crash plane had defects

SANAA - Yemenia, whose airliner crashed into the Indian Ocean off the Comoros Islands yesterday, is the carrier of one of the world's poorest countries and until now had a relatively incident-free record.

But France's Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said the company was being monitored by EU authorities and that French inspectors found numerous faults on the Yemenia jet that plunged into the ocean with 153 people on board.

"The company was not on the blacklist (of airlines banned from airspace) but was being subjected to closer inspection and was due to be heard by the security committee of the union," Bussereau said.

Initially founded as Yemen Airways in August 1961, the airline provides passenger and cargo services to about 30 international destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Far East.

The Sanaa-based airline became Yemenia in July 1978, owned 51percent by the government of Yemen and 49percent by Saudi Arabia.

In the last major incident involving the airline, a Yemenia airline with 91 passengers aboard was hijacked on a domestic flight in January 2001.

The hijacker, armed with a pen-like pistol containing a single bullet, tried to force the crew to fly to Baghdad but the plane landed in Djibouti.

One crew member was injured in the hijacking and the hijacker was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

A fire ravaged the company's plane in Sanaa in June 2001.

Bussereau said that the Airbus A310 that crashed yesterday had been inspected in France in 2007 by the French civil aviation and "a certain number of faults had been noted". - Sapa-AFP