Watchdog Strips Red Wings Of License After Investigation
Published: February 6, 2013 (Issue # 1745)
MOSCOW ŚáTheácountryĺs aviation watchdog revoked theálicense ofáRed Wings Airlines, controlled byábillionaire Alexander Lebedev, weeks after one ofáits Russian-made jets crashed.
Lebedev told Interfax onáFriday that theáFederal Air Transportation Agency had revoked theácompanyĺs license effective Monday.
Theáwatchdog said Friday that theádecision had been made following several investigations ináJanuary.
Theáagency said it had discovered various safety violations, Interfax reported Friday, citing officials atáthe watchdog.
Theáwatchdog also said theácompany had ônot taken theánecessary steps toáfix theáproblems.ö It added that theácompany lacks financial resources toácontinue operations.
Theáprobe was conducted soon after the crash ofáa Red Wings plane inálate December, but theáagency stated that theádecision is not connected with theádisaster.
TheáTu-204, flying fromáthe Czech Republic with onlyácrew onáboard, crashed onáDec. 29 atáVnukovo Airport, scattering debris across theánearby highway.
Four crew members, including theápilots, were killed immediately, andáa fifth person died theáfollowing day. Two crew members survived.
It was theásecond crash ofáa Tu-204, aáplane developedábyáthe Tupolev design bureau ináthe mid-1990s.
TheáInvestigation Committee, which opened aácriminal probe intoáthe accident, said it is considering several possible causes ofáthe crash, including human error, weather conditions andáa technical malfunction.
Lebedev told Interfax onáFriday that theácrash was caused byáa ôconvergence ofáseveral tragic events.ö
ôRed Wings has aástable financial position, even better than that ofásome other companies,ö Lebedev said. á
Experts said ináJanuary that there had been four accidents involving Red Wings planes ináDecember.
Aviation expert Roman Gusarov said Red Wingsĺ possible exit fromáthe market would contribute toámarket consolidation byábig airlines.
ôRed Wingsĺ passengers would be absorbed byálarge carriers,ö he said.
Gusarov added that theáTu-204 jets used byáRed Wings can be purchased byáother companies looking foráa medium-range jet airliner.á
ôSpeaking objectively, all critics ofáthat aircraft have referred not toáthe planeĺs quality but toáa lack ofáproper service byáthe manufacturers,ö Gusarov told TheáSt. Petersburg Times onáSunday.
There are 51 Tu-204 planes now ináoperation atáRussian andáforeign companies, including Transaero andáAir China Cargo.
Another asset owned byáLebedev, National Reserve Bank, is also experiencing financial difficulties. Vedomosti reported ináDecember that theábank had decided toásell some ofáits property andáclose several regional branches.
Lebedev also co-owns opposition-leaning newspaper Novaya Gazeta with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Iná2012, Lebedev said he intended toásell his Russian assets. He had been targeted ináa criminal investigation after voicing support foráthe opposition movement.