Cockpit battle for life: 66 including Brit dad die after Flight MS804 crashes in sea as fears grow t

Flight MS804 from Paris was about to start its descent into Cairo from 37,000ft when it made “sudden swerves”.

A life-or-death struggle between hijackers and the crew as the plane plummeted from the sky was emerging as the most likely cause.

The Airbus A320’s black box flight recorder now holds the key to revealing what happened early yesterday.

Technical faults have not been ruled out but an IS terrorist bomb smuggled on board is high on the list of theories.

The doomed flight was the jet’s fifth of the day. It started in Eritrea — where airport security is a “joke”, according to UK intelligence sources.

It also visited Tunisia, which has been rocked by recent terror attacks.

Distraught families of passengers and crew were ushered into a private area at Cairo Airport as news broke.

Some said they were being kept in the dark over what had happened.

Ayman Nassar, a relative of one of the passengers, said: “They told us the plane had disappeared and that they’re still searching for it and not to believe any rumours.”

Another man wept with his hands on his face and said: “How long will Egypt live if human lives are so cheap?”

A criminal investigation has been launched in Paris with experts at a loss to explain why the aircraft vanished from radar without warning and no distress call.

Radar contact with the plane was lost at around 01.30 BST — more than three hours into what should have been a four-hour journey.

The captain of a merchant ship in the Mediterranean reported seeing a “flame in the sky’’ as the jet disappeared. Unverified videos circulated online of a fireball in the sky and also claimed to show blazing wreckage.

A Greek frigate later discovered two large plastic floating objects in the sea around 230 miles south of Crete yesterday, close to where the plane’s transponder signal was emitted.

Although EgyptAir initially confirmed debris found in the sea was from Flight MS804, officials from both Greece and Egypt later said that items “did not come from a plane”.

One Briton was among the 56 passengers killed, along with 30 Egyptians, 15 French and passengers from nations including Algeria and Canada.

Ten crew on board included three sky marshal security staff, who would have been in the thick of any fight.

The plane left Charles De Gaulle Airport at 22.09 on Wednesday and crashed into the Mediterranean sea off the Greek island of Karpathos.

Aviation officials in Greece said the pilot was in a “good mood” when air traffic controllers spoke to him as the jet entered their airspace.

They tried to contact him again at 01.27, as the plane was set to enter Egyptian airspace, but got no response despite repeated calls. Two minutes later it vanished from radar.

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said: “The plane carried out a 90-degree turn to the left and a 360-degree turn to the right, falling from 37,000ft to 15,000ft and the signal was lost at around 10,000ft.”

Officials said no warning was given by the pilot but an automatic distress signal was transmitted at 03.26.

This is likely to have been sent by an emergency beacon after impact and not by the plane’s crew, an Egyptian source added.

As emergency boats and planes made their way to the site — including an RAF C-130 Hercules from Cyprus — one of France’s most distinguished crash investigators said all the evidence pointed towards “an attack”.

Jean-Paul Troadec, the former chief of the BEA national investigation unit, said the lack of a live emergency alert suggested a “brutal event”.

He added: “There’s a strong possibility of an explosion on board from a bomb or a suicide bomber. The idea of a technical accident when weather conditions were good seems almost possible but not that likely.

“We could also consider a missile, which is what happened to the Malaysia Airlines aircraft in July 2014.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and French counterpart Francois Hollande were said to be “co-operating closely to establish the circumstances” of the crash.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon also offered support by ordering ship RFA Lyme Bay to the region.

He joined other top brass including Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Houghton for a summit at the MoD’s main building in London to build a contingency plan. Mr Fallon said: “Our thoughts remain with the families of those on board as they await further information. We stand ready to offer further assistance.”

Earlier this month, France’s domestic intelligence chief warned of a “new form of attack” from IS.

Patrick Calvar, of the DGSI agency, said: “We risk being confronted by a terrorist campaign characterised by leaving explosive devices in places where crowds gather, multiplying this type of strategy to create panic.”

Last October an IS bomb is thought to have brought down another Airbus over Egypt, killing 224 as it crashed into the Sinai Desert.

It later emerged that an EgyptAir mechanic was suspected of planting a bomb on the Russian MetroJet.

( Source )