As the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir flight MS804 continues, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has released new information on the search for the plane's black boxes and warned against drawing hasty conclusions about the cause of Thursday's crash.
Following a minute’s silence during an inauguration speech in Damietta, Sisi said, “There is no concrete hypothesis we can give for the plane going down, so please do not rule out any theory in favor of another yet,” reported Al-Masry Al-Youm.
While various theories circulate as to the cause of the crash, Sisi insisted that once the evidence has been established "all unfounded theories will be quieted" as “no-one can hide these things,” according to Reuters.
The president's statements follow several developments in the unfolding investigation, including the discovery of wreckage in the Mediterranian Sea 290 km north of Alexandria. It is here that the passenger plane apparently crashed during the final stages of its journey from Paris to Cairo last Thursday.
However, despite the discovery or wreckage and some sketchy data on the plane's final moments, the investigation has so far drawn a blank on the cause of the incident.
On Saturday night, CNN broadcast the audio of the pilot’s contact with air traffic controllers in Zurich around midnight, roughly two and a half hours before the plane went down. Al-Masry Al-Youm reported nothing out of the ordinary about the pilot’s correspondence. The recordings showed “normal, routine procedure,” said the newspaper, at the end of which the pilot signed off with a “good night” and was handed over to Italian air traffic control.
In another minor breakthrough, aviation officials continue to investigate automatic messages recorded in the flight data suggesting there was smoke on board around the time of the crash. French accident investigation agency BEA said the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) indicated that smoke was detected first in a toilet on the aircraft and then, more worryingly, within the avionics system near the cockpit.
However, both BEA and EgyptAir have said that this information is not sufficient to provide any firm conclusions. A BEA spokesperson stated that smoke alerts prove neither that there was a fire on board, nor that crew were aware of an issue.
Meanwhile, the search for the black boxes continues. French daily newspaper Le Monde reported on Sunday that a search operation involving boats and aircraft continues to scour the stretch of sea between Crete and the north coast of Egypt for the bodies of the 66 people on board the flight, in addition to the black boxes of flight information crucial to the investigation.
The detection radar with which the black boxes are fitted will give out within four to five weeks, meaning that the clock is ticking for the recovery effort. It is also feared the limited signal range of their radar is no match for the 2,000 to 3,000 meters of water between them and the surface of the Mediterranean, said Le Monde.
On Sunday, Reuters reported, Sisi announced that an Egyptian submarine had joined the search. During his speech in Damietta, the president announced that search equipment belonging to the Petroleum Ministry has been deployed, including “a submarine that can reach 3,000 meters under water."
Regardless of the data gathered in the coming days and weeks, it seems an official conclusion on the incident will be at least a month in the making. The head of Egypt’s Air Accidents Investigation Department, Ayman Moqadam, announced that an initial report on flight MS804 is to be published in a month, according to Al-Ahram. The report, to be compiled by an Egyptian-led commission of enquiry, is to contain all data and information gathered up to the point of the report's release.