Will Yemenia Airways Be Held Accountable at Last?

Thursday, January 30, 2014
By George Hatcher

In 2007 there was this Airbus A310 that failed to pass inspection in France and was therefore banned from French Airspace. The plane was still in use though. Yemenia Airlines quit flying the plane over French Airspace, limiting its routes to non-euro airspace like the hop from Sanaa to the Comoros.

Listen, I’ve heard some bad things about some planes but the descriptions I saw of this plane are so vivid I remember them, even though its been nearly five years. Frankly, the description sounded straight out of Romancing the Stone like the bus that takes Kathleen Turner (romance novelist Joan Wilder) to Cartagena, Colombia—crowded to the gills, livestock inside, seats rolling around, standing room only, everything that was portrayed in the movie, except (one hopes) people hanging off the outside of the plane. This rickety plane, which failed to meet safety standards continued to be in use until it crashed one stormy night in 2009.

Now, five years later, France is charging Yemenia Airlines with manslaughter.

I wonder at the timing. Apparently Yemenia Airlines is no longer on the EU banned list.

I wonder if they waited for Yemenia Airlines to become more solvent before they charged them.

I wonder if International Lease Finance Corporation is going to be held accountable. They leased the plane to Yemenia; and, like a father who hands his fifteen year old the keys to his car, they could have taken away the keys, or withheld them till the plane was brought up to code.

I wonder if the delay was five years worth of research, and maybe evidence found.

I wonder if another accident or enlightening incident happened that pointed the finger at Yemenia.

I wonder if it was pressure from the families of the 153 passengers and crew (and little Bahia Bakari the twelve year old miracle survivor) aboard that international flight from Sana’a, Yemen to Moroni, Comoros that crashed on 30 June 2009.

Pressure from the families brings change. I have a lot of confidence in family groups. Plane crash victims are united by a common cause, a cause which is ethical and pragmatic and yet impossible, because they are seeking justice when there can really be none. Because all these people want, if they could have their way, would be to have their loved ones back. They have the power of right on their side; and to make a galvanizing cause even more magnetic, they are fighting for the safety of every future airline passenger. I wish my friend Hans Ephraimson-Abt, who died last October, could be here to witness the charges being brought. He lost a daughter when her plane was shot down in 1983, and ever after made it his business to advocate for families. I think of him now because up until October, whenever I’d post an editorial concerning crashes, or family groups, he would always write back with encouragement, or some pithy bit of advice.

Maybe I should be objective. After all, helping families in crashes is my business. But when you’re on the front lines of aviation safety trying to get better treatment for victims and the families of victims, it doesn’t take long to feel very personal. There are a lot of people who saw those headlines that France is charging the carrier with manslaughter who think that after four and a half years, it is about time. I just hope that somehow the 152 victims—and Hans—could know that the responsible parties may yet be held accountable.

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