Tripoli: April 6
Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways, both banned from EU airspace on safety grounds, are looking at leasing aircraft so . . .[restrict]they can resume their European flights.
An informed source suggested today that the Libyan carriers are considering ”wet leasing” some aircraft, meaning that they would be hired complete with flight deck crew.
Libya last month volunteered to suspend its European operations, thus avoiding its two carriers being placed on the latest blacklist issued by European Commission’s Aviation Safety Committee.
There remains confusion about the precise grounds for the EU’s concerns. Initially a Brussels spokesman indicated to Libya Herald that the problem lay with the certification of the aircraft themselves. This however was puzzling given that the EU has said that the suspension of flights is likely to last until November at the earliest. Civil aviation experts question whether checking out the aircraft would take that long.
It was later suggested that the issue also lay with out-of-date qualifications for flight crew and maintenance engineers. A diplomatic source pointed out this week that it would probably take around six months to have flight crew and maintenance staff re-certificated. The same source however dismissed the idea that the EU action was prompted by concerns over poor security at Libyan airports: ”After all,”he said,”other airlines are flying in and out of Libya every day and any security concerns would apply as much to them as Libyan carriers.”
The fact that the government volunteered to stop EU flights has drawn some criticism here in Libya. It has been argued that Tripoli should have challenged Brussels to make its case against Libyan carriers, instead of bowing immediately to EU pressure and imposing its own ban.
However it seems that in accepting what was almost certainly inevitable, the interim government may have gained considerable goodwill with Brussels and a commitment to help Libyan carriers sort out their problems.
The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for transport Siim Kallas said last week: “The Commission is ready to spare no effort to assist its neighbours in building their technical and administrative capacity to overcome any difficulties in the area of safety as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
”In the meantime, safety comes first. We cannot afford any compromise in this area. Where we have evidence inside or outside the EU that air carriers are not performing safe operations, we must act to guarantee to exclude any risks to safety.”