Middle East

EgyptAir crash: Black box signal detected by search teams

A US pilot looks for the crashed EgyptAir plane Image copyright AP
Image caption Search teams have been trying to find the plane's black boxes in the Mediterranean Sea

Signals have been detected from one of the black boxes of the EgyptAir plane that crashed last month, French investigators have confirmed.

They were picked up by the French vessel Laplace as it was searching the Mediterranean Sea.

There were 66 people on board when the Airbus A320 crashed on 19 May while flying from Paris to Cairo.

It vanished from Greek and Egyptian radar screens, apparently without having sent a distress call.

"The signal from a beacon from a flight recorder has been detected," said Remi Jouty of France's Bureau of Investigations and Analysis.

A priority search area has been established, he added.

Laplace is using acoustic detection systems to listen to the locator "pings" given off by the black boxes underwater.

A specialist vessel carrying robots able to dive to 3,000 metres (3,280 yards) is due to arrive next week to help retrieve the devices.

Egyptian investigators first reported that the French vessels had picked up signals from the wreckage search area, saying they were "assumed" to be from one of the devices.

Officials from the country said last week signals from the plane's emergency beacon had been detected but later said they were received on the day of the crash and were not new.

Image caption The type of machine likely to be searching for the black box flight recorders
Image copyright PA/Reuters
Image caption Debris from the flight has been found floating in the sea
Image copyright AFP
Image caption There were 66 people on board when the plane crashed and no survivors have been found

What caused the crash remains a mystery. Finding the black boxes is crucial to piecing together what happened in the plane's final moments.

A militant attack has not been ruled out but no extremist group has claimed the downing of the plane.

Human or technical error is also a possibility. Flight data revealed that smoke detectors went off in the toilet and the aircraft's electrics, minutes before the plane's signal was lost.


Answers still a long way off: Richard Westcott, BBC Transport Correspondent

This could be a major breakthrough. But even if they have found one of the two flight recorders, do not expect answers any time soon.

Firstly, they have to hope the "pinger" sending out the signal is still attached to the recorder itself. They can come loose.

Investigators have to send down a specialised sub with a robotic claw to retrieve the box.

The recorders are not waterproof so the circuits in the box have to be thoroughly dried out before they try to access the contents.

And that is assuming the data or voice recordings survived the crash.

If they have found a black box, it will either be the one containing technical data or the one recording the last two hours of sound in the cockpit.

That may give them enough to rule out certain things, like whether someone stormed the controls, or whether a bomb went off. But it could still leave questions.

The clues so far point to an on board fire. The black boxes could confirm that, but they might not reveal whether it was a malicious act or a horrible accident.


Black boxes emit signals for 30 days after a crash, giving search teams an ever-narrowing window to locate them before their batteries run out.

Debris from the plane has been recovered from the sea, some 290km (180 miles) north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.

But the bulk of the plane and the bodies of passengers are thought to be deep under the sea.

Those on board MS804 included 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, two Iraqis, two Canadians and citizens from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

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