France’s civil aviation accident bureau, known by its French acronym BEA, said information gleaned from the flight recorders suggested “a fire broke out in the cockpit while the plane was at cruising altitude and the fire spread rapidly, causing the loss of control of the aircraft”.
The Airbus A320 was flying from Paris to Cairo on 19 May, 2016 when it crashed into the south-eastern Mediterranean, killing 66 people, including 40 Egyptians and 15 French citizens.
French investigators had always leaned towards a mechanical fault as the cause of the crash, saying they suspected that a mobile phone or tablet had caught fire.
But an official Egyptian investigation suggested the plane had been bombed, claiming traces of explosives had been found on the victims’ remains.
The BEA said the crew could be heard discussing a fire on the cockpit voice recorder and that the plane’s automatic ACARS messaging system had flagged up smoke on board.
It said it was waiting for Egypt to publish its final report into the crash to understand how the two countries arrived at a different conclusion.
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