EgyptAir Flight 804 vanished from radar Thursday morning on its way from Paris to Cairo. Questions abound, including what happened to the 66 people on board.
Here’s what we know so far:
Before the flight
Prior to taking off from Paris, the Airbus A320 made stops in Eritrea and Tunis, data from flight-tracking websites show.
The flight plan
Flight 804 left Charles de Gaulle Airport at 11:09 p.m. Paris time Wednesday and was supposed to land in Cairo at 3:15 a.m. Thursday. (Paris and Cairo share the same time zone. All times listed below are for Paris/Cairo.)
The 66 passengers included 30 Egyptians and 15 French, EgyptAir said.
Others were from Britain, Belgium, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.
Three children were among those on board, including two infants, EgyptAir Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel said.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathy said there were no known security issues with passengers on the plane, but said further checks are underway.
The airline said it will release the passenger manifest after next of kin are contacted.
Greek air traffic controllers talked to the pilot when the plane was near the Greek island of Kea. Everything seemed fine until the plane, now over the eastern Mediterranean Sea, approached Egyptian airspace.
About 2:27 a.m., Greek air traffic control tried to reach the pilots to hand off control from Greece to Egypt. But the pilots did not respond; officials don’t know why.
Immediately after the plane entered Cairo airspace, the plane swerved 90 degrees to the left and then 360 degrees to the right.
It also descended from 37,000 feet to 10,000 feet “when we lost the signal,” Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told reporters.
The plane vanished while cruising — the safest part of the journey,” CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest said.
“Planes just do not fall out of the sky for no reason — particularly at 37,000 feet,” he said.
The pilots and plane
The captain had 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 on the A320. The co-pilot had 2,766 flying hours.
The Airbus A320 was part of EgyptAir’s service since November 3, 2003, with about 48,000 flight hours.
Routine maintenance checks were done Wednesday in Cairo before it left for Paris, an airline official said.
The plane’s engines were made by U.S. company Pratt & Whitney, according to an American official. The National Transportation Safety Board is in contact with Pratt & Whitney, and ready to assist in the investigation if asked by Egyptian authorities.
The weather was clear and calm when the plane crossed over the Mediterranean, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.
The cause is more likely to be terrorism than a technical issue, said Fathy, Egypt’s civil aviation minister.
“I don’t want to go to speculation. I don’t want to go to assumptions like others,” Fathy said. “But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem.”
The early theory of U.S. government officials is terrorism, with the initial suspicion that the plane was taken down by a bomb, officials told CNN. They caution that their suspicion is not based on any concrete evidence but on the circumstances.
The U.S. has found no indications of an explosion, but agencies are reviewing systems and satellites that monitor Mediterranean activity for signs of a possible blast at the time of the plane’s disappearance, defense officials said.
“I’m not aware of any sensors that the U.S. military has or deploys — air or maritime — that picked anything up on this,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
The chance of survival
If there are any survivors, there’s still a chance to save them, Javaheri said.
“The water temperatures in the eastern Mediterranean near Egypt are in the low 20s Celsius,” or mid- to low- 70s Fahrenheit, he said.
“Survival times in such waters range from two to seven hours for the elderly or individuals in poor health, while they range anywhere from two to 40 hours for healthier individuals.”
The search and rescue
EgyptAir Vice President Adel retracted his earlier statement that debris believed from Flight 804 had been found near the Greek island of Karpathos.
“We stand corrected on finding the wreckage because what we identified is not a part of our plane,” he told CNN. “So the search and rescue is still going on.”
The U.S. Navy is providing a P-3 Orion aircraft to help in the search effort, according to Lt. Col. David Westover of the U.S. European Command.
Britain has deployed a naval vessel, RFA Lyme Bay, and has offered a C-130 aircraft from RAF Akrotiri base on Cyprus, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told CNN.
The French air accident investigation agency BEA was sending a team to Egypt that included investigators and an Airbus technical adviser.
French navy spokesman Didier Piaton told CNN affiliate BFMTV that a French navy Falcon jet, normally used in surveillance of the Mediterranean for refugees, has a the search. Additionally, Greece, Cyprus and Italy assisted in search efforts, according to a statement on the Egyptian Armed forces Facebook page.