Sunday, October 30, 2011

Era Helicopters Pilot Killed in Crash Near Iliamna - Alaska.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— An Era Helicopters LLC chopper pilot has been confirmed dead by the company and Alaska State Troopers Sunday. The aircraft's wreckage was found near Iliamna Sunday afternoon after it was reported missing en route to Iliamna Saturday night.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson says the wreckage was discovered six to eight miles southwest of Iliamna. Era Helicopters reported that the helicopter’s pilot was its only occupant.

The pilot's name will be released after authorities notify next of kin.

Airlines abandoning UK airports because of sky-high aviation tax

Airlines are abandoning UK airports and opting to fly from European rivals because of Britain's sky-high aviation tax, business leaders warned yesterday.

Airports have seen a string of carriers cancel or transfer routes because of Air Passenger Duty (APD).

Aviation industry bosses yesterday declared war on the 'flying poll tax' through an open letter.

Senior representatives from 12 airports and BAA chief executive Colin Matthews criticised the Coalition's plans to increase the duty by nine per cent next month – double the rate of inflation.

The letter says: 'The impact will displace flights to Europe, rather than to generate more tax revenue.'

At the same time, the British Chambers of Commerce has warned that aviation capacity will not be able to cope with the projected 335million passengers expected at UK airports by 2030 and that this will lead to a loss of jobs and slower growth.

The BCC report said that in other European countries, expanded hub airports, such as those at Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, were increasing the potential for investment and economic competitiveness.

The BCC argued that an additional runway at Heathrow, which was falling behind rival airports, would address the capacity issue and ensure the UK had a hub airport that can compete with other countries.

The Fair Tax on Flying Alliance – an alliance of airports and airlines – also recommended scrapping planned increases in the APD tax, saying it had increased massively since 2007.

But Richard Dyer, Friends of the Earth transport campaigner, claimed rises in APD were necessary.

He said: 'Aviation is very undertaxed compared to other sectors.

'Consumers don't pay VAT on airline tickets, and airlines don't pay fuel tax. And aviation is a very polluting industry.

Iran Air Boeing 727-200, EP-IRR, Flight IR-742: Mehrabad Airport, Tehran -- Landed without nose gear. Accident occurred October 18, 2011.

Photo from Hooshang Shahbazi's Facebook page

The captain of an Iran Air Boeing 727 managed to land his aircraft at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport even though its nose landing gear failed. Hooshang Shahbazi’s piloting skill saved the lives of some 94 passengers and 19 crew members.  Footage of the miraculous landing on October 18 became an internet sensation and Shahbazi’s Facebook page has attracted hundreds of new friends. 

TEHRAN — An Iranian pilot whose spectacular emergency landing was captured on video will not be allowed to fly a plane for two months, the Fars news agency reported Saturday.
The video shows the Iran Air flight slowly approaching Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Oct. 18 with its nose landing gear jammed. As rescue workers prepared for the worst, Capt. Hooshang Shahbazi balanced the plane using only the landing gear under the wings until it came to a stop.

The 40-year-old Boeing 727, which was returning from Moscow, had been blacklisted in Europe but not in Russia. A similar plane crashed in February in western Iran during bad weather, killing 77. 

Shahbazi complained to news media here that Iranian authorities have not expressed any gratitude for his efforts, which saved the lives of 94 passengers and 19 crew members. 

“They did not even call to say thank you,” Shahbazi told the Etemaad newspaper, which is critical of the government, on Saturday. Instead he was told to stay home for two months to recuperate from the incident, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Saturday, adding that there will be an investigation into the cause. 

Iran, which is not allowed to buy spare parts for its aging civil aviation fleet because of U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic, has a long history of plane crashes that have caused hundreds of deaths. In October, European fuel companies, under pressure from the United States, agreed to stop providing fuel to Iranian planes

But even as Iran’s state television remains silent on the effects of U.S. sanctions, Shahbazi’s heroic actions have also gone unmentioned in Iran’s state media. Authorities ignored the incident, which highlights Iran’s growing need for new planes and the increasing pressure of ever tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic. 

Shahbazi cited a 2009 incident in the United States in which a U.S. Airways airliner was struck by a flock of birds. Captain Chesley Sullenberger managed to safely land the Airbus A320 on the Hudson River, steering away from Manhattan’s high-rises, saving the lives of all 155 aboard and turning him into a national hero. 

Shahbazi said that while he was not expecting such a reception, Iranian authorities “should praise my colleagues in Iran Air. They only have to say ‘thank you,’ that’s all.” 

Shahbazi had decided not to land his plane at Tehran’s International Imam Khomeni Airport because a crash there would have closed its only runway. “That would have been a disaster for Iran, also politically,” he said.

Passengers on board the Moscow-Tehran flight clapped and cheered as they exited the plane. 

The plane, which suffered only minor damage, will be repaired and go back into service, an Iran Air spokesman said. 

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Cloudy skies over L.A./Ontario International Airport - California.

After three decades of steady growth, the sprawling facility — a pillar of pride for the Inland Empire — lost a third of its 7.2 million annual passengers between 2007 and 2010. It's on track to lose an additional 200,000 this year.

It's the middle of the business day and the cavernous baggage claim area in Terminal 2 at L.A./Ontario International Airport is deserted. Upstairs, the food and beverage shops are closed. At the information desk, a volunteer quietly waits for travelers who never come.

Out at the curb, Miguel Del Valle of Moreno Valley arrives for a flight to Colorado, looks at the empty terminal and asks an idle skycap if the place is closed.

