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Low budget aviation puts passangers lives at risk

Flights and passenger safety became an issue for Romanian airlines, facing a financial free fall. In the last two weeks, the Romanian company Carpatiar had not less than five aviation incidents, three in Romania and two in Italy. They put on alert the Romanian Aeronautical Authority and the European institutions dealing with commercial flight safety. And these are just the incidents that went public.  Operatorprivat.ro  presents  a series of incidents, kept secret until now, some of which might have ended tragically for passengers.

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On March 22, a plane Carpatair with 33 passengers on board, flying from Dusseldorf to Timisoara had to return because despresurizării German airport cab. Just two days before, on March 20 Carpatair an aircraft that had to take off from Timisoara Airport, heading to Iasi, stopped during take-off, due to a technical malfunction. The flight had a two and a half hours delay, but the passengers were not informed about the problem. A few hours later, another aircraft of the same company, which took off to Bergamo, made way back in Timisoara Airport because a co-driver’s window cracked. The worst incident of the company this year, occurred on February 2 this year. 16 people were injured and hospitalized after a plane with 50 people on board belonging to the Romanian company Carpatair that make a domestic flight on Alitalia, missed the landing and went off the track on Fiumicino Airport, in Rome, Italy .

A long line of incidents prompted aviation authorities to investigate the causes and premises, some on the brink of disaster. Whether it’s about pilot’s error or technical failure, many aviation experts consider that the main reason links to the company’s financial situation. Carpatair has fired more than 200 people last year, of which many from the technical and maintenance staff. The financial difficulties meant the closure of 25 destinations from airports in Europe, out of a total of 37 stations. At the company headquarters in Timisoara flight school, dormitories, canteen and catering were closed after Carpatair did not pay rent, debts to Timisoara airport for nearly three years. Problems with debts and bank leasings regard at least three aircraft purchased by the company. In late March, Nicolae Petrov, general manager of Carpatair met with the Romanian minister of transportation, Relu Fenechiu, to ask for help and time for debt recovery of the company. Petrov went to the Minister accompanied by the Ambassador of Switzerland, the country where the major shareholders live. In the last weeks, Nicolae Petrov flew several times to Switzerland, to meet with shareholders Carpatair to find solutions to avoid a financial coplas and company closing .

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Passengers – unwilling guinea pigs

“The Aviation Herald”, a public internet database, mentions 12 incidents of Carpatair flights, since 2008 to the present. These are publicly available, under pressure from the media and passengers. There are a number of incidents and accidents which have not been made public until now. Thus, on 28 February 2009, a Saab 2000 plane made an emergency landing on Timisoara Traian Vuia Airport after the front landing gear did not open. On the evening of April 21, 2008, BAE 146 aircraft came to landing hydroplaning during a turn track from Bucharest Henri Coanda Airport. The aircraft was scheduled to coperate a  Timisoara-Bucharest flight, due to land at Buchjarest airport “Henri Coanda” at 4:40 p.m.. It was announced a stopover in Craiova, with a late landing at Otopeni after 18:00. The aircraft landed normally, but made a turn off the track,  the main train wheels on grass, damaging the plane. On board were 67 passengers and crew members. BAE-146 aircraft, owned by Romavia, and was operated by Carpatair. The event was described as “plane crash”, given the damage the aircraft. The plane was insured with the “Astra” for 4.2 million dollars. No passenger or crew member was hurt.
On December 5, 2006, a plane SAAB 2000, the same aircraft involved in forced landing at Timisoara, belonging Carpatair, hit a horse during takeoff Bacau airport because of fog. None of the 10 passengers on board was injured, and the aircraft landed in Timisoara. Plane bound for Rome, with a stopover in Timisoara, took off at 6.47 am from Bacau airport. As soon as the plane took off  from the ground, the pilot reported to the control tower during maneuvers that saw a pack of dogs and hit one of them.
On 5 May 2009, Carpatair plane made an emergency landing at Timisoara, 20 minutes after taking off from the same airport. 48 passengers who went to Iasi were scared to death after the crew announced that they will return because of technical problems. One of the right engine covers came off the aircraft, airline officials said, most likely because it was not secure.
In Cluj there were two incidents due to company’s refusal to pay de-icing   and lives passengers could be endangered. On 15 and 17 October 2011, two Carpatair planes took off without de-icing , after the pilots refused cleaning the ice deposited on fuselage and wings. The Management of Cluj-Napoca International Airport notified the Romanian Civil Aeronautical Authority (RCAA) and Cluj airport director, David Ciceo said company pilots put passengers lives at risk. “Cluj-Napoca International Airport Authority will notify the Romanian Aeronautical after Carpatair pilots tried, Saturday and Monday, to take off without de-icing. On Saturday, the pilot tried removing the ice with a broom, contrary to aviation procedures. Eventually kept the plane on the ground until the sun came out and melted the ice. Monday flight to Timisoara had to take off at 10.30, but took off at 11.49, also because pilots refused to defrost  and kept the plane in the sun. Failing to defroster planes endanger the lives of passengers, and we do not allow any plane off the ice is cleaned. Passengers can complain to the Consumers’ said Ciceo. According to him, the operation of icing with a special fluid costs around 700-800 euros, but  Carpatair refused to pay the money. A day later, Carpatair permanently closed its base in Cluj.
At the main base of the company, Timisoara International Airport, there were several incidents of the Carpatair: 18 in 2008, all 18 in 2009, 13 incidental damages in 2010, 19 in 2011 and 11 incidents in 2012.
However, given that, with very limited staff, the company still operates domestic and international flights and has been operational safety audit of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Now the Romanian institutions such as the Romanian Aeronautical Authority and the international and IATA, ICAO or ECAC put their licenses and stop the withdrawal Carpatair flight, because of the large number of incidents.

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