Air Algerie plane carrying 116 disappears from radar

Air Algerie plane carrying 116 disappears from radar

Air Algerie plane carrying 116 disappears from radar

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by Doug Stanglin

USA Today

Posted on July 24, 2014 at 6:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 24 at 5:52 PM

(USA Today) -- An Air Algerie flight en route to Algiers from Burkina Faso with 116 people aboard -- including 50 French citizens -- disappeared from radar early Thursday over the Sahara during bad weather.

Air navigation services lost track of AH0517 about 50 minutes after takeoff at 0155 GMT, the Algerian news agency APS reports.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," the APS agency quoted the airline as saying.

The pilot reportedly contacted air traffic control in Niamey, Niger, to change course because of a storm, the BBC reports.

The French news agency AFP quotes an unidentified source with the airlines as saying the plane was "not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route."

United Nations troops in Mali say they understand the plane came down between Gao and Tessalit, the BBC's Alex Duval Smith in the Malian capital Bamako reports.

The French military says it is sending two fighter jets based in the region to try to locate the missing plane, according to Reuters. France 24 TV quotes an official from Niger as saying the French have sent three military reconnaissance planes to help in the search.

An unidentified Algerian aviation official told Reuters that the plane had crashed, but declined to provide details on where the plane was or what caused the accident.The report of a crash could not be immediately confirmed.

Swiftair, the owner of missing plane operated by Air Algerie, Algeria's national airline says 110 passengers and 6 crew were aboard. The aircraft is an MD-83, according to Reuters.

The airline confirmed on Twitter that 50 of the passengers are French citizens. French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier says 'likely many' French passengers were aboard the missing flight, France 24 TV reports. The six person crew -- including the two pilots -- are Spanish, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports.

Flight AH 5017 flies the Ouagadougou-Algiers route four times a week, AFP reported. It was supposed to land in the Algerian capital at 0510 local time, according to the Algerian newspaper The Daily Star.

Ougadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

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. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak for attribution, said the fights have shoulder-fired weapons which could not hit an aircraft at cruising altitude.

Though crashes of commercial passenger planes have become rare, it's not unprecedented for them to occur within a short time period.

Two commercial passenger planes crashed within days of each other in December 2012. A Fokker 100 flying for Burma-based Air Bagan crash-landed in Burma, also known as Myanmar, on Dec. 25, killing one passenger and a person on the ground, according to The Aviation Herald.

On Dec. 29, a repositioning flight on a Tupelov Tu-204 flying for Russian carrier Red Wings Airlines overran a runway in Moscow. Five of the eight crewmembers were killed, according RT.com.

Passenger planes flying regularly scheduled airline flights crashed within the same week in 2011. A flight for Hewa Bora Airways, based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crashed in that country July 8. On July 11, a flight on Russian carrier Angara Airlines ditched in Russia's Ob River after an engine caught fire, The Aviation Herald reported. On July 16, a flight on Brazilian carrier Noar Linhas Aereas crashed after takeoff from Recife.

Contributing: Ben Mutzabaugh, Associated Press

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