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Airline suspended after flight is forced to divert due to gale force winds

By Steven Alexander and Claire O'Boyle

An airline that flies passengers between Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man has been suspended after a Belfast-bound flight was forced to divert because of gale force winds.

Citywing services, run by Czech-registered operator Van Air, have been halted by the Civil Aviation Authority pending an investigation after Flight 502 took off for Belfast City Airport at around 11am last Thursday.

The Czech-built Let 410 aircraft was forced to divert and returned to the Isle of Man where it made an early landing in bad weather at Ronaldsway airport.

Such was the concern, the runway was shut for several hours and the flight was met by fire appliances. Other flights out of the Isle of Man were also affected.

Citywing was formed on January 1, 2013 following a management buyout of the Manx2.com business. Manx2 closed in the wake of the Cork air disaster of February 2011 in which six people died. It crashed in thick fog as it was preparing to land at Cork Airport after taking off from George Best City Airport in Belfast. Four people from Northern Ireland were among the dead.

Citywing is an entirely separate company. The UK CAA has now suspended Van Air's permission to fly in the UK until an investigation is carried out. A spokesperson said: "This follows an incident involving a Van Air aircraft at Isle of Man Airport on February 23.

"The incident is being investigated by the Czech civil aviation authorities, who have regulatory oversight of Van Air."

On Monday the UK CAA issued permission for Polish operator Spirit Air to provide substitute services for those flights previously scheduled by Van Air to from the Isle of Man to Belfast, Blackpool, Glasgow, Newcastle, Gloucester and Liverpool airports. A CAA spokesperson added: "The safety of the travelling public is our number one priority and we remain in contact with the relevant parties."

A representative from Citywing said: "Citywing can confirm that Van Air-operated flight 502 took off from the Isle of Man destined for Belfast on Thursday morning but returned due to deteriorating weather conditions.

"Citywing have been advised by Van Air that the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has requested to speak with Van Air following the incident. Until such discussions take place, hopefully later this week, the UK CAA has asked Van Air to stop flying. Unfortunately this means that all Citywing flights will be affected until further notice."

David Buck, Managing Director of Citywing, said: "We apologise for the disruption to travel plans. We know the options available are far from ideal but we wanted to ensure where possible that we can provide an option for all passengers to reach their destinations. We are trying to contact all passengers so we ask for patience whilst we do so."

Anyone with urgent enquiries can contact Citywing's Reservations on 0871 200 0440 or visit www.citywing.com

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