Paris, France (TFC) – In the early hours of 19 May 2016, EgyptAir Flight MS804 disappeared from radar. This disappearance prompted a search and rescue operation by numerous navies and air forces to search for the missing plane. This search eventually found wreckage from the plane and the body parts of its passengers. The downing of this flight has sparked an investigation into its cause. Naturally, many people, including presidential candidates, suspect that the plane was downed by a terrorist attack. However, since the facts surrounding the downing of the plane are unclear, this claim is probably premature. As a result, the evidence for and against this theory should be analyzed.
Since the investigation is ongoing, the facts of the downing of the plane are fuzzy and subject to change. However, at the time of writing, it is believed that EgyptAir Flight MS804 was flying at 37,000 feet. It then made a 90-degree turn to the left, followed by a 360-degree turn as it descended rapidly. It then disappeared from radar at an altitude of 10,000 feet. It is also believed that the smoke was detected in the lavatory and avionics equipment two minutes before the plane disappeared from radar. Many people who have analyzed these facts have argued that it is consistent with a terrorist attack. They would rightfully argue that the smoke is suspicious and consistent with a quick-burning fire or explosion. Alternatively, the erratic flight path of the plane could be consistent with a struggle in the cockpit between the pilots and a possible hijacker. Both of these are consistent with a terrorist attack.
The current evidence suggests that a quick-burning fire in the lavatory and near the avionics equipment was responsible for the downing of the plane. However, it is unclear whether the fire was an accident or was deliberately set. As a result, it is still unclear whether the plane was brought down by terrorism. In addition, there is a good explanation for the sudden 90-degree turn that the plane made. According to Miles O’Brien, CNN’s Aviation Analyst, pilots are trained to make a 90-degree turn while rapidly descending if the plane is in eminent danger of failure. This is done because planes are confined to narrow flight corridors. If a plane were to fail and fall out of the sky, then it could hit other planes flying at a lower altitude within the flight corridor. However, if the plane were to make a 90-degree turn, it would leave the flight corridor, ensuring that it would not hit any other planes on the way down. As a result, there is a reasonable explanation for the 90-degree turn. However, the 360-degree turn remains a mystery as it does not conform to any prescribed emergency maneuvers. As a result, the current evidence does not indicate whether the downing was a terrorist attack.
There is additional circumstantial evidence that should make one skeptical about the terrorism theory. Terrorists use violence to publicize a political message and to intimidate the population into enacting their political objectives. In order to do this, terrorists take credit for the violence and then try to use spectacle to maximize the media coverage of their attack. This is intended to maximize the shock and terror that their attack causes. However, the downing of the EgyptAir flight has failed to do this.
First, as of the time of writing, no one has claimed responsibility for the downing of the plane. In fact, after the plane went missing, ISIS made a statement that entirely ignored the disappearance of the EgyptAir flight. If the plane was downed by a terrorist attack, then this would be rather unusual as terrorist organizations are typically keen to quickly take credit for their attacks. In addition, the location of the flight’s downing is not consistent with a terrorist attack. Terrorists typically want their attacks to have a large audience. As a result, if a terrorist wanted to down a plane, we would expect them to do it over land, where the attack would have a larger audience and where the falling debris could potentially cause even more casualties. However, the plane was downed over the open ocean, which is not conducive to creating the spectacle that terrorists desire. As a result, it would appear that the downing of EgyptAir Flight MS804 is not consistent with the modus operandi of a terror attack.
Immediately after EgyptianAir Flight MS804 went missing, many experts and government officials claimed that this tragedy was the work of terrorists. However, the physical evidence is currently inconclusive and there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that it was not an act of terrorism. Despite this, a terrorist attack still cannot be entirely ruled out at this point in time either. But given what we know so far, the assumption that this tragedy was the work of terrorists, is premature and should be questioned. As a result, we should wait until we have more conclusive evidence before attributing blame for this tragedy.