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New EgyptAir Head Named

June 18, 2002

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egypt’s newly appointed aviation minister has fired the head of EgyptAir, the state carrier plagued by charges of mismanagement and negligence.

Mohammed Fahim Rayan, a 73-year-old former air force pilot who had led the airline for nearly two decades, was relieved of his duties seven months before his retirement, Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafeeq said at a press conference Monday.

He was replaced by Ahmed al-Nadi, a veteran EgyptAir pilot who is expected to supervise an overhaul of the company.

Criticism of EgyptAir and Rayan mounted after a 1999 crash off the coast of Massachusetts that killed 217 people. U.S. investigators say the crash was caused by a suicidal co-pilot. The criticism increased following a crash in Tunisia last month that killed 14 people.

Last month, Egypt’s Cabinet approved plans to transform EgyptAir into a holding company comprising six subsidiary companies, breaking up the portfolios once overseen by EgyptAir: airlines, air services, ground services, maintenance, air cargo and tourism and duty free shops.

EgyptAir retained control of airlines.

Shafeeq named Abdel Fatah Qatu, head of the country’s civil aviation authority, chairman of the new holding company. He also named five officials to head air services, ground services, maintenance, air cargo and tourism and duty free shops.

Shafeeq, a trusted aide to President Hosni Mubarak, was commander of the Egyptian air force before being named minister in April. He had said privatizing EgyptAir was not part of the reorganization plan.

EgyptAir operates 43 aircraft on more than 40 domestic and international routes. Egypt’s crucial tourism industry has been hit hard by the Sept. 11 attacks, and 10 of EgyptAir’s international routes suffered $53.2 million in losses last year.

The service to Sydney, Australia, was canceled because it accounted for about $13.3 million of those losses.

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