French officials investigating if Apple devices played a role in 2016 EgyptAir crash
French officials have opened an investigation into the possibility that a deadly Egypt Air crash in May 2016 could have been caused by a fire resulting from two Apple products overheating.
The report comes from French paper Le Parisen (via Business Insider), which says French investigators are pursuing a theory that a pair of mobile devices – a iPhone 6S and an iPad Mini 4 belonging to the plane’s first officer — may have been plugged into an incorrect socket.
This, they suggest, might have led to the overheating of the devices and, thus, a fire in the cockpit that spread and brought down the plane which was traveling from Paris to Cairo.
The theory was first raised in January 2017, after investigators from both France and Egypt concluded that the flight’s crash was most likely caused by a fire, based on data from the plane’s voice recorder and flight data recorder which indicated smoke in both the cockpit and an adjacent bathroom.
But while the French are still exploring different theories, the Egyptians have claimed the fire was the result of an explosion, probably a bomb, citing traces of explosives found of victims’ bodies. A reported lack of cooperation and sharing of evidence from the Egyptians is what’s pushing France to continue pursuing other theories, according to Le Parisen.
As for the suggestion that the mobile device or how they were plugged in may be to blame, it’s understandable why officials would look to that as a possible cause.
We know high capacity lithium ion batteries, like those used in smartphones or laptops, can be prone to catching fire if they are damaged or have defective components. After all, the widespread problem with the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note7 led the FAA to ban the phone from all flights last fall.
But the Note7 has proven to be the exception, not the rule; examples of Apple devices having done so are few and far between.
And, according to one expert, David Learmount, data showing widespread smoke based on multiple alarms suggests the fire might not have started in the cockpit: “…while there were warnings about the window heating systems, there were also smoke alarms in the toilet and avionics bay under the floor. How would the fire have got under there?”
For its part, Apple seems willing to help but they haven’t been asked yet. In an emailed statement to Mashable, a spokesperson for Apple said:
“We haven’t been contacted by GTA [France’s civil aviation organization] or any authority investigating this tragic event. We have not seen any report but we understand there is no evidence to link this event to Apple products. If investigators have questions for us, we would of course assist in any way we can. We rigorously test our products to ensure they meet or exceed international safety standards.”
The investigators have until September 30 to submit their report.