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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The cause of the disaster still contested"
 real 56k

Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
EgyptAir blames plane for disaster
Data recorder from flight 990
Egyptair says the flight recorder did not support suicide theory
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

EgyptAir says it is almost completely sure that mechanical problems, not pilot suicide, caused the crash of one of its airliners last October.

All 217 passengers on board the Boeing 767 were killed when the plane crashed off the east coast of the United States.

The loss of flight 990
Chairman Mohammed Fahim Rayan spoke out after calls from the US Federal Aviation Administration for extra inspections of the elevator controls of 767s, which are used to point the planes up or down.

Mr Rayan said: "We are 99% sure that there was something (wrong) in the elevator system."

Egypt angered

He said the whole course of the investigation into Flight 990 now needed to be changed.

Egypt has always strongly refuted an earlier theory that a co-pilot, Gameel al-Batouti, may have deliberately crashed the plane.

But he played down disagreements between Egypt and American investigators over the cause of the crash.

Gameel al-Batouti
Gameel al-Batouti: FBI claims "irrelevant" says Egyptair
A 1,650 page report by America's National Transportation and Safety Board last week came to no conclusions about the cause of the crash, but Egypt was angered that it included FBI reports alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Mr Batouti.

The Egyptians said they were irrelevant, unsubstantiated and designed to cause embarrassment.

On Thursday, however, Mr Rayan had only praise for the chairman of the NTSB, Jim Hall, who he said was a good, co-operative man.

He said Mr Hall had responded positively to Egypt's request for further probes into possible mechanical problems.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Americas
Crash probe urges cockpit cameras
30 Nov 99 | Americas
EgyptAir probe ducks media spotlight
18 Nov 99 | Americas
EgyptAir legal action filed
11 Nov 99 | Americas
Black box yields first clues
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