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VIDEO: Cornwall Navy Ship Joins Search For Missing Plane

RFA Mounts Bay

Published at 6:04am 20th May 2016. (Updated at 6:08am 20th May 2016)

A navy ship based in Falmouth has joined the search for wreckage from the missing EgyptAir flight.

RFA Mount's Bay has been ordered to the area, after officials said debris discovered in the Med is not from the plane.

66 people were onboard - and Egypt thinks a terror attack was the most likely cause.

EgyptAir flight MS804 departed Paris at 10.09pm BST on Wednesday but the plane lost contact with radar at 1.30am BST, just over three hours into its four-hour journey towards Cairo.

There were 56 passengers and 10 crew on board: 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, a Belgian, a Kuwaiti, a Saudi, a Sudanese, a Chadian, an Algerian, a Portuguese and a Canadian. Among them were two babies and a child.

Briton Richard Osman, 40, was also on the 13-year-old plane.

David Cameron said: "This is obviously a dreadful event. We don't know very much right now about what's happened.

"We know that there was one British national on the plane. It looks as if it has gone down in the Mediterranean.

"One of our ships RFA Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay is nearby and so we've sent it to the area, but I think it's too early to speculate about what the cause was."  

Greek and French boats and planes have joined teams from the Egyptian armed forces in the search for the jet.

The UK has sent RFA Lyme Bay, which had been near Crete, and a C130 Hercules from RAF Akrotiri.

Greece also has a submarine on standby, while the US has offered its support.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told Sky News that, as daylight arrives, the searchers would be looking for a "debris trail, a fuel slick from the aviation turbine fuel and oil from the engines".

He added: "We should find, as we did with Air France 447 in 2009, a distinct trail across the ocean and that will tell us where the aircraft impacted the ocean.

"While the radar tracked it for some time, it did not track it all the way to impact - it was spinning, so we don't know really where it impacted the ocean."

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the aircraft was in Egyptian airspace and flying at 37,000ft when it made "sudden swerves" and plunged to 15,000ft.

He said it swerved "90 degrees left and then 360 degrees to the right" before vanishing.

Military search and rescue teams picked up an automated signal from the plane's emergency beacon at 3.26am BST - about 80 minutes after it was supposed to land in Cairo. It is thought this may have been triggered on impact.

Mr Thomas said the searching would be mostly by "spotters on aeroplanes, peering out with binoculars on ships, just visually searching for it".

It is not clear what brought the plane down but Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said the plane, which was en route from Paris to Cairo, is more likely to have been brought down by a "terror attack" than a technical fault.

Mr Thomas agreed terrorism and a technical fault were possibilities for the disappearance of the plane but there may also have been a pilot issue - "we just don't know".

"When we do recover the debris, we could find pieces that are floating are twisted in a certain way, they could have explosives residue. There is a lot we can tell from the debris.

"But obviously the black box is the big thing. There are two of them - the digital flight data recorder will tell us about the heartbeat of the aeroplane - all the systems - and will tell us what happened. The cockpit voice recorder will tell us why."

One advantage, he said, was that the Mediterranean is somewhat shallower than the mid-Atlantic, which is where Air France 447 went down, killing 228 people. This means that finding the main body of wreckage "should be a faster operation".

"Hopefully we would find the debris in a day or two and, within a month or so, we should have the main body of wreckage."

It was thought searchers had found floating material and lifejackets from the Airbus A320 but EgyptAir vice president Ahmed Adel later corrected this, saying that the wreckage was not from the plane.

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