"No, no, no. Come on in," the skycap assures him, reaching for his luggage.

"I was shocked," said Del Valle, the only passenger at the United Airlines ticket counter. "I called my wife and told her that I've only seen five people here."

After three decades of steady growth and earning a Forbes magazine nod as one of the nation's top "alternative airports," Ontario International is now among the fastest-declining midsize airports in the country.

A pillar of pride for the Inland Empire, which rode the housing boom to a colossal bust, the sprawling facility owned and operated by the city of Los Angeles lost a third of its 7.2 million annual passengers between 2007 and 2010.

The airport is on track to lose an additional 200,000 this year — setting it back to 1987 levels, when Ronald Reagan was president and the Dow was below 3,000. Nationally, only Cincinnati is shedding travelers at a faster pace.

The economic pounding suffered by the Inland Empire, where unemployment peaked at more than 14%, is a significant factor in the airport's decline. In addition, the highest fees in the region for air carriers, and fares that can be twice those at other Southern California airports, have driven airlines and hundreds of thousands of passengers to other portals, particularly Los Angeles International Airport.

But Inland Empire leaders suspect something more insidious is at work. Increasingly, they are convinced that Los Angeles World Airports, which operates both LAX and Ontario, has become an absentee landlord bent on a multibillion-dollar modernization of LAX at the expense of its weaker stepchild and potential competitor 38 miles to the east.

"It really smacks of economic warfare against the Inland Empire," said John Husing, an economic consultant with a local business coalition. "Los Angeles officials cannot be trusted.... They have done everything in their power to ruin this airport."

Los Angeles officials counter that Ontario is a victim of economic forces largely beyond their control and might not recover until travel demand returns to pre-recession levels.

"It's really an unhappy situation," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports. "We have the Great Recession combined with related structural changes in the airline industry."

Inland Empire officials aren't buying it, noting that while Los Angeles County has had 12.4% to 13% unemployment, LAX has grown.

Their disenchantment has fostered an effort to regain local ownership of the airport, which Los Angeles acquired at no cost in 1985 after operating it since 1967. The idea has the backing of 20 other cities and the Southern California Assn. of Governments, an influential regional planning agency.

Under the current management, Ontario officials say, an estimated 8,000 airport-related jobs and $400 million in yearly business activity already have been lost. For travelers, Ontario was a popular discount fare portal before the economic crash. Now there are 47% fewer flights, about 60% fewer destinations, a dearth of discount carriers and often sharply higher airfares.

"Today, I can fly to Paris out of Miami for the same price as flying into Ontario," said Scott Schroeder, a West Palm Beach attorney, who regularly used the Inland Empire airport until rising ticket prices forced him to switch to LAX.

Unless there is a quick turnaround, Ontario officials say, Los Angeles will squander an aviation asset with the potential to serve 30 million passengers annually. That's partly because it is unencumbered by the court-ordered passenger caps, noise restrictions, outdated facilities and community opposition that have slowed growth at LAX and other local airports.

Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner complains that Los Angeles officials have not reduced airport staff and costs in line with the passenger drop, which he says has kept Ontario's overhead too high for airlines.

Last year, the fees that Ontario charged air carriers per passenger averaged $14.50, about seven times those charged at Burbank, more than twice those at Long Beach, 45% more than Orange County's John Wayne Airport and 31% higher than LAX.

"It's been a dog-and-pony show at Los Angeles World Airports for the past 11/2 to 2 years," Wapner said.

Since 2008, Ontario's annual marketing and advertising budgets of up to $1.5 million have been slashed nearly 90%, and the airport manager's job was reduced to a part-time position. In the latest blow, Los Angeles airport commissioners recently awarded a new advertising contract to L.A. Inc. —the city's visitors and convention bureau — that focuses on LAX and eliminates money to promote Ontario.

Three years ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said savings from closing Palmdale Regional Airport — an estimated $7 million annually — should be directed to Ontario. But that hasn't happened. Lindsey said she has not spoken with Villaraigosa about the matter and needs more direction on the use of the money. The mayor's office could not explain the delay but indicated Villaraigosa would agree to use some of the Palmdale funds in a joint marketing effort with the city of Ontario.

Lindsey also said Ontario's expenses and staffing have been reduced, lowering this year's per-passenger fees for airlines to $11.73 — although they remain the highest in the region. Efforts to attract airlines are continuing, albeit unsuccessfully, and advertising for Ontario can be purchased as needed, she said.

But Ontario city officials say Los Angeles has not been aggressive enough in promoting the airport with air carriers. They point to a 1967 agreement that calls on Los Angeles to "exercise its best efforts" to obtain air service for Ontario. And they note that a 2006 court settlement requires Los Angeles to spread the growth in air traffic around the region to reduce the impact on areas around LAX.

Since the settlement, however, LAX's market share compared with the five other commercial airports in the region has increased from 69.6% to 74.1% and its passenger volume is up about 5.6% this year. Ontario's market share has fallen from 8.2% to 5.4%. Only Palm Springs and Long Beach have realized slight gains.

"Regionalization is not being realized," said attorney Barbara Lichman, who represents Ontario as well as Inglewood and Culver City, two plaintiffs in the lawsuit that put limits on LAX growth. "A great deal of resources are being expended on modernization. They don't want to divert airlines from LAX."

That theme was echoed by a consultant hired by Los Angeles World Airports to develop a strategy to spread air service among other cities. She accused the airport department of mismanaging the regionalization effort and thwarting her work.

