The loss of an Egyptair flight carrying 66 people on Thursday is likely to have been caused by an onboard fire, it has emerged.
Messages sent by the aircraft indicate that smoke was detected in the toilet, avionics bay and perhaps even in the cockpit prior to the crash. Exactly what caused the fire however, remains unclear.
The data from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which transmits aircraft data to airlines, was first reported by the Aviation Herald website.
It appears to suggest that smoke was detected in the toilet (assumed to be the front toilet, next to the cockpit) and then in the aircraft’s avionics bay – the area beneath the cockpit that houses the Airbus A320’s electronics and computer systems. A heat sensor on the cockpit window was set off a few minutes later.
These findings suggest a fire in the front cockpit area of the aircraft, and the erratic final movements of the aircraft – including a 360-degree turn – also indicate a problem in the cockpit. What is unclear however, is how the blaze started and whether it was lit accidentally or deliberately.
A total of 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel were onboard Egyptair flight MS804 when it disappeared from radar screens while en route from Paris to Cairo on 19 May. Some debris has been recovered, but the search for the aircraft and its black box recorders continues.