N.Korea Has Not Enough Jets for Invited Guests

      July 22, 2013 11:03

      North Korea invited thousands of foreign dignitaries to the 60th anniversary of the armistice on July 27 that ended the Korean War, which in the North is called "Victory Day." But a shortage of passenger jets by the North's only airline is causing major problems in shuttling any guests who accept to Pyongyang.

      Air Koryo has a grand total of three passenger planes capable of making international flights, so North Korean officials are apparently negotiating with China to use retired passenger jets to shuttle the guests to Pyongyang from Beijing.

      "North Korea asked Chinese aviation authorities for permission to deploy three retired long-haul passenger jets in order to carry foreign guests from Beijing to Pyongyang," an aviation industry source in China said. "But Chinese aviation officials don’t like the idea because of the safety concerns."

      Air Koryo has around 20 passenger planes, but only three bought in 2007 and 2008 are capable of long-haul flights. They are two TU-204 jets (210 passengers) and AN-148 (90 passengers) bought from Russia.

      Some foreign dignitaries already arrived in the North Korean capital late last week, and thousands more are set to arrive on Wednesday, including Western and Japanese journalists. To transport all of them with the existing aircraft, Air Koryo would have to fly them several times a day between Beijing and Pyongyang.

      The retired passenger jets are 30 or 40 years old and considered too old to fly safely.

      Under ICAO safety regulations, Chinese aviation authorities last year banned North Korean aircraft that are not equipped with collision-warning equipment from landing at Chinese airports. In early March this year, an Air Koryo TU-204 passenger jet skidded off a runway as it attempted to land in Vladivostok.

      "If North Korea operates the three long-haul aircraft repeatedly during the 10 days until the celebrations end, it could pose a great risk to safety due to poor maintenance," said one industry insider in China.

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