Air Algérie Flight AH5017 has lost contact with air controllers over northern Africa. The plane was carrying 110 passengers from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to Algiers, Algeria.
The plane was last seen about 50 minutes after takeoff and the flight plan for AH5017 was not immediately clear. The crew was asked to change course when it was over Mali’s airspace because of poor visibility, and the risk the Air Algérie flight would collide with another plane on the same route.
“In keeping with procedures, Air Algérie has launched its emergency plan,” according to Air Algerie officials.
With the spate of recent air tragedies, officials are speculating on the worst.
The plane went over northern Mali, an area that has been plunged into chaos for years. In 2012, a group calling itself the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad started a rebellion in the Northern region of Mali with the aim of creating a new country, Azawad.
The Mali government failed to put down the rebels, which led to a military coup. The French eventually stepped in to help Mali’s government, but the rebellion has never been completely stamped out.
One anonymous French official familiar with the conflict believe that the rebels do not have the capability to shoot down an airliner like the AH5017. However, the rebellion has had unexpected supporters, including Al Qaeda-linked fighters who have fought in northern Mali on a number of occasions.
This is not the first incident for Air Algérie. The airline has suffered from a number of other safety and technical problems over the past two decades. Landing gear failing to unfold and hard landings have caused dozens of injuries.
In 2006, Air Algérie suffered from the worst fatal accident in the airline’s history. Air Algérie Flight 6289, a domestic flight going from Tamanrasset to Algiers, suffered from engine problems almost immediately after takeoff. The plane crashed, killing 96 passengers and six crew members. There was one survivor.
Algeria itself also has a rough past with airplane disaster. In February this year, a C-130 military aircraft with 78 people on board crashed in the mountainous northeast, killing more than 70 of the passengers.
The missing plane is a charter aircraft from Spanish company Swiftair, which said in an official statement that the airplane was an MD83 and that they could not establish contact. The plane was originally scheduled to land at 0510 local time.
Flight AH5017 usually flies this route about four times a week without incident.
For now, no one knows what happened to AH5017.
[Image Via newsfirst.lk]