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Introduction

On 3 Jan 2004, SU-ZCF a Boeing 737-300 operated by Flash Airlines of Egypt departed from runway 22R at Sharm el Sheikh at night. The weather was visibility 10K+, 17C, light winds. The aircraft took off and climbed normally and began a left hand turn as scheduled. But at 2000ft the turn slowly reversed to the right and the aircraft progressively rolled until it was banked 90 degrees at about 5600ft. It then rapidly lost height and dived into the sea. It disappeared from Radar at 04:44 (local) into the Red Sea approx 9 miles from the runway. No mayday call was made.

The Egyptian operated charter flight was bound for Cairo for a crew change and then on to Paris, CDG. It was carrying mostly French tourists. All 135 pax and 13 crew perished.

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Flash Airlines 737's have had known engine failures with subsequent diversions in Athens (late 2002) and Geneva (early 2003). Their aircraft cabins have also been reported as being in a poor condition by pax eg missing seat belts. The aircraft had a D-check at Braathens/SAS service facility at Sola, Stavanger in December 2002, the manager claims the aircraft to have been in perfect condition "as new", upon completion. But wouldn't comment on the state of the aircraft before the service. The engines where at same time serviced in France. The Swiss Civil Aviation Authorities FOCA have observed severe "security" (ie technical / maintenance / documentation) problems in violation of ICAO rules with a plane of Flash Air during at routine check at ZRH in October 2002 and have not permitted Flash Air to land or overfly Swiss airspace anymore since then. Flash airlines had also its operating licence revoked in Poland in 2002, but, following some maintenance, it was reinstalled in 2003.

In the search for clues from the wreckage, France handled the underwater recovery while the Egyptians collected surface debris. Both the FDR & CVR were recovered, although the CVR was said to be in poor condition.

Flash Airlines operated two 737-300's, both built in 1993. SU-ZCF (26283/2383) had accumulated 17973 hours and 25592 cycles.

The history of SU-ZCF was as follows:

  • 09 Oct 1992 first flight as N373TA Boeing. Construction number 26283, line number 2383.
  • 22 Oct 1992 aircraft bought by ILFC and delivered under lease to TACA as N373TA.
  • 28 May 1998 leased to Color Air, a Norwegian airline as G-COLB.
  • 22 Nov 1999 returned to ILFC as  N161LF.
  • 21 Apr 2000 leased to Heliopolis Airlines as SU-ZCE.
  • 17 May 2000 returned to ILFC as N221LF.
  • 10 Jul 2000 leased to Mediterranean Airlines as SU-MBA.
  • 23 Jun 2001 leased to Heliopolis Airlines as SU-ZCF.
  • 15 Jul 2001 Heliopolis Airlines renamed Flash Airlines.
  • 03 Jan 2004 aircraft crashed.

The final report issued in English by the Egyptian Ministry Of Civil Aviation "Final report of the accident investigation" "Flash Airlines flight 604 January 3, 2004 Boeing 737-300 SU-ZCF Red Sea off Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt" [PDF 37Mb]

http://www.bea-fr.org/docspa/2004/su-f040103a/pdf/su-f040103a.pdf

The NTSB have replied to this report and concluded that:

"The evidence collected during this investigation strongly supports the conclusions that no airplane-related malfunction or failure caused or contributed to the accident and that the accident can be explained by the captain’s spatial disorientation and the first officer’s failure to assume timely control of the airplane."

 


Press Reports

25 Mar 2006 - Egypt and France reach different conclusions about crash

CAIRO -- Egypt and France gave differing explanations on Saturday for a 2004 airplane crash that killed 148 people shortly after takeoff from a Red Sea resort, one exonerating the pilot and the other blaming him.

The plane had been on its way to Paris, and among the dead were 134 French tourists. Egypt concluded in its final report that technical failure, which then led to pilot "disorientation", caused the crash. The chief French investigator said pilot error was primarily to blame.

Emotions ran high as Egyptian journalists and family members of those killed angrily rejected the French stance during a press conference at the Egyptian civil aviation ministry in Cairo.

The lead Egyptian investigator, Shaker Kelada, said his final report found that the automatic pilot system had not functioned properly, and that the pilot subsequently suffered from "spatial disorientation" when the plane crashed.

Kelada said the Egyptian civil aviation ministry's probe had been unable to settle on a "single cause" for the Flash Airline Boeing 737 crash, which occurred three minutes after takeoff from Sharm El Sheikh.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French civil aviation ministry's bureau of investigation, blamed pilot "spatial disorientation" for the Boeing's plunge into the sea.

"Taking into account the complexity of the accident, differences of interpretation remain over the causes," Arslanian told journalists who had just heard Kelada's presentation of the Egyptian report.

"The plane remained pilotable at all times, and we consider that pilot spatial disorientation led the plane to go right" instead of left, he said.

One journalist from the state-run Al Ahram daily interrupted Arslanian and demanded to Kelada: "How can the French accuse the pilot when you just said it was not his fault?"

Arslanian attempted to explain further but the journalist repeatedly interrupted him, finally shouting: "It has to be said clearly that the accident was due to a technical failure and not the pilot's fault." The reporter continued: "It is through these kinds of rumors that people begin to say Egyptian pilots are Islamist suicide attackers."

Also present in the room was the mother of co-pilot Omar Al Shafei, who perished in the crash. Dressed in black and wearing a photo of her son around her neck, she also demanded that Kelada clearly and officially absolve the crew of any responsibility. Other journalists joined in heckling Arslanian.

