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Cablegate: Resumption of Onur Air Flights

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

251423Z May 05





E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: (A) Ankara 2764 (B) 2004 Ankara 6982

1. (U) Sources at the Directorate General of Civil
Aviation (DGCA) and the Dutch Embassy in Ankara
confirmed press reports that an agreement had been
reached to permit Onur Air to resume flights to the
Netherlands and other European countries, and that the
airline actually resumed flights on May 24. The Dutch
had banned Onur flights for a period of one month
beginning on May 12 due to serious, repeated safety
problems (ref A). Germany, France and Switzerland had
also restricted flights.

2. (SBU) The Anatolian news agency reported that
Transport and Communications Minister Yildirim had said
that the GOT had reached agreement with several
European countries to resume Onur Air flights. He also
publicly urged Onur to improve safety measures. DGCA
Director of Flight Standards Haydar Yalcin told Econoff
May 25 that Onur flights had resumed subject to special
safety oversight measures. However, he repeated
previous allegations that the Dutch and others had
suspended Onur flights on commercial grounds (ref A).

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3. (SBU) The Econ/Trade Counselor at the Embassy of the
Netherlands in Ankara confirmed press reports on the
agreement, which consists of a four-page action plan
requiring strict inspections of Onur aircraft and a
prohibition on Onur leasing of planes. The Counselor
related that Germans had negotiated a similar agreement
with the Turks, but expressed frustration that EU
member states did not take a unified and coordinated
approach on this issue.

3. (SBU) Our contact at the Dutch Embassy also
strenuously objected to Turkish allegations, repeated
aired in the local press since May 12, that the Dutch
and others had commercial motives for banning Onur Air.
He reiterated the incidents cited reftel and added that
Onur Air had averaged six "category 3" (worst category)
incidents a day in the month prior to the suspension,
with a trend toward increasing problems. He said that
a Dutch technical mission, which visited Turkey during
the week of May 16, came away with the impression that
the problem was more with DGCA's oversight than with
Onur Air itself. He added that Dutch authorities are
observing similar problems with Fly Air (though not
with state-owned Turkish Airlines).

4. (SBU) Comment: Neither Onur nor Fly Air operate
flights to the U.S., and European authorities did not
question the safety record of THY, which does fly to
the U.S., in this incident. However, the problems
apparently surfacing with low-cost private airlines
suggest that civair authorities are stretched in
overseeing a rapidly growing and liberalizing air
services market. This is exacerbated by the DGCA's
difficulties in retaining an adequate number of
experienced staff. In April, a parliamentary committee
endorsed a bill designed to improve air safety
oversight by enhancing DGCA's ability to retain
qualified inspectors, but it has not yet come before
the full Parliament for approval. Moreover, the
Turkish authorities' attempt to politicize what appear
to be genuine technical issues with implications for
passenger safety is troubling. Embassy will continue
to monitor the situation, and would welcome an FAA
followup visit to the December 2004 consultations with
DGCA on air safety issues (ref B).

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