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Europe

France Compiles Blacklist for Airlines

France has published a list of airlines that aren't allowed to fly its airspace -- beating European regulators to the punch.

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A recent crash in Greece cost 121 people their lives

North Korea's Air Koryo, Air St. Thomas of the US, International Air Service from Liberia, Mozambique's Lineas AER and the Thai Phuket Airlines are all on a "blacklist" of airlines that breach international regulations and therefore can no longer fly in France. The list was published by the French civil aviation authority, DGAC, on its Internet site Monday.

Most of the interdictions had already been made in 2004; the Air Koryo interdiction goes as far back as April 2001.

'Black Mo n th' of August

The blacklist is France's reaction to the "black month" of August, which to date has seen five bad airline accidents and more than 330 resultant deaths. A week ago, a West Caribean Airways plane crashed in Venezuela en route to the French Caribbean island of Martinique, causing 160 deaths of which 152 were French citizens.

Flugzeugabsturz in Luxemburg

Rescue workers examine site of an airplane crash in Niederanven, Luxembourg, in 2002.

So far, France is the third European country, after Great Britain and Sweden, to publicize its own blacklist for airlines. Belgium has also announced plans to publish its own list.

Britain not only forbids certain airlines from flying to the country, it disallows planes or airlines from entire countries on the grounds that they do not implement security measures strictly enough. These countries include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland and Tajikistan.

The Swiss civil aviation authority said it will publish its own list on Thursday.

EU list slated for year e n d

In publishing its list, France beat the European Union to the punch. The EU plans to have prepared a European-wide list of banned airlines by the end of 2005. Candidates for the list are currently being discussed in the European parliament, but no fast date has been set for publication of the list.

Flugzeugabsturz in Venezuelea Colombian airline West Caribbean Airways

The West Caribbean Airways plane that crashed in the mountains of western Venezuela in August

"We hope the list will be adopted very soon, late this year or early next year," European Commission spokesman Rupert Krietemeyer said recently at a briefing.

But while the EU's 25 member states agreed in April to the idea of eventually publishing the names of banned airlines, they disagree on what criteria to use for drawing up such a list.

"We have to set common criteria at the European level," said an official at the European Commission.

Airli n e i n dustry doubtful

For its part, the aviation industry is skeptical about the effectiveness of blacklists. Such lists are usually based on already known security deficits or high accident rates. Therefore, it gives "the false impression that those who are not on the list are entirely safe," according to Lufthansa manager Carsten Spohr. "Even bad airlines have safe flights on most days."

Flugzeugabsturz in Italien

Tunisian airline wreck in Italy, in August.

On an international level, airlines are currently not obligated to publicize security problems that have come to light. Thus the French authorities did not know that in Columbia -- the home of West Caribbean Airways - had imposed a fine on the airline for severe safety violations.

I n formatio n shari n g i n Europe

In Europe, the situation is different. The European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) has begun a control and warning system for airlines.

"If a national aviation authority finds technical defects during a random control, that information goes into a data bank and the information then goes out to the other member countries," said Cornelia Eichhorn, speaker for the German aviation authority. Then each nation can decide for itself whether to restrict that airline's landing rights.

But the main problem in putting together blacklists is unlikely to be affected by European cooperation. Each individual airline's safety can only be effectively tested by its own country. In terms of the safety of foreign carriers, European officials need to rely on the individual country's safety regulators and their own controls.

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