Egyptian and French investigators say they believe they can rule out terrorism as the cause of the 3 January crash of a Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300, after listening to the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) tape, writes Christina MacKenzie.

The flight data recorder has also been recovered from the bottom of the Red Sea near Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, but only preliminary readings have been taken from it, according to the Egyptian chief investigator.

All 148 passengers and crew died when the aircraft dived into the Red Sea 4min after take-off from Sharm el Sheikh (Flight International, 13-19 January). The head of the French investigation bureau team Gerard Legauffre says the wreckage pattern indicates the aircraft hit the water in one piece, and the recorders suggest there was "no outside intervention".

Egyptian investigator Shaker Qaleda says: "It could be a technical defect or mismanagement by the crew or a combination of both." He says the 30min CVR recording "does not include a single word which would lead us to believe that something abnormal was happening". The dialogue with the Sharm el Sheikh control tower simply concerned the take-off and departure procedure. "The crew did not make an emergency call," Qaleda says.

Boeing has declined to comment on whether the aircraft had received the rudder power control unit (PCU) retrofit to offset the possibility of an uncommanded rudder hardover. The retrofit had been mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration after uncommanded extreme rudder movements probably caused two 737s to crash out of control in the USA in the early 1990s. Maintenance organisation sources suggest, however, that no Flash Airlines request had been made to Boeing for PCU kits, although some initial stage modifications may have been carried out.

Source: Flight International