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The BBC's Tom Carver
"What happened to Flight 990 is becoming more mysterious every day"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 23:56 GMT
Safety chief deplores crash speculation
Jim Hall said twice that the crash could have been a deliberate act

Investigators in the United States have cautioned against a "cyclone of speculation" over the cause of the EgyptAir air disaster.

The loss of flight 990
Jim Hall, chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said that media reports had contained factual mistakes about conversations in the cockpit of the doomed airliner.

"It has not promoted the interest of aviation safety and has placed misinformation in the public realm, and done a disservice to the longstanding friendship between the peoples of the United States of America and Egypt," he said.

Mr Hall did not say which media stories he had in mind, but correspondents say he was apparently referring to reports that a co-pilot may have crashed the plane deliberately.

The battered voice recorder is still being analysed
Despite warning against such speculation, Mr Hall said twice that the crash "might be the result of a deliberate act".

All 217 on board died when the plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts coast on 31 October.

It was earlier widely reported that just before the plane's autopilot was disconnected, relief co-pilot Gameel el-Batouty had spoken the words: "I made my decision now. I put my faith in God's hands."



Click here to see a graphic showing the last seconds of the EgyptAir flight

An unnamed US government official said on Friday that the first of those two sentences is not in fact heard on the tape. He said the confusion may have resulted from differences between earlier and later translations.

Transcripts

In the past few days Eygptian and US officials have been working together to produce definitive transcript of the conversations captured on the cockpit voice recorder.

Additional experts from Egypt arrived on Thursday, and their work is expected to continue through the weekend.

Mr Hall said that the NTSB had bought Arabic language software and loaded it into investigators' computers to help with the translation from the electronically enhanced tape.

Earlier this week the NTSB was sufficiently suspicious of the conversations contained on the cockpit voice recorder to consider handing the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a criminal investigation.

The decision to do so was delayed after Egyptian protests.

Investigators have said the flight data recorder - the first of the "black boxes" to be recovered - showed an unusual sequence of events.

First the autopilot was disconnected while Mr Batouty was alone in the cockpit. Seconds later the plane began a steep descent.

Next the captain returned to the cockpit and tried to pull the plane out of its descent, before, once again, the plane was pitched towards the sea.






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See also:
17 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Conspiracy theories spread
19 Nov 99 |  Americas
Egyptians investigate black box
18 Nov 99 |  Americas
EgyptAir legal action launched
11 Nov 99 |  Americas
Flight 990: What happened and when?
01 Nov 99 |  World
Flight 990: The final hours
03 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Black box: Key to disaster investigations

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