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EgyptAir MS804 Plane Crash Strengthens Case For Ejectable Black Boxes On Commercial Aircraft

Ejectable flight recorders would remove the need for seabed searches

01/06/2016 11:00 | Updated 02 June 2016

Missing EgyptAir flight MS804 has strengthened the case for black box flight recorders that can pop out of an aircraft before an accident, according to Airbus' most senior engineer.

The missing Airbus A320 was flying from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared over the Mediterranean on May 19 with 66 people on board, triggering a flurry of speculation as to the cause, including suggestions it was brought down by terrorists.

But Airbus Executive Vice President for Engineering Charles Champion has claimed an ejectable flight recorder would remove the need for seabed searches, Reuters reported.

Investigators are searching in some of the deepest waters of the Mediterranean for the EgyptAir Airbus which crashed on May 19, killing 66 people.

Handout . / Reuters
An image showing recovered debris of the EgyptAir jet that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea released on May 21

The jet's black boxes are designed to emit acoustic signals for 30 days after a crash, giving search teams fewer than three weeks to spot them in waters up to 9,840-feet (3,000-meters) deep, which is on the edge of their range.

"If we have a deployable recorder it will be much easier to find," Airbus Executive Vice President for Engineering Charles Champion told a media event.

"We have been working on that and this only reinforces our overall approach."

Ejectable or "deployable" recorders would separate from the tail during a crash and float, emitting a distress signal.

Recommended by investigators after an Air France A330 jet crashed in 2009, the idea came to the fore after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March 2014.

Rapidly emerging details painted a murky picture of what actually happened to the plane, but but the claim that the plane sent a distress call before it came down has now been confirmed.

Missing Egyptair Plane A320

“The investigating committee received satellite reports indicating receiving an electronic distress call from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT),” Egypt’s State Information Service said.

It follows reports that the search area for the plane has been narrowed to a three-mile radius, as search teams strive to find the plane’s black boxes before their signal runs out.

The teams are waiting for a specialised ship designed to carry out deep water searches.

It has previously been reported that the plane’s crew made verbal distress calls.

The captain, 37-year-old Mohamed Said Shoukair also reportedly had a conversation with Cairo air traffic for several minutes about the presence of smoke in the plane.

Claims that flight MS804 was brought down by a bomb have been dismissed as speculation.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
A commercial aircraft cockpit data recorder, or 'black box'

Since the crash, there have been emerging and sometimes contradictory reports on how it happened, including on whether it swerved suddenly before it vanished from radar.

Ships and planes from Egypt, Greece, France, the United States and other nations have been searching the Mediterranean north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria for the jet’s voice and flight data recorders, as well as more bodies and parts of the aircraft.

Small pieces of the wreckage and human remains have been recovered while the bulk of the plane and the bodies of the passengers are believed to be deep under the sea. A Cairo forensic team has received the human remains and is carrying DNA tests to identify the victims.

Because of the difficulties in finding the black boxes, Egypt has contracted two foreign companies, Alseamar and Deep Ocean Research, to help locate the flight data recorders of the plane.

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