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Airbus A320 Used By EgyptAir Disappears On Flight From Paris To Cairo


And we are following the story of EgyptAir Flight 804. This morning the plane vanished on its way to Cairo from Paris just after entering Egyptian airspace. Egypt and French officials have offered condolences for the loss of their respective citizens. And they say they plan to work together to investigate what happened.


For more about what we know and what we don't know, we're joined once again by NPR's Eleanor Beardsley on the line from Paris. Our Russell Lewis joins us from Birmingham, Ala. And with us also is Declan Walsh. He's The New York Times bureau chief in Cairo. Good morning to you all.

And, Declan Walsh, I'd like to start with you. What do you know about where you are in Cairo about what's happened at this hour? Hello, Declan? All right, let me then revert since we can't get him on the line to you, Eleanor Beardsley. In Paris, you've been following this. What do we know at this moment?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, we just had a statement from Airbus saying it regretted the loss of this Airbus A320 plane over the Mediterranean. It was cruising at 37,000 feet and had just entered Egyptian airspace when it disappeared. And apart from that, no one knows what happened.

The French prime minister said no theory could be, you know, ruled out at this point. And there's much speculation all over the French media about what has happened to that plane. With 56 passengers and 10 crewmembers on board, 15 French nationals, 30 Egyptians and various other nationalities.

MONTAGNE: Well, Russell Lewis, let me turn to you. You cover aviation for us here at NPR. What do you know about this plane?

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Well, this particular plane - the Airbus A320 - this particular one was manufactured in 2003. It had flown about 48,000 flight hours, which sounds like a lot. But in the aviation world, it's not. It's like a typical airplane. The Airbus A320 in general, part of that family, so that's also the Airbus A318, the 319, the 320, 321. It is a workhorse of the aviation fleet. It has been around since 1988.

Currently, there are almost 7,000 Airbus A320s in that family that are currently flying. And it has been around for a while, and has got a great safety record. And it is a workhorse of the aviation fleet.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, we have Declan Walsh back there in Cairo. Let me just ask you - Egypt has said 30 of the passengers are Egyptian. What can you tell us about the scene at the airport there?

DECLAN WALSH: Well, the relatives and friends of passengers who were due to arrive here this morning at about 3:30 local time and have been shepherded by the airport party into a separate area. And they've been kept there separate from the media while they're waiting for information.

And there's been a small trickle of people in and out of the airport. And many of them obviously looking very upset and saying they have - in the little that they've spoken to reporters saying they have no information about what's going on. And obviously, they're intensely worried about their friends and relatives on the flight.

MONTAGNE: And, of course, this has happened before in Egypt. A couple of spectacular losses of planes. The government has been criticized for how it handles these events. Is it taking charge right now?

WALSH: It's certainly trying to give the impression. The airline has been issuing a lot of information particularly over Twitter feeds. But the government is battling this perception. And the shadow, if you like, of the Russian aircraft - air crash from last October hangs very much over this when a passenger jet went down over the Sinai killing all 224 people on board.

And shortly after that, the Islamic State claimed responsibility saying that it planted a bomb on the plane. And even though the British and the Russian governments seems to agree with the terrorist link, shortly afterward the Egyptians denied it for many, many months. And it was only about February or March that the president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and other government officials started to admit the terrorist hypothesis.

So there's a lot of pressure on the Egyptians to, if you like, be as transparent as they can be about it. But to stress at this point, no government has given any hard indication either about the location of this plane or what may have brought it down, if indeed, it has crashed.

KELLY: Mary Louise jumping in here, trying to piece together what is clearly a still murky, still very much unfolding picture hearing the latest there from Cairo.

Eleanor Beardsley, let me take this back to you in Paris because, of course, that is where the flight took off from. I am guessing - we just have a few seconds here - but they are tightening security in Paris, if that is even impossible given the city's been basically on lockdown since the terror attacks there last year.

BEARDSLEY: Well, exactly, Mary Louise. Imagine an attack at the Brussels airport, two attacks in Paris last year. Roissy - Charles de Gaulle Airport has huge security cameras, soldiers, security technologies. It's a major world hub. But, you know, analysts are saying no security can be 100 percent guaranteed.

KELLY: All Right. Eleanor Beardsley with the latest there from Paris. Thanks also to Declan Walsh, New York Times Cairo Bureau chief and Russell Lewis. Thanks to you all. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.