Plane In Holding Pattern Crashes, Killing All 22 Aboard
PARIS (AP) _ A twin-engine commuter plane flying from Nancy to Paris crashed near the capital this morning while waiting to land, killing all 22 people aboard, aviation authorities said.
The Fairchild 227 turboprop, owned by the small aviation company TAT, apparently hit high-tension wires and crashed in a field in Pamfou, a town near Melun, 25 miles southwest of Paris, police said.
The force of the crash gouged a huge hole in the plowed land, police said. Officials said there was snow in the region and temperatures were below freezing.
The aircraft was carrying 19 passengers, including a baby, and three crew members, TAT Commercial Director Patrice Decourt told The Associated Press. Earlier reports said 21 people were aboard.
Debris from the plane was spread out over hundreds of square yards and workers were combing the field and surrounding forests.
The director of the Nancy-Essey airport, Jean-Claude Philippe, said the plane had been circling the Melun area in the Seine-et-Marne region, 25 miles southeast of Paris, waiting for orders to land at Orly airport.
″Planes are landed sooner or later. So they are stacked up, waiting for a free runway,″ Philippe said. ″They don’t wait long, of course. Several minutes.″
Decourt said the plane was in the holding pattern for six to seven minutes after the 50-minute flight from Nancy, then ″plunged very rapidly″ to the ground.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known. Police and rescue workers were searching the area for the aircraft’s black box.
″The plane ... was perhaps in a situation of intense icing, but TAT’s experience with this type of plane leads us to believe that circumstances which we are not yet aware of led to the accident,″ said a statement issued by TAT.
The U.S.-made Fairchild 227 is built under license from the Dutch company Fokker.
The last ground contact with the plane was at 7:32 a.m., according to the control tower at Orly. The aircraft disappeared from the radar five minutes later.
A trainee flight attendant, Helene Guillou, said in Nancy that she missed the flight because she overslept.
″I was an intern hostess and this morning I didn’t hear the alarm clock,″ Ms. Gillou said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
She said the same plane made a trip without problems Thursday night but that the pilot had mentioned icy conditions.
Today’s crash was the worst plane accident in France since 1981, when a Yugoslav DC-9 went down near Ajaccio, Corsica, in the Mediterranean, killing 180 people.