Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Iranian Airline Crash Kills 168, Raises More Safety Questions About Some Small Foreign Carriers

A Russian-made Tu-154 jet crashed this morning in northwest Iran, killing all 168 on board. The plane was bound from Tehran to the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

Caspian Airlines was started in Iran in 1992. It has a fleet of six Tu-154s and has 50 scheduled routes, some between cities in Iran and others to destinations in Hungary, the UAE, Syria, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus and Turkey.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on the Tu-154 airliner.

Iran has a lot of plane crashes, most of which stay off the international radar.

The Iran crash comes a little two weeks after 150 were killed when a Yemenia Airlines A310 crashed in the Indian Ocean.

The recent crashes, coming during peak summer travel season, highlight an issue that not enough travelers are aware of: The potential perils of flying on little known airlines with safety records that might be questionable at best.

Many of these airlines turn up online on searches for "cheap flights." International travelers on a budget need to be aware that safety and maintenance standards are not universal.

Here is a link to airlines banned from European and U.S. airspace because of safety concerns. It's from the European Commission on Transport. (Caspian Airlines is not on the list).

As far as I know, the FAA does not publish a similar list, though FAA bans are noted within the EU list. The EU list is straightforward, naming individual airlines. The FAA list, reflecting the FAA's reflexive coziness with airlines, merely names countries that have Category 2 carriers (meaning: death trap). Thanks to Walt Baranger for the tip on the list, which is not widely known.


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