Air China Denies Report on 747 Flight Ban to Busan

Air China yesterday denied rumours that their Boeing 747 planes were banned from flying to Busan in South Korea because of aircraft maintenance problems.

"All our Boeing 747s are in excellent mechanical condition, and safe for operation," sources with the airline said.

They said Air China's Boeing 747s have not been flying the Busan route largely because of the relatively small size of the airport there.

"Busan airport is too small for large aircraft such as the Boeing 747 series, so we have been serving the route with relatively smaller Boeing 737, 767 and 777 aircraft," sources said.

While stating there were no bans on the Boeing 747, the sources admitted that they received yesterday an urgent notice from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), China's aviation watchdog, to stop flying Boeing 767s to Busan, but the reasons are still not clear. The notice applies to all domestic airlines.

A report from Associated Press said on Sunday that the South Korean Government had banned Air China from flying certain types of Boeing planes to the southern city of Busan, where one of the Chinese flag-carrier's jumbo jets crashed in April.

It quoted Transportation Ministry sources as saying that they notified Air China that they had banned planes of the same model as the one involved in the crash from flying the same route.

Ministry officials said the Chinese airline can fly other types of plane to Busan.

On April 15, an Air China Boeing 767-200 with 166 people on board crashed into a mountain while trying to land in rain at an airport near Busan. The accident left 122 people dead and six others missing. Thirty-eight people survived.

The Chinese pilot, 31-year-old Wu Xinlu, told investigators that his plane experienced no mechanical problems before the crash, which prompted South Korean officials to focus on human error.

Air China sources refused to comment on the ban on Boeing 767 aircraft. They said they are confident about the performances of both their planes and pilots.

One official with the airline, who prefers to remain unnamed, said the Busan airport should also pay more attention to its facilities.

"Many airlines flying the Busan route complain that their radar control and ground facilities were fairly poor compared with other international airports. They should also check problems at their own end," he suggested.

South Korean officials plan to hold a public hearing in Seoul this month before concluding their investigation of the crash.

Final results of the investigation will not be available before the end of this year, they said.

Air China is one of the three major international carriers based in China. The crash is Air China's only fatal accident in its 47 years of operations.

( China Daily August 13, 2002)

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