Gameel Al-Batouti

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Gameel Al-Batouti
Born (1940-02-02)2 February 1940
Kafr al-Dabusi, Egypt
Died 31 October 1999(1999-10-31) (aged 59)
Atlantic Ocean, 100 km (62 mi) S of Nantucket
Nationality Egyptian
Other names Gamil El Batouti, El Batouty
Occupation Pilot

Gameel Al-Batouti (Arabic: جميل البطوطي‎; also rendered "Gamil El Batouti", or "El Batouty" in U.S. official reports) (2 February 1940 – 31 October 1999) was a pilot for EgyptAir and a former officer for the Egyptian Air Force. All 217 aboard were killed when EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean 60 miles southeast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, U.S. on 31 October 1999. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the probable cause of the crash was a series of control inputs made by Al-Batouti, who was in the position of relief first officer in command at the time of the crash.[1]

Early life[edit]

Al-Batouti was born in the farming community of Kafr al-Dabusi. He came from a socially elite family in Egypt. His father was a mayor and a landowner and family members were well educated and affluent.[2]

Career[edit]

Al-Batouti had been conscripted into the Egyptian Army, where he was trained as a pilot and flight instructor. He then worked for a time as an instructor at the Egyptian Air Institute. His position there was described by one colleague as "high profile."[2]

While in the Army, Al-Batouti served as a pilot in both the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.[3]

Al-Batouti was hired by EgyptAir on 8 September 1987. He held type ratings for the Boeing 737-200, Boeing 767-200 and the 767-300. At the time of the crash, he had logged 12,538 hours of flight time, with 5,755 as pilot in command and 5,191 in the 767.[2]

Al-Batouti was approaching retirement (aviation regulations prevented him from flying as a commercial airline pilot after age 60), and had planned to split his time between a 10-bedroom villa outside of Cairo and a beach house near El Alamin.[2][3]

At the time of his death, Al-Batouti was the most senior first officer flying the 767 at EgyptAir. He was not promoted to captain because he declined to sit for the exam for his Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) rating. The ATPL study materials and exam are conducted in English, the international language of aviation, and Al-Batouti did not have sufficient English proficiency. Once he reached 55, the possibility of promotion was further hindered by EgyptAir policy which prevented promotions after that age. According to statements made by his colleagues to the NTSB during the Flight 990 investigation, he did not want to be promoted because, as senior first officer, he could get his preferred flight schedules, which assisted with his family situation. Despite not being promoted to captain, he was often referred to by that title because of his previous experience at the Egypt Air Institute.[2]

Flight 990[edit]

Main article: EgyptAir Flight 990

Al-Batouti was the co-pilot that the NTSB suspected of deliberately crashing Flight 990 into the ocean, an assertion denied by Egyptian authorities. According to the NTSB, Al-Batouti seized the plane's controls and turned off the autopilot after the captain left the cockpit. He then led the plane into a dive, continually repeating, "Tawkalt ala Allah", which translates to "I rely on God", eleven times. This phrase can also mean "I entrust myself unto God," hinting that he knew he was facing death. The pilot then came back into the cockpit, tried to stop the dive, but could not prevent the plane from crashing into the ocean.

Some investigators learned that Al-Batouti was supposedly reprimanded for inappropriate behaviour with female guests at the Hotel Pennsylvania, a New York City hotel often used by EgyptAir crews. Hatem Roushdy, an EgyptAir official said to be responsible for the alleged reprimand, was a passenger on Flight 990. The details of the reprimand included the removal of Al-Batouti's privilege of flying any flight to the United States, and that Flight 990 would be his last.[4]

There was western media speculation that Al-Batouti may have been a terrorist, although his family and friends indicated that he had no strong political beliefs.[3]

The Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority disputes the cause of the crash, blaming technical problems, rather than any action of Al-Batouti,[3][5] in spite of the strong evidence that it was an act of suicide.

Personal life[edit]

Al-Batouti was married and had five children. The youngest, Aya, who was ten at the time of the crash, suffered from lupus, and was undergoing medical treatment in Los Angeles. Efforts had been made at EgyptAir, both at a company level and at an employee level, to provide assistance to help defray the medical expenses.[2]

There are reports Al-Batouti was a promiscuous man who reportedly often made sexual advances towards maids working at his hotel residence.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NTSB Releases EgyptAir Flight 990 Final Report". NTSB. 21 March 2002. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Operational Factors Group Chairman's Factual Report". NTSB. 18 January 2000. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Batouty clan stands united". Cairo Times. November 1999. Retrieved 29 April 2007. 
  4. ^ a b Mayday (TV series), Season 3, Episode 8: "EgyptAir 990 (Death and Denial)". 2 November 2005. 
  5. ^ "Report of Investigation of Accident: EgyptAir 990". ECAA. June 2001. Retrieved 19 March 2014. 

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