"The result was nothing was accomplished, and the burden of blame has fallen on me," according to emails obtained by The Times that were sent to Lindsey from consultant Peggy Ducey.

Lindsey said she is reviewing Ducey's final report and defended her department's years of effort to decentralize air traffic and promote Ontario. Ducey declined to comment.

If they can regain control of the airport through a simple transfer of ownership, Ontario city officials say they would aggressively market it and create incentives to lure new airlines, including slashing carrier costs to below $4 per passenger — less than a third of current fees.

Operational savings can be achieved, they say, by deeper reductions in airport staffing, paying employees lower wages typical of the Inland Empire and eliminating an $8-million-to-$9-million annual administrative fee charged to airlines.

But Ontario officials face a formidable opponent in Villaraigosa, who wants L.A. to retain ownership as well as political control of the airport. Organized labor could weigh in on any plan that could cut wages, though Ontario officials say they have had encouraging communications with professional associations representing airport workers.

Lindsey has renewed an offer supported by Villaraigosa to let Ontario officials handle the airport's advertising and marketing — a compromise rejected by Inland Empire leaders as incapable of solving the airport's many problems.

Such a limited fix, said Ontario City Councilman Jim W. Bowman, "makes no sense and offers no benefit to anyone."

EADS, Airbus moving to Dulles

Aerospace company EADS North America and subsidiary Airbus Americas are to relocate in November to a new building overlooking Dulles Airport as part of a consolidation effort.

As a result, EADS is to vacate space in two Rosslyn office buildings, including one that sported its logo up until last week, while Airbus is to leave its Herndon location. The move makes EADS the latest to leave the traditional contracting stronghold along the Potomac River, following Northrop Grumman’s departure for Falls Church and Boeing’s decision to consolidate its local operations in a new facility in Crystal City.

Sean O’Keefe, chief executive at EADS North America, and Barry Eccleston, president and chief executive at Airbus Americas, began considering a consolidation about a year and a half ago, as part of regular discussions about how the two companies could collaborate better, said O’Keefe.

The lease on the Airbus office in Herndon was ending in December 2011, prompting the two to consider consolidating with EADS North America, which leases three floors at 1616 Ft. Myer Dr. and three at 1100 Wilson Blvd., both in Rosslyn.

With plans to consolidate nearly 300 people — 176 from EADS and 120 from Airbus — the companies began looking at office space throughout the D.C. area, including Maryland, downtown Washington and Rosslyn, said O’Keefe.

EADS settled on an almost brand new office next to Dulles (at 2550 Wasser Terrace in Herndon), which the company has named One Global View following an employee vote. EADS North America and Airbus America, which are set to relocate in mid-November, will use all but one floor of the facility.

O’Keefe said the new facility is cheaper and will allow the two companies to work together more. Additionally, he and Airbus Americas spokesman Clay McConnell touted the benefits of being based next to Dulles, where they said incoming and outgoing flights will have a view of their logos.

EADS is to keep a handful of employees in Rosslyn, particularly those in marketing and government relations who benefit from being close to the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. But O’Keefe said a larger portion of the local employees now work in areas such as program and contract management, which doesn’t require that kind of proximity.

The company has been able to get out of its lease at 1616 Ft. Myer, which had another year remaining, and is still in negotiations over its lease at 1100 Wilson, which has two years remaining.

Terry Holzheimer, director of Arlington economic development, said EADS’ decision was based on its plan to consolidate, rather than a reflection on Arlington.

“Moving in, moving out, moving around is pretty common in most industries,” he said. Arlington still retains a large number of defense contractors, and “I don’t think that’s likely to change.”

Airstrip owner answers (Tungamull, Australia)

The owner of a private airstrip at Tungamull - off Keppel Sands Road - has responded to claims by Rockhampton Regional Council it stepped in to prevent him running a commercial flying operation from his cattle-grazing property.

Businessman Roger Toole was taken to court by the council but maintains that he acted at all times with the knowledge and acquiescence of the planning authority when he built the airstrip, hangars and fuel store.

I AM compelled to respond to the recent media release issued by Rockhampton Regional Council about my airstrip. I need to clarify that I have at all times been open with the council and have endeavoured to address any concerns they may have. I refute any suggestion I acted improperly as I have sought only to do the right thing by the council and the community.

The facts are, I built the airstrip following the receipt of two letters from council telling me that I could do so (dated March and July 2010). Further, the council approved my aviation fuel facility in April, 2011. Council officers had inspected my property and I provided full details of my proposal in writing. To date, the airstrip and its usage remains well within those parameters and I have provided confirmation documentation to RRC. As Judge Rackermann stated in his ruling: "no secret was made of this development and it occurred with the knowledge and acquiescence of the council". His Honour further concluded that usage "...on any view has typically been of the order of only about a handful of flights per week on average".

It is true that I had invited the Cessna 182 Association of Australia, of which I am a member, to fly into my new airstrip for a fundraising event. The fly-ins are held in different locations throughout Australia twice a year. The event was not advertised publicly, however, as soon as I became aware my airstrip may not be lawful, I relocated the fly in. It proceeded at another local airstrip with 21 aircraft and 74 members, raising almost $6000 for local charities, as well as contributing to the local tourist economy.

I have only done what the RRC previously advised and approved. I have been willing and available to meet with RRC and discuss this matter at all times in an effort to resolve the matter, both prior to and since they elected to proceed to court. I have agreed to lodge a development application, the preparation of which is well underway. I am focussed on resolving the matter and have no intention of responding further publicly.

