The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Friday released an extensive report into the crash of an EgyptAir Boeing 767 last October, but said it had drawn no official conclusion as to the cause of the tragedy.
"I want to make it perfectly clear that no determination as to the cause of this crash has been made," said NTSB chairman Jim Hall. "We will continue to work with the Egyptian officials to find the truth."
The 1,665-page document on the October 31st, 1999 crash of EgyptAir's Flight 990 off the US Atlantic coast, which killed 217, holds the preliminary findings of all groups that participated in the inquiry.
The report includes data provided by each group investigating human performances, aircraft failure, radar and black box data, as well as comments by the Egyptian Civil Aviation Agency and by EgyptAir.
It contains the first official transcript of the contents of the cockpit voice recorder during the 28 minutes the flight lasted between taking off from a New York airport en route to Cairo and crashing off Cape Cod.
According to the English version of the transcript, co-pilot Gamil al-Battuti, who is under suspicion of having deliberately crashed the aircraft, repeated the words, "I rely on God" 11 times before the plane crashed.
Battuti began to repeat the words shortly after the pilot left the cockpit to visit the washroom, according to the transcript.
His words are accompanied by a series of clicks and thumping noises that appear to indicate manipulation of switches and controls.
Numerous seconds later, the pilot returns to the cockpit, to ask, "What's happening, Gamil? What's happening?" before the noise of an alarm sounds and he asks the co-pilot, "What is this? Did you shut the engines?"
Hall highlighted that the NTSB had drawn no conclusion as yet, and that a final report from the inquiry, which should determine the probable cause of the crash, will not be ready until the end of this year, or early in 2001.
However, when asked why the NTSB had not chosen to hold a public hearing Hall said NTSB staff had concluded that in this case "there were no unresolved safety issues."
The spotlight was further thrown on Battuti by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) allegations in the report that his behavior was questioned on numerous occasions by staff at New York's Pennsylvania Hotel, where he lodged on occasion with the EgyptAir crew.
The hotel's head of security told the FBI in November: "Security officers had repeated dealings with an EgyptAir crew member and guest named al-Battuti due to his questionable behavior and misconduct."
On one occasion, four months before the crash, two teenage females reported to hotel security a middle-aged man had followed them in the hotel and later exposed himself through a hotel window.
According to the report, security officers determined it was Battuti. They said that on other occasions, female guests had complained of a man exposing himself and masturbating while looking out of the window at them.
Although security "would always find Battuti on the floor" when it responded to the complaints, "Battuti would always repeatedly claim his innocence and deny any knowledge."
EgyptAir, meanwhile, published its own statement Friday.
"There is nothing on the cockpit voice recorder or the flight data recorder to indicate that Flight 990 was intentionally crashed into the ocean," said EgyptAir's Vice President of Safety Shaker Kelada, who headed the EgyptAir investigative team working side-by-side with the NTSB.
"The docket (report) indicates that the aircraft recovered from a sharp descent during the final moments of the flight, indicative of the crew's attempt to save the aircraft." - WASHINGTON (AFP)
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