EgyptAir Flight 990
Had A 'Controlled Descent'

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Preliminary information from the in-flight data recorder on downed EgyptAir Flight 990 show that contrary to earlier reports, the plane fell in a "controlled descent," the lead investigator said Wednesday.
"The data show an uneventful flight, cruising at 33,000 feet (11,000 meters). The first event we note is the autopilot disconnecting. About eight seconds later, the airplane begins what appears to be a controlled descent," said Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in a press conference.
Hall did not say whether the automatic pilot was disconnected manually by the pilots or automatically.
"Data recovered so far indicate the airplane descending to 19,000 feet. We are still in the process of recovering data from the remaining five to ten seconds," he said, adding that the plane did not near the speed of sound during its fall.
Hall also said that preliminary data does not indicate that the plane's thrust reversers deployed during the brief flight.
Earlier data compiled from radar centers along the eastern US coast had indicated that the Boeing 767 made a series of violent ups and downs -- possible nearing the speed of sound at one point -- before crashing into the ocean.
One of the plane's thrust reversers, which pilots use on the ground during landings to slow the plane, was broken and had been locked into place before takeoff. A malfunction in the thrust reverser had caused the 1991 crash of a Lauda Air Boeing 767 in Thailand, and a similar scenario was considered a possible cause of the EgyptAir crash.
The Cairo-bound flight crashed into the ocean 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the coast of Nantucket island, killing all 217 people on board, only about 30 minutes after take-off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Hall repeated that the data from the recorders is "preliminary," stressing that the investigation is continuing.
"The proper analysis of this information ... needs to be done accurately and carefully," he said.
Hall also announced that in accordance with NTSB regulations and the International Civil Aviation Organization, he has formed a team of experts to analyze the black box.
The team includes investigators from the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration, Egyptian authorities, Boeing, and Pratt and Whittney, the company that makes the recorders.
"It will be their job to read out and, in more detail, confirm all the data pertaining to this accident," Hall said.