Congo’s transport ministry has temporarily suspended the operating license of Hewa Bora Airways following a crash a week ago in which 83 people died. It was the airline’s second crash in three years.
The crash occurred last Friday when one of Hewa Bora’s Boeing 727s, on a regular commercial route from Kinshasa to Kisangani and Goma, attempted to land during a rainstorm at the international airport of Kisangani, a commercial centre and river port town in the east Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the aircraft crashed into dense forest 200 metres from the runway, killing 85 people. Out of the 112 passengers and six crew, there were 38 survivors.
“The pilot tried to land but apparently they didn’t touch the runway,” Stavros Papaioannou, chief executive of Hewa Bora, told Reuters by telephone.
A transport ministry communiqué read out on state television yesterday said that Hewa Bora’s license had been suspended until further notice whilst the government investigates the crash.
AFP reports that the national Association of Air Traffic Controllers (ACCA) said two controllers as well as a fire officer at the airport were detained after the crash.
“The two controllers were blamed for providing faulty guidance to the Boeing 727 and the driver of the fire engine for arriving late” on the scene, said ACCA president Godard Wamba.
Hewa Bora is on a European Union list of airlines banned due to security concerns, as are all carriers certified in the Congo.
Friday’s crash is the second fatal accident involving the airline in three years, after its DC-9 airliner ploughed into a suburb of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, killing 44, in 2008.
The accident is the latest in a string of disasters in the vast central African country which has saddled it with one of the worst air safety records in the world.
In April, 32 people were killed when a UN plane crashed as it tried to land at the airport serving Congo’s capital Kinshasa. The operator of the plane was Georgian flag carrier Airzena Georgian Airways.
Hewa Bora Airways (Swahili for Fresh Air) is one of the Congo’s largest airlines and operates regional and domestic passenger and cargo services. According to Hewa Bora’s website, the airline had two Boeing 727s, both configured as passenger planes with 137 economy seats and 12 business class seats.