Pilots in Air Algerie crash had asked to turn back
THE pilots of the Air Algerie plane that crashed in the Sahara, killing all 118 people on board last week asked to turn back before the airliner came down, the French foreign minister said yesterday.
"What we know for sure is that the weather was bad that night, that the plane crew had asked to change route and then to turn back before all contact was lost," Laurent Fabius said at a news conference, hours after the plane's two black boxes were brought to Paris.
Mr Fabius said it would be difficult to identify bodies from Air Algerie flight AH5017 because the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 and its occupants were "pulverised" by the extreme impact when it hit the ground.
"Everything will be done to identify the bodies but it is a lengthy, meticulous and extremely complex task," he said.
Television footage showed small, twisted and burnt pieces of metal from the plane strewn over a large expanse of sand dunes with sparse vegetation.
Investigators believe the plane flew into a storm before coming down on Thursday in northern Mali, where French troops have been fighting al-Qa'ida militants.
They believe bad weather was to blame for the crash, but said terrorism could not be ruled out at this early stage of the investigation.
Frederic Cuvillier, the transport minister, said "it may take weeks" to analyse the flight data and cockpit conversations recorded by the black boxes.
France bore the brunt of the tragedy, with 54 French nationals killed. (© The Daily Telegraph)