Sunday, May 22, 2016

Egypt Air Flight 804 Crash Not Solved Yet

by JASmius

I had to sit through it all again yesterday.  Listening to the standard pro-Trump spiel about how OF COURSE Trump was right in his impulsive, knee-jerk ascribing of the EgyptAir Flight 804 crash to terrorism, what else could it be, Trump is fearless, Trump has balls the size of honeydew melons, he's willing to say what nobody else is, blah, blah, blah, yata, yata, yata.  Which of course makes the destruction of EgyptAir Flight 804 not about the destruction of EgyptAir Flight 804 but all about Donald Trump's testicles, and redefines the role of POTUS from mature, prudent, thoughtful, careful leadership to a penis-measuring contest.  God, I am sick of that crap.

Not that boldness and bluntness don't have their place in the statecraft toolbox; just in rare, sparing doses where and when appropriate, not as standard operating procedure.  It's the difference between having a steel-reinforced backbone and being a grandstanding lunatic.  Whether or not Trump ends up being right about his blurting tweet is irrelevant to the point.

And the jury is still out on that question:

EgyptAir Flight 804’s automatic radio messages about smoke in the front portion of the cabin were generated minutes before controllers lost contact with the aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, French accident investigator BEA said Saturday.
The electronic signals offer a puzzling twist to what may have happened to the flight, which went down on Thursday with sixty-six people aboard. Two error messages, the first at 2:26 a.m. local time, suggested there was a fire on board, while later alerts indicated some type of failure in the plane’s electrical equipment.

Doesn't sound much like a bomb, does it?

While similar signals have preceded air accidents in the past, the warnings aren’t associated with a sudden disappearance from radar as occurred with the Airbus A320 over the Mediterranean. A Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukrainian airspace in July 2014 broke apart so quickly that on-board systems didn’t have time to send distress messages.

It’s too long for an explosion and too short for a traditional fire,” said John Cox, a former A320 pilot who is president of the Washington-based consultancy Safety Operating Systems. “It says we have more questions than we have answers.”

Spanning three minutes, the warnings were followed by alerts that fumes were detected by smoke detectors, one in a lavatory and the other in the compartment below the cockpit where the plane’s computers and avionics systems are stored, according to the Aviation Herald. CNN reported that the time stamps of the alerts match the approximate time the aircraft went missing. [emphases added]

That would suggest that that the primary cause was a catastrophic malfunction, not a terrorist act.

In the case of a mid-flight fire, the pilots would have been expected to radio a distress call and begin attempts to divert, Cox said. No such radio calls came from the EgyptAir plane.

The transmissions, which are automatically sent to ground stations so airlines can monitor whether a plane needs maintenance, will probably provide valuable clues once they’re matched up against the plane’s crash-proof flight recorders.

And it is not until after that step has been taken and the NTSB and other investigators have arrived at any firm conclusions that anybody in elected leadership, much less the POTUS or anybody in the running to attain that office, should start popping off about causes and to whom culpability belongs.

I, of course, not being in either category AND being a blogger, am free to speculate to my big heart's content.  And my speculation is that....we should wait for the flight and data recorders to be recovered before we start popping off about it.

For those pushing for the terrorism angle, there is this piece of tangential at best circumstantial evidence:

The EgyptAir passenger jet that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea last week killing all sixty-six people on board was once vandalized by people at the airport in Cairo who scrawled threats to bring it down in graffiti on the side of the plane.

Even more alarming: the threats were apparently scrawled by aviation workers at Cairo Airport. The chilling message: "We will bring this plane down." It was written in Arabic.

The incident was first reported by the New York Times.

Some workers also wrote 'traitor' and 'murderer' in messages directed at Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — a play on the phonetic similarity between the last two letters in the plane's registration SU-GCC and the leader's surname, according to the Times.

Would any of those Cairo airport employees have been able to sabotage EgyptAir Flight 804 without being detected?  If so, how?  That's sure as shinola worth investigating.

Especially since the "how" is proving to be more than a little baffling, which House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA39) does his best to hide behind a Trumpish insistence that it has to be terrorism but does not quite seal that particular deal:

It's "highly likely" terror is the leading theory of what brought down an EgyptAir plane – and the U.S. response should be a strategy "to take out ISIS" and "overhaul" the TSA, House Foreign Affairs Committee head Representative Ed Royce said Sunday.

In an appearance on ABC News' This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Royce warned "ISIS and al Qaida have been focusing on "trying to develop an undetectable bomb."

"This is one of the concerns we've had about allowing ISIS to operate in Raqqah, with their facilities to try to develop … that type of bomb technology," he said. "The same is happening with al Qaida in the Middle East," he said. [emphasis added]

What type of bomb technology?  How  could anybody know or find that out if it's "undetectable"?  And regardless of its detectability, the effects of a bomb are going to be the same, and the early evidence does not appear to indicate that.

"In my view, it's highly likely [ISIS caused the crash] because of the amount of effort that ISIS and al Qaida have put over the last few years into trying to develop an undetectable bomb," he said in answer to whether terrorism continues to be the leading theory of the EgyptAir crash.

Translation: "I WANT it to be highly likely that ISIS caused the crash, etc.".  Which, all other things being equal, is never a bad guess.  But in this instance, not only does the early evidence not indicate a bomb, detectable or not, but ISIS hasn't taken "credit" for the disaster, which certainly doesn't fit their usual modus operandi.

So where does that leave us?  Smoke, electrical problems, last-minute mid-air swerving, no tell-tale indications of either an explosion or a fire, and a high-altitude aircraft disintegration.  Which means a lot of pieces are still missing from this puzzle and the ones that are in-hand don't add up to anything conclusive.

So let's let the investigation do its work, shall we?

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