CAIRO: Investigators have begun examining the black box flight recorders of an EgyptAir plane that crashed into the Mediterranean last month, hoping to establish the cause of the disaster, authorities said Sunday.
The Airbus A320 operating Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar screens between the Greek island of Crete and the north coast of Egypt on May 19. Sixty-six people were on board.
A vast search operation was launched, finding debris and pieces of the plane's fuselage at the bottom of the Mediterranean, before the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered last week.
The Egypt-led investigative committee began examining the so-called black boxes on Saturday in the presence of representatives from France and the United States, where the engine was made, said Egypt's civil aviation authority.
Both of the devices were damaged and had to be raised from the seabed in several stages, said the authority.
Their memory units were removed at the civil aviation ministry's labs in Cairo and were undergoing testing, it said.
The data on them is to be unloaded, before it is analysed in a procedure that is expected to last several weeks.
If badly damaged, the black boxes would be sent abroad for repairs, otherwise the work could be done in Egypt, the authority has said.
Investigators have said it is too early to determine what caused the plane to crash, although a terror attack has not been ruled out.
France's aviation safety agency has said the aircraft transmitted automated messages indicating smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control unit minutes before it disappeared.
On Monday, Egyptian investigators confirmed the aircraft had made a 90-degree left turn followed by a 360-degree turn to the right before hitting the sea.
The passengers on the plane were 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, two Iraqis, two Canadians, and citizens from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. They included a boy and two babies.
Seven crew and three security personnel were also on board.
The crash came after the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula last October that killed all 224 people on board.