- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

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 series of deadly crashes.

France late Sunday released a list of six companies from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Thailand, North Korea, Mozambique and Liberia. Belgium’s list released yesterday names nine airlines from Egypt, Armenia, Congo, Libya, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Ukraine and the Central African Republic.

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

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

Starting Sept. 8, states of the European Union will meet in Brussels to work on harmonizing rules to ban or suspend a company’s flights, EU Transport and Tourism 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 until now had never made a blacklist public.

“We also hope this list will persuade foreign companies who want to come to France to be more rigorous,” Mr. Coffin told a press conference.

Thailand’s Phuket Air, 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 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 persons, mostly French tourists.

The French and Belgian measures were announced after 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 United States has a different system that focuses on countries rather than airlines, and uses aviation safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations with headquarters in Montreal.

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