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Thu, May 25, 2006

US Opens Skies To Ecuadorean Airlines

Move Comes As US-Quito Relations Strained

One month after US skies were reopened for airlines flying from Venezuela, the FAA has now lifted similar restrictions it placed on Ecuadorean airlines flying to US airports back in 1995.

On Wednesday, the agency raised Ecuador's safety rating -- from Category 2 to category 1. A Category 1 rating means that the civil aviation authority of Ecuador has been assessed by FAA inspectors, and has been found to license and oversee air carriers in accordance with ICAO aviation safety standards. A Category 2 rating means the FAA found that the country's airlines did not comply with those standards.

As was the case with the Venezuela upgrade -- which came after president Hugo Chavez threatened to ban all US flights to Venezuela -- the move to raise Ecuador's status could be seen as at least somewhat political.

Ecuador's upgraded safety status comes as relations between the US and the small Andean country have been strained over Ecuador's move to annul a contract held by a US oil company.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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