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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
Chinese air crashes 'delay' reforms
Relatives gather near the coast in Dalian
The cause of the crash is still a mystery
A Chinese official has said the country's second air disaster in a month will delay plans to overhaul the airline industry.

He was speaking as investigators off the north-eastern coastal city of Dalian continued to search for the remaining passengers and wreckage from Tuesday night's crash.


Reform plans might be on hold for a bit

Yang Yuanyuan
All 112 passengers and crew on the China Northern Airlines flight are feared dead, though the bodies of only 69 have so far been recovered.

The official, Yang Yuanyuan, told the state-controlled China Daily newspaper that the crash would prolong a two-year reform timetable for regrouping China's aviation industry.

Man grieves at reception centre in Dalian
Whole families were wiped out in the crash
Mr Yang, Vice Minister of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said: "We have to invest most of our energy in resolving problems arising from the accident, so the reform plans might be on hold for a bit".

But Mr Yang said the direction of reform would not change, and China's nine domestic airlines would still be merged into three new groups based on Air China, China Southern and China Eastern.

The consolidation is seen as important by aviation experts, who say the merged groups should be stronger and better managed.

Howard Gorges of South China Brokerage told the BBC's World Business Report the merger is expected to take between two and four years to complete.

'Weak' signal

In Dalian, divers have yet to recover flight CJ 6136's black box flight recorders, though a weak radio signal from the recorders has reportedly been picked up.

Recovery crews pulled a 15 metre section of the plane from the water on Friday.

Chinese officials said it was unclear whether the rest of the plane was under water intact, or had been destroyed upon impact.

The Chinese-assembled Boeing MD-82 went down minutes after the pilot reported a fire had broken out aboard.

Witnesses said the plane crashed into the sea some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Dalian airport after making several circles in the air.

Previous crashes

The crash came only weeks after an Air China plane crashed in South Korea.

On 15 April, 129 people died when an Air China Boeing 767 crashed into a fog-covered mountain near the southern city of Busan, as the plane was trying to land at Gimhae airport.

South Korean officials have suggested pilot error was to blame in that crash.

China Northern Airlines, established in 1990, is based in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning. It has 24 MD-82s among its fleet.

It is due to be merged with the larger China Southern airline as part of China's proposed airline reforms.

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 ON THIS STORY
Howard Gorges, South China brokerage
"The pressure is on the airlines in China to really smarten up and also run on commercial lines"
See also:

08 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: China's air safety
08 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
In Pictures: Chinese air crash
15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
China crash plane 'blown off course'
15 Apr 02 | World
Air disaster timeline
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: China
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