Marc Chernet, head of the group defending the interests of the victims' families, said "we do not believe at all that the crew suffered from spatial disorientation", contradicting Arslanian and contributing to the noisy confusion in the room. "We are satisfied with the conclusions" of the Egyptian 1,300 page report "even if they are not forthcoming about the precise cause of the accident".

In one corner, as French journalists gathered around Arslanian to ask him more about the report, Kelada shouted at him.

"Mr. Arslanian! You cannot give a press conference in this room that runs parallel to our press conference. You can do it in your hotel in Paris. Here, this is Egypt and this is Egyptian civil aviation."

Kelada said at the end of last year that the pilot, a former Egyptian air force ace with only limited training on civilian aircraft, was not at fault, and that the crash had been caused by technical failures.

He spoke of an unspecified "event" that distracted the cockpit crew between the moments when the pilot asked for autopilot activation and when the copilot remarked that the plane was heading toward the right.

Kelada said four technical failure hypotheses had been simulated to explain the sudden sharp veering but none had been conclusive.

He formally ruled out "external intervention" such as sabotage as a potential explanation. Egypt and France both said shortly after the crash that terrorism was not to blame.

Spatial disorientation is a frequent problem for pilots particularly when they lose sight of visual landmarks and is estimated to cause 15 to 20 percent of aviation accidents.

The Flash Airlines charter company that ran the doomed flight has since declared bankruptcy.

The remains of 16 French victims were to be returned to France on Monday. Those of 67 others were already sent home last October. Some family members have chosen to bury their loved ones at a memorial site in Sharm El Sheikh at the southern end of the Sinai peninsula.


 

28 Jan 2006 - Egypt 2004 crash report won't give specific cause

CAIRO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - A final report will not give a specific reason for an air crash which killed 148 people off the coast of Egypt in 2004, the chief investigator said on Saturday.

Shaker Qilada said the report into the Jan. 3 crash, which killed 133 French tourists, was due in mid-February.

"It's difficult to define a specific reason for the plane crash, but the report will contain a number of possibilities, one or some of which could be the reason for the disaster," Qilada said.

Investigators were putting the final touches to the report.

The Egyptian airliner, a Boeing 737, crashed shortly after take off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Investigators have previously ruled out any attack on the plane, which was operated by Flash Airlines.


 

01 Jun 2005 - Flash Air accident report delayed until end of year.

CAIRO, June 1 (Reuters) - The release of a report into an air crash in Egypt which killed 148 people last year has been delayed from June until the end of the year, the head of the investigation said on Wednesday.

Shaker Kelada said investigators needed more time to study what caused the Flash Airlines Boeing 737 to crash, killing 133 French tourists in January 2004. The plane crashed into the Red Sea just after take off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

Investigators said in November the plane had gone into a steep turn after take-off and the crew did not fully correct it before the crash.

Samir Abdel Maaboud, head of Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority, said there were new details which needed study but he did not specify what they were, Egypt's official Middle East News Agency said.

He said experts from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) would arrive in Egypt in September to inspect aviation methods and the extent of the Authority's compliance with the annexes of the Chicago international civil aviation convention.


 

11 Nov 2004 - Egypt releases report on Flash crash

Egyptian investigators' report provides second-by-second account of facts recorded by two black boxes of Boeing 737.

By Hassen Zenati - CAIRO

Egyptian investigators released a preliminary factual report Thursday on the crash of a Flash Airlines aircraft that left 148 dead in January, but made no statement on the cause of the tragedy.

The 430-page report, which was posted on the Internet at http://www.civilaviation.gov.eg/flash.pdf and presented to the press on Thursday, provides a second-by-second account of the facts recorded by the two black boxes of the Boeing 737.

It transcribes the technical data of the flight and the conversations of crew members between take-off at 0242 GMT on January 3rd and its crash off the coast of the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh three minutes later.

The last lines of the readings describes how the captain said "Come out", as his plane was nose-diving and recovering from a severe bank angle, a second before a ground proximity warning that was the last information recorded by the black box.

Senior Egyptian investigator Shaker Kelada repeated Thursday that it was too early to determine what had caused the crash, which killed 148 people, including 13 crew members and the 135 mainly French holiday-makers on board.

"In the next stage, we will cross-examine the data we have collected and we will then observe whether the crash was the result of a faulty automatic pilot or a human error by the pilot," he said.

He stressed that the factual report was only the sum of a fact-finding effort, including the black box readings and the results of testing at Boeing's headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

In the coming months, the report will be analysed by the Egyptian, French and US parties involved and a final report determining the cause of the crash is expected to be issued in June 2005.

"We have established how, now we have to determine why," Kelada told reporters.

The various parties will have two months to analyse the report and another two months to draft their conclusions. These separate interpretations will then be compiled into a single document to form the final report.

On November 1, some 200 relatives of the French tourists who died in the crash demonstrated in front of the Egyptian embassy in Paris to complain about the delay in the investigation.

Paul-Louis Arsalian, who heads the French Investigation and Analysis Office which was set up after the crash said that the preliminary report would be discussed by the families of the victims during a special meeting in Paris on November 20.


 

11 Nov 2004 - Egypt plane crashed after trying to correct turn

CAIRO, Nov 11 (Reuters) - An Egyptian airliner that crashed in January killing 148 people went into a steep turn after take-off and the crew did not fully correct it before the plane plunged into the Red Sea, investigators said on Thursday.

The Jan. 3 crash, in which 133 French tourists died, took place minutes after the Flash Airlines Boeing 737 took off from the diving resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Cairo and Paris.

