Monday, October 10, 2011

Report calls for strict freeze on Emirates' India expansion. India’s national auditor accuses 'foreign airlines (predominantly Emirates)' of funneling traffic

Dubai’s Emirates airline and other Middle East carriers should be forced to freeze their expansion plans to routes in India and the country’s Ministry of Civil Aviation should look at options for rollback of existing routes granted to foreign airlines, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has said in a report.

In a scathing report on the country’s aviation sector filed to India’s Parliament, by the CAG, the national auditor, said Air India, the national carrier, was “in a crisis situation”, with even the “salary payments and ATF obligations becoming difficult.” It blamed the Indian government’s open sky policy, which also included bilateral agreements with other countries, to favour private and foreign airlines at the expense of its loss-making national carrier.

“The massive expansion of bilateral entitlements in respect of several countries (notably in the Gulf, South East Asia and Europe) has facilitated several foreign airlines (predominantly Emirates) in tapping the vast Indian market and funneling such traffic over their hubs (e.g., Dubai) to various destinations in the USA, UK, Europe and elsewhere, through what is termed as sixth freedom traffic,” the report accuses.

According to the report, the sixth freedom – the right to fly from a foreign country to another foreign country while stopping in one’s own country – has gained considerable importance. “For example, the sixth freedom traffic of Emirates involves flying passengers from India through Dubai (its home state) to UK/ USA. Many international airlines especially those operating from city states/ small states (e.g. Emirates/ Dubai; Qatar Airways/ Qatar; Cathay Pacific/ Hong Kong; Singapore Airlines/ Singapore) derive a large portion of their passenger traffic revenues from sixth freedom traffic,” the CAG said.

Nearly one-third of the 32 million international passengers travelling to/from India in 2009/10 travelled on international carriers, leveraging sixth freedom rights, with only a third of current weekly seats and available seat kilometres (ASKs) deployed international from India being operated by Indian carriers.

In the CAG report, it was noted the percentage of sixth freedom carriage in 2009/10 of total passengers carried was as high as 59 per cent for Emirates, 78 per cent for Qatar Airlines, 87 per cent for Lufthansa, 49 per cent for Singapore Airlines and 61 per cent for British Airways. These five carriers together hold a 23.4 per cent capacity (ASKs) share of international services to/from India.

Carriers such as Emirates, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines have successfully expanded in the Indian market, often at the expense of local carriers, and offering onward connections via their respective hubs to destinations in US and Europe, currently underserved by the local airlines.

The CAG report further added that the “the entitlements exchanged are vastly the in excess of ‘genuine’ flying requirements between the two countries and implicitly allow ‘mega-airlines’ with the giant hubs to exploit sixth freedom traffic.”

The report illustrates its allegations with statistics on the Dubai sector. “As an illustrative case of the liberalization of bilateral entitlements, the sequence of events relating to the Dubai sector, covering the period from May 2007 to March 2010, (when the seat capacity was increased from 18,400 seats/ week to 54,200 seats/ week and points of call in India were increased from 10 to 14), clearly demonstrates the one-sided nature of benefits to Emirates/ Dubai (through enhancement of entitlements and additional points of call in India),” it said.

“This evoked the repeated protests from Air India on the lack of reciprocity and the funnelling of sixth freedom traffic by Emirates through Dubai from interior locations in India. Even change of gauge facility at Dubai International Airport, which would at least have provided an opportunity for Indian carriers to funnel traffic in smaller capacity aircraft from interior Indian locations and take them onward to UK/ USA/ Europe and other destinations in larger capacity aircraft was not adequately pursued, nor linked to grant of additional benefit,” it alleged.

“Repeated requests from AIL resulted in vague commitments from UAE Authorities for such facility, not at Dubai Airport but at the upcoming Jebel Ali Airport (an impractical option for AIL and other Indian carriers) and that too with distant timeframes between 2012 and 2018! Clearly, while Dubai actively protected the commercial interests of its airlines, MoCA [India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation] failed to obtain appropriate quid pro quo while granting concessions,” the report alleged.

Emirates, the largest international airline operating to/from India, holds around a 40 per cent capacity share on India-UAE services, 23 per cent of capacity on Middle East-India services and an approximate 10 per cent capacity (seats) share of total international air traffic from India, according to Innovata data, only slightly behind the 14.1 per cent for Air India and the 11.3 per cent at Jet Airways, India’s two largest international operators.

In India, Emirates had a total of 104,258 seats for the week Oct 3-Oct 9, 2011, behind local airlines Air India (140,585) and Jet Airways (112,912) but ahead of other international airlines including Qatar Airways (37,103), Air Arabia (33,696), Thai Airways (31,425) and Lufthansa (30,030).

Among the corrective measures suggested by the CAG, whose report is non- binding, is imposing strict freeze on Emirates’ and other mega-carriers’ India expansion plans as well as rollbacks of landing rights where possible.

“Most of the liberalised entitlements for bilateral rights granted to foreign airlines (especially in Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar and other Gulf/ SE Asian countries) has been utilised for sixth freedom traffic and not for genuine traffic to the other country. AI and other private Indian airlines are handicapped by the lack of adequate hub facilities and other factors (e.g. lack of agreement for change in gauge at Dubai Airport) from competing effectively with other predominantly sixth freedom carriers (e.g. Emirates),” the report contends.

“Till India has its own effective and efficient hubs and AI/ other Indian carriers are able to exploit them effectively (say within 3 to 5 years), entitlements for airlines/ountries predominantly dependent on sixth freedom traffic (notably Dubai, Bahrain and other Gulf countries in the first instance) should be strictly frozen by MoCA,” the report advised.

“Options for rollback of excess entitlement granted beyond genuine traffic requirements may also be explored by MoCA,” it added.

Aircraft mishaps under scrutiny - Australia.

A QANTAS flight from Melbourne was forced to circle Brisbane for so long it ran dangerously low on fuel, a report has warned the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

The report said a Boeing 737-838 spent at least 25 minutes in a holding pattern at the direction of Air Traffic Control on July 4.

The delay burnt up a considerable amount of fuel, reducing the aircraft's supply to 500kg below the required reserve level.

