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EgyptAir Flight From Paris To Cairo Vanished From Radar In Egyptian Airspace

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The search is underway for EgyptAir Flight 804, which vanished from radars moments after entering Egyptian airspace. It was traveling from Paris to Cairo. And for more, we're joined by NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who's on the line now from Paris, and Todd Curtis, who runs the website AirSafe, where he follows aviation developments. He joins us via Skype. Good morning to you both.

TODD CURTIS: Thanks for having me.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with you, Eleanor, because just moments ago, there in Paris, President Francois Hollande announced that the plane had indeed crashed. That is the latest news of this morning. What else did he have to say?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Renee, he used phrasing. He didn't use the word crash. But he said - unfortunately, we confirm now that this EgyptAir flight has broken up or been damaged and disappeared, which - I think he was avoiding using the word crash. But he - that means, you know, it's been damaged, and it's disappeared. So he said that...

MONTAGNE: And it's broken up. Those were his words.

BEARDSLEY: Well, that's what the word (speaking French) he used - I think - you know, I've checking with, you know, French natives. I know what it means. But just to be sure, that's basically what it means, although he didn't come out and say the word crash. Anyway, he also said no, you know, nothing could be ruled out. And he didn't - he mentioned terrorism. But he said we don't know yet.

And he just said that Egypt, France and Greece were working very closely together. France has offered to send ships to search the Mediterranean Sea, where the plane was last, you know, tracked. And that's where we are right now. Also, the Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into the disappearance - insight into the disappearance of the flight.

MONTAGNE: Todd Curtis, let me turn to you. You've heard just what Eleanor said. Can you give us some insight into the plane itself? Does it have a history of technical malfunctions?

CURTIS: Well, the A320 is an aircraft that's been in operation for several decades. And although it has had several accidents and other events in the past that have led to passengers being injured and killed, this is an aircraft that doesn't have any outstanding issues, as far as its design or operation. There are no bulletins out, let's say, grounding the aircraft because of a suspected problem with one of the systems. So until there's further evidence from this particular event, it's hard to say if what happened had anything to do with the aircraft.

MONTAGNE: We're being very careful not to speculate about things we don't know. But generally speaking, do you know what it means when a plane does not send out a distress signal in a scenario as we understand it in this case?

CURTIS: Well, in an emergency situation, one where the crew has some sort of a opportunity to respond to something happening that's unexpected, it's not unusual to not see any communication from the pilots. The primary concerns in any sort of unusual situation is to first, keep the airplane flying, and second, maneuver the aircraft in some way so they can either safely continue to fly it or safely land.

Communicating with the outside world is not a high priority. So the fact that there was no signal sent by the pilots, either a voice signal or something from the transponder - let's say, a coded signal from the transponder - doesn't necessarily say what may have happened to the airplane.

MONTAGNE: Well, we'll be following this story throughout the morning. And we're going to have to leave it at that. But Dr. Todd Curtis, aviation expert, with the website AirSafe. Thank you very much for joining us.

CURTIS: Thank you again.

MONTAGNE: And also NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. We'll be talking to you soon. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.