"The plane took a shallow right turn which turned into a steep right turn," head investigator Shaker Kelada told a news conference. "Recovery was attempted, but there was not enough recovery before it dived into the sea.

"Whether or not more could have been done is yet to be decided," he said in answer to a question about whether the crew had done all it could to recover control of the plane.

Kelada said his team would spend two months analysing the results of their investigations, after which a preliminary report would be issued. A final report would be ready around June.

Relatives of the French victims have accused Paris of making no effort to clarify the causes of the disaster, which they say could have been avoided.


13 Oct 2004 - Egypt plane crash crew acted properly-investigator

CAIRO, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The crew of an Egyptian jet that plunged into the Red Sea in January killing 148 people appeared to have acted correctly before the crash, investigators said on Wednesday.

However, head investigator Shaker Kelada said it was too soon to rule out human error as a cause of the Flash Airlines disaster, in which 133 French tourists died.

"According to the facts we have now, the crew did everything they should have done. They did not do something they should not have done," Kelada told a news conference in Cairo.

But he added: "It is very premature to say if human error can be counted out as the analysis has not yet been done."

Egyptian investigators have previously said the Boeing 737's pilot realised something was wrong shortly after take-off from the Sharm el-Sheikh resort on Jan. 3.

Relatives of the French victims have accused Paris of making no effort to clarify the causes of the disaster, which they say could have been avoided.

Kelada said the investigation was on schedule and was being conducted with transparency with the help of French and U.S. investigators.

Switzerland barred Flash Airlines from entering its airspace more than a year before the crash, but Flash denied the ban was linked to safety problems.

Kelada said a factual report into the crash would be published on Nov. 11 and a preliminary report, including analysis of the facts, would be ready around the middle of March.


29 Sep 2004 - Pilot 'failed to respond to warnings' before crash

By Colin Randall in Paris

The last words spoken in the cockpit of an Egyptian jet before it crashed into the Red Sea killing 148 people reveal an alarming disregard for safety procedures and a lack of communication on the flight deck, it was claimed yesterday.

With disaster only moments away, the co-pilot three times shouted "Bank angle", indicating that he realised the Flash Airlines Boeing 737 was, in the words of one aviation commentator, "beginning to turn upside down".

But analysis of the black box cockpit recorder, details of which have been leaked to the French newspaper to Le Figaro, apparently shows that the pilot made no reply.

An aeronautical specialist told the newspaper that the senior officer's failure to respond was probably a classic example of pulling rank. "Could a commander who was an Egyptian air force general, a hero of the Yom Kippur war, accept a criticism from a subordinate?" he asked.

The black box recordings, which have not yet been made available to French investigating magistrates who are conducting an inquiry, are said to demonstrate that the flight crew failed to observe basic rules, such as carrying out checklist procedures prior to take-off.

"If the report is accurate, this represents extreme sloppiness and lack of professionalism," said David Learmount, a former RAF transport pilot and flying instructor who is now operations and safety editor of Flight International.

"It would not mean the pilot was not normally capable, but that he was not being a good pilot that day."

The 737, carrying mainly French holidaymakers returning home from Christmas and New Year visits to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, where Tony Blair and his family were also staying, crashed minutes after take-off on Jan 3.

The French government initially blamed a catastrophic power failure, a theory disputed by Mr Learmount and his colleagues, who believe it more likely that the flight crew failed to appreciate that the aircraft was not flying on automatic pilot.


 

28 Sep 2004 - Figaro claims Red Sea crash charter plane crew ignored checklist

PARIS, Sept 28 (AFP) - The crew of an Egyptian airliner that crashed into the Red Sea in January, killing all 148 people on board, may not have followed proper take-off procedures, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported Tuesday.

The daily, which did not name its sources, said the cockpit recorder revealed that the pilot and co-pilot did not read through any checklists before their doomed take-off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on January 3.

"We now know that the recurring defect in the 737's rudder is no longer in question. Boeing can be reassured. The experts are more than ever looking into the conversation between the two pilots and their work habits," the paper said.

"Even if the cockpit recorder was sometimes faulty, all the checklists could not have been erased," Le Figaro noted.

Egyptian investigators, who have ruled out an attack on the Flash Airlines jet and attributed the crash to human error, were due to deliver their final report to their French counterparts on November 15.

Most of the crash victims were French tourists. Marc Chernet, president of an association of the victims' families, was due to meet with junior French foreign minister Renaud Muselier on Tuesday for an update on the probe.

Le Figaro suggested that the compensators controlling the steering may not have been set to the neutral position before take-off, causing the plane to bank sharply to one side.

"Bank angle", the co-pilot cried three times before the crash, the paper reported, saying the pilot did not respond.

© AFP


13 Sep 2004 - France rejects criticism by Egypt crash relatives

PARIS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - France rejected on Monday accusations from victims' relatives that it had failed to demand an explanation from Cairo for an Egyptian airliner crash in January, which killed 134 French tourists.

The head of a relatives' group said at the weekend France had "done nothing to explain the causes" of the disaster in which a Flash Airlines plane plunged into the Red Sea, killing all 148 people on board.

The French Foreign Ministry said while it understood the relatives' pain, the official Egyptian inquiry was progressing as scheduled and would report soon.

"The inquiry is being handled by the Egyptian authorities" and a preliminary report will be ready by mid-November, ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said in a press briefing.

Junior foreign minister Renaud Muselier will meet families who lost kin in the crash on Sept. 28, he added.

