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France calls for global blacklist after Comoros crash

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-08

In the aftermath of the June 30 crash of Yemenia Airbus A310, France has called for a world aviation blacklist of companies that fail to meet safety standards, warning the Yemeni carrier that its name is on the line.

AFP - France has called for a world aviation black list in the wake of a Yemeni airliner crash but the plan would be tough to implement and requires the political will of many governments to succeed.
   
An important means of pressure as well as a sanction for security failures, the list would have to be backed by governments and supervised by national capitals rather than any global aviation body.
   

"A black list is an action taken by states and the states are responsible for enforcing its requirements," said Denis Chagnon, spokesman at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which oversees air transport.
   
Putting an airline on it would be a hard decision to take because such a move is a costly sanction, known in the industry as something like "a death sentence" for a company.
   
In the aftermath of Tuesday's crash of the Yemenia Airbus A310 near the Comoros capital Moroni, in which 152 died, the European Commission also sounded the call for a world blacklist based on the EU's own.
   
The EU's method rankles, with some governments exerting heavy political pressure to ensure that their national flag carriers are not targeted, but the results are clear.
   
Garuda Indonesia was added to Europe's black list two years ago, and following corrective measures is due to be struck from a new list to be released within the next fortnight.
   
Yemenia Airways itself was on the verge of being listed a year ago, but narrowly escaped after drawing up a "corrective action plan" to address EU safety concerns.
   
Not only does it force airlines to act, black-listing can also free up public funds to help companies improve standards, and the European Commission has decided to use the momentum to push for a global list.
   
"We need something and we need it quickly," said an official working with EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani.
   
However an aviation expert at the EU's executive arm underlined that "black-listing must be done on the basis of purely technical questions. It must have nothing to do with politics."
   
On Friday, France warned Yemenia Airways that its name was on the line.
   
"This company is under strict surveillance," Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau told RTL radio. "If it does not want to go on the black list, it will have to make big efforts, very big efforts."
   
The commission has been more cautious.
   
"You don't just put a company on the list on the basis of one accident," explained the expert, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's politically sensitive nature.
   
"There is a procedure to follow and the company concerned must have the right to defend itself," the expert said.
   
Yemen's transport minister met with commission officials Friday and was warned that safety standards at Yemenia "need to be addressed without delay", and company officials have been called for talks in Brussels this week.
   
The crash plane itself had "worrisome defects", Bussereau said, which were detected during a maintenance check on the Airbus A310 two years ago. However those concerns did not stop it flying.
   
"That plane was inspected in 2007," the expert said. "It flew in Europe and no other country signalled that it was dangerous."
   
Yet French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the opposite.
   
"We, quite legitimately, warned the European Commission, the Yemeni aviation authorities and the company itself about the state of that aircraft," he said.
   
An EU legal document from July 2008 revealed that Yemenia aircraft had safety "deficiencies" during inspections in France, Germany and Italy, although it was unclear if the planes checked included the ill-fated Airbus.
   
Yemenia avoided the list when Airbus agreed to help remedy the problems.

Date created : 2009-07-08

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