Thursday, July 24, 2014

Algeria/Burkina Faso: Swiftair, Air Algerie-Operated MD-83 En-route to Algiers Crashes w/110 Passengers

According to Reuters, an MD-83 flight owned by Spanish-owned Swiftair and operated by Air Algerie crashed on Thursday (July 24) en-route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board has reportedly crashed.

Burkino Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the MD-83 requested to change route at 0138 GMT (2130 hours EDT) due to a storm in the area. 

Almost half of the passengers were French citizens, an airline official said.

The MD-83 also carried a crew of six.

Two French fighter jets based in the region have been dispatched to try to locate the airliner along its probable route, a French Army spokesman said. Niger security sources said planes were also 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, but other officials gave differing accounts of the times of contact, adding to confusion about the plane's fate.

A diplomat in the Malian capital of Bamako said that the north of the country, which lies on the plane's likely flight path, was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.

COMMENT: An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso, Kara Terki, told a news conference that all the passengers on the plane were in transit, either for Europe, the Middle East or Canada.

He said the passenger list included 50 French citizens, 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 aboard the flight. 

A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain’s pilots union, said the crew was Spain-based. 
Swiftair said on its website the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 GMT (2117 hours EDT) and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 GMT (0110 hours EDT) but never reached its destination.

An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with the missing Air Algerie flight was at 0155 GMT (2155 hours EDT) when it was flying over Mali. 

Aviation authorities in Burkina Faso said they handed the flight to the control tower in Niamey, Niger at 0138 hours (2138 hours EDT). They said the last contact with the flight was just after 0430 hours (2330 hours EDT).

Burkinabe authorities have set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to provide information to families.

A physical search by air is underway in all countries on the flight's filed flight plan.
McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing, stopped producing the MD-80 airliner family in 1999, but it remains in widespread use. According to British consultancy, Flightglobal Ascend, there are 482 MD-80 aircraft in operation, many of them in the United States.

Swiftair has a relatively clean safety record, with five accidents since 1977, two of which caused a total of eight deaths, according to the Washington-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Air Algerie's last major accident was in 2003 when one of its aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from the southern city of Tamanrasset, killing 102 people.

In February 2014, 77 people died when an Algerian military transport plane crashed into a mountain in eastern Algeria.