On October 31, a Metrojet Airbus A321 en route from resort city Sham el-Sheikh, Egypt to St. Petersburg, Russia crashed, killing all 224 passengers on board. Due to the nature of the flight, Russian officials have stated that the crash orphaned a large number of children; Sham el-Sheikh has typically served as a vacation destination for adults, so many of the parents on-board had left their children with relatives while they traveled overseas. The cause of the crash has yet to be determined, but officials have stated that technical failure is most likely at fault.
Twenty-three minutes after departure, Metrojet Flight 9268 fell off the radar of air traffic controllers, and air traffic controllers reportedly did not receive any distress calls. Flight 9268 reportedly disappeared “instantly” in the event of a “nonstandard emergency,” but the actual meaning behind these reports remain ambiguous. The mystery behind the crash is a large part of why the incident has become so controversial; because of the political instability in the region, many Egyptians fear that the crash could be a terrorist attack. Metrojet’s tragedy holds the potential to have widespread repercussions for those traveling by air; the question remains as to whether it is safe to fly passenger flights over regions that are actively at war.
While the plane was in flight, a U.S. satellite detected a heat flash that occurred just as the plane disappeared, and Russian officials have pointed towards evidence that suggests that the plane fell apart in midair. While Russian investigation has ruled out the possibility of a missile being fired at the plane, U.S. officials are still considering that a bomb may have been planted on the plane. Meanwhile, Metrojet official Alexander Smirnov has stated that the company has ruled out any potential for human error or technical problems, as the plane’s protection systems would have prevented it from crashing in such an event. CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz has stated that the failure could be attributed to a damaged fuel tank or maintenance problems.
In light of the attack, militant group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was reportedly in response to Russian involvement against the group in Syria. In response, the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has stated that the claim is most likely “propaganda,” and officials have no evidence that directly suggests terrorist involvement. el-Sisi has claimed that the cause of the crash may not be known for several months, and that speculation over the crash is premature at this time. The president went on to assure Egyptian citizens that “the situation in Sinai—especially in this limited area—is under our full control.” Of the bodies recovered, there has been no evidence of an explosive impact on board the plane.
The recent crash holds the place as Russia’s largest air-related disaster, and the tragedy has resonated with the Russian populous. Bodies of the victims have been returned to Russian soil, and the identification of victims has already begun. Metrojet Flight 9268 has proven to be an incredibly detrimental and confusing event for the countries involved.