Turkish airline accused over plane repairs

An investigator walks among the wreckage.
Turkish Airlines was accused a week before one of its aircraft was involved in a deadly crash near Amsterdam of "inviting disaster" by ignoring aircraft maintenance, it emerged Thursday.

At least nine people were killed Tuesday, and dozens more seriously injured when the Boeing 737-800 flying from Istanbul to Amsterdam crashed into a muddy field on its final approach to Schiphol Airport. Turkish Civil Aviation Union announced on its Web site on February 18 that Turkish Airlines “is ignoring the most basic function of flight safety, which is plane maintenance services.” “The company administration does not understand the consequences of ripping people from their jobs and inviting a disaster.” The union, which represents 12,000 Turkish Airline employees, is involved in an ugly dispute with the company’s management. Watch how survivors described crash » In the wake of the disaster, Turkish Airlines executives and officials from Turkey’s Transportation Ministry said the Boeing 737-800 had last been inspected December 22. See where 737-800 has been involved in previous incidents » “There was no problem with maintenance in the records of the plane,” Candan Karlicetin, executive board chairman of Turkish Airlines, said in a news conference just hours after the crash. Investigators were Thursday trying to determine what caused the crash of an airplane with a good safety record, flown by a well-respected airline, at one of the world’s most modern airports. Teams of investigators arrived just after daybreak and set up a large white tent. They fanned out over the debris field, where the white fuselage of the Boeing lay in three pieces. Airport authorities planned to hold a news conference just after midday. A special Turkish Airlines flight landed in Amsterdam Thursday morning from Istanbul, carrying about 70 relatives of those on board the fatal flight. The relatives were accompanied by trauma specialists, the airline said.

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Flight 1951 was carrying 134 people, including 127 passengers and seven crew members, when it crashed less than 500 years short of the runway Wednesday. Among the dead were the two pilots and one pilot’s apprentice, officials said. The flight data and voice recorders were recovered, said Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer municipality, which is home to the airport. Witnesses said they saw the nose of the plane pitch up suddenly before the crash, according to journalist Greg Crouch of the RTL, a Dutch news network. Turkish officials have also ruled out weather conditions as a possible reason for the crash. Dutch and Turkish authorities say they await the results of an international investigation into the cause. Aviation experts say Turkish Airlines has a relatively good safety record, though in 2003, more then 70 people were killed when a Turkish Airlines domestic flight crashed in fog near the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Turkey’s flagship carrier had been expanding its routes and fleet of aircraft in recent years. Hollywood actor Kevin Costner was recently hired to star in an advertising campaign for the company. Costner’s commercials were to be broadcast in 70 countries. An employee in Turkish Airlines’ advertising department said the promotional campaign was suspended in the wake of the fatal plane crash.