- Roger Toole

Tributes to Warrington teenager Lois Preston killed in hang-glider crash. (UK)

Lois Preston

TRIBUTES were today paid to 16-year-old Warrington girl Lois Preston who died in a hang-glider crash.

Teenager Lois Preston, of Warrington, was taking part in a training flight at an airfield in Derbyshire when the tragic incident happened.

Before the crash Lois had used Twitter to tell friends she was "in a great mood" and things "couldn’t be better".

The incident, in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, was today being investigated by Derbyshire police and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Student Lois was airlifted to hospital 20 miles away but lost her fight for life shortly after she arrived.

Friends of Lois, who passed a hang-gliding qualification earlier this year, described their grief on a Facebook page set up in her memory.

One said: "It came as such a shock to all of us. RIP Lois, you will always be with us watching over us. We all miss you so much."

Earlier this year, three-times world champion Judy Leden, who runs hang-gliding lessons, said: "Lois is showing signs of becoming a talented pilot. This girl is one to watch!"

Lois’s dad Mark and brother Sam were also learning to hang-glide at the centre in Derbyshire.

Sam later wrote on Lois’s Facebook page: "I miss you so much it kills me. I hope you know although I didn’t say it much that I love you and I am extremely proud of you and all your accomplishments.

"You are the best sister a brother could ask for."

An AAIB spokesman said two investigators were working at the scene shortly after the crash on Friday and these investigations continued over the weekend.

She added: "The glider will be taken to AAIB headquarters in Farnborough."

A police spokesman said: "At approximately 1.45pm on Friday, a hang-glider crashed to the ground during a training flight at Darley Moor, Ashbourne.

"Unfortunately the 16-year-old pilot died from her injuries shortly afterwards at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

"Police are working with air accident investigators to determine the cause of this tragedy."

The crash happened at an airfield operated by Airways Airsports.

A member of staff for the company said: "Nobody here is commenting on the incident because it is still under investigation by the police."

According to reports, a police source said it was unclear what happened "but she seems to have got into some difficulty and fallen from about 50ft".

Video: 2011 Air Service Luncheon Featuring Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineer and Airline Expert Bill Swelbar.

by Fly FWA on Oct 27, 2011

Last month, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority and The Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce welcomed MIT Engineer and airline expert Bill Swelbar to the Annual Air Service Luncheon. Swelbar's presentation focuses on issues such as airline labor cost restructuring, regulatory issues governing air transport, communication strategy and support, and air service development on behalf of airports and communities. This video summarizes Swelbar's presentation, including presentation slides and contact information. (For more information on Swelbar, visit his blog,

Era Aviation Eurocopter AS350 Wreckage Found, Near Iliamna - Alaska.

An Era Aviation helicopter’s wreckage has been found near Iliamna, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The chopper was reported missing en route to Iliamna Saturday night.

NTSB investigator Clint Johnson says the wreckage was discovered six to eight miles southwest of Iliamna shortly after noon Sunday.

Era reported that the helicopter’s only occupant was a pilot, who has not been found.

Johnson says Alaska State Troopers are responding to the scene.

Al Bateen Executive Airport is flying high. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi's airport for private jets recorded soaring numbers of business executives touching down in the past three months.

Al Bateen Executive Airport reported that it experienced a 12 per cent increase in flights in the third quarter of this year, and officials expect demand to remain high for the rest of the year.

"Our whole year will be slightly higher than 12 per cent because it includes part of our quiet period over the summer," said Steve Jones, the general manager of the airport.

"We will see a very busy period now that will stretch right through to next May."

The airport recorded a 42 per cent increase in visiting flights in the third quarter compared with the same period last year.

The airport handled 1,903 commercial flights in the period between July and last month this year, which Mr Jones says was driven by an increase in the quality of service and facilities at the airfield.

"The airport's strategic location, providing businessmen with access to the central business district of the city, is one of the key strengths of this facility," he said. Boosted by the Formula One race, Al Bateen expects next month to be its busiest of the year as celebrities, businessmen and government officials fly in for the event.

"The airport will offer free landing and parking to all visiting VIP aircraft using the executive terminal over the Formula One period," said Mr Jones.

Visitors can move from their aircraft through immigration and to waiting cars in just 10 minutes, a convenience that has helped Al Bateen lure traffic from the international airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Mr Jones said.

"Dubai has a very large business aviation population, but it's very difficult now because the capacity there is crowded by the main carriers," he said.

Al Bateen this year added its fifth operator, Rotana Jet, which launched operations with a Gulfstream G450 jet this year.

Al Bateen is among five civil airports in the emirate. The others are Abu Dhabi International, Al Ain International, Sir Bani Yas and Delma Island airports.

Beech V35 N5938S and Piper PA44 N3062H

NEWBERG, Ore. -- Witnesses told investigators that the twin-engine plane involved in a mid-air collision over Newberg Tuesday appeared to be doing training maneuvers and hit the single-engine plane during a descent.

Witnesses said that the twin-engine plane was doing a series of ascents and descents and it clipped the single-engine plane, according to Capt. Ken Summers with the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office. Witnesses also told KGW that the back end of the smaller plane was sheared off, sending it plummeting to the ground.

Flight instructor Travis Thompson, 31, of Beaverton and Henrik Murer Kalberg, 23, of Hillsboro walked away after crash-landing their plane in a field near Newberg Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

"It is unclear at this time who was in control of the aircraft at the time of the collision" Yamhill County Sheriff Jack Crabtree said.

