PARIS (AFP) - The damaged black box flight recorders of an EgyptAir plane that plunged into the Mediterranean last month arrived in France on Monday (June 27) for repairs, said the country's air safety agency, amid hopes they will provide clues on why the aircraft went down.
"The BEA's mission is to make the memory cards legible because they are currently extremely damaged," said a spokesman for the Investigation and Analysis Bureau (BEA).
The arrival of the flight recorders came as French judges were tasked with probing the May 19 crash of the plane which had 15 French citizens among the 66 aboard, prosecutors said. All those on board were killed.
Prosecutors had previously opened a preliminary investigation - a normal procedure when French citizens are involved - and have handed their findings to judges for a full-fledged probe into "manslaughter".
The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo when it crashed in the Mediterranean, with 40 Egyptians on board as well as two Iraqis, two Canadians and one each from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
The black box flight recorders were found two weeks ago, but were too damaged to extract information on what caused the crash.
The BEA which will be leading efforts to repair the memory units notably extracted the data from the black boxes of flight AF-447 which crashed between Rio de Janeiro and Paris in 2009, and were submerged for almost two years before being retrieved.
It is unclear how long the repairs could take, but once complete the memory units will be returned to Egypt for analysis.
Investigators have said it is too early to determine what caused the plane to crash, although a terror attack has not been ruled out.
France's aviation safety agency has said the aircraft transmitted automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control unit minutes before it disappeared.
Egyptian investigators have confirmed the aircraft had made a 90-degree left turn followed by a 360-degree turn to the right before hitting the sea.
The crash came after the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula last October that killed all 224 people on board.