Venezuela airline suspends flights after crash

Conviasa crash killed 17, and another plane with the airline made an emergency landing this week

Published September 17, 2010 5:25PM (EDT)

Venezuela's state airline Conviasa on Friday began a two-week suspension of flights to improve safety after a plane crash that killed 17 people and a subsequent emergency landing.

The airline said in a statement that it was suspending service to carry out a "broad technical audit" and evaluate procedures after Monday's deadly crash and the emergency landing by another plane on Thursday.

A French-built ATR 42 crashed into a steel mill yard Monday while approaching the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz. The crash killed 17, while 34 others on board survived.

Officials said the pilot contacted the control tower before the crash saying there were problems with one of the engines of the twin turboprop.

Investigators plan to analyze the flight data and cockpit voice recorders to help determine what caused the crash.

On Thursday, a Conviasa Boeing 737-200 carrying 97 passengers from the eastern city of Barcelona made an emergency landing at Caracas' international airport in Maiquetia after a cockpit indicator light suggested a technical problem, the Transportation Ministry said.

Air safety board president Lorllys Ramos told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency that a light on the cockpit control panel indicated a problem with a valve being open, and the pilot followed procedures declaring an emergency and landing safely. She said the plane underwent checks after the incident.

Conviasa said it would resume service Oct. 1 and that following its technical review, the airline will take "all necessary measures to guarantee optimal service."

The government's Conviasa, or Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aereos SA, has been in operation since 2004 and serves destinations in Venezuela, the Caribbean, Argentina, Iran and Syria.

By Associated Press

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