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Philippine aviation authorities suspend Zest Air

Friday - 8/16/2013, 11:50am  ET

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine civil aviation officials said Friday they have suspended operations of local budget airline Zest Air due to safety concerns.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Deputy Director General John Andrews said the airline has several outstanding safety violations, including refueling with passengers on board. He said pilots also failed to check aircraft log books and exceeded permitted flying time.

A pilot once requested clearance for takeoff even though the plane's fuel cap was missing, he said. Air worthiness inspectors later found that the fuel cap had been missing for three months, he added.

"There is something definitely wrong with their operations," Andrews said.

He said the airline also did not have a qualified manager to ensure that all flight operations and maintenance activities met safety standards. A previous manager resigned last month.

He said Zest Air had taken no significant steps to correct the problems since it was put under heightened surveillance three weeks ago.

Calls to Zest Air officials for comment were not answered Friday night.

Zest Air said earlier this year that it operated 10 domestic and 10 international routes.

Malaysia-based airline AirAsia said in May that AirAsia Philippines had acquired 49 percent of the voting rights and an 85 percent financial stake in Zest Air.

Andrews said he had not seen documents showing that the acquisition had been completed and approved by the Philippines' Security Exchange Commission, even though his agency needs to be informed of such steps. He said the only document he had seen was the approval of a marketing arrangement between the two airlines.


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