A Qantas spokeswoman denied anyone was ever in danger.

"The aircraft still had 45 minutes worth of fuel on board. The Qantas standard for fuel reserves is higher than that set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority,'' she said.

It was one of dozens of incidents reported to the ATSB in recent months involving private and commercial aircraft in Queensland.

On July 26, a dog was discovered on a QantasLink flight when it landed in Charleville and more than 200kg of undeclared freight was found on another Qantaslink flight in Brisbane.

A Virgin Australia flight was almost abandoned when a faulty in-flight entertainment system filled the aircraft with fumes, and on September 1 the taxiway and runway lights went out at Brisbane Airport as a flight was landing.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman Dan O'Malley said most of the incidents could be explained and did not warrant further investigation.

"In the case of the dog, it was likely to be a case of the animal not being recorded as freight at the point of departure,'' Mr O'Malley said.

He said the ATSB did not have the budget to investigate all incidents and tended to focus on those that would produce a useful safety message.

"We concentrate on issues that will do the most good for the most people.''

Incidents being investigated by the ATSB include a near collision involving a Cessna 182 and an unidentified glider 9km from Toowoomba Aerodrome on September 25.

The bureau is also examining the deaths of two men when their helicopter crashed while doing communications' tower maintenance near Rockhampton on September 8.

Airline row upsets hotel, tuna industries in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines - The ongoing rift between the management of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its labor union PAL Employees Association (PALEA) has affected the tuna and hotel industries in Mindanao, the Tourism Congress (TC) said.

In a meeting in General Santos City, representatives of tourism-related enterprises in the south reported huge revenue losses due to flight cancellations and disruptions on regular flights of the country's flag carrier.

Jaime Cura, TC vice president, said the effect of the cancelled flights includes loss in booked business of about 30 percent overall and the drop in hotel occupancy rates as much as 70 percent.

“This was due to the cancelled hotel bookings for conferences, banquets, and other functions of out-of-town groups and entities that had been previously confirmed,” said Cura.

For the tuna industry, the estimated losses are P50 million a day.

“The corresponding revenue value of a daily shipment stock of about 20 to 26 tons of tuna that did not reach its designated buyers because of cancelled flights,” the TC official pointed out.

PAL Vice-President Bong Cruz, who attended the regional consultation, apologized to stakeholders and explained the causes of the PAL-PALEA controversy and the steps now being taken by the airline company.

Cura said the dialogue affirmed the need for pre-planned cooperative arrangements among the various tourism sectors in anticipation of emergencies and contingencies that may have adverse effects on tourism businesses.

Chinese hungry for business aircraft

Las Vegas – “Money really is not a problem right now in China,” said Jason Liao Monday in excellent colloquial English.

“There’s so much money it’s just unbelievable.”

What kind of money are we talking about?

“We get calls saying ‘Hey, I want this plane, but I don’t want to wait. I’ll wire you $50 million or $60 million today, but I want the plane today, okay?’ ” said Liao, chairman and CEO of the China Business Aviation Group during a presentation at the 64th annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association.

“That’s how it’s done in China right now.”

The country, he said, is “ground zero” for business aircraft. There are currently only about 150 private jets registered in a country topping 1.3 billion inhabitants. And with an economy still humming along at a fast clip, Liao stressed that represents a huge business opportunity for business-jet makers like Montreal’s Bombardier Inc., France’s Dassault Aviation, Brazil’s Embraer and U.S. manufacturers Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Cessna Aircraft Co. and Hawker Beechcraft.

But there’s a caveat.

“The (original equipment manufacturers) have to look at setting up production in China,” said Liao, especially for large-cabin aircraft like Bombardier’s Global line and Gulfstream’s G650.

That catch has made manufacturers pause. China, they say, is more interested in developing its own industry than being a branch plant for companies based elsewhere, and attracting them to China is a way to gather technological know-how and intellectual property, a prelude to forming their own industry.

Liao said in an interview that “it would be a good thing for companies like Bombardier to set up shop there,” extending the operations and agreements the Montreal aircraft company already has there in the commercial airplanes sector.

“China is very ambitious, you know. So we think about the long term gains, not the short-term obstacles.”

In fact, one persistent rumour at this year’s show has it that Chinese interests are poised to swallow Cessna Aircraft, a venerable U.S. company that has developed iconic piston-engine planes. The company, considered the weakest among the six main players, fell on hard times even before the 2008 crash and was forced after it to slash its workforce by more than half and suspend – and eventually kill – its Citation Columbus jet program. China has already purchased another legendary name in U.S. aviation, Cirrus Aircraft.

But Liao was effusive about the “virgin business aircraft market” China represents.

“We build 15 new airports a year, and we’ll take delivery of 75 business aircraft this year,” a 50 per cent addition in one fell swoop to China’s entire fleet to date.

Critics have said that there are hurdles to corporate and personal aviation in China, namely that the military control the airspace and getting clearance for a private flight could take days.

“There’s been a huge change,” he asserted. “Yes, it used to take a week, but now it can be done in four hours or so – sometimes even less. It’s basically on demand. We want to go where we want to go.”

In fact, that was also a problem until recently, as there were many large Chinese cities that still lacked a serviceable airport and infrastructure.

Liao said that there is even a movement afoot to build privately-owned airports.

It won’t come too soon for many of the rich business people China’s remarkable 30-year boom is still creating.

“The conversation in business circles is always the same,” said Liao. “ ‘What are you buying?’ ‘I don’t know yet, what are you getting?’ And they’re all talking about heavy (business) jets, not small ones. People used to hesitate to be the first to buy because of tax reasons. Now they’re all buying.”

He estimated that the U.S., with the largest share of business aircraft sales in the world at 40 per cent and worth about $8 billion U.S. a year, will be second to China by the year 2018.

“If they grow annually by five per cent, that takes them to $11.26 billion by then. Assuming 25 per cent annual growth in China – it’s a lot more than that – we get to $11.68 billion by 2018.”

That dynamic creates its own problems, he added.

“We’ll need about 3,600 new pilots every year, and that’s a concern.”

