Friday, September 16, 2011

High on alerts, airport conducts out-of-turn drill. (India)

With intelligence inputs citing a grave terror threat to the airport, and the same getting authenticated in past few weeks via different terror e-mails, security agencies conducted a mock drill yesterday to ensure that the airport is well-equipped to deal with any menace to security.

On Friday afternoon, security agencies Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), and the state police, in conjunction with the airport staff - conducted the mock anti-hijack exercise at the secondary runway of Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA).

A passenger bus posed as an aircraft, with CISF, BCAS and MIAL staff enacting as passengers, crew and hijackers.

The drills at the airport are usually conducted once every year. After the last one was conducted in December 2010, the next was scheduled for November-December this year. But the delicacy of the situation necessitated expediting the exercise.

"Over the past few weeks, we have been receiving e-mails from different terror groups which maintain that they will target different airports. The mock drill was not scheduled.

But in the midst of the threats, we decided to conduct it early this time," a top BCAS official from Delhi said.

The official also revealed that the decision was taken after Home Minister P Chidambaram met CM Prithviraj Chavan last Monday, for a security review.

"As part of a security initiative, MIAL conducted a Mock Anti-Hijack Exercise at CSIA on Friday. The operation was chaired by the state's additional chief secretary (home) Umesh Sarangi, who is the chairman for Aerodrome Committee," an MIAL spokesperson said.

CSIA was placed on the alert last Tuesday, after Intelligence Bureau sent out an all-India alert that a small aircraft may be used to carry out a terror attack.

Anniversary alert
The alert came two days after the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and on the third anniversary of the 9/13 Delhi serial blasts.

The permission related to chopper joyrides, flower drop services from Juhu airport had been cancelled on September 11, the final day of Ganpati immersion.

Storms divert planes to Abilene Regional Airport (KABI), Texas.

Several hundred travelers — including a couple bound for a Caribbean cruise — got an unexpected trip to Abilene on Friday after storms in the Dallas-Fort Worth area caused six American Airline planes to be diverted to Abilene Regional Airport.

Chris Taylor, assistant director of aviation at the airport, said he could not discuss specifics, but diverted flights were pretty normal when bad weather occurs.

"We still don't know who is staying, or who's leaving," Taylor said late Friday. "It depends on the weather."

Taylor was unable to say how many passengers were at the airport.

A notice posted by the FAA's Air Traffic Control System Command Center said that arriving flights at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport were experiencing delays of an average of 36 minutes because of thunderstorms.

For Ann and Tom Lozano, the bad weather may have ruined their two-year plans to take a cruise in the eastern Caribbean.

The Lozanos, from Roswell, N.M., said their cruise was scheduled to leave at 3 p.m. today in Miami, and they were frustrated at the delay.

"They haven't even told us where our baggage is," said Tom Lozano as he stood in a line with other passengers. "They haven't even told us if we're supposed to be in this line."

Steven Hooser, who works at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., also was stranded Friday.

"It's starting to get a little funny," said Hooser, who added that he had been grounded in Abilene since 5:20 p.m.

"We're just trying to get home," he said.

No passengers for Air Zimbabw, still grounded

AIR Zimbabwe yesterday failed to resume flights after failing to attract passengers amid reports it incurred a US$6,8 million loss during the just-ended strike by its workers.

Acting group chief executive officer Innocent Mavhunga said commencement of flights was as good “as re-entering the market”.

He said it would take the airline over six months to restore customer confidence.

The beleaguered airline on Thursday announced that it would resume flights yesterday after reportedly getting US$2,8 million from the Government.

Flights on the Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls routes were scheduled to resume, but none of the five planes took off yesterday.

Late yesterday, the Harare-Johannesburg flight, which was scheduled for Monday was deferred to Wednesday under unclear reasons.

“We have started operations but we have not yet started the physical flying because there are no passengers. It is obviously because of the fact that we announced the resumption at short notice and we were expecting it.

“Hard work is really needed to restore customer confidence and we must take into account that it takes time to build (confidence in) the market. It’s like we are re-entering the market,” he said.

Government, Mavhunga said, had committed to give Airzim financial support weekly until it was able to generate revenue.

He, however, refused to disclose the amount Government had given them to pay salaries.

Workers are still owed their July and August salaries.

“We have agreed in principle with the workers and we will work hard to resolve what we owe them. While I cannot divulge the amount we got from Government, workers should also understand the fact that resources are scarce.

“We appreciate the workers’ concern but we expect them to appreciate the reality facing the nation,” he said.

The strike, Mavhunga said, had cost the airline US$6,8 million.

“It (the strike) was costly not only in financial terms but reputation wise. We have to come up with permanent solutions and we are taking proactive measures to ensure that problems are avoided,” he said.

Mavhunga said charter flights were helping their pilots keep their licences valid.

According to aviation laws, if a pilot spends 30 days without flying, he or she has to undergo “recency training”.

“We were fortunate that we had some charter operations during the strike and since the 9th of September after agreeing that they would come to work, they have done their recency training.”

On new planes, Mavhunga said: “This is a shareholder (Government) issue and I also just read about the new planes in the papers.”

He said international flights would resume with the Harare-Beijing flight next Friday while the Harare-London flights start on September 25.

The Harare-Lusaka-Lubumbashi flight is also scheduled to resume next Friday.

Cochin International Airport Limited denies problem with the runway in Gulf Air flight deviation

Nedumbassery: The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) authorities today said that there was no problem with the runway of the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) on the date of the Gulf Air flight deviated from runway while landing, as the average co efficient of runway was between 0.61 to 0.86, which was very much higher the minimum international level of 0.34.

''The Friction Co efficient of the site where the Gulf Air touched the northern end of the runway was 0.7 to 0.8, which was a proof that the Friction Co Efficient of CIAL Runway was at a very good level,'' Airport Director A C K Nair told UNI.

Immediately after the Gulf Air 270 incident on August 29, we had carried out the Runway Friction Test along with the officials of Director General of Civil Aviation on the runway and it was recorded that the average Friction of Co efficient in the CIAL runway was between 0.52 to 0.84, which proved the efficiency of the runway, he added.

Stating that as per the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annexure-14, all the airports were required to maintain a minimum level of runway friction of 0.34 while testing with the Surface Friction Tester Vehicle, he said that the CIAL had also undertook such test and found in its last test that the level was between 0.61 to 0.86, which was very much higher than the prescribed minimum level by ICAO. 

