CAIRO, Egypt, AP – Egyptian investigators said Saturday that technical failures likely caused the 2004 crash of a passenger jet carrying French tourists that killed all 148 on board, but a French team blamed the Egyptian crew for failing to react quickly enough.
Transcripts from the cabin of Flash Airlines flight FSH604 showed confusion among the crew and problems in switching on the automatic pilot in the seconds after take off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.
The plane crashed into the waters of the Red Sea about three minutes after take off. The Boeing 737 was carrying 134 French tourists returning to Paris from the popular resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, as well as a Moroccan and 13 Egyptians.
A news conference on Saturday announcing the results of the investigation showed flashes of testiness between the Egyptian and French investigators.
The report issued by the Egyptian commission heading the inquiry cited listed four possible causes for the Jan. 2, 2004, crash, all technical — a fault in the airelons, which controls the aircraft’s roll; a temporary jam in either a cable or wheel in the left spoiler, a plate on the wing that regulates lift; or a fault in the mechanism for turning on the autopilot.
As an “exacerbating factor,” the report said that the Egyptian pilot, Khadr Abdullah, appeared to have become disoriented as the craft apparently banked too far.
But Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of the team from France’s Accident Analysis Bureau, told the press conference that the “human factor had a large role” in the accident, blaming “the failure of the crew to quickly deal with the situation.”
Shaker Kaladah, the head of the Egyptian investigation, disputed that, saying the crew’s reaction was “one of several factors … there is no direct evidence that the crew was the direct cause.”