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BEA France criticizes Egypt’s halting of the formal investigation into the crash of EgyptAir MS804
6 July 2018

The French investigation bureau, BEA, criticized Egypt’s authorities for halting the formal accident investigation into the crash of EgyptAir flight MS804.

On May 19, 2016, EgyptAir flight MS804, an Airbus A320 impacted the Mediterranean Sea some 200 km north of the Egyptian coast line, killing all 66 on board. The flight was en route from Paris to Cairo at the time.

Following the accident, a formal investigation was launched by the Egyptian authorities per ICAO Annex 13. The BEA appointed an accredited representative to represent France as the state of design of the aircraft. During this investigation, the Egyptian authorities published the following elements about the accident:

  • The flight recorders stopped operating while the aircraft was in cruise at an altitude of 37,000 feet;
  • The aircraft systems sent ACARS messages indicating the presence of smoke in toilets and the avionics bay;
  • The data from the data recorder confirms these messages;
  • The playback of the cockpit voice recorder reveals, in particular, that the crew mentioned the existence of a fire on board;
  • Several pieces of debris were retrieved from the accident site. Some of these had signs of having been subject to high temperatures, and traces of soot.

Once the data from the flight recorders had been retrieved, the Egyptian authorities continued their work in Egypt. In addition, the BEA had collected the following elements:

  • A signal from an emergency locator transmitter was sent at 00:37 i.e. around eight minutes after the transmission of the last ACARS message;
  • Data from a Greek primary radar (sent by the Greek authorities to the BEA) shows that the aircraft had descended in a turn until collision with the surface of the water.

Based on these elements, the BEA considered that the most likely hypothesis was that a fire broke out in the cockpit while the aircraft was flying at its cruise altitude and that the fire spread rapidly resulting in the loss of control of the aircraft.
For its part, the BEA’s Egyptian counterpart announced in December 2016, the discovery of traces of explosive on human remains. It stated that, in accordance with Egyptian legislation, this finding led it to transfer the file to the Egyptian Attorney General who would from now on be responsible for carrying out the investigation.
The BEA’s proposals concerning further work on the debris and recorded data were not, as far as the BEA knows, followed up. The technical elements of the investigation already collected by Egypt, including those provided by the BEA, are protected by the Egyptian judicial investigation.

In an effort to continue the safety investigation mission, the BEA asked to meet the Egyptian Attorney General. This took place at the end of May 2018. In this meeting, the Egyptian authorities explained that as it had been determined that there had been a malicious act, the investigation now fell within the sole jurisdiction of the judicial authorities.
The BEA’s Egyptian counterpart did not publish the final report which would have allowed the BEA to set out its differences of opinion as authorized by the international provisions.
The BEA considers that it is necessary to have this final report in order to have the possibility of understanding the cause of the accident and to provide the aviation community with the safety lessons which could prevent future accidents.
BEA considers that the most likely hypothesis is the rapid spread of a fire and would like investigations into this hypothesis to be continued in the interests of aviation safety.