypt’s air navigation authority, told The New York Times. “They just vanished.”
There are conflicting reports about whether an emergency signal was sent out before the plane crashed.
Flights over Egypt have encountered trouble on several occasions in the past year, prompting aviation authorities to instruct pilots to fly above 26,000 feet in the region.
In October 2015, a Russian airliner crashed in northern Egypt, killing all 224 people on board.
In March 2016, an EgyptAir flight was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus, prompting an hourslong standoff. No one was harmed in that incident.
In 2002, an EgyptAir Boeing 737 went down near Tunis-Carthage International Airport, killing 14.
In 1999, an EgyptAir flight from Los Angeles to Cairo, with a stop in New York, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, 60 miles off Nantucket Island, killing the 217 people on board.
The EgyptAir flight that disappeared on Thursday was delivered to EgyptAir in 2003 and had logged 48,000 flight hours, Airbus said in a statement on its Facebook page. The plane had engines made by the Swiss-based engine consortium IAE.
Airbus said it was ready to help authorities investigating the disappearance and said “our concerns go out to all those affected.”
Smith, the pilot, was still reluctant to characterize EgyptAir as unsafe.
“EyptAir has what a lot of people would reasonably call a spotty safety record, but I’m a little uneasy saying that because, with crashes so few and far in between, all large commercial carriers are safe. In a more practical sense, I tend to doubt there’s anything particular to EgyptAir that made this happen.”
This story is developing. Click here for latest updates.
Story by Mark Abadi, Bryan Logan, Ben Moshinsky, Barbara Tasch, Natasha Bertrand, and Pamela Engel.