A deadly plane crash over the Mediterranean that killed 66 people was caused by a pilot smoking a cigarette in the cockpit.
Flight MS804 was flying from France to Egypt in May 2016 when it crashed into the sea near Crete, killing everyone on board the Airbus A320. Among them were 12 French tourists, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, a Briton and a Canadian.
The Egyptian authorities claimed at the time that the plane was brought down by a terrorist attack, despite no group ever claiming responsibility.
But an investigation has concluded that the Egyptair crash was caused by a cigarette being smoked in the cockpit that inadvertently ignited oxygen leaking from an emergency gas mask.
Egyptian pilots habitually smoked in the cockpit and the practice was not prohibited, according to a report produced by experts that has been obtained by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The setting on the mask had been switched from “normal” to “emergency” by a maintenance engineer, causing it to emit oxygen.
Investigators identified a hissing sound – made by the oxygen escaping from the mask – at about 2.25am on May 19, a few minutes before the plane crashed into the sea.
The report has been sent to the Court of Appeal in Paris.
The pilots should have detected the faulty oxygen mask before taking off, an experienced captain said.
“When we go into the cabin, among the various checks we make before taking off is to check the flow of oxygen in the masks,” said Daniele Veronelli, a member of Italy’s national association of commercial aviation pilots.
“If the switch is in the normal position, the flow of oxygen is on request.
“If it is on the emergency setting, it will release oxygen at a greater pressure to blow away the smoke that could be in the cabin if there’s a fire on board.”
Julie Heslouin, who lost her 41-year-old brother and 75-year-old father in the crash, said: “We have been waiting since 2016 to understand why we lost our loved ones and officially no one told us anything.”
In 2018, France’s civil aviation accident bureau said a fire was “the most likely hypothesis”.
Telegraph Media Group Limited