A former EgyptAir pilot told American investigators some two years ago that the co-pilot of EgyptAir 990 crashed the plane into the Atlantic Ocean, because he sought to take revenge on a company executive who had just demoted him and was riding as a passenger.
A person involved in the investigation, according to a New York Times report, provided this information.
American aviation investigators claim they do not know whether the explanation provided by the pilot, which was initially reported in The LA Times, is true. Since the crash of the airliner’s Boeing 767, Egyptian officials have argued that there was no evidence that the co-pilot, Gamil al-Batouti, committed suicide.
On their part, American investigators have focused primarily on whether a mechanical flaw caused the crash. They assessed that it did not and now strongly believe that Batouti deliberately crashed the plane into the ocean, killing himself and all 216 persons on board the doomed plane.
The Los Angeles Times said it conducted interviews with a former EgyptAir pilot, Hamdi Hanafi Taha, who spoke of the revenge motive. According to Taha, EgyptAir's chief Boeing 767 pilot, Hatem Rushdy, had told Batouti that he would be taken off the United States route because of accusations of sexual misconduct.
Taha sought asylum in London several months following the October 1999 plane crash, saying he was concerned over persecution in Egypt because of his disclosures about the state-owned airline. At that time, Egyptian officials said that Taha did not have any information regarding the crash.
American investigators did confirm that Batouti had been told he was being taken off the route and that Captain Rushdy was a passenger on the flight, the NYT said.
"The thing that was clear was, he did it," said an American official involved in the investigation. "Why, I don't know that we'll ever know," the official added, "but this is what the defector's story was."
Egyptian investigators might have been able to set up a motive but did not seek to do so, the official said, with the Egyptians claiming the cause might be a failure in the system.
Removal from the route from Egypt’s capital to Los Angeles with a stop in New York, would have been a financial hardship for a pilot who was likely to supplement his modest salary by buying products in the United States and selling them later on in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Marion C. Blakey, said on Thursday that her agency might issue its final report next week. However, people at the board say although the report will say the co-pilot crashed the plane in the ocean, it will not explore his motive, the NYT concluded.
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )