UPDATED 5/21/16: Egyptian authorities have released photos of MS804 debris recovered from the ocean. Here’s a cropped version of one of them:
The size, the shape of the edges, the amount of exposed honeycomb and even the presence of fasteners is quite reminiscent of MH370 debris found in the western Indian Ocean, especially “No Step.” Of course, marine fouling is absent.
UPDATE 5/20/16: CNN has posted a screengrab showing ACARS error messages just before MS804 crashed:
As you can see in the diagram below, there is a lavatory directly behind the captain’s seat. If there is thick smoke in there, it could penetrate down into the avionics bay below:
Gerry Soejatman points out: “It appears that aircraft may have had an in-flight fire and if so, the aircraft maneuvers could be due to Smoke Removal Emergency Procedures, which involves descending the aircraft to 10,000 feet and also opening the cockpit window.”
A reader interprets the ACARS messages:
00:26 ANT-ICE R WINDOW; a fault is in either the right sliding window or fixed window (not the windshield).
00:26 R SLIDING WINDOW SENSOR; the right window heat control unit detects a problem with the sliding window sensor circuit.
00:26 SMOKE LAVATORY SMOKE; smoke detected in the lavatory.
00:27 AVIONICS SMOKE; smoke is detected in the Avionics bay.
00:28 R FIXED WINDOW SENSOR; the right window heat control unit detects a problem with the fixed window sensor circuit.
00:29 AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT; autopilot flight control unit (Mode control panel) channel 2 is faulted. Channel 1 still OK so no big deal.
00:29 F/CTL SEC 3 FAULT; the number 3 spoiler elevator computer is faulted. Number 1 and 2 still OK.
If a bomb has gone off near the forward toilet the blast may have damaged the right window heating somehow. There would be a short delay until the toilet smoke detector goes off.
ORIGINAL POST, 5/19/2016:
At timing of writing, 6.15am Eastern Daylight Time, Egyptian and Greek military boats and planes are still hunting for a missing airliner, Egyptair Flight 804, which disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea at approximately 2.30am local time. The plane was three and a half hours into a scheduled flight from Paris, France to Cairo, Egypt.
Airbus has put out a statement which reads, in part:
The aircraft involved, registered under SU-GCC was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 2088 delivered to Egyptair from the production line in November 2003. The aircraft had accumulated approximately 48,000 flight hours. It was powered by IAE engines. At this time no further factual information is available.
Here’s a screenshot of the ADS-B data reported by FlightAware. Note that this data is considered highly unreliable–but at the moment it’s all I’ve got:
Open in a separate tab to see full resolution. Note that the disappearance is sudden — the ADS-B doesn’t show any descent profile. This would be consistent with a catastrophic loss of electrical power (as perhaps due do a bomb or missile strike) or to someone deliberately turning off the electronic forms of communication, as was done in MH370. Below is a plot of the plane’s last known location.
Worth pointing out that the weather at the time was fair, suggesting that the incident was not weather-related, like AirAsia 8501 or Air France 447. I find it interesting that the disappearance took place right after the plane crossed from one Flight Information Region (FIR) to another–that is to say, when transferring from one air traffic control zone to another. MH370 disappeared under similar circumstances (also in fair weather in the middle of the night.) I would be very interested to see the ATC transcripts–in particular, to know if the plane signed off with the Greek controllers and failed to contact Egyptian ones.
The Mediterranean is a heavily-traveled body of water, both by sea and by air. It is heavily monitored. One can only presume that at the time it vanished from secondary radar screens it was being tracked by primary (military) radar as well. What’s more, based on historical precedent, when planes get into trouble at altitude like this, they tend to come down very close to their last known position. At the exact moment I write this, no debris has been found, but given the good weather conditions and the very small area to search, we should expect wreckage to start turning up very soon.
The Independent notes, “In March, an EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus by a man wearing what authorities said was a fake suicide belt. He was arrested after giving himself up.” In air crash circles, the name Egyptair is synonymous with EgyptAir 900, which crashed off Nantucket when one of the junior pilots deliberately steered into the ocean. At this point, both terror and suicide remain possible causes in the current incident.
UPDATE 7am EDT: The Guardian has just published this timeline, put out by Greece’s civil aviation department:
02:24: EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo enters Greek airspace, air traffic controller permissions it for the remainder of its course.
02:48: The flight is transferred to the next air traffic control sector and is cleared for exit from Greek airspace. “The pilot was in good spirits and thanked the controller in Greek.”
03:27: Athens air traffic control tries to contact the aircraft to convey information on the switch of communications and control from Athens to Cairo air traffic. In spite of repeated calls, the aircraft does not respond, whereupon the air traffic controller calls the distress frequency, without a response from the aircraft.
03:29: It is above the exit point (from Greek airspace).
03:29:40: The aircraft signal is lost, approximately 7 nautical miles south/southeast of the KUMBI point, within Cairo FIR.
Immediately the assistance of radars of the Hellenic Air Force is requested to detect the target, without result.
03:45: The processes of search and rescue are initiated, simultaneously informing the Flight Information Region of Cairo.
It seems, then, that unlike MH370, the flight crew here did not sign off with ATC before leaving their airspace.