KUWAIT CITY, May 21, (Agencies): Kuwait Airways underscored on Saturday its keenness to ensure the safety of all of its passengers, not slackening off in carrying out all security and safety measures in that regard. In a press statement, the company said it had re-inspected the luggage of all passengers on flight 561 bound for Jordan after a rowdy passenger screamed his head off in a threatening manner.
This caused a disturbance among the passengers on the plane requiring security personnel to deal with the offender, said the statement. In its eagerness for the safety of the passengers and for carrying out normal procedure in such cases, the company “ ran a re-inspection check on all passenger luggage while summoning airport security as an extra cautionary measure, said the statement. It added that “the flight in question departed after that momentary tumult to its prescribed destination.”
Earlier today, The Ministry of Interior stressed in a press statement that security preparedness may entail taking precautionary measures in the airport such as asking passengers to deplane and reinspect luggage and the aircraft which is standard, normal procedure at all airports. It added that these precautionary measures are carried out to ensure the safe take-off and landing of all planes as well as the safety of all passengers on board these planes.
Further, it emphasized that security personnel at the ministry did not receive any call regarding the existence of a bomb on a Kuwait Airways plane bound for Jordan. In latest development, smoke was detected inside an EgyptAir plane shortly before it plunged into the Mediterranean with 66 people on board, investigators said Saturday, offering clues but no answers about why it crashed.
The Airbus A320 had been flying from Paris to Cairo early Thursday when it plummeted and turned full circle before vanishing from radar screens, without its crew sending a distress signal. Egypt’s military released pictures of wreckage recovered so far, including a pink bag decorated with butterflies, a life vest, shredded seat covers and mangled debris showing the EgyptAir name. France’s aviation safety agency said Flight MS804 had transmitted automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin as the disaster unfolded. While the information may help investigators, more wreckage including the black boxes will need to be found before they can piece together what happened.
“There were ACARS messages emitted by the plane indicating that there was smoke in the cabin shortly before data transmission broke off,” a spokesman for France’s Bureau of Investigations and Analysis told AFP. It was “far too soon to interpret and understand the cause of the accident as long as we have not found the wreckage or the flight data recorders”, he said. ACARS, which stands for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, transmits short messages between aircraft and ground stations. Search teams were scouring the eastern Mediterranean on Saturday for more parts of the plane and the black boxes. While Egypt’s aviation minister has pointed to terrorism as more likely than technical failure, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Saturday that nothing was being ruled out. “At this time … all theories are being examined and none is favoured,” he told a news conference in Paris after meeting relatives of passengers.
The disaster comes just seven months after the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in October that killed all 224 people on board. The Islamic State group was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, but there has been no such claim linked to the EgyptAir crash. Relatives of the passengers on the EgyptAir flight gathered at a hotel near Cairo airport on Friday after meeting airline officials as they struggled to come to terms with the catastrophe. “They haven’t died yet. No one knows. We’re asking for God’s mercy,” said a woman in her 50s whose daughter had been on board. EgyptAir Holding Company chairman Safwat Moslem told AFP on Saturday that the priority was finding the passengers’ remains and the flight recorders, which will stop emitting a signal in a month when the batteries run out.
“The families want the bodies. That is what concerns us. The army is working on this. This is what we are focusing on,” he said. A French patrol boat carrying equipment capable of tracing the plane’s black boxes was expected on Sunday or Monday. The plane disappeared between the Greek island of Karpathos and the Egyptian coast in the early hours of Thursday. It had turned sharply twice before plunging 22,000 feet (6,700 metres) and vanishing from radar screens, said Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos. Experts stressed there was not enough information yet to explain the incident. “All you can say … is that there was smoke.
The smoke could be due to a fire in the plane following a technical problem, or it could also mean an explosion… but it is far too early to formulate hypotheses,” Jean-Pail Troadec, a former BEA director, told AFP. “The fact that there was no distress call doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” Troadec said. “The pilots maybe had other things to do, reacting to the event. Sending a message is not the first priority.” Personal belongings and parts of the Airbus A320 had been spotted by teams searching the sea off Egypt’s northern coast about 290 kms (180 miles) from the city of Alexandria, the Egyptian military said. Kammenos said the search teams, which include multinational aircraft and ships, had found “a body part, two seats and one or more items of luggage”. The passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, two Iraqis, two Canadians, and citizens from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. They included a boy and two babies. Smoke detected in the cabin shortly before EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean suggests there was a fire on board, but is not enough to establish the cause of the disaster, experts said Saturday. So what can be inferred from this latest discovery?
■ What were the signals? Shortly before the plane disappeared from the radars, it transmitted a series of automatic messages indicating there was smoke in the cabin, France’s BEA aviation safety agency said. According to specialist magazine Aviation Herald, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) messages read: “smoke lavatory smoke” then “avionics smoke” — referring to the plane’s electronic systems. Both messages were confirmed by BEA. But the agency did not comment on a third message cited by Aviation Herald, which indicated a “fault” with the FCU, the pilots’ flight control unit in the cockpit.
■ Do they point to a cause? A BEA spokesman said it was “far too soon to interpret and understand the cause of Thursday’s accident as long as we have not found the wreckage or the flight data recorders.” Jean-Paul Troadec, a former BEA director, agreed: “All you can say… is that there was smoke. The smoke could be due to a fire in the plane following a technical problem, or it could also mean an explosion… but it is far too early to formulate hypotheses.”
■ Why didn’t the pilots raise the alarm? “The fact that there was no distress call doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” Troadec said. “The pilots maybe had other things to do, reacting to the event. Sending a message is not the first priority.”
Francois Grangier, an airline pilot and judicially certified expert on crash investigations, agreed there might not have been time. “A fire is extremely rapid, extremely violent, and you know when smoke begins to invade a cockpit the first priority is to fight the smoke.” He said the crew would have been wearing oxygen masks and that one of them would have had to read the procedures off a printed checklist if display screens were no longer legible. “So you can see how calling an (air traffic) controller who can do nothing besides tell you your position” would not be a priority, he said.
■ Did the pilots have time to react? “Clearly, given the time of the (ACARS) messages and the sequence of the messages, everything happened in a minuscule space of time,” Grangier said. “Basically it means they had a very, very, very rapid invasion of smoke into the cockpit, and visibility can be reduced to a few centimetres when there’s smoke. So … it’s possible they couldn’t see anything at all. And then the temperature could become unbearable.”