Float Planes to add to Queenstown Bay attractions

 Pilot Brent Collins has lodged plans with Lakes Environmental that could result in a thoroughly refurbished 1950s era, seven-seater (plus pilot) De Havilland Beaver and a modern Cessna float plane offering flightseeing and transfers on Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea by summers’ end.
The float planes are to be moored near the Queenstown Gardens and passengers transferred by water taxi from the Convelle wharf at Earnslaw Park. From the mooring, a plane will taxi (less noise than a jetboat in the bay) to its ‘air strip’ located at least 1.2km from the mooring, which is more than 800m south of the tip of the Garden’s peninsula from where it will take off and land. There will be a similar ‘strip’ located at Glenorchy, again located suitably far off shore to prevent any noise issues. Also applied for are occasional landings and takeoffs on Lake Wanaka and Hawea and in Frankton Arm.

Mr. Collins acknowledged a group had formed to oppose the operation but asked that people consider the application carefully.

“Float planes are part of alpine and lake tourism environments the world over and add something pretty special to a waterfront and to the visitor experience,” he said. “I would ask that people read the application thoroughly because we’ve put a lot of work in to ensure our activity adds to the vibrancy of the waterfront without causing disruption or congestion.”

While there is no float plane currently operating on Lake Wakatipu, the proposed mooring near the Gardens used to be home to a tourist float plane while another has operated from the Frankton beach area.

The project has been nearly 3 years in the planning and there has been consultation with many people, including identified affected parties. Mr Collins has worked to mitigate all concerns that have arisen.

“Generally, people are supportive. The feeling is that a float plane has something to add to the Bay. Especially an historic plane with potential for future links to other historic transport such as TSS Earnslaw and Kingston Flyer. However, we do understand people’s primary concern is about potential noise levels. We believe this could only present an issue for 20 – 25 seconds during take-off which we have fully mitigated by locating our take off area more than a kilometre from town. I strongly believe these planes are well suited to this environment in terms of noise and that people will not be adversely affected,” he said.

The noise generated by the float planes is within the guidelines of the district plan and flight plans do not take planes over the town or populated areas.

“We are very happy to discuss our application with people and ask that they get in touch with their concerns. We have established a facebook page where we hope we can help answer questions for people if they’d rather not get in touch directly.”

Full details of the application, which Mr Collins requested be publicly notified, are available at Lakes Environmental offices in Queenstown’s Shotover Street or QLDC offices in Ardmore Street Wanaka and submissions are invited until September 28, 2011.

Proposals sought for air service

The U.S. Department of Transportation is accepting proposals from airlines willing to provide commercial air service to the Shoals and nearly two dozen other communities across the country.

The request is part of an order that prohibits Pinnacle Airlines, which does business locally as Delta Connection, from suspending service at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals until a new carrier is selected and able to provide air service to the community.

The order covers 23 communities served by Pinnacle, Mesaba and Sky West airlines in Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In each community, Pinnacle, Sky West and Mesaba provide commuter air service for Delta Air Lines, which announced earlier in the year its intentions to cease air service in those areas.

The airline has asked to terminate service in those communities by Oct. 13, but the order includes a “hold in” clause that requires the airlines to remain past their termination dates and continue providing the same level of service.

In the Shoals, Pinnacle must continue to provide air service for “successive 30-day periods” until the replacement process has been completed and the selected carrier can begin service.

Proposals from airlines interested in providing the service must be filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation by Oct. 12, according to the order.

Airport Director Barry Griffith said when the proposals are in, a subcommittee of the Shoals Air Services Committee will review them and make a recommendation. He said that process could take a couple of weeks.

“It’s all dependant on who submits proposals,” Griffith said. “I feel confident there will be a qualified proposal this time, and I’m hopeful it will be a strong partner for our community and be able to serve those preferential markets the community would like to fly to.”

Delta provides jet service to and from Memphis.

The subcommittee will include Griffith, Airport Board Chairman Rick Elliott and members Braxton Ashe and Joe McKinney. They will be joined by members of the Air Services Committee and Chamber of Commerce President Steve Holt.

Gulfstream International Airlines, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was selected earlier this year to serve the Shoals, but the company withdrew its proposal when it could not secure a code-sharing agreement with Delta.

Griffith said the criteria for Shoals air service has not changed in the new request for proposals.

The carrier must provide at least 12 nonstop flights per week to a medium or large hub if a 34-seat aircraft is used, 14 nonstop flights if a 30-seat aircraft is used and 18 flights per week if a 19-seat aircraft is used. The use of smaller planes would have to be approved by the community and the Department of Transportation.

12-time felon arrested while casing RVs parked for National Championship Air Races. Reno, Nevada.

A 59-year-old-man with 12 prior felony convictions is under arrest, facing one count of burglary and three counts of attempted burglary, Reno area authorities said Thursday night.

Detectives observed Donald M Buckner as he was casing RVs that were parked by spectators in the area of the Reno Air Races in Stead, law enforcement said. Buckner was arrested as he came out of a trailer that he had illegally entered, the authorities said.

Detectives with the Northern Nevada Repeat Offender Program and the Regional Street Enforcement Team made the arrest Thursday.

Buckner was previously arrested in 1996 for committing several burglaries of RV’s that were parked by football fans who were watching football games at the UNR campus, law enforcement said. Buckner served a 10 year sentence and was released in 2006.

Shortly after his release from prison, he was caught again in California as he was observed breaking into parked vehicles at area ski resorts, the authorities said.

Anyone with information on Buckner is urged to contact Reno police at 775-334-2175

Reno police say they've arrested a man with a lengthy criminal rap sheet, for allegedly casing RVs out at the Air Races in Stead.

Police say 59 year old Donald M. Buckner was arrested Thursday, after they saw him scoping out people's RVs, and leaving someone's trailer that he had let himself into.

They also say Buckner was arrested back in 1996 for breaking into RVs parked at U.N.R. football games.

Buckner spent ten years behind bars and was released in 2006.

But police say not long after that, he was again caught breaking into parked cars at local ski resorts.

If you know anything about Buckner that can help police with their investigation, please call Reno Police or Secret Witness at 322-4900.

Maine man is going to prison for lying about the sale of three airplanes in an attempt to hide nearly half a million dollars from his estate during bankruptcy proceedings.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A 66-year-old Maine man is going to prison for lying about the sale of three airplanes in an attempt to hide nearly half a million dollars from his estate during bankruptcy proceedings.

Maurice Roundy of Auburn was sentenced in federal court Friday to two years in prison after being convicted of bankruptcy fraud in May.

According to court documents, Roundy claimed in bankruptcy filings in 2005 that he had sold three Lockheed Super Constellation Starliners for $20,000. At the time, only four of the piston-engined airliners were left in the world.

In fact, Roundy had sold the planes to a buyer for $500,000 and concealed the sale from his bankruptcy trustee and creditors. When the deception was revealed, the trustee recovered the planes and sold them at auction for $748,000.

RAW VIDEO: Stearman biplane blows engine on taxiway.

Video by ohriver2iais on Sep 6, 2011
"We watched this plane take off, then made a hard left u turn and came back for a landing. As the plane landed and was taxiing back to the parking spot something in the engine blows. Galesburg, IL on 9/5/11."

