No Mayday Call from Egypt Air Flight 804

Aviation expert Clive Irving suggests that, because the Egypt Air pilots made no mayday call, they must have been killed before the aircraft crashed.  In other words, the crash was the result of terrorism rather than a mechanical issue.

Normally in a fire and smoke emergency the pilots would have time to don smoke masks with microphones in them, and would be able to send a Mayday, and describe the problem. The Egyptian pilots clearly were never able to do this, suggesting the possibility that they were either disabled or killed at the onset of whatever overcame the airplane so rapidly.

I'm guessing Mr. Irving never experienced a significant in flight emergency.  Those who have understand that the last thing a pilot facing an emergency feels the need to do is broadcast a mayday or “describe the problem” to some air traffic controller sitting in a warm dark room hundreds of miles away, sipping coffee.  And calling air traffic control to “describe the problem” is a task that appears on few, if any, emergency checklists.   Sure, pilots in distress broadcast “Mayday! Mayday!” all the time – in the movies.  But that’s about it.

“Mayday” is from the French, “m’aidez”, meaning “help me.”  When you are 6 miles over the ocean and dealing with smoke in the cockpit there is nothing an air traffic controller can do to help you.  Nothing at all.  The smoke is entirely your problem.  In an emergency, communicating with an air traffic controller is most often a distraction to be avoided or at least deferred until time and bandwidth permits. 

We don’t yet know whether the flight 805 crashed due to a mechanical problem or a terrorist act.  But the fact that the pilots made no mayday call suggests nothing.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Martin - May 23, 2016 3:45 PM

That's assuming there was "smoke" in the cockpit area. The ACARS report tells little as does the decent profile. Its the usual case of patience and analysis of recovered factual wreckage and hopefully data recorders.

Ali Kartal - June 8, 2017 9:01 AM

Avigate, navigate, communicate. In an in flight emergency, this is the order of priority. Any pilot or flight crew worthy of their salt will follow this order of priority without even thinking. You don' t jump to the next one before accomplishing the previous. The fact that they never made a broadcast only means that they never got to the "communicate" part. It says nothing about what happened in the cockpit.

Thanks for the post, Michael.

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