Niger is a Saharan African country with a large landmass that penetrates deep into the world's largest desert. Here in 1989 UTA Flight 772 was tragically lost while en route from The People's Republic of the Congo (via N'Djamena in Chad) to Paris in France. The loss of life was total.
Today there is an intriguing landmark that memorializes the tragic event. The memorial is even visible from space and is shaped in the outline of an airplane and compass pointing in the direction of Paris. In satellite images, it is something like a tattoo in the landscape.
What To Know About The Remote Memorial
The memorial seen there today is visually striking. It is a life-size silhouette of the aircraft lying inside a dark stone circle. Surrounding the memorial are some 170 broken mirrors to the people who perished. Even part of the original wreckage is part of the memorial. At the end of the memorial, one of the plane's wings stands with its tip pointing up. A plaque is on it listing the names of the passengers and crew.
- Flight: UTA flight 772
- Date: 19 September 1989
- Route: Brazzaville, Congo to Paris, France
- Memorial: Built Like a Compass With An Airplane In It
If one visits the memorial and crash site today, one will still see wreckage scattered around the desolate area.
- Made Of: Stones
- Mirrors: 170 Broken Mirrors to Represent The Victims
The memorial was built 6 miles or 10 kilometers away from the actual crash site. According to the BBC, the intention for the memorial's location was two-fold. One was to protect the sanctity of the crash site so that it would be visible to those flying overhead.
The Quest To Build The Memorial
The memorial was driven by Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc (his father perished on the ill-fated DC10). Building the memorial was an 18-year quest that came at a cost to his personal life. The funds to build the memorial were drawn from a large aid package provided by the Libyan government.
- Built: By the Families Of the Victims
It took two months of hard and grueling work in one of the most desolate places on earth to complete the memorial. The memorial was built on an earlier memorial that had been built by the colleagues of three Exxon employees who had been on the flight (the memorial was the upright wing with the plaque). By the time the second monument was built, the first had fallen over, so they re-erected it and included it in the larger, second memoria.
Denoix de Saint Marc was asked why he should build a memorial that no one could see. He thought about that and decided to build a memorial that could be seen from the air - as other planes also fly over the Sahara. He was inspired by a French system in the 1920s that used large stone circles to help navigate early planes across the Sahara to France's colonies.
The memorial was built with the help of 140 locals from nearby Agadez and was mostly built by hand. The region is a troubled one, but local militias mostly left them in peace to build the memorial.
Visiting The Memorial To UTA Flight 772
If one would like to visit the memorial, one should look to get a professional tour of the site. The site is deep in the Sahara and may not be so simple to reach. The memorial is in the country of Niger and all Western Passport holders require a visa to visit the country - so plan in advance.
- Visa: Visa Are Required For Most Countries - Including America
- Caution: Check With Current Travel Advice Before Traveling
It should also be noted, that as of the time of writing (May 2022), the U.S. Department of State does not recommend traveling to Niger giving it a Level 3 "Reconsider Travel" warning. Before traveling to this region of Africa, it is important to get accurate and informed information before going.
An Off The Beaten Track Country
There is only limited tourism in Niger and very little supporting tourism infrastructure. The more popular places to visit in Niger are the historical city of Agadez, areas around the Niger River, animal reserves like Koure, and the capital Niamey.
For those lucky enough to visit this forgotten country they will find that Niger is a desert republic filled with equally forgotten history and ancient caravan cities on the edge of the Sahara. One of the tour companies offering guided tours in Niger is Niger Travel and Tours.