A Boeing MD-83 passenger jet carrying 110 passengers and 6 crew people disappeared while flying over the Sahara from Burkina Faso to Algeria. Reports from aviation officials in the region confirm the plane has crashed, though the site of the crash and the fate of the people on board are yet to be confirmed.
The official Algerian news agency reported that air traffic controllers lost contact with the Boeing MD-83 just under an hour after liftoff from the Burkina capital, Ouagadougou, bound for Algiers. Air Algérie Flight 5017's route "would have taken the plane over large desert areas where Islamic militant groups have been active, including northern Mali," but the fighters aren't known to posess weapons capable of striking a commercial aircraft at cruising altitude. Reuters reports the aircraft was over Mali when last heard from.
Weather conditions may have been a factor. "Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said it asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area," reports Reuters.
"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."
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.
The French news agency AFP quotes an unidentified source with the airlines as saying 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."
Whatever the cause, the timing of this third air tragedy within just one week is unsettling. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine last week; a TransAsia Airways plane crashed during a storm off the coast of Taiwan yesterday, and multiple airlines canceled flights into Tel Aviv after a Hamas missile struck a site one mile from Israel's Ben Gurion airport. The FAA has since lifted a no-fly rule for US airlines destined for Tel Aviv.