Airlines from eight nations banned for poor safety records

AIRLINES FROM eight countries are not allowed into British airspace , in most cases because the carriers have such poor safety records, Tony McNulty, the Transport minister, said yesterday.

Ministers had been under pressure to reveal the blacklist since last week's crash in Egyptof a jet operated by Flash Air, which has been banned from Switzerland; 148 people died in the crash. Mr McNulty revealed yesterday in a written Parliamentary answer that all airlines from the west African nations of Equatorial Guinea, Gambia and Liberia, and from the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, are prevented from flying to Britain. The Department for Transport said each of those airlines had failed to demonstrate that adequate safety checks are carried out on their aircraft.

Safety worries have also led to the banning of Star Air and Air Universal from Sierra Leone and Central Air Express from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Albanian Airlines has been outlawed because of concerns over security and immigration controls at the country's main airport in Tirana. A ban is also in place on Cameroon Airlines, which has not paid fines for carrying passengers without proper travel documents.

RAF-AVIA of Latvia, Enimex of Estonia, Air Bosnia, Inter Trans Air of Bulgaria, Air Memphis of Egypt have also been unable to fly to the UK at some point since 1 January 2000.

Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association, said yesterday that his members were reporting potentially serious security lapses in the developing world and at small European airports served by budget airlines. Mr McAuslan said: "I think in some countries you see things that would make your hair stand on end. Things going on to aircraft that haven't been through proper screening, the way in which aircraft are cleaned, people that can mill around the aircraft."

Cargo planes could be just as much at risk as passenger aircraft and yet little was being done to improve security on them, Mr McAuslan added.

It has been reported that two airlines banned or restricted from at least one European country in 2002 were still flying in Britain last year. But the two airlines - believed to be holiday charter companies - have not been named. A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said that there was no reason to ban Flash Air because the company had never applied for a permit to operate in the UK.

Mr McNulty told MPs: "The UK has one of the most rigorous safety regimes in the world and plays a leading role in seeking to raise international safety standards. Since 1 January 2000 a number of airlines have had applications for permits turned down, or would have had an application turned down if one had been received, because of failure to meet ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards or other concerns.

"We require permit applicants, where appropriate, to confirm that aircraft are equipped with certain equipment such as ground-proximity warning systems and the airborne collision avoidance systems. Permit applications have been turned down in the absence of such confirmation."