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Collision Near L.A. Is First Aeromexico Disaster Since 1981

September 01, 1986|DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Before Sunday's tragedy over Cerritos, which claimed at least 70 lives, the most recent Aeromexico disaster occurred on Nov. 8, 1981, when a DC-9 exploded in the air en route from Acapulco to Guadalajara, killing all 18 passengers and crew members aboard.

On July 27, 1981, another Aeromexico DC-9 crash-landed at the airport in Chihuahua, killing 29 passengers.

And in June, 1973, 23 passengers and crew members died when an Aeromexico DC-9 crashed near Puerto Vallarta.

Aeromexico aircraft were involved in two frightening incidents earlier this summer. On Aug. 16, a tire blew on a Miami-bound DC-9 as it took off from Mexico City. The plane circled and landed. None of the 104 passengers aboard were injured.

On July 17, an Aeromexico DC-8 began leaking fuel as it approached Tijuana airport, but landed safely.

Cost-Cutting Cited

Airline mechanics union members in Mexico have complained this year that cost-cutting has crippled maintenance in that nation's airline industry.

Alejandro Luna, general secretary of the Aviation Pilots Union, told the Mexican magazine Proceso, "The insufficiency of parts and airplanes in the industry is notable."

While asserting that Aeromexico planes are safe, Andres Morales, secretary of technical affairs of the Aeromexico Technicians and Workers Union, said that mechanics are forced to improvise for lack of parts and that, "Improvisation can bring results that are none too pleasant."

Aeromexico is one of two Mexican government-owned airlines. It has experienced financial difficulties in recent years and lost $28 million during 1985, according to published reports in Mexico City.

Sunday's crash was the third involving Mexican commercial airlines this year.

Airlines Up for Sale

On March 31, a Boeing 727 belonging to Mexicana Airlines, Mexico's other government-owned air carrier, crashed in mountains northwest of Mexico City, killing 167 passengers and crew members. It was the worst disaster in Mexican aviation history.

On Jan. 29, a DC-3 operated by Aerocalifornia, a private commuter company, crashed while landing at a small runway in Las Lomitas near the town of Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa. All 18 passengers and three crew members aboard perished.

Both Aeromexico and Mexicana have been reported up for sale as the government, in an attempt to save money, divests itself of a number of industries.

Although both airlines are government-owned, Mexicana and Aeromexico are separate enterprises.

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