Monday, December 12, 2011

American Airlines pilot not smiling after Baldwin 'Saturday Night Live' spoof

An American Airlines pilot isn’t smiling after Alec Baldwin’s surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend.

“I was disappointed that it was making light of something that’s fairly serious and also was poking fun at a group of employees that are very proud and a historic airline who are going through a tough period right now,” said Steve Roach, a real American Airlines pilot.

During SNL’s “Weekend Update,” Baldwin was introduced as Captain Steve Rogers, and appeared in a pilot’s uniform, mustache and speaking with a southern accent.


http://overheadbin.msnbc.msn.com

San Diego family who lost 4 sues over jet crash

In this Dec. 8, 2008 file photo, smoke rises from a fire after an F-18 military jet crashed into a suburban neighborhood in San Diego. A Korean family that lost four members when the jet crashed into their home is suing the U.S. government for compensation for an accident that the Marine Corps has acknowledged was caused by a mechanical failure and a string of errors
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

A Korean family that lost four members when a military jet crashed into their San Diego home in 2008 is suing the U.S. government for compensation for an accident that the Marine Corps has acknowledged was caused by a mechanical failure and a string of errors.

A federal judge on Monday will preside over the two-day nonjury trial to determine whether the government should pay the family and how much for the deaths of two children, their mother and their grandmother.

The Marine Corps has said the plane suffered a mechanical failure but that a series of bad decisions led the pilot — a student — to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed on Dec. 8, 2008.
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The pilot ejected himself and told investigators he screamed in horror as he watched the jet plow into the San Diego neighborhood, incinerating two homes.

Don Yoon lost his 36-year-old wife, 15-month-old daughter; 2-month-old daughter; and his mother-in-law. He and his father-in-law are plaintiffs in the case.

"The United States has admitted responsibility for the crash," said lawyer Kevin Boyle, who is representing the plaintiffs. "Now what they're fighting is the amount of money they need to pay."

Boyle said he will point out the "metaphysical loss of losing a daughter, a wife, a mother." He has filed court documents pointing out other cases in which families have received millions of dollars from the government for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.

Boyle declined to say how much money the family is seeking, saying it will come out during the trial.

http://www.sfgate.com

French Prime Minister Says Dassault Won’t Stop Rafale Production

Dassault Aviation SA (AM) will continue the production of its Rafale fighter jets and maintain its industrial “skills,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said today in a speech.

“The extraordinary capacities of the Rafale have been demonstrated in the war in Libya,” Fillon said in a speech on the air base of Saint-Dizier in eastern France. ”France will in no circumstances renounce” the engineering and industrial competences developed by Dassault, he said, according to a copy of the speech e-mailed by his office.

He added that France is still seeking to sell the jets to India, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil.

Fillon’s comments follow Defense Minister Gerard Longuet’s remarks in Le Monde daily on Dec. 7 when he said that unless the jet finds a buyer abroad, the government will quit funding its production, effectively killing the program.

Over the last decade, Dassault has consistently lost out in competitions in countries including Singapore, South Korea, Morocco, and last week, Switzerland. Although it has been producing a plane a month for the French military, without export orders to help pay the cost of production, its funding burden falls entirely on France.

Gun in carry-on accidentally fired. Hartsfield - Jackson International Airport (KATL), Atlanta, Georgia.

(CNN) -- Some travelers sleepily making their way through airport security in Atlanta Sunday morning got a startling wake up. A gun detected in a carry-on at a checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was accidentally fired by an investigating officer around 9 a.m. Sunday, according to a police report.

Transportation Security Administration screeners reported the gun to Atlanta police officer N.J. Phillips, officer Phillips wrote in an Atlanta Police Department report. The gun's owner was telling Phillips how to clear the loaded .22 magnum revolver when it was accidentally discharged, Phillips reported. "The weapon was pointed down towards the screening table."

"I was grazed by a pellet fragment on the left side of my face," Phillips wrote. "However, there were no visible injuries."

