EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo disappears from radar; nearly 70 on board

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EgyptAir Flight 804 headed from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar with 66 people on board, an airline official said Thursday.

The plane was flying at 37,000 feet when it vanished with 56 passengers and 10 crew members, the airline tweeted.

The Egyptian navy is conducting search and rescue operations with help from Greek authorities.

What we know so far:

Passengers on board the Airbus A320 included two infants and one child, said Capt. Ahmed Adel, a vice chairman at EgyptAir. Earlier, the airline said 69 people were on board. It was unclear why there were conflicting numbers.

The flight left Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport at 11:09 p.m. local time and was supposed to land in Cairo at 3.15 a.m. Thursday. Both the departure and arrival cities are in the same time zone.

The location of last contact was 173 miles (280 kilometers) from the Egyptian coast, the airline tweeted. That contradicted earlier information provided by the airline.

The plane’s captain had 6,000 flying hours while the first officer had 4,000, Adel said.

The Egyptian navy is conducting search and rescue operations in the area it vanished, CNN’s Ian Lee said from Cairo.

There was no special cargo on the flight and no notification of any dangerous goods aboard, Adel said. There was no confirmation of a distress call either, he said.

The plane entered EgyptAir’s service on November 3, 2003, he added. Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has arrived at the command center at Cairo airport. The airline also provided phone numbers for the relatives of family members.

Some of the nationalities of crew and passengers

Those on board came from various nations including France, Egypt, Britain, Belgium, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.

Analysts weigh in

CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest said the plane vanished while cruising — the safest part of the journey.

“Planes just do not fall out of the sky for no reason, particularly at 37,000 feet,” he said.

The fact that it entered Egypt airspace and did not report in is highly significant, CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo added.

“Since they were 10 miles into Egypt airspace, they should have reported in. If anything had been going on they would have reported at that time,” she said.

Experts said while it’s too early to determine what happened, the first priority is to find survivors.

“Find the plane, find the people, see if there are folks that could be rescued,” said David Soucie, a CNN aviation safety analyst. “Safety people are looking at safety issues, maintenance people looking at maintenance issues, security people looking at security issues.”

Weather conditions

Conditions were clear and calm when the plane crossed over the Mediterranean Sea, according to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

“The area in question in the eastern Mediterranean is currently under clear skies, but computer models suggest a storm system may impact the region as early as Friday afternoon,” he said. “Once the plane reached the Adriatic Sea, several hours into its journey, clouds were beginning to clear and it remained that way for at least another 1-2 hours before the plane’s final known location.”

If there are any survivors, there’s still a window to save them.

“The water temperatures in the eastern Mediterranean near Egypt are in the low 20s Celsius [mid to low 70s Fahrenheit],” Javaheri said. “Survival times in such waters range from 2-7 hours for the elderly or individuals in poor health, while they range anywhere from 2 to 40 hours for healthier individuals.”

Developing story – more to come.