The following statement was released this afternoon by National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall.
The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the crash of Egyptair flight 990 is continuing on several fronts.
Cockpit Voice Recorder Group
The Cockpit Voice Recorder Group has completed a substantial portion of its work. The group is led by NTSB officials, and has members representing EgyptAir, the Egyptian government, the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group and Pratt & Whitney Engines. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has observer status on the group.
A working Arabic transcript of the recording is completed, as is a working English translation. Further refinements are possible before the transcript is considered complete. Under federal law, transcripts of pertinent portions of cockpit voice recordings are released at a Safety Board public hearing on the accident or, if no hearing is held, when a majority of the factual reports are made public.
The timing of the CVR has been correlated with events on the Flight Data Recorder. While sound spectrum analysis work is continuing, no sounds have been detected that would be consistent with mechanical failures or an explosion.
The 31 ½ minute tape begins before the aircraft takes off from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Routine air traffic control (ATC) communications are heard throughout the recording, and at no time did a member of the flight crew use radio communications to advise ATC of either an emergency or a mechanical failure or concern.
As you know, there has been much speculation generated by the disclosure of purported contents of the CVR. As I've already stated, by law the transcript cannot be released by us until a certain stage in our investigation, and we have not yet reached that stage. After careful consideration, I do not believe this transcript can be characterized or further described without adding to the speculation or misleading the public about the contents of the recording. Therefore, I think the public will be better served by waiting for the release of the transcript in conjunction with other factual reports, in accordance with Board procedures and current law.
Aircraft Performance Group
The Safety Board's Aircraft Performance Group completed its initial simulator work this week at a Boeing facility near Seattle. The same parties on the CVR group are represented on the performance group.
For the last several weeks, Boeing engineers have been preparing the 767 simulator (involving rewriting computer codes) to use the recorded information from flight 990's FDR to drive the simulation. This "backdriving" of the 767 Engineering Simulator Cab with recorded FDR and computed flight control data is used to recreate the instrument displays and control input mechanism motions that would have occurred in the cockpit during the accident.
Pilots and other experts are able to follow the accident flight path and to feel the forces needed to be applied to the control input mechanisms in the 767 Simulator Cab. However, they are not able to feel the accelerative forces on their bodies that they would have experienced while in actual flight. Because simulators do not have the same mechanical components as the actual airplane, the simulator cannot move the Captain's and First Officer's control columns independently. Therefore, work with independent movement of the elevator controls to assess the split elevator condition was accomplished in a Boeing 767 on the ground at the Boeing facility.
Results of this group's activities will be included in the Aircraft Performance Group Factual Report.
The Smit Pioneer, which the U.S. Navy's Supervisor of Salvage and Diving has contracted on behalf of the Safety Board to recover human remains and wreckage from flight 990, is now expected to leave Quonset Point, Rhode Island on Monday. It was expected to leave late this week but adverse weather has postponed the beginning of its mission. See our news advisory of December 6 - found on our web site at www.ntsb.gov - for more information on this ship.
It is currently planned that once the ship is on station, it will conduct its salvage operations for about a week before returning to port. The need for further operations will be evaluated at that time.
FBI Director Louis Freeh and I intend to visit the ship while it is still in port at Quonset Point on Monday, December 13. We will meet the news media at Pier 2 of the Davisville Depot (at the end of Davisville Road) at a time to be announced.
We will provide further updates of factual information on our investigation of the crash of EgyptAir flight 990 as events warrant. As we enter the holiday season, I ask that you keep the families of those who lost their lives on flight 990 in your thoughts and prayers.