From the child, "is that suppose to happen?"  LOL! Classic!

Mideast airlines ‘to triple passenger capacity in next 20 years’

The Middle Eastern airlines are expected to triple their passenger capacity over the next 20 years, even as the megacarriers face challenges to maintain their profit margins, partially on competition from Turkey, India and China, according to Boston Consulting.

Moreover, Qatar Airways is expected to be among the top 20 flyers in the world the next five years, the Boston Consulting said in its latest special report, ‘Middle Eastern Megacarriers: Gaining Altitude’.

Finding that the Middle East has become entrenched as a hub for long-haul travel, it said passenger flows to and from the region has increased by 45mn passengers over the five-year period from 2005 through 2010.

They are expected to increase by another 45mn passengers over the next five-year period from 2010 through 2015. Such increases reflect a compound annual growth rate of 11% over the total 10-year period, it said, adding passengers flow to and from the region is slated to reach about 140mn by 2015.

“Led by the Middle Eastern megacarriers, airlines in the region are expected to triple their passenger capacity over the next 20 years,” the report said.

Although the Middle Eastern megacarriers share many of the same low cost advantages such as no corporate and individual income taxes, as well as low infrastructure access and personnel costs, yet they share a common challenge: the need to manage the pressure that their aggressive expansion plans exert on their margins, Boston Consulting said.
Finding that Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are looking to expand their capacity beyond the expected growth in demand, it said ultimately Middle Eastern airlines must fill their added seats, either by expanding their networks or by capturing a greater of their existing markets.

However, they are confronted with threats from five fronts, which include competition from full-service legacy airlines, aiming to leverage their networks and schedule advantages to attract more-profitable business travellers who prefer non-stop flights at business-friendly departure times. Boston also forecast greater regional competition from Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways for connecting traffic to non-hub destinations in the Middle East and for intercontinental travel.

Factoring in the competition from low-cost carriers within the Middle East such as flydubai and Air Arabia, the report said “the emergence of airlines in Turkey, India and potentially China embrace the same type of advantaged hub business models being used by the Middle East megacarriers.”

Moreover, Boston, also view the possibility that foreign governments will restrict market access or alter pricing regimes.

On the industry implications, Boston said it will be a challenge to match the sheer size and reach of the networks run by Middle Eastern megacarriers, which will increasingly “own” certain intercontinental traffic flows. “The next five years will see even greater levels of competition in the airline industry, as Middle Eastern megacarriers add capacity well ahead of underlying demand,” it said.

They will continue to expand their networks aggressively, add more frequent flights to existing destinations, and upgrade their fleets to larger, more fuel-efficient aircraft so that they can extend their cost leadership, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Emirates Airlines to be world's top wide-body carrier by 2015

Emirates Airlines is on track to become the world's largest operator of wide-body aircraft by 2015, according to a report on Thursday.

The Dubai-based carrier will grow its capacity by 9 to 12 percent annually through 2015, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) said in its report titled ‘Middle Eastern Megacarriers: Gaining Altitude’.

Emirates has “nearly tripled capacity and passenger revenues over the past five years, adding 32 new destinations while improving aircraft utilisation, load factors, and yields,” BCG said.

“The specific growth rates will depend on how quickly the airline retires some of its older aircraft — to become the world's largest operator of wide-body aircraft.”

With a fleet of 157 aircraft and the largest A380 operator in the world, Emirates currently flies to 114 destinations in 67 countries.

Despite Emirates’ cash margins decreasing from 28 percent to 23 percent during the past five years, BCG believes that the performance compares better than other international airlines.

But Emirates is not the only carrier in the Middle East that is expected to see strong growth over the next five years. Airlines in the region are expected to triple their passenger capacity over the next 20 years, according to BCG.

Passenger flows to and from the Middle East are expected to increase by another 45 million passengers over the next five-year period, from 2010 through 2015.

"Because the Middle Eastern megacarriers have been early developers of the region as an important hub for long-haul routes—and because they enjoy significant cost advantages—they are well positioned to compete aggressively with more financially constrained carriers," said Rend Stephan, Partner & Managing Director in BCG, Middle East.

Middle East airlines saw a 9.7 percent increase in demand in July, outstripping the 8.9 percent capacity increase, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said earlier this month.

Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on lockdown, source says armed man barricaded inside building

TUCSON -- Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is on lockdown, but a spokesman said no shots have been fired and no one has been hurt.

The Arizona Republic reports a source told them an armed civilian got onto the base and barricaded himself inside a room on the second floor of a building known as the "Old Dorm."

Details remain scarce, however, other than the lockdown is still in effect, meaning no one is allowed on or off the base. In a brief press release issued around 12:30 p.m., base officials said reports of "suspicious activity" caused officials to declare a higher state of security.

Arizona TV station KVOA reports that at around 2 p.m. local time, a bomb squad and other law enforcement units responded to the base.

The base is best known as the boneyard for old military and government airplanes.

Ron Barber, who was on the base Friday morning for a commemoration ceremony for POWs and MIAs, left the base as the lockdown started at 10 a.m. Security directed traffic off the grounds of the base.

He said officials did not say why they were locking down the base.

Barber is U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' district director. He was shot in the face and leg during the January mass shooting at a Tucson Safeway.

The Pima Air & Space Museum south of the base remains open, but public tours that it does on the base have been canceled, officials said.

At least two schools, Borman Elementary of Tucson Unified School District and Sonoran Science Academy, are on lockdown.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Caitlin Jones said she couldn't confirm details, but said the base has been "reduced to a single point entry because of a potential security situation," and officials were investigating.

At an impromptu press conference at 12:40 p.m., Sgt. Russ Martin said there was an unconfirmed spotting of someone carrying "something that looked like it might have been a weapon" near an old dormitory now being used by a civil engineering squadron.

Martin said rescue vehicles seen entering the base were part of the crisis response put into action when the base was put on lockdown. In what he called "bad timing," he said an ambulance that left the base during the lockdown was carrying a pregnant woman.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is hosted by the 355 Fighter Wing and home to six squadrons, with more than 6,000 Airmen and 1,700 civilian personnel. It is located within the city limits of Tucson, about 5 miles east of the downtown area. It was established in 1925.

Three men arrested for having guns at Hartsfield - Jackson Atlanta International Airport (KATL), Atlanta, Georgia.

(Thanks for heads up, Jim!)

Three men were arrested in three separate incidents on Thursday for bringing weapons through security at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The men were scheduled for first appearances in a Clayton County courtroom Friday morning.

Richard Ronald Fusakio, 65, of Tennessee, was being held pending his first appearance Friday, according to Clayton County Jail records. Fusakio is a retired, decorated war hero, once held by Soviet Union forces as a mercenary, according to the Clayton News Daily.

