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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04ACCRA1644 2004-08-10 17:05:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Accra
Cable title:  

UPDATE ON GHANA AIRWAYS CRISIS AND FAA SAFETY

Tags:   EAIR GH 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ACCRA 001644 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT PLEASE PASS TO FAA AND DOT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR GH
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON GHANA AIRWAYS CRISIS AND FAA SAFETY
REASSESSMENT

REF: A. STATE 160345


B. STATE 168352

C. ACCRA 1583

D. ACCRA 1550

E. BANJUL 518

Summary
-------


1. (U) Ghana Air's management has finally gained some measure
of control over the crisis that stranded up to 5,000
passengers in Ghana, the U.S. and The Gambia (see reftels A,
C, D, E for background). The third repatriation flight, on
wet-leased World Air, left August 9 for Baltimore (BWI). The
passenger check-in process was calm and orderly, and Ghana
Air published flight information and contacted ticket holders
ahead of time. Two additional flights to New York/JFK are
scheduled for August 11-14. Post has assisted irate and
frustrated Amcits to get on the correct lists, procure over
the counter medicines, and get in contact with the often
unreachable Ghana Air staff. The Ghana Civil Aviation
Authority (GCAA) requested in writing that the FAA delay its
safety reassessment mission until mid-October (Ref A).
Transport Ministry, GCAA, and Ghana Air officials are
planning an official trip to the U.S. to meet with USG
agencies, although no date has been set. End Summary.

Ghana Air Passenger Repatriation


--------------------------




2. (U) Every Amcit in contact with Post to date has departed
Ghana. This includes two children from Liberia who are being
adopted by families in the U.S. The children were first-time
travelers on Ghana Air, and were therefore rejected by Ghana
Air staff holding to Department of Transportation's (DOT)
orders that these flights were for returning passengers only.
However, DOT, State and Post officers were able to get last
minute authorization to Ghana Air and the children departed
on the August 7 flight. Post is unlikely to receive many new
requests for assistance because the remaining Amcits appear
to have reached a sufficient comfort level with the
repatriation process not to need Embassy support.



3. (U) The repatriation process got off to a rocky start on
August 4. Ghana Air put out a public notice to passengers at
the last minute, and only at Post's urging. Ghana Air
managers also failed to get representatives out early to deal
with long lines of passengers waiting to check-in, and then
did not have adequate security on hand to deal with unhappy
and confused passengers. Post's RSO had to call in 15-20
police he had pre-positioned nearby to calm the situation.



4. (U) Ghana Air Acting CEO Ms. Akua Sarpong and other Ghana
Air managers seemed to learn from their mistakes, and are now
disseminating information sooner and using more people to
manage the check-in process and handle passenger inquiries.
As a result, the August 7 and August 9 flights went smoothly.
Sarpong assures Post that Ghana Air is planning additional
repatriation flights this week, with the first one scheduled
to depart August 11 for JFK, and the second flight to leave
near the weekend, also en route JFK airport.



5. (SBU) Ms. Sarpong is concerned that the repatriation
flight loads are down, and Ghana Air is nearing the point
where it will not be economical to continue the wet-lease
arrangement just for returning passengers. The flights from
the U.S. are already only half full, and Sarpong expects this
will also be the case by this coming weekend for return
flights to Baltimore and New York. She hopes to reach some
kind of accommodation from DOT in the near future to allow
Ghana Air to fly newly ticketed passengers. Otherwise, Ghana
Air will need to find cheaper means to return the few
remaining stranded passengers, such as book them on other
airlines through Europe.

More Trouble for Ghana Air


--------------------------




6. (SBU) Ghana Air's August 8 morning flight to London was
abruptly canceled due to technical problems with its
remaining DC-10. More than 50 stranded travelers besieged
Ghana Air's headquarters and refused to let airline staff
depart. Local press referred to it as a hostage situation,
but Ghana police and security forces, along with officials
from the airline and Ministry of Roads and Transport, quickly
defused the situation. According to Sarpong, Ghana Air has
grounded the DC-10 indefinitely and is seeking other means of
transporting the stranded passengers to London. (Comment:
Ghana Air is negotiating with Jordanian Air to lease a Boeing
767 to handle its European routes. End Comment).

FAA Request to Assess GoG Safety Oversight


--------------------------




7. (SBU) Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) finally
responded to Ref A demarche regarding the FAA request to
perform a comprehensive reassessment of the GCAA's (and
GoG's) safety oversight. Post has faxed the GCAA's written
response to FAA Rep in Dakar and to Department. Although FAA
asked to perform the reassessment within 45 days, GCAA
Director General, Captain Joe Boachie, has requested a delay
to mid October or later. He argues that the new Civil
Aviation Law will redress many of the FAA's concerns, but
Parliament will not meet to vote on it until early September.
Under this timetable, the law would go into effect in late
September. Boachie also points out that key GCAA personnel,
whose presence would be required for the assessment, plan to
attend the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program and
General Assembly meetings in Montreal, Canada, in September
(Ref B).

GoG Official Visit to Washington


--------------------------




8. (SBU) Roads and Transport Minister Dr. Richard Anane has
indicated a desire to head an official delegation to the U.S.
to meet with State, DOT, and FAA officials. The purpose of
the visit would be to arrange (or finalize) an agreement to
allow Ghana Air to continue with regular service to the U.S.,
either by continuing with wet-leased aircraft or with its own
aircraft. GCAA Director General Captain Joe Boachie and
Ghana Air Acting CEO Ms. Akua Sarpong would accompany the
Minister. Sarpong told Econoff August 10 that the visit is
on hold pending discussions between Ghana Air's lawyers in
the U.S. and DOT. (Comment: In conversations with Econoffs,
Sarpong has informally requested assistance to improve safety
standards at Ghana Air and also to get re-authorization to
fly U.S. routes. Econoffs pointed out that Post is not the
appropriate USG entity to handle such requests, and urged
Sarpong to approach DOT and FAA directly with specific
assistance requests. End Comment)
YATES