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International Media praise Ethiopian Airlines' safety record despite Monday's crash
Ethiopian Airlines: an expanding African carrier
NAIROBI - Ethiopian Airlines, whose jet crashed on Monday after takeoff from Beirut, is one of Africa's fastest growing airlines and has had a good safety record for more than a decade.
The carrier started operations in 1946, a year after it was founded, and is considered to be among a trio of sub-Saharan aviation giants, alongside South African Airways and Kenya Airways.
It serves 56 international destinations with 210 weekly international departures from its Addis Ababa hub and a total of 555 weekly international departures worldwide.
On its website the company says that it hopes to increase revenue to one billion dollars and to boost the number of international destinations it serves to 60 in 2010.
Ethiopian Airlines, which says it employs more than 5,000 people, currently has a fleet of 37 aircraft and 35 more on order.
Last week Boeing said it had ordered 10 737-800 jets in a deal valued at 767 million dollars.
Until Flight 409 lost contact with Beirut airport control shortly after takeoff early Monday and crashed into the Mediterranean, Ethiopian had a better safety record than any other African airline except for South African Airways.
"Plane crashes caused by pilot error or maintenance negligence do not exist in Ethiopian Airlines' history," Ethiopian Airlines CEO Girma Wake told reporters in Addis Ababa Monday.
Apart from an emergency landing earlier this month that left no casualties, two incidents involving the company go back more than 10 years.
Earlier this month one of the company's 757s made an emergency landing at Malta's airport while on its way from Addis Ababa to Rome.
The pilot reported a problem with one of the two engines. The passengers continued their journey via London Heathrow while the plane and its crew remained in Malta.
In November 1996 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was hijacked between Addis Ababa and Nairobi by three Ethiopians seeking political asylum.
The aircraft crashed into the Indian Ocean off the Comoros when it ran out of fuel, killing 125 of the 175 people on board.
In September 1988 one of the airline's Boeing 737s made a crash landing at Bahar Dar in Ethiopia after birds entered both engines during takeoff. Thirty-one of the 105 people on board were killed.
Monday's crash may be the airline's third, but the other two could not be blamed on the carrier, industry expert and editorial director of AirGuideOnline, Aram Gesar, told AFP.
"It's the third deadly crash they've had in their history but you can't really blame a bird strike or a terrorist attack on the airline, the pilot or the aircraft," he said.
A profile of Ethiopian Airlines
Jan 25 - An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing
Unlike many African airlines, Ethiopian Airlines has a good safety record.
The last time one of the airline's planes crashed was in 1996 when a Boeing 767 ran out of fuel after being hijacked while flying from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, to Nairobi in Kenya. It ditched into the sea off the Comoros Islands, with the loss of 123 passengers and crew out of 175 people on board. In 1988, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 struck a flock of pigeons after take-off in Bahar Dar, Ethiopia. Thirty-one people were killed when the plane crash-landed on returning to the airport. The state-owned airline flies to more destinations in Africa than any other airline, making it a popular carrier in a continent where many airlines fly only from their home country to destinations outside Africa. Free from politics Along with South African and Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines is widely considered to be among sub-Saharan Africa's best operators, but many passengers have complained of frequent delays. One of Africa's few profitable airlines, it has recently added flights to China and India. The airline also planned to add flights to Shanghai, Madras (Chennai) and Bangalore, chief executive Girma Wake told Reuters news agency. The airline uses mostly Boeing aircraft and announced earlier in January plans to buy 10 of the new 737-800 model at a cost of about $750m (£464m). It was the first African airline to order the 787 Dreamliner and the long-range 777-200LR models. It was founded in 1945 by Emperor Haile Selassie. Some say the emperor hoped that having a good quality national airline would help Ethiopia shake off its poverty-stricken image. The airline remains 100%-owned by the Ethiopian government but it has generally been free from political interference. The BBC's Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa says that Ethiopian government officials pay for their flights on Ethiopian Airlines - unlike in other African countries whose national carriers have been bankrupted by officials and their cronies using them as their personal jets.
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