End of MAT?The national carrier of Macedonia has been grounded until further notice by the Macedonian Civil Aviation Authority. The aviation body accused MAT of putting its passengers in danger by not repairing the front wheel on its sole fleet member, the Boeing B737-500. MAT’s CEO denies the charges and accuses the aviation authority of trying to destroy the carrier. Problems started earlier this year when the Macedonian Aviation Authority demanded that the front wheel of the Boeing 737-500 be changed. It gave the carrier until April 24, 2009 to make the change otherwise it would ground the aircraft. Since the airline did not perform the needed changes the Macedonian Aviation Authority did not wish to extend the given deadline. The seizure of the aircraft has led MAT’s flights into disarray with the first causality being 150 passengers from Skopje hoping to fly to Vienna. The flight had been cancelled and passengers were rerouted to their destination using other airlines.
MAT’s management says that passengers were never in danger and that the airline’s pilots and technicians would never allow the aircraft to operate have passengers ever been in danger. Furthermore the carrier says the last time the Macedonian Civil Aviation Authority undertook a safety review of the airline they found no faults. MAT says that it has ordered the replacement part which will take a few days to arrive because “it cannot just arrive over night”, Kristevski said. The replacement will cost the airline 50.000 American dollars, a major figure for the cash strapped carrier. The latest turn in the MAT drama has led to the cancellation of all flights this weekend which included flights from Skopje to Zurich and Istanbul.
It is now uncertain what awaits MAT. The latest development can only intensify the takeover of the carrier, with Serbia’s Jat Airways expected to be the new owners. MAT's managment is hoping that once the replacement part arrives the carrier will be able to fly again. He accuses the Macedonian Civil Aviation Authority of double standards as they have issued the Turkish charter carrier Tarhan Tower Airlines with a license to fly from Macedonia even though the Turkish Civil Aviation authority revoked the airline’s license in 2007 and the airline has been bankrupt ever since.
MAT has now been left without any aircraft as its other fleet member, a CRJ900, has been stored in Ljubljana after MAT was unable to pay for its operations. According to a poll on this blog earlier this year 61% of those that voted believed that MAT will no longer be flying by the end of 2009.