Greece Deploys Ship, Aircraft to Search for EgyptAir Plane

ATHENS (Reuters/AP) -
A frosted glass partition is seen at the EgyptAir counter at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris, France, Thursday, May 19, 2016.  EgyptAir said a flight from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar early Thursday morning. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)
A frosted glass partition is seen at the EgyptAir counter at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris, France, Thursday. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

Greece is deploying military aircraft and a frigate to an area in the southern Mediterranean where an EgyptAir aircraft vanished from radar screens early on Thursday, its defense ministry said.

The search for the missing EgyptAir plane was taking place at sea, about 130 nautical miles southeast of the island of Karpathos, the Greek defense ministry said.

“One C-130 aircraft and an early-warning EMB-145H plane are already operating in the area. Another C-130 plane is on standby at Kasteli airport on the (southern Greek) island of Crete,” Greece’s military command said.

A civil aviation source said the operation was conducted in an area between Greek and Egyptian airspace.

The navy frigate Nikiforos Fokas was sailing to the area and two helicopters were ready to operate from Karpathos, it said.

The French military says a Falcon surveillance jet monitoring the Mediterranean for migrants has been diverted to help join the search.

Military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron told The Associated Press that the jet is joining the Egypt-led search effort, and the French navy may send another plane and a ship to the zone.

He said the Falcon was on a surveillance mission as part of EU efforts to monitor migrants crossing the Mediterranean toward Europe.

The director of Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority said that air traffic controllers were in contact with the pilot of the EgyptAir flight as it passed through Greek airspace.

The director, Konstantinos Lintzerakos, said the plane was at 37,000 feet, traveling at 519 mph, and did not report any problem.

Lyzerakos told private Antenna television that controllers tried to make contact with the pilot 10 miles before the flight exited the Greek Flight Information Range (FIR), but the pilot did not respond. Lyzerakos says controllers continued trying to contact the pilot until 3:39 a.m. Greek time when the plane disappeared from the radar.

Lyzerakos says the plane was in Cairo’s FIR when it vanished.

A defense ministry source said authorities were also investigating an account from the captain of a merchant ship who reported seeing a “flame in the sky” in the area.