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Egypt Deploys Robot Submarine To Search For EgyptAir's Flight MS804

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A robot submarine joins the search for the black boxes of EgyptAir Flight MS804 in the vast Mediterranean Sea.

The Airbus A320 aircraft carrying 69 people disappeared from radar by dawn of May 19.

The EgyptAir flight took off 11:09 p.m. from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport and was heading to Cairo before it lost communication and went missing at around 2:45 a.m. Cairo time.

After recovering parts of the wreckage and some passengers’ personal belongings, the search team is still scouring the sea for the plane’s fuselage as well as the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder to see what had gone wrong on the flight.

Robotic Technologies Join Probe

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi announced Sunday the deployment of the submarine, which can reach about 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) in depth.

“Until now all scenarios are possible. So please, it is very important that we do not talk and say there is a specific scenario," Sisi said in a Reuters report, adding the whole process “could take a long time.”

According to the president, the underwater equipment from their country’s offshore oil industry will assist in the search. The submarine is said to have moved Sunday in the direction of the crash site to salvage the black boxes.

Air crash investigation specialists estimate that searchers have 30 days to listen for pings delivered once every second from beacons attaching to the two black boxes. During this point, the team would likely use acoustic hydrophones, later mobilizing advanced robots to monitor the seabed and retrieve objects they have found.

Events Before Flight Disappeared

An audio communication between the EgyptAir pilot and air traffic controllers earlier surfaced, suggesting that there was no problem 2 and a half hours prior to the aircraft disappearing from radar screens.

“EgyptAir 804 radar contact,” air traffic over at Zurich Airport in Switzerland said before midnight Wednesday, to which the pilot replied, “Thank you so much.”

The plane disappeared shortly after it left Greek airspace at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday Cairo time. Greek officials even deemed the pilot “cheerful” in his communications, thanking them in Greek as the plane flew out of Greek territory.

Smoke was also detected about the flight before it crashed, but French air accident investigation authorities said Saturday that no conclusion is being drawn yet about its cause.

No Theory Ruled Out

Last Thursday, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi told the media hours after the flight’s disappearance that it was likely an act of terror than a mechanical failure, but he became cautious on Sunday and called for everyone to refrain from speculating or jumping to conclusions.

“In cases like this we need to wait until we base our judgment on facts,” he told CNN.

No group has claimed responsibility for the plane crash, and “no theory” had been ruled out, said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The pilot, Mohamed Shoukair, had over 6,200 hours of flying, with his family considering it only the early stage of his career. His uncle Shehab Shoukair shared with CNN how the man had “ambitions and dreams” and was even thought to one day serve as a member of the Parliament.

Thirty of the passengers were Egyptian, 15 were French citizens, and others came from countries such as Britain, Iraq, Kuwait and Belgium.

Photo: Ian Gratton | Flickr

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