AIR TRAGEDY

France says pilots of Swiftair flight that crashed in Mali desert asked to turn back

French authorities warn data on second flight recorder, which is in Paris for analysis, may be illegible

A Malian police officer with one of the flight recorders.
A Malian police officer with one of the flight recorders.AFP

The second black box recorder from the Air Algérie flight that crashed in Mali last Thursday is undergoing analysis in Paris.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said this second flight recorder has arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, and that experts are working to extract more details about the crash that killed all 118 people aboard the plane, including 54 French passengers and an all-Spanish crew of six.

Spain has contributed 10 experts on airline accidents to the investigation. The MD-83 was owned by Spanish charter airline Swiftair, and operated by Air Algérie. The flight was covering the Ouagadougou-Algiers route when it crashed in the Sahara desert in Mali.

But the French secretary of state for transport, Frédéric Cuvillier, noted that it was still unclear whether the data would be legible. This recorder contains the last minutes of conversation inside the cockpit; the first recorder, which logs altitude, speed and cabin pressure, has been in Paris since Saturday.

The only certain thing is that the pilot asked air traffic controllers for a route change, and later asked for permission to turn around”

France supports the theory that the crash was probably an accident caused by adverse weather, as there was a severe sandstorm in the area at the time.

“The only certain thing is that the pilot asked air traffic controllers for a route change, and later asked for permission to turn around,” said Fabius. Right after that, the flight went off the radar screens.

Although there is terrorist activity in the area, it is of low intensity and the possibility of a missile impact has been ruled out. However, the government of François Hollande said all lines of investigation remained open.