Also arrested on the same charge was Atlanta attorney, Oscar Eugene Prioleau, Jr., 47, of Fairburn. Prioleau specializes in labor and employment law in downtown Atlanta.

On Thursday night, Damian Shaw, 39, of Atlanta, was arrested on the same charge.

Specific details surrounding the men's arrests were not immediately known.

These are the latest in a recent string of weapons charges at Hartsfield-Jackson.

In June, former Clayton County John Turner prosecutor was arrested after he said he forgot to remove a small handgun from a "fanny pack" he was wearing when he went to check in for a flight.

In July, two Georgians were arrested within a 20-minute period at the airport for allegedly carrying guns.

In August, Mickey "Memphitz" Wright, who costars with wife Toya Carter in BET's "Toya: A Family Affair," was charged with carrying a gun in his carry-on bag into Hartsfield-Jackson.

Wright told a judge, "I just wanted to say to you that I would never intentionally take a firearm to the airport. I just forgot that it was in my backpack."

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Jon Allen said the TSA averages two gun confiscations a day across the country.

Local airport officials told Channel 2 Action News they've found 50 guns since January.

Civil penalties for carrying a firearm at an airport can range from $3,000 to $7,500 for a loaded weapon and $1,500 to $3,000 for an unloaded weapon.

Camera lens lands on and damages roof of home - Petaluma, California.

PETALUMA (CBS SF) – Petaluma police were working to track down the owner of a camera lens that apparently fell from the sky earlier this month, damaging a local family’s home.

Debbie Payne, 55, said she found the approximately two-pound, 9-inch Canon camera lens outside of her home on Friday, Sept. 2, after hearing a loud crash that shook the two-story house, left a hole in her roof and sliced through two window screens.

She said the noise was loud enough to startle her next-door neighbor, who quickly spotted a piece of the camera lens next to a truck parked in his driveway.

After reviewing Payne’s mailed-in police report on Wednesday, officers are now tracking the lens’ serial number and working with the Petaluma Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration to determine whether the part may have fallen from a plane.

Payne said she didn’t see any aircraft near her home at the time of the incident.

The longtime Petaluma resident said she hopes to recoup the $1,000 insurance deductible she paid to fix the damage to her roof and screens, which contractors estimated would cost about $4,500 to repair.

But mostly, Payne said, she’s grateful the lens didn’t cause further harm—especially since she lives about 200 feet from an elementary school.

“It would have killed someone, had there been someone underneath the lens,” she said.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said that while he’s never heard of a camera lens falling from an aircraft, objects such as plane parts and ice chunks do sometimes fall during flights, though rarely.

“This is an unusual occurrence—even proving this came from an aircraft could be difficult,” he said.

Booted frequent flier takes on airline

(Thank you, Jim,  appreciate the updates)

Griping about airline service is commonplace. But one frequent flier says his frequent complaints cost him his mileage and perks.

Minneapolis rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg flew so often that he reached platinum frequent flier status, but one day in 2008 he got a call from Northwest Airlines that his status would be revoked. He said he lost mileage too. The reason, he says: He complained too much.

His lawsuit against Northwest -- now part of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines -- could help determine what rights airline passengers have.

“All this individual did was complain about lousy service,” Ginsberg’s attorney, Thatcher Stone, said. “He did exactly what Delta and Northwest told him to do -- call them up and complain when service was lousy.”

Ginsberg said he believes that “if you have a problem with somebody’s service, you should be able to complain politely and in a respectful manner . . . So many consumers have had issues with airlines and [airlines] have always taken the attitude that ‘We’re untouchable.’”

A district court decided in favor of the airline, but that was reversed last month on appeal. Delta has asked for a re-hearing and the nation’s largest airline industry association has weighed in.

At the heart of the case are two questions: Does an airline have a right to take away frequent fliers’ status, membership and miles? And, since airlines are regulated by the federal government, when are airline passengers entitled to consumer protections under state law?

Delta is not commenting on the case.

Northwest in a 2008 letter told Ginsberg he had contacted the airline’s office 24 times in roughly seven months regarding travel problems, adding that he “continually asked for compensation” and had already been awarded nearly $2,000 in travel vouchers, 78,500 bonus miles and $491 in cash reimbursements. The letter also apologized for service issues.

In defending against the suit, the airline had argued that Ginsberg did not show any breach of contract and that the federal Airline Deregulation Act preempts state contract and consumer protection laws. The airline also claimed it had the right to terminate a frequent flier membership if it decided a member abused the program, and wasn’t required to explain the decision.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the suit, saying the deregulation act “was never intended to preempt these types of disputes.” Stone said the appellate court decision reinstating Ginsberg’s suit “clarifies years of confusion in the federal courts.”

The Air Transport Association filed a brief taking Delta’s position, contending the appeals court ruling “could result in the very danger of inconsistent local regulation that Congress sought to prevent when it deregulated the industry.”

Ginsberg said his suit is about principle. He said his complaints, about everything from luggage arriving late on the baggage carousel to getting last-minute notifications of flight cancellations, were always made “quietly, politely, always over the phone.”

“That’s a right that I can’t believe was punished in America,” he said.

These days, Ginsberg said he mostly flies other airlines.

“I don’t have my loyalty to the frequent flier program so I’ll take whatever’s the best availability to me at that time,” Ginsberg said. In Minneapolis, “Delta is the hub, but it’s not the (only airline), thank God.”

Boeing delays delivery of first 747-8 cargo jet.

Boeing abruptly suspends plans to deliver its first 747-8 freighter to launch customer Cargolux on Monday, saying only that "unresolved issues" are preventing an event for which it had planned considerable hoopla.

We're continuing to work with Cargolux and look forward to delivering these airplanes," said spokesman Jim Proulx. He declined to detail the reasons behind the last-minute hang-up: "We can't discuss the contents of our discussions with our customers."

The plane, Boeing's largest ever, is more than two years late.

Boeing planned to deliver one on Monday, then hold a ceremony with employees Tuesday. A second jumbo freighter delivery to Cargolux was planned for Wednesday.

The plane will enter service two years later than originally planned when the program was launched in fall 2005, mostly because of a late design decision and a cascade of resultant aerodynamic issues.

Boeing has orders for 78 of these jumbo freighter jets.

Cessna 206, N1779R:, Accident occurred September 15, 2011 in Beluga, Alaska

NTSB Identification: ANC11LA103
 Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Thursday, September 15, 2011 in Beluga, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/21/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA U206G, registration: N1779R
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot of the on-demand passenger flight was taking off from a lake in a float-equipped, single-engine airplane. During takeoff/initial climb, the engine lost all power. There was no suitable place to land, and the pilot concentrated on landing the airplane straight ahead, as slow as possible. During the subsequent emergency landing, the airplane collided with terrain in a boggy area, sustaining substantial damage to the fuselage and right wing. The pilot said that, prior to takeoff, the airplane had been in a left step turn and that the left fuel tank had been selected for the takeoff. After the airplane was recovered, with the engine still attached to the fuselage, a new propeller installed, and a clean fuel supply provided, the engine was test run. The engine was run at varying rpms, and a magneto check was completed. No engine anomalies were found.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The total loss of engine power for an undetermined reason.

