By Tom Westcott
London, 19 December:
Libyan airliners and flight crew are still banned from EU airspace, according to the latest report from . . .[restrict]Brussels.
Despite noting the progress made by the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), the European Commission’s Air Safety Committee, with the approval of LCAA, has just announced that it is keeping the ban in place into 2013.
The Air Safety Committee’s report pointed to continuing safety concerns, despite saying it was encouraged by: “The sound plan of the LCAA to address the safety deficiencies in their aviation system, the realistic timescales for actions, and the progress made to date.”
However, Alan Mates, Head of Operations for Afriqiyah Airways in the UK, told Libya Herald that the real cause is paperwork problems dating back to 2007. “There are no safety issues with the aircraft themselves,” he said. “it’s purely a record-keeping problem.”
“There were certain shortfalls in record-keeping, going back to 2007,” Mates explained. “Under international aviation law, there is a requirement that all the technical records from the aircraft are filed and updated with the CAA in the registered country and this wasn’t done.”
The ban should have been lifted by the end of November, at the Air Safety Committee’s biannual meeting. However, Mates said: “There were several points that they weren’t entirely happy with and they put an extension on the ban, possibly until the end of the winter flying season, which is the end of March.”
Dale Kidd, Press Officer for Transport at the EU, confirmed that the next meeting of the Air Safety Committee will be in Spring 2012, with the outcome due to be announced in April.
Until then, Afriqiyah and Libyan Airlines are forced to continue ‘wet-leasing’ aircraft to service their current EU routes. Wet-leasing means that aircraft, along with flight and cabin crew, are leased from another airline. Libyan Airlines are currently wet-leasing two Airbus A320s from Tunisia’s Nouvelair and Afriqiyah Airways are wet-leasing an Airbus A320 from Air Moldova.
The ban is not just on Libyan aircraft landing in the EU but also extends to flying through EU airspace. This has forced Afriqiyah to fly a dog-leg between Tripoli and Istanbul via Alexandria, adding an hour extra flying time onto the journey.
The report said that the LCAA would retain the current restrictions on Libyan air carriers’ operations into the EU: “Until such time as a full five stage recertification has been completed and any significant findings closed, following which, and in agreement with the Commission, individual air carriers could be permitted to recommence commercial flights to the EU, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.”
The LCAA told the Air Safety Committee that: “The recertification process is planned to be completed in the case of Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah by December 2012 and for the remaining air carriers by December 2013.”
This has clearly not been achieved, despite continuing safety checks and staff training. Mates said: “all Afriqiyah flight crews have been rechecked and revalidated using facilities in Tunisia, Cairo and Jordan, and locally at Gatwick. The pilots are fully competent to fly.” He added that the Afriqiyah aircraft have been checked by Airbus engineers themselves, by Air France, Lufthansa and Air Malta. “They’ve all been examined and passed as airworthy.” [/restrict]