Yemenia suffers its first air disaster | world | Hindustan Times
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Yemenia suffers its first air disaster

Yemenia, whose airliner crashed into the Indian Ocean off the Comoros islands on Tuesday, is the national carrier of one of the world's poorest countries and until now had a relatively incident-free record.

world Updated: Jun 30, 2009 16:31 IST

Yemenia, whose airliner crashed into the Indian Ocean off the Comoros islands on Tuesday, is the national carrier of one of the world's poorest countries and until now had a relatively incident-free record.

But France's transport minister said the company was being closely monitored by EU authorities and that French inspectors had noted numerous faults on the Yemenia jet that plunged into the ocean with 153 people on board.

"The company was not on the blacklist (of airlines banned from European airspace) but was being subjected to closer inspection by us and was due to soon be heard by the security committee of the European Union," Dominique Bussereau said.

Initially founded as Yemen Airways in August 1961, the airline operates passenger and cargo services to about 30 international and domestic destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Far East.

The Sanaa-based airline became Yemenia in July 1978, owned 51 percent by the government of Yemen and 49 percent by neighbouring oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

In the last major incident involving the airline, a Yemenia Boeing with 91 passengers aboard including the then US ambassador to Sanaa was hijacked on a domestic flight in January 2001.

The hijacker, armed with a pen-like pistol containing a single bullet, tried to force the crew to fly to Baghdad but the plane finally landed in Djibouti. One crew member was injured in the incident and the hijacker was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In June 2000, a Yemenia cargo plane made an emergency landing in Khartoum but no-one was injured. A fire ravaged the company's headquarters in Sanaa in June 2001.

The airline has a fleet of about 10 planes, including Airbus and Boeings.

Bussereau said that the Airbus A310 that crashed on Tuesday had been inspected in France in 2007 by the French civil aviation authority and "a certain number of faults had been noted."

"The plane had not since then reappeared in our country," he told local French television.