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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Egyptair MS804: What kind of bomb takes 3 minutes to blow up an aircraft?

If you haven't been brain dead to current events this week, you already know about the tragic crash of Egyptair MS804, an Egyptian Airbus A320-200 that went down over the Mediterranean Sea with the loss of all on board, 56 passengers and 10 crew on May 19th.

If you have been tuned into US media reports on this story, you also know that it has widely been used to keep up the terrorism scare. Reports on the crash have been largely used to bring on anti-terrorism experts to speculate on just how the terrorist may have gotten a bomb on board even though a single shred of evidence has yet to been found to point to the plane being brought down by a terrorist bomb.

The did the same thing with TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

This morning we finally have some hard evidence about a sequence of aircraft issues just prior to the crash. These don't come from the black boxes, which they are still looking for, they come from a telemetry reporting system that was in communications with the aircraft until the end. Most often, in the case of an aircraft brought down by an explosion, whether it be a bomb smuggled on board or missile, it is the very absence of problem reports from either the black boxes or the ACARS system, that points to an explosion as the likely cause - one minute the plane is flying straight and normal, no problems, and them - bam - the data just stops! If there is any instrument or audio feedback recorded after the explosion, it is likely to be very brief. That's my opinion and with that said, here are some facts about the Egyptair crash published today by Aviation Herald:
On May 20th 2016 The Aviation Herald received information from three independent channels, that ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) messages with following content were received from the aircraft:

00:29Z 2200 AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT
00:29Z 2700 F/CTL SEC 3 FAULT
no further ACARS messages were received.

Early May 21st 2016 the French BEA confirmed there were ACARS messages just prior to break down of communications warning however that they are insufficient to understand the causes of the accident until flight data or cockpit voice recorders have been found. Priority as of current is to find the wreckage and the recorders.
From this report we can see that there was a problem with a window, and smoke detected both in the lavatory three minutes before and the aircraft electronics (avionics) two minutes before the transmission stopped. I don't think that points to a terrorist bomb as the thing that brought down plane, which is why I think this aspect of the story is being unreported.

Of course, it could still be a terrorist bomb, a small one, not designed to bring down the plane directly, but instead strategically placed to start a fire in critical electronics that then caused the crash minutes later. I just don't think that scenario is very likely. I also believe that this is the first hard evidence we have of what was happening inside the plane just prior to the crash and because it points away from the terrorist bomb fear mongering theories, it is being seriously under reported. That is why I took the time to write this before going in to work this morning.

On CNN this morning they made the release of the last conversations with the air traffic controller the lead and buried this ACARS story. Of course the conversation with the air traffic controllers tells us exactly nothing about the crash or its cause because nobody that was a party to that conversation had a premonition of what was going to happen. Yet they dwell on that and mention the ACARS data only in passing. Makes me suspicious about the timing of the conversation release because it is being used to bury the ACAR story.

Donald Trump didn't wait for any facts before declaring Egyptair a terrorist attack. You do not want this guy's finger on the nuclear trigger.!

The analysts at Stratford Global Intelligence think that fact that no group has taken credit for the crash points away from terrorism:
The Meaning of Jihadist Silence on the EgyptAir Crash
As the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 continues and searchers begin to find evidence, the jihadist world has been strangely silent. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft early May 19 and we are now nearly outside the timeframe in which jihadist groups have ordinarily taken credit for attacks. The one obvious explanation for this is that a catastrophic mechanical or electrical failure brought down the aircraft rather than a bomb, More...
The Wall St. Journal makes the same point:
EgyptAir Flight Mystery Deepened by Absence of Responsibility Claim
Groups behind attacks usually take responsibility fairly quickly, but so far not in the case of Flight 804
By Robert Wall in London,
Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut and
Tamer El-Ghobashy in Cairo
May 21, 2016 5:10 p.m. ET

Almost 72 hours after the disappearance of Egyptair Flight 804 raised concern that terrorists again may have struck commercial aviation, the absence of anyone taking responsibility has prompted questions about what transpired on the Airbus 320 aircraft. More...

UPDATE: ABC News Good Morning America finally reported on the ACARS story on Monday but they still held out hope. "It could still be terrorism" the commenter promised. CBS This Morning didn't mention ACARS or the Egyptian crash story at all, at least in the news section of its second hour. The story had dropped off of their radar as completely as it had dropped off of the air traffic control radar when it went down into the Med. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spent a quarter hour on the story, still pushing the terrorism angle and never mentioning ACARS.

24 May 2016 CNN mentions ACARS near the end of an article and makes this interesting connection:
The first two messages showed engines were functional, but the next message at 00:26 GMT stated a rise in the co-pilot window temperature and sent out messages of smoke in locations such as the lavatory and avionics compartment below the cockpit. The alerts continued until the plane vanished from radar screens.
There have been electrical problems with window anti-ice heaters in A320s. In 2003, the Federal Aviation Administration required windshields replaced in all A320s in the United States. It's not known whether Egypt followed the FAA directive.


  1. When I saw these ACARS transmissions, my first reaction was "incendiary device." We'll see.

  2. I thought about that too, but I also thought that would be a pretty lame way of trying to bring down an aircraft. I don't know. Its possible it was brought down by some "keystone cop" terrorist fumbling with his shoe bomb or underwear bomb in the lavatory and I suppose its possible the "incendiary device" was a roll of toilet paper and a book of matches.

    But if I am going to assume it was brought down by a terrorist, who managed to get himself and some sort of device past airport security and onto a plane, and who moreover is planning to give his life in a final desperate act, I'm going to expect that it would be some sort of explosive device and not something to start fires with.

    Viewed from another angle, I fear burning to death is possibly the most painful way to go, whereas I suspect blowing oneself is quick and relatively painless. This also makes me think any would be Egyptair terrorist would more likely chose blowing himself up over burning himself up.