UPDATE 31st MAY 2016 Julian Bray writes: Egyptian authorities have now confirmed a digital signal was recorded from Egyptair flight 804 when it crashed in the Mediterranean with 66 people on board.
The emergency locator beacon would have been triggered by contact with water. European companies are being contracted to try and locate the two flight data recorders to finally establish what happened to the Paris to Cairo Egyptair Airbus A320, but first thyey have to pinpoint the crash site.
An official from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated an emergency beacon was picked up by satellites minutes after the airliner disappeared from radar on 19 May.
The Egyptian State Information Service website said investigators had “received satellite reports indicating receiving a 'ping' from the plane’s emergency locator transmitter (ELT)”. The co-ordinates were being used to narrow down the search area, the statement said.
The fly-by-wire aircraft disappeared from radar 2.29am (local). An ELT on the plane began transmitting 2.36am (local). The signal picked up by five satellites, triggering alerts to a ground station in Cyprus confirming the identity of the Egyptair A320 and subsequently narrows the recovery ground to around three square miles. A ground station in Maryland, US, also received “two bursts” from orbiting satellites but apparently not long enough to capture the beacon location co-ordinates.
Investigating authorities estimate more than a week is still needed until they can recover the plane’s “black box” flight recorders.
The flight recorders have enough battery power to emit and guarantee signals for 90 days, but possibly much longer .
Egypt and France have now signed contracts with two specialist deep water search companies, Alseamar and Deep Ocean Search (DOS). Both French owned.
“Those two companies have complementary roles: the first is for locating the pings of the black boxes (the signal being emitted by the black boxes’ beacon), while the second is for diving and recovering them” with the help of a robot, a source close to the investigation An official was commenting to Agence France-Presse in Cairo, requesting anonymity.
“But the DOS specialised ship only left the Irish Sea on Saturday and it will reach the perceived crash site in 12 days, after collecting Egyptian and French investigators in Alexandria.”
Investigators are searching at a depth of around 3,000m in a zone 290km (180 miles) north of the Egyptian coast.
Alseamar’s Detector-6000 acoustic submersible detection systems, detect pings at 4,000m to 5,000m below sea level. Left the French island of Corsica on board the Laplace, a French navy ship.
“While we are waiting for the DOS ship, equipped for detecting the pings in deep waters, but more importantly the robots capable of descending up to 6,000m to recover the black boxes, we will not be wasting time as Laplace will be trying to locate them in the meantime,” confirmed an official. “There is a very good chance of recovering the flight recordings thanks to the combination of these two French companies”.
Two members of the French aviation safety agency BEA are on board the Leplace. The aircraft transmitted ACARS automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin, toilet, window cracking and a fault in the flight control unit minutes before losing contact.
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