On 24 July 2014 Air Algérie Flight AH5017, which was operated by Swiftair S.A., flying from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to Algiers, Algeria, crashed whilst flying over Mali, near Gossi. The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 with 110 passengers and 6 crew on board disappeared from radar about fifty minutes after take-off. The aircraft crashed into the ground at high velocity and all on board were tragically killed.
The Mali authorities with the assistance of French air accident investigators opened the investigation and on 20 September 2014 published the first interim report. The report states that the aircraft took off at night from Ouagadougou airport and that during the climb the crew made several heading changes to avoid a stormy area before reaching cruise level at 31,000 feet. A few minutes after levelling off with the autopilot and auto-throttle engaged, the aircraft’s speed started to decrease and the engine thrust increased. About 7 minutes after level off both engines thrust and rotation speeds started to fluctuate, then auto-throttle disengaged. Following this the aircraft speed had reduced to 203 knots and the aircraft started to descend. The autopilot disengaged and the aircraft entered a steep spiral dive to the left until it impacted the ground. No problems were mentioned by the crew during their contact with ATC and no distress messages were received by the control centres.
The data from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) was successfully downloaded but the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) was significantly damaged, meaning that the recording of the pilots is barely intelligible.
Jim Morris, a former RAF Boeing AWACS pilot and a partner in the specialist Aviation Law Team at Irwin Mitchell has significant experience in representing the victims of MD-83 accidents, and is currently representing the families of the Dana Air MD-83 crash (Nigeria - June 2012), in the courts of Nigeria and Florida. From his review of the preliminary report into the Air Algérie crash, it is clear that the investigation needs to determine what caused the aircraft to lose speed, the reasons and significance of the engine fluctuations and why this occurred in both engines and why the crew were not able to recover the aircraft from the dive. It is likely that there is a chain of events that culminated in this tragedy, which could mean that a number of entities, including the airline, could be liable.
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