On September 15, 2011, about 1230 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna U206G airplane, N1779R, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain, following a loss of engine power during takeoff initial climb, about 33 miles northwest of Beluga, Alaska. The airplane was operated by Regal Air, Anchorage, Alaska, as a visual flight rules (VFR) passenger flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal regulations Part 135, when the accident occurred. The airline transport pilot and the two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight was bound for Anchorage.

In a written statement to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) dated September 16, the pilot reported that after crossing the departure end of the lake, about 200 feet above ground level, the airplane's engine sputtered and died. He said he concentrated on landing the airplane straight ahead, as slow as possible. The airplane collided with terrain in a boggy area, sustaining substantial damage to the fuselage and right wing.

During a telephone conversation with the IIC on September 17, the pilot said prior to takeoff the airplane had been in a left step turn, and that the left fuel tank had been selected for takeoff.

The airplane was recovered to an aviation repair facility near Wasilla, Alaska, and on October 7, with the engine still attached to the fuselage, a new propeller installed, and a clean fuel supply provided, the engine was test run. The engine was run at varying rpm, and a magneto check was completed. No engine anomalies were found.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A pilot managed to put a small plane into some alder bushes after it lost power soon after takeoff from a remote Alaska lake in a maneuver that one investigator said takes "nerves of steel."

The Cessna 206 float plane took off shortly after noon Thursday from Judd Lake about 50 miles northwest of Anchorage. A National Transportation Safety Board investigator says the plane lost power about a minute after takeoff and the pilot had no other option but to put it down in some trees.

No one was hurt but the plane was heavily damaged.

Regal Air owner Mike Laughlin says the pilot and passengers walked about 200 feet to the water where another plane picked them up. He says everyone was OK.  The pilot wasn't identified.

Boeing 737-8HG (WL), Air India Express, VT-AXV: Accident occurred May 22, 2010 at Mangalore-Bajpe Airport (IXE), India

NTSB Identification: DCA10RA063
Accident occurred Saturday, May 22, 2010 in Manglaore, India
Aircraft: BOEING 737, registration:
Injuries: 158 Fatal, 7 Serious, 1 Uninjured.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On May 22, 2010 at about 6:10 am local time (0040 UTC), Air India Express flight 812 (VT-AXV), a Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM56 engines, overran the runway into a valley during landing at the Mangalore International Airport, Mangalore, India. Of the 166 passengers and crew on board, there were 158 fatalities and 8 survivors. The airplane was substantially consumed by post-crash fire. The flight originated in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The investigation will be conducted by the Indian Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and the NTSB has designated a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the DGCA as the State of design and manufacture.

All inquiries should be directed to:

Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation
DGCA Complex
Opposite Safdarjung Airport
New Delhi 110003

More people could have lost their lives in June, in a replay of the events that led to India’s worst air crash in a decade in Mangalore last year that killed 158 people.

On 25 June, an Air India Express flight (IX-208) from Mumbai landed deep into the table-top runway located on a mountain in Mangalore.

The captain decided to take off and land again after circling the airport, but the co-pilot overruled him in the nick of time and applied the brakes, bringing the aircraft to a stop at the edge of the runway. A 300-ft gorge stared below.

“It was actually a miracle that they survived,” said Mohan Ranganathan, an air safety expert and a member of the government-appointed Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council. “If the runway was even slightly wet there was no way they could have stopped before the runway ended. But if they had tried to take off they would have certainly ended up like the last Mangalore crash.”

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating the incident, said two government officials familiar with the matter, declining to be identified.

Air India Express, the low-fare arm of Air India Ltd, continues to run without a qualified chief of flight safety even a year and four months after the ill-fated crash in Mangalore.

Incidents such as the ones described earlier are increasing.

One of the government officials mentioned above said the landing of the IX-208 flight was of a magnitude of 2.9 G (acceleration due to gravity).

The maximum allowed for a Boeing 737​ aircraft, like the one Air India Express was flying, is 2.1 G.

A 2.9 G magnitude means landing an aircraft weighing 70 tonnes would be like landing an aircraft of 200 tonnes. The impact could have broken the belly of the aircraft.

An Iberia A 340-600 made a similarly hard landing of 3 G magnitude in 2007 in Quito, Ecuador. Its landing gear sensors got damaged, and that prevented normal deceleration of the aircraft due to the failure of thrust reversers and spoilers. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

The Air India Express IX-208 was operated by commander Saravjit Singh Hothi, 62, and co-pilot Manish Chimurkar, 34.

Air India Express chief operating officer S. Chandrakumar confirmed the incident.

“After the Mangalore crash, the standard of co-pilot training has been improved; so the co-pilot (Chimurkar) was more aggressive in taking over control of the situation,” he said. “Hothi has been grounded.”

In the Air India Express flight that crashed in May 2010, the co-pilot could not overrule the commander’s decision to land. The co-pilot had wanted to go around and land again, according to investigation reports. The flight overshot the runway and crashed.

Ranganathan said Air India Express has not learnt lessons from the Mangalore crash and the latest incident shows poor training standards.

The incident was not the only one in recent months. On 28 August, another Air India Express flight that took off from Kochi suffered a tail strike because its commander R. Sobti chose a speed suitable for an aircraft 20,000 kg lighter than the one he was flying.

In a tail strike, the rear end of the aircraft hits the ground druing take-off.

“Instead of take-off weight he used zero-fuel weight to calculate take-off speed,” said the first government official mentioned earlier. “Worryingly, the investigation shows that the ex-Indian Air Force pilot had a tendency to have a tail strike. Why did Air India Express ignore this?”

Sobti, too, has been grounded, Chandrakumar said.

Till an audit is done, DGCA should ground Air India Express and let Air India run those flights, said Ranganathan and the second government official.

Air India is certified by International Air Transport Association’s IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), the global benchmark for airline safety; but Air India Express, despite committing to go through an IOSA audit last year after the Mangalore crash, hasn’t done so.

The aviation regulator has, meanwhile, started a base inspection of the airline.

“The situation is so bad at the airline that you can’t imagine,” said the second government official.

Hunters undeterred by float plane mishap.

Not even the near-sinking of their float plane could deter a crew of caribou hunters from the Northwest Territories hamlet of Behchoko.

The group of eight were in a plane taxiing out into the middle of a channel at the north end of Great Slave Lake on Wednesday when they noticed something was amiss.

"We noticed that we were on top of rocks. We heard some squeaking, scratching," said Russell Drybones, 34, who was making his first trip in a float plane.

