An Air Algerie flight with 116 people onboard disappeared from radars early Thursday morning. The plane left the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou around 9:15 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday night and left radar contact around 50 minutes into the flight. Air Algerie Flight 5017 was scheduled to arrive in Algeria at 1:10 AM. It never arrived.
With a crew of six and 110 passengers, the plane took off heading north from Burkina Faso to Algiers. The 1,100 mile trip should have taken five hours. Ouagadougou is almost a straight line south from Algeria, and the flight plan would have taken the plane over the war torn country of Mali. In fact, the last contact aviation officials had with the plane was over Gao, Mali.
Aviation officials in Mali had no information as to whether or not Flight 5017 is in Mali or not. The head of the National Civil Aviation Agency in Mali, Issa Saly Maiga, said that they did not know if the plane as in Mali, but aviation officials from Mali and other countries are on the lookout for anything.
If the plane is in Mali, investigators may have trouble finding it. Northern Mali, where the plane last had contact with flight controllers, is undergoing a wave of sectarian violence. In the last week, a suicide bombing killed a French soldier. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by an Islamist group led by a former Al Qaeda member. However, terrorism is not the only reason the plane could have disappeared. Weather reports described thunderstorms north of Burkina Faso’s capital and there were also sandstorms in northern Mali.
The airline industry has recently had a number of unfortunate incidents. If Air Agerie Flight 5017 is not found safely, this would be the third aviation accident in the last week. A Malaysian Air 777 was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine on July 17. 298 people were on board, but none survived. On July 23, 48 people were killed when a small plane crashed in Taiwan. Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Administration has banned all flights into Israel’s Ben Gurion airport after a Hamas rocket landed not far from it. Unfortunately, Air Algerie’s response to the missing flight may come into question. The plane was missing for hours before the news was made public. Why it took so long to come forward with the information is unknown, but the delay has shown a poor light on the company’s reputation.
Operating Flight 5017 was a Spanish company named Swiftair. All of the flight crew was employed by Swiftair. The company released its own statement on Thursday morning, but it was disheartening. Swiftair has not heard from the plane and is working with emergency officials to find the answer.
Air Algerie Flight 5017 disappeared from radars early Thursday morning, putting the fate of the 116 people on board, 110 passengers and six crew, in question. Flight 5017’s last recorded position was in northern Mali. Officials do not know what the cause of the disappearance is, but weather or terrorism are two possibilities.
By Bryan Levy