The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Watch - Plane crashes in Luqa, five Frenchmen dead; French government reaction

Monday, 24 October 2016, 07:43 Last update: about 8 years ago

Five people died this morning when a light aircraft crashed soon after take-off at Malta International Airport.

MIA confirmed that five people have died in the accident which took place at 7.20am. All five have been confirmed as being French nationals by the Department of Information.

plane crashes from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

The plane crashed near the runway soon after take-off and burst into flames (video above: Laurent Azzopardi)

A government statement issued at noon said that a Fairchild Metroliner Mark III aircraft is registered in the United States and leased to a Luxembourg company.

Official information, footage and eyewitnesses, including three members of the Armed Forces of Malta at the nearby Safi Barracks, and two commercial airline pilots, clearly indicate that there was no explosion prior to impact, the government said. Several inquiries, as established by international rules and the Laws of Malta, are currently underway to establish all facts.

The remains of all five men on board, all French nationals, have been found, the government said.

The flight was part of a French Customs surveillance operation which has been taking place for the past five months, with the aim of tracing routes of illicit trafficking of all sorts, including human and drug trafficking amongst others. The said flight was registered with the Malta Air Traffic Services as a local flight and was to return to Malta within hours without landing in third countries.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the five on board were three French Defence Ministry officials and two private contractors.

The French ministry said it will conduct an investigation on what caused the crash, Le Drian said in a statement.

The plane had taken off before it suddenly tipped onto its right side crashed into the ground, eyewitnesses said.

The aircraft was initially believed to have been leased from Luxembourg for use by officials of Frontex, an agency that deals with migration issues. But Frontex has said in a tweet that this is not the case.

In an official statement, Frontex later confirmed "that the plane that crashed this morning in Malta was not deployed in operational activities coordinated by Frontex. No Frontex staff was on board."

In an official statement, Frontex later confirmed "that the plane that crashed this morning in Malta was not deployed in operational activities coordinated by Frontex. No Frontex staff was on board."

Some of the debris ended up on the runway, while parts of the plane finished on the road outside the perimeter of the airport. This led to the airport to be closed to both incoming and outgoing flights for more than four hours, with operations resuming at 11.30am.

As the identity of the people on board was being established, the European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs has said that there were no EU officials on board and that the flight was not related to an EU activity.

An Air Malta flight to Heathrow, which was the next flight scheduled to leave, did not depart. Eyewitnesses said that had the small plane crashed on the other side of the runway the tragedy could have been bigger.

All outgoing flights were delayed while incoming flights were diverted. Passengers were requested to check the airport's website for developments. The MIA said that the airport was reopened at about 11.30am, four hours after the accident. The airport is however on operational slowdown, and while operations have been resumed, it will take some time for today's schedule to come back to normal since many flights have been delayed/diverted, MIA said. 

A first official statement issued by the MIA at 8.30am said that "at 7:20 this morning, an aircraft accident occurred at Malta International Airport. The Rescue and Fire Services team together with members from the Civil Protection Department and Mater Dei were dispatched to the scene immediately. Our priority at this time is with the passengers involved."

MIA plane crash (1) from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

In a second statement just before 10am, MIA gave more details, saying that "at 7:20am a Fairchild Metroliner with registration number: N577MX was involved in an aircraft accident upon take-off. 

air crash luqa from The Malta Independent on Vimeo

(Video above Edward Degaetano)

"We can confirm that the 5 crew on board the aircraft are deceased. Our thoughts are with the families of the people involved in the accident today.

"An investigation is currently ongoing and we are working with all the authorities to provide them with any assistance necessary," MIA said.

This Fairchild Metroliner N577MX, which belongs to CAE Aviation, is equipped for ground and maritime surveillance. N577MX was used by the Armee de l'Air Francaise to patrol the Libyan coast from MIA.

In a statement, Air Malta said that a number of Air Malta flights are delayed today due to the accident

The following flights that were scheduled to depart from MIA this morning will be delayed: KM612/3 (Malta-Rome-Malta) KM394/5 (Malta-Amsterdam-Malta) KM116/7 (Malta-London Gatwick-Malta) KM100/101 (Malta-London Heathrow-Malta) KM306/7 (Malta-Munich-Malta).

Air Malta flight from Catania to Malta KM641 that was due to land at MIA this morning returned back to Catania and will fly to Malta when the airport will reopen.

Flights KM423 Brussels-Malta and KM479 Paris Charles De Gaulle Malta that are currently in Brussels and Paris respectively are also awaiting MIA to re-open to fly back to Malta.

The airline’s flights for this afternoon may be delayed. Air Malta expresses its regret at this accident. The airline said it is closely monitoring the situation and will advise its passengers of changes in its flight operations on

Air Malta said it understands that in this situation some passengers may prefer to postpone their travel or cancel their trips. As a gesture of goodwill the airline is offering affected passengers free re-booking on any Air Malta operated scheduled flight subject to availability or full refund of ticket. For any re-booking or re-routing enquiries clients can contact Air Malta’s International Call Centre on +356 21662211.

Air Malta is doing its utmost to minimise these delays and inconveniencies to its passengers and is offering its affected clients the required assistance. A spokesman for the airline apologises to its passengers for these delays caused by circumstances beyond its control. 

The Office for Consumer Affairs within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority issued a statement to remind passengers affected by the temporary closure this morning of the Malta International Airport of their rights. 

Passengers who had their flight delayed or cancelled are legally entitled to meals and refreshments commensurate to the waiting time and to two telephone calls, or fax messages, or e-mails free of charge. In the event that the flight is announced as cancelled, or is expected to be delayed for 5 hours or more, passengers are also entitled to  either cancel their trip and claim full reimbursement of the flight ticket, or to re-booking  a later date of their choice subject to seat availability.

If the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation.    

Passengers are encouraged to contact their airline for further information, and to access the MIA website and social media channels that are being updated with the latest developments.

For further information or assistance, affected air passengers may also contact the MCCAA on telephone number 2395 2000, or via email on: [email protected]

Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia, on behalf of Parliament, sent his condolences to the French Parliament and Senate.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the latest version.


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