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EgyptAir Flight Data Shows Smoke Detected in Bathroom Before Crash

Data transmitted from a doomed EgyptAir flight minutes before it fell off radar screens suggests a fire had broken out on board the plane.
Image:  EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC
This August 21, 2015 photo shows an EgyptAir Airbus A320 with the registration SU-GCC taking off from Vienna International Airport, Austria. Egyptian aviation officials said on Thursday May 19, 2016 that an EgyptAir plane with the registration SU-GCC, traveling from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board has crashed off the Greek island of Karpathos. Meanwhile, Egypt's chief prosecutor Nabil Sadek says he has ordered an "urgent investigation" into crash. Sadek instructed the National Security Prosecutor to open an "extensive investigation" in the incident.Thomas Ranner / AP file

Data transmitted from a doomed EgyptAir flight minutes before it fell off radar screens suggests a fire had broken out on board the plane, according to an aviation industry website. is reporting that data transmissions from EgyptAir Flight 804 to ground stations show smoke was detected in a bathroom near the cockpit. NBC News has confirmed the messages are authentic.

The ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting) system messages suggest the possibility of smoke or a fire in close proximity to the electronics and equipment bay of the Airbus below the floor of the cockpit.

Messages also seem to indicate there may have been a problem with the controls and computers, critical to controlling the plane.

“We don't know what it is, but it’s a clear indication that something was terribly wrong on flight 804,” John Cox, a former Airbus A320 pilot, told NBC News. The EgyptAir plane that crashed was an Airbus A320.

Related: EgyptAir Debris, Passengers' Belongings Found

The website reported that investigators are poring over the ACARS messages to determine what may have happened on the plane before it went down.

Sixty-six people were aboard the Airbus A320 flying from Paris to Cairo before it vanished early Thursday morning. Wreckage from the plane was found Friday in the Mediterranean Sea some 180 miles off the Egyptian coast.

Terrorism has been cited as a potential cause of the crash — though officials have cautioned against speculation and there has been no credible claim of responsibility from any group.

U.S. intelligence sources tell NBC News they are aware of the report about the ACARS data and have no reason to believe the information is not accurate.

Related: Deep Seas, Underwater Mountains Could Slow EgyptAir Search

The report includes the plane-to-ground messages sent in the final minutes of the flight:




00:29Z 2200 AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT

00:29Z 2700 F/CTL SEC 3 FAULT

An "FCU" refers to a unit in cockpit the pilot uses to input instructions into the flight computer. "SEC3" refers to the computer that controls the spoilers and elevator computers of the plane.

No mayday call was sent from the jet before it disappeared off radar.

Former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Greg Feith said the fact that the smoke warning occurred so soon before the plane disappeared suggest something more catastrophic than a discarded cigarette or electrical fire.

"Electrical fires don’t burn that fast, and of course if somebody were to put a cigarette in a trash can with paper towels it definitely wouldn’t have burned that fast," Feith said.

"It would have set off the sensor but the flight crew is trained to handle those types of fires and it would have given them time. Plus, they probably would have made a radio call," he said.

Meanwhile, investigators are looking at anyone with access to the EgyptAir plane while it was sitting on the ground, including baggage handlers, caterers, cleaners and fuel truck workers.

The EgyptAir plane was on the ground at four different airports in the 24 hours before the crash — in the Eritrean capital Asmara, Cairo, Tunis and Paris.