An Egyptair plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea killing all 66 people onboard in 2016 because a pilot was smoking a cigarette in the cockpit alleges a secret report that has been viewed by an Italian newspaper and that is currently being reviewed by French prosecutors.
Egyptair flight MS804 from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo crashed into the sea on May 19, 2016, in what Egyptian officials initially claimed was a terrorist attack. Accident investigators, however, believe the smoking pilot theory is far more likely.
The Airbus A320 aircraft plunged from 37,000 feet into the Mediterranean after one of the two pilots lit a cigarette which, in turn, caused a fire to rage in the cockpit because a special oxygen mask was leaking 100 per cent oxygen into the confined flight deck, investigators believe.
The 134-page report concludes this combination of events is far more likely than the terror attack theory according to Corriere della Sera.
The dossier was handed over to the Paris Court of Appeal last month where prosecutors are investigating possible manslaughter charges.
At the time of the accident, Egyptair did not ban pilots from smoking in the cockpit. The oxygen mask had been replaced several days before the accident but the engineer who fitted the mask allegedly forgot to switch it from emergency mode to normal mode.
According to Corriere della Sera, it is a known issue that the mask can leak oxygen when set to emergency mode.
The aircraft took off from Paris at 11:21 pm on May 19, 2016, but by 2:27 am, a Greek air traffic controller wasn’t able to make contact with the plane. A few minutes later, at 2:34 am the aircraft disappeared from radar.
No distress call was made before the plane went down.
Both black boxes – one that records technical details and the other which is an audio recorder of communication inside the cockpit – were recovered around a month after the crash and analysed by experts at the French BEA air accident agency.
Audio records recovered from the black boxes suggest that the pilots checked the oxygen masks but the pilots also complained of being tired and audible yawns were heard in the recording.
In 2018, the First Officer of an Air China flight who was smoking an e-cigarette caused a plane to plummet 19,600 feet after he mistakenly turned off the air conditioning system which in turn led to depressurisation.
The pilot had been trying to turn off air recycling fans to prevent smoke from the e-cigarette from leaking into the passenger cabin but the control for the entire air conditioning system was in the same control panel and the pilot flipped the wrong switch.
Shortly after this incident, China’s civil aviation regulator told airlines to ban pilots from smoking in the cockpit. International civil aviation authorities have suggested a no smoking policy for decades.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.