In Depth

EgyptAir flight MS804: The conspiracy theories begin

Was it aliens or an insider job? Conspiracists are already on the case as to why the plane crashed

Egypt's civil aviation minister has warned people not to make up conspiracy theories and to wait for the full results of the investigation into last week's crash of EgyptAir flight MS804. But despite Sharif Fathi's appeal, several ideas over the plane's fate have already emerged…

The number game

Twitter user Kevin Andrews noticed there were exactly 804 days between the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and last week's crash – of EgyptAir flight MS804, the Daily Mirror reports.

He's right. The last voice contact made by MH370 was at 5:19pm on 17 March 2014 while the Egyptian flight's final contact was 804 days later, at around 2:30am on 19 May 19 2016.

The UFO sighting

Two Turkish pilots claim they saw a UFO flying over their plane in the same location that MS804 went missing "just an hour before the doomed EgyptAir jet crashed," the Daily Mail says.

The pilots told air traffic controllers: "An unidentified object with green lights passed 2,000ft to 3,000ft above us," Hurriyet Daily News reports. "Then it disappeared all of a sudden. We are guessing that it was a UFO."

The inside job

Australian civil aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told RT that although good, the security protocols at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, where the flight took off, are not impenetrable. "The one thing what the industry does fear is the 'inside job', when you have an airport worker who might be associated with some groups," he said. "There's always a possibility that something is smuggled on board."

Why do people look for conspiracy theories?

The appeal of conspiracy theories lies in the fact that "when mysterious tragedies happen, we all become intention-seekers", psychologist Rob Brotherton says.

Writing in Psychology Today, he argues that humans "are constantly on the lookout for signs of intent in the world around us, and it only takes the slightest hint of a deliberate act to send our intention-detector into overdrive".

The truth about flights MH370 and MS804 "remains elusive", he adds. "Hopefully the cause of the MS804 crash will be uncovered soon. Maybe mechanical accidents were to blame for the tragedies, maybe there was malfeasance. But while we linger in the uncomfortable absence of certainty, it's no surprise that our brains will nudge us to assume intent – and it's a small leap from intent to intrigue."

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