As It Happens

Manitoba friend of EgyptAir co-pilot searches for answers after crash

A Manitoba pilot has learned his friend was the co-pilot of this morning's crashed EgyptAir flight. Mostafa Ezzo retraces the flight plan of MS804 to understand just how the plane plunged into the Mediterranean Sea before reaching Cairo - and wonders if it was a deliberate act.
Mohamed Mamdouh, 24, is reportedly the co-pilot of the crashed EgyptAir flight MS804. (Facebook)

Officials are still trying to determine whether the EgyptAir plane crash on Thursday was due to a technical failure or an act of terrorism.

Flight MS804 was carrying 66 people when it departed from Paris on Wednesday evening on the way to Cairo. Soon after entering Egyptian airspace, the aircraft swerved, disappeared from radar, and plunged into the Mediterranean Sea. Two Canadians were on board.

Mostafa Ezzo (right) with his friend Mohamed Mamdouh (left), believed to be the co-pilot aboard EgyptAir flight MS804. (Facebook)

Mostafa Ezzo is a regional jet pilot based in Winnipeg. But he's also the friend of the co-pilot, 24-year-old Mohamed Mamdouh, who was on-board. 

"He was one of my best friends," Ezzo tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "He was a funny person, always jokes, and he works very hard."

Flight 804 disappeared early Thursday morning en route to Cairo. EgyptAir said it was about 16 kilometres within Egypt airspace when it disappeared from radar. (The Canadian Press)

Ezzo went to flight school with Mamdouh and they lived together in Egypt for a year during their study. For a first officer position, Ezzo notes that Mamdouh had already accumulated close to 3,000 hours.

"He had very good experience on that airbus," Ezzo explains.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi speaks at a press conference following the early Thursday morning crash of an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board, in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 19, 2016. (Ahmed Abd el Fattah/Associated Press)

Egypt's minister of civil aviation, Sherif Fathy, has said that terrorism was more likely than technical failure -- to be the cause of the crash. But Ezzo says he is still waiting for evidence before he speculates on what went wrong.

"Basically we have a lot of options to go through," Ezzo explains. "The possibility here is the transponder went off. How it went off? That we don't know."

Relatives of passengers on a vanished EgyptAir flight grieve as they leave the in-flight service building where they were held at Cairo International Airport, Egypt, Thursday, May 19, 2016. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)

Reports from the Greek Defence Minister suggest that there was a critical two-minute time frame, where the plane swerved 90 degrees to the left, and began to plummet from 11,000 metres in the air. It then took a sharp right turn, disappeared from radar and crashed.

"I'm not an airbus pilot, so it's very hard to explain," Ezzo cautions. "The only possibility that I can guess in this situation is an engine fire or a wing fire."

He says information from the Central Fault Display System, which records and sends technical problems to the airline company, will be crucial to piecing together what happened.

"If it was a technical problem then EgyptAir will have the answers but they haven't provided us with anything yet," Ezzo adds.


Whatever may have happened, Ezzo is confident that his friend would have done everything he could to resolve the problem. As he waits for more information to be released Ezzo says his thoughts are on the loss of his friend and the community of pilots who knew him. 

"He was one of the best pilots I've trained with," Ezzo explains. "Basically we're just cheering each other up and being there for his family, his father and his sister."


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