France, Belgium publish blacklist of air carriers banned from their airports

Monday, August 29th 2005, 11:39 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ France and Belgium have issued blacklists of airlines prohibited from using their airports, an attempt to allay public fears about flying after a recent series of deadly crashes.

The French list released late Sunday comprises six companies from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Thailand, North Korea, Mozambique and Liberia. Belgium's list released Monday includes nine airlines from Egypt, Armenia, Congo, Libya, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Ukraine and the Central African Republic.

Swiss civil aviation officials also said they plan to release a similar list Thursday.

Proposals for a European blacklist are still being prepared, prompting individual countries to take action in the meantime.

Starting Sept. 8, EU states will meet in Brussels to work on harmonizing rules to ban or suspend a company's flights, EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said.

Maxime Coffin, test director at the French civil aviation authority, said he hoped the list would speed up Europe's efforts.

Though all the airlines had been banned in recent years, France had never before made a blacklist public.

``We also hope this list will persuade foreign companies who want to come to France to be more rigorous,'' Coffin told a news conference.

Thailand's Phuket Airways, one of the airlines banned in France, demanded to know what criteria France used to judge it.

``I really don't understand what is the meaning of unsafe. Unsafe for what? Unsafe for operations or unsafe for what? Because we have never had a serious incident or accident, so I would like to ask back to the authorities what is the meaning of unsafe?'' Capt. Chawanit Chiamcharoenvut, executive vice president of Phuket Air, said in Bangkok.

Because air accidents are still so rare _ despite this month's spike _ airline records fail to tell the whole story, safety specialists say.

In France, many questioned the reliability blacklists.

``Publishing lists is completely ineffective,'' said Marc Chernet, president of an association for victims of a Flash Airlines plane crash in the Red Sea in June 2004. The plane, heading to Paris, crashed after taking off from Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, killing 148 people, mostly French tourists.

The French and Belgian measures were announced following five aviation accidents in the past few months, including one involving a Colombian-registered charter that crashed in Venezuela, killing 152 French citizens from the Caribbean island of Martinique.

On Saturday, a charter flight from Turkish company Fly Air was grounded at Paris' Roissy airport with tire problems and a small fuel leak. That company was not on France's blacklist.

The U.S. has a slightly different system that focuses on countries rather than airlines, and uses aviation safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency headquartered in Montreal. Twenty-six of the 100 countries that have been assessed do not meet ICAO standards, most in Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

France's list of banned airlines is: Air Koryo of North Korea; Air St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands; International Air Services of Liberia; Thailand's Phuket Airlines; and Linhas Aereas de Mocambique and Transairways, both from Mozambique.

On the Belgian list were Africa Lines of the Central African Republic; Air Memphis from Egypt; Air Van Airlines of Armenia; Central Air Express from Congo; Libya's ICTTPW; International Air Tours Limited from Nigeria; Johnsons Air Limited of Ghana; Silverback Cargo Freighters from Rwanda; and South Airlines of Ukraine.