OT Update on MS990

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(from 2000/03/21 Washington Post article--URL not available)


Sources close to Egyptian investigators said U.S. authorities are mistaken if they think Egypt has decided Batouti could not have caused the crash. They acknowledge that he must have cut off the autopilot and that he may have pushed the plane into a dive. But they say that is not enough to support a "mass murder" theory.

Two other scenarios are possible and have not been disproved, they say. First, there may have been a so-far hidden malfunction of the elevator. They point out that many years went by before investigators began to suspect a defect in the rudder power control unit of another plane, the Boeing 737.

Second, they say Batouti may have seen--or thought he saw--some exterior risk, possibly including an imminent collision with another plane. They assert that because of an air traffic controller's mistake, the plane was not tracked by radar for five minutes, and there was military air traffic in the area.

U.S. officials say the unusual go-slow, low-key approach, as a result of the diplomatic sensitivity of the investigation, "is not having a practical effect on the determination of what caused the crash and is not that significant." However, others say the Egyptians have been pursuing their own go-slow policy.

While the Egyptian government has cooperated with the safety board and the bureau, they say, Egyptian law enforcement officials have not aggressively pursued every lead.

"In the quest to learn more about Batouti, the U.S. has encountered artificial difficulties in not getting all the help they need from the Egyptians," a Clinton administration official said.

After another EgyptAir pilot, known to those working on the case as "the defector," left an EgyptAir flight in London some weeks ago and declared that he had information about what really happened, FBI officials hoped they could crack the case. But even though the defector offered numerous possible explanations why Batouti would crash the plane, there were significant questions about the defector's credibility, sources said.

Nonetheless, U.S. officials said some of the information was useful. And the defector's credibility got a boost when the head of EgyptAir announced that the defector had serious personnel and other problems and could not be relied on. Clinton administration officials said it didn't make sense that the head of the airline would denounce the defector as inept and unstable just after he had been permitted to fly an EgyptAir plane to London.

(end of aricle)

Note: "the plane was not tracked by radar for five minutes...." may not be verified.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 21, 2000

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