Powered by WebAds

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Egyptian Ferry Sinks Enroute from Saudi Arabia to Egypt

This is slightly afield for the Matzav, but because it's been in all the papers here and because it's somewhat related (Egypt has declined offers of assistance from Israel, the US and the UK), I thought I would post it. It's not getting nearly enough attention in the West.

How many of you remember EgyptAir 990? As you all may recall, EgyptAir 990 was enroute from New York to Cairo, when the co-pilot apparently decided to commit suicide and take the whole plane with him. In the words of the NTSB report:

At 0147:55, the relief first officer stated, "Look, here's the new first officer's pen. Give it to him please. God spare you,"9 and, at 0147:58, someone responded, "yeah." At 0148:03, the command captain stated, "Excuse me, [nickname for relief first officer], while I take a quick trip to the toilet...before it gets crowded. While they are eating, and I'll be back to you." While the command captain was speaking, the relief first officer responded, "Go ahead please," and the CVR recorded the sound of an electric seat motor as the captain maneuvered to leave his seat and the cockpit. At 0148:18.55, the CVR recorded a sound similar to the cockpit door operating.

At 0148:30, about 11 seconds after the captain left the cockpit, the CVR recorded an unintelligible comment.10 Ten seconds later (about 0148:40), the relief first officer stated quietly, "I rely on God."11 There were no sounds or events recorded by the flight recorders that would indicate that an airplane anomaly or other unusual circumstance preceded the relief first officer's statement, "I rely on God."

At 0149:18, the CVR recorded the sound of an electric seat motor. FDR data indicated that, at 0149:45 (27 seconds later), the autopilot was disconnected.12 Aside from the very slight movement of both elevators (the left elevator moved from about a 0.7° to about a 0.5° nose-up deflection, and the right elevator moved from about a 0.35° nose-up to about a 0.3° nose-down deflection)13 and the airplane's corresponding slight nose-down pitch change, which were recorded within the first second after autopilot disconnect, and a very slow (0.5° per second) left roll rate, the airplane remained essentially in level flight about FL 330 for about 8 seconds after the autopilot was disconnected. At 0149:48, the relief first officer again stated quietly, "I rely on God." At 0149:53, the throttle levers were moved from their cruise power setting to idle, and, at 0149:54, the FDR recorded an abrupt nose-down elevator movement and a very slight movement of the inboard ailerons. Subsequently, the airplane began to rapidly pitch nose down and descend.

Between 0149:57 and 0150:05, the relief first officer quietly repeated, "I rely on God," seven additional times.14 During this time, as a result of the nose-down elevator movement, the airplane's load factor15 decreased from about 1 to about 0.2 G.16 Between 0150:04 and 0150:05 (about 10 to 11 seconds after the initial nose-down movement of the elevators), the FDR recorded additional, slightly larger inboard aileron movements, and the elevators started moving further in the nose-down direction. Immediately after the FDR recorded the increased nose-down elevator movement, the CVR recorded the sounds of the captain asking loudly (beginning at 0150:06), "What's happening? What's happening?," as he returned to the cockpit.

The airplane's load factor decreased further as a result of the increased nose-down elevator deflection, reaching negative G loads (about -0.2 G) between 0150:06 and 0150:07. During this time (and while the captain was still speaking [at 0150:07]), the relief first officer stated for the tenth time, "I rely on God." Additionally, the CVR transcript indicated that beginning at 0150:07, the CVR recorded the "sound of numerous thumps and clinks," which continued for about 15 seconds.

According to the CVR and FDR data, at 0150:08, as the airplane exceeded its maximum operating airspeed (0.86 Mach), a master warning alarm began to sound. (The warning continued until the FDR and CVR stopped recording at 0150:36.64 and 0150:38.47, respectively.)17 Also at 0150:08, the relief first officer stated quietly for the eleventh and final time, "I rely on God," and the captain repeated his question, "What's happening?" At 0150:15, the captain again asked, "What's happening, [relief first officer's first name]? What's happening?" At this time, as the airplane was descending through about 27,300 feet msl, the FDR recorded both elevator surfaces beginning to move in the nose-up direction. Shortly thereafter, the airplane's rate of descent began to decrease.18 At 0150:21, about 6 seconds after the airplane's rate of descent began to decrease, the left and right elevator surfaces began to move in opposite directions; the left surface continued to move in the nose-up direction, and the right surface reversed its motion and moved in the nose-down direction.

