LiveFist Exclusive: Czech Manufacturer Reacts to LTTE's Use of its Aircraft

There's still a great sense of wonder about the LTTE's use of Czech-built Zlin-143 aircraft for three three audacious bombing missions it carried out on Colombo airport, Palali and fuel reserves near the country's capital in the last two months. What has somewhat startled analysts is that the separatist group had engineered (or procured) improvised bomb-release circuitry to take the unassuming Zlin-143 into a profile it was never ever built for. Manufacturers of the Zlin-143 low-flying training and leisure aircraft, Moravan Aviation SRO is now bankrupt and under restructuring in the Czech Republic, though it has had its share of success, selling over 6,000 aircraft in 30-odd countries since 1943, but never delving into military aviation. I decided to take a shot in the dark and sent a questionaire to the Czech firm on the recent LTTE attacks. I didn't expect them to respond, but they did. Their Head of Sales, Josef Pavelcik, wrote back, and here's the interview in full:

Q1. What are your reactions to the LTTE's use of your products for such actions?

The aircraft pictured certainly appears to be an old or an illegally home-built Zlin-143 model. We were surprised to see a Zlin aircraft being used for the purpose of attaching and dropping bombs - most definitely not what the aircraft was designed or sold for. In addition to the obvious dangers to any people that would be the target of any bombings, this miss-use of an aircraft also opens up other real problems. Including for those people that might be located below a given flight path - and in addition the miss-use would even also be dangerous for those people operating the aircraft outside of its safe design limits. Zlin aircraft are simply not designed to have any items of weight attached to the under-carriage. To do so is to dismiss all of the aircrafts originally designed safe operational limits. We never have and never will design or sell any of our Zlin aircraft to serve as bombers. This miss-use of one of our products can be seen as directly analogous to the common miss-use of 4-wheel-drive trucks around the world - when people attach machine guns and various other military equipment onto these type of vehicles. Here too this is not what these truck products were designed or sold for, but nothing that say Toyota etc could reasonably be expected to do to prevent such miss-use.

Q2. Is your company investigating the route through which your products could have reached the hands of a banned rebel group?

We are exploring various options in this regard, but is not clear if we as a just a normal private company can in fact do anything. This is a new circumstance and we have no precedent for dealing with it. All aircraft sold by any manufacturers are uniquely numbered and are certified by each of the national aviation authorities. Therefore the original purchasers of each aircraft can easily be identified. Similarly, each aircraft that might then be legally and properly re-sold by its owner continues to be certified - and therefore any new operator would also be identifiable. However, without knowing the registration number of an aircraft, or at least knowing say its original engine's identification number, then it is impossible to identify a specific aircraft. In the case in question the aircraft's original colours and identification has been painted over, by camouflage colouring. Making identification impossible unless one had access to the aircraft. Obviously our company does not have access. Over the past 72 years we have sold almost 6,000 aircraft in total to 60 countries. Including to Asia. Selling these to individuals, civil flying schools, air force flying schools and sales agents. It is at least possible that the Zlin-143 aircraft shown on the web etc could have been given to/sold by its last legal and certified owner, to the LTTE. Or alternatively the aircraft may have been stolen. Or it could even have been assembled from a variety of aircraft parts and spares. In such a case these parts and spares too could have been given, sold or stolen. The possibilities for how an old or an illegally home-built small aircraft could come into the hands of an individual, or of a group, are many. It is unlikely that we - as a small private company in the Czech Republic having no investigation authority or jurisdiction - could reasonably expect to be able to investigate and achieve any meaningful answer.

Q3. What action, if any, is your company taking, since obviously you must have some procedure to keep a check on who is using your products?

As highlighted above our company - as is the case with all the aircraft manufacturers - is legally required to accurately register, record and report to the authorities, whenever and to whom we sell aircraft. We have always completely complied with all such regulations and we will continue to do so. Obviously no company has any procedures that enables it to track the movements of secretly miss-used, or stolen, or illegally home-built products- be they aircraft or trucks, or any other product. On every level we are surprised and disappointed to see an aircraft being operated for anything other than its properly certified and safe correct use.

Q4. Do you have customers in India?

I have no customer who own Z 143 in India now. But we are just producing 3 airplanes Z 143 L for Indian customer. First airplane shall be delivered to India by the end of June 2007.

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