NYP – An EgyptAir flight that crashed en route to Cairo, killing all 66 people on board, was brought down by a pilot who had a cigarette in the cockpit and started a fire, a new report found.
EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling on May 19, 2016, from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Cairo International Airport when it fell out of the sky between the Greek island of Crete and northern Egypt.
France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) has since concluded that pilot Mohamed Said Shoukair’s mid-air smoke break led to a fire onboard the Airbus A320 jet when his cigarette ignited oxygen leaking from an oxygen mask in the cockpit.
The air disaster resulted in the deaths of 56 passengers and 10 crew members, among them 12 French nationals, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, one Canadian and one British citizen.
Egyptian authorities initially said that the plane crash was the result of a terrorist attack, claiming that traces of explosives had been found on the bodies of the victims, but those allegations were widely discredited.
In 2018, France’s BEA determined that the flight went down because of a fire onboard based on analysis of data from the aircraft’s black box recorder, which was recovered from deep water near Greece by the US Navy — though at the time investigators did not say what specifically caused the onboard inferno.
But in March 2022, BEA released a new report that alleges that oxygen had leaked from a pilot’s oxygen mask in the cockpit shortly before the crash, based on black box data that captured the sound of the oxygen hissing.
The oxygen mask in question had been replaced just three days before the fateful flight by an EgyptAir maintenance worker, but for an unknown reason it had its release valve set to the “emergency position,” which, according to the Airbus safety manual, could lead to leaks.
Incredibly, at the time of the incident, EgyptAir pilots were allowed to smoke in the cockpit – a rule that has since changed. The onboard smoking, combined with the leaking oxygen, had set the stage for the fire, according to French aviation experts.
The deadly plane crash is currently the subject of a manslaughter case before the Paris Court of Appeals.
The 134-page report, which was reviewed by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra, was released to the Parisian court at the request of local judges.
Egypt has refused to release its own report into the crash and in 2018 rejected BEA’s initial findings, dismissing them as “unfounded.”
Families of victims have accused the Egyptian authorities of failing to cooperate with the investigation into the crash.
Antoine Lachenaud, a lawyer representing the family of Clement Daeschner-Cormary, a 26-year-old passenger who died, said the new report showed that the crash was caused by human error.
“When warnings are ignored in a systematic manner this results in a crash and it becomes impossible to maintain that this is due to chance,” he said.
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