The wreckage of Flight AH5017, which disappeared from radar about 50 minutes after takeoff, has been spotted in the desert in Northern Mali, the country’s president has confirmed.
The aircraft was flying from Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to Algiers when it vanished. The pilot had requested to change course about 20 minutes into the flight, to avoid a sand storm. All contact with the plane was lost shortly afterwards.
The flight manifest listed 110 passengers and six crew members, two pilots and four flight attendants. 51 French citizens are said to be on board. The rest were from various nationalities.
Flight AH5017 is owned by Spanish private airline Swiftair and operated by Air Algerie. It is a scheduled flight that operates four times a week. Swiftair confirmed the flight took off at 1:17 a.m. local time, and was supposed to land in Algiers at 5.10 a.m., but never made it to the airport.
Though airlines have been warned not to fly over Mali due to political instability, it is unlikely the plane was shot down by ground fire. Militia in the region are known to have shoulder-mounted anti-air weapons, but these do not have the required range to shoot down any aircraft flying at normal cruising altitude of 33,000 feet.