A startled Drybones asked other passengers if the sound was normal. "So he said, ‘We're sinking.’ I said, ‘What? Come on!’ I got, I got scared."

The aircraft’s right pontoon was punctured and it was taking on water quickly. The two pilots got the plane back to the dock, but by then the float was under water by a few feet. Everyone evacuated the plane.

Drybones said the pilots had never flown into the channel before, but general manager Trevor Wever of Air Tindi, the company operating the flight, maintained they had. Wever said the water was murky and the water level in the channel fluctuates.

Air Tindi said it will conduct an internal investigation, but it anticipated the plane would be repaired and back in service by Friday.

The scare wasn't enough to keep Drybones from his mission. He was back on another float plane Thursday with his group to pursue his goal of bringing home a caribou from eastern N.W.T.’s Barren Lands.

How Asheville Regional Airport (KAVL) and North Carolina Department of Transportation worked together to repave 8,001 feet of runway.

It cost $250,000, but that was cheap considering. Here's N.C. Department of Transportation's account of how Asheville Regional Airport's aging runway was repaved, faster and cheaper with DOT's help, with assists from biodegradable enzymes to remove rubber build-up from countless tires touching down, and Biocide-containing runway paint to stop algae growth:

Asheville Regional Airport was in a quandary. Its lone runway was worn and in need of repairs. However, there was no way the airport could shut down, rip up its runway and lay down a new one without an adverse effect on all businesses and airport users.

The airport came to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation looking for assistance. Through the division’s Airport Pavement Management Program, the 8,001-foot runway was repaired, granting the airport time needed to plan for a total runway overhaul.

“The airport is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to program a new runway, but that can take years,” said DOA Director Richard Walls. “Our program has helped extend the life of the pavement for a few years, giving them time to program, design and build a new runway while the current one is still in good condition.”

David Nantz, the airport’s director of operations and maintenance, worked with NCDOT Airport Engineer Phil Lanier, who oversaw the $250,000 project. The airport saved money working with the DOA contractors already in place through a statewide contract. Lanier brought in Chemtek of Yanceyville, a company that uses a biodegradable enzyme solution that eats away at the rubber buildup from plane tires. HASCO Inc. of Greensboro put down the coating that seeped into the runway surface to make it more elastic and sturdy. HASCO also remarked the runway using a waterborne paint with Biocide, which prevents algae and mold from sticking to the surface.

In a blog post on the airport’s website, the process was compared to a cleansing and exfoliation, body masque and deep tissue massage at a spa (

“We asked the DOT for help painting the runway about 10 years ago,” said Nantz. “In this case, we were in a waiting game (with the FAA). Our asphalt was getting older and was at the point where if we didn’t fix it, it would get brittle. This process will buy us time before we need to do something significant.”

In order to prevent any daily flight delays, the work was done overnight for nearly two months and was completed on Aug. 24. The surface had time to cure before any flights took off or landed. The same timeframe was used for the prior runway marking project as well.

“The project turned out perfectly,” Lanier said. “The airport had a limited budget and we have the expertise to do the work. We provided jobs for local companies to preserve the existing infrastructure while using strategic materials and techniques to get longer lasting results. Everyone's very happy.”

Walls said with finances at a premium, NCDOT has to work harder and smarter with the limited resources to maintain the state’s aviation infrastructure. This program allows the division to stretch its maintenance dollars.

“We don’t have enough money to replace runways,” Walls said. “We have to work smarter in order to buy time using a robust pavement management system. This allows the runways to last longer, with the end result being a significant cost savings for everyone.”

Nantz said taking advantage of NCDOT’s statewide contracts with local companies allowed the airport to get a better price on the project, which in turn gives Western North Carolina a better facility for both commercial and general aviation flights in the facility. He was also impressed with the level of service and care the DOA provided.

“Phil had the experience of doing it right,” Nantz said. “He was very particular on how he wanted it done, and was out here every step of the way. It was done to a high standard, and DOA was incredible to work with.”

The maintenance program helps airports maintain their runways, taxiways and aprons. The NCDOT Aviation Statewide Plans and Programs Group identify airports that would benefit and then uses local construction and testing companies. On average, about 20 projects a year are completed, with the vast majority coming from the state’s 63 general aviation airports. Unlike Asheville Regional, GA airports can shut down while the project is being completed.

For more information on the Airport Pavement Management Program and the Division of Aviation, please call (919) 840-0112 or go to

United States Coast Guard Ceremony Shows Enhanced Mission Capabilities Of Helicopter

U.S.C.G. shows off the MH-65D Dolphin short range recovery helicopter upgrades.

ATLANTIC CITY--The Coast Guard held a ceremony Friday recognizing the enhanced mission capabilities of the MH-65D Dolphin short range recovery helicopter.

The Dolphin has been upgraded with digital avionics components including a new flight navigation system, new digital computer displays and embedded GPS. These upgrades are critical to the helicopter's continued safe and effective flight performance. Air Station Atlantic City's crew maintains the Coast Guard's largest MH-65D fleet with 10 newly updated Dolphins responsible for supporting missions throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., and parts of Virginia. The air station's crewmembers support a wide range of Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, law enforcement, port security and marine environmental protection.

Virgin America loss widens

Virgin America, continuing to battle high fuel expenses and costs associated with its rapid expansion, said its second-quarter 2011 net loss widened to $21.7 million from $15.5 million a year ago.

The closely held discount airline, which took wing in 2007 and has a hub at San Francisco International Airport, has won numerous awards for its low fares, stylish service and tech-laden aircraft. The company said its second-quarter revenue rose 46% to $269 million and its unit revenue, the amount taken in for each passenger flown a mile, rose by an industry-leading 13.4%. The Burlingame, Calif., company said its average fare rose 11% to $192.79 from a year earlier, and that all of its routes that have been operating for at least a year--covering about 70% of overall capacity--are profitable on an operating basis.

But its fuel expense rose by 62%, and the average price per gallon it paid was up 26%. If fuel had remained flat, operating costs would have been $23 million lower than the $274.5 million it racked up. Fuel costs included a $7.2 million non-cash loss on its hedging position. David Cush, the chief executive, said in an interview Friday that while the price of crude oil has declined, the price airlines pay for aviation jet fuel has continued to rise. The spread between the cost of a barrel of crude and a barrel of jet fuel has continued to widen, he said. And that is before the seasonal increase in jet fuel prices that normally sets in during the fall and winter, when refiners concentrate of making home heating oil.

Moreover, break-neck growth "is financially stressful," Cush said. New employees must be hired and trained and aircraft modified into the Virgin America configuration, and new routes take time to ramp up in terms of traffic and fares. Excluding fuel, Virgin America's unit cost, or the cost to fly a seat a mile, rose 8%.

