The mystery of what caused EgyptAir flight MS804 to crash has deepened as it was claimed the pilot DID make a distress call in the moments before the aircraft plunged into the sea.
The new report directly contradicts official accounts of the crash by the investigating authorities, which state no such call was made.
French television channel M6 says pilot Mohamed Said Shoukair, 37, had “a conversation several minutes long” with Cairo air traffic control about the presence of smoke in parts of the aircraft and said he would attempt an emergency descent to try and clear the air.
This conversation, sources say, amounted to a “distress call” and occurred just before the plane went into a rapid descent in the Captain's attempt to put out the fire and clear the smoke. The manoeuvre involves dramatic changes to cabin air pressure and can be very dangerous.
French authorities have confirmed that smoke detectors went off on board the flight minutes before it crashed but it is not clear what caused the smoke and/ or fire.
They say the plane lurched left, then right, spun all the way around and plummeted 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) into the sea, never issuing a distress call.
The M6 report cites unnamed French aviation sources and the claims have not been confirmed by the French air accident investigation agency, the BEA.
The New York Post reports that after the flight vanished, an EgyptAir spokesman said there was a distress call from the aircraft, but the statement was later refuted by the Egyptian military and subsequently withdrawn by the airline.
The Airbus 320 was carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo when it crashed on Thursday morning last week.
Initial reports claimed all radio contact was lost at 2.45am local time, but the new information had led to speculation of a cover-up.
However, Jane's Aviation and terrorism expert Bruce Jones told The Mirror that it is possible a fire onboard may have damaged the controls, preventing the crew from making radio contact. Jones said a fire in the avionics sections would have caused the system to go "very bad" and render it unresponsive.
The news comes at it emerged the aircraft had "we will bring this plane down" scrawled on the side of it in Arabic, according to reports.
Political activists - who worked at Cairo Airport - were said to be behind the graffiti, written on the underside of the jet about two years ago.
Investigators have been studying the passenger list and questioning ground crew at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, where the airplane took off.
Airport security in Paris is considered up to international aviation standards but one expert says the chilling reality is that security is ultimately fallible. Sylvain Prevost, who trains Paris airport personnel, told the AP that "the infinitely perfect does not exist."
As French authorities question airport staff who had access to EgyptAir Flight 804, cleaning crews are among those drawing attention.
One theory is that a bomb could have been placed in the plane while it was on the tarmac in Paris, or at its previous stops in Cairo or Tunis, although there is no evidence so far of a bomb being aboard the flight.
Prevost says cleaning staff are trained to alert authorities to suspicious items but specialised security personnel are not routinely required to sweep a plane after the cleaning crew leaves.
Search crews are scouring for further wreckage of the aircraft -including for the plane's black boxes, which could provide vital clues to why the jetliner crashed.
The boxes are believed to be in Mediterranean waters around 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Alexandria. The waters are 8,000 to 10,000 feet deep (2,440 to 3,050 meters), and the pings from the black boxes can be detected up to a depth of 20,000 feet (6 kilometers).