Egyptian Passenger Jet Crashes into Mediterranean Sea
CAIRO (AP) — An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board crashed in the Mediterranean Sea early Thursday morning off the Greek island of Crete, Egyptian and Greek officials said.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to say whether a technical problem or a terror attack caused the plane to crash. "We cannot rule anything out," he told reporters at Cairo airport.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was lost from radar at around 2:45 a.m. local time when it was flying at 37,000 feet, according to the airline. It said the Airbus A320 vanished 10 miles (16 kilometers) after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 kilometers (175 miles) off Egypt's coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. Egyptian aviation officials said the plane crashed and that a search for debris was now underway.
The "possibility that the plane crashed has been confirmed," as the plane hasn't landed in any of the nearby airports, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Konstantinos Lintzerakos , director of Greece Civil Aviation Authority, gave a roughly similar account to that given by EgyptAir. In comments to the private Antenna television, he said Greek air traffic controllers were in contact with the pilot who reported no problems as the aircraft cruised at 37,000 feet, traveling at 519 mph (830 kilometers per hour).
The controllers tried to make contact with the pilot 10 miles (16 kilometers) before the plane exited the Greek Flight Information Region, or FIR. The pilot did not respond, he said, and they continued to try to speak to him until 3:29 a.m. local time (2:29 a.m. Egyptian time) when the plane disappeared from the radar inside Egypt's FIR, 11 kilometers (7 miles) southeast of the island of Crete.
Egyptian military aircraft and navy ships were taking part in a search operation off Egypt's Mediterranean coast to locate the debris of the plane, which was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, and 10 crew members. The pilot had more than 6,000 flight hours.
Greece also joined the search and rescue operation with two aircraft, officials at the Hellenic National Defense General Staff said. They said that helicopters were on standby on the southern island of Karpathos for potential rescue or recovery operations.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault offered to send military planes and boats to join the Egyptian search for wreckage.
"We are at the disposition of the Egyptian authorities with our military capacities, with our planes, our boats to help in the search for this plane," he said. He spoke after French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting at the Elysee Palace.
Hollande spoke with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone and agreed to "closely cooperate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances" surrounding the incident, according to a statement issued in Paris.
In Cairo, el-Sissi convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, the country's highest security body. The council includes the prime minister and the defense, foreign and interior ministers in addition to the chiefs of the intelligence agencies.
Those on board, according to EgyptAir, included 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, one Briton, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Belgian, one Algerian and one Canadian. Ayrault confirmed that 15 French citizens were on board.
Egypt's state-run newspaper Al-Ahram quoted an airport official as saying the pilot did not send a distress call, and that last contact with the plane was made 10 minutes before it disappeared from radar. It did not identify the official.