Steven Watson, 58, of Beaverton, was in the other, smaller plane. He died after his Bonanza single-engine aircraft broke apart and crashed to the ground, authorities said.

"We're dealing with a tragic situation at this point and we're thankful no one on the ground was injured," National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Josh Cawthra said.

Watson was a retired Oregon State Police commander.

“When Steve smiled, he lit up a room,” said Lt. Gregg Hastings with Oregon State Police.

Investigators said the mid-air collision happened in an area not under formal air traffic control and the pilots were flying by visual flight rules.

The PDX Air Traffic Control Tower picked up one of the first radio transmissions that alerted of the crash. "Portland approach, Portland approach, there has been a mid-air collision," the caller said.  "Oh God, it's northeast of Aurora. Just north of the river, a collision. One airplane is still flying. One airplane is smoke on the ground."

"The plane in Yamhill County is absolutely, totally destroyed.  It’s just a burned patch in the woods,” Summers said. He said Watson's plane hit the ground just off Wilsonville Road.

Initially, investigators thought more people may have been on board Watson's plane but NTSB said Wednesday that there was only one confirmed fatality.

Witnesses reported an explosion and a huge column of thick, black smoke just after 4 p.m., Tuesday on a tree farm located at 35150 Wilsonville Road. Others reported seeing a plane spiraling to the ground and debris flying into Champoeg State Park.

"I heard this terrible noise in the sky and I looked up and the whole back end of the one-engine airplane had been sheared off,” said witness Diane Sitton.

The National Transportation Safety Board scoured the debris field, which was several miles wide. A large piece of the fuselage fell just south of the Willamette River, a seat from one of the planes fell into the park campground and debris also hit a pickup truck owned by a couple from Sherwood.

NTSB said it could take months for them to complete their investigation which will include interviews with the two survivors, analyzing the debris, studying radar images, and tracking the pilots' actions through the black boxes from their planes.

Watson had taken off from a small airport in McMinnville. The twin-engine plane had taken off from the Hillsboro Airport. Authorities have not said where either of the pilots were en route to.

Investigators said when pilots are flying by visual flight rules and doing training maneuvers, it is the responsibility of the pilot performing the maneuvers to make sure the area is clear.

Champoeg State Park was originally closed, but has been re-opened. About 50 people were camping near where the debris landed but no one was hurt. They were all evacuated after the crash. Wilsonville Road was reopened to all traffic Wednesday evening.

"In the great expansive sky it's hard to imagine two planes would try to occupy the same spot and come together like that," said Summers.  "Fortunately it's extremely rare, but it happened today."

VIDEO: Seaplanes Retrace Classic Race

To mark the 80th anniversary of Britain's victory in the Schneider Trophy race, seaplanes are set to follow the original route over the Solent on Wednesday.

Airlines PNG resume operation

11:34 am GMT+12, 28/10/2011, Papua New Guinea

The grounded Airlines PNG Dash 8 aircraft have been allowed to return to operations today but under strict scrutiny.

Civil Aviation Minister Puri Ruing said the decision to allow the planes back in the air was made in consultation with the aircraft manufacturer and the Accident Investigation Commission.

Ruing said the Dash 8's returning to service will be in a progressive manner over the next two weeks, and has some imposed conditions pertaining to operational procedures and training.

An airworthiness directive has also been given to all Dash 8 series of 100, 200 and 300 aircraft operating in the country for frequent inspections and tests on the propeller governor and power lever systems.

Minister Ruing said these are immediate steps taken in the interest of aviation safety in PNG, however, further safety action maybe required as more information becomes available.

He says Civil Aviation Authority assisted by Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia will continue to monitor the safety performance of Airlines P-N-G through Audits and Surveillance, and if any issues, appropriate actions will be taken to ensure it is address.

Meanwhile, investigations into the Madang plane crash is continuing, however, early indications are that the crash may have been caused by mechanical fault, causing power failure in both engines of the aircraft, leaving the pilot with no alternatives but to attempt an emergency landing, resulting in the death of 29 passengers.

Airport to propose 16-bay hangar. Addition could be boost for economic development. Folsom Field Airport (3A1), Cullman, Alabama.

VINEMONT — Bob Burns currently oversees one of the largest small airports in the state.

That status could be rising in the near future, too.

Cullman Regional Airport is in the early stages of expanding its hangar space. Airport officials are currently in the process of gathering engineering specifics about the possible construction of a new 16-bay T-hangar at Folsom Field.

Burns said he hopes to take that information to the Cullman City Council and the Cullman County Commission in two to three weeks so the bidding process can begin.

“We’ve been having discussions about adding a new hangar for about two to three months now,” Burns said. “One of the criteria that had to be reached was that we had to find 16 people locked in for the lease of these bays.

“We were able to do that, and once we get this new hangar, that would put us at more than 100 planes here at the airport.”

Burns said the construction of a new 16-bay T-hangar will cost approximately $500,000, with the state footing half of the bill through grant money.

The airport built a similar hangar in 2007.

According to Burns, continuing to upgrade airport facilities helps the community through industrial growth.

“Most of the planes that come through here are tied to industry,” Burns said. “We have a couple of local companies that are flying in and out of here on a daily basis.”

Dale Greer, assistant director with the Cullman Economic Development Agency, agreed that Cullman Regional Airport is an asset to industrial growth in the area.

