Africa records flight mystery off the coast of Senegal

Seven people on board a flight from Burkina Faso to Dakar are feared dead after a medical evacuation plane disappeared off the coast of Senegal. According to the Senegalese civil aviation authority, this incident occurred on Saturday night.

The authority also said in a statement that the private Senegalair plane flying from around 1,700 km (1,100 miles) southeast of Dakar dropped off radar screens at 7:08 p.m (1908 GMT), 118 km (74 miles) west of the capital city. “The search is still going on but it hasn’t been fruitful so far and we will probably continue it tomorrow,” said Magueye Marame Ndao, head of the authority.

The plane was transporting a patient, three crew members, a doctor and two nurses. It was chartered by ambulance service SOS Medecin Senegal and left Ouagadougou at 4:30 p.m. (1630 GMT), Burkina Faso’s minister of transport, Daouda Traore, told Reuters.

While Aviation has its risks, this incident only represents one of them. To date, two airplanes are missing while one was maliciously shot down; the one common thing in all three incidents is that the planes originated from Asia.

The most recent of these incidents is the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 that left Surabaya, Indonesia for Singapore in December last year with 162 souls on board, requested permission to climb to a higher altitude due to bad weather but lost contact with air traffic control shortly after. In effect, it disappeared from the radar.

Perhaps this latest occurrence in Senegal will prompt a swift reaction by airlines in getting the word out and seeking government support in launching search and rescue efforts. “We reckon the last point at which contact with radar was lost was 60 nautical miles (111 km) off the coast of Dakar,” Ndao said, adding that three planes and a naval ship were involved in the search.

Going forward, African airlines will need to implement a few changes. Firstly the need for more sophisticated tracking hardware and risk assessment just got greater. Air operators will also do well to quickly align to precautionary measures from international agencies while implementing stricter measures to guarantee safe travel for their passengers.

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