“But it’s pretty much a blank piece of paper right now in China. You can do whatever you want,” Liao said, referring to plane manufacturers.

“These are exciting times for business aviation in China.”

Online Survey Gauges Billings To Missoula, Helena Airline Service

MISSOULA, Mont. -- A Billings business organization is in talks with a Florida based airline to extend intra-state air service in Western Montana.

Big Sky Economic Development is conducting an online survey to gauge public interest.

It could mean direct flights from Billings to Missoula, Helena and Williston, North Dakota.

The Missoula International Airport says one of its biggest traveler requests is about in state flights. The brief survey asks users a number of questions.

If people want flights from Billings to Missoula or Helena, how often would they use them? What would they be willing to pay?

"It would have to be comparable to gas to make it worth it," said traveler Serena Lewis. "I don't mind driving." But a lot of people do, especially in the winter. Montana business travelers rack up gas bills.

Big Sky Airlines provided intra-state service until 2008.

"The only option now is to travel by vehicle," said Missoula business man Jeremy Nelson. "The option to fly to Billings would be nice." He has lunch with his wife Shawnee Jackson at the airport. Her extended family would like extended service.

So would Shawnee. "We do quite a few jobs across the state so for my work it would be helpful as well," she said.

It's 637 miles from Superior to Plentywood. Sarah Graham recently drove it. "It would be amazing to just get on a plane and fly there," she laughed. "Even halfway there would be better than the 11 hour drive.

For more information on the survey click on the Missoula Air Service Fastlink.

Air Force wants another runway

The Air Force knows it wants a new backup runway in the Marianas, it just doesn't know what island to build it on yet.

Existing airports on Saipan, Tinian or Rota could be transformed into an Air Force overflow facility, complete with a 10,000-foot runway with temporary housing for 500 support personnel, according to a public notice from the military.

This "divert runway" is needed to prepare for unscheduled landings when Andersen Air Force Base is unavailable, according to the notice. The Air Force wants to expand an existing airstrip instead of building a new one, and the facility must be within 170 miles of Andersen, so options have been narrowed to Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

The runway would also be designed to accommodate a squadron of 12 KC-135 aircraft, which are large tankers capable of refueling jets in mid air. It also will be used during large-scale military exercises and for humanitarian airlift staging during disasters.

"Specifically, the (expanded runway) is needed because there is not an existing airfield on U.S. territory in the western Pacific that is designed and designated to provide strategic divert and exercise capabilities for U.S. forces when needed around the globe and (for) humanitarian airlift in times of natural disasters," states the website for the proposed project.
A.B. Won Pat

This backup runway role is currently filled by the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport, but without the temporary housing or squadron support.

"The Air Force is not a frequent user of the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, although it is an alternate airport, should their runways and terminals be closed for operations," wrote Guam international airport spokeswoman Rolenda Faasuamalie in an email.

"However, it is regular practice for them to perform test runs and touchdowns, in the event that it is necessary to land at our facility."

The transition to Saipan, Tinian or Rota is more than a year off, however.

According to a website about this project, the Air Force will not finalize its plan for the divert runway until December 2012.

Between now and then, the proposed project will run through a planning process required by the National Environmental Protection Act. This Environmental Impact Statement process is the same used to plan the military buildup on Guam.

One of the first steps is a series of public scoping meetings, the first of which will be held on Thursday at the Barrigada Mayor's Office. A second meeting will be held Friday at the Dededo Mayor's Office, followed by meetings in Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Mayors will also meeting with the military on Thursday morning during a special meeting to discuss the project. Brig. Gen. Scott West, from Hickham Air Force Base in Hawaii, asked for the meeting with mayors in a Sept. 29 letter.

However, the public meetings held over the next two weeks will not be the only chance to comment on this Air Force project. After more details are released in the draft Environmental Impact Statement, more meetings will be held, according to the project website. Those meetings have not been scheduled yet.

Group to protest United States Marine jet fighter training. (Guam)

A local group will be holding a series of peaceful demonstrations in protest of the U.S. Marines' jet fighter training coming to the island.

Tomorrow and Thurday the Taotaomona Native Rights group will protest the training, which began on Oct. 8th and will last until the end of the month.

Twenty F/A-18 fighter jets from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, will participate in the air-to-air and air-to-ground training, according to a release from 36th Wing Public Affairs, Andersen Air Force Base. Some 400 personnel including those from the Marine Aircraft Group 12 will be part of the exercises.

"The U.S. military is transferring the U.S. Marines fighter jets training maneuvers to Guam, in order to relief the Japanese people from the awfully loud and harmful effects of the noise pollution," said a statement from the native rights group.

The group accused the Marines of using the island as a "dumping ground," and said that the military should treat the people of Guam with respect.

Protests will take place at these times:

Wed. Oct. 12, 2011: 2:00 - 3:30 PM at the Legislature Building in Hagatna
Wed. Oct. 12, 2011: 4:00 - 6:00 PM at the Guam Delegate's Office
Thurs. Oct. 13, 2011: 3:30 - 6:00 PM at Andersen Air Force Base, across the front gate

A low-key year for Bombardier

Las Vegas – If it weren’t for the Chinese, the 64th annual meeting of the National Business Aviation Association here might have been called for lack of customer interest.

The Chinese appeared to be the only ones announcing orders for business jets so far at this year’s show. In fact, the two orders on the opening day of the NBAA convention Monday came from the same aircraft leasing firm, Minsheng Financial Leasing Co., one for 13 Legacy 650s from Brazil’s Embraer and another for Dassault Falcons from France’s Dassault Aviation.

Montreal’s Bombardier Inc. contented itself with announcing seven new suppliers for its Global 7000 and 8000 models that are beginning their development phase.

To be fair to Bombardier, though, it stole the show at last year’s NBAA meeting in Atlanta with the $1-billion launch of the Global 7000 and 8000 models, the top of the line in private aviation in terms of cost, upwards of $60 million per jet, range of up to 7,900 nautical miles, and luxury.

Perhaps of most interest to attendees of a morning technical briefing was the fact that the windows on the sumptuous future planes will be 80 per cent bigger than on the current Global 5000 and 6000.