Egyptian investigators have said the aircraft's pilot realised something was amiss with the Boeing 737 shortly after take-off from the diving resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on January 3.

But it could be years before investigators reach a definitive conclusion on the crash.


 

06 Mar 2004 - Ill-fated Egyptian carrier Flash Airlines has reportedly ceased trading.

The corporate web-site of parent-company Flash no longer mentions that activity whereas the company's single remaining Boeing 737-300 was returned to the lessor on Friday (05/03/2004).

As a reminder a Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300 (SU-ZCF) crashed just after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) on 03/01/2004. From the very beginning the safety and maintenance of the carrier's small fleet had been questioned. The airline had for example been banned from Switzerland.

The second plane of the airline (SU-ZCD) was re-registered as N271LF by lessor ILFC. The Boeing 737-3Q8 is currently stored at Shannon.


 

04 Mar 2004 - Red Sea crash crew 'found fault during autopilot'

CAIRO, March 4 (AFP) - The pilot of the Egyptian airliner which crashed in January engaged the autopilot while making a turn, shortly before its nosedive into the Red Sea, the chief investigator said here Thursday.

The Egyptian head of the investigating team, Shaker Qelada, said the pilot had asked the co-pilot to switch on the autopilot during a left turn undertaken shortly after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

Qelada told a press conference that, according to the flight data and voice cockpit recorders of the doomed Flash Airlines Boeing 737, the auto-pilot worked for four seconds and then the pilot asked the co-pilot to switch it off.

"While the autopilot was on, we hear the pilot saying he spotted something wrong," said the investigator, without specifying wether the hitch was related to the autopilot.

"Seconds later, the co-pilot says the plane is not responding as it should. We hear that the plane is going to the right, and it kept going to the right," he said.

"It then fell down," killing all 148 passengers and crew, including 134 French tourists, he added.

He said the investigators are now trying to determine what happened between the moment when the autopilot was engaged and the crash.

He insisted that the on and off switching of the autopilot "is not abnormal and does not lead to a dangerous position."

Qelada and France's Accident Investigations Bureau (BEA) on Tuesday dismissed as "speculation" a French newspaper report that said the crash was caused by human error, the flight crew wrongly believing they had engaged the automatic pilot.

Citing evidence from the Boeing 737's black boxes, Le Figaro reported that "the crew thought it had switched on the automatic pilot, but in fact it never started operating. And the pilots probably never identified the fault."


 

03 Mar 2004 - Technical and human factors in Flash Airlines crash

Reports Kieran Daly, London (03Mar04, 09:41 GMT, 130 words)


French media reports say investigators have determined that the fatal loss of the Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300 at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt in January occurred when the crew failed to recognise that the autopilot had not engaged as commanded after take-off.

The detailed reports describe the aircraft gently banking left as it departed at night-time over the Red Sea while the crew calmly tried to understand what was happening – apparently realising only in the last few seconds the true situation.

The aircraft finally rolled perpendicular to the horizon before crashing into the sea. All 148 occupants, 135 of whom were French, died.

Both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered and France’s investigation body, the BEA, is expected to release an interim report shortly – possibly as soon as today.


Source: Air Transport Intelligence news


 

7 Feb 2004 - 'No panic' in Egypt crash, French aide says

Pilots of an airliner that plunged into the sea off Egypt, killing 148 people, only realized in the last few seconds that the situation was critical, a French investigator said in a newspaper interview. Paul-Louis Arslanian, director of France's Bureau of Accident Investigations, reiterated that the Flash Airlines flight was not brought down by a terrorist attack, Le Monde said in its Friday edition. "Only very late did the people in the cockpit realize that they were in a critical situation," the French daily quoted Arslanian as saying. "Until the last three seconds, the situation is simply preoccupying, and there is no panic," he said. "I'm not even sure that they realize that the water is coming."

But the lead Egyptian investigator disputed Arslanian's account as "plain guessing." The investigator, Shaker Qilada, speaking by telephone, said that he had listened to the cockpit voice recorder but that Arslanian had not, "so where he got that from, I don't know."

Most of passengers were French. The Boeing 737 plunged into deep waters shortly after takeoff on Jan. 3 from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik, requiring the use of minisubmarines to recover the plane's "black box" flight data and cockpit voice recorders. The recorders were in good condition and "give a good picture of what happened," said the French investigator. "We now know that this was not an attack, that a passenger did not get into the cockpit, that neither of the pilots went mad," he said. "Nor was it a stall, that's to say an aircraft that suddenly becomes uncontrollable," he added. "We see more clearly what happened but not why it happened," he said.


 

31 Jan 2004 - Plane rudder 'not cause' of Flash Airlines Crash

PARIS, Jan 31 (AFP) - The rudder on an Egyptian charter plane was not the cause of its fatal crash earlier this month, a top French aviation official said Saturday.

The comment by Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of the French office of civil aviation investigations and analysis (BEA), followed news that the Flash Airlines flight which crashed on January 3 into the Red Sea, killing all 148 aboard, had at one point made an unexpected turn off its original flight path.

An Egyptian official heading the investigation into the accident had said Wednesday he was puzzled by the abrupt right-turn made by the Boeing 737 before it plunged into the sea.

His comments fuelled media speculation that a defect in the plane's directional system had been responsible for the crash.

"I confirmed to families that there was no problem with the plane's rudder," Arslanian told a press conference after he and Justice Minister Dominique Perben met with 350 families and friends of the crash victims.

The only hard evidence investigators had so far, he said, was that shortly after take-off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, the Paris-bound plane "continued to rise, veered away in the other direction and at an altitude of 5,500 feet (1,800 meters), it nose-dived and crashed in a violent manner."


