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Missing Algiers-bound Air Algerie Flight Carrying 116 People Has Crashed

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(Reuters) - An Air Algerie flight crashed on Thursday en route from
Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board, an
Algerian aviation official said.
There were few clear indications of what might of happened to the aircraft, or
whether there were casualties, but Burkino Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin
Ouedrago said it asked to change route at 0138 GMT (9.38 p.m. EDT) because
of a storm in the area.
"I can confirm that it has crashed," the Algerian official told Reuters, declining
to be identified or give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on
its way north.
Almost half of the passengers were French citizens, an airline official said.
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 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.
Swiftair, the private Spanish company that owns the plane, confirmed it had lost
contact with the MD-83 operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110
passengers and six crew.
A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako said that the north of the country -
which lies on the plane's likely flight path - was struck by a powerful sandstorm
overnight.
Whatever the cause, another plane crash is likely to add to nerves in the
industry after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine last week, a
TransAsia Airways crashed off Taiwan during a thunderstorm on Wednesday
and airlines canceled flights into Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Gaza.
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, 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 on the flight.
A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain’s pilots union, said the six crew were from
Spain. She could not give any further details.
REGIONAL SEARCH
Swiftair said on its website the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 GMT
(9.17 p.m. EDT) and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 GMT (1.10 a.m. EDT)
but never reached its destination.
An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with
the missing Air Algerie aircraft was at 0155 GMT (9.55 p.m. EDT) when it was
flying over Gao, Mali.
Aviation authorities in Burkina say they handed the flight to the control tower in
Niamey, Niger, at 1:38 a.m. (09.38 p.m. EDT). They said the last contact with the
flight was just after 4:30 a.m. (11.30 p.m. EDT).
Burkina Faso minister Ouedrago said the flight asked the control tower in
Niamey to change route at 0138 GMT (9.38 p.m. EDT) because of a storm in the
Sahara.
However, a source in the control tower in Niamey, who declined to be identified,
said it had not been contacted by the plane, which in theory should have flown
over Mali.
Burkinabe authorities have set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to
provide information to families.
Issa Saly Maiga, head of Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency, said that a search
was under way for the missing flight.
"We do not know if the plane is Malian territory," he told Reuters. "Aviation
authorities are mobilized in all the countries concerned - Burkina Faso, Mali,
Niger, Algeria and even Spain."
Aviation websites said the missing aircraft, one of four MD-83s owned by
Swiftair, was 18-years-old. The aircraft's two engines are made by Pratt &
Whitney, a unit of United Technologies (UTX.N).
U.S. planemaker McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing (BA.N), 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.
"Boeing is aware of the report (on the missing aircraft). We are awaiting
additional information," a spokesman for the planemaker said.
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 planes crashed
shortly after take-off from the southern city of Tamanrasset, killing 102
people. In February this year, 77 people died when an Algerian military
transport plane crashed into a mountain in eastern Algeria.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Markey, Daniel Flynn, David Lewis, Mathieu
Bonkoungou, Julien Toyer, Tracy Rucinski, Laila Bassam, Marine Pennetier and
Tim Hepher; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Alison Williams)
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Wiserfool

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very sad, more planes crashing this month

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