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EgyptAir Recorder Focus of Search

November 12, 1999

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) _ The search for the cockpit voice recorder of EgyptAir Flight 990 resumed Friday after the robot Magnum underwent emergency repairs and was launched back into the sea.

Rough seas, mechanical glitches and piles of debris hiding the ``black box″ have thwarted searchers, whose need for the cockpit recording grows in the absence of evidence that the plane had mechanical problems.

Preliminary information from the flight data recorder showed that the flight was normal until the autopilot was disengaged and the plane pitched sharply down in a controlled descent from 33,000 feet. The voice recorder may reveal the best explanation of the sudden plunge.

The FBI was examining the backgrounds of passengers and crew members on the flight, including a look into the emotional stability of the flight’s co-pilot, a source close to the investigation, who asked not to be named, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Navy’s giant high-tech robot Magnum was sent back in search of the second black box Friday afternoon following technical repairs.

The Deep Drone, the smaller remote-controlled robot that snared the plane’s data recorder Tuesday, was headed to the crash site to join in the search.

The Cairo-bound Boeing 767 crashed Oct. 31, shortly after takeoff from New York. All 217 on board were killed.

The preliminary study of the flight data recorder indicated no sign of trouble until the autopilot was disengaged. Eight seconds later the aircraft went into a steep dive. About 40 seconds later, the jet reached 16,000 feet and then climbed back up to 24,000 feet before it fell rapidly, apparently breaking up before slamming into the ocean.

Aviation experts suggested a sudden decompression _ possibly caused by a door blowing off, or an explosion _ forced the pilot to rapidly descend to an altitude where passengers could breathe.

The FBI is examining criminal possibilities including terrorism, sabotage, skyjacking, suicide or some other issue with a passenger or a crew member. No evidence of a crime has been found.

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