Bassam Sabbagh, vice-president and GM of the Global 7000 and 8000, due out in 2016 and 2017 respectively, assured questioners that the bigger windows might be retrofitted on Global 5000s and 6000s.

One analyst, David Tyerman of Toronto brokerage Canaccord Genuity, said that Bombardier has been a bit slow off the mark to market its planes in emerging economies, notably in the so-called BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China. But Tyerman noted that Bombardier is correcting that now, making a concerted effort to establish a serious local presence and sales force in those countries, most particularly in China.

Business aircraft manufacturers all said in the last two days that the recovery in their industry that was widely expected to take hold in 2012 will probably be pushed back further after the recent roiling of global markets.

Before the 2008 crash, Bombardier and the other five major players in that business, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna Aircraft Corp., were flying high for the most part. Since then, high-end jets like Bombardier’s Global line and Gulfstream’s G650, a rival to Bombardier’s Global 6000, 7000 and 8000, have resumed growth while lower end jets have not.

Australian Air Force Cadets: Pilots' high point


SOUTH Australia's Abbie Shilling (pictured) was among the many young pilots who took to the skies on Friday as Bacchus Marsh hosted the gliding section of the Australian Air Force Cadets national flying competition.

The annual contest includes flying skills, advanced aircraft handling, circuit operations and landing and safety procedures.

Wing Commander Mark Dorward said it provided a chance for young pilots to show their skills.

"This is the pinnacle of the aviation training program in the Australian Air Force Cadets."

Two F-16 fighter jets intercept civilian plane. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (KBWI), Baltimore, Maryland.

Two F-16 fighter jets swooped out to intercept a civilian airplane Monday evening. The plane had entered restricted airspace, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said.

The civilian aircraft was out of communications. It was intercepted at about 6:30 p.m. Fighter jets escorted the plane out of the area and it landed at Baltimore International Airport.

The pilot was to be met by local authorities.

Pelican Causes Emergency Landing for Israel Air Force 'Baz' Fighter Jet

An Israel Air Force "Baz" fighter was forced to make an emergency landing last week, but the cause was due to a pelican.

The IDF Spokesperson's Office revealed Monday that last Thursday's incident in which an Israeli Air Force F-15E "Baz" fighter was forced to make an emergency landing was caused by a flock of pelicans who flew into the pilot's flight path during takeoff. Birds are often a cause for concern by pilots in Israel.

One of the pelicans was sucked into an air intake, causing one of the Baz's engines to catch fire, but the pilot and navigator were successful in executing a quick emergency landing.

Fire crews put out the blaze shortly after the plane landed. No one was injured in the incident.

"Suddenly, we saw the plane on fire in the air," said an IAF officer at the Tel Nof air traffic control tower. "The plane immediately turned to land and we called fire and rescue services. This was an unusual and frightening event, but in the end everything functioned properly."

The twin engine F-15E is known for its remarkable durability and has a reputation as the world's preeminent all-weather strike fighter.

In 2009 IAF pilot Tzvi Nedavi landed his F-15 after a midair collision during a training flight in which a wing was sheared off of his fighter - a feat engineers at McDonnell Douglas insisted was impossible until Israel shipped them the plane for inspection.

Nedavi said at the time, "They realized that the F-15 has such a wide body that, if you are going fast enough, you can fly it like a rocket."

Skytrans is up, up and away - Australia.

Skytran pilots Murray Hamilton, left, and Michael Dreghorn are ready to fly.

Skytrans pilots Michael Dreghorn, left, and Murray Hamilton

SKYTRANS understands air travel and air freight are an important part of life for many people who live in regional Queensland.

A company spokesperson said the company took great care to make every flight an enjoyable, reliable and safe experience.

With more than 20 years experience in the industry, Skytrans is 100 per cent Australian owned and operated and employs about 220 staff.

The company offers a robust business mix of long-term contract charters and regular passenger transport services.

With flights from Mount Isa to 13 destinations, plus direct to Cairns five times a week, Skytrans provides a comfortable, enjoyable and efficient service on its fleet of 36 seat Dash 8 aircraft that offer in-flight entertainment, catering and convenient schedules.

The friendly crew will ensure each journey is as memorable as the last.

Skytrans operates regular services throughout Queensland to more than 20 destinations and has bases in Cairns, Darwin, Brisbane and Perth.

A fully comprehensive fly-in, fly-out charter service is also available.

Spokane International Airport (KGEG), Washington: Instrument Landing System Offline. (With Video)

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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Officials at Spokane International Airport are hoping deteriorating weather conditions that come with the season hold off as one of the airport's most important navigation systems is out of service for the rest of the week.

The Instrument Landing System at SIA can safely guide planes to the ground even when the visibility drops below one quarter mile, but as the airport wraps up a summer filled with runway improvements, the ILS is still a week away from being ready.

Five years ago the FAA gave Spokane International some bad news, saying the end of it's north / east runway sat in a depression, which kept pilots from having a line of sight view from one end to the other.

"At any point in the runway a pilot needs to be able to see halfway down the runway and the line of sight dropped off to the extent that we needed to raise it six feet," SIA spokesman Todd Woodard said.

The airport also had to raise the surrounding taxiways and even the equipment that guide planes to the ground.

That meant shutting down and temporarily removing the ILS, which didn't play too much of a factor during the summer as pilots didn't really need it to land safely. Now as the weather starts changing the ILS is needed to help guide pilots in to the airport.

"The air carriers using Spokane are still using the primary east / west runway and the navigational system they have on that is limited to an RNAV GPS approach, which has far higher minimum standards than the instrument landing system," Woodard said.

Last Thursday, the lack of an instrument landing system led to delays and cancellations after low clouds blanketed the area.

Now airport officials are hoping the weather will hold as they bring the ILS back into service.

"The system has to run continuously for 500 hours and we are still part of that required commissioning burn in period dictated by the FAA to make sure the system is fully functional and won't fail at a critical juncture and time," Woodard said.

That 500-hour warm up for the ILSs should expire sometime this weekend and the equipment will be re-certified. Until then, low clouds or fog could make flying in or out of Spokane more difficult. 

