But it's not as if modern jets are flying around blind. These aircraft have onboard weather-avoidance radar and, if the crash occurred close to shore as if seems, the air traffic controllers should be able to see weather returns on their scopes.
As to eyewitness reports, the time of night would seem to preclude anything significant but there are a few. Here's the London Times:
Residents on the coast were reported to have seen a "ball of fire" crashing off Na'ameh village, a few miles south of the Lebanese capital.Here's the London Telegraph:
According to one source, residents on the coast saw a plane on fire crashing.All versions suggest the plane was on fire before it crashed, as opposed to the crash causing the fireball, which is a critical point. A lot depends on the witnesses and their reliability but even if the plane was on fire on impact that doesn't rule out a lightning strike or mechanical fault, although lightning strike-related crashes are extremely rare due to the various arresters in place.
No doubt interest will be higher than normal due to the recent uptick in terrorism threats and related bluster. While Ethiopia might not seem an obvious target, they did help us attack AQ in Somalia a few years back. The wife of the French Ambassador to Lebanon was also onboard. Nothing at the Jerusalem Post as of this writing and Haaretz only had the Reuters story. Also, nothing at this Lebanese newspaper. Al-Jazeera says seven survivors. Any survivors suggests a controlled crash landing. Let's hope for the best.
From another report..
Witnesses in the area said they heard a loud noise and then saw a plane on fire plunging into the water.This report said the plane was struck by lightning, but lightning strikes taking out modern airplanes are rare. Last fatal crash in America occurred in 1967.
Sadly, reports of survivors turned out to be erroneous. The image originally included with this post was also erroneous and was removed, with apologies.
Lebanon's Transport Minister said they lost contact at 2:37AM local time. Not sure whether that means lost it off radar or verbal contact. This report strongly confirms the earlier reports that the plane was on fire, and had perhaps exploded, before hitting the water. The witnesses on this report mentioned nothing about lightning. The CVR/FDR should be able to shine light, but there's no word on whether it's been recovered yet.
Here's a video purported to be from a CCTV camera at Beirut airport, which is clearly bogus--notice the fits and starts in the time on lower right. It has been altered. Why? The flashes could well be lightning, or something else. The officials have been quick to say they do not suspect "sabotage", but what specific factors would rule anything out at this point?