Flight AF953 was making a short evening flight from Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, to Douala, Cameroon’s largest city. It had just 36 people aboard but was due to pick up more passengers en route to Paris.
According to a Reuters report, the aircraft ran into bad weather while cruising at about 9000 feet (2743 metres). The pilots diverted north to avoid the worst of the storm, but their route back towards Douala headed towards the 4090-metre-high active volcano Mount Cameroon, the airline and the BEA said.
Mount Cameroon is the highest point in sub-Saharan western and central Africa.
The BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile) is the French authority responsible for safety investigations into accidents or incidents in civil aviation.
The nearness of the mountain triggered the plane’s automated ground-proximity warning system. It sounded an emergency warning, urging the crew to take evasive action.
Air France said the crew of AF953 reacted in accordance with their training and the plane’s manuals. The airline added, however, that the crew had been taken off flying duties for further training.
The BEA is investigating the manoeuvre as a “serious incident”, defined under aviation protocols as indicating that an accident nearly occurred.
Written by Peter Needham