Searchers have recovered the flight data recorder from EgyptAir Flight 804, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Accident Investigation Committee said Friday, potentially a key step in helping unravel the mystery of what caused the plane to plunge into the Mediterranean Sea nearly a month ago.
The discovery of the recorder follows the discovery of wreckage from the flight and the recovery of the cockpit voice recorder this week, according to Egyptian officials.
Like the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder was damaged, but searchers were able to recover the crucial memory unit from the device, the committee said.
The flight data recorder gathers 25 hours of technical data from the airplane’s sensors, recording several thousand distinct pieces of information, including air speed, altitude, engine performance and wing positions.
The cockpit voice recorder captures sounds from the flight deck, including flight crew conversation, alarms and background noise that can help investigators understand what the flight crew was doing.
Both were recovered by the crew of the John Lethbridge, a privately owned deep-sea survey and recovery vehicle contracted by Egypt’s government to aid in the search.
A French naval vessel helping in the search picked up a signal from one of the devices two weeks ago, helping narrow the search area.
The devices are now on their way back to Alexandria, Egypt, for evaluation, the accident investigation committee said.
While important, the discoveries do not necessarily mean a breakthrough is at hand.
In several previous plane crahses — such as the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 or the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 on September 11, 2001 — authorities had hoped to find clues in the recorders only to discover that the data had been damaged or the recordings had stopped suddenly.
What caused the flight to suddenly disappear from radar as it cruised over the Mediterranean with 66 people aboard has been the subject of intense speculation.
Theories have ranged from mechanical failure to terrorism.