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29.08.2004 General News

Editorial: Crass Stupidity at Ghana Airways (2)

By GYE NYAME CONCORD

GOD, THIS IS SHAMEFUL!

Who would have thought that a time would ever come that Ghana Airways planes and crew will be declared persona non-grata in the airspace of the United States of America? What a sorry pass!

The news first broke about two weeks ago on July 29 that about 200 Ghanair passengers had been stranded in the US because the US aviation authorities had suspended its flights on safety grounds.

According to a BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION (BBC) news report the Americans were angry because the national airline had ignored directives grounding its leased 300-seater DC 10 and had continued to use it in operation and flown it on an expired licence.

But the Ghanair board issued a swift denial. A member of the Board, Mr Nich Adi-Darko, claimed to the contrary, saying that the documents available to management suggested that the airline passed all routine checks, including the “mini-C” check, “but the airline was alleged to have failed”, adding: “records available to the management showed that Avtel Company in California conducted the maintenance checks on the airline”.

In an attempt to buoy up the airline's lost image, Adi-Darko said Ghanair was implementing a contingency plan to transport passengers to and from the US by liaising with various airlines that fly to Accra.

He announced the setting up of an “independent commission” to investigate the circumstances that led to grounding of the DC 10, warning: “We will impose serious sanctions on those found culpable for this unfortunate incident.

Ghanair operates two round-trip flights per week between Accra and New York and two round-trips per week between Accra and Baltimore Washington International Airport.

And after all the denials what has happened? Instead of relenting, the US aviation authorities have hardened their stance, outlawing all planes flown by Ghana Airways crew. They will only accept wet-leased aircraft. These are aircraft that flown by crews provided by the leasing company.

In spite of the troubled state of the airline, Ghanaian pilots and cabin crew have always been seen as being among the best available anywhere. If the US aviation authorities have lost confidence in them, as their new directive suggests, then did we go or did we come?

This is Ghana Airways, at a time the only African airline allowed to fly into US airspace! What happened?

Left to the GYE NYAME CONCORD alone, there is no need for any independent commission of enquiry to unearth the causes of this national disgrace. It lies squarely at the door of the Board and the relevant Ministry.

C-checks on Ghanair planes have always been done in Europe. How come the assignment was shifted to a company in the US? That is a Board and Ministry decision and not that of management and staff.

About two or three years back, Triton of Britain in conjunction with Midland Airlines presented a rescue plan to the Ministry in which they proposed to absorb and pay off the over $160 million debt of the airline in five years and revamp the management systems of the airline, especially its ticketing processes.

Due probably to the fact that it was not the senior officials in the Ministry who brought them in and therefore would not be entitled to a finder's fee and possibly because some people wanted to hive off part of the airline into their private enclaves that beautiful and well-researched rescue plan was rejected out of hand as “being too good to be true”.

Then the one-aircraft Nationwide Airline of South Africa was brought in as the answer to the problems of Ghanair, even though they were not prepared to touch a pesewa of its debt overhang.

It would appear that after the successful nationwide outcry, spearheaded by the media about the Nationwide misadventure, a decision had been taken that if we would not have Ghanair to ourselves, then it should be made to go to the dogs.

The present state of Ghanair is a total national disgrace. It is unbecoming of a government that promised us positive change. If President John Agyekum

Kufuor has been pre-occupied with many other national and international issues and has therefore not looked at the situation at the national airline critically, this is the time for him to sit up and act. For it could become a campaign issue for the December 2004 elections.

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