World Bulletin/News Desk
While a second black box from the Air Algeria flight that crashed in Mali last Thursday killing all 118 people on board, is being examined in France, media reports in Spain claim that a member of the Spanish crew had complained of exhaustion due to long hours of work, which he feared could put the safety of the plane at risk.
The plane, on its way from Burkina Faso to Algiers when it came down, was operated by a Spanish company, Swiftair, which rents out its fleet of 30 planes in a system called "wet-lease". It operates regular passenger flights for firms in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and also rents it services to tour operators and corporations and supplies technical services.
An email from one steward to his boss at Swiftair a week before the fatal crash, is quoted on Spanish news website, el economista. The steward says that twelve-plus hour days are commonly worked and this results in "difficulty maintaining focus during take off and landing". He adds that the delays during Ramadan days can easily become longer.
It is difficult to establish a link between fatigue and the recent crash, says Agustin Guzman, a spokesperson from Spanish pilots trade union, Sepla, however Sepla has been denouncing in the past year the deteroriation of working conditions in the flight industry at European level.
The wet-lease system is broadly used all over Europe and does not compromise flight security, says Alvaro Gammichia, security expert with Spanish pilots trade union Sepla. Swiftair had valid flight certificates and had recently undergone an inspection in Marseille, France, said Gammichia.
The flight appears to have plummeted to the ground from an altitude of 10,000 metres in just a few minutes after flying into a storm, a senior official involved in the investigation was quoted as saying.
The likely cause of the crash points to an accident caused by adverse weather, as there was a severe sandstorm in the area at the time. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said "the only certain thing is that the pilot asked air traffic controllers for a route change, and later asked for permission to turn around”. Right after that, the flight went off the radar screens.
Pilots of the plane, which left the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou en route for Algiers in the early hours of Thursday morning, asked for permission to alter their route due to poor weather as they flew north.
General Gilbert Diendere, head of Burkina Faso's crisis cell, said radar data showed that the plane appeared to try to fly around the bad weather before reverting to its initial course, which took it back into the eye of the storm.
"Perhaps the pilot thought that he had completely avoided it and wanted to return to the original route," Diendere said, according to the website of French radio RFI. "The accident took place while the plane performed this manoeuvre."
Diendere said the last contact with the plane at its altitude of 10,000 metres was at 0147 GMT and the crash was reported by witnesses to have taken place at 0150.
"That means that (plane) fell from an altitude of 10,000 metres to zero in about three minutes, which is a steep fall given the size of the plane," he added.
The two black boxes from the plane have been found and transferred to France, where they are being examined by experts and results are expected in the coming weeks.
Some families of passengers from Burkina Faso have already been taken to visit the crash site, where remains of the plane are scattered across scrubby bush land.
France announced three days of mourning, starting Monday.
As well as French and Burkinabe, those aboard included Lebanese, Algerians, Spanish, Canadians, Germans, Luxembourgers, a Cameroonian, a Belgian, an Egyptian, a Ukrainian, a Swiss, a Nigerian and a Malian.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Temmuz 2014, 17:38