Konformist: EgyptAir 990 - Official News Reports
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(Robalini's Note: Associated Repress is a Freudian slip, if I've ever seen
EgyptAir Flight With Over 200 Onboard Disappears From Radar; Coast Guard
Finds Debris and One Body Off Massachusetts Coast
Aired October 31, 1999 - 6:00 a.m. ET
O'BRIEN: Art, there's something here, Associated Repress -- Associated
Press is reporting -- and we want to couch this. I don't believe we have
this independently confirmed by CNN. But according to Associated Press
speaking to sources in Egypt, that particular EgyptAir aircraft began
its flight in Los Angeles and apparently made a landing at Edwards Air
Force Base in California. That seems very odd to me.
CORNELIUS: That is odd. Normally, you don't ever use a military
facility, and as to why they chose Edwards, even if they had a problem,
is a puzzle to me. It may be because they felt that the fire-suppression
and rescue capability at a military airport might be more readily
available than at a civilian airport. But I would question that.
O'BRIEN: Yes. That's a report that we're going to try to nail down. But
if in fact that were the case. that would indicate clearly that
something prior to any disappearance off of radar screens off of
Nantucket, something had been troubling those pilots, perhaps.
O'BRIEN: Cheryl Fiandaca with our affiliate WABC in New York reporting
to us from JFK Airport, thanks very much.
And just to underscore, we're -- that report that that aircraft made
some sort of stop at Edwards Air Force Base, which you would have to
characterize as something way out of the ordinary, that report still has
not been independently confirmed by CNN. That report coming from the
Associated Press. They are
quoting EgyptAir officials and Egyptian television that there was that
stop. We're working on trying to nail that particular thing down.
Let's go back to Art Cornelius, our aviation consultant in Los Angeles.
Art, I don't want to dwell on this Edwards thing too much, because the
fact that we don't have it confirmed. But when -- when a stop like that
occurs, one should
consider the possibilities that there was some kind of abnormality on
CORNELIUS: Yes. I would definitely consider that now. If in fact they
landed at Edwards, that indicates a number of things: first, Edwards
would be an unfamiliar airport to the crew, and so would not be high on
their list of choices
O'BRIEN: Art -- Art, I'm going to interrupt real quickly. I just want to
let our viewers know we have confirmed that flight, Flight 990, after
leaving Los Angeles, did, in fact, stop at Edwards Air Force Base. So
let's go forward with
the certainty that this in fact happened.
Give us some scenarios as to why that would have happened. Edwards Air
Force Base, folks might be familiar with it as -- a lot of a test
aircraft are flown out of there. The shuttle often lands there. It has a
very long and forgiving runway, does it not?
CORNELIUS: Well, yes, if you use the lake bed, it is a very long and
forgiving runway. But I will -- I will just guarantee you from my
experience that if an aircraft lands on the lake bed, he is not going to
turn around and go anywhere real soon, because there's going to be some
-- some cleanup that has to be done.
O'BRIEN: But there is a hard-surface runway there, we want to point out
to our viewers.
CORNELIUS: Oh, yes. But it's no longer than those at many other
locations. Los Angeles has a 12,000-foot runway, and Los Angeles also
has, you know, an excellent airport rescue and fire-fighting capability.
Ontario Airport, just due south of there, has a 10,000-foot runway, or
better. And they also have an excellent fire-fighting capability. So it
used to be that you might choose a military airport if you wanted to
foam the runway for some
reason: i.e., you might have a landing gear problem, and you were going
to put the airplane down and you wanted to have the foam.
That's seldom done anymore. And the military airports had the capability
to foam the runway whereas most civilian airports did not. But they
don't do that anymore. It's found to be not an efficient option for an
O'BRIEN: All right, Art. I'm going to have you standby. Let's turn now
to Ben Wedeman, who just left an EgyptAir news conference in Cairo.
Ben, what can you tell us?
WEDEMAN: What I can tell you is that, yes, that plane did land at
Edwards Air Force Base. The reason for that is not clear.
� 1999 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
U.S. Coast Guard finds body, debris in waters off
October 31, 1999 Web posted at: 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT)
NANTUCKET, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The U.S. Coast Guard has
found a body, airplane seats and lifejackets in the sea
about 60 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts, possibly
from the crash of a Boeing 767 passenger plane that
disappeared from radar screens after taking off from New
York Sunday. All 214 people on board are feared dead.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard Larrabee said in a news
conference, however, that with water temperatures in the
50s, there was still a possibility of survivors.
The Federal Aviation Administration lost contact with
EgyptAir Flight 990 about 2 a.m. EST, about 60 miles (100
km) south of the island of Nantucket, Coast Guard officials
The plane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy
International Airport en route to Cairo, Egypt.
Larrabee said that the debris found was in the vicinity of
the site of the last radar contact with the missing plane.
The plane was carrying 199 passengers and 15 crew members,
according to EgyptAir officials.
