Now It's Down to Sifting EgyptAir Wreckage

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EgyptAir 990 is showing signs of going the way of TWA 800 — a mysterious disaster whose investigation produces no answers, only forensically guided hypotheses. Hopes that the cockpit voice recorder would unlock the mystery appear to have been dashed Monday, as sources close to the investigation indicated that the tape provided no answers. Evidence from the first "black box" had established that the Boeing 767's engines were turned off at 33,000 feet, precipitating a plunge of 16,000 feet in just 40 seconds before the plane steeply climbed for a mile and a half and then finally plunged into the ocean. That shifted the locus of the investigation — and most conspiratorial conjecture — to the cockpit, and the factors that might have prompted the crew to turn off the engines. But the "black box" tape of the pilot and copilot's last conversation proved disappointing: "Something happens. Alarms go off. Both work to try to fix it," a source told the AP. "There is some kind of problem that they're dealing with. It gets progressively worse. And the tape stops." Most important, they don't say what the problem is.

The earlier conclusion that the engines had been turned off had prompted wild speculation over possible motives among the crew, or even a hijacking scenario, and federal officials had reportedly been considering turning the investigation over to the FBI. But the voice recording of the final moments in the cockpit apparently gives no hint of any malfeasance, nor does it offer any other explanation for the crisis to which the crew were responding. And that means we may have to reconcile ourselves with the maddening possibility that, once again, we may never know.