Air Algerie AH5017 crash: Jet fell 30,000 feet in three minutes ‘due to violent storm’

Inexperience of the Spanish crew may have also been a factor

paris

The Air Algérie aircraft that crashed in the Sahara last week, killing 118 people, plunged 30,000 feet into the desert in three minutes after running into a violent storm, investigators believe.

The inexperience of the Spanish crew, with only a month’s flying time on the demanding cross-Sahara route, may have played a part in the accident, according to aviation experts. Although contributory factors such as mechanical failure have not yet been ruled out, studies of radar records have more or less excluded the possibility that the Spanish-owned MD-83 aircraft was the victim of a terrorist bomb or a ground-launched missile.

The head of the Burkina Faso armed forces, General Gilbert Diendéré, said that radar records of the aircraft’s course suggested that the pilot had tried to steer around the storm but had returned to his original course too soon. “It was while he was performing this manoeuvre that the accident happened,” he said.

Video: 'We will need three to five months to identify the bodies'

Gérard Feldzer, a French expert on air accidents, told Le Figaro: “It seems that the pilot reacted to the storm too late… An aircraft needs 10 to 15 kilometres to turn. If it gets too close to a storm, it can be too late to turn around. You get trapped in the air currents rushing up and down.”

The aircraft, leased to Air Algérie by the Spanish company Swiftair, crashed into a remote part of the desert in Mali last Thursday 50 minutes after leaving Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso for Algiers. Of the 118 people on board, 54 were French, including three large or extended families.

General Diendéré said that the radar records suggested that the aircraft had plummeted from 10,000m (around 30,000ft) in three minutes. It hit the ground almost intact, suggesting that it had not suffered an explosion in mid-air.

France has been helping the Malian government to fight an Islamist rebellion in northern Mali for 18 months. There were fears that the aircraft may have been struck by a ground-to-air missile like with the Malaysian airliner brought down over eastern Ukraine the previous week.

French and Malian army rescue teams have found both black-box flight recorders at the crash site.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer / Web Designer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future