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Air Regulator Responds to New Crashes

Recent air crashes in Greece and Venezuela have prompted China's aviation regulator to urge increased safety.


The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), yesterday issued a document demanding airline companies launch safety checks to rule out possible hidden problems.


"Additional efforts must be made to strengthen aircraft maintenance to ensure flight safety," the document said.


Task forces led by CAAC Director Yang Yuanyuan and Vice-Director Wang Changshun have been sent to major carriers including Air China, China Eastern and China Southern to launch safety checks.


Air safety has been the administration's top priority, and the recent crashes have brought concerns into even sharper focus, a press official from the top civil aviation authority said.


A Cypriot Boeing 737 carrying 121 people, more than a third of them children, slammed into a mountainside north of Athens on Sunday killing all on board. The cause of the accident is still unknown.


Just two days later, a Colombian jetliner carrying tourists home from Panama to Martinique crashed in mountainous western Venezuela, killing all 160 aboard.


The West Caribbean Airways MD-82 aircraft was en route to the French Caribbean island when it reported engine trouble and diverted toward an airport in Venezuela before crashing on a cattle ranch near the border with Colombia.


In Seattle, Boeing said the company was dispatching a team of air safety investigators to help find the cause of the crash. Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas, maker of the MD-82, in 1997.


A handful of aircraft of MD series are still in operation in Chinese airlines, including China Southern and China Eastern, a CAAC press official told China Daily, without giving the exact number.


"The air crashes have once again sounded an alarm to the nation's flight safety," the CAAC document said.


"However, these MD aeroplanes are gradually being pushed out of the Chinese market as Boeing and Airbus aircraft come to dominate Chinese fleets," an official said.


Both China Eastern and China Southern airlines made no comment on the MD-series plane.


According to sources from Boeing China, production of the MD series has been suspended for economic reasons.


(China Daily August 18, 2005)


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