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Do electronics cause problems on planes? Maybe

SEATTLE - If you travel on any airline to any destination, the message is the same: Turn off your electronic devices during takeoff and landing. But many question if their phone could really bring down a plane.

The answer is: maybe.

At a Boeing test chamber in Seattle, engineers laid out a variety of mobile devices before turning on the scanners.

Within seconds, "noise" from the devices showed up in red.

That interference comes from the video screens and internal computer chips, not the cell transmitters. Turning on a cellphone creates bigger headaches.

"If that signal couples onto wiring, it may affect an aircraft system," Bruce Donham, a technical engineer with Boeing, said.

"We worked on this issue for about five years," Dave Carson, an associate technical fellow with Boeing, said.

He chaired an investigative committee that included airlines, aircraft manufacturers and the government looking at electronic interference.

Carson says there is no conclusive evidence electronics have ever contributed to a crash or even a serious incident.

"There are stories that when we followed through we have been unable to prove," Carson said.

Investigators in New Zealand suspect, but never proved, that a pilot's cellphone call home may have caused his plane to crash in 2003, killing eight people.

Other pilots have reported navigational equipment problems until passengers turned off their devices.

Experts say electronics on the flight deck are not the only concern. A modern aircraft has antennas and wiring above, below and through that could be vulnerable.

While today's aircraft are tested and certified to withstand some electronic interference, safety demands little-to-no interference during take-off and landing to avoid any problems at the wrong moment.

Plane crash survivor: I’ll fly again. New Zealand.

Shaken up: Queenstown plane crash survivor Hank Sproull

A Queenstown pilot lucky to survive a training flight crash says it won’t stop him returning to the skies.

Hank Sproull, the owner of scenic flights company Air Milford, was a passenger in a 1950’s light Piper plane which plunged into a ditch near Branches high country station on Saturday.

Sproull and the female pilot were on a private training flight – nothing to do with Air Milford – when the crash happened about 30km out of Queenstown. The pair set off their beacon alert at 12.10pm and authorities had a chopper in the air within 10 minutes. The plane was a write-off but the lucky twosome was escorted back to Queenstown.

Sproull, speaking from home, says him and the pilot and are lucky to be alive.

“I’m bloody shaken up about it. It’s been a bad experience that I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I could just as easily have been killed.”

Despite the whole episode stressing him out, Sproull says it won’t put him off flying.

“It’s just one of those things that happens in flying. It’s like when you have a car crash – it’s not going to stop you driving a car again.

“I mean, I’ve got a business to run. We’ve had a 100 per cent safety record ever since we’ve been flying and I intend to keep it that way, so yes, I’ll be flying again, definitely,” Sproull says.

Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand spokesman James Sygrove says he understands the pair had gone to Branches to practice take-offs and landings.

“The aircraft was just taking off and had just become airborne when it came down hard whilst it was still accelerating and went through a fence.

“We had a chopper in the air within 10 minutes so the message is take a beacon with you. It just means we can find people within a matter of minutes as opposed to days.”

The Piper plane, understood to be owned by a Cantabrian, had previously been stored at the hangar of the Wakatipu Aero Club which had been using it for training flights.

Aero Club ex-president Peter Daniell, who stood down a couple of weeks ago, says in the week prior to the crash the club had passed it to Sproull to use for his own training.

“It’s an ideal little training plane,” Daniell says.

“It’s very basic in its set up and some people would think that’s probably the best way to learn to fly. It doesn’t have all the flash latest gauges in it that compensate for all sorts of things. You have to fly properly to fly well so it generally brings out good pilots in the end,” Daniell adds.

The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the crash.

CAA spokesman Bill Sommer says being able to interview the pilot will help determine the cause.

“That’s what we’re after – to determine the cause and see if we can learning anything from it.”

$30m Tiger down not a problem, says Defence. Darwin, Australia.

Safe landing: The Tiger helicopter sits in a paddock on the outskirts of Darwin. 
Photo Credit:  ABC

The Defence Department has ruled out problems with its new Tiger helicopters, after one was forced to make an emergency landing in Darwin's rural area last night.

The $30 million armed reconnaissance helicopter was taking part in a night-training exercise when its windscreen cracked.

The pilot was forced to land the aircraft in a paddock at Lambells Lagoon.

First Aviation Regiment commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel John Fenwick says the windscreen will be repaired.

"This is an isolated incident," he said.

"There is no need or reason to suggest that this is broader than just this aircraft at this stage.

"Certainly (there is) no need to suggest that all the other aircraft are imminently affected and affects safety for everyone."

Northern Territory Police say they were alerted to the incident when a woman called emergency services when she saw the helicopter flying at a low altitude above her property last night.

The Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra also received a distress signal.

The army is conducting a series of night-training exercises in the Top End, using up to four helicopters at a time.

Until recently, its Tiger helicopters were confined to daytime operations because of a lack of night-vision equipment.

Dallas/Fort Worth International (KDFW), Texas: Ranked Among Most Dangerous Airports by Travel and Leisure Magazine

A report by Travel and Leisure magazine has ranked Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport among the most dangerous in the country when it comes to runway safety.

DFW airport, the only Texas airport to make the list, ranked 10th with a score of 2.86 from 61 runway incidents in the last 5 years.

The publication compared 35 of the busiest commercial airports in the country and weighed certain instances on the FAA's Runway Safety Support, namely those which could have resulted in a catastrophic collison against those that had only significant potential for a collison.

The airport then listed the Top 20 airports.

In the report, Travel and Leisure cited a 30-day period in 2008 where the airport racked-up 10 near-misses.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International (KPHX), Phoenix, Arizona: Ranked as top 10 dangerous airport.

Phoenix Sky Harbor was ranked as the eighth-most dangerous airport in the United States.  According to Travel and Leisure, Phoenix has experienced 19 runway incidents since 2006.  A runway incident is defined as a collision, near collision or possible collision.  There have been no collisions at Sky Harbor, but a few close calls.

Flight instructor accused of assault

A Wings Flight Training Academy flying instructor appeared in court this morning charged with assaulting Indian students studying for their pilot's licenses.

