Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Under water signal detected from black box of crashed EgyptAir plane

Published:Wednesday | June 1, 2016 | 6:20 AM
In this Thursday, May 19, 2016 video image released by the Egyptian Defense Ministry, an Egyptian plane flies over a ship during the search in the Mediterranean Sea for the missing EgyptAir flight 804 plane

CAIRO (AP):
Egypt said today that a French ship has picked up signals from deep under the Mediterranean Sea, presumed to be from one of the black boxes of the EgyptAir plane that crashed last month, killing all 66 passengers and crew on board.

The development raised hopes the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, known as the black boxes, could be retrieved and shed light on the aircraft's tragic crash.

In Cairo, the Civil Aviation Ministry cited a statement from the committee investigating the crash as saying the vessel Laplace received the signals. The French Navy confirmed the Laplace arrived on Tuesday in the search area and picked up the signals "overnight."

The signals' frequencies could match with the frequencies of data recorders, a French Navy spokesman told The Associated Press.  The location and identification of the source of the signals have not been determined yet, he said, adding that he searches are still at an "early stage." He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to speak publicly on the issue.

Laplace's equipment picked up the "signals from the seabed of the wreckage search area, assumed to be from one of the data recorders," the Egyptian statement read. It added that a second ship, John Lethbridge affiliated with the Deep Ocean Search firm, will join the search team later this week.

PHOTO: This August 21, 2015 file photo shows an EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC taking off from Vienna International Airport, Austria. - AP

Locator pings emitted by flight data and cockpit voice recorders, known as the black boxes, can be picked up from deep underwater. The Laplace is equipped with three detectors made by the Alseamar company designed to detect and localize signals from the flight recorders, which are believed to be at a depth of about 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) underwater. By comparison, the wreck of the RMS Titanic is lying at a depth of about 3,800 meters (12,500 feet).

Shaker Kelada, an EgyptAir official who has led other crash investigations for the carrier, told the AP that half "the job has been done now" and that the next step would be to determine the black boxers' exact location and extract them from the sea.

"We have to find where the boxes are exactly and decide on how to pull them out," he said, adding that search teams might need to send in robots or submarines and "be extremely careful ... to avoid any possible damage."

PHOTO: Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail talks to reporters at Cairo International Airport on May 19. He said it was too early to say whether a technical problem or a terror attack caused the plane to crash.  - AP

Kelada said he was confident the boxes will be retrieved. He had investigated the Flash Airlines Flight 604 crash in 2004, when the aircraft hit the Red Sea shortly after takeoff from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 148 passengers, most of them French tourists, and crew on board.

In the May 19 crash, EgyptAir Airbus A320 had been cruising normally in clear skies on a nighttime flight to from Paris to Cairo when it suddenly lurched left, then right, spinning all the way around and plummeting 38,000 feet (11,582.4 meters) into the sea, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos has said shortly after the crash. However, the Egyptians refuted this, saying that the plane didn't swerve or lose altitude before it disappeared off radar. A distress signal was never issued, EgyptAir has said.