CAIRO • The cockpit voice recorder from crashed EgyptAir Flight MS804 has been found by search teams, who were forced to salvage the device over several stages as it was damaged, the Egyptian investigation committee said yesterday.
A specialist vessel owned by Mauritius-based Deep Ocean Search, however, was able to recover the memory unit, it said in a statement.
"The vessel's equipment was able to salvage the part that contains the memory unit, which is considered the most important part of the recording device," the committee said.
Egypt's public prosecutor has ordered that the recovered device, one of two so-called black boxes on the plane, be handed over to the Egyptian investigating team for analysis. The device was being transferred from the vessel, John Lethbridge, to the coastal city of Alexandria, where representatives of the public prosecutor and the investigation team were waiting to receive it, the statement said.
The EgyptAir plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on May 19, killing all 66 people on board. Since then, search teams have been working against the clock to recover the black box flight recorders, which are crucial to explaining what caused the Airbus A320 to crash.
A deep sea robot was used to locate pieces of the missing plane. While the wreckage discovered may offer clues on why the aircraft went down, its manufacturer said yesterday that the flight recorders held the key to unlocking the mystery.
"The first photos of the wreckage do not allow to establish any scenario of the accident," an Airbus statement said. "Only the black boxes could contribute to a full understanding of the chain of events which led to this tragic accident."
Nevertheless, even in the absence of the data from the flight recorders, air accident experts have said that the distribution of the wreckage would yield significant clues.
If the debris contains large pieces of the plane that are concentrated in a relatively small area, that would suggest that the plane hit the water largely intact. Smaller debris scattered across a wide area would suggest that it broke up in mid-air, possibly as the result of an explosion.
The "pings" emitted by the black boxes were detected by French survey ship Laplace on June 1, but the flight recorders' exact location had not been established until yesterday. The flight data recorder gathers information on the speed, altitude and direction of the plane, while the cockpit voice recorder keeps track of conversations and other sounds in the pilots' cabin.
France's aviation safety agency has said the EgyptAir plane transmitted automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control unit minutes before disappearing from radar screens. On Monday, Egyptian investigators confirmed that the aircraft had made a 90-degree left turn, followed by a 360-degree turn to the right, before hitting the sea.
Investigators were able to narrow down the search site thanks to an emergency signal sent via satellite by the plane's locator transmitter when it hit the Mediterranean.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES