Angola: Where is the national airline TAAG headed?

A year and a half after having been authorized to resume flights to Portugal, the Angolan airline TAAG, is again involved in serious problems related to the safety of its planes.

Yesterday, December 6, a little after having taken off from Lisbon's Portela Airport, passengers and crew that were aboard the Boeing 777 to Luanda heard a noise and intense vibration caused by a number of parts that came loose from the engine of the airplane. The parts fell on the streets of the town of Almada, causing some physical damage and injuring two but not seriously.

There was no need to wait for the reaction of bloggers, faced with the seriousness of the situation. The Pululu blog read:

Segundo as agências noticiosas e televisões a cidade de Almada terá sido hoje palco de sementeira de peças que terão sido projectadas de um avião da TAAG que teria descolado momentos antes do aeroporto da Portela, em Lisboa. Dado que os aviões da TAAG que “circulam” nos céus europeus são, em princípio, novos, é de crer que a Boeing, empresa que os forneceu , não deverá estar muito bem vista. Ou será que voltamos aos tempos dos “frendship/fokker” e “dakotas” da antiga DTA que estavam todos “aparafusados” com fios? Espero bem que tenha sido só um pequeno percalço na manutenção e sem grande impacto excepto, como anuncia a SIC (estação de televisão privada portuguesa), os 10 autocarros destruídos e os dois feridos ligeiros.”

According to news agencies and TV channels, the city of Almada was scene of a scattering of parts that were projected from the TAAG plane that had taken off from Portela Airport in Lisbon. Given that the TAAG planes that “circulate” in European skies are, in principle, new,  it is likely that Boeing, the company that supplied them, is not being well regarded. Or have we returned to the time of “friendship/fokker” and “dakotas” of the old DTA [earlier name for TAAG]  that were “screwed together” with wire? I really hope that it was a small maintanence mishap and without big consequence, except as SIC (private Portuguese TV station) reported, 10 buses  and 2 light injuries.
Boeing 777 da TAAG Angola Airlines, por Paulo Guerreiro no Flickr

Boeing 777 of TAAG Angola Airlines, by Paulo Guerreiro on Flickr (with Creative Commons license)

Faced with this complex situtation, the pilots were forced to alter the flight and emergency land at the airport in Lisbon. The more than 120 passengers were taken to a hotel and it is said that TAAG does not intend to reimburse customers for their return to Angola.

In parallel, the company already made it known, through its representative in Portugal, that it will take responsibility for the results of the incident, by way of an investigation already underway, to determine cause of the fault.

In 2007, the European Union put TAAG on its black lits of airlines [pt] prohibited from flying in European airspace after France had detected serious deficiencies in the safety of its airplanes. .

On the blog Contraditório [pt] reference is made to this hardly acceptable episode for the airline with the Angolan flag

Desde 2006 que estava em curso uma investigação por parte da União Europeia à companhia aérea angolana TAAG. Pelo que se sabe, foi a França que, pela primeira vez, detectou anomalias graves a nível da segurança dos aviões desta companhia. Agora, que acabou a investigação, a EU decidiu proibir a entrada destes aviões no espaço aéreo europeu. Acho muito bem, as regras são iguais para todos. A reacção de Angola foi apenas uma: cuidado, muito cuidado, se proíbem os nossos voos aí, nós proibimos os vossos voos aqui (Angola). Quer dizer: nem se fala em tentar seguir as directrizes de segurança mínimas. Faz-se chantagem, gasta-se menos e costuma resultar.

Since 2006 there was an investigation underway by the European Union of the Angolan airline TAAG. What is known is that France first detected serious anolamies to the level of safety of this company's planes. Now that the investigation is finished, the EU decided to prevent the entry of these planes into European airspace. I think quite right, the rules are the same for all. The reaction from Angola was singular: careful, be very careful, if you prohibit our flights there, we will prohibit your flights here (Angola). In other words: do not even talk about trying to follow the minimum saftey directives. Blackmail, spend less and it tends to have results.

At the time, and to minimize the loss, TAAG opted to rent planes from South African Airlines, including crews from that country.

In 2009 the restriction was partially lifted and the EU recommended that the Angolan airline resume flights between Luanda and Lisbon, with the Instituto Nacional de Aviação Civil (National Civil Aviation Institute) commiting to do inspections on the aircraft that operated this route. Apparently, the collaboration was not adequate.

According to the author of the blog Linha de Rumo [pt]:

Parece que nem com a ajuda da TAP (Transportadora Aérea de Portugal) na manutenção a coisa vai… ou então já são problemas antigos, afinal o mesmo me aconteceu em 1 de Abril de 2007 e aconteceu novamente em 2 de Abril de 2009 em Luanda na TAP…

It seems like even with the help of TAP [Portuguese national airline] in maintenance the thing works… or maybe then the problems go way back, after all the same thing happened to me on April 1, 2007 and happened again on April 2, 2009 in Luanda on TAP…

What remains to be seen is how this sad episode will influence the relationship between TAAG and the European Union and with its customers who have for a long time complained about the national carrier for a number of different reasons, delays being the most common one. New developments are expected soon.

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