In the past year, the company has added flights to Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Orlando, Fla., and Los Cabos and Cancun in Mexico. Other, larger airlines have matched Virgin America's low fares and in some cases added more flights a day on the overlapping routes, dwarfing the start-up's offerings. Puerto Vallarta flights will launch in early December. Cush said another new destination will be announced next week and later in the year Virgin America will announce the start of a "major" transcontinental route.

The CEO said the company expanded its capacity by more than 38% in the current-year third quarter compared with a year ago, and expects that its unit revenue in the September quarter will be up in the low-to-middle teens on a percentage basis. The company had "a very strong summer" and bookings into October are meeting or exceeding expectations, he said. The company achieved its first ever profit in the third quarter of 2010.

At the end of June, Virgin American had 38 Airbus A-320s in its fleet, up from 28 a year earlier. Cush said the company will end this year with 46 A-320s. The next 13 aircraft to be delivered over the next 12 months are fully financed by leasing companies, and thus won't add to the company's debt. While he has talked in the past about dialing back the company's growth plans if fuel prices remain high, Cush said Friday that Virgin America's fleet plans are "very firm." The company will end 2012 with 52 planes and begin taking a raft of additional Airbuses on order toward the end of 2013.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group of the U.K. had a 25% voting stake in Virgin America and a 49% economic interest, the maximum allowed by U.S. law. U.S. investors own the balance of the airline, which must report its financial results to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Unclaimed bag sparks bomb scare at Mumbai airport, India.

In the third incident of its kind in one week, an unattended baggage found at the Mumbai airport Friday created a security scare and sent officials on a wild-goose chase for a bomb.

The incident happened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport around 7.12 p.m., an official said.

The bag was found at the car pick-up point outside domestic terminal 1B.

The Bomb Disposal Squad and other security agencies were summoned and the bag was thoroughly screened. After nearly an hour, it was declared as safe and the airport authorities took its custody.

"We have kept the unidentified bag in our custody. It will be returned to the claimant after he or she provides a proper identification," an official told IANS.

There were two separate instances of unattended bags Sep 9 which were later checked and declared safe.

All vital installations in and around Mumbai have been thrown under a tight security blanket following the Sep 7 blast outside the Delhi High Court.

Sunny Beach CEO Resigns, 340 Russian Tourists Still Stranded in Bulgaria

Mariya Mihaleva, CEO of the Bulgarian state-owned Sunny Beach company, has resigned, as some 340 Russian tourists are still stranded in the country.

Mihaleva's resignation was demanded earlier Friday by the country's Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism Traicho Traikov. Traikov stated that Mihaleva also works for the Alma Tour tour operator, one of the two Bulgarian companies that triggered the crisis, which suggests a conflict of interests is in place.

"She may continue working for Alma Tour, even though she was coping well in the state-owned Sunny Beach," Traikov told the Bulgarian parliament, as cited by the Dnevnik daily. Sunny Beach is the biggest and most popular holiday resort in Bulgaria.

In an official statement on Friday, Mihaleva did not deny she is on a labor contract with Alma Tour, but pointed out that she had officially announced that fact before being appointed at Sunny Beach. She further stated her position at Alma Tour would not make any conflict of interests possible.

Some 700 Russians, 200 Finns and dozens of persons from Lithuania waited for days to get home after their flights were canceled last Friday and Saturday, due to an alleged EUR 3.6 M debt to national carrier Bulgaria Air from Alma Tour.

On Friday, it was reported that 200 Russian tourists are still stranded at the airport in the southern Bulgarian city of Varna, while another 100 are stranded at the northern Burgas airport. Both groups are to be heading to Saint Petersbourg.

Another two flights cancelled because of Bulgaria Air – Alma Tour dispute

Two more flights from Bourgas to St Petersburg, on September 15 and 16, were cancelled because of the debt dispute between Bulgaria Air and tour company Alma Tour, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said on September 16.

BNT quoted the Russian federal tourism agency as saying that the cancellations, of the 11.50pm and 5am flights, had left 358 Russian tourists, including 14 small children, stranded.

On September 9, Bulgaria Air announced that it would not honour any tickets or flights booked by Alma Tour, saying that the company had failed to keep up payments on seven million leva (about 3.5 million euro) arrears debt.

The September 9 decision by Bulgaria Air left several hundred tourists, mostly Russians but also including Finns and other nationalities, stranded for days at airports in Bulgaria’s Black Sea cities of Bourgas and Varna.

Intervention by the Bulgarian Government helped get some home, while others returned with the help of a Russian tour company and in the case of the Finns, with the assistance of Finland’s consumer protection body.

Attempts by the Bulgarian Government to pressure Bulgaria Air and Alma Tour to resolve their dispute have not so far produced results.

Thai Air will not extend budget airline deal with Tiger

BANGKOK, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Thai Airways International Pcl said on Friday it will not extend its budget airline contract with Singapore's Tiger Airways Holdings Ltd, effectively terminating their alliance.

The Thai flag carrier's planned new regional airline, Thai Smile, would help replace the alliance with Tiger Airways, Chairman Ampon Kittiampon told reporters after a board meeting

"We will not extend our contract with the MOU which will expire next month because we now have Thai Smile," Ampon said.

In 2010, Thai Airways signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form the alliance with Tiger Airways to operate a new budget carrier, Thai Tiger, but the plan has been delayed pending approval from the transport ministry.

Under the MOU to expire in October, Thai Tiger would be 51 percent owned by Thai Air and 49 percent by Tiger.

The flag carrier plans to launch its wholly-owned Thai Smile from July next year to tap strong demand for air traffic in Asia and win back market share in the wake of fierce competition in the region.

The new airline would fly to domestic cities in the first year of operations before expanding destinations into Southeast Asian countries as well as China and India in 2013, when it expects to make profit, Ampon said in August.

Thai Air, with a market value of $1.8 billion, is 51 percent owned by the Finance Ministry and competes with bigger rivals like Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways .

The airline has the ambition to become one of the top three airlines in Asia and among the top five in the world both in terms of quality and service efficiency.

Thai Airways planned to boost its cabin factor, the percentage of passenger seats sold, to more than 75 percent in the last four months of 2011 to help boost revenue, Ampon said.

He also expected Thai Airways net profit in 2011 to be lower than 2010 due to losses from foreign exchange, high fuel costs and fierce competition.

It is expected to make an average net profit of 5.2 billion baht ($172 million), according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Hit by rising fuel costs, Thai Airways made a first-half net loss of 7.3 billion baht versus a net profit of 11.9 billion a year earlier.

Shares in Thai Airways were down 0.4 percent at 0900 GMT, in line with the broader market . ($1 30.30 Baht)

United States President Barack Obama blacklists Belize – 10 metric tons of drugs


Posted: September 16, 2011 - 10:16 AM
Author: Adele Trapp -

United States President Barack Obama has included Belize and El Salvador on the list of 22 countries ranked as “Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2012.” Belize and Salvador have now been lumped with Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela as major players on the international drug trafficking scene.

