Aviation Mysteries of Modern World: EgyptAir Flight 990

Aviation Mysteries of Modern World: EgyptAir Flight 990

Aviation is probably the only industry to have a better rating than 6-Sigma, which means that the chances of an unsuccessful flight are the least in this sector. This is possible because airliners spend a fortune to implement top-tier security features and services onboard so that passengers’ well-being is never compromised. Nevertheless, there are instances when aircraft crash or disappear without any apparent reason. Such mysterious disappearances and crashes are both a rarity and relentlessly haunting. The case of EgyptAir Flight 990 is one such mystery that continues to boggle us. While the aircraft itself was found and investigators have speculated a probable cause, there is still some mystery around the entire case.

What Exactly Happened on the Halloween Day, 1999?

On the fateful day of Halloween in 1999, the EgyptAir Flight 990 took off from the JFK airport at 1:20 am. The Boeing 767 carrying 217 passengers quickly rose up to 33,000 feet and the pilots didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. While the aircraft had an active crew to manage the initial and final hours of the flight, another cruise crew was onboard to monitor the aircraft while it was on autopilot. What happened next, however, was no ordinary thing - the plane actually disappeared from the radar after flying for approximately thirty minutes. To add to the mystery, an Air France flight, which was flying over the area, didn’t report anything unusual. Dawn came eventually, and it was only after a sea vessel spotted plane debris floating in the Atlantic Ocean (60 miles outside of Nantucket) that the authorities finally believed that the flight crashed midway in mysterious circumstances, leaving no survivors.

Did Everything Last For Just 30 Minutes?

The commanding officer of the EgyptAir Flight 990 was Captain Ahmed El-Habashi, a 57-year-old pilot who had been working with EgyptAir for about 36 years. On the other hand, the 36-years -old First Officer Adel Anwar had switched places with his colleague to be on this flight because he wanted to make it home for his wedding. Moreover, the relief crew comprised 52-year-old Captain Raouf Noureldin and 59-year-old First Officer Gameel Al-Batouti. In addition, Captain Hatem Rushdy who was the chief pilot of the airlines for the Boeing 767 was also onboard. Though the crew was an experienced one, things started to go haywire within the first half hour of the flight. Relief First Officer Al-Batouti insisted on replacing First Officer Anwar because he didn’t want to assist Captain Raouf Noureldin. Therefore, after Al-Batouti finished his meal early, the switch was made. However, once officer Al-Barouti disconnected the autopilot and cut off the fuel supply to the engine, the Boeing 767 began to descend. Seeing this, Captain El Habashy tries to power up the engines again and also deploys the speed brakes, so that the plane could come out of the dive. Though the plane began to climb again, the stress eventually took a toll on the aircraft and it began to dive again into the ocean.

ECAA and NTSB Investigations and Findings

The investigators are somewhat evenly divided on the whole incident. While some believe that the crash was because of a mechanical failure, others thought that it was a deliberate act of by Al-Batouty. The Western media began to report that the tragedy was indeed, an act of terrorism because the voice recorder on the place recorded Al-Batouty shout out loud,  “I rely on God,” which was then translated as “I made my decision now. I put my faith in God’s hands.” On the other hand, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the idea of mechanical failures as proposed by the Egyptian Civil Aviation Agency (ECAA). Eventually, the NTSB found the evidence inconclusive and reported that the probable cause of the crash was the incorrect flight control inputs made by Al-Batouty. To this, the ECAA showed displeasure and launched their own investigation. Accordingly, they presented their official report, which refuted the theory that the Relief First Officer purposefully compromised the flight. Rather, it was a mechanical failure that likely caused the accident.


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