 

28 Jan 2004 - Investigators start reassembling wreckage

Experts in Egypt have begun reassembling pieces of a charter plane that crashed in the Red Sea earlier this month, in hopes of finding out the cause.

The team, helped by French and American experts, has also begun sorting out the information collected from the voice cockpit and flight data recorders.

Almost immediately after the crash, authorities ruled out terrorism, and a preliminary report blamed pilot error.

A French remote-controlled submarine searching the ocean floor for debris has finished its work. It found the voice and data recorders. French officials said another submarine will remain a few more days to help map wreckage.


 

21 Jan 2004 - Pilot fault to blame for crash of Egyptian airliner: preliminary report

CAIRO (Egypt) Jan 21 - A preliminary report blames pilot error for the crash of an Egyptian charter airliner that killed all 148 people on board, most of them French tourists, a civil aviation official said Wednesday.

The assertion is a reversal for the Egyptian government, which had insisted since shortly after the Jan 3 crash that the plane went down because of a technical problem.

Analysis of the voice recorder recovered from the wreckage of the plane indicated that the pilot gave no alarm to air traffic controllers, said the official of the Egyptian civil aviation ministry, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Shaker Qilada, the head of the team investigating the crash, said he was too busy to speak with journalists. But Qilada said Tuesday that investigators had narrowed down the cause to either technical failure or human error, saying there was no indication of terrorism.

A remote-controlled French submarine retrieved the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder on Saturday and Sunday. Egyptian investigators in Cairo have been analyzing the data in cooperation with a French team and American observers.

A French judge, Andre Dando, is also visiting the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, near where the crash occurred, to serve as a link between the Egyptian and French judiciaries, a diplomat in the French Embassy told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Dando is not participating in the investigation itself.

Egypt has said the Flash Airlines jet, an 11-year-old Boeing 737, checked out fine before the flight. But after the crash, Swiss officials said technical problems forced them to ban the Egyptian company's planes from landing in Switzerland.

Search crews on military and civilian vessels tried to recover bodies believed to be resting under hundreds of metres of water but found only small pieces of remains and wreckage.

The report's findings could affect the amount of compensation that Flash Airlines could receive from its national insurer and international underwriter. - AP


 

20 Jan 2004 - Flight Recorders Show Aircraft Not Attacked

Flight recorders recovered from an Egyptian airliner which crashed into the Red Sea this month showed that the plane was not attacked, the head of the investigation said on Tuesday.

But the cockpit voice recorder, which contains 30 minutes of conversation, was noisy and it was not clear from the initial analysis what went wrong with the Boeing 737, which was carrying 148 people including 133 French tourists. All were killed.

"The first thing we looked at was there any possibility of any explosion and we have a total negative possibility and that's why we can say, we can definitely confirm, there is no terrorist act," investigator Shaker Qilada told Reuters.

"What I can tell you is that we don't have an indication from the voice recorder of any defect yet," he added.

Qilada told a news conference that the crash was definitely the result of "a technical fault", a term which he said could include mechanical problems and pilot error.

"So this is what I call a classic accident. It is not an accident out of the normal. We will investigate the machine and the human being," he added.


 

18 Jan 2004 - Submarine retrieves cockpit voice recorder from crashed Egyptian airliner

A remote-controlled French mini submarine today retrieved the second black box, this one containing cockpit voice recordings, of an Egyptian charter plane that crashed killing all 148 people aboard, most of them French tourists, the head of the Egyptian investigating team said.

The discovery along with the recovery of the flight data recorder on Saturday, may provide vital clues as to what happened to the Flash Airlines Boeing 737.

Egyptian authorities have already ruled out terrorism – they blamed an unspecified technical problem for the crash minutes after take-off from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik on January 3.

“We have just retrieved it now from the water, from a depth of around 3,350ft,” said Shaker Qilada, head of the Egyptian investigation team.

“Because of the crash impact and because of resting at such a depth, the box is not in good condition. We hope it won’t affect the content of the box.” Qilada said.

The French navy, while scanning the sea bed, also has photographed the fuselage of the crashed Boeing 737 and search teams were trying to retrieve it, he said.

Egyptian investigators in Cairo have begun analysing the data on the flight data recorder pulled up by the French submarine Scorpio 2000, in cooperation with a French team and American observers.

No information on what it contains has been released.

The analysis of each black box’s recordings is expected to last several days.

The voice cockpit recorder was found on the seabed about 4,900ft from the flight data recorder, a second Egyptian investigator said on condition of anonymity.

Qilada said the voice recorder, like the flight data recorder, was chemically treated to clean the salt water, then was sent to Cairo for thorough examination.


 

17 Jan 2004 - Mini Sub Retrieves FDR

A small submarine has retrieved one of the flight data recorders of an Egyptian jet that crashed this month at a Red Sea resort, an official said Saturday.

The chief of the search team, Shaker Qilada, said the recorder, commonly known as a black box, contained the technical data of the plane's performance before it crashed Jan. 3, minutes after taking off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

The black box, which was located Friday on the sea bed, appeared to be in good condition after it was treated with chemicals to remove salt, Qilada said.

Egyptian and French investigators hope the black box will reveal what caused the plane to crash, killing all 148 people on board - including 134 French tourists who were flying to Paris. Officials have said it was caused by a technical problem and ruled out terrorism.

The box was retrieved at dawn by the small submarine Scorpio 2000, which has been lent to the search team by France Telecom.