The gun's owner, Richard Popkin of Kathleen, Georgia, told Phillips he didn't realize the gun was still in his bag, according to the police report. Popkin said he originally intended to pack the bag in his checked luggage, but he removed it because he was concerned about the weight limit for his checked bag, according to the report.

Popkin was arrested and charged with carrying a deadly weapon at a public gathering, according to the police report.

The TSA followed standard procedure in alerting local law enforcement, the agency said in a statement. "TSA also has opened an investigation and has the authority to level a civil penalty when a firearm is brought to a checkpoint."

TSA officers have discovered more than 1,100 firearms at checkpoints this year, the agency said. Firearms are not allowed in carry-on bags or at security checkpoints.

2 arrests after airport break-in. Old Halifax County airport.


William Howard Webb III and Josiah Lee Rice are each charged with breaking and entering, trespassing on airport property and injury to personal property following a break-in last week at the old Halifax County airport.

A break-in last week at the old Halifax County airport led to two arrests, authorities said.

Lt. Neil Aycock, of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, said Sunday that Deputy D.R. Radford responded to a trespassers report at the airport Tuesday.

Aycock said Radford witnessed two subjects running from inside one of the hangars.

“The two subjects ran and jumped into a vehicle parked behind another hangar,” Aycock said.

According to Aycock, a sheriff’s office investigation led to the arrests of Josiah Lee Rice and William Howard Webb III.

Each are charged with breaking and entering, trespassing on airport property and injury to personal property.

Rice and Webb were each given a $5,000 bond with a Jan. 6 court date, Aycock said.

http://www.rrdailyherald.com

Springfield airport surveying about possible western destinations

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport has begun an online survey similar to one taken prior to the start of Dallas-Fort Worth flights early this year -- but this time concentrating on western destinations to Denver and beyond.

Airport executive director Mark Hanna said on Monday the five-question survey at www.flyspi.com would continue through the end of the year.

Questions center on travelers' annual trips to Denver, current airport usage for westbound flights, estimated number of flights to Denver if Springfield service was available and travel habits to destinations west of Denver.

Hanna said there already is plenty of anecdotal evidence and ticket data to suggest a westbound destination would work for Springfield.

“Denver is a huge westbound hub for the airlines,” said Hanna. “When they look at a market, they are looking for destinations beyond the hub.”

United Airlines, Delta, Southwest and Frontier all have major connecting operations in Denver.

The airport also conducted an online survey of possible southbound destinations before American Eagle switched flights in April from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport.

As with the earlier survey, Hanna said results would be shared with prospective carriers. He added that unlike Bloomington-Normal and Peoria — where State Farm and Caterpillar are staples of business travel — Springfield must rely on small and medium-sized companies to help entice additional air service.

“It is very important to demonstrate to airlines what kind of market this is,” said Hanna. “We have such a large base of small and medium-sized businesses, and they do frequently travel.”

Croatia gets single bid for Zagreb airport

Dec 12 (Reuters) - Croatia has received a single complete bid in the second round of a tender to build a terminal at Zagreb airport, the transport and infrastructure ministry said.

"We have successfully completed this second phase of bidding, and an expert commission will now assess the bid and propose (its) decision to the government," senior ministry official Tomislav Mihotic said on Monday.

The bidder for the project, estimated at 190 million euros ($254 million), was a French-based consortium led by Aeroport de Paris. Another bid by Zurich Airport and Austrian group Strabag was likely to be rejected as incomplete, Mihotic said.

There were 10 bidders in the preliminary round six months ago.

The tender is for the building of a new terminal and a 30-year concession for operating both future terminals at Croatia's biggest airport, a major hub for holidaymakers heading for the Adriatic coast.

Tourism accounts for almost a fifth of the European Union candidate's gross domestic product, with 2.2 million passengers passing through Zagreb airport each year. The goal is to increase that to around five million.

A special commission will now assess the bid and the government has to make decision within 100 days. The final decision will be taken by the new centre-left government which ousted the conservative coalition in polls earlier this month.

