Another blow to Cuban tourism
Back in December 1972, Nicaragua was hit by a horrible earthquake. It killed 10,000 people, devastated villages, and may have been the beginning of the end of Somoza's reign. The damage exposed the corruption and inefficiencies of the regime.
A couple of days ago, an air crash in Cuba killed 100 people and exposed some serious problems in the Castro regime.
My good Cuban friend, Dr. Carlos Eire, brought this item to my attention:
Cuba's problems have gotten so bad that, a few weeks ago, the country grounded most of its domestic flights because of safety concerns over its fleet.
To continue flying, officials have been forced to lease planes from foreign outfits that sometimes use decades-old planes, like the one that crashed and burned right after takeoff on Friday, killing nearly everyone on board.
The old Boeing 737 had been leased to Cubana de Aviación, the state airline, by a relatively unknown Mexican company with just three aircraft in its fleet.
Some aviation industry analysts were taken aback at the plane's advanced age.
"That's one of the oldest passenger jets I have heard of that is still in service," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group, an aviation and aerospace consulting company in Fairfax, Va.
"Whether the airline is going to survive is an open question," said George Farinas, a retired Delta pilot who works as a civil aviation inspector and is writing a book about the history of Cubana de Aviación. "They are in a major crisis right now."
Let me add a couple of personal references.
A few years ago, I was in Mexico for Christmas and met a man who flew commercial flights. He told me that many Mexicans refuse to work for "Cubana," the once private airline and now another state company. He said Cuba is not up to date on maintenance.
Just yesterday, a Canadian friend, who is familiar with Cuba, told me it's the end of tourism. "What foreigner is going to fly on a Cuban domestic flight?" he said.
We don't want to politicize a terrible tragedy, and we pray for the families. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate question: can Cuba maintain commercial flights? The answer is, not well enough to get on a plane.
Update (hat tip: Bryan Demko) from ABC News:
The Mexican charter company whose 39-year-old plane crashed in Havana had been the subject of two serious complaints about its crews' performance over the last decade, according to authorities in Guyana and a retired pilot for Cuba's national airline.
Mexico's government said late Saturday that its National Civil Aviation Authority will carry out an operational audit of Damojh airlines to see if its "current operating conditions continue meeting regulations" and to help collect information for the investigation into Friday's crash in Cuba that left 110 dead.
The plane that crashed, a Boeing 737, was barred from Guyanese airspace last year after authorities discovered that its crew had been allowing dangerous overloading of luggage on flights to Cuba, Guyanese Civil Aviation Director Capt. Egbert Field told The Associated Press on Saturday.
The plane and crew were being rented from Mexico City-based Damojh by EasySky, a Honduras-based low-cost airline. Cuba's national carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, was also renting the plane and crew in a similar arrangement known as a "wet lease" before the aircraft veered on takeoff to the eastern Cuban city of Holguin and crashed into a field just after noon Friday, according to Mexican aviation authorities.
PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.