By Fatma Esma Arslan
PARIS (AA) - Smoke was detected aboard the plane just before EgyptAir flight MS804, flying from Paris to Cairo, went off radar over the eastern Mediterranean after entering Egyptian airspace, the French air accident investigation agency (BEA) said Saturday.
BEA spokesman Sebastien Barthe said data transmissions from the plane revealed smoke behind the cockpit. The smoke, of which the cause remains unknown, may be indicative of fire, he added.
On Thursday, EgyptAir flight MS804, flying from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board, disappeared over the eastern Mediterranean after entering Egyptian airspace.
In a series of posts on its official Twitter account, EgyptAir said it had lost contact with the plane -- which had been carrying 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel -- in the early hours of Thursday.
On Friday morning, Egyptian state television announced that the army had found the wreckage of the plane.
According to army spokesman Mohamed Samir, search teams had located "some of the passengers’ belongings after debris was found 295 kilometers [roughly 180 miles] north of Alexandria".
Later the same day, Egyptian state daily Al-Ahram reported that the plane’s black box had been "tentatively" detected in an area between three and four nautical miles from the site of the crash.
France had sent a team capable of underwater searches with developed sonar systems to find the black box of the plane.
According to the airline, 30 Egyptians and 15 French - along with two Iraqis, one Briton, one Belgian, one Portuguese, one Algerian, one Chadian, one Canadian, one Sudanese, one Kuwaiti and one Saudi national -- had been aboard the ill-fated aircraft.