Charter companies halt fly overs of Nazca lines to protest government-ordered decomission of older planes

Charter plane companies that provide flights over Peru’s famous Nazca lines halted operations on Tuesday to protest a new government initiative to decommission some small planes in response to a spate of fatal accidents and close calls.

The strike has affected 350 tourists and is resulting in loses of $70 million per day to Peru’s tourism industry, state news agency Andina reported the president of Nazca’s chamber of commerce, Max Benavides, as saying.

“The strike is rejected among the people. Rather than discuss or deal with their complaints through the corresponding channels, these airline companies have opted for the easy path and are affecting the image of Nazca,” Benavides said.

The regulations announced by Transportation and Communications Minister Enrique Cornejo came after a small plane crashed during a fly over of the Nazca lines, killing six tourists and the pilot.

The policy is aimed at improving safety among tourism planes by updating the current fleet in Peru. Tourism planes older than 30 years will be decommissioned in August and those older than 20 years will be retired by 2011. The regulation will also require tourist planes to have at least eight seats.

The Nazca lines are one of Peru’s most popular attractions. Tourist planes routinely fly over the ancient geoglyphs, which are miles long and depict living creatures like monkeys, llamas, hummingbirds and spiders. UNESCO says the lines were created between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, and are among the world’s greatest archaeological enigmas.

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