“Having an airport right here in the community is an excellent platform for us when we’re bringing in prospective businesses,” Greer said.

According to Burns, there are currently eight corporate hangars located at Cullman Regional Airport.

Counting “touch-and-goes,” approximately 50-60 aircraft use Cullman Regional Airport on a daily basis. That includes planes being used by Wallace State for its aviation classes.

Garuda Freezes Foreign Pilot Hires

Garuda Indonesia plans to only use Indonesian pilots in the future, following a strike by workers in July over the large pay disparity between local and foreign workers at the company.

The airline also announced that it would bring the salaries of local pilots in line with the average salary for pilots in Southeast Asia and allow them to retire at 56 instead of 60 years old, a key demand of the workers.

“A meeting between the company’s management and the Garuda Pilot Association concluded three things, among them that the company agreed not to employ foreign pilots anymore. The company will not extend contract of foreign pilots,” said Elisa Lumbantoruan, Garuda’s finance director.

“While there are no changes in the career system, we will adjust the benefits at each level compared with other regional airlines,” he said.

“Pilots can opt to retire at the age of 56 and enjoy pension benefits, or 60 with even better benefits,” he said without providing further details.

In July, about 650 local pilots from the Garuda Pilots Union (APG) launched a 24-hour strike over wage inequality between Indonesian and foreign pilots.

According to the APG, foreign pilots earn $7,200 a month, including housing benefits, compared to $5,000 for Indonesians.

The strike caused some delayed flights and three cancellations, but the strike was called off when then State Enterprises Minister Mustafa Abubakar intervened and convinced the union to resume negotiations with the airline’s management.

In August, 23 new cadet pilots were hired to replace the 34 foreign pilots whose one-year contracts come to an end at the end of the year.

In 2010, Garuda hired the foreign pilots on fixed-term contracts to make up for being severely understaffed following a massive expansion at the airline. It bought 24 new planes but did not have enough local pilots to fly them.

Garuda has 897 permanent pilots and is looking to hire another 200 entry-level pilots.

The strike had no effect on Garuda’s third quarter performance and with the problem solved, Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar said the airline was set to post strong growth for the rest of the year.

Garuda posted a 40 percent increase in revenue to Rp 6.9 trillion ($787 million) between July and September.

Garuda’s net profit in the third quarter alone was Rp 474 billion, a major turnaround from 2010, when the company made a net loss of Rp 128 billion in the same period.

“Our expansion is starting to pay off. Traffic is increasing and the fuel price is decreasing. Looking ahead, with new fleets, we can increase fuel efficiency,” Emirsyah said.

Emirsyah said that in the third quarter Garuda flew 4.5 million passengers, 29 percent more than the same period last year.

“Garuda’s domestic market share increased to 31 percent from 26 percent, but its international market share dropped slightly to 23 percent from 24 percent because we did not add more international flights,” he said.

Emirsyah said that he was expecting a stronger fourth quarter due to the increased capacity the new planes offer, decreasing fuel prices, and increased travel due to the hajj pilgrimage.

“We just received a Boeing 737-800NG in October. And in November we will be expecting an Airbus 330-200 that will make our Shanghai route a daily route. And in December, we will be having three new Boeing 737-800NG to replace our classic airplanes,” he added.

The airline is looking to buy 65 new planes and has said it will try to have an average aircraft age of five years to boost safety and efficiency.

Australian tourism industry on official red alert

"It is clear that the tourism industry is being gravely (affected)," Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said. Source: The Australian

THE tourism industry has been put on an official red alert as the cost of Qantas's grounding hit an estimated $80 million for the weekend.

And the damage bill from continued paralysis could hit $150 million a day.

A meeting of tourism chiefs triggered a red alert for the first time.

Government tourism organisations will increase their efforts to help travellers stranded at home and overseas.

"It is clear that the tourism industry is being gravely (affected)," Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said.

John Lee, the head of the Transport and Tourism Forum, said that until the weekend, the impact of the Qantas dispute on the tourism and hospitality industries had been limited to about $40 million.

But now there were fears for tens of thousands of jobs in tourism and hospitality as domestic and international holiday travel plans were cancelled en masse.

First to feel the impact would be the 60,000 interstate and international visitors to the Spring Carnival.

Last year's Melbourne Cup Carnival generated $160 million for the Victorian economy. More than half of visitors flew in on Qantas.

Other major events that could be affected include the Presidents Cup golf - which could generate upwards of $30 million - from November 14-20; musical Love Never Dies at the Regent Theatre; and the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Melbourne Museum.

"There're no winners in this. We need Qantas to fly," Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee also expressed deep fears about the damage to Australia's reputation overseas if the dispute continued, not just among tourists but also among potential investors.

"There will be bigger questions about the reliability of our economy, and of productivity, if we can't get this resolved quickly," he said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also warned of direct and indirect costs of hundreds of millions of dollars if Qantas did not get back in the skies.

"Thousands of businesses have no control over this dispute but they will be dragged to the forefront of it. Public interest considerations are paramount," said CEO Peter Anderson.

Qantas blames stressed crew for grounding

QANTAS has blamed tired and stressed pilots for its decision to ground its aircraft and leave 68,000 passengers in limbo.

Qantas head of operations Lyell Strambi told a packed and tense Fair Work Australia hearing last night the airline feared the stress of facing a lockout would distract and tire pilots, threatening passenger safety.

He said once "the genie is out of the bottle" and chief executive Alan Joyce decided on a lock-out on Saturday, grounding all 447 flights across Australia and the world was the next move.

