Egyptians Dismiss FBI Report on Co-Pilot's Behavior
(iviews.com) Egypt Air officials dismissed a report by U.S. authorities that co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti of Egypt Air flight 990, which crashed off the U.S. coast last October, had a history of sexual misconduct.
During a news conference on Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released a report that Gamil al-Batouti was the subject of a hotel investigation for a pattern of sexually harassing guests and members of the hotel staff. The report came just hours before the National Transportation Safety Board released its docket, providing the public with the first official glimpse of the investigation.
The FBI report detailed complaints that al-Batouti had exposed himself and made unwanted sexual advances toward staff members and hotel guests. Hotel officials said they had considered banning him, but al-Batouti denied the allegations, saying that he was being harassed.
During the news conference, an Egyptian reporter asked officials the relevance of al-Batouti's alleged behavior to the crash investigation and then began discussing U.S. President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Al-Batouti has been the subject of much speculation, as leaks from the U.S. investigation implicated him for deliberately crashing the plane. Within two weeks of the accident, the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder were retrieved from the ocean floor and initially analyzed by the NTSB. The relief first officer's repeated words, "I rely on God," were misinterpreted to suggest a desperate act as he attempted to respond to events. The U.S. theory was based upon mis-translations and misunderstanding of Arabic phrases uttered by al-Batouti as the plane went down.
Egyptians -- both Muslims and Christians -- often use the invocation, "I rely on God," throughout their day-to-day activities and particularly when they need or seek God's support.
"Careful examination of FBI interviews indicates the relief first officer's behavior in a New York hotel is largely unsubstantiated," said Captain Shaker Kelada, Vice President of Safety for EgyptAir, who headed the EgyptAir investigative team working side-by-side with the NTSB. "The reports do not establish any link between the purported allegations and actions by the relief first officer. Attempts to focus on this are a 'smokescreen' -- designed to divert attention from the fact there is no credible evidence anywhere to indicate he intentionally dove the aircraft into the ocean."
The cockpit voice recorder also reveals conversation between two people in the cockpit as the flight crew fought to save the aircraft. At one juncture, the transcript revealed, the captain instructed that the engines be shut. The captain said, "Did you shut the engines? Shut the engines." The response: "It's shut." Egypt Air and other aviation experts maintain shutting off fuel to the engines is the first step in any attempt to re-start them.
"There is nothing on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) or the flight data recorder (FDR) to indicate that Flight 990 was intentionally crashed into the ocean," said Kelada.
"In fact, the docket indicates that the aircraft recovered from a sharp descent during the final moments of the flight, indicative of the crew's attempt to save the aircraft," said Carl Vogt, former chairman of the NTSB who is assisting members of the investigative team.
In addition, Egypt Air officials maintain detailed analysis of the flight data recorder and subsequent Boeing 767 simulator tests failed to provide credible evidence supporting the early suspicion that the so-called "split elevators" resulted from any fight in the cockpit for control of the aircraft.
Metallurgical analysis of the Flight 990 wreckage showed that the rivets on two of the three bell cranks in the right elevator were sheared in a direction that would force the elevator down. The rivets on the remaining bell crank on the right elevator were sheared in the opposite direction.
"This pattern of sheared bell crank rivets is consistent with the possible failure or jam of two power control units that would cause the airplane to pitch down," added Kelada.
In addition, the potential for the unexplained shearing of the bell crank rivets was discovered earlier this year on an AeroMexico 767 while it was on the tarmac. The accident investigation also has uncovered other instances where elevator bell crank rivets on 767 aircraft have sheared. A power control unit from the right elevator of Flight 990 showed several anomalies and unexplained damage when it was examined.
The information on this issue prompted the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority to send a letter to Jane Garvey, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on June 4, 2000. The FAA has promised a response by late September. Boeing, manufacturer of the aircraft, already has asked all airlines that fly the 767 to check for any evidence of this problem.
According to a Boeing report included in the docket, at least 11 instances of sheared rivets have been uncovered as a result of the aircraft manufacturer's inquiry.
The elevators and rudder in the tail are critical to a plane's airworthiness. Several years ago, a US Airways Boeing 737 experienced rudder failure that caused the aircraft to go out of control and crash near Pittsburgh.
The cockpit voice recorder transcript released in the docket revealed voices of other crew members, indicating the relief first officer was not alone, according to Egypt Air officials. The relief first officer was eating dinner when, according to Egyptian and U.S. aviation experts, a problem apparently presented itself and he set his tray aside to handle it. With the plane still at 31,000 feet, the captain and the relief first officer were working together to save the aircraft, according to Egyptian and U.S. aviation experts.
The same transcript revealed that the first officer relinquished his seat to the relief first officer. This occurred when the relief first officer indicated he could not sleep and, in fact, was going to have dinner.
Al-Batouti's co-workers and family maintain he had no overriding personal, professional, medical or financial problems. To the contrary, he and his family were respected in his community. He was looking forward to his son's upcoming wedding. Even though he had a daughter receiving treatment for Lupus, her situation was improving, and he was able to meet his financial obligations. In addition, throughout his career at EgyptAir, the relief first officer's medical record was devoid of any health or psychological concerns.
Topics: Egypt, Nature And Environment, Travel