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German Airline Keeps Schtum

Posted in Air New Zealand, Airline NewsNo comments

A shroud of secrecy surrounds the identity of the two German pilots at the controls of the Air New Zealand plane that crashed off the coast of France nine days ago, killing all seven aboard.

The pilots’ airline, XL Airways, has refused to reveal any details about the men and attempts by German newspapers to establish their identity have failed although there was an unconfirmed report that one of the Germans killed was a 58-year-old from Pfalzfeld.

“All we know is that they are German. We know nothing else,” a reporter from Bild, one of Germany’s best-selling newspapers, told the Sunday Star-Times.

Unlike Air New Zealand, which released details of its staff involved in the tragedy almost immediately and has kept media abreast of developments in the air crash investigation, XL Airways has kept any information it has to itself.

It leased the downed A320 plane from Air New Zealand two years ago and was in the process of handing it back when it crashed into the Mediterranean on final approach to Perpignan Airport.

When approached by the Star-Times for information about the pilots, XL Airways spokesman Asger Schubert said it was against company policy – and indeed the policy of all German airlines – to reveal any details.

Schubert said he was impressed with the way New Zealand media had covered the crash and provided personal insights into the victims but that was not the way things were done in Germany, where a harsher moral culture had developed in recent years. There was now a “feeling of distance for affected individuals”.

XL’s safety record was called into question by European media in October when one of its Boeing 737s, flying from Frankfurt to Antalya in Turkey was forced to make an emergency landing in Belgrade because of an engine problem. Serbian newspapers said witnesses spoke of 4m flames leaping from an engine but the airline refuted the reports.

German media have speculated the Air New Zealand plane’s de-icing gear might have failed causing it to nose-dive into the sea but the official investigation into the crash has yet to establish why the four-year-old aircraft crashed on what should have been a routine “acceptance” flight.

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