Progress reported on transcript of EgyptAir cockpit recorder
From Correspondent Carl Rochelle
November 23, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. and Egyptian accident investigators have made progress in their quest for agreement about exactly what's heard on the Egyptair Flight 990 cockpit voice recorder, sources have told CNN.
An official transcript of what was said during the last half hour before the plane crashed into the Atlantic on October 31, killing all 217 aboard, is expected to be completed sometime next week.
"We've got to complete the work. But the Egyptians need to have a few days in order to get home," National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall said.
"And my folks have been working on this investigation non-stop since the event. And I want them to be at home with their families on Thanksgiving," said Hall.
There was concern that the increased Egyptian involvement would significantly delay any decision on whether to turn the case over to the FBI as a possible criminal investigation.
But sources said that Hall would make that decision himself -- likely in the next two weeks.
Hall has said that information on the flight data recorder rules out bad weather or mechanical failure as the cause of the crash of the plane while en route from New York to Cairo.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials, who have cautioned against a rush to judgment, said they're sending two voice specialists and a psychologist to help with the painstaking process of agreeing on what each word means in Arabic -- and then translating it into English.
U.S. investigators are in Egypt studying maintenance and crew personnel records -- especially those of relief co-pilot Gameel el-Batouty who is believed to have been flying the plane when it began its dive into the ocean off Massachusetts.
The heavy-duty salvage ship Smit Pioneer is headed to the crash scene and is expected to arrive early December. Its main mission is to retrieve the cockpit of Flight 990.
And a Boeing 767 cockpit simulator is being programmed with information from the flight data recorder to reenact the final moments of the flight.
Some Egyptian officials insist more physical evidence needs to be looked at before any decision is made about handing the case over to the FBI.
But sources said information from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders will be overriding factors in determining which agency leads the investigation.
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