Air crash 'was pilot suicide'

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RABAT (Reuter) - A suicidal Moroccan pilot killed himself and 43 others when he plunged his airliner into the Atlas mountains in southern Morocco, the government said yesterday.

The Transport Ministry said that recorders in a Paris laboratory showed the crash on Sunday was due to 'the pilot's wish to put an end to his life.' The statement added: 'To do this he switched off the automatic pilot and directed the aircraft at the ground.' Aviation experts in London said that the incident was unique in modern flight history.

On a domestic flight from Agadir to Casablanca, the plane fell out of the sky and crashed after Sofia Figuigui, the female co-pilot, radioed 'Mayday, Mayday, the pilot is . . .' The message was cut off at this point, when airport officials said the plane was flying at 15,000 feet. It plummeted to earth 10 minutes after take-off.

The statement said the pilot, Younes Khyati, 32, was experienced, with 4,500 flying hours. He was professionally and physically fit and had undergone annual medical examinations, the last one in July. He was tested for professional competence four weeks ago. The ministry said a commission of inquiry was trying to determine motives for the pilot's 'incomprehensible gesture'.

French aviation officials in Paris said data from the recorders supported a statement by Moroccan investigators that the pilot committed suicide.

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