EgyptAir head Mohammed Fahim Rayan said at a news conference
in Cairo that 62 Egyptians, two Sudanese, three Syrians, and
one Chilean were aboard the plane as passengers. There was
no record of the nationality of the other 131 passengers,
and Rayan said he believed some of those were U.S. citizens.
The plane departed at 1:19 a.m. EST. The plane was flying at
33,000 feet (9,900 meters), said Eliot Brenner, chief
spokesman for the FAA in Washington.
There was no indication of a distress call, U.S. officials
said. But airport officials in Cairo said the last
communication from the plane's crew was an SOS sent after
the takeoff from New York.
The FAA contacted the Coast Guard about 2:15 a.m. EST, said
Coast Guard Lt. Gary Jones.
"We're doing a very, very aggressive airborne search at this moment.
Basically, if there is someone out there to be
saved, saving lives at sea is our most important mission and
we're doing that," Jones said.
As is standard operating procedure for a missing commericial
airliner, the FBI New York Field Office has begun working
with FAA officials.
FBI agents are at JFK airport, along with members of the
Joint Terrorist Task Force, where they have launched an
investigation into the flight. FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette
told CNN that "agents are going over the flight manifest,
identifying everyone who touched the plane, including those
who serviced and gassed the aircraft."
Valiquette cautioned that there is "no reason to assume this is a
An FAA spokesman said the plane departed two hours and 20
minutes late from JFK because it was late coming in from Los
The National Weather Service said that at about the time the
plane took off from JFK there was dense fog in the New York
area, but the fog may not have played a role in the plane's
"The fog definitely would not have been a factor, you just don't care
whether there's fog or not in a plane as advanced
as a 767," retired airline Capt. Art Cornelius told CNN.
The airline identified the pilot as Hakim Rushdi, who had
more than 10,000 hours of flight experience. Colleagues
described him as a "very experienced pilot." The airline said he had
been in contact with his son, also an EgyptAir
pilot, hours before leaving.
Early reports said that the plane had landed in Edwards Air
Force Base in California before continuing on to JFK. But
Pentagon officials and Robert Kelly, director of aviation
for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, dismissed
the report and said the plane flew directly to New York from
The airliner is a 10-year-old 767-300ER, an extended-range
plane known for its North Atlantic service, said Boeing
spokeswoman Barbara Murphy.
"It's an airplane that has enjoyed a wonderful safety
record," she said.
EgyptAir has a fleet of 38 planes and flies to some 85
airports around the world.
The National Transportation Safety Board has begun an
investigation, an NTSB spokesman said, and the New York Port
Authority has set up a mobile command center.
Passenger Counsels Victim Families
The Associated Press
Sunday, Oct. 31, 1999; 4:14 p.m. EST
NEW YORK -- Only one passenger got off
EgyptAir Flight 990 when it landed in New York, but
in a strange twist, his services were needed by the
airline almost immediately.
Ed McLaughlin works for the Family Enterprise
Institute, which helps airlines notify family
members of air accident victims.
McLaughlin even participated in a news conference
eight hours after the plane went down,
describing his work to reporters.
"We work with EgyptAir to try to help the families
with the notification process," he said. "At the
moment we're struggling to get everything together."
McLaughlin never mentioned that he'd been on
the doomed plane and was the only passenger of the
33 who boarded in Los Angeles to get off in New York.
The plane vanished off radar screens near
Nantucket Island while en route to Cairo from
Later Sunday, Robert Boyle, executive director of
the Port Authority, which manages the airport,
confirmed that McLoughlin was on the plane
as a "contract worker" for EgyptAir.
"We have confirmed it was McLaughlin," Boyle
said. "And we think he's the only person who got
McLaughlin could not immediately be
located for comment.
� Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Monday November 1 3:09 AM ET
Body Retrieved From EgyptAir Crash
By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer
BOSTON (AP) - An EgyptAir jetliner bound for Cairo with 217 people on
board plunged 33,000 feet in two minutes, crashing into the ocean off
Nantucket Island early Sunday. Dozens of American tourists were among
By nightfall, searchers had retrieved debris and one body, but held out
little hope of finding survivors in the chilly Atlantic waters.
Authorities said the pilots made no distress call before the Boeing 767
crashed about a half hour after leaving New York. Though the FBI and
other intelligence agencies began checking on the possibility of
sabotage, President Clinton and other officials said there was no
immediate indication of foul play.
``Life will never be the same without my parents,'' said Hisham Elzanaty
of Searingtown, N.Y., whose parents were on the plane. ``We spent last
night together until one in the morning. They prayed for us and we
wished them a safe flight.''
Searchers found two partially inflated life rafts, life jackets,
passports, seat cushions and other small debris, none with any burn
marks, said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard M. Larrabee. A finding of such
marks on debris could suggest the possibility of a fire or explosion
aboard the plane.
``We do not know at this point what caused the crash,'' said Jim Hall,
chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. ``We are beginning
what may be a long investigation.''
Clinton, about to depart for Europe for Middle East peace talks, said
there was ``no evidence ... at this time'' of foul play.
``I think it's better if people draw no conclusions until we know
something,'' said Clinton, who called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
to offer condolences and U.S. assistance.
