Government Allows PMT To Continue Flying

Government officials said June 27 that they would continue to allow troubled air carrier Pro­gress Multitrade Co to ply dome­stic and international routes pending the results of an investigation into Monday’s crash.

The wreckage of Flight U4 241, a 44-seat Soviet-built turboprop, was discovered early June 27 on a Kampot province mountainside 51 km from its destination at Sihanoukville’s Kang Keng airport. All 22 people aboard were confirmed dead.

Him Sarun, cabinet chief at the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, said his agency could not apportion blame for the crash until an assessment had been made of the airplane’s two flight data recorders.

“None of the governments in the region would stop a commercial air carrier after one plane got in an accident,” he said, adding that the crash investigation will be key to future decisions.

“We only trust in the black boxes,” he said.

PMT executives could not be reached June 27. However, a ticketing agent in the company’s Siem Reap province office who identified herself only as Manith said the airline had suspended all do­mestic routes and was only con­tinuing service to Hanoi and the South Korean city of Busan.

Kroch Vany, the SSCA’s head of flight movements, said PMT informed officials that it would be suspending the thrice-weekly Siem Reap to Sihanoukville flight and did not mention other routes.

“If there is a canceled flight, it might be because of a lack of passengers,” he added.

The loss of the Antonov An-24 reduced the company’s fleet to five aircraft, including another Antonov An-24, two Antonov An-12s, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 and a Boeing 737.

Him Sarun referred questions about the plane’s safety record to PMT.

The Associated Press news agency reported Wednesday that South Korean aviation officials will be carrying out safety checks on the company’s aircraft as a result of the crash.

Cambodian officials have said they still feel PMT Air is safe.

In its 47-year history, the An-24, the manufacture of which ceased in 1978, has been involved in a total of 125 accidents in which aircraft were destroyed, causing a total of 1,729 fatalities, not including the 22 killed June 25, according to the Aviation Safety Net­work, part of the US-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Requests for comment from the Antonov ATSC company in Kiev were not answered Wednes­day. However, an aviation expert wrote in an e-mail June 27 that the most worrying safety factor of the An-24 is that it is old.

“It becomes increasingly difficult to keep aircraft in airworthy condition as they age, even under the best of circumstances,” said the Singapore-based analyst who requested not to be named.

“The key point here is the age of the aircraft,” he said.

“It’s less material that their aircraft type has experienced so many catastrophic accidents over the course of its life…than the fact that it’s a circa-1959 design that has not been in production since 1978.”

In December 2005, the UN Department of Safety and Se­cu­rity in New York banned all UN personnel from flying PMT Air following a review by the World Food Program’s flight safety unit, WFP Country Direc­tor Thomas Keusters said June 26.

WFP is the largest operator of aircraft in the UN system, he said. PMT denounced the UN decision at the time, saying the world body had been misinformed. However Keusters said June 26 the order remains in place.

The Russian Embassy meanwhile sought to correct official reports that the plane’s pilot, Ni­ko­lay Pavlenko, had been Russian.

“He was a citizen of Uzbe­ki­stan,” said Timur Zevakhin, chief of the consular affairs section.


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