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Cablegate: Civair: Air Mongolia - the "Do It Yourself"

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE

ACTION EB-00
INFO LOG-00 ADS-00 INR-10 EUR-00 SS-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00
H-01 NSAE-00 COME-00 L-03 EAP-00 FAAE-00 DOTE-00
STR-17 INRE-00 OCS-06 CA-02 USIE-00 JUSE-00 DS-01
E-01 /041 W

R 012357Z SEP 88
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8448
AMEMBASSY ULAANBATAAR POUCH)
INFO AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
AMCONSUL CHENGDU
AMCONSUL SHENYANG

UNCLASSIFIED BEIJING 25961

The original message was classified Limited Official Use

E.O. 12356: N/A
TAGS: EAIR CH MG OTRA ATRN
SUBJECT: CIVAIR: AIR MONGOLIA - THE "DO IT YOURSELF"
- AIRLINE

1. SUMMARY: THE RECENTLY INAUGURATED WEEKLY AIR
MONGOLIA NON-STOP SERVICE BETWEEN ULAANBATAAR (U-B)
AND BEIJING APPEARED TO US, AT FIRST BLUSH, TO BE
SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF MANNA FROM HEAVEN.
PRIOR TO THE EXISTENCE OF THIS FLIGHT, TRAVEL BETWEEN
BEIJING AND U-B REQUIRED A 36 HOUR (ONE-WAY) TRAIN
RIDE. THE EMBASSY'S EFFORTS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF
THIS FLIGHT, BOTH IN SUPPORT OF EMBASSY U-B AND TO
FACILITATE TRAVEL OF DELEGATIONS TO U-B, HAVE
ACHIEVED MIXED RESULTS, AT BEST. WE CANVASSED LOCAL
AMMRICAN BUSINESSMEN TO FIND THAT THEY TOO REGARD THE
FLIGHT WITH SOME TREPIDATION. A TELEPHONE CALL TO THE
MONGOLIAN EMBASSY IN BEIJING REVEALED THAT
ALTHOUGH THEIR AMBASSADOR MOONLIGHTS AS THE AIR
MONGOLIA REPRESENTATIVE, HE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR
COMMENT ON THE AIR SERVICE. END SUMMARY.

2. IN EARLY JUNE THE EMBASSY ATTEMPTED TO DESPATCH
OUR FIRST OFFICIAL TRAVELER, THE RSO, VIA AIR
MONGOLIA TO U-B ON A POUCH RUN. THE RSO ARRIVED AT
BEIJING AIRPORT OVER TWO HOURS AHEAD OF THE SCHEDULED
DEPARTURE TIME. UNABLE TO FIND ANYONE TO CHECK HIS
LUGGAGE THROUGH TO U-B, THE RSO MANAGED TO OBTAIN A
BOARDING PASS AND PROCEEDED TO THE INTERNATIONAL
DEPARTURE AREA. HE WAS ASSURED THAT HE WOULD BE
CALLED WHEN THE FLIGHT WAS READY TO DEPART. IN THE
WAITING LOUNGE, THE RSO ENCOUNTERED SEVERAL TOURISTS
ALSO WAITING FOR THE FLIGHT TO U-B, AND THE GROUP
DECIDED TO WAIT TOGETHER. AS THE DEPARTURE TIME
APPROACHED, THE RSO BECAME CONCERNED AND MADE
INQUIRIES OF THE AIRPORT STAFF; HE WAS TOLD THAT THE
PLANE WOULD TAKE OFF "SOON". ALMOST AN HOUR AFTER
THE DEPARTURE TIME, THE RSO AGAIN ASKED ABOUT THE
FLIGHT; HE WAS INFORMED THAT THE AIRCRAFT HAD ALREADY
TAKEN OFF WITHOUT PASSENGERS OR CARGO. THE TOWER
TRIED TO CALL THE PLANE BACK WITHOUT SUCCESS; IT WAS
ONLY LATER WHEN FACILITATING THE TRAVEL OF TWO
DELEGATIONS TO U-B IN AUGUST THAT WE BEGAN TO
UNDERSTAND SOME OF THE PROBLEMS FACING AIR MONGOLIA.

