Nigeria Grounds British 1-11 Planes
May. 09, 2002
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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Nigeria ordered all the country's aging British Aerospace 1-11 airliners grounded indefinitely Thursday, after 154 people died in a fiery weekend crash involving one of the planes.
Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe also pledged a thorough review of all ``operations of Nigerian private aviation sector,'' following an earlier announcement of a 14-member panel to investigate the disaster.
``We are building the operations of airlines in Nigeria, (but) we do not intend to do so with geriatric aircraft,'' Chikwe said in radio and TV broadcasts. She said the probe _ assisted by U.S., British and French experts _ would last for three weeks or more.
On Saturday, a domestic EAS airliner with 77 people aboard crashed into a bustling working-class neighborhood of the northern city of Kano, just after takeoff. Only four aboard survived the crash, which killed dozens more on the ground.
Officials with BAE, the successor to British Aerospace, referred questions on the plane to French-based Airbus, an independent company created by BAE and European aerospace company EADS.
Airbus spokeswoman Kate Watcham, reached by telephone in Britain, would say only that Airbus will be working with British government aviation investigations ``to provide support to the accident investigation.''
The age of the airplane in Saturday's crash is not known. The model was first used commercially in the mid-1960s before being phased out of production a decade later, aviation officials said.
The twin-engine BAC 1-11's are the workhorses of Nigeria's competitive air industry. Five domestic carriers use a total of 11 of the jets. EAS Airlines owns several.
Many companies in Africa and elsewhere routinely use decades-old aircraft. A price war in Nigeria, however, has heightened worries among the public that private airlines might make shortcuts on maintenance.
Chikwe also announced new aviation safety regulations rushed into effect that will ban all passenger planes older than 22 years from registration to operate in Nigeria.
It was not known whether aviation authorities had found the cockpit voice recorder.
One of the four survivors from the plane, meanwhile, was greeted Thursday by tearful family and friends on arrival in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
Najib Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Lebanese man who had been working as a technician in Nigeria, said he survived by jumping from the burning jet to the roof of a building.
``They were terrifying moments that I cannot describe,'' Ibrahim said. ``I had no hope of surviving.''