An EgyptAir flight that crashed en route to Cairo, killing all 66 people on board, was brought down by a pilot who had a cigarette in the cockpit and started a fire, a new report found.
EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling on May 19, 2016, from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Cairo International Airport when it fell out of the sky between the Greek island of Crete and northern Egypt.
France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) has since concluded that pilot Mohamed Said Shoukair’s mid-air smoke break led to a fire onboard the Airbus A320 jet when his cigarette ignited oxygen leaking from an oxygen mask in the cockpit.
The British casualty was later identified as dad Richard Osman, 40, who had recently welcomed his new-born daughter into the world, just three weeks before his death.
The crash sparked a huge search mission which included the US Navy. It was confirmed that the aircraft’s black box was discovered in deep water near Greece.
Authorities in Egypt claimed at the time that the takedown was a result of a terrorist attack despite no terrorist organizations taking responsibility for the supposed atrocity.
It was alleged that explosives were located on the corpses of the plane crash victims but the claim was later discredited.
Now, an official investigation has highlighted that smoke from the cigarette ignited oxygen leaking from the mask by mistake.
Egyptian pilots were known to smoke in the cockpit as the practice wasn’t prohibited at the time of the crash, according to a report by aviation experts which has since been sent to the Court of Appeal in Paris.
According to Italian publication Corriere Della Sera, a maintenance engineer changed the setting on the oxygen mask from normal to emergency which later sparked the disaster. His reasoning remains unknown.
An experienced pilot said the plane’s captain Mohamed Said Ali Ali Shoukair should have detected the faulty mask ahead of takeoff.
He said: “When we go into the cabin, among the various checks we make before taking off is to check the flow of oxygen in the masks.
“If the switch is in the normal position, the flow of oxygen is on request. If it is on the emergency setting, it will release oxygen at a greater pressure to blow away the smoke that could be in the cabin if there’s a fire on board.”
Julie Heslouin, who lost her brother, 41, and father, 75, in the crash said: “We have been waiting since 2016 to understand why we lost our loved ones and officially no one told us anything.”
France’s civil aviation accident bureau BEA announced in 2018 that it was “most likely… that a fire broke out in the cockpit while the aircraft was flying at its cruise altitude and that the fire spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of control of the aircraft”.
Reports suggested that the aircraft could have crashed due to an overheating smartphone, reports The Sun.
In 2017, separate claims emerged that the pilot’s iPad may have sparked a fatal fire and caused the jet to plunge into the sea.