Aviation Safety Watchdog Calls for Tougher Control Over Spares Following Deadly Crashes

The head of the watchdog agency overseeing air safety in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics on Wednesday called for tougher controls over aircraft parts after several deadly crashes this year.

Tatyana Anodina, head of the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, also voiced concern about the age of Soviet-built passenger jets still in service.

"The aging of the aicraft fleet causes concern," she told a news conference.

She said her committee, which investigates air crashes in Russia and 11 other ex-Soviet republics and issues air safety guidelines, would draft new rules on extending planes' lifetimes, combating counterfeit parts and providing maintenance.

Russia's top prosecutor said in October that some Russian airlines were using fake and substandard parts. Shortly thereafter, authorities arrested two executives at a company based at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on charges of selling spare aircraft parts that had outlived their service lifetime.

"The use of counterfeit products means tragedy," Anodina said.

The official probe against the company followed several crashes this year that drew attention to the decrepit state of many of the nation's airlines.

In August, a Tu-154 jet belonging to Pulkovo Airlines crashed in Ukraine after encountering a storm, killing all 170 people aboard, and in July, an Airbus A310 belonging to airline S7 skidded off a runway and burst into flames in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, killing 124 people.

In May, an A320 belonging to the Armenian airline Armavia crashed into the Black Sea while trying to land in the resort city of Sochi, killing all 113 people aboard.

Anodina's committee blamed the May and July crashes on pilot error. Aviation safety officials also blamed the August crash on pilots performing a dangerous maneuver, but an official verdict is still pending.

Many pilots and aviation experts said that problems with the airports in Sochi and Irkutsk played a role in the crashes.

Anodina insisted Wednesday that the airport in Sochi, the Black Sea resort that is bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, conforms with safety rules. The airport is set to undergo costly upgrades.

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