3. ON AUGUST 22, TWO EMBASSY ECON OFFICERS
ACCOMPANIED CODEL DORNAN AND STAFFDEL OLIN TO CAPITAL
AIRPORT TO ASSIST THEM IN CHECK-IN AND BOARDING FOR
AIR MONGOLIA (OM) FLIGHT 152 TO U-B. ALTHOUGH MOST
AIRPORT PERSONNEL REPLIED ONLY WITH QUIZZICAL LOOKS
WHEN ASKED WHERE TO BOARD THE FLIGHT TO MONGOLIA,
ECONOFFS WERE ABLE TO FIND THE DESIGNATED DEPARTURE
GATE (RIGHT NEXT TO A FLIGHT TO PYONGYANG) WELL
BEFORE THE SCHEDULED 17:10 DEPARTURE TIME. (THERE
WAS A BRIEF HOLD-UP WHEN AIRPORT PERSONNEL DISCOVERED
THAT THEY HAD GIVEN THE CODEL AND STAFFDEL BOARDING
PASSES FOR THE NORTH KOREAN AIRLINES FLIGHT TO
PYONGYANG, BUT THIS WAS QUICKLY RESOLVED.) HOWEVER,
AS 17:10 CAME AND WENT, THERE WAS NO SIGN OF EITHER
THE AIR MONGOLIA PLANE OR ITS FLIGHT CREW. AFTER
ASKING THE AIRPORT PERSONNEL ABOUT THE STATUS OF
FLIGHT OM 152, WE WERE TOLD THAT IT HAD JUST BEEN
CANCELLED. NO REASON WAS GIVEN FOR THE CANCELLATION
AND ECONOFFS WERE NOT ABLE TO CONFIRM THAT THE PLANE
HAD ACTUALLY ARRIVED FROM MONGOLIA. THE ONLY
INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN WERE TO TRY AGAIN TOMORROW AT
9:00.

4. BY THIS TIME, THE TWO DELEGATIONS HAD MET THE
ONLY OTHER PASSENGERS WAITING FOR OM 152, FOUR
AMERICAN BIG GAME HUNTERS GOING TO MONGOLIA FOR SHEEP
HUNTING. NO ONE IN THE HUNTING GROUP SPOKE CHINESE,
SO THEY JOINED UP WITH THE EMBASSY GROUP AND STARTED
THE PROCESS OF LEAVING THE AIRPORT. SINCE EVERYONE
HAD ALREADY BEEN STAMPED OUT OF CHINESE EMIGRATION,
THEY HAD TO HAVE THEIR EXIT STAMPS CANCELLED. THE
GROUPS' EFFORTS TO RECOVER THEIR LUGGAGE WERE
UNSUCCESSFUL, AS AIRPORT PERSONNEL TOLD THE GROUPS,
"YOU DON'T NEED IT".

5. AT 8:00 ON AUGUST 23, ECONOFF AGAIN HAD THE TWO
DELEGATIONS AT THE DESIGNATED GATE READY TO DEPART ON
FLIGHT OM 152. IN ADDITION TO THE TWO DELEGATIONS
AND THE AMERICAN BIG GAME HUNTERS, THERE WERE ALSO
ABOUT 10 JAPANESE TOURISTS WAITING FOR THE PLANE.
(HOW DID THEY KNOW NOT TO SHOW UP FOR THE FLIGHT THE
DAY BEFORE?) AIRPORT PERSONNEL ASSURED THE GROUP
THAT THE FLIGHT HAD NOT YET ARRIVED FROM U-B, BUT WAS
STILL EXPECTED TO DEPART AT 9:00. THE GROUP CALMLY
WAITED.

6. AS 9:00 CAME AND WENT, ECONOFF STARTED TO PANIC.
REMEMBERING EMBASSY RSO'S STORY, HE FEARED THAT THE
TWO DELEGATIONS WOULD BE STRANDED. AT ABOUT THIS
TIME, STAFFDEL OLIN AND ONE OF THE JAPANESE TOURISTS
SPOTTED A SMALL TWIN ENGINE PLAN ON THE FAR SIDE OF
THE TARMAC. AS NO ONE WAS ABLE TO IDENTIFY THIS
PLANE AND THE AIRPORT PERSONNEL DENIED ITS EXISTENCE,
ECONOFF DECIDED THE PLANE WAS PROBABLY OM 152,
PREPARING FOR DEPARTURE. EXERCISING THE PRIVILEGES
OF THE EMBASSY'S AIRPORT PASS, HE WALKED ACROSS THE
TARMAC TO THE PLANE. THE PLANE, AN AN-24/PB, WAS THE
AIR MONGOLIA FLIGHT. AFTER A BRIEF DISCUSSION WITH
THE MONGOLIAN FLIGHT CREW, ECONOFF DISCOVERED THAT
THEY SPOKE NEITHER OF HIS LANGUAGES - CHINESE OR
ENGLISH - ONLY RUSSIAN AND MONGOLIAN. HOWEVER,
THROUGH GESTURES AND NODS, ECONOFF WAS ABLE TO
DETERMINE THAT THE PILOT WAS WAITING ON FUEL,
PASSENGERS, AND BAGGAGE. BECAUSE THE MONGOLIANS
COULD NOT COMMUNICATE WITH THE AIRPORT PERSONNEL,
THEY DID NOT KNOW HOW TO GET ANY OF THESE.

