As attention shifts from the fate of EgyptAir's vanished flight MS804, which disappeared shortly before landing at 2:30am local time and which both Greek air traffic controllers and French president Hollande declared earlier ago has crashed, the focus turns to what happened during the doomed flight's final moments.
First, via the Guardian, here is a recap of what is known so far:
- The airline said contact was lost around 16km/10 miles inside Egyptian airspace at 2.30am local time (00.30 GMT) amid growing fears that the plane came down in the Mediterranean. Airbus issued a statement regretting the loss of the aircraft.
- A Greek aviation source told AFP that the plane crashed 130 miles from the Greek island of Karpathos. This has not been confirmed, but Egyptian civil aviation officials said they believe the crash came down in the sea.
- Egypt has launched a search operation. At least eight merchant ships and French Greek aircraft have joined the search.
- There is no detail yet on possible reasons for the plane’s disappearance. Egypt’s minister of Civil Aviation, Sherif Fathy, is due to hold press conference withinthe next hour. Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to rule out any explanation for the incident, including terrorism. French prime minister Manuel Valls says “no theory can be ruled out” in investigating the disappearance.
- The plane was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew: two cockpit crew, five cabin crew and three security personnel. The airline said two babies and one child were on board.
- Among the passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, and one each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.
- The plane, on its fifth journey of the day, was travelling at 37,000 feet when it disappeared from radar.
- EgyptAir says the captain has 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 on the A320; the copilot has 2,766. The plane was manufactured in 2003.
And here, courtesy of the Greek civil aviation, is a timeline of flight MS804's last moment including the numerous attempts to reach it.
- 02:24: EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo enters Greek airspace, air traffic controller permissions it for the remainder of its course.
- 02:48: The flight is transferred to the next air traffic control sector and is cleared for exit from Greek airspace. “The pilot was in good spirits and thanked the controller in Greek.”
- 03:27: Athens air traffic control tries to contact the aircraft to convey information on the switch of communications and control from Athens to Cairo air traffic. In spite of repeated calls, the aircraft does not respond, whereupon the air traffic controller calls the distress frequency, without a response from the aircraft.
- 03:29: It is above the exit point (from Greek airspace).
- 03:39:40: The aircraft signal is lost, approximately 7 nautical miles south/southeast of the KUMBI point, within Cairo FIR. Immediately the assistance of radars of the Hellenic Air Force is requested to detect the target, without result.
- 03:45: The processes of search and rescue are initiated, simultaneously informing the Flight Information Region of Cairo.
Most critical appears to be the 2 minute interval from 3:27 to 3:29, when according to the Greek defence minister cited by the Guardian, there was a dramatic change in the plane's attitude and direction.
It was in this two minute period when the plane made a 90 degree swerve left and dropped from 37,000 feet to 15,000 feet before swerving 60 degrees right and vanishing at 10,000 feet ten to 15 miles inside Egyptian air space.
The Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos told reporters in Athens that the country had also scrambled F16 fighter jets to participate in the operation to locate the aircraft off the south eastern Aegean island of Karpathos.
Greek officials are hoping satellite footage may help locate the wreckage.
As of this moment no debris has been found, according to another update from the Greek defense minister via Reuters. Greece has also asked for help on sifting through satellite information on the flight.
Meanwhile, letting no crisis go to waste, France’s parliament has confirmed a two-month extension of the state of emergency that has been in place since November’s attacks on Paris. "The terrorist threat remains at a high level and France, like the EU, is a target," said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ahead of the vote.
Russia has already decided what is the cause: Russia says EgyptAir crash is likely terrorist attack, and calls on all interested parties to take joint action to find perpetrators behind attack, RIA Novosti reports, citing Russian Federal Security Service head Alexander Bortnikov.
Donald Trump agrees:
Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2016
Finally, in a new development, it appears that debris from the wreckage has been found within Egyptian territorial waters ~50 miles Southeast of where EgyptAir plane was lost from radar, a Greek government official was cited by Bloomberg. Debris includes 2 red plastic parts and some blue parts. Guardian adds that a Greek frigate searching for a missing Egyptair aircraft discovered two large plastic floating objects in a sea area 230 miles south of the island of Crete on Thursday, Greek defence sources said. The two objects appeared to be pieces of plastic in white and red. They were spotted close to an area where a transponder signal was emitted earlier, the sources said.
Missing #EgyptAir aircraft debris found south of greek island of Karpathos in southern Mediterranean - greek state tv— ReutersAerospaceNews (@ReutersAero) May 19, 2016