Air Algerie Plane Vanishes From Radar


Thursday, July 24th 2014, 8:17 am
By: News 9


An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali after heavy rains were reported, according to the plane's owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso.

Air navigation services lost track of the MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Wednesday), the official Algerian news agency APS said.

Burkina Faso's transport minister said 50 French nationals were among those onboard, along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.

Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo also said the plane sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT), asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains in the area.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the plane vanished over northern Mali. He spoke Thursday from a crisis center set up in the French Foreign Ministry.

The plane had been missing for hours before the news was made public. It wasn't immediately clear why airline or government officials didn't make it public earlier.

Swiftair, a Spanish company that leases aircraft to other carriers, said in a statement that it owns the missing aircraft being operated by Air Algerie. The company has confirmed to CBS News that it is a McDonnell Douglas MD-83. The Spanish pilots' union said the plane belonged to Swiftair and it was operated by a Spanish crew.

Reuters reports that, according to a diplomat in the Malian capital of Bamako, a powerful sandstorm stuck's the nation's northern overnight.

An Algerian official says the plane was over Mali when it disappeared, according to the Reuters news agency.

Northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.

CBS News' Debora Patta reports diplomats have told her insurgents in northern Mali are not believed to have weapons capable of shooting down a commercial airliner flying at cruising altitude.

But she notes that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a warning for U.S. carriers not to fly over Mali.

A senior French official, not authorized to speak publicly, said on condition of anonymity that fighters in Mali primarily have shoulder-fired weapons -- not enough to hit a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude.

Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, said the plane carrying 110 passengers and six crew left Burkina Faso for Algiers at 0117 GMT Thursday (9:17 p.m. EDT Wednesday), but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 0510 GMT (1:10 a.m. EDT Thursday).

Swiftair said it has not been possible to make contact with the plane and was trying to ascertain what had happened. It said the crew included two pilots and four cabin staff.

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

The MD-83 is part of a series of long-range jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing Co.