Greek Crash Mystery: The Evidence, So Far...

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Speculation Of Depressurization

On the day of its final flight last week, the pilots of a Helios Boeing 737-300 that crashed near Athens, killing all 121 aboard, reportedly contacted air traffic control to say that a problem with the aircraft's air conditioning system would keep them at 16,000 feet. The aircraft later climbed to 32,000 after the crew radioed its last transmission -- that the problem was solved, according to the New York Times. Last December, three aboard the same aircraft suffered injury when a pressurization problem at altitude (due to an improperly sealed door) led to an emergency descent to 11,000. Last week, passengers on the flight's previous leg reportedly complained of an air conditioning problem -- the cabin was unusually cold. Speculation that the aircraft again suffered depressurization on its final flight have been followed by coroner's reports that some passengers and crew (co-pilot and one other crew member) were still breathing (though perhaps unconscious) upon impact. However, the supposed text message sent from the aircraft indicating "The pilots have turned blue. Farewell cousin, we're frozen" has been revealed an admitted hoax. Note that while altitude-acclimated individuals have fought to and championed Mount Everest's 29,000-foot peak without oxygen, the less physically elite passengers on this flight may have faced a 32,000-foot altitude, unprotected.

The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) has called on the Greek government to quickly release a report on the crash in hopes of clearing up conflicting stories and exposing evidence on what downed the airliner. BALPA Chairman Mervyn Granshaw said a lot of what has been publicized about the crash doesn't add up. However, some of the original information is now thought to be bogus. Although some sort of decompression problem is generally accepted as the overriding issue on the flight, there have been numerous conflicting stories about how that affected those on board. The Greek air force pilots who intercepted the plane said the co-pilot was slumped over the controls but there were also reports of people moving about the cabin.