Bulgaria Air Becomes the First Bulgarian Air Carrier to Meet the IATA Operational Safety Citeria

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Bulgaria Air has become the first Bulgarian air carrier to cover the operational safety criteria of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The operational safety certificate was presented to the company Monday by Gunter Martis, head of IATA's Flight Safety and Infrastructure Development Department.

By the end of this year all IATA members will have to meet these criteria if they want to keep their membership of the organization, said Martis. Six airlines have already lost their membership for failing to meet the initial deadline set last year.

Another Bulgarian company, Hemus Air, is about to undergo the auditing procedure towards obtaining the IATA operational safety certificate.

Martis also said that Bulgaria Air is one of the leading air carriers with the share of electronic tickets sold. Electronic ticketing should be introduced across the world by the end of this year. At present 80 per cent of the air tickets sold in Europe are electronic. This is one of the projects initiated by IATA with a view to cutting airlines' costs by an expected 6.5 million dollars, Martis said. He went on to stress the need of implementing radical changes in the aviation sector to pull it out of the crisis in which it was plunged in 2001.

In a separate development, it emerged Monday that the Russian-made An-12 and An-2 in the Bulgarian aircraft fleet will be transferred to a special list (Annex 2) to stay in the registers of the EU member states. Annex 2 includes aircraft from the national registersand they may perform domestic flights and flights to third countries for as long as they meet the safety standards but they are not considered European aircraft and may not be used by air operators as transport aircraft, said Zahari Aleksiev, director of the Civil Aviation Administration Directorate General.

Two other Russian-made planes, An-24 and An-26, of which Bulgaria has a total of nine, have a chance to get a type certificate but with a year's delay. During this time they will have an opportunity to meet the air worthiness requirements of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and will be included in the European aircraft register, Alexiev said.

An EASA inspection is expected at Bulgaria's five cargo air carriers - Air Sofia, bright Aviation, Helios Air, Scorpion Air and VEga Air - in late April and early May as a step toward restoring thir rights, said also Alexiev.

The five companies are not allowed to operate in the EU after their airworthiness certificates were withdrawn earlier this year.

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