The Air Algerie flight AH5017 that lost contact with regional aviation officials on Thursday after the pilot reported about bad weather conditions has been found crashed in Mali, west Africa.
The airliner, chartered by Madrid-based Swiftair and operated by Algeria’s flagship carrier, disappeared from radar less than an hour later after taking off from Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou at 1.17 GMT on Thursday. It was bound for Algiers in Algeria and was due to arrive at 5.10 GMT.
Aviation officials lost contact with the plane at 1.55am GMT, shortly after its pilots contacted Niger’s control tower in Niamey and requested to change course due to reported storms.
After hours of search for the site of wreck Thursday, two French Mirage fighter jets and United Nations helicopters discovered the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane in the region of Gossi, in north-eastern Mali, close to the border with Burkina Faso.
This part of northern Mali is region prey to scattered Islamist militants and Tuareg separatist fighters. However, a senior French official said it was unlikely that fighters in Mali had weaponry that could shoot down a plane, the Associated Press reports.
“We sent men, with the agreement of the Mali government, to the site, and they found the wreckage of the plane with the help of the inhabitants of the area,” said Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the flight.
“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he said.
French President Francoise Hollande said, “regrettably, there were no survivors,” of the flight, which carried 116 people on board, including more than 50 French nationals. The President said the families of the French nationals aboard the plane would be welcomed to the Foreign Ministry Saturday to be given all the latest information.
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list also included 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian. All six crew members were Spanish, according to Spain’s pilot union.
Speaking after a crisis meeting, Hollande also announced that one of the aircraft’s two black boxes has been found in the wreckage, which will be being taken to Gao, Mali, for examination examined as soon as possible.
It is the third major aviation disaster in a week, following the MH17 disaster in Ukraine and the TransAsia Airways crash in Taiwan yesterday. International airlines also temporarily cancelled flights into Tel Aviv this week, citing security concerns amid the instability in Gaza.
In March, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on its way from Malaysia to China. No wreckage was found. Malaysia Airlines tweeted its condolences to those passengers and their families on both the missing Air Algerie and the crashed TransAsia planes.
Swiftair said on Thursday that the jet, bearing the tail number EC-LTV, was built by McDonnell Douglas in 1996. The company merged with Boeing in 1997 and stopped producing MD-80-series planes the next year, but hundreds of the aircraft remain in use around the world.