The air search was suspended after dark, but ships continued scouring
Coast Guard Senior Chief Al Johnson said two of the plane's evacuation
slides were recovered after dark, along with other pieces of debris that
measured up to 2 feet square.
``We are still in the search and rescue mode and still looking for
possible survivors,'' he said.
Still, the Coast Guard said chances of anyone surviving more than 12
hours in the 58-degree water were slim.
A Navy salvage ship, the USS Grapple, and Navy divers left Norfolk, Va.,
Sunday night and were expected to join the search by late Monday, with
orders to take debris and remains to a Navy base in Rhode Island.
U.S. officials indicated a majority of the 199 passengers on Flight 990
were Americans, including a group of 54 people bound for a 14-day trip
to Egypt and the Nile. Alan Lewis, chief executive of the Boston-based
travel agency Grand Circle Corp., said most of the group members were
from Colorado, Arizona and the Pacific Northwest.
Among them was Jan Duckworth, 69, of Denver, who worked as a clerk in
the Colorado House of Representatives for 22 years. ``It was her first
trip to Egypt. She had been talking about it since way last winter,''
said Judith ``J.R.'' Rodrigue, chief clerk of the House.
The plane started its flight in Los Angeles and stopped at New York's
John F. Kennedy International Airport. It took off again at 1:19 a.m.
EST and went down at 1:52 a.m., roughly 60 miles south of Nantucket. The
Coast Guard deployed ships, reconnaissance planes and helicopters to
search an area of about 36 square miles, in waters about 270 feet deep.
State-owned EgyptAir, confronted with the worst crash in its history,
said non-American passengers included 62 Egyptians, two Sudanese, three
Syrians and one Chilean. There were 18 crew members, EgyptAir said.
It was the fourth time in three years that a major search operation was
launched in the region for a plane lost at sea. The series of crashes
began with TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in July 1996, followed by
Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia in September 1998 and the
single-engine plane carrying John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and her
sister off Martha's Vineyard in July.
EgyptAir Chairman Mohammed Fahim Rayan was asked about reports that the
Federal Aviation Administration had warned EgyptAir of a terrorist
``We take all precautions and we have plenty of warnings from everybody,
including the FAA,'' he replied.
Armed security guards routinely fly on EgyptAir flights.
At the Cairo airport, sobs echoed though a restaurant where officials
set up an information center for passengers' relatives.
A man in his 60s found a familiar name on a passenger list and collapsed
into a chair, crying out, ``My son, my son.''
Similar wrenching scenes unfolded at the Ramada Plaza Hotel near Kennedy
airport, where more than 20 relatives were consoled by Red Cross
workers, Muslim clerics and even New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
``It's horrible in there. Everybody's crying, everybody is in
mourning,'' Mahmoud Hamza, who lost two friends on the flight, said as
he fought back tears.
A Canadian newspaper, La Presse in Montreal, said one of its executives
and his wife were aboard. Deputy publisher Claude Masson and his wife,
Jeannine Bourdages, both 58, were headed on vacation.
Flight 990 began its precipitous descent at 1:50 a.m. while flying at
33,000 feet. Hall said the plane dropped about 14,000 feet over the next
36 seconds, and the last radar signal was at 1:52 a.m.
That rate of descent would ``indicate the plane was almost out of
control,'' said Michael Barr, head of the aviation safety program at the
University of Southern California. The slower descent rate after 19,100
feet could indicate an in-flight breakup, investigators suggested.
Weather at Nantucket was clear with 9 miles of visibility and wind of 9
mph, the National Weather Service said. The Coast Guard reported gentle
The EgyptAir plane was on a route similar to the one taken by Swissair
Flight 111. Planes on that route fly from Kennedy to Nantucket, then
turn north to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland before heading east across
The EgyptAir plane, named Thutmosis II after a pharaoh who ruled Egypt
around 1450 B.C., was a Boeing 767-300ER delivered to the airline in
September 1989. The FAA said the plane had 33,354 flight hours.
EgyptAir, founded in 1932 as Misr Airwork, has a fleet of 38 planes and
flies to some 85 airports around the world. Critics have called for the
privatization of the company, one of the oldest in Africa and the Middle
East, amid reports of bad management and bad service.
The airline has never had as deadly a crash. In 1976, an EgyptAir Boeing
707 jetliner crashed during an approach to the Bangkok, Thailand,
airport. All 55 persons aboard were killed as well as factory workers on
Sunday's crash comes after the Oct. 19 hijack of an EgyptAir flight
between Istanbul and Cairo. That hijacking ended peacefully in Germany
where the hijacker was overpowered; none of the 46 passengers on board
The Boeing 767 is a twin-engine, wide-body passenger jet that went into
passenger use in September 1982.
Previously, a Boeing 767 crashed in May 1991, in Thailand. The Lauda Air
plane went down after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally
deployed during a climb, killing all 10 crew and 213 passengers.
The United States airline industry had a fatality-free year in 1998, but
this year an American Airlines jet crashed at Little Rock, Ark., killing
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