Egyptian investigators have recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the EgyptAir plane that crashed on May 19 into the Mediterranean Sea.
The MS804 “black box” was damaged and had to be pulled out in several stages but its memory unit was intact, they said.
A search vessel with an underwater robot has been scouring the crash site and has sent back images of wreckage.
Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo crashed on May 19, killing all 66 people on board.
It is not clear yet what caused the aircraft to go down.
In a statement, investigators said: “The vessel’s equipment was able to salvage the part [of the recorder] that contains the memory unit, which is considered the most important part of the recording device.”
The voice recorder will now be taken to the Egyptian city of Alexandria to be studied.
Airbus previously said that finding the black boxes was crucial to understanding what happened when radar lost track of MS804.
Electronic messages sent by the plane revealed that smoke detectors went off in the toilet and the aircraft’s electrics, minutes before the radar signal was lost.
A terror attack has not been ruled out but no extremist group has claimed to have downed the plane.
Analysts say human or technical error is also a possibility.
The crew on board do not appear to have sent a distress call.
The cockpit voice recorder should allow investigators to hear what the pilot and co-pilot were saying to each other, plus any alarms in the background.
If the flight data recorder is recovered, it should show what the plane’s computers were recording at the time.
Experts have warned that signals emitted by the data recorder are expected to expire by June 24.
The area in which flight MS804 crashed is one of the deepest in the Mediterranean – more than 10,000ft deep in some parts.
Days after the search began, debris and body parts were found to the east of the plane’s last known location. Egypt’s military released images of debris including a lifejacket, pieces of fabric and metal fragments.
On June 15, Egyptian investigators said the deep sea search vessel John Lethbridge had found wreckage of the fuselage of the plane in “several main locations” and had taken the first images of it.
A map of the distribution of the wreckage is being drawn up so a recovery operation can begin.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said one of its satellites detected what appeared to be a one mile-long oil slick in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the same area the plane disappeared.
According to a senior Egyptian aviation official, EgyptAir MS804 that crashed in the Mediterranean did not swerve and change direction before disappearing.
The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard when it vanished from radar early on May 19.
According to Greece’s defense minister, the plane turned 90 degrees left and then did a 360-degree turn towards the right before plummeting.
Ehab Azmy, the head of Egypt’s state-run provider of air navigation services, said there was no unusual movement.
He told Associated Press the plane had been flying at its normal height of 37,000ft before dropping off the radar. Some debris has since been found.
“That fact degrades what the Greeks are saying about the aircraft suddenly losing altitude before it vanished from radar,” he said.
Greece’s defense minister Panos Kammenos had said the radar showed the Airbus A320 making two sharp turns and dropping more than 25,000ft before plunging into the sea.
Ehab Azmy added that there were no problems with the plane as it entered Egyptian airspace, where it was tracked for “nearly a minute or two before it disappeared”.
Greek aviation officials had said air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot when he entered Greek airspace and everything appeared normal.
They tried to contact him again at 02:27 Cairo time, as the plane was set to enter Egyptian airspace, but “despite repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond”.
In a statement to Egypt’s al-Ahram newspaper, Ehab Azmy also denied a report there had been contact between the pilot of the plane and Egyptian air traffic control.
Ehab Azmy did not elaborate on his denial to al-Ahram in further interviews with AP and Reuters.
On May 22, Egypt deployed a robot submarine to search for the flight data recorders of the missing EgyptAir plane.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said there was “no particular theory we can affirm right now” for what caused flight MS804 to crash.
Egypt’s civil aviation minister has said the possibility of a terror attack was stronger than technical failure, but President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said establishing the cause could take a long time, adding “all scenarios are possible”.
The Egyptian military released images on May 21 of life vests, personal items and debris showing the EgyptAir logo which were found during the search in the Mediterranean Sea.
The search has also reportedly found body parts and luggage. The main body of the plane and the two “black boxes” which record flight data and cockpit transmissions have not yet been located.
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