The indications are that the flow of illicit drugs through Belize could have a street value greater than our petroleum exports, possibly exceeding half-a-billion dollars, depending on quality of the drugs and the market where the drugs are actually sold.

Thursday evening’s listing is significant, since Belize has not been listed since 1999, twelve years ago, according to official US reports.

The blacklisting comes on Salvador’s Independence Day and during the height of Belize’s most festive national celebration season, which culminates in Independence Day ceremonies, in 6 days.

Amandala contacted Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow this evening for comment, but he told us that he was sorry that he could not talk to us, because of evening engagements, including the Tribute to Belizean Patriots, an annual celebratory September event.

PM Barrow did not express surprise at the listing of Belize as a major drug-producing/transit state when we shared with him the nature of our query. Our multiple calls to Police Minister Doug Singh were futile.

The George Bush White House Archives notes that in a November 1, 2001, letter, Bush had signaled that, “Belize was removed from the list of major drug-transit countries in 1999 because there was clear evidence that the drug trade was not currently using it as a transit point for drugs moving to the United States.” But he noted that, “If, at a future date, there is reliable information that U.S.-bound drugs are again moving through Belize in significant quantities, I will again place it on the Majors List.”

Amandala has checked all the listings since 2001, and none of them included Belize as a Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Country—not until a new list was released this evening out of Washington. The news was widely circulated by the Associated Press and international news organs.

“The most recent U.S. assessment for Belize estimates the flow of drugs destined for the United States through this Central American country on the Caribbean coast at about 10 metric tons,” said an official memorandum from the White House to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The memo said that Belize is vulnerable as a south-north avenue for illegal narcotics.

This, said the memo, is also demonstrated by recent drug and weapons seizures in Mexico along the border it shares with Belize.

“United States officials also report that drug control observers in Belize are increasingly concerned about the presence of drug trafficking organizations, including Los Zetas of Mexico, in the country’s border areas and in coastal ports,” it added.

The memo notes that, “According to the most recent U.S. interagency assessment of cocaine flows, the amount of this illicit substance passing through El Salvador destined directly for the United States was estimated at 4 metric tons in 2009....

It elaborated that 90% of the 700 metric tons of cocaine shipped from Colombia and other such drug-producing states are destined for the US, and are passed through this Central American region.

The international news reports on Belize’s listing today signal that sanctions are possible, but the White House specified no such possible sanctions for Belize. We know that sanctions have been previously waived for countries such as Venezuela in some instances.

Belize had been removed from the list in 1995. When Belize was added back to the list in 1996, under the 1961 act, the US officials had said, “...Belize’s geographical location south of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula makes it an ideal strategic drug transshipment point for U.S.-bound cocaine shipments. The country’s long, unprotected coastline, large tracts of rain forest, many inland waterways and large unpopulated areas make Belize an inviting feeder site for moving drugs into the mainstream Mexican trafficking routes that carry the bulk of South American cocaine to U.S. markets.”

The US noted that notwithstanding “a demonstrated commitment” by Belizean officials, the country did not havethe human and material resources to control its borders adequately, to stave off drug runners.

The 1996 listing noted that, “...Belizean authorities reported seizing 850 kilograms of cocaine in 1993, and 650 kilograms in 1990.”

We have not found any documentation detailing Belize’s listing or status between 1996 and 1999.

In November 2010, Belize recorded a major drug bust on the Southern Highway, when a twin engine Beechcraft landed with what had been identified as Colombian cocaine—$131 million worth, estimated at 2,604 kilos or 2.6 metric tons.

Cocaine is not the only drug control problem. Our newspaper had reported back in March 2011, according to the US State Department report titled, 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), that there is no evidence that synthetic drugs are being used or manufactured in Belize, though large quantities of precursor chemicals transit Belize en route to Mexico.

The International Narcotics Control Board 2011 report said, “Suspicious shipments of ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine from South Asia and South-East Asia and destined for Belize, Guatemala and Mexico continue to be trans-shipped in European countries, in particular Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.”

The March 2011 report had informed that in 2010, Belize seized 97 metric tons (MT) of marijuana. In 2009, Government seized 291.5 kilos of marijuana.

“Also in 2010, Belize seized over 2.6 MT of cocaine compared to 28.3 kg in 2009. The jump in cocaine seizures can be largely attributed to a November 2010 bi-lateral operation with DEA, where 2,607 kg of cocaine were seized along with one aircraft, one go-fast vessel, and the arrests of five … law enforcement officers who … assisted in offloading the cocaine. This was the largest cocaine seizure recorded in Belize,” the report said.

Whereas drug transshipment activity continues to be a concern, the presence of a US combat craft may quiet things a bit.

A press release issued by the US Embassy in Belize today informed that “the United States Marine Corps’ newest combat utility aircraft” is “in action this month, as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, Marine Aircraft Group 26, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing visits to conduct training in Belize.”

It reported that four MV-22 Ospreys from VMM-365, based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., had arrived in Belize last week for a 10-day training deployment.

Amandala received a call from concerned Sarteneja residents on Tuesday evening, querying why strange aircrafts had been flying over their seaside community in Corozal. A military source told us that the crafts must be Ospreys. The US Embassy confirmed that today.

“This training deployment is providing local citizens many opportunities to see the Osprey in action. The Osprey takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like a conventional aircraft, allowing it to fly twice as fast, carry three times the weight, and travel four times farther than the helicopters it has replaced,” said the Embassy press release.

“This versatile aircraft can accomplish many Marine Corps missions, such as delivering troops into combat, performing rescue and recovery operations, and providing humanitarian assistance in locations that can’t be reached by airplane.”

The operation signals unbroken bilateral relations between Belize and the US, notwithstanding today’s placement of Belize on the list of “Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries.”

No official information has yet come from either the US Embassy in Belize or the Government of Belize on this latest development.

WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (KUNA) -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are among the 22 nations named in the President Barack Obama's annual list of the top narcotics-producing and drug-transit countries, released late Thursday. Of the 22 countries identified by President Obama to Congress, as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (FAA), Obama highlighted Bolivia, Burma, and Venzuela as "failed demonstrably" during the last year to make significant or meaningful efforts to adhere to the international counternarcotics agreement, according to the State department.

Other countries identified on this year's list include the Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Belize and El Salvador. "When a country on the list does not fulfill its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and conventions, the President determines that the country has "failed demonstrably" to meet its counterdrug obligations. Such a designation can lead to sanctions," the State department said. However, Obama may execute a waiver when he determines there is a vital national interest in continuing U.S. assistance. Even without such a waiver, humanitarian assistance and counternarcotics assistance may continue.