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EgyptAir plane's black boxes are badly damaged, official says

Published 17/06/2016

An EgyptAir Airbus A320, as investigators examine the black box from a plane that crashed in the Mediterranean last month (AP)
An EgyptAir Airbus A320, as investigators examine the black box from a plane that crashed in the Mediterranean last month (AP)

The voice and data recorders from the EgyptAir plane that crashed into the Mediterranean are "extensively damaged" and will need repairs before they can be analysed, an Egyptian official has said.

The official did not elaborate on how long the repairs would take but said if this cannot be done in Egypt, the so-called "black boxes" would be sent abroad.

With the flight's wreckage 3,000 metres under water, the cockpit voice and flight data recorders are vital for piecing together the last moments of the flight, which plunged into the sea between the Greek island of Crete and the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on May 19, killing all 66 on board.

Earlier on Friday, Egypt's investigation commission said the flight data recorder had been pulled out of the sea, a day after the cockpit voice recorder was also recovered. Both were taken to Cairo for analysis.

The memory units inside the recorders can provide key data, including the last conversations inside the cockpit, information about auto-pilot mode or even smoke alarms. They might also give answers as to why the pilot made no distress call before the crash.

Experts say the data, combined with previously obtained satellite and radar images, debris analysis, the plane history and the pilots' records, can shed light on the most possible scenarios.

The cause of the crash of the Airbus A320 has not been determined and no militant group has claimed responsibility for bringing down the aircraft.

"We will be having a wealth of information that helps the investigators eliminate some possibilities while giving priority to others," said Hani Galal, an Egyptian aviation expert. He is not involved in this crash investigation but has taken part in other similar probes.

Both France and the United States are sending investigators to Cairo to help with the probe.

EgyptAir Flight 804 en route to Cairo from Paris disappeared on May 19 from radar at about 2.45am local time, just as it had entered Egyptian airspace.

Radar data showed the aircraft had made violent moves after cruising normally in clear skies, plummeting from 38,000 feet to 15,000 feet. It disappeared when it was at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

Leaked flight data indicated a sensor had detected smoke in a lavatory and a fault in two of the plane's cockpit windows in the final moments of the flight.

Egypt's civil aviation minister, Sherif Fathi, has said terrorism is a more probable cause than equipment failure or some other catastrophic event.

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