Libya's stalled investigation into the fatal Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 accident at Tripoli has emerged as one of the concerns that led to the blocking of Libyan operations to Europe.

Documentation accompanying the European air safety committee's latest blacklist revision shows that in February the Libyan authorities claimed the A330 accident inquiry had "encountered difficulties" and "not led to conclusions so far" - nearly two years after the May 2010 crash.

The documentation states that the crash of flight 8U771, arriving from Johannesburg, as well as inspections of Afriqiyah Airways' aircraft and those of business jet operator United Aviation, prompted safety discussions between European and Libyan officials as far back as October 2010.

The talks were interrupted by the political uprising in Libya and only resumed last October, when Libya's civil aviation authorities stated that they would recertify all carriers before upholding their air operator's certificates.

"During the audits as part of this recertification process the [Libyan authorities] detected significant safety issues concerning Afriqiyah Airways, notably in the area of pilot training, a lack of maintenance staff, and insufficient equipment to perform maintenance tasks," says the European Commission document.

"Nonetheless, shortly after the audit, the [authorities] issued an air operator's certificate to Afriqiyah Airways."

Afriqiyah was among the carriers that attended meetings between Libyan government officials and the European air safety committee in February and March this year.

"The minister [of transport] acknowledged that the Libyan aviation safety system was not conforming to ICAO standards," says the Commission, pointing out that the Libyan authorities had failed to provide detailed information on the air operator's certificate audits.

But the minister set out plans, it adds, to remedy the situation under a three-year programme, which will include forming a committee to reconstruct the Libyan aviation safety system.

Libyan authorities have temporarily suspended permission for the country's carriers to operate into the European Union, until at least 22 November.

While acknowledging the "significant difficulties" faced by Libya as a result of its internal conflict, the air safety committee has requested that its authorities submit a corrective plan by 20 April that details actions to address shortfalls in air transport oversight.

Source: Flight International