Yet another plane has fallen out of the sky in Egyptian airspace — the second in just over six months. Early Thursday morning, an EgyptAir flight en route to Cairo from Paris swerved erratically and dropped 20,000 feet before disappearing from radar off of Egypt's Mediterranean coast. Just hours after the plane went missing — and long before debris would be found — speculation on the cause of the crash grew rampant, leading Greek officials to tell The Guardian that the possibility "is very real" that a suicide bomber or explosive is to blame for the EgyptAir crash. Update: Egyptian military officials found debris and personal belongings from the EgyptAir flight 804 in the Mediterranean Sea early Friday morning.
That would mean that Thursday's downing of flight 804 even further mirrors the other aviation disaster that took place in November. That, of course, is the midair disintegration and crash of MetroJet flight 9268, which is also expected to be caused by an explosion. The flight was a Russian passenger airliner — also an Airbus, but an A321 — that went down over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after a bomb went off. Investigators expect that an explosive device with a charge equivalent of more than two pounds of TNT was smuggled onto the plane and into the main cabin. That would mean the two occurrences are eerily similar.
The Greeks are not the only ones who have pointed to terrorism — although they were the most specific in pointing to a bomb or suicide bomber. The top Egyptian aviation official, Sherif Fathi, gave a press conference on Thursday afternoon to answer questions on the incident. He tried to avoid speculating on what happened to the plane — even insisting on calling it missing — but eventually admitted that terrorism was "more likely" than a mechanical failure to have caused the crash.
This is significant because it seems after the MetroJet crash, the United Kingdom and other Western allies like the United States were quick to signal out a bomb as the cause. Russia and Egypt hesitated in doing so; Russia, so that it wouldn't cause domestic opposition to the country's intervention in Syria, and Egypt to try to protect its tourism economy. After explosive residue was found on the wreckage, Russia changed its tune, but Egypt only admitted that it was a terrorist bombing in February — nearly four months later.
The Russians actually also commented on the EgyptAir crash. The head of the country's domestic security agency, Alexander Bortnikov, said Thursday that "in all likelihood it was a terror attack." He called on a coordinated response to find those responsible. ISIS claimed responsibility for the MetroJet bombing, but the group has not claimed responsibility for this crash.
Now that debris has been found, the next step will be recovering the black boxes to see if there is a clue to what happened on the plane leading up to the crash.