Update: while there have been conflicting reports whether the plane crashed over Niger or Mali, we will go with the latter story as reported by AP: "A missing Algerian plane went down in central Mali, a U.N. representative says, contradicting earlier reports that it crashed in Niger. The plane crashed between Gao and Tessalit, Brigadier General Koko Essien, the commander of a Timbuktu-based operation with the U.N. mission in Mali, told DPA. Malian civil aviation authorities said they were on alert. “For the moment, we cannot speak of a crash, only of the disappearance of the plane from radars,” a representative told DPA by telephone."
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Not a day seems to pass in the past week without some airplane catastrophe: first over Ukriane, next over the South China Sea, now in western Africa over Mali where moments ago Air Algerie reported said that it had lost contact with one of its passenger aircraft carrying 116 people on board, nearly an hour after takeoff from Burkina Faso bound for Algiers. And what is most stunning is that just like in the MH17 case, the flight lost radio transmission shortly after it was ordered to change its course due to "poor weather." According to an Air Algerie source "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. Contact was lost after the change of course."
A company source told AFP that the missing aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and that some 110 people of various nationalities are listed as being on board the flight. The source said contact with the aircraft was lost while it was still in Malian airspace approaching the border with Algeria.
Despite international military intervention still under way, the situation remains unstable in northern Mali, which was seized by jihadist groups for several months in 2012.
On July 17, the Bamako government and armed groups from northern Mali launched tough talks in Algiers aimed at securing an elusive peace deal, and with parts of the country still mired in conflict.
"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," the Air Algerie source said.
"Contact was lost after the change of course."
The airline announced that the plane had gone missing in a brief statement carried by national news agency APS.
"Air navigation services have lost contact with an Air Algerie plane Thursday flying from Ouagadougou to Algiers, 50 minutes after takeoff," the statement said.
It added that the company initiated an "emergency plan" in the search for flight AH5017, which flies the four-hour passenger route four times a week.
CBC News further reports that Swiftair, the Spanish private airline company that owns the plane, said there were 110 passengers and six crew members on board the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 jet at the time.
The flight path of Flight AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear. The flight typically takes around four hours. Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.
Our condolences to the families.
Meanwhile with airspace over east Ukraine closed indefinitely, Israel inbound flights also grounded for an unknown period, should one also add west Africa to the no fly zone? How long until all global air traffic has to be reevaluated in light of all the countless warzones that have resulted in the past few years some 30,000 feet below where airplanes fly?