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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 15:41 GMT

World: Americas

Flight 990 search on and off

Investigators have one black box - now they are waiting for the second

US Navy recovery crews resumed their search for the voice cockpit recorder of EgyptAir flight 990 early on Friday, only to suspend it a few hours later.

The loss of flight 990
The remote-controlled robot Magnum went into the water at 0200 EST (0700 GMT) on Friday, but was pulled out four hours later because of technical problems.

US Navy Commander Timothy O'Leary said the robot would be repaired and put back in action soon.

High seas on Thursday halted efforts to find the second "black box" that investigators say may help reveal what happened during the final moments of flight 990. The plane crashed into the Atlantic soon after taking off from New York's JFK airport on 31 October, killing all 217 people on board.

'Something wrong'

Reports say an unnamed "source" has uncovered evidence suggesting that one flight crew member believed "something was going to happen to the airplane".

Friday's Boston Herald newspaper says that Hassan Sherif, a flight attendant on the plane, telephoned his wife Rania from New York just before departing and told her "there was something wrong with the plane" and he was "very worried".

The source also said a member of the flight crew who was concerned something might go wrong decided to leave money and a message for another crew member's family, according to the report.

However, an FBI official interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America said that no evidence of foul play had been uncovered.

"Not everything has been resolved yet. But as we speak here now, there is nothing to indicate there was anything amiss with the crew," FBI Assistant Director Lewis Schiliro said.


A preliminary analysis of the flight data recorder, which was recovered on Tuesday, was announced on Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

[ image: NTSB chairman stresses the findings are only preliminary]
NTSB chairman stresses the findings are only preliminary
NTSB Chairman James Hall said there was no evidence that the plane's thrust reversers had deployed accidentally.

Experts had feared that the thrust reverser - which slows down aircraft on landing - had been responsible for the tragedy, after it emerged that the plane had earlier suffered a fault with the device.

It was a failure of this piece of equipment that caused a similar Boeing 767 belonging to Lauda Air to crash in Thailand with the loss of 223 lives in 1991.

Mr Hall said the plane had been cruising normally at 9,900 metres (33,000 feet) when the autopilot disconnected.

That is unusual for a plane which was just beginning its hours-long cruise across the Atlantic.

Mr Hall refused to say whether the autopilot disconnected manually or automatically.

About eight seconds later, the flight "begins what appears to be a controlled descent" from 9,900 metres (33,000 feet) to about 5,700 metres (19,000 feet), Mr Hall said.

The recorder stopped shortly afterward, and the final five to 10 seconds of information on its tape are still being extracted.

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