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Plane in Cuba crash was poorly maintained, former pilot alleges

The leased passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff killing over 100 people.

Rescuers at the crash site today.
Rescuers at the crash site today.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

A MEXICAN PILOT who once flew the leased passenger plane that crashed in Cuba, killing 107 people on board, said today he had previously complained about alleged sub-standard practices by the aircraft’s owner.

Marco Aurelio Hernandez told the Mexican newspaper Milenio that the Mexican aircraft leasing firm Global Air exercised poor plane maintenance, had a ban from flying in Chile, and had flights fly at night in Venezuela without radar.

He said that during 2005 and 2013 he had flown all three Boeing planes owned by Global Air (also known as Damojh), including the 39-year-old one that went down yesterday after taking off from Havana’s airport.

During his time at Global Air, he said, he had lodged a complaint for “lack of maintenance of the planes” despite the company having “very skilled” aircraft mechanics.

A Global Air spokeswoman confirmed to AFP that Hernandez had worked at the company but declined to comment on his allegations.

“We reserve comment. What Mr Hernandez says is purely his own responsibility,” she said.

The Boeing 737-200 that crashed was built in 1979 and had passed a safety verification in November last year.

It was rented to Cuban state airline Cubana de Aviacion by Global Air under a “wet lease,” meaning the Mexican company provided the plane, the crew, maintenance and insurance.

The plane’s two pilots, three flight attendants and maintenance technician on board were all Mexican.

Another former Global Air employee, Ana Marlene Covarrubias, who was a flight attendant at the company for seven years, told Mexican media that she had never observed any anomalies on the company’s planes.

“There was never any mishap, especially with Global,” she said, adding that things can go wrong “at any time, even with brand new planes”.

Days of mourning 

Cuba began two days of national mourning for the victims of the crash today.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel said an investigation was under way and flags were flown at half-mast throughout the country.

The Boeing crashed shortly after taking off from Havana’s Jose Marti airport yesterday, coming down in a field near the airport and sending a thick column of acrid smoke into the air.

It was on a domestic flight from Havana to the eastern city of Holguin. Most of the 104 passengers were Cuban, with five foreigners, including two Argentines, among them.

Cuban authorities have not said whether they have recovered the plane’s black box flight recorders.

Three women pulled alive from the mangled wreckage are the only known survivors.

© – AFP, 2018

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