May 3, 2002
10:00 PM   Subscribe

"Writer William Langewiesche, a pilot in his own right, explains why a jet packed with 217 passengers plunged 33,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean in the dead of night--and why it took so long for the U.S. and Egyptian governments to issue an explanation. Using black-box transcripts and radar records, Langewiesche meticulously reconstructs the last minutes of the so-called suicide flight. In a feat of storytelling, he reveals the nasty combination of politics and culture clashes that delayed the official investigation."
posted by semmi (25 comments total)
Wow. Fascinating story. I had wondered whatever happened with that story. It was in the news for a while but the media has since moved on to bigger things apparently.

Good link.
posted by DyRE at 11:48 PM on May 3, 2002

Yeah, ditto, good link. Well-written.

It reminds me of a headline I saw in Cairo: "Mubarak In A Landslide: Record 96% Turnout In 99% Victory." What mentality would cause you to print something so transparently cowed?
posted by maschnitz at 11:58 PM on May 3, 2002

What I find amusing is that the reporter doesn't seem to have much common sense as far as reaching "mystery man" Mamdouh Heshmat. Doesn't seem that mysterious or hard to reach to me...

Gen. Mamdouh Heshmat, Director of Airports Sector
Tel: (20-2) 244-6864 & Fax: (20-2) 247-0351
posted by markkraft at 12:54 AM on May 4, 2002

posted by donkeyschlong at 2:14 AM on May 4, 2002

Awesome read! Absolutely riveting. --Crasspastor Metafilter

Why don't you call him markkraft and report back to this thread. Anybody can muster a phone number, but does who you call return them?
posted by crasspastor at 2:35 AM on May 4, 2002

"I rely on God." At the time, I was wondering whether this was a case of a pilot who wasn't losing his cool with a "WTF?" reaction but was concentrating on doing his job and let his emotions emerge only in the form of a muttered prayer.
posted by alumshubby at 6:14 AM on May 4, 2002

Great link.
posted by gi_wrighty at 6:22 AM on May 4, 2002

Markkraft, there's no indication that this is the same man (although I would agree that the odds are good). Also, he could also be an in absentia official, on paper for appearances only, and the document is from one-and-a-half years old to three-and-a-half years old, and therefore likely out of date. Anyway, any reporter will tell you that having a phone number doesn't necessarily put you any closer to reaching your target. You can have all the phone books in the world and that won't stop lies ("He's not here."), hang-ups or delaying tactics ("He'll get back to you tomorrow."). Plus it's Egypt: do you have any idea what it's like to find *anyone* there?
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:11 AM on May 4, 2002 [1 favorite]

So my grandfather was planning an Egypt trip, and a week before his trip he called to verify arrangements with the tour company and they told him that there were no single rooms available, and they'd booked him for a double at an extra cost of $600, so he cancelled and rescheduled for two weeks later when they could accomodate the single occupancy.

This is the flight he was booked on before the switch.
posted by kfury at 7:39 AM on May 4, 2002

The Final NTSB Report was issued this spring, and the Egyptians continue to dispute the findings.
posted by dhartung at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2002

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
posted by NortonDC at 8:45 AM on May 4, 2002

...saying it will press on with its own investigation.

Yeah. Press on fellas. They turn the investigation over to the NTSB and then don't like the results. Way to go. Never let the facts stand in the way of rightous indignation.. sigh..
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:05 AM on May 4, 2002

I don't understand why the Egyptians are so worked up. Did anyone ever find any conspiracy connections to this dude? Isn't the CW that he just went spectacularly apeshit?
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:24 AM on May 4, 2002

OBTW Semmi, forgot to say: Great link. Lengthy article but riveting nonetheless. Thanks.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:29 AM on May 4, 2002

Agree with everyone else: great link. Link o' the Week candidate. Maybe Link 'o the Month.

<flamebait> Raises issues about the differences between cultures of government in First vs. Third World countries. </flamebait>
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2002

I don't think that's flamebait, Slithy. Third world governments are generally shittier than first world governments. Par for the course.
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:43 AM on May 4, 2002

By the way, Langewieshe's essay The Turn, which outlines the deceptive perils of flying when one can't see the horizon, is fascinating and instructive. It also seems to have described the common pilot error that likely caused the death of JFK Jr -- well in advance of the event.
posted by BT at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2002

Speaking of Langewiesche, he's got a 3-part series starting with the July Atlantic about his "unlimited access" to the Ground Zero rescue & cleanup efforts. The Atlantic's been hyping it a lot lately to drive up their subscription rate. If the EgyptAir article is any indication, I bet it turns out damn good.
posted by espada at 12:34 PM on May 4, 2002

Absolutely fascinating article, and a great link.

What really impacted me was the extremely detailed and horrific recounting of the cockpit voice recorder. Langewiesche did a good job at actually putting you in the cockpit, struggling for control of both a huge plane in a fatal nosedive and a co-pilot who seems to have lost his mind.

Great, if harrowing, read, and fills in a lot of the details the major media missed. Thanks for posting it.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:59 PM on May 4, 2002

To respond to the obvious interest both about Egypt and flying, here are two more great pieces of writings, in one
Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker, reports on Egypt, on its people and their feelings about the state of the Middle East, and the other is Malcolm Gladwell's article on "why some people choke and others panic," that deals with, among other examples, the plane crash in which John F. Kennedy, Jr., was killed.
posted by semmi at 2:56 PM on May 4, 2002

To reference donkeyschlong's comment, are government's shitty because they control a Third World country, or are countries Third World because they are controlled by a shitty government?
posted by guy_parsons at 6:21 PM on May 4, 2002

Langewiesche also has a very good book out that collects his aviation writings. It's called "Inside the Sky" (and I'd link to Amazon if I didn't believe in independent booksellers.) I highly recommend it -- he's a great writer.
posted by Vidiot at 11:57 AM on May 6, 2002

Who is Amazon dependent on?

Seriously, what disqualifies them from "independent" status?
posted by NortonDC at 1:05 PM on May 6, 2002

(AP) Egypt on Sunday rejected a U.S. report blaming an Egyptian co-pilot for the 1999 crash of an EgyptAir Boeing 767 over the Atlantic, saying it will press on with its own investigation.

Egyptian officials said they had hired an expert in continuing investigations, Mr. Orenthal James Simpson, to assist in their undying search for the truth.
posted by sacre_bleu at 2:36 AM on May 7, 2002

Who is Amazon dependent on? Seriously, what disqualifies them from "independent" status?

True. Amazon IS independent. I just prefer the corner bookstore that has good coffee and interesting people.
posted by Vidiot at 3:08 PM on May 19, 2002

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