The 2016 EgyptAir plane crash of flight MS804 which had been, at the time, attributed by Egyptian authorities to terrorism, was eventually found to have been caused by the pilot smoking a cigarette in the cockpit, French investigators have concluded.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera claims to have read in exclusivity the 134-page report of the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) which was sent to the Court Of Appeals of Paris last month.
The plane crash, which cost the lives of 66 passengers and crew, is being investigated by the French justice for manslaughter because among the victims were also 12 French citizens, the newspaper explains.
Flight data and evidence
EgyptAir flight MS804 was on its route from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo International Airport when it crashed into the Mediterranean 290 km north of Alexandria between Egypt and the Greek island of Crete in May 2016.
All 66 people on board were killed.
Within a few weeks of the tragedy, a French ship managed to detect the black boxes of the plane located on the sea floor at a depth of 3,000 meters while another vessel, contracted by the Egyptian government to join the search for the missing plane debris, had identified several main locations of the wreckage.
Recovered flight data indicated that, only minutes before EgyptAir Flight 804 plunged into the Mediterranean Sea, smoke alarms rang out in the plane’s cabin. Nonetheless, there had been no distress signal sent by the pilot.
At the time of the plane crash, authorities were on maximum alert following the terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris and in Brussels.
Egypt’s Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy had pointed to the likelihood of a terror attack—possibility that the country’s Prime Minister hadn’t ruled out either.
Cause of plane crash revealed to French court
Due to the terrorism claims, Egypt never made the results of its investigation public and relatives of the victims have continued to plight to find out the truth about why their loved ones were lost six years ago.
Claims of a terror attack had been unofficially dismissed by French sources in 2017 already. However, since France was not the main investigating country, it was unable to disclose BEA’s findings.
Following a 2018 request by the French police investigating the plane crash as a manslaugher of French civilians, top aviation experts met 23 times between August 2021 and February 2022 to put together the report presented to the Paris Court of Appeals.
Evidence led them to the conclusion that the fire which caused the tragedy was started by the pilot’s lit cigarette in the cockpit while the co-pilot’s oxygen mask, which had been changed three days earlier, was left in “emergency” mode instead of “normal” by the maintenance engineer.
The pilot’s cigarette caused the oxygen to combust and the produced spark started the fire.
Smoking in the cockpit was reportedly not prohibited by EgyptAir regulations at the time of the crash and was widely common.