|NTSB TO CONTINUE PROBE|
November 16, 1999
Concerns by the Egyptian government have apparently halted a transfer of jurisdiction in the EgyptAir Flight 990 investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board to the FBI.
|In a press conference Tuesday evening, NTSB chairman Jim
Hall said his organization would work with the Egyptian government to
further scrutinize flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder
data over the next several days.
According to Hall, the Egyptian government wanted the chance to send another set of experts to the U.S. to analyze flight data.
"It is only prudent for the NTSB to consult with these experts and officials to fully evaluate this info prior to any final decision on whether the authority in this investigation should transfer to the FBI," Hall said.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. had wanted the FBI to take over the investigation, but Egypt's hesitation has kept the case in the hands of the NTSB.
The transfer would indicate the beginning of a criminal investigation into what caused the Boeing 767 to plummet into the Atlantic while en route from New York to Cairo Oct. 31. The crash killed all 217 people aboard.
A crewmember's words on the plane's cockpit voice recorder are reportedly part of the reason behind the transfer.
According to published reports, investigators listening to the voice recorder tapes heard one of the pilots say a prayer in Arabic before the plane's autopilot shut off and the Boeing 767 began to plummet into the ocean.
"One view is that a crew member is heard on the cockpit tape to say something religious in nature," a government official told the Associated Press.
At issue is the timing of those remarks, which fuels a theory that an intentional pilot error could be behind the crash.
But another AP report maintains phrases Westerners would consider religious
in nature are common in Arabic speech.
"There are still differences in the cultural interpretations of the Arabic language spoken on the cockpit voice recorder," Hall said. "We are working to determine the meaning of the words that have been spoken."
"I'm well aware of the many rumors, theories and stories circulating in the last 72 hours about potential causes of this tragedy," Hall said. "We are concentrating our efforts on determining from the evidence whether or not this investigation is to remain under the leadership of the NTSB."
Early reports said the cockpit voice recorder, recovered from the waters off Nantucket Nov. 13, indicated a cordial conversation between the pilot and co-pilot and gave little insight into why the plane plunged 33,000 feet into the waters off Massachusetts' Nantucket Island.
But investigators concentrating on matching the cockpit voice recorder with the flight data recorder, which detailed the status of the plane's systems during the flight. Investigators also worked to more accurately translate the Arabic spoken by the plane's crew.
"As painstaking a process as it is to read out cockpit voice recorders, this one is made more difficult by the fact that it is almost entirely in a foreign language," Hall said.
The meeting of a "cockpit voice recorder group" planned for Monday was cancelled in favor of a smaller group consisting of NTSB officials and FBI agents, a government official told the Associated Press.
At Monday's press conference, Hall remained optimistic investigators will determine the cause of the crash.
"Because of the quality and the extensive information contained on the flight data recorder, I am confident that many of the questions we have, you have and the individuals following this investigation around the world have, will be answered," Hall said.
According to news agencies, the NTSB could officially announce the transfer as early as Tuesday afternoon.