7. AS EVERYTHING WAS RUNNING LATE AND THE MONGOLIANS
SEEMED TO HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO GET WHAT THEY NEEDED,
ECONOFF BORROWED THE BICYCLE OF ONE THE CHINESE
AIRPORT STAFF AND WENT IN SEARCH OF FUEL, PASSENGERS
AND BAGGAGE. FUEL WAS RELATIVELY EASILY FOUND AND
DELIVERED TO THE PLANE. A BUS TO TRANSPORT
PASSENGERS WAS MORE DIFFICULT. SINCE THE CHINESE
AIRPORT PERSONNEL CONTINUED TO DENY THE EXISTENCE OF
THE MONGOLIAN PLANE, THEY SAW NO REASON TO SEND A
VEHICLE TO TRANSPORT THE PASSENGERS TO THE PLANE.
AFTER A SHORT ARGUMENT AND ANOTHER BIKE RIDE ACROSS
THE TARMAC, ECONOFF WAS ABLE TO CONVINCE THE AIRPORT
STAFF THAT THE PLANE HAD ARRIVED AND THAT THE
PASSENGERS SHOULD BE SENT OUT. AFTER A SLIGHTLY
LONGER DISCUSSION THE AIRPORT STAFF AGREED TO SEARCH
FOR THE BAGGAGE FOR THE PLANE.

8. EVENTUALLY, ABOUT 17 HOURS BEHIND SCHEDULE,
ECONOFF (ON A BIKE) AND DELEGATIONS (IN A BUS)
ARRIVED AT THE FUELED-UP PLANE. THE BAGGAGE ARRIVED
SHORTLY AFTER. A SHORT ARGUMENT BROKE OUT BETWEEN
THE MONGOLIAN FLIGHT CREW AND THE CHINESE BAGGAGE
HANDLERS; BUT, SINCE THE MONGOLIANS SPOKE ONLY IN
MONGOLIAN AND RUSSIAN AND THE CHINESE ONLY IN
CHINESE, IT IS DIFFICULT TO SAY WHAT WAS DISCUSSED.
FINALLY, AT 10:25, FLIGHT OM 152 TOOK OFF FOR U-B.
(ONE OF THE TRAVELERS LATER REPORTED THAT IN-FLIGHT
SERVICE CONSISTED OF A STEWARDESS IN BLACK FISHNET
STOCKINGS, A CHOICE OF BAD WINE OR VODKA, AND AN
ANNOUNCEMENT -- SOMEWHERE DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE
CIRCA TWO HOUR FLIGHT -- THAT THE PLANE WAS "SEVEN
MINUTES FROM THE MONGOLIAN BORDER".)

9. OF THE AMERICAN BUSINESSMEN WHO ATTEMPTED TO FLY
OR TO SHIP CARGO VIA AIR MONGOLIA TO U-B, THOSE WHO
DISCUSSED THEIR EFFORTS WITH THE EMBASSY REPORTED A
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FAILURE RATE. CARGO, IN
PARTICULAR, SEEMS TO BE DIFFICULT TO SHIP TO U-B.
THE MONGOLIAN FLIGHT CREWS CANNOT READ THE
ENGLISH/CHINESE CARGO MANIFESTS AND FREQUENTLY REFUSE
TO ACCEPT THE BILLS OF LADING; THEY ARE UNABLE TO
ASCERTAIN FROM THE CHINESE (DUE TO THE AFOREMENTIONED
LANGUAGE BARRIER) WHETHER THERE IS CARGO TO BE
SHIPPED; OR THE CHINESE REFUSE TO LOAD THE CARGO
(ACCORDING TO ONE U.S. BUSINESSMAN) UNTIL AIR
MONGOLIA PAYS SOME OF ITS LANDING AND GROUND HANDLING
BILLS. THE SAME BUSINESSMAN COMMENTED THAT IN HIS
(ADMITTEDLY BRIEF) EXPERIENCE, IT IS NOT UNUSUAL FOR
AIR MONGOLIA TO DROP OFF PASSENGERS FOR BEIJING AND
IMMEDIATELY TAKE OFF AGAIN (WITHOUT A RETURN LOAD) IN
ORDER TO AVOID CHINESE AIRPORT OFFICIALS WITH DUNNING
NOTICES.

10. ECONOFF CONTACTED THE MONGOLIAN EMBASSY TO LEARN
THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY AND TO REQUEST A BRIEFING ON
THE STATUS OF THE MONGOLIA-PRC CIVIL AIR TREATY.
AFTER SOME DISCUSSION, THE MONGOLIAN EMBASSY OFFICER
ADMITTED THAT THEIR AMBASSADOR ALSO SERVED (CLEARLY,
IN HIS SPARE TIME) AS THE AIR MONGOLIA REPRESENTATIVE
IN BEIJING, BUT WAS NOT AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT ON THE
AIR SERVICE. THE MONGOLIAN DIPLOMAT SAID THAT HE WAS
NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE EXISTENCE OF A CIVIL AIR TREATY
BETWEEN MONGOLIA AND THE PRC, BUT WOULD BE HAPPY TO
INVESTIGATE AND ADVISE FURTHER. HE FINALLY REFERRED
ALL OF ECONOFF'S QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE AIR SERVICE
TO THE MAIN OFFICE OF THE CIVIL AVIATION
ADMINISTRATION OF CHINA (CAAC) WHICH SERVES AS AIR
MONGOLIA'S AGENT IN CHINA.

LORD
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE
NNNN

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