He agreed with lawyers for the pilots union he was not a trained psychologist "but as holder of the AOC (Airline Operators Certificate) I have an accountability and responsibility in ensuring the safety of flights".

The airline last night denied it also had concerns about potential sabotage to aircraft from licenced engineers or ground workers.

But industry sources said Qantas had notified the Civil Aviation Safety Authority aircraft could be vandalised to stop them leaving the tarmac, although not in a way to threaten an airborne incident.

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, the Australian and International Pilots Association and the Transport Workers Union claimed Qantas had premeditated the lockout of employees before it was announced on Saturday, which the airline denied.

Last night Virgin Australia said it had added an extra 3000 seats to try to help Qantas passengers, and was looking to use Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand aircraft on key domestic routes.

It has 140,000 seats for sale over the next week.

Jetstar, which is unaffected, said it only had room for 1500 Qantas passengers.

Yesterday Mr Joyce said he would prefer Fair Work Australia terminate all industrial action - including the company's lock-out and any further strikes by licenced engineers and trasnport workers - to give Qantas certainty so that talks could continue.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard demanded an end to the Qantas dispute, which embarrassed her during CHOGM in Perth.

Ms Gillard was forced to interrupt the meeting to personally brief foreign leaders, with 17 heads of government due to leave of Australia on Qantas.

"I understand most leaders have found alternative arrangements but we are continuing to work with leaders to ensure that everyone can get where they need to go next," Ms Gillard said.

"I say to Qantas and to the trade unions involved ... I believe that Australians want to see this dispute settled. I want to see it settled.

"We are seeking an end to the industrial action."

Agents and private charters fly to rescue of corporate clients. (Australia)

Company executives and directors have been hastily rebooked onto other airlines and charter flights to minimise the disruption caused by Qantas's drastic industrial relations manoeuvre.

At least one corporate travel agency invoked emergency procedures and charter flights have been booked out since Saturday evening.

Voyager Corporate Travel, which specialises in travel for senior executives, invoked emergency processes as soon as it became aware flights were grounded on Saturday afternoon, the group's chief executive, Richard Savva, said.

About 70 Voyager staff were called into work to contact and immediately rebook 700 clients. If the lock-out continues until tomorrow, Voyager will have to find new flights for about 1200 customers, Mr Savva said.

''There was no pre-warning given by Qantas to anyone within the industry. The problem for corporate Australia is the uncertainty,'' he said.

''This uncertainty has been ongoing … and it is now a situation of whether or not we are going to be able to give the travellers who book on Qantas the confidence they are going to take off … and arrive on time.''

About half of Voyager's corporate customers sympathised with the position of the Qantas chief, Alan Joyce, but the rest were ''disappointed and also annoyed'' with Qantas's handling of the dispute, Mr Savva said.

Qantas confirmed that shops within its domestic terminals had been given permission to close if individual owners decided it was unprofitable to remain open for Jetstar and QantasLink customers.

Meanwhile, a BHP spokeswoman, Fiona Martin, said there would be some impact on the fresh shift of fly-in, fly-out staff, but that it would use charter services where possible.

Rio Tinto is believed to use several airlines to fly staff to mining sites, including QantasLink, which was unaffected by the grounding.

The Melbourne private charter company Australasian Jet said it had had inquiries about flights to Darwin, Perth and Alice Springs.

''We have had lots of inquiries. We have actually had aircraft going backwards and forwards between Sydney and Melbourne all day,'' Paul Swayer, the group general manager, said.

The owner of Executive Airlines, Geoffrey Hardinge, said his business would benefit the longer Qantas's dispute continues. ''All of our planes are busy,'' he said.

Charter flights had run to Perth, Brisbane and New Zealand, and business clients were still booking flights for this week because ''they can't rely on Qantas'', Mr Hardinge said.

South Dakota: Helipad opponents get chopper demonstration. (With Video)

The air over Silver Mountain Road near Rockerville was filled with the sound of helicopters Saturday morning -- a sound a local businessman wants to bring to the area but one some local residents fiercely oppose.

Michael Jacob, owner of Black Hills Aerial Adventures, hopes to build a helipad alongside U.S. Highway 16 just west of Rockerville, to operate helicopter tours of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. After an attempt to get county permission failed earlier this year, Jacob is trying again -- and trying to mollify the opposition of local landowners.

"I am willing to make concessions," Jacob told a meeting of residents Saturday. "We attempt to mitigate as much of the inconvenience as we can."

Residents gathered at the proposed heliport location to watch as Jacob's pilots took off and landed several times. Nearby landowner Chuck McLain and several others opposed to the project remarked on how loud the choppers were -- one of several aspects of the proposal they object to.

"Should it pass, it's going to change the way of life for this neighborhood forever," McLain said.

Two other concerns include lowered property values and safety -- particularly on Highway 16, where residents fear the traffic and distractions of a busy heliport will lead to more accidents.

Jacob, who has operated a helipad near Custer for several decades, said his experience suggested residents' concerns were overblown.

"A lot of the things you are saying are valid questions -- but a lot of the things you're concerned about have been disproved based on what we've already done in the last 20 years," Jacob said.

None of the landowners were swayed Saturday by Jacob's assurances. But he has started to make headway with some county officials who opposed his previous attempt.

Charlie Johnson, chairman of the county planning commission, said he was in a "softer position" than his previous opposition. Getting additional information from the South Dakota Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, Johnson said, satisfied some of his prior concerns.

