Wed, July 01, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Yemenia plane crashes

Yemeni jetliner that crashed had stirred safety questions

2009-07-01 05:32:45 GMT2009-07-01 13:32:45 (Beijing Time)

A Yemenia plane in the Indian Ocean island of Soccotra. A Yemeni Airbus carrying 153 people crashed into the Indian Ocean as it came into land in the Comoros islands but rescuers have managed to pull a child survirvor from the water, officials say. (AFP Photo)

CAIRO - European aviation authorities had raised safety questions two years ago about the Yemeni Airbus 310 jetliner that plunged into rough seas Tuesday with 153 people aboard on its approach to the island nation of Comoros in the Indian Ocean.

A 14-year-old girl plucked from the waves and debris appeared to be the lone survivor as military boats, planes and rescue teams fanned out along the coast off the Comoro capital, Moroni. The Airbus, with a crew of 11, was flying through strong winds as it prepared to land at the city's Prince Said Ibrahim International Airport hours after leaving the Yemeni capital, San'a.

The plane, which lost radio contact with the control tower and vanished about 12 miles off shore, was carrying 66 French nationals and other passengers including Comorans, a Palestinian and a Canadian.

Flight 626 originated in Paris and stopped in Marseille before traveling on to San'a, where passengers switched to the Airbus 310-300.

That jet, which was 19 years old and operated by Yemen's national carrier, Yemenia, had raised suspicions earlier among European safety inspectors.

In 2007, French transportation authorities barred the plane from French airports following a safety review that found problems with technical equipment.

Inspectors "noticed a certain number of defects. Since then the plane had not returned to France," Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau was quoted as telling French TV. "The company (Yemenia) was not on the blacklist but was subject to stricter checks on our part and was due to be interviewed shortly by the European Union's safety committee."

French authorities did not go into detail about the nature of the defects, but Yemeni officials insisted they were minor.


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