Pilot’s Cigarette Caused Crash That Killed 66 People, Investigation Finds


A pilot’s cigarette caused a crash that killed 66 people, an investigation by France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) found.

EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed en route to Cairo, killing all 66 people on board. It was caused by a pilot who had a cigarette in the cockpit and started a fire.

On May 19, 2016, EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Cairo International Airport when it went down between the Greek island of Crete and northern Egypt.

Mohamed Said Shoukair’s mid-air smoke break led to a fire on board the Airbus A320 jet when his cigarette ignited oxygen leaking from an oxygen mask in the cockpit, concluded the (BEA).

56 passengers and 10 crew members, among them 12 French nationals, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, one Canadian, and one British citizen, perished in the disaster.

Initially, Egyptian authorities said that the plane crash resulted from a terrorist attack, claiming that traces of explosives had been found on the bodies of the victims. However, those theories were refuted.

France’s BEA determined that the flight went down because of a fire onboard based on an analysis of data from the aircraft’s black box recorder, which was recovered from deep water near Greece by the US Navy in 2018. Yet, investigators did not say what specifically caused the onboard inferno at the time.

BEA released a new report alleging that oxygen had leaked from a pilot’s oxygen mask in the cockpit shortly before the crash in March 2022. This is based on the black box data that recorded the sound of the oxygen hissing.

An EgyptAir maintenance worker had replaced the faulty mask just three days before the tragic flight. However, the release valve was set to the “emergency position” for an unknown reason, which according to the Airbus safety manual, could cause leaks.

At the time of the incident, EgyptAir pilots were allowed to smoke in the cockpit. This rule has been changed since the accident.

According to French aviation experts, the stage for the fire had been set by the onboard smoking, combined with the leaking oxygen.

In front of the Paris Court of Appeals, the fatal plane crash is currently the focus of a manslaughter case.

At the request of local judges, the 134-page report, which was reviewed by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Serra, was released to the Parisian court.

In 2018, Egypt rejected BEA’s initial findings, dismissing them as “unfounded.” Egypt has also refused to release its report on the crash.

Egyptian authorities have been accused of failing to cooperate with the investigation by families of the victims.

The new report showed that the crash was caused by human error, Antoine Lachenaud, a lawyer representing the family of Clement Daeschner-Cormary, a 26-year-old passenger who died, said.

“When warnings are ignored in a systematic manner, this results in a crash, and it becomes impossible to maintain that this is due to chance,” he said.

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