Confusion over EgyptAir ‘jet debris’

Media captionThe flight was just 20 minutes from landing at Cairo International Airport, where Quentin Somerville reports from

Greek and Egyptian officials have given conflicting accounts of debris found in the Mediterranean Sea following the disappearance of an EgyptAir flight.

Greece’s lead air accident investigator Athanasios Binis said the wreckage found near the Greek island of Karpathos was not from the Airbus A320.

But earlier, Egyptian officials said debris from the jet had been found.

Flight MS804 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew when it vanished overnight.

Officials say the plane is more likely to have been brought down by a terrorist act than a technical fault.

It made two sharp turns and dropped more than 25,000ft (7,620m) before plunging into the sea, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos told reporters.

Mr Binis, who chairs Greece’s Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Safety Board, said: “An assessment of the finds showed that they do not belong to an aircraft.”

Speaking separately to AFP news agency, he said: “Up to now the analysis of the debris indicates that it does not come from a plane, my Egyptian counterpart also confirmed to me that it was not yet proven that the debris came from the EgyptAir flight when we were last in contact around 17:45 GMT.”

Earlier, EgyptAir tweeted that the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation had announced the discovery of wreckage from the missing aircraft.

The search in seas south of Karpathos involves Greek and Egyptian naval forces, and the British Royal Air Force.

Most of the people on board Flight MS804 were from Egypt and France. A Briton was among the passengers.

Of those on the plane, 56 were passengers, seven were crew members and three were security personnel.

Relatives of some of those on board are being flown from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to Cairo.

Flight MS804 left at 23:09 local time on Wednesday (21:09 GMT) and was scheduled to arrive in the Egyptian capital soon after 03:15 local time on Thursday.

Media captionPanos Kammenos: The plane “executed a turn of 90 degrees, then a 360 degree turn right”

Greek aviation officials say air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot when he entered Greek airspace and everything appeared normal.

They tried to contact him again at 02:27 Cairo time, as the plane was set to enter Egyptian airspace, but “despite repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond”. Two minutes later it vanished from radar.

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The relatives and friends of those on board the plane gathered at Cairo airport…

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… and at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Mr Kammenos said: “The picture we have at the moment on the accident as it emerges from the Greek air force operations centre is that the aircraft was approximately 10-15 miles inside the Egyptian FIR [flight information region] and at an altitude of 37,000 feet.

“It turned 90 degrees left and then a 360-degree turn toward the right, dropping from 37,000 to 15,000 feet and then it was lost at about 10,000 feet.”

Egyptian Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said: “Let’s not try to jump to the side that is trying to identify this as a technical failure – on the contrary.

“If you analyse the situation properly, the possibility of having a different action, or having a terror attack, is higher than the possibility of having a technical [fault].”

In October an Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Metrojet blew up over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, with the deaths of all 224 people on board. Sinai Province, a local affiliate of the Islamic State jihadist group, said it had smuggled a bomb on board.


people on board – 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel

  • 30 Egyptians

  • 15 French citizens

  • 2 Iraqis

  • 1 from Britain, Canada, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Chad and Portugal

Far too early to say: By Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent

An Egyptian aircraft disappearing without a Mayday signal is bound to raise the spectre of terrorism. But the truth is it is far too early to say why this plane vanished.

Whatever happened, it happened too quickly for the crew to raise the alarm.

Initially, the aircraft seemed to drop off the radar at 37,000 feet, suggesting a sudden break-up. It’s very rare for modern planes to simply break apart in mid air, but not impossible.

But then the Greek defence minister described the aircraft making sharp turns and dropping height quickly. Which suggests it was intact for longer.

Either way, it does not rule out either an accident, or something more sinister.

Even in the worst emergencies, pilots tell me they should have time to call for help, once they’ve got to grips with the problem. But not always.

French President Francois Hollande said: “We will draw conclusions when we have the truth about what happened.

“Whether it was an accident, or whether it was – and it’s something that is on our minds – terrorism.”

Media captionIan Petchenik from Flightradar24 explains how planes are tracked

Flightradar24 listed details of the plane’s journey on Wednesday which showed it had flown from Asmara, in Eritrea, to Cairo, then on to Tunis, in Tunisia, before heading, via Cairo, to Paris.

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras told the BBC that Airbus A320s were regularly used for short-haul budget flights and had “an amazing safety record”.

In March, an EgyptAir plane was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. The attacker later surrendered and all hostages were released.

If anyone is concerned about relatives or friends following the disappearance of the flight, they can call this free number provided by EgyptAir: +202 259 89320.

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