Among initial requirements from the bidders were that they were not allowed to own an airline, must not depend on state financing, and cannot have ownership of another airport within 400 kilometres of Zagreb. They also had to have experience running an airport with more than 10 million passengers in the past three years. ($1 = 0.7482 euro) 

General Civil Aviation Authority hosts third Gulf Cooperation Council meeting on Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft

Dubai, UAE: The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) hosted the Third Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting at the GCAA office in Dubai, UAE. GCC Member states from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman attended the meeting on Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) and discussed the establishment of a unified GCC SAFA program.

HE Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director General of GCAA, stated the importance of cooperation between the Gulf States on the field of aviation safety because of the common interests and the expected benefits as he indicated the concerns of foreign operators who are not meeting the international standards and the transfer of risks from one state to another in case of exclusion by one of the member states.

Al Suwaidi also emphasized on the value of exchange of information and utilizing of available expertise for the program to implement the international standards in order to meet the set goals.

Within the framework of the team force, a number of processes were agreed upon to establish and activate the unified GCC SAFA program, including establishment of a mechanism to exchange information related to suspension of foreign aircraft by one member state to the other member states.

It was also agreed during the meeting to appoint a permanent coordinator for the GCC SAFA program by each member state and a unified check list and inspection procedures in order to facilitate the future development of electronic information exchange via database repository.

NTSB to remove Vegas helicopter wreckage by air

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Federal crash investigators plan to airlift large pieces of charred wreckage from a remote canyon near Lake Mead as they wind up their on-site probe of a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter crash that killed five people.

National Transportation Safety Board Member Mark Rosekind told reporters on Saturday that he and several other NTSB officials planned to leave Las Vegas on Sunday, but Chief Investigator Bill English planned to remain at the site until wreckage of the AS-350BS is removed on Monday.

The pilot and couples from Kansas and India died when the aircraft operated by Sundance Helicopters of Las Vegas crashed Wednesday.

The NTSB is scheduled to release a preliminary report on the crash by Dec. 20, but a final report could take up to a year.

Punta Gorda air traffic up 70%

PUNTA GORDA — Passenger traffic through Punta Gorda Airport is up 70% over the year through November, according to data released by the Charlotte County Airport Authority.

After 11 months, 255,948 passengers have boarded or deplaned at Punta Gorda Airport, data show. At the same time last year, 150,660 passengers had done so.

Further, the airport maintains an outside shot at eclipsing the 300,000 passenger mark by year’s end. December tends to be a busy month for the airport, with nearly 32,000 passengers boarded and deplaned in the last month of 2010. The airport would need December traffic to grow roughly 40% over the year to reach 300,000.

Punta Gorda Airport is trafficked by three airlines: Direct Air, Allegiant, and Vision.

Raw video of Parañaque plane crash (December 10, 2011) Beechcraft Queen Air. Philippines.

by GMA News on Dec 11, 2011

YouScooper Mardy Sultia submitted to GMA News this chilling video of the plane that crashed in a Parañaque City subdivision last Saturday (December 10, 2011), killing 14 people including children.

Iran ready to clone US drone

Iran is set to produce its own drones modeled on a US spy craft intercepted over its territory. Experts are at the final stages of decoding the US RQ-170 Sentinel drone and are to copy it using reverse engineering technology.

Iranian lawmaker Parviz Sorouri, a member of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said the country has the capability to reproduce the drone, Iranian TV reports.

If Iran successfully reverse-engineers the drone it will get access to high-tech secrets such as the chemical composition of the device’s radar-deflecting paint or its sophisticated optics.

Also, if the experts are able to hack the drone’s database, they might recover data the US would not want revealed. However, such drones usually do not store much data and if they do, it is encrypted.

Sorouri said that the information from the seized drone would be used to file a law suit against the US for the “invasion” by the unmanned aircraft.

On December 4, the Iranian military reported they had shot down a US reconnaissance drone aircraft in eastern Iran after a border incursion.