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EgyptAir Crash Investigators Yet to Access ‘Black Box’ Data – Wall Street Journal

June 22, 2016 11:42 a.m. ET

Almost a week after recovering the “black boxes” from EgyptAir Flight 804, investigators have yet to download their data, slowing efforts to determine why the plane plunged into the Mediterranean Sea last month.

Search teams on Thursday retrieved the Airbus Group SE
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A320’s cockpit voice recorder and a day later recovered the flight-data recorder. Those were handed to the Egyptian-led team investigating the crash, which began tests on the devices on Sunday.

The crash probe Wednesday said it was “conducting thorough inspection and tests on the electronic boards of both” the recorders “in order to start the uploading process of the data.” The team gave no timeline for when the analysis would start.

The black boxes offer the best clues to determining why Flight 804 crashed May 19, killing all 66 people on board. The plane was headed to Cairo from Paris when it deviated from its course while cruising at 37,000 feet, first turning left before rolling to the right and completing a full circle, investigators have said. Accident investigators haven’t ruled out any cause for the crash.

Crash probes sometimes can identify the likely cause for a crash within days if not hours of extracting data from the black boxes.

Egyptian officials appear to be struggling to get the devices, which sustained some damage, ready for analysis. “Inspection and removal of salt accumulations for more than 200 electrical circuits are undergoing to determine the circuit that doesn’t function properly in order to reach accurate reading of the memory units of the recorders,” Egyptian officials said, adding the process was being witnessed by French and U.S. officials.

A flight-data recorder is designed to store technical parameters for the last 25 hours of a plane’s operations. It monitors basic information such as aircraft speed and altitude, but also smoke alarms, autopilot mode and control inputs made by the crew. The cockpit voice recorder retains the last two hours of crew conversation.

Egyptian officials last week said the data analysis could “take several weeks.”

Flight 804 broadcast a number of fault messages before all contact was lost indicating possible smoke in the nose of the plane, including a critical electronic-equipment hub beneath the cockpit. The messages alone haven’t proved sufficient to determine a likely cause for the crash, investigators have said.

Radar data also indicated there wasn’t a sudden explosion that tore the plane apart midair. The flight’s black box data should allow investigators to determine the sequence of events on board and what actions the crew may have taken to deal with them.

Investigators also said that a specialized vessel, the John Lethbridge, belonging to Deep Ocean Search Ltd., was continuing to map the debris field of the plane’s wreckage for potential recovery later. The ship was used to recover the black boxes from a depth of depth of around 3,000 meters (9,843 feet).

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com


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