14 May 2007

Kenya: KQ Resumes Cameroon Flights

Nairobi — Kenya Airways has resumed flights to Douala, Cameroon, a week after the tragic crash that killed all 114 passengers and crew members aboard one of its flights.

But investigations into the crash continued through out the weekend, with major focus on retrieval of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) that was still buried inside the cockpit, deep at the crash site.

The company's chief executive, Titus Naikuni had earlier in the week told reporters the airline would continue with flights on the West African route if there were no related mechanical problems with the other aircraft.

"If we get information that it is not safe to fly there, we will take action immediately," he said.

Naikuni who returned from Douala said Thursday the airline would not rule out anything, even a terror attack, in an attempt to explain what could have caused the crash.

Investigators, he explained, would conclude their findings.

"Let's not speculate...but we are looking at all possibilities now," he said.

The voice recorder is a key determinant into what may have caused the crash of KQ flight 507, 30 seconds after it took off from Douala International Airport.

And reports that flight KQ 507, a new Boeing 737-800 airliner that was delivered six months ago, went down 30 seconds into flight appear to have added a new twist to the puzzle, whose only possible answer could be the voice recorder.

At least 81 bodies had been recovered by Friday. Naikuni said identifying the bodies would take some time as they were disintegrated and "in bad shape" The victims were from 26 countries.

The pilot's cockpit was said to be buried 15 meters deep under the swamp and rescue workers were working to retrieve it.

The plane is said to have nose-dived into the swamp and its wreckage was only found after two days of frantic searching, about 5.42kms away from the airport.

So far, only the data recorder black box , which details how the plane was operated from the time the engines were switched on to the last minute of the crash, has been retrieved.

Investigators will need to listen to conversations between the pilot and the control tower operator that are contained in the voice recorder.

Flight KQ 507 was one of the three Boeing 737-800 airliners that were added to its fleet late last year.

Among other possible causes theorized by investigators include the aircraft's engine failure due to severe weather conditions, lightening, pilot error and sabotage.

Unlike many other African airlines which are now banned from flying to the EU airspace, Kenya Airways is a highly respected airline which has maintained world-class safety standards.

The Kenyan government has demanded that investigations into the crash, particularly the analysis of both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder be conducted in Canada.

This, it says, is to avoid countries involved in the bickering between Boeing and Airbus battle for the global airliner market.

Canada is also a bilingual country, considering that Cameroon is a French-speaking country while Kenya is English-speaking.

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