UPDATE:
 
Greek air traffic control attempted to contact the Airbus A320 when it crossed through Greek airspace but got no response. When the plane reached Cairo airspace on iuts five hour flight, it reportedly swerved sharply then plunged from the 37,000 feet cruising altitude into the Mediterranean. A distress signal was detected in the vicinity where the flight disappeared from radar 2 hours later, but it could have come from another vessel. According to the Egyptian civil aviation minister, the cause of the crash is more likely terrorism than a technical issue. There are reports that debris has been seen in the area of the crash.
 
Among the 66 people aboard EgyptAir Flight MS804 that disappeared from view on a flight this morning from Paris to Cairo, were three air marshals. Officials in Egypt have not yet ruled the crash a terrorist act, even though over terrorism is suspected to have brought down a similar flight last October of a MetroJet flight from Egypt to Moscow. In the case today, the EgyptAir Airbus jetliner crashed over the Mediterranean Sea as it prepared to descend into Egyptian airspace on its approach to Cairo.
 
Most of the passengers were Egyptian nationals, while there were also nationals of Belgium and France on board. Other nationalities were also represented. There were no Americans reported.
 
French transportation minister Alain Vidalies told media today the number of security officers on the flight was "the usual practice." Vidalies said that the plane was not carrying any freight. Flight manifests show that it had been flown to several different airports throughout the Mediterranean region over the last month, including stops in Morocco and Egypt. The plan has an 189 passenger capacity.
 
Former NTSB investigator Greg Feith told MSNBC that Egypt had recently increased air security, which could explain the number of officers on board. "The only other reason to have security personnel like we do here in the U.S. is if they were transporting some sort of prisoner or someone of interest," Feith added. "But most likely this was similar to our federal air marshals flying on this flight."
 
Egyptian aviation security has been under intense scrutiny since the Russian Metrojet passenger plane crashed after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport on October 31, killing all 224 people on board.  Tourism has dropped off sharply in Egypt since then, causing hardship for those in the travel and aviation industries. In the MetroJet case, terrorists smuggled a two-pound bomb on board at the Sharm al-Sheikh airport in the Sinai Peninsula that detonated once the jet reached cruising altitude. Most of the 224 victims were Russian.
 
French President Francois Hollande said “no hypothesis was being ruled out” including “the terrorist hypothesis,” after speaking Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi via telephone link and promising his nation's cooperation in the investigation. Egyptian and Greek authorities are looking for wreckage around the Greek island of Karpathos, between Crete and Rhodes. Hollande said the three countries were searching for “debris that would enable us to know the truth.” There are reports that mariners on the Mediterranean witnessed a fireball in the sky at the time of the flight's disappearance. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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