Egyptian civil aviation authorities have said they will lead the analysis of the box's contents. But French and U.S. officials are assisting the investigation.

Another remote controlled submarine is pursuing the second black box, which is believed to be lying more than 3,300 yards below the surface, Qilada said. All planes carry two boxes -- one containing the cockpit's vocal recordings and the other technical data.

France has sent ships, divers and technicians to assist the search operation, including a ship that arrived Wednesday to scan the sea bed and produce detailed maps of the sea floor.


 

16 Jan 2004 - Mini Sub Finds Jet Liner Wreckage

A French mini submarine is relaying images of debris on the Red Sea floor from an Egyptian passenger jet that crashed this month, but it has not spotted the plane's voice and data recorders, an Egyptian naval officer said Thursday.

The Flash Airlines charter plane plunged into the sea Jan. 3 shortly after takeoff from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik, killing all 148 people on board, including 134 French tourists returning to Paris.

French teams working with the Scorpio 2000 submarine are focusing on finding the so-called black boxes.

"We are seeing small pieces of the plane resting on the bottom of the sea ... but have not seen the black boxes yet," Col. Tarek el-Gamal told The Associated Press from the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheik.

Another small French submarine, Super Achille, arrived Thursday and began dives in the crash area, search team officials said on condition of anonymity.

Search teams have picked up signals from the flight recorders that could help explain what went wrong, but have been unable to retrieve them from the deep sea. Officials have narrowed the signals' location to a 660-foot radius.

France has sent ships, divers and technicians to assist the search operation, including a ship that arrived Wednesday to scan the sea bed and produce detailed maps of the sea floor, 2,000 to 2,600 feet below the surface.

Mohammed Nour, chairman of Flash Airlines, said Thursday that efforts to settle compensation for the victims were continuing, but that he did not know how much would be paid out or when payments would begin. Claims, he said, were being handled through a legal office set up by the airline in Paris.

Flash Airlines, a private Egyptian charter company, has only one remaining plane, also a Boeing 737, that it leases.

"We hope to overcome this tragedy in the future," he told The Associated Press, without speculating on when Flash Airlines would be flying again.


 

13 Jan 2004 - Flash insurers to pay out US$350,000 per family - Legal heirs of Red Sea crash victims likely to receive advances soon

The state-run insurers of Egypt's Flash Airlines have pledged to pay US$350,000 dollars in compensation to each of the families of the 148 people who died when one of its planes crashed into the Red Sea last week.

Al-Sharq insurance company, in a statement carried by Egypt's state-run Middle East News Agency, said it 'pledges to compensate the families of the victims following the end of the investigation and technical inspections.' It said it would cover all the passengers and crew members, as well as their luggage, in line with regulations concerning civil responsibility.

Al-Sharq said it would send US$350,000 to the heirs of each victim of the Boeing 737 that crashed into the Red Sea on Jan 3 just off Sharm el-Sheikh, killing 134 French people, one other passenger and the 13 Egyptian crew members.

Civil responsibility and plane damages are covered by Al-Sharq, with the risk spread among the Egyptian Reinsurance Company and XL Brockbank, a group of Lloyd's of London.

'It's Flash Airlines which will be responsible. We're talking about objective responsibility, full rights. They cannot raise any kind of defence,' according to Thibault de Mallmann, legal affairs director of the La Reunion Aerienne group.

He estimated that the legal heirs should receive advances 'in a very short time' of about 15,000 euros per passenger, but 'in the current case, that risks being longer because entire families were wiped out'.

The sums will only be released when state authorities register the official certificate of death for the victims, who are currently officially listed as missing.


 

12 Jan 2004

A Russian "Ruslan" An 124-100 transported diving equipment from Marseille to Sharm el Sheikh on January 10. Among the equipment delivered is Scorpio-2000, which is capable of diving up to 2 km. This device has been given by France Telecom company free of charge and equipped with powerful projectors and video cameras. It also has two mechanical arms.

According to French Ministry of Defence, Scorpio-2000 device will start the operation on raising the "black boxes" of the 737 on Monday, January 12, ITAR-TASS information agency reported


6 Jan 2004, Crews Find Egypt Plane Crash 'Black Box'

By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt - Searchers located one of the black box flight data recorders Tuesday from a charter jet that crashed into the Red Sea last weekend, but it was too far under the water to be immediately retrieved, a French official said.

Rear Adm. Jacques Mazars told reporters at the popular Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik that more advanced equipment was needed to retrieve the box, which was believed to be 2,000 to 2,500 feet below the sea's surface.

"Given the approximate depth of the black box, it is not possible to find it immediately with the means that we have," he said.

A robot submarine sent by the French can operate no deeper than 1,300 feet. Mazars, who heads the French forces sent to Egypt to help with the search, said the French Defense Ministry might send a remote-control submarine that can go deeper, but that it would take a week to arrive.

<cut>

Officials have not yet found the fuselage of the 11-year-old Boeing 737, but Mazars said that searchers on Tuesday used a sonar attached to a robotic arm extending from a boat to determine that a signal that had been picked up was from the recorders. The signal is about 500 to 600 yards from where the plane is believed to have crashed.

Mazars said the search for the fuselage was focused on a surface area of less than 2.5 acres, four to five miles from shore.

"Underwater acoustics are not an exact science," he said. "We have a zone of probability that is rather strong."

Egyptian officials say they do not know what sort of mechanical problem may have occurred and said the jet checked out fine before the flight.

<cut>

France's top aviation official said Monday the crash appeared to be accidental, but he still could not rule out terrorism.