"You have to look at everyone's rights on these issues if you sit on the planning commission," Johnson said. "It's not emotion. It's what's the appropriate thing to do according to what ordinances are in place."

Nearby residents told Jacob and county officials that they want more time to study reports from the county, the FAA and the state DOT. Jacob said he has got some flexibility but can't wait too long because his agreement to purchase the land in question might run out.

Jacob currently operates a helipad in Keystone, where he said he is operating on a year-to-year lease and is being sued by several property owners there.

"I would personally prefer to stay in Keystone," he told the Rockerville-area landowners.

Local resident Ross Niemann suggested Jacob look at moving his helipad a few miles further away into a commercial area, rather than one surrounded by homes, like the Silver Mountain Road region.

Jacob said he had considered that idea and it wouldn't work. The extra miles of flight to the Black Hills would force him to raise his rates by $50 to $100 per flight, which he said would price his flights out of the budgets of many tourist families.

He offered his own compromises, saying he would be willing to move his flight path to accommodate concerns, and to plant a stand of trees to help block some of the noise from the closest property owner.

But after more than two hours of discussion and demonstrations Saturday, neither side was willing to give.

Jacob's request for a permit to build his heliport is currently before the planning commission, which is scheduled to consider it on Nov. 14.

Read more, photos and video:

Kinston-built aircraft parts to be shipped aboard mammoth cargo plane. Kinston Regional Jetport.

KINSTON — Officials with Spirit AeroSystems are launching a major shipment from Kinston aboard what has been described as the world’s largest cargo aircraft.

Executives with the Wichita, Kan.-based aircraft component manufacturer — which operates manufacturing plants around the world, including at the N.C. Global TransPark in Kinston — expected Kinston-built fuselage panels to depart on the Antonov An-124 cargo jet this weekend.

The Russian-built jet landed Thursday at the Kinston Regional JetPort, and became the subject of local curiosity.

“There have been some people in and out all day long, just trying to get a glimpse of it, because it is a really big plane and it’s not something you see here very often, so people are curious about it,” GTP spokeswoman Alanna King said Friday.

According to the website, the four-engine aircraft is 226 feet long, 68 feet high and has a wingspan of 240 feet. It can carry up to 330,000 pounds of cargo.

It was initially designed to be a military transport jet to rival the U.S. military’s C-5 transporter. The first prototype flew in 1982.

“The uniquely capable Antonov An-124 is the world's largest production cargo aircraft, yet it was only built in small numbers due to the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s,” according to the website “Today this unique aircraft is the star performer of the international heavy-lift cargo market and is in such high demand that series-production is being resumed.”

King said the An-124 is the type of aircraft the Kinston airport’s long runway was designed for — at 11,500 feet, it is the longest airport runway on the East Coast.

The An-124 needs 3,000 meters, or about 9,800 feet, of runway to land safely.

“The runway was extended twice specially to accommodate the largest cargo jets in the world, fully loaded,” King said.

Officials with Spirit were not able to immediately give details on the shipment as of Friday, since preparations were still being made, but the company builds fuselage and wing components for the Airbus A350 XWB passenger aircraft at its Kinston plant. From Kinston, they are shipped to Spirit and Airbus facilities in Europe for final assembly.

Airport manager Al Peterson fired by commission: Nantucket Memorial (KACK) Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Nantucket Memorial Airport manager Al Peterson, the most highly-compensated town employee and perhaps the most controversial, was fired Tuesday by the Airport Commission after months of acrimony at the island transportation hub.

An ongoing state investigation led by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office into airport procurement practices had already prompted the resignation of longtime Airport Commission chairman Foley Vaughan last month, and was likely the catalyst behind Peterson’s dismissal on Tuesday.

But when the five members of the Airport Commission emerged from a closed-door executive session Tuesday night, they offered no explanation of their decision to cut ties with Peterson, who had served as airport manager since 2004.

“We’d like to announce that the commission has come to an agreement with Mr. Peterson that provides he will be terminated without cause, effective Friday, Oct. 28th,” chairman Dan Drake said. “I’m delighted that we have reached an agreement. It’s in everyone’s best interests.”

The terms of Peterson’s firing were not disclosed, and Airport Commission members would not reveal the details of a severance package that was approved during the executive session.

Peterson now has three weeks to decide whether to sign the severance agreement, Drake said.

Under the terms of Peterson’s current contract–the validity of which has been questioned–a termination without cause entitles him to severance pay equal to six months worth of salary and benefits. Under that calculation, Peterson would receive roughly $88,000 for half-a-year’s worth of his current salary, housing stipend, longevity pay and deferred compensation.

Jeff Marks, the current airfield supervisor, will serve as the interim airport manager while the search for Peterson’s successor gets underway.

On Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the meeting, Peterson was holding a shovel along with the five members of the Airport Commission during a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction of the airport’s new $3.8 million general aviation and administration building. By Tuesday night, Peterson was walking out of his final Airport Commission meeting as manager, receiving hugs and well-wishes from some airport employees and supporters.

Peterson, 73, leaves behind a legacy of vast infrastructure improvements at the second-busiest airport in Massachusetts, including a new $29 million terminal, completed in 2009, as well as the new rescue and firefighting building. But his tenure will also be remembered for a series of questionable financial and management practices that put a spotlight on him and the municipal enterprise fund he managed.

Friends and associates believed Peterson was a skilled and talented manager who guided the airport into the 21st century, while his critics saw arrogance, greed, disregard for the rules and a presumption of autonomy from municipal oversight.

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