An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali while en route from Burkina Faso to the Algerian capital. Its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso.
The plane, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria’s flagship carrier, disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after takeoff, en route from Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers.
French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for signs of wreckage of the MD-83 plane in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper an eventual investigation into what happened.
The wreckage was found about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali, a Burkina Faso presidential aide said.
Heavy rains were reported in the area. According to the Associated Press, the plane’s owner said there were 110 passengers and six crew members aboard the MD-83. Radar contact was reported lost about 50 minutes after takeoff.
The Aviation Herald reports the registration number of the Swiftair McDonnell Douglas MD-83 is EC-LTV. The website planespotters.net has a photo pf the actual plane. Click on this image for a larger view.
Full flight information and flight history for Swiftair aircraft EC-LTV from www.flightradar24.com.
There were nationals from at least 14 countries on the flight, according to Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo:
27 Burkina Fasoian
1 each of Switzerland, Belgium, Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Mali
The crew — two pilots and four cabin staff — were Spanish and the flight was being operated by Spanish airline Swiftair, according to a statement by the Spanish pilots’ union.
The BBC reports that Air Algerie’s last major accident was 11 years ago when a Boeing 737 crashed when one of the engines caught fire shortly after takeoff. The crashed killed 102 people.
Ouedraogo said Flight 5017 sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday), asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains.
According to French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, the plane vanished over northern Mali. He didn’t specify exactly where the plane disappeared over Mali, or whether it was in an area controlled by rebels.
But 10 minutes before disappearing, the plane was said to be in contact with air traffic controllers in Gao, a city essentially under the control of the Malian government, according to Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal speaking on Algerian state television. The area has seen lingering separatist violence.
Following a military coup in 2012, Northern Mali first fell under the control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then under al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists. A 2013 French-led intervention scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government. Bamako is the capital and largest city of Mali.
An official said on condition of anonymity that the Tuaregs weapons are primarily shoulder-fired, and aren’t strong enough to hit a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude. The AP also reported that a senior French official said it was unlikely fighters in Mali had weaponry that could bring down a plane.
The plane had been missing for hours before the news was made public. It wasn’t made clear why officials didn’t make it public earlier, but Swiftair confirmed it has not been possible to make contact with the plane and was trying to ascertain what had happened.
“In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan,” APS quoted the airline as saying.
Article based on information by the Associated Press