An EgyptAir plane headed to Cairo from Paris with 66 people on board disappeared from radar in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, reviving memories of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that went missing in March 2014.
Flight MS804, operating an Airbus A320, took off from Charles de Gaulle airport at 11:09 p.m. with 56 passengers, 7 crew and 3 security personnel, the carrier said in a revised statement, after earlier saying the total people aboard were 69. Communication with the aircraft was lost at about 2:45 a.m. Cairo time, and search and rescue operations were under way in the Mediterranean Sea, a spokeswoman and the nation’s civil aviation ministry said.
Air-traffic controllers at Athens airport tried several times to contact the captain, but didn’t get a response, state-run Ahram Gate news website reported, citing people it didn’t identify. Passengers on board were citizens of Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia and the U.K., Amr Zidan, a security official at Cairo Airport, said by phone.
The disappearance of the Paris-Cairo plane follows a string of aviation-related incidents involving the North African country, including a Russian airliner en route from Sharm-el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg that crashed soon after takeoff in October, killing 224. An EgyptAir flight was hijacked to Cyprus in March by a man claiming to be wearing an explosive belt, but later found to be unarmed.
In Europe, from where Flight MS804 took off, authorities have been on high alert since terror attacks in Paris and Brussels prompted a review of security procedures. About 130 people died in the French capital after three teams of men linked to the Islamic State blew themselves up outside a stadium and attacked a cafe and a concert hall in November. Bombings at the airport in the Belgian capital and on a subway in March killed 35 people.
“You’d expect security to very, very tight at a first-class airport, especially after what happened in Paris and Belgium,” said Nick O’Brien, associate professor for counter terrorism at Charles Sturt University in Canberra.
The MS804 pilot has 6,275 flying hours and the co-pilot 2,766 hours, according to the airline. The plane was manufactured in 2003, a relatively young aircraft compared with EgyptAir’s fleet which has an average age of 20 years.
The aircraft was traveling at 37,000 feet and disappeared 10 miles into Egyptian airspace, the airline said in a Twitter post. A statement from the carrier previously said the plane was 80 miles from Egyptian skies when it vanished.
The A320 is Airbus’s best-selling aircraft series, which started operating in 1988 and has a global fleet of about 6,200 jets, according to Ascend, a London-based aviation data provider. There have been 12 fatal crashes, including a Germanwings flight in March last year and AirAsia Bhd.’s Flight 8501, which went down in the Java Sea in December 2014.
“At this time we have no further details, but we will provide further information when available,” a spokeswoman for Airbus Group SE said in an e-mail.
A Boeing Co. 777 aircraft operated by Malaysia Airlines with 239 people on board, on a routine flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014, triggering an unprecedented search for parts and debris. It has become one of aviation’s most befuddling mysteries. The chances of finding the plane are fading, the head of the Australian investigation team told the Guardian newspaper this week.
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