Ravindra Pal Singh, 61, appeared before a registrar in the Palmerston North District Court.

He entered no pleas on five charges of assault and was remanded to re-appear later this month.

Court documents show Singh is accused of assaulting four Indian students between April 2009 and August this year.

The flight training academy operates from the Palmerston North Airport.

Honda Aircraft Says HondaJet Delivery Delayed by About a Year

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co.’s Honda Aircraft said its new HondaJet, a light business jet, won’t enter service until mid-2013, because of delays to the engine. Delivery of the plane had been planned for the third quarter of 2012.

Honda Aircraft President Michimasa Fujino spoke at a press conference at a National Business Aviation Association conference in Las Vegas.

A Dark Mood Surrounds Corporate Jet Makers



At 8 in the morning, you don’t usually see so many men and women in dark suits unless it’s a memorial service. Especially here, in sunny Las Vegas.

But there they were, 25,000 people representing the business aviation industry along with the extensive worldwide trade media gathered for the annual National Business Aviation Association convention, looking as grave as an assembly of undertakers who had just checked their 401(k)s. Their attire was basically just the conservative business dress suggested by convention organizers. But still, the mood on opening day seemed as dark as the apparel.

Bill Boisture, the chief executive of Hawker Beechcraft, set a dour tone early Sunday morning when he lamented the “inconsistencies” in the market outlook. He also denounced the Obama administration and some Democrats in Congress for being “nothing short of irresponsible” because they had uttered the words “corporate jet” with populist disdain, while calling for measures like reducing certain tax benefits for using private planes.

The industry correctly points out that it accounts for a large number of domestic jobs — 120,000 in manufacturing, down 20,000 since 2008 — and a healthy chunk of the American export trade. But while he railed against Washington, Mr. Boisture was also thrown a bit on the defensive at a news conference when it was noted that Hawker had closed one of its Kansas plants and outsourced jobs abroad. “We felt American industry was playing on an unlevel playing field,” he responded.

Continuing the mood, Scott Ernest, the chief executive of Cessna Aircraft, said, “The market is still very spotty” for business aviation. Cessna, a big player in the light to midsize business jet market, was hard-hit by the recession and is hoping that its newest model, the Citation M2, a light jet, will help turn things around.

The industry, still dominated by American manufacturers, will sell about $230 billion in new business jets in the next 10 years, according to a forecast by Honeywell Aerospace released at the convention. This year, Honeywell said, manufacturers will deliver 600 to 650 new business jets, compared with 732 last year, and down sharply from 1,139 in the industry’s peak year, 2008.

Still, as in many other things during this economic slump, the top luxury niche is doing well. Driven by sharply increased foreign sales, particularly in Asia, Brazil and the Middle East, and the growing need for more long-range international travel by domestic companies, the market for the biggest, most expensive business jets has remained strong.

In the last few years, large cabin, ultra-long-range business jets have been selling robustly, and will represent about 25 percent of projected sales through 2011, Honeywell said. For some companies with far-flung business, said Rob Wilson, the head of Honeywell’s business and general aviation unit, a large cabin long-range plane allows a group of managers to travel efficiently and productively.

“The last trip I took on a large-cabin jet was over to India — two days in India, then a day in Singapore, two days in China and back home, all in five days,” he said in an interview.

Now, whenever I write that corporate aircraft, including charters, can make sense in many business situations, I get furious e-mails accusing me of going to the dark side. So let me hasten to say that I’m leaving Las Vegas in a middle seat on a commercial plane, in a row back by the restrooms, for a trip to New York that will take 12 hours, with connections.

But you should see some of the magnificent corporate jets on display here, on 630,000 square feet of space at Henderson Executive Airport, where conventiongoers are able to wander around the planes and even through them. There are 90 planes, but the star is the new Gulfstream G650, which can fly close to the speed of sound, has a range of 7,000 miles, and can fly as high as 51,000 feet. “Think of it as having the sky to yourself,” Gulfstream ads say.

Gulfstream, which has added 1,300 jobs this year, has orders for that plane that extend into 2017, and announced at the convention that it expected to deliver the first 10 or 12 next year. The price tag for each one is $64.5 million. Curiosity and demand are such that to look inside the G650 model here requires a reservation.

Not on display, but definitely on the market, are even grander airplanes like the so-called V.I.P. models of Boeing’s commercial planes. Those planes are not included in the Honeywell forecast, which looked only at production-model business jets (not converted commercial airliners). The Boeing V.I.P. line includes a private version of the new 787 Dreamliner ($178.2 million, plus cabin outfitting starting at $80 million). Or how about your own private 747? Boeing can put you in one for about $299.5 million. (Cabin outfitting starts at $140 million).

Loaded .357 found at Sea-Tac airport . Man with gun in carry-on traveling to Las Vegas.

A loaded .357 handgun was found in a carry-on bag at Sea-Tac International Airport on Saturday afternoon. It was the 23rd weapon found at a Sea-Tac security checkpoint this year, officials said.

The man who was carrying the .357 was trying to board a flight to Las Vegas. The gun had six rounds of ammunition and one in the chamber, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.

Two days before the Saturday incident, a passenger going to Minneapolis was found with a loaded handgun in a carry-on bag.

"We're not talking incidents that were potential threats," Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper said. "These were not people trying to do something with them, fortunately. But what it ends up doing is delaying the people behind them."

More than 800 firearms have been found by Transportation Security Administration workers nationwide, Dankers said. Last year, TSA workers at Sea-Tac found 21 weapons at security checkpoints.

"Responsible gun owners should know where their guns are at all times," Cooper said. "In this case, you should know how to pack them and the proper procedures to get through an airport. And there's no problem when you know how to do that."

Passengers are allowed to transport firearms on airplanes, but federal law requires they be unloaded, packed in checked baggage and declared to the airline. Realistic firearm replicas are also prohibited in carry-on baggage.

The TSA also encourages travelers wanting to transport firearms to check with their airline for possible additional firearm and ammunition policies. The man in the Saturday incident has not been charged.