"We have no information concerning the cause of this accident, and until we have the flight recorder, we won't know," said Michel Wachenheim, head of France's Civil Aviation Authority. "We cannot exclude either an accident or a criminal cause."

But body parts recovered thus far have shown no burns, suggesting there was no explosion, French Deputy Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier said Monday.

Since the jet was American-made, the United States was sending a team of investigators, including experts from Boeing.

France has sent in 500 personnel and dispatched equipment, including a military surveillance plane looking for floating debris. French forensics experts were hoping to identify body parts through DNA testing.

Families of victims were to begin arriving Wednesday in Sharm el-Sheik, about 480 miles southeast of Cairo, for memorial services on land and sea. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is also flying in for the ceremonies.

<cut>


 

05 Jan 2004 Swiss say two Flash Airlines planes were unsafe

ZURICH, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Swiss authorities said they had found two aircraft unsafe in 2002 that were operated by the Egyptian Flash Airlines, raising the possibility that one was the plane that crashed into the Red Sea on Saturday.

In Cairo, Flash officials were not immediately available to comment on the Swiss report.

But they have said the doomed charter plane was one of only two that Flash has operated in recent years, including all of 2002, although Swiss officials were unable to confirm positively that it was one of those they had inspected.

The aircraft, bound for Cairo and Paris, crashed after taking off from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort, killing all 148 people on board.

The Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation said it had inspected one of the company's aircraft in April 2002 and found that navigation documents were missing, fuel reserves were not calculated to international standards and the signposting of emergency exits was partly "in unusable condition".

"In addition, obvious maintenance deficiencies were found in the areas of the landing gear, the engines and the aircraft steering," it said in a statement.

It said the inspection of a second Flash Airlines aircraft in October 2002 had revealed "essentially the same defects".

After the airline failed to provide sufficient proof that it had remedied the defects, it was barred from landing in Switzerland a few days later, the office said.

It stressed that it was drawing no conclusion about the cause of Saturday's crash.

Egyptian authorities have been eager to defend their aviation safety record, and the head of Flash Airlines told Reuters on Sunday the Swiss landing ban had been based on financial disputes between the airline and its Swiss handling company, rather than safety concerns.


January 4, 2004 Egyptian charter plane crashes in the Red Sea.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Flash Airlines, which operated a chartered Boeing 737 that crashed in the Red Sea off Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, was banned by Switzerland in 2002 over technical worries, the country's office of aviation said Sunday.

No survivors have been found in Saturday's crash, which killed at least 148 people -- most of them French vacationers returning home from the Egyptian resort town. Officials have described the crash as an accident and said terrorism has been ruled out as a possible cause.

Speaking on Swiss television, Celestine Perrisinotto, spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Civil Aviation, said "a series of shortcomings showed up" in a Flash Airlines plane during a security check in October 2002.

Egyptian officials were given a list of the shortcomings, and the airline did not seek to re-enter Switzerland, she said. The Swiss news agency Swissinfo quoted Perrisonotto as saying that Flash never responded to the Swiss concerns, and she could not offer details of the problems Swiss authorities found.

Egyptian Civil Aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq said the Swiss statement was inaccurate and baseless.

Speaking to CNN in Sharm el-Sheikh, Shafiq said he wanted to see documents proving what the Swiss official said was true. And he said Egypt has documents stating that Flash Airline's planes were safe.

Shafiq said a technical problem caused the crash, although searchers have not yet found any flight data recorders from the aircraft that might help explain what went wrong.

"Just two minutes or let us say three minutes after takeoff, we imagine that the pilot has discovered something which is abnormal in the control and the serviceability of the aircraft in general, he changed his plan maybe again trying to land again in the same airport," he said.

In Washington, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said that, at the request of the Egyptian government, it was sending a representative to assist in the investigation.

The Egyptian charter airline company is based in Cairo and operated two Boeing 737-300s, both made in 1993. It is part of Flash Group, which offers vacation packages across Egypt...


 

03 Jan 2004

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt (AP) - A charter jet carrying 148 people - mostly French tourists - crashed Saturday into the Red Sea shortly after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheik, killing everyone on board, officials said.

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said the crash was an accident, apparently caused by a mechanical problem - but it occurred amid a week of heightened concerns about terrorist threats from the air that have led to increased security and canceled flights around the world.

France's Deputy Transportation Minister Dominique Bussereau said in Paris that the pilot of Air Flash flight FSH604 detected problems shortly after takeoff and tried to turn back.

Egypt's military sent helicopters and small patrol boats to search an area of the sea littered with floating suitcases and other debris.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that 133 of the people aboard were French tourists. A French Embassy official in Cairo said the list of those on board also showed one Moroccan tourist and 13 crew members. There was one additional passenger whose nationality was not known, the French foreign ministry said.

The Boeing 737 jet, which disappeared from radar after it took off shortly before 5 a.m., was headed to Cairo for a crew change before continuing to Paris. No distress call was made, airport officials said on condition of anonymity.

People waiting for family members at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris early Saturday were pulled aside by airport authorities and taken by shuttle bus to a nearby hotel.

``Up until now, the cause is a technical one,'' Minister of Civil Aviation Ahmed Shafeeq told state-run Egyptian television. ``There was a malfunction that made it difficult for the crew to ... save the plane.''

France's deputy transportation minister, Dominique Bussereau, said Saturday that the flight had a problem on takeoff and crashed when it tried to turn back. He spoke during a press conference at Charles de Gaulle airport, where the flight had been scheduled to arrive at 9 a.m.

