* Faults detected on plane in 2007, French minister says
* Yemen says plane inspected in May under Airbus supervision
* BEA investigators travelling to Comoros
(Adds aircraft details, background, Yemen comment, BEA comment)
By Anna Willard and Tim Hepher
PARIS, June 30 (Reuters) - Faults were detected in France in 2007 on the Yemenia A310-300 plane that crashed near Comoros on Tuesday and the airline was under scrutiny, French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said.
However, Yemen’s transport minister said the aircraft had undergone a thorough inspection in May under Airbus supervision.
“It was a comprehensive inspection carried out in Yemen ... with experts from Airbus,” Khaled Ibrahim al-Wazeer told Reuters by telephone from the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Bussereau told the I-tele television channel that faults were discovered when the plane was inspected in 2007 by the DGAC (French transport authorities) and that the plane had not returned to France since then.
“The company was not on the blacklist but was subject to stricter checks on our part, and was due to be interviewed shortly by the European Union’s safety committee,” he said.
A European Commission official said the crashed plane had sparked an inquiry into the Yemenia airline’s safety record. The EC could not confirm whether there were plans by the EU’s air safety committee to interview Yemenia.
Many of the passengers began their journey in Paris Marseille aboard a different Yemenia plane, an A330. They switched to the A310-300 in Sanaa.
Bussereau had said in an earlier interview on the radio that the plane was not at fault in the crash. [ID:nLU699445]
The Airbus A310-300 with 153 people on board, including 66 French nationals, crashed into the sea as it tried to land in bad weather on the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros on Tuesday, officials said. [ID:nLU506718]
France’s BEA air accident board said it was sending a team of investigators accompanied by Airbus experts to the site.
It was the second deadly crash involving an Airbus aircraft and large numbers of French passengers this month.
The BEA is due on Thursday to publish a preliminary report on the loss of an Air France AIRF.PA A330-200 jetliner on June 1. The wide-body jetliner crashed during an Atlantic storm while en route from Brazil to Paris, killing all 228 people on board.
Yemenia also operates two leased A330-200s.
In 2007 it placed an order for 10 next-generation Airbus A350-800 wide-body jets worth $2 billion at list prices to jumpstart what it described as “ambitious growth plans”.
Airbus said the crashed A310 operated by Yemenia was built in 1990 and had been operated by the carrier since October 1999.
It was one of four operated by the same airline, two of which were leased, according to Airbus order data.
The aircraft had accumulated approximately 51,900 flight hours in some 17,300 flights, the planemaker said.
Its engines were built by Pratt and Whitney, a unit of U.S. conglomerate United Technologies UTX.N.
Designed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the A310 was the second model developed by Airbus -- then a four-nation plane building consortium and now fully owned by European aerospace group EADS EAD.PA.
Shares in EADS fell more than 2 percent and were trading down 1.5 percent by 1101 GMT.