"Hopefully," Cooper said, "when word gets out that will reduce the numbers we see."

FAA allowing New York City tourist choppers in off-limits area over Hudson River

NEW YORK — The Federal Aviation Administration said today it is allowing sightseeing helicopters to descend through an airspace corridor over the Hudson River that's supposed to be off-limits to local air traffic.

The tour routes, which were first reported by the New York Post, are not published on aeronautical charts or on the notices that pilots must consult when planning their flights through New York. On weekends, helicopters cut through the corridor dozens of times.

Aviation consultant Ken Pasker said other pilots don’t expect helicopters to be descending through the corridor.

"If a helicopter comes at you, you wouldn’t be expecting it," said Pasker, a pilot from Manhattan. "You wouldn’t even know a helicopter was supposed to be in that area."

The corridor was set up after a sightseeing helicopter and a small aircraft collided over the river in 2009, killing nine people.

After the crash, the FAA modified an existing path over the river by barring local traffic between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet above sea level. The new rule was meant to keep sightseeing helicopters out of the path of other small aircraft passing through the city.

But FAA managers signed an agreement on Aug. 16, 2010, allowing helicopters from five companies to fly above the 1,300-foot ceiling and descend through the corridor near Manhattan’s 79th Street as part of their air tours.

There is nothing on aeronautical charts warning other pilots about the exemption for the five companies, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.

"There are warnings to pilots that it’s a congested area and to beware of helicopter activity, but that’s the only warning," Peters said.

He said there were no immediate plans to include such a warning.

The five air tour companies asked for the routes because they allow the helicopters to fly higher, minimizing noise for people on the ground. They say the routes are safe.

"The plan was developed to ensure both the safety of these flights as well as to reduce the number of flights over sensitive areas and lower the impacts to the local communities," Jeffery Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, which represents charter and sightseeing companies in the New York area, said in a written statement.

Concern over helicopter flights flared again in New York after a Bell 206 crashed in the East River shortly after takeoff on Oct. 4, killing a passenger. The helicopter was on a private flight and carried only friends of the pilot.

After the crash, several politicians called for a ban on private and sightseeing helicopter flights over the city.

American Airlines to cut capacity and retire 11 planes

Responding to an unsteady economy and high fuel costs, American Airlines announced that it planned to cut overall capacity this year and retire 11 older Boeing jets next year.

The capacity cuts, made by canceling unpopular flights, among other changes, will reduce the number of seats available on planes by 3%, compared with projections made by the airline in January, the airline announced Monday.

The move was also in response to an unusually high number of pilots retiring in October.

"While our advance bookings are generally in line with last year, we are taking these additional steps in light of the uncertain economic environment, ongoing high fuel costs and to ensure we run a reliable schedule for our customers given additional pilot retirements we anticipate throughout the fourth quarter,” said Virasb Vahidi, American's chief commercial officer.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline also announced it planned to retire up to 11 Boeing 757 aircraft in 2012 to make way for some of the 460 newer, more fuel-efficient planes the airline ordered in July.

The capacity cut comes only a week after stocks for American's parent company, AMR, dropped 33% on rumors that the troubled airline might be considering filing for bankruptcy protection. The company's stock has since rebounded and recovered most of the losses.

Kingfisher: Averted plane mishap - Weather was not bad. Chennai airport, India.

CHENNAI: Bad weather could not have been the reason for diversion of the Kingfisher aircraft from Trichy before it skidded along the runway at Chennai airport in the early hours on Saturday, aeronautical meteorological data shows. The captain and the copilot have been derostered.

The pilot had mentioned bad weather as the reason for returning to Chennai, but did not inform the air traffic control about a nose tire burst, which is suspected to have happened while trying to land at Trichy. The weather status registered on Friday night with the aeronautical weather systems show that the visibility of the runway was 3,000 meters and the thunderstorm clouds were above 2,500 feet, higher than the actual altitude of the aircraft at 11.40 pm, proving the claim of Kingfisher pilot of a bad weather condition was false. A Kingfisher spokesperson refused to elaborate on the theory of weather conditions, saying it was one of the aspects the inquiry is expected to go into. "As a matter of normal procedure, the pilots in question have been desrostered for purposes of the internal inquiry," said Kingfisher vice-president Prakash Mirupuri.

Thirteen passengers and four crew of Kingfisher's IT 4343 had escaped unhurt after the aircraft landed at Chennai airport with a burst nose wheel tire and skidded along the runway. Sources in the aeronautical meteorological department said the visibility of the runway was clear from up to 3km (3,000 meters) at the time of incident. On an Instrument Landing System (ILS), landing could easily be done with a visibility of 800 meters.

"There was a formation of thunderclouds and rain at the time, but only above the height of 2,500 feet. The northerly wind condition was also normal, at six nautical miles, which is not at all a problem for aircraft landing," said a source. Captain A Ranganathan, a navigation expert, said the pilot's claim of weather condition was false and he failed to alert the Trichy airport about the hard landing.

"The hard landing must have been a result of pilot's wrong calculation, resulting in tire burst. An aircraft should undergo advanced checking after every hard landing as there are possibilities of major structural damages to the plane. Even if he had to take off immediately after a hard landing, he should have landed back in Trichy instead of flying all the way to Chennai," he said. Officers of the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) conducted an inquiry at Trichy airport on Sunday. "We have taken pictures of marks and damages along 5.4 meters on the runway.

We have also collected information on wind and visibility at the time of the incident. The pilot concerned has been suspended for the time being," said a senior DGCA officer. VKrishnan, senior air navigation advisor to the DGCA, said blaming it on the weather might be an attempt to cover up. "It was a disaster averted. The decision to fly back after a hard landing was dangerous," he said.

Opinion: Why do the police fly over La Cañada? California.

We live in La Cañada but often see the Glendale Police Department helicopter over our little town and over La Crescenta.

I imagine there may be situations where the helicopter is used to support a traffic stop originating in Glendale. It seems plausible, but I cannot imagine such scenarios occur as often as we see the Glendale Police helicopter here. It has a very distinctive sound from the Bell Jet Rangers used by L.A. County Fire and sheriff’s departments.

