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  Plane Disappears Off East Coast

By Laura Vozzella
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, Oct. 31, 1999; 6:37 a.m. EST

BOSTON –– A Boeing 767 plane with 197 passengers aboard disappeared over the ocean about 60 miles south of Nantucket after taking off from New York's Kennedy International Airport, officials said Sunday.

EgyptAir Flight 990 was headed to Cairo, Egypt, Coast Guard Lt. Rob Halsey said. It originated in Los Angeles, according to EgyptAir officials at Cairo International Airport.

There were 197 passengers on the flight, an EgyptAir official said.

"What we have right now is, we weren't able to establish contact," Halsey said. "They had them on radar and then lost the radar picture."

Flight 990 took off from Kennedy at 1:19 a.m. and disappeared from radar at 2 a.m. while flying at 33,000 feet, said Eliot Brenner, chief spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington.

The Coast Guard sent every available cutter and aircraft in the Northeast to join the search, plus airplanes from far away as Elizabeth City, N.C., said spokesman Jim McPherson.

Egyptian television quoted EgyptAir officials as saying that after the flight left Los Angeles it made a landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California before continuing on to Kennedy. However, there was no immediate confirmation from Edwards.

According to FAA officials in Washington, the plane's takeoff from Kennedy was delayed by two hours because it arrived late from Los Angeles.

At Cairo Airport, relatives and friends gathered to await news.

Imad Kassab trembled with hope when he discovered that his brother-in-law, Essam Bahjat, was not on the passenger list for the flight as he had feared. Kassab, owner of the Cairo branch of the U.S.-based restaurant Cheesecake Factory, quickly called friends and relatives.

EgyptAir has a fleet of 38 planes and flies to some 85 airports around the world.

Critics have called for the privatization of the company, one of the oldest in Africa and the Middle East, amid reports of bad management and bad service.

The Boeing 767 is a twin-engine, widebody passenger jet that went into passenger use in September 1982, when the first one was delivered to United Airlines. As of April 1, Boeing had received 865 orders for the 767 and delivered 746 airplanes.

One of the planes crashed on May 26, 1991, when a Lauda Air 767-300ER crashed near Suphan Buri Province, Thailand.

The Lauda airplane lost control and crashed after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb. The jet lost 25 percent to 30 percent of its lift and plunged out of control into the ground, killing all 10 crew and 213 passengers.

In addition, an Ethiopian Airlines 767-200ER crashed near Moroni, Comoros, on Nov. 23, 1996, while attempting to land after being hijacked. The aircraft had been on a flight from Ethiopia to Kenya.

Ten of the 12 crew members and 117 of the 160 passengers were killed. The three hijackers apparently died.

The United States airline industry went through a fatality-free year in 1998, but this year there has been the crash of an American Airlines jet in Little Rock, Ark., the loss of John F. Kennedy's private plane off Martha's Vineyard this summer and last week's crash of a Learjet carrying golfer Payne Stewart.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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