Official: Swiss banned airline
Sunday, January 4, 2004 Posted: 9:48 AM
EST (1448 GMT)
BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- The Egyptian charter company whose plane crashed into the Red Sea killing 148 people had been banned from flying to Switzerland for more than a year because of technical problems, a civil aviation official said Sunday.
"A series of safety shortcomings showed up in a plane of Flash Airlines during a routine security check at Zurich Airport in October 2002," said Celestine Perissinotto, spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation, confirming Swiss and French television reports.
She told The Associated Press that she was unable to go into detail and did not know what type of plane had problems in Switzerland, but that she understood the company had two airliners.
The plane that crashed after takeoff from Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, Saturday was a Boeing 737. Everyone on board was killed. Most of the passengers were French tourists.
Flash Airlines said in Egypt that the 737 that crashed was one of two it owned.
Perissinotto declined to go into detail about the shortcomings of the company.
"It concerned violations of the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization," she said.
Perissinotto said the Swiss report was given both to the airline and to Egyptian civil aviation authorities.
"Since then we have had no reaction," Perissinotto said.
French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien said neither he nor his ministry knew of the Swiss ban. He told Europe-1 radio that he had heard "it was more for economic reasons that this company did not fly over Switzerland."
"I call for extreme caution with this type of announcement that adds emotion for families who certainly don't need it at the moment," he said.
Although Flash Airlines has been banned from entering or flying over Switzerland since October 2002, one of its planes was allowed to make a landing in Geneva last year for exceptional reasons, Perissinotto said, confirming a report in the weekly newspaper SonntagsBlick.
That plane was supposed to land in Paris but was diverted to Geneva because of bad weather, she said.
Swiss authorities demanded that the airline explain why it had needed to land in Geneva rather than another airport, but "these explanations were also insufficient. The situation had not improved."