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Old 08-29-2005, 12:01 PM   #1
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France and Belgium publish list of unsafe airlines

[q] Amid safety flap, France and Belgium publish lists of 'unsafe' airlines

19 minutes ago

Acting in response to a series of civil aviation disasters, both France and Belgium published a list of airlines banned from their airspace for safety reasons.

France said it had banned five passenger carriers, and Belgium nine cargo companies.

The action had the full support of the European Commission, which is trying to implement an EU-wide list of suspect airlines that pools safety information from all 25 member states.

The announcement of the name-and-shame policy follows a string of fatal accidents this month, including a crash on August 16 that killed 160 people in Venezuela, almost all of them French tourists from the Caribbean island of Martinique.

Fatal crashes have also occurred this month near Athens and off the coast of Sicily.

The initiative brings France and Belgium into line with Britain, Switzerland and the United States, where authorities have either identified banned airlines or named countries where civil aviation regulations are deemed to be inadequate.

But some in the industry have criticised the proposal, saying the only way to improve security is to increase inspections and put pressure on foreign civil aviation authorities to enforce more stringent safety regulations.

Many tour operators in France were skeptical about the blacklists, noting that many of the companies were unknown, and had never even asked to fly to France.

"This list is a mistake because it leads one to believe that companies not on the list are not risky, which is false," said Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Afat-Voyages.

"Furthermore, no carrier that has had an accident since 2004 is on the French list," added Mas.

Maxime Coffin, director of security and control at DGAC, France's civil aviation authority, said he accepted that the list was "not a universal response or a panacea" to security fears after five aviation disasters in the last month.

"Putting companies on a list is not enough to avoid all accidents," said Coffin, but by being more transparent, we are improving the information available to passengers and it's a way for each state to strengthen control over its airlines."

Coffin said the lists would also accelerate Europe-wide efforts to monitor the issue.

Of the combined 14 airlines banned by France and Belgium, seven are African.

The publication of the lists prompted an admission from African Air safety regulator ASECNA that the continent had a dearth of expertise in the area of airline safety.

"This lack of expertise concerns the technical and commercial viability of carriers and it's the same for every country in Africa," said Amadou Ousmane, head of ASECNA, which includes 17 mainly francophone African countries and France and is based in Dakar.

Ousmane said he believed the publication of the lists was a good thing, commenting that air accidents in Africa occur because companies get around the safety inspections and regulations.

"It will let the public know that it's not safe to take any old company," he said.

But officials at Air Mozambique (LAM), a company that is on the French blacklist, called the move unfair and excessive.

"We reject this initiative to blacken the image of our airline and the country," said LAM official Joao de Abreu, who claimed the restriction was not due to major safety concerns but anomalies, such as improperly labeled life jackets and a pilot who was found to be without his license, during flights between Maputo and the French island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.

But for Thai carrier Phuket Airlines, which recently had one of its planes impounded at South Korea's Incheon International Airport amid a row over maintenance and service fees, the publication of the French list, on which it figures, was the latest blow.

"We don't know what is the reason and what is the meaning to justify that we are unsafe," said airline vice-president Chawanit Chiamcharoenvut.

"But we have to accept their decision... and improve our safety and maintenance."

The list of outlawed carriers, which appear on the web sites of the French and Belgian civil aviation authorities, are as follows.

France: Air Koryo from North Korea; Air Saint-Thomas from the United States; International Air Service from Liberia; Air Mozambique (LAM) along with affiliated carrier Transairways; and Phuket Airways of Thailand, which had not previously been named by the transport ministry.

Belgium: Africa Lines (Central African Republic); Air Memphis (Egypt); Air Van Airlines (Armenia); Central Air Express (Democratic Republic of the Congo); ICTTPW (Libya); International Air Tours Limited (Nigeria); Johnsons Air Limited (Ghana); Silverback Cargo Freighters (Rwanda); and South Airlines (Ukraine).[/q]
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