Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 10:44 GMT
Eyewitness: The hopeless search
The cruel sea yielded no survivors
Ben Brown reports from Nantucket island
This is no longer a rescue mission, it's a recovery operation.
Officials say no one could have survived in the chilly waters here for more than five or six hours, so they have confirmed they're not now looking for survivors.
From the air, this part of the Atlantic looks breathtakingly beautiful.
The sun has been shining brightly all day, the skies are clear and the waters calm. In short, conditions for the search teams have been ideal.
Problems for the investigators
The problem is that much - probably most - of Flight 990 is underwater, and deep underwater at that.
The ocean bed is 270 feet in this area: retrieving wreckage from so far down will be a logistical nightmare, so they're bringing in the American salvage ship, USS Grapple, which has sophisticated sonar detection equipment that can locate even the smallest pieces of debris.
They believe that within the next few days, bits of wreckage - and maybe bodies too - will be washed ashore. They've been told to report anything they come across to the police as soon as possible.
There's no doubt that investigators need every clue they can get their hands on to unlock the mystery of what happened to the Egyptair flight.
The mood among the myriad of officials here - FBI, Coastguard, Navy, National Transportation Safety Board - is understandably subdued and very cautious.
No hasty conclusions
No one is in any hurry to come to any hasty and possibly unfounded conclusions.
With the TWA crash a few years ago, many wrongly blamed the disaster on terrorism.
If it's some kind of mechanical or structural problem that's to blame, no one in authority here is speculating about that either.
There is a conviction that this whole operation and investigation must be conducted with as much dignity as possible. That is the least that the bereaved will expect, and they have now started arriving here on the Atlantic coast, to be close to where their loved ones perished in such horrific circumstances.