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Problems ignored before Cypriot plane crashed last year: inspector


A consultant inspector of airworthiness on Monday said that seven incidents concerning functional problems had been reported but ignored before a Cypriot plane crashed a year ago near Athens, which killed all 121 people on board.

Marios Pantelis, consultant inspector of airworthiness at the Cypriot Department of Civil Aviation, disclosed the ignorance before the Commission of Inquiry that is looking into the causes of the air crash.

Pantelis told the head of the commission Panayiotis Kallis that seven incidents had happened since the aircraft's registration until its final flight, one of which concerns technical failure.

He said that he had traveled together with a colleague on April 13-16, 2004, to Germany's Munich to carry out checks on the aircraft, adding that the fatal plane had received a license to be registered in Cyprus on April 15, 2004.

"During inspection, no problems had been detected and we proceeded with the registration of the aircraft. The certificate was issued on April 15,

 although it was said that eight points had to be checked," Pantelis told the commission.

Although the problems that had to be fixed on the particular aircraft were classified on level one, which means immediate need for repair, they had later been classified as level two problems, so that time was given to Helios Airways to proceed with the repair, the consultant inspector said.

The witness also testified that the crashed aircraft lacked corporate control which is very important for the safety of flights.

The Commission of Inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court judge Panayiotis Kallis, is expected to name those involved in the tragedy so that the Attorney General can bring criminal liability charges against those persons.

The investigation by the commission has been carried out in an open public hearing procedure, during which the conditions under which the company, the plane and the crew got their licenses are also examined.

The commission is also examining how the security and other checks were carried out for that flight and that plane.

The Boeing 737 was on its way to Prague via Athens when it crashed into the mountain side north of the Greek capital on Aug. 14, 2005, killing 121 passengers and crew on board, most of them Cypriots going on holiday.

The Boeing came down as two Greek F-16 jets were accompanying it after it failed to respond to calls from Athens' control tower.