Divers locate flight recorders from lost aircraft as US experts also join Egyptians in search for wreckage

French divers searching the Red Sea off Sharm el Sheikh have picked up location signals from the crashed Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. The Egyptian charter carrier's aircraft dived into the sea on 3 January with 148 passengers and crew on board. There were no survivors.

The recorders are lying about 1,500m (4,900ft) apart around 600-800m below the surface. Admiral Jacques Mazars, leading the French naval efforts in Egypt to recover the wreckage and bodies, says the aircraft "probably crashed at a speed of 500km/h [270kt] at a 45° angle". France's civil aviation authority says the recorders will be handed over to the Egyptian authorities.

France has put its expertise and equipment at Egypt's disposal as 133 of the passengers were French nationals. The 13 crew members were Egyptian. France has sent three ships, one carrying the navy's Super Achilles robot that can operate at depths of up to 1,500m. A US team from Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and the US National Transportation Safety Board is also working with the Egyptians.

Boeing says the aircraft, registered SU-ZCF, was delivered in October 1992 and had accumulated 25,592 cycles and 17,973h and has had seven owners.

Flight FSH604 took off at 04:40 on 3 January in clear weather and crashed about 11km (6nm) south of the airport. The aircraft's heading fluctuated after it began a planned left turn at 5,000ft. It finally made an unplanned right turn, rapidly losing height and crashing into the sea 17s later, says Ahmad Shafiq, Egyptian minister for civil aviation.

The pilots did not make an emergency call. Egypt insists the accident was due to a technical fault. Shafiq says military personnel who witnessed the accident reported no signs of an explosion before impact, and that the fuselage was "complete" when the aircraft hit the sea.

Source: Flight International