The trip was organized by FRAM, one of France's biggest tour operators.

Looking pale and shaken, a couple in their 50s arrived at the Charles de Gaulle terminal early Saturday. The man asked an airport official: ``My children are at Sharm. How do I find out if they were on the plane?''

The couple was then taken to the crisis center.

French authorities will help Egypt ``in order to shed light as quickly as possible on this catastrophe that has plunged our country into mourning,'' Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in a statement.

French anti-terrorism authorities in Paris said they did not expect to open an investigation because the crash appears to have been an accident.

Air Flash, which operated the airliner, said in a statement that the wreckage was found about nine miles from the airport, according to the Egyptian news agency MENA. Engineers from the national carrier EgyptAir were helping to determine what happened.

Air Flash, which has been in business for six years, said the Boeing 737 was one of two it owned. At the airline's offices in Cairo, about 20 people had gathered, including weeping relatives of crew members.

The weather was clear in Sharm el-Sheik, 300 miles southeast of Cairo on the Sinai peninsula, and other flights were taking off without incident, officials said.

The jet flew in early Saturday from Milan, Italy, dropping off passengers in Sharm el-Sheik, the airline said. New passengers then boarded for the flight to Paris via Cairo.

The airplane received its maintenance checks in Norway and the most recent one showed no problems, the airline said.

French President Jacques Chirac phoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the crash, MENA said.

Sharm el-Sheik is a popular Red Sea tourist resort that also frequently hosts major political and economic summits. Egypt has held several meetings on Middle East peace there, including one in which President Bush met with regional leaders in June over the ``road map'' plan toward creating a Palestinian state.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was vacationing at the resort, but a spokeswoman at his office in London said neither Blair nor any members of his family were aboard the Air Flash plane.

Egypt's last major airline disaster occurred in 1999, when an EgyptAir jetliner crashed shortly after leaving New York en route to Cairo, killing all 217 people aboard.


ASN ACCIDENT DIGEST 2004-01


Date: 03 JAN 2004
Time
: 04:44 local
Type: Boeing 737-3Q8
Operator: Flash Airlines
Registration: SU-ZCF
Msn / C/n: 26283/2383
Year built: 1992
Total airframe hrs:  17973 hours 
Cycles:  25592 cycles
Engines: 2 CFMI CFM56-3C1
Crew: 13 fatalities / 13 on board
Passengers: 135 fatalities / 135 on board
Total: 148 fatalities / 148 on board
Airplane damage: Written off
Location: 15km S off Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt)
Phase: Climb
Nature: Domestic Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport: Sharm el Sheikh Airport (SSH)
Destination airport: Cairo International Airport (CAI)
Flight number: 604
Weather was perfect (excellent visibility, 17 degrees C and a light breeze) when Flash Air flight 604 departed the Red Sea  resort of Sharm el Sheikh for a flight to Paris-CDG with an intermediate stop at Cairo. On board were 135, mostly French, holidaymakers heading home. After takeoff from runway 22L or 22R, the plane climbed to an altitude of approx. 5000 feet. The plane then manoeuvred for a procedural turn toward Cairo. From that moment on it descended until it struck the surface of the Red Sea in an area where the depth is approx. 900 metres.

Source: Reuters; AFP; Boeing
--------------------------------------------
AIRCRAFT PROFILE BOEING 737
* Last (civilian) hull-loss accident: 08 JUL 2003 Boeing 737-2J8C Sudan Airways, at Port Sudan- 116 fatalities
* Last fatal accident: ibid.
* Total number of hull-losses: 114 losses (104 accidents, 6 other occurrences (sabotage, ground fire) and 4 hijackings)
* Total number of B737-300 hull-losses: 12 losses (12 accidents)
* worst accident
* Survival rate for all fatal B737-300 accidents: on average 31,6% of all occupants survived fatal accidents
* History of SU-ZCF
N373TA Boeing 09 OCT 1992 first flight
N373TA TACA 22 OCT 1992 delivered (on lease from ILFC)
G-COLB Color Air 28 MAY 1998 delivered
N161LF ILFC 22 NOV 1999 returned
SU-ZCE Heliopolis Airlines 21 APR 2000 delivered
N221LF ILFC 17 MAY 2000 returned
SU-MBA Mediterranean Airlines 10 JUL 2000 delivered
SU-ZCF Heliopolis Airlines 23 JUN 2001 delivered
SU-ZCF Flash Airlines 15 JUN 2001 airline renamed
--------------------------------------------
OPERATOR PROFILE FLASH AIRLINES
Flash Airlines operates charter flights from Egypt to European cities using two Boeing 737-300's. Flash Airlines is part of the Flash Group which was founded in 1985, offering services to tourists.
During SAFA inspections by the Bundesamt für Zivilluftfahrt (BAZL) in Switzerland in October 2002 serious shortcomings were found on a Flash Airlines flight. These shortcomings, which do not necessarily have been of a technical/mechanical nature, were
founded: 1996
* 1st airliner hull-loss accident
--------------------------------------------
COUNTRY PROFILE EGYPT
* Last airliner hull-loss accident in Egypt: 13 DEC 1988 GAS Air Nigeria Boeing 707-351C near Kom-Omran - 8 fatalities
* Worst accident in Egypt
* Last fatal Egyptian airliner hull-loss accident: 07 MAY 2002 EgyptAir Boeing 737-566 near Tunis - 14 fatalities
* 2nd worst Egyptian airliner accident
* Egypt is rated Category 1 (meeting ICAO standards) in FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA)
--------------------------------------------

 

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