An oxygen leak caused a fire responsible for the Egyptair crash, says an expert

The MS804 plane, which connects Paris to Cairo, crashed between midnight and one in the morning between Crete and the north coast of Egypt on May 19, 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea after suddenly disappearing from radar screens. The 66 people on board, including 40 Egyptians and 15 French, perished.

In this case, with many human but also diplomatic stakes, Cairo claimed in December 2016 to have discovered traces of explosives on the remains of victims, which aroused skepticism on the French side, especially since no organization had claimed responsibility for an attack.

Paris, for its part, favored the thesis of a technical incident.

Since May 2016, three expert reports have been submitted to the French judicial inquiry, which have allowed it to be established that a fire had broken out on board the cockpit, which was hastily left behind by the crew, who appeared unable to find one and therefore to use fire extinguisher, which a few minutes later caused the plane to crash and become unmanned.

In a June 2021 report, three experts who had access to flight recorder recordings in particular had singled out an “uncontrolled” fire in the cockpit as the cause of the incident a month after the crash.

This fire, according to them, “followed the ignition of a stream of pure oxygen released by premature and involuntary activation of the co-pilot’s quick pass mask.”

They denied “a spontaneous fire eruption in the mere presence of the oxygen leak” and conjured up three possible triggers “all of human origin”: “a blanket charged with static electricity, which the pilot asked to sleep”, with “greasy substance being part of it”. . the food served to the pilot and finally, with a high probability, a lit cigarette or a lit cigarette butt in an ashtray”.

While the investigation found that the crew regularly smoked in the cockpit, and particularly just before the accident, which was said to be “catastrophic in the event of a leak of pure oxygen”, underscored the expertise, although it was not established at the time that this practice was occurring prohibited by Egyptair regulations.

In addition to this cockpit, which “is considered the smoking area of ​​​​the aircraft”, the experts had identified other elements that testify to “unprofessional behavior” on the part of the crew: “insufficient attention paid to flight surveillance”, music, coming and going from the cockpit several times, etc.

“Negligence”

Recently added to the file was a summary expertise from March published by Corriere della Sera on Tuesday.

In their conclusions, the five experts agree that “the oxygen leakage from the co-pilot’s quick-release mask” was “crucial for the cause of the fire”.

This leak was made “possible by the non-compliant position” of an activation button for this mask in the cockpit, which had been checked by a technician three days before the crash while replacing the housing of the same mask.

The experts emphasize that the correct position of this button should have been checked by the technician and the crew before take-off.

However, that report reiterates that it is not possible to “determine with certainty” the element that started the fire given the oxygen leak. It takes up the three hypotheses: cigarette, greasy substance, spark of static electricity.

While a first survey in June 2018 dedicated to the maintenance of the device had estimated that it should not have left Cairo, its home base, “after the chain of recurring failures but has not been reported by successive crews,” recognizes this However, new opinions on various technical problems that have affected the aircraft believes that “no NOGO situation”, a diagnosis that prohibits the departure of an aircraft, “was detected on the flights before flight MS804”.

For two representatives of the Association of Relatives of the Victims of the Egyptair MS804 Crash, there was “lack of maintenance, a series of negligence and serious irregularities”.

“We demand that Egyptair be charged and face up to its responsibilities,” they continued to AFP, condemning Egypt’s position of “unwillingness to cooperate” in the investigation, after them.

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