The FDR data indicated that the engine start lever switches for both engines moved from the run to the cutoff position between 0150:21 and 0150:23.19 Between 0150:24 and 0150:27, the throttle levers moved from their idle position to full throttle, the speedbrake handle moved to its fully deployed position, and the left elevator surface moved from a 3º nose-up to a 1º nose-up position, then back to a 3º nose-up position.20 During this time, the CVR recorded the captain asking, "What is this? What is this? Did you shut the engine(s)?" Also, at 0150:26.55, the captain stated, "Get away in the engines,"21 and, at 0150:28.85, the captain stated, "shut the engines." At 0150:29.66, the relief first officer stated, "It's shut."

Between 0150:31 and 0150:37, the captain repeatedly stated, "Pull with me." However, the FDR data indicated that the elevator surfaces remained in a split condition (with the left surface commanding nose up and the right surface commanding nose down) until the FDR and CVR stopped recording at 0150:36.64 and 0150:38.47, respectively. (The last transponder [secondary radar] return from the accident airplane was received at the radar site at Nantucket, Massachusetts, at 0150:34.)22 [Footnote links may not work. CiJ]

As some of you may recall, after the NTSB investigation, the Egyptians continued to deny that the co-pilot had committed suicide and would not accept the NTSB report.

Last Thursday night, an overloaded Egyptian ferry left the Saudi port of Dubah on its way to the Egyptian port of Safaga, 120 miles across the Red Sea. Now, here's what happened:


An investigation revealed that a fire erupted on board the ship prior to the disaster. However, Mansour denied that the fire was the cause of the sinking.

Survivors claimed that the crew prevented them from wearing life jackets in order to avoid panic among the passengers. Even after the fire broke out, the ship reportedly continued sailing for an additional two hours, even though it had already begun tilting. The survivors related that the crew claimed the fire was under control, yet abandoned the ship in rescue boats after the fire and smoke spread, Israel Radio reported.

Egypt has thus far declined offers of search and rescue assistance from the United States, Britain, and Israel.


Sky News reported that the number of passengers, 1415, exceeded by some 20 percent the maximum number allowed on board.

The Washington Post fills in some more details:


Ahmed, the maintenance crewman, said he fought fire with sea water pumped into the ship through hoses. The fire would go out and revive, Ahmed said. "We couldn't figure out the cause," he added in a low murmur.

The long battle against inextinguishable flames had a fatal consequence, Ahmed concluded: "The water wasn't draining. Pumps weren't working right."

Tamer Fikreh Hakim, a ship restaurant worker, said: "Drains were blocked by cargo. The ship was filling up."

In effect, the pair said, the Boccaccio 98 sank itself.


"We're not foolish," said Abdul-Rahman. "All the people rushed to the deck and begged the captain to turn back. He refused. He contacted no one. He was crazy!"

When the ship rolled to the right, people began to shout, "It's tilting, it's tilting," witnesses said. "We of the crew know that if the ship leans 20 degrees, it's finished. It took only a few minutes. The captain told everyone to go to port side, but it meant nothing," said Hakim, the waiter.

Then passengers tumbled into the Red Sea.

Abdul-Rahman, wearing the black robes of pious Muslim women, bobbed in her life vest until she spotted a dinghy. "Some of the people knew how to inflate them. You know, pulling a strap and all that," she said.


A message on El Salam's Web site denied that the captain and top officers escaped by lifeboat and abandoned passengers. The officers "are until this moment missing either dead or alive," the statement said. "None of the lifeboats have been used to evacuate passengers or crew members since the vessel listed and capsized. Only life rafts have been used for the passenger evacuation." Company officials said the search for survivors will go on.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Saturday that he was following the rescue operation closely, the official MENA news agency reported. There was no immediate government explanation for the late announcement of the sinking or for the initial rejection of British and U.S. help. Egyptian officials at first turned down a British offer to divert a warship to the scene and a U.S. Navy offer to send a P-3 Orion maritime patrol plane, wire services reported.

Then Egypt requested both the Orion and the warship be sent, but called off the ship, deciding it was too far away, said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown of the U.S. 5th Fleet, headquartered in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain.

Mubarak ordered his government to pay about $5,200 in compensation to the family of each of the dead and about half that to each survivor.

This looks awfully suspicious to me....


Post a Comment

<< Home