Initial evidence from the investigation into the fatal crash of an Air Algerie Lockheed L-100-30 Hercules in northern Italy indicates that the aircraft’s autopilot malfunctioned before the turboprop lost directional control.

The 25-year old aircraft came down in the vicinity of Piacenza, between Milan and Parma, on 13 August while operating between Algiers and Frankfurt.

All three crew members were killed. Images from a security camera at a fuel station suggest that the aircraft – a civil version of the Lockheed C-130 military transport – struck the ground at an angle of 45-50° and a speed of 460-485kt.

Initial results from the inquiry by Italy’s Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo (ANSV) have revealed that, while the aircraft, 7T-VHG, was in the cruise with the autopilot engaged, an ‘autopilot failure’ indicator came on.

Twelve seconds later the autopilot disengaged and, a few seconds afterwards, the aircraft lost longitudinal and directional control. The aircraft hit the ground 1min 13sec after the autopilot warning.

Although cockpit voice-recorder information has already been analysed, ANSV is still working to retrieve information from the flight-data recorder which was severely damaged in the crash.

Investigators are also studying radar data from the Milan and Zurich air traffic control centres, as well as the Italian Air Force, in order to determine the trajectory of the flight.