Flight AH5017: No survivors found in burnt wreckage

Jul 25, 2014

Aviation disaster kills 116 people, but experts insist airline safety has 'never been better'


Wreckage of the Air Algerie plane that went missing yesterday with 116 people on board has been discovered in Mali, with officials confirming that they found no survivors, Reuters reports.

Flight AH5017 travelling to the Algerian capital from Burkina Faso crashed in northern Mali, a remote region plagued by fighting between Islamist rebel groups and Tuareg separatists. 

The cause of the crash is yet to be established, but local aviation officials confirmed that they lost contact with the plane soon after the pilot requested a change in the flight path due to an approaching storm.

General Gilbert Diendere, a member of the crisis team in Burkina Faso, said his unit has already inspected the crash site and is now awaiting the arrival of French troops already stationed in the region to carry out further investigations.

Diendere said his team had seen "the remains of the plane, totally burned out and scattered on the ground".

"Sadly, the team saw no one on site. It saw no survivors".

Almost half of the passengers on board were French. President Francois Hollande extended his sympathy to the friends and families of those onboard and said the French military would work with authorities on the ground to secure the site and establish the cause of the crash.

Other victims include foreign nationals from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.

The Air Algerie crash is the latest in a string of aviation disasters to have occurred in the last week, following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Ukraine, a TransAsia airline crash in Taiwan which killed at least 48 people, and the suspension of several flights to Tel-Aviv, following a rocket attack near the airport.

With 644 deaths, 2014 is already the deadliest year in aviation since 2010, according to data from the US Aviation Safety Network, quoted by the Wall Street Journal. But experts say that "those numbers don't account for increasing traffic" and overall, air line safety has "has never been better".

"Having three accidents together doesn't tell you anything about safety," said Paul Hayes, director for safety at aviation consultancy Ascend. "It's about the long-term trend. Airline safety is improving, and it is generally improving faster than the industry is expanding."

Missing plane: Air Algerie flight 'crashed in Sahara

24 July

An Air Algerie plane carrying 116 people is believed to have crashed in the Sahara after going missing shortly after take-off.

Algeria's national airline confirmed this morning that it had lost contact with flight AH5017 from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to the Algerian capital Algiers, the BBC reports.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," airline officials said.

The missing plane took off at 0117 local time and was expected to land at 0510. A BBC reporter in Dakar says the pilot is believed to have contacted air traffic control in Niger requesting to be re-routed around a storm.

UN troops in Northern Mali say they believe the plane came down in the sparsely populated region of north-eastern Mali. But Issa Saly Maiga, head of Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency told Reuters, "we do not know if the plane is in Malian territory. Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned - Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain." 

This afternoon Algerian authorities said they had not ruled out any hypothesis, including hijacking, but Reuters subsequently reported an Algerian official's confirmation that the missing plane had crashed.

According to Swiftair, the Spanish company which owns the plane, there are 110 passengers on board and six crew, including two pilots and four cabin staff. 

French transport minister Frederic Cuvillier has said that it was likely that many French nationals were on board the McDonnell Douglas MD83 aircraft, according to the BBC. 

An unnamed source within Air Algerie told the AFP news agency: "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."

"Contact was lost after the change of course."

Earlier this year, an Algerian Air Force C-130 aircraft crashed, killing more than 70 people in one of the country's worst air disasters.

Sign up for our daily newsletter