As a citizen, I wanted to propose to the Glendale leadership the idea of documenting online the flight logs of their helicopter. I think citizens should be able to read, after the fact, about how and where the Glendale police helicopter is flown so that any questions about how such a valuable resource is allocated can be intelligently discussed.

It should be a trivial matter for a first-rate California city to publish some flight logs online on a daily basis — sort of like a police blotter in the newspaper.

If anyone reading this in Glendale agrees with me, write in to say so.

If the Glendale Police Department does this, it will improve their image and our perception of them. If they do not, I would ask, what do they have to hide?

Greg Hiscott

La Cañada Flintridge

OPINION: Non-emergency Alaska 'rescues' a drain on finite resources

Recent reports indicate that calling for a wilderness rescue is becoming more frequent among unlucky or unprepared Alaska backcountry travelers who end up in unpleasant, but not deadly, situations.

Technology now allows people to call for evacuation from circumstances that, while perhaps traumatic or unsettling, are not immediately life-threatening.

Such calls for rescues are becoming practically routine in recent years, and it’s not just Cheechakos calling for help.

People just don't seem to recognize that calling for rescue in a situation that isn’t immediately life-threatening puts search and rescue crews in a serious dilemma. They must answer every call for help -- no matter what the nature of the emergency -- and by personal dedication and state policy, they must respond, even if it means risking their own lives.

Such "rescues" constitute a growing and unnecessary drain on state resources and law enforcement personnel.

A simple solution might be to pass a state law similar to the policy that now applies to the U.S. Coast Guard’s rescue response, the Maritime SAR Assistance Policy.”

It stipulates, in many parts of the country, that unless people are in immediate, life-threatening danger, the Coast Guard will refer the call for help to a private, for-profit company, which then charges for the “rescue.”

Some conscientious people in Alaska are already taking it upon themselves to call private companies instead of the Alaska State Troopers for non-emergency wilderness evacuations.

But panic overrides civic duty for too many others.

Alaska Dispatch encourages a diversity of opinion and community perspectives. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch.

Bay Bridge Airport (W29), Stevensville, Maryland: County commissioners consider future of airport.

Bay Bridge Airport (W29), Stevensville, Maryland
Photo Credit:  Kathryn

CENTREVILLE Members of the Bay Bridge Airport Commission met with the Queen Anne's County Commissioners Tuesday, Sept. 27, for an overview of operations at the county-owned airport and of efforts to make it a self-sustaining or revenue-producing asset.

Fred Lagno, chairman of the airport commission, started with a brief history of the airport, which has been operational for 50 years. The county has owned the facility for 23 years. In 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Maryland Aviation Administration and the county purchased adjacent property to the north of the runway for $7 million, which is where current expansion efforts are focused.

"A lot of the action is happening there now," said Lagno. "That's where our focus will be in the next few years, as you soon will find out."

The airport features a 2,900-foot runway and a full-length parallel taxiway. Fueling is available around the clock, seven days a week. There are 24 forty-two-foot hangers, 3 forty-four-foot hangars, 5 forty-eight-foot hangars and another large hangar classified as A-1. The site also offers 62 tie downs on pavement and grass. "And believe me when I tell you, there is a demand for more," said Lagno. "We have a waiting list."

The airport is in the midst of a multi-phase effort to improve operating conditions and to expand the complex to accommodate more aircraft. Most of the funding for the work, estimated to cost about $10.5 million, is coming from the FAA through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Airport Improvement Program. The federal government covers 95 percent of the cost, with the state and Queen Anne's County chipping in 2r percent each.

Jennifer Lutz, of the engineering company URS, offered an overview of the progress and plans for expansion. The first phase, which is completed, included runway safety improvements out into the Bay, the full extension of the taxiway, and water and sewer line relocation to the north of Pier One Road. Those lines were relocated so that Pier One Road itself can be relocated to make room for expanded airport facilities. Once the road is relocated, additional hangars will be built and more space will be provided for parking airplanes.

On 13 acres north of the relocated Pier One Road, in between U.S. Route 50 and the airport expansion, a multi-use development project called The Vineyards is planned. The land was purchased as excess land for the airport expansion. County Administrator Gregg Todd said property taxes from development of the land will be payable to the county, but any revenue generated from the 99-year land lease will have to be used for airport operation or capital expenses, including paying down bond debt.

Lagno said in 2005 a study by Martin Associates, of Lancaster, Pa., found that the airport brought $1.4 million in revenues to businesses in the county. He said in 2005 the airport fell under what was called an Air Defense Identification Zone, as a result of 9/11, which caused a substantial drop in traffic. Since then, through efforts by the airport commission, that zone was moved west, which has brought in a "significant increase in transient traffic," he said. "That transient traffic utilizes local businesses, restaurants, boat sales, you name it. We do a lot of business in the county. We estimate now that the airport brings in over $3 million to the county."

Lagno said an average of three Medevac flights a week are made out of the airport. The airport also hosts Angel Flights, run by a private association that flies people in need to required medical care. Local events hosted by the airport include a Young Eagles program, Scouting programs, and the annual Wings and Wheels charity fundraiser.

Faith Elliott-Rossing, county director of economic development and tourism, spoke about future goals for the airport. Those goals include hiring a contractual manager, completing a business plan for raising revenue, and "recognizing all the while that The Vineyards is a piece of the puzzle, and there may be some payment expected from that that would help offset some of the bond debt in the next several years."

Commissioner David Dunmyer asked what the bond debt was now for the airport. Elliott-Rossing said the total was $844,936, spread out till the year 2031, which is about $63,000 a year. "That's what we're hoping to try to manage," she said.

Commissioner Phil Dumenil asked how The Vineyards project was progressing. Todd deferred an answer to later in the meeting as part of his administrator's update. During his update, Todd said the developer, John Wilson, of Coastal South and owner of the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, is continuing his plans to develop the site, beginning with a hotel. "He had an out based on his ability to get financing by the end of October, and he has moved forward with that and has not taken his out. He is still dedicated to the project."

Bay Bridge Airport (W29), Stevensville, Maryland
Photo Credit:  Kathryn