The Yemenia Yemen Airways A310-300 carrying 153 passengers and crew on its way from Sanaa to Moroni in Comoros that crashed in the Indian Ocean late Monday night specifically was barred from operating to France owing to safety concerns, a senior French official said yesterday, but the airline was not on the EU's list of banned carriers and Yemeni officials insisted the plane was safe to operate.
It was Yemenia's first fatal crash, according to the Aviation Safety Network, although its predecessor, Yemen Airways, suffered fatal accidents in 1958, 1969 and 1971. Alyemda, which merged with Yemenia upon Yemen's reunification, had fatal crashes in 1977 and 1982, ASN reported.
So far, only one survivor from the crash has been located. A 14-year-old female passenger was found at sea in the vicinity of the suspected crash site and reportedly is recovering in a Moroni hospital. Visibility at the time of the crash (approximately 1:50 a.m. local time) was described as better than 10 km. with a few clouds, Ascend said.
Meanwhile, French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau told media that the A310-300 that crashed on approach was inspected in France in 2007 and "numerous faults" were found. "This plane had been excluded from the national territory because it represented certain irregularities," he said. The French government said 66 of the doomed aircraft's passengers were French citizens.
European Commission VP-Transport Antonio Tajani told a news conference in Brussels that Yemenia was placed under heightened scrutiny after France expressed concern in 2007 but that the carrier's aircraft cleared subsequent EU inspections and it stayed off the blacklist. Yemenia has passed an IATA Operational Safety Audit, according to ASN.
Yemenia Chairman Abdulkalek Saleh Al Kadi told Bloomberg News yesterday, "We never had problems with the plane." Yemenia Deputy MD Ali Sumairi told France 24 television that the 2007 French inspection revealed "minor findings" that were "corrected." He insisted that the aircraft was "technically sound."
Airbus said the A310 involved in the accident was built in 1990 and had been operated by Yemenia since October 1999. Yemen Transport Minister Khaled Al Wazir told Agence France Presse that "the aircraft was checked in May 2009. It flies frequently to Europe and had flown to London last week."