The Cuba crash was perhaps a disaster waiting to happen- but something that could have been prevented as well had those concerned listened to warning signs.
Authorities in Guyana and a retired pilot for Cuba’s national airline said the Mexican charter company whose plane crashed in Havana tragically killing a shocking 110 people have been all along the subject of two serious complaints about the performance of its crews for the past decade.
In fact, Guyanese Civil Aviation Director Capt. Egbert Field said the plane was barred from Guyanese airspace last year after authorities discovered that its crew had been permitting dangerous overloading of luggage on flights to Cuba.
It was also disclosed that the plane and crew were being rented from Mexico City-based Damojh airlines by EasySky, a Honduras-based low-cost airline. Cubana de Aviacion, Cuba’s national carrier, was also renting the Boeing 737 and crew under a similar arrangement called “wet lease” before the aircraft disastrously veered on takeoff to the eastern Cuban city of Holguin and crashed into the field after noon Friday.
Mexican authorities have spoken and said Damojh had permits required to lease its aircraft and had also passed a November 2017 verification of its maintenance program.
Cuban Transportation Minister Yzquierdo Rodriguez for his part told the media on Saturday afternoon that Cubana has been renting the plane for less than a month under such a set up in which the Mexican company was entirely responsible for maintenance of the aircraft.
Armando Daniel Lopez, president of Cuba’s Institute of Civil Aviation also told the media that Cuban authorities had not received any complaints about the plane in that month.
Yzquierdo said it was pretty routine for Cuba to just rent planes under different arrangements because the country can not yet afford to buy its own aircraft and blamed the U.S. trade embargo on the island. Cuba, however, has been able to purchase planes produced in other countries, including France and Ukraine. Unfortunately, they had to pull many from service due to maintenance problems and other issues.
Yzquierdo said that that sometimes when they can’t buy the planes that they need, they just opt to rent them out, but points to Damojh as responsible for the aircraft’s maintenance.
The Mexican government said on Saturday that its National Civil Aviation Authority will undergo a new “operational audit” of Damojh to see if its “current operating conditions continue meeting regulations, as well as collecting information to help the investigation.”
Damojh has refused media’s requests for comments, insisting it would be communicating only through written statements.