Europe blocks cargo and mail from Yemen after terror attempt

As can be expected after a major terror attempt, international governments are making major changes to their security procedures to prevent any repeats.

The first changes involve how cargo is handled – because not surprisingly, a lot of the way cargo is screened had been ignored for years, while airports focused on shoes and bottles of shampoo.

According to a BBC report, the only reason things didn’t end in disaster was because a recently captured al-Qaeda member turned himself in and told authorities about the bombs. This means that despite Yemen being a known home to terrorists, bombs could simply enter the international skies in a UPS box.

Now this huge hole has been discovered in the way cargo is screened, the temporary solution has been to simply block all cargo coming from Yemen. In the United Kingdom, Somalia has been added to the list of countries on a no-cargo list. As of right now, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada and the United Kingdom have all put a hold on any cargo, and some of these countries have even banned inbound mail. Germany also banned passenger flights from Yemen, which means Italy is the only country still allowing passenger air travel from Yemen.

Not entirely surprising is the fact that the man behind the tips is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who started making bombs after he was released.

If there is such a thing as an upside to this most recent event, it is that passengers should not be impacted too badly, but anyone who does regular business with Yemen may find life becoming slightly more complicated.

[Image: AP]

European Union proposes global airline black list after Yemen crash

For several years, the European Union has been maintaining an airline black list. The list contains the bottom of the barrel in the aviation world. On it, you won’t find any of the big global carriers, but it is very well represented by countries like Kazakhstan, Angola and the Democratic republic of Congo.

As it turns out, the airline involved in the most recent crash had once been on the black list for incomplete reporting on its fleet inspections.

That crash has now prompted the E.U. transport commissioner, Antonio Tajani to propose turning the the European black list in to a global black list.

As much as I like the idea of sharing this kind of information and turning it into a global list, I’m not sure it will actually make any difference – for a global black list to work, every country in the world will have to participate. Thing is, the kind of country that does not take aviation safety that seriously, is not going to be the kind of country that signs up for the black list, only to ground its own national carrier(s).

A global black list of carriers won’t do anything to prevent any of the recent air disasters we’ve seen – Air France would certainly not deserve a spot on the list, nor would Continental/Air Colgan (involved in the Buffalo crash back in February).

Many of these rickety airlines fly within their own country, or to neighboring countries with similar lax oversight. For a global aviation black list to work, countries should help each other, not simply tell them that they are not welcome to land at their airports. I’m pretty sure that “Sky Gate International” from the Kyrgyz Republic won’t give a damn if the USA tells them to stay away from any of their airports.

The only other option is to increase passenger awareness and get the list promoted, to help people make an informed decision about whether or not to travel with an unsafe carrier. But if that airline is their only option, I’m guessing they’ll take the risk.
The top countries by number of their airlines included in the list:

  1. Democratic Republic of Congo (57 airlines!)
  2. Republic of Indonesia (51 airlines)
  3. Republic of Angola (18 airlines)
  4. Kyrgyz Republic (17 airlines)
  5. Equatorial Guinea (9 airlines)
  6. Sierra Leone (8 airlines)
  7. Republic of Benin (8 airlines)
  8. Swaziland (7 airlines)
  9. Republic of Gabon (7 airlines)
  10. Republic of Kazakhstan (7 airlines)

Some noteworthy airlines (mainly because of their silly sounding names):

  1. Helimalongo – Republic of Angola
  2. Alafia Jet – Republic of Benin
  3. Golden Rules Airlines – Kyrgyz Republic
  4. Motor Sikh – Ukraine
  5. Dames – Kyrgyz Republic



Breaking news – Yemenia Airbus A310 crashes with 154 passengers on board

June is turning out to be a pretty bad month for aviation safety.

This evening, a Yemenia Airbus A310 crashed an hour from its destination into the Indian Ocean off the island nation of Comoros.

Nothing is known about the cause of the crash, but the plane was carrying a total of 154 passengers when it went down. This is the second Airbus crash this month. On June 1, an Airbus crashed killing all 228 passengers.

The flight was en route to Moroni, and had departed from the Yemen captal Sanaa for its four and a half hour flight.

The official site of the airline has not posted any additional information yet.

UPDATE: The Airbus A310 was carrying 142 passengers – including families with babies – and 11 crew members. Comoros police said three bodies had been recovered so far and the five-year-old child has been pulled from the water alive. There is no word on other survivors.

: Faults were detected on this plane in 2007, which has sparked an inquiry into the Yemenia airline’s safety record.

: “We never had problems with the plane. [The accident] was purely weather,” Yemenia Chairman Abdulkalek Saleh Al-Kadi said in a telephone interview from Sana’a.

(Image is of a Yemenia Airbus A330)

The “Other Galapagos” Island

Two-hundred-and-fifty miles off the coast of Yemen, in the Indian Ocean, in an area pointed at by the Horn of Africa, is a rugged island called Socotra.

The number 250 has special significance in another respect: the island has been geologically separated from the mainland for 250 million years. This isolation means that there are over 600 species of plants and animals there that exist nowhere else on earth (a feat beaten only by the Galapagos and Hawaii).

It also means that human development has been slow: roughly the size of Long Island, and with a population of only 40,000, the first paved roads were built there only within the last few years. And don’t expect a ton of new development: 70% of the island has been designated as national parkland. Be sure to plan your trip well in advance, and plan to stay awhile: there are only two flights in and out per week.

Pictures from the island blew me away: dragon’s blood trees (like the one pictured from Harf Zimmermann), frankincense trees on lonely vistas, desert roses, rocky shorelines. (BTW, be sure to check out his other awesome pics on his Web site and the NYT’s piece, and, of course, on Flickr.)