Air Traffic Control Tape on EgyptAir Crash Released

Published May 17th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

An air traffic control tape-recorded just before the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 was released in Washington Tuesday but shed little light on the tragedy in which all 217 people aboard died. 

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is responsible for air safety, released the tape without comment, saying that the National Transportation Safety Board was still investigating the accident. 

Flight 990, a Boeing 767 bound from New York to Cairo, plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, on October 31, 1999. 

The tape contained recordings of the final minutes of conversations between air traffic controllers and the aircrew aboard the flight. 

The sound recording, most of which was of an extremely technical nature, also covered messages exchanged between different air traffic control centers seeking to locate the missing plane. 

Also recorded were calls to other aircraft in the area asking them to help locate the EgyptAir plane. 

The tape runs from 0626 GMT, on October 31, 1999, the day of the crash, until 0752 GMT, or 86 minutes. 

Not included on the tape are the conversations among the flight crew, which are contained on the cockpit voice recorder, one of the two "black boxes" on the flight, which are in the possession of NTSB. 

Investigators found, however, that the exchanges between controllers and air crew, particularly the controllers at Ronkonkoma, Long Island, shed no light on what caused the plane to crash. 

The last message from the doomed plane was recorded shortly after 0647 GMT and contained the banal message: "Nine nine zero, heavy, good morning," referring to the plane's number and its dimensions (heavy). 

It was unclear even who said those final words before the radio went silent 

The FAA has yet to determine what may have caused the crash after abandoning one theory that outraged Egyptian authorities. 

Early in the investigation US authorities were giving considerable weight to speculation that an EgyptAir co-pilot had downed the plane in an act of suicide -- and mass homicide. 

That sparked anger in Egypt and Egyptian leaders and the Egyptian news media expressed concern that Boeing was trying to steer the investigation toward the suicidal pilot theory in order to protect its own interests and defend against liability. 

In early March, NTSB Chairman Jim Hall ordered a resumption of the search for the aircraft's engine and put in motion efforts to simulate the crash in order to deduce more about its causes – Washington (AFP)  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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