Missile or Bomb

It did not take long once EgyptAir Flight 990 fell into the ocean for various groups to begin speculating on the hypothetical causes of the crash. Armed with only radar data for up to two weeks, conspiracy theorists, pilots, ex-military personnel and Egyptian officials began surmising about the possibility of a missile or a bomb being the culprit. For example, on November 5th, just five days after the "accident", Cmdr. William Donaldson (Ret.) and Rodney Stitch, a former Federal Aviation Administration investigator, suggested that a bomb caused the plane to depressurize. In response, the pilot attempted an emergency dive to get the plane to a safe lower elevation, but because it had lost hull integrity, the plane broke apart when attempting to level off. One might expect Donaldson to proffer these conclusions based on his legitimate investigation of TWA 800 and its findings that a missile had brought the plane down rather than an electrical spark in the left wing tank, which is the claim made by the NTSB. That assertion made by the NTSB understandably has made Cmdr. Donaldson leery of the agency's legitimacy, or at least forced him to question its independence from other government agencies. The president at the time, Bill Clinton, contributed to the skepticism by ruling out terrorism as a possible cause of EgyptAir's crash before the data recorders were retrieved. (1) Once the FDR and the CVR were salvaged, however, the possibility of cabin depressurization was ruled null. At that point, the task for those considering sabotage as the cause of the crash became interpreting the cockpit conversations (in tandem with the data recorded by the FDR) in such a way that made the actions of the relief co-pilot seem an appropriate response to a perceived threat.

Cmdr. Donaldson


Speculation about sabotage was not limited to pilots and ex-investigators.

Within days of the crash the Egyptian government, in tandem with government-owned Egyptian newspapers, began to suggest sabotage as a likely factor in EgyptAir 990's mysterious destruction. Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarek, began immediately to say the U.S. was somehow responsible for the crash, and the government-owned paper, Al Akhbar Daily, went so far as to suggest the plane was attacked in order to hinder the training of Egyptian military airmen by the United States. The fact that 33 Egyptian military officers were aboard the flight is cause for suspicion, it claimed. "Sabotage is thus highly possible." (2)*

Once the black boxes were recovered, The Associated Press reported on November 24 that "Gen. Issam Ahmed, a senior Egyptian transportation ministry official said...that the plane crashed because of an explosion." He believed that the "tail of the plane...was subjected to an explosion at the height of 33,000" because the black boxes that were significantly damaged were located in the tail. This thread was picked up on the 26th by The Guardian Unlimited when it reported a claim by EgyptAir's chief pilot, Tarek Selim, who deduced that the rapid rate of descent was too great for the Boeing 767, which had a rear stabilizer that only allowed a decent of 7,000 ft. per minute, compared with the 23,000 to 30,000 of flight 990. He concluded that this decent was only possible if the jet was missing the tail, and that this was only possible if it had been attacked by either a bomb in
the tail or a missile. (3)*


Days later, in the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram Weekly (Issue No. 458, Dec. 2-8, 1999), the Chairman of EgyptAir, Mohamed Fahim Rayyan, decried
"the rush to judgment by the US press and media, which had attempted to put the blame on EgyptAir and its pilots." In Amira Ibrahim's article, No Rush Judgments, Rayyan further fueled the speculation about the tail theory when he "expressed the belief that serious damage to the tail unit, caused, perhaps, by a collision with a solid 'body', would explain the rapid descent." (4) In the same issue, Shaden Shehab reported that the Austrian Institute of Aerospace-Medicine and Spacebiology, an independent agency, postulated that the crash could be the result of a "flight stabilizer breakdown," which would have occurred in the tail. The Institute did not say what the potential cause of the stabilizer breakdown could be, but Sayed Dessouki, a Cairo University professor and aviation expert, speculated that "a form of sophisticated bomb was mounted on the tail, and was set to go off when the plane reached a certain altitude." He too furthered the broken-tail/rapid-descent theory by stating, "If anything happens to the plane other than a malfunction in the tail unit, the airplane will remain stable for some time and not go down at such a speed." (5) And finally, to pound the theory home some more, Captain Abdel-Fattah Orabi, who piloted the same plane from Los Angeles to New York before its fateful Cairo journey, concluded in an article by Nevine Khalil (same issue) that the cause of the crash must be a bomb or a missile:

Asked what may have caused the disaster, Orabi said that "it is most likely that the tail was blown away, either by a land-to-air missile or a bomb on board." His reasoning is that the speed at which the plane descended was too great and sudden for it to be a technical problem. "Even during an emergency descent, we do not exceed 8,000 feet per minute," he said. "The fast descent of MS990 was very abnormal. That is why I say the tail was torn away." (6)

At some point, the speculations about damage to the tail section of Flight 990 fell to the wayside. Most likely because the NTSB salvaged those
sections of the aircraft and determined that there was no evidence of explosion, by bomb or missile, before or after impact. At no point did Egypt
dispute that evidence. Obviously, there were strong political factors involved between the U.S. and Egypt concerning the crash, but also, between
Boeing and Egyptian officials, especially from EgyptAir. Early on, as Ibrahim noted, "Rayyan warned that putting the blame on Boeing without evidence might result in undesired consequences for international aviation." (4)

However, once suspicions concerning an explosion were nullified, this truce between Egypt (consumer)and Boeing (producer) was sacrificed for
the political equation. Questions about a possible mechanical failure were no longer "off the table", and became the centerpiece of Egypt's resistance to the NTSB's conclusions.

next theory:

1) http://www.greatdreams.com/bomb2.htm
2) http://www.newsmax.com/articles/?a=1999/11/11/115917
3) http://hometown.aol.com/bardonia/egyptair.htm
4) http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/458/eg6.htm
5) http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/458/eg7.htm
6) http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/458/eg8.htm
* These footnoted items have been taken from secondary sources. In all cases I try to list as much information
as I can about the original source. I can not afford to pay the archive fees for the major US media outlets, therefore
I will have to trust that the original articles have not been misquoted. In some cases, I provide multiple secondary sources for
the same article being quoted or referred to.
© 2003 Jacob Lunow. All rights revered, all wrongs
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