Trying to piece together the puzzle of evidence from the EgyptAir crash is difficult, especially since the pieces of the puzzle are not quite connecting yet to reveal the bigger picture. I reached out and interviewed Paco Chierici, who is both a commercial airline pilot with 20 years of experience as well as a former Navy pilot with 10 years of active duty and 10 years of reserve experience, regarding the preliminary evidence from the EgyptAir 804 crash.

The most important clues that have surfaced from the crash investigation are the alarms from inside the plane prior to the crash. According to Paco Chierici,  there were two smoke sensors being triggered, one in a lavatory and one in the avionics room. The avionics room is a small compartment under the cockpit in the cargo area of the plane. It houses all of the major wiring for the communication and navigation equipment. He said that if an electrical fire ignited in the avionics compartment, then the fire could have spread so quickly within the plane that the pilots would have had little to no reaction time. Smoke would have more than likely overwhelmed the pilots in the cockpit. Even with an oxygen mask on, which he said was unlikely, they would not have time to react or attempt to land the plane. The pilots’ only choice to mitigate the fire would have been to land on the water and evacuate.

image courtesy of twitter
Avionics compartment of an Airbus 320.

Additional alarms from the plane included an auto-pilot failure, flight-control failure, sliding-window sensor, and fixed-window sensor. Paco explained that the fire could have caused these alarms and failures. Any one of these alarms or failures would not have brought the plane down if encountered by itself. However, if there was a fire in the avionics compartment, the failures may have made any chance of responding to the fire impossible.

There is still the possibility that an explosive device was planted in the avionics compartment. The aircraft is reported to have a hole in the right side of the plane under the cockpit side window. Even with the damage to the exterior of the plane, he still believes that terrorism was not involved due to two factors. The first reason is that no one has claimed responsibility, and the second reason is the condition of the passengers’ remains supports the theory of a high speed impact. The bodies seem to have suffered damage consistent with the impact and do not appear to show evidence of burns due to a significant explosion. If an explosion would have occurred, the bodies may have been burned much like those from Metroject Flight 9268.

This is EgyptAir flight 667, which also had an avionics compartment fire. As you can see, there is a hole almost in the same location as that reported in EgyptAir 804.

According to veteran pilot Paco Chierici, the theory of an electrical fire seems to be the most likely cause of the EgyptAir 804 crash based on the preliminary evidence. Once the black boxes are found, perhaps they will provide more definitive proof of a fire rather than a bombing.

Featured image courtesy of Egyptian Armed Forces Facebook via AP