Statement of Jim Hall
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
Regarding EgyptAir Flight 990
October 31, 1999


On behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board, let me say that we are all saddened by the loss of life that has occurred today in the crash of EgyptAir flight 990.

Under the International Civil Aviation Organization treaty, the investigation of a plane crash in international waters is under the jurisdiction of the country of registry of the aircraft. In this case, that would be Egypt.

We have been asked by the Egyptian government, as conveyed by Ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, to take the lead in this investigation. President Clinton has spoken to President Mubarak, and informed him that our investigation has been launched and we are doing all we can to determine what caused this tragedy.

We anticipate that officials from EgyptAir and the Egyptian government will arrive soon. We will meet with them as soon as possible to coordinate our activities and include them in our efforts.

This is the information we know about the flight so far:

EgyptAir flight 990, a regularly scheduled flight from New York to Cairo, was scheduled to depart John F. Kennedy International Airport on a nonstop flight for Cairo at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time yesterday. It took off late, at 1:19 a.m today. We understand that there were 214 passengers and crewmembers aboard, but that number is not yet confirmed.

The flight was cleared to climb to 33,000 feet and enter Oceanic Airspace en route to Cairo. The flight's last radio communication with air traffic controllers at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center was at 1:47 a.m. This communication was routine.

The following radar data is preliminary, from an initial review of data from only one radar site, and subject to change. Radar data from the airplane's radar transponder and altitude reporting equipment showed that the airplane began a descent from 33,000 feet at about 1:50 a.m. The last radar contact in which the airplane provided altitude data was about 36 seconds later. At that time, the airplane had descended to 19,100 feet, a very rapid rate of descent (23,200 feet per minute). The airplane's position at this radar return was 40 degrees 20 minutes north latitude, 69 degrees 54 minutes west longitude, or about 60 miles southeast of Nantucket Island. Primary radar targets - that is, reflections from the airplane's metal structure - were seen by FAA radar until about 1:52 a.m.

The airplane involved in the accident was a Boeing 767 model 366 ER, a stretched and extended range version of the basic 767. It was the 282nd 767 off the production line, delivered new to EgyptAir on September 26, 1989. The registration number is SU-GAP. It was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney 4000 turbofan engines.

The State Department has identified citizens from Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Chile and the United States aboard the aircraft. The families are currently being contacted by the State Department, as well as by representatives of EgyptAir. Family assistance will be coordinated through a task force led by the Department of State and the NTSB's Family Affairs Office, supported by the Red Cross, Disaster Mortuary Services of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Federal Emergency Management Administration for communications.

The investigation will be supported by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, EgyptAir, and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Engines.

This is an enormous human tragedy, and I want to assure all Americans, all Egyptians, and indeed everyone around the world that we will devote all necessary resources to find out what caused this aircraft to crash. I have designated Mr. Gregory Phillips - an 11-year veteran with the Safety Board - as Investigator-in-Charge.

Our team will include investigators having expertise in the specialties of aircraft structures, aircraft systems, powerplants, flight operations, air traffic control, human performance, weather, survival factors, and aircraft performance. Once the flight recorders are recovered, they will be brought down to our laboratories in Washington for read out. We expect to establish a command post tonight near Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

Our first response to this tragedy was early this morning when we sent investigators from our Northeast Regional Office to JFK Airport to secure information on the airplane's passenger manifest, cargo load and dispatch status.

A government aircraft has just departed from Reagan National Airport with the first group of our Go-Team from Washington. More investigators will be leaving later today. The Coast Guard is continuing its search and rescue efforts. I have requested the Secretary of Defense make available the services of the Supervisor of Salvage of the U.S. Navy. I anticipate they will be tasked with providing vessels and divers to recover the victims and wreckage. I want to emphasize that we are in the early hours of this investigation. You will undoubtedly hear many reports of what might have caused the crash of flight 990. All of those will be speculative. We do not know. Once we establish our command post in Rhode Island, we will conduct regular press briefings so that all of you know what we know as quickly as possible.

Our prayers are with those who were aboard flight 990 and their families. The emphasis right now should be on search and rescue. We are beginning what may be a long investigation, and are prepared to do what it takes to find the answers we're seeking.

 

Chairman Hall's Speeches & Testimony