An Air Algerie flight, AH 5017, crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers and six crew members on board, an Algerian aviation official said.
There were very few clear indications of what might have happened to the aircraft, or whether there were casualties.
Transport minister of Burkino Faso Jean Bertin Ouedrago said it asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.
“I can confirm that it has crashed,” the Algerian official claimed, declining to give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on its way north.
Two French fighter jets based in the region have been dispatched to locate the airliner along its probable route, a French army spokesman said. Niger security sources have confirmed that planes were flying over the border region with Mali to search for the flight.
Algeria’s state news agency APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso. However, other officials have offered differing accounts of the times of contact, adding to confusion about the plane’s fate. Swiftair, the private Spanish company that owns the plane, confirmed it had lost contact with the MD83 operated by Air Algerie.
A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako said that the north of the country was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.
An Air Algerie representative claimed at a news conference that all the passengers on the plane were in transit, either for Europe, the Middle East or Canada.
He added the passengers included 50 French, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian and one Romanian.
Lebanese officials said there were at least 10 Lebanese citizens on the flight. A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain’s pilots union, said the six crew were from Spain.
An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with the missing Air Algerie aircraft was at 0155 GMT when it was flying over Gao in Mali.
Aviation authorities in Burkina say they handed the flight to the control tower in Niamey, Niger at 0138 GMT. They added that the last contact with the flight was just after 0330 GMT.
However, a source in the control tower in Niamey, said it had not been contacted by the plane, which in theory should have flown over Mali.
Issa Saly Maiga, head of Mali’s National Civil Aviation Agency, said that a search was under way for the missing flight.
Aviation websites said the missing aircraft, one of four MD83s owned by Swiftair, was 18 years old. US plane maker McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing, stopped producing the MD80 airliner family in 1999 but it remains in widespread use.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2014.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