Government Indefinitely Grounds Russian Antonov Planes

The State Secretariat for Civil Aviation indefinitely grounded all Antonov airplanes on Tuesday, giving the secretariat time to investigate why two of the Russian-made planes have crashed this year, an official said Thursday.

In June, a PMT Air Antonov An-24 passenger plane crashed in Kampot province, killing all 22 on board, and on Oct 18, an Imtrec Avi­a­tion Antonov An-12 cargo plane crash-landed in Kandal province, resulting in injuries to crewmembers and one passenger, but no deaths.

“We ordered Russian Antonov cargo flights to stop temporarily,” said Mao Havanall, secretary of state for the civil aviation secretariat.

“We have take action to streng­then air security…to prevent all accidents from happening again,” he said, adding that al­though the order covers all models of Antonov planes, only cargo planes will be affected by the grounding.

“We don’t have Russian-made Antonov passenger planes in Cambodia,” he said. “The PMT plane that crashed is the last one,” he added.

The flight data recorders from PMT’s crash are still with the manufacturer in Russia with no indication as to when they will be re­turned to Cambodia, Mao Hava­nall said, adding that the secretariat is preparing to send the black boxes from the downed Imtrec cargo flight to the same manufacturer.

Mao Havanall said he did not know how long the grounding of Antonov planes will last.

PMT Director Sar Sareth said that his airline was ordered to ground one Antonov An-12 cargo plane, but that the civil aviation secretariat had not given him a reason why.

“We have no official letter about that from the SSCA,” he said, adding that he did not know how old his now grounded Antonov cargo plane was.

“We cannot say right now be­cause I cannot get information about the aircraft,” Sar Sareth said, adding that he would need two weeks to obtain information about the plane.

Sar Sareth said that he was unfazed by the grounding and that PMT would carry on with its scheduled flights.

“If they don’t allow the Russian aircraft we can find another one to fly,” he added.

Cambodian families of the victims of PMT’s fatal crash said Thursday that they still have not received compensation from PMT for their loss.

Mao Havanall said that the issue of compensation is between the families, PMT, and the insurer.

Sar Sareth said he did not know whether or not the families had been paid by the airplane’s insurer, whose name he could not recall.

On Oct 4 Sar Sareth said that prominent Lloyd’s of London in­sured PMT Air flight U4 241, though Lloyd’s has denied that assertion.

Sar Sareth on Wednesday refer­red questions regarding the crash­ed plane’s insurer to PMT Chair­man Demetri Stepanov, who he said was currently in Russia.

John Rico, an officer for Imtrec, said that he too had received no­tice from the civil aviation secretariat to ground their two Anton­ov cargo planes—an An-12 and an An-26.

Rico added that the grounding will hurt both his airline and his customers that use his low-cost flights. The company will be forced to use more expensive “Western” made aircraft, he said.

“Cambodia produces many garments. If they cannot send [their products] out how is the business going to run?” he said.

Cheat Khemara, senior labor officer for the Garment Manu­facturers Association of Cambo­dia, said that more expensive cargo flights will not have much effect on the industry.

“In general, not many garment factories use airplanes to transport their goods,” he said, adding that 99 percent of all garments are exported by sea.

            (Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)

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