A charter jet carrying 148 people, most of them French tourists, crashed into the Red Sea Saturday shortly after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all on board.
Egypt's civil aviation minister, Ahmed Mohamed Shafiq Zaki, said the cause of the crash was "entirely technical," and a senior aide said there was no sign of terrorism.
At Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France's deputy transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, said "there was a problem at takeoff."
"It tried to turn back, and when trying to do this, it crashed," Bussereau said.
Technical problems might account for the pilot's failure to tell the control tower that the plane was in trouble, Zaki said at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh.
The French government said there were 133 French passengers aboard, and a French medical official said many of them were children on family vacations. A Moroccan man and a Japanese woman were also on board, the government said.
Officials said there had been 13 Egyptian crew members, some of them off duty.
Egyptian military aircraft and ships, helped by small boats from nearby diving centers, launched a rescue operation at first light.
"There's lots of personal stuff, small bags and toys. We have collected very small pieces of the plane, but the body of the plane has sunk," a rescue worker said.
"The chances of finding complete bodies look slim because of the force with which the plane hit the surface of the water," said Yasser Imam, a government spokesman.
The plane was heading for Cairo to refuel, change crew and take on more passengers before flying on to Paris.
The French prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and the transport minister, Gilles de Robien, rushed to Charles de Gaulle Airport, where friends and relatives who had arrived to meet the flight were being told about the crash.
The French justice minister, Dominique Perben, asked prosecutors to open a judicial inquiry for manslaughter, saying this would provide a legal framework for French and Egyptian investigators to work together to determine the cause of the crash.
But the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, said Egyptian authorities would run the investigation. French experts would be welcome, he said, but "what matters is to find out the truth, and Egypt has enough capacity and experience to find out the truth."
The crash came at a time of intense U.S. concern about possible attacks on civilian airliners, which has led to the cancellation of several U.S.-bound flights in just over a week.
The plane crashed in the Strait of Tiran, between the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia, where the water is hundreds of feet deep -- too deep for divers to reach the flight recording devices, diving school managers said.
French President Jacques Chirac telephoned his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, to obtain details of the crash and expressed his "deepest shock" at the tragedy, his office said.
The plane was operated by Flash Airlines, an Egyptian charter airline based in Cairo that flies to European cities.
Sharm el-Sheikh, a major diving resort, is considered one of the most secure places in Egypt because of its isolation and Mubarak's frequent visits. Police check travelers' identities on roads into the resort.