France's air accident investigation bureau BEA has yet to explain the cause of January's Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300 crash, having denied French press reports that the aircraft went out of control because the crew mistakenly thought they had engaged the autopilot. All 148 people on board were killed when the aircraft crashed into the Red Sea on 3 January shortly after take-off from Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

The BEA says in a statement that "any extrapolation of the facts is mere speculation, and the assertion that the crew thought they were on autopilot is completely unfounded". It says the facts established from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are that the aircraft took off normally and began a left-hand turn as scheduled. But at about 2,000ft (600m) the turn slowly inverted to the right and the aircraft progressively rolled until it was banked 90¡ at about 5,600ft. It then rapidly lost height and dived into the sea. "The crew had a permanently professional attitude, was aware that an abnormal situation had developed and tried to control it," the BEA says.

The investigation has so far revealed that no structural part of the aircraft broke during the flight, the engines and the rudder did not malfunction, and there was no act of terrorism. According to the BEA: "Nothing has arisen in the investigation of the crews' files, the flight preparation or the aircraft's maintenance that could explain the accident at this stage."

The calculations and analyses undertaken over the past few weeks are being examined in Cairo. The BEA says these joint Egyptian, French and US meetings could now include attempts to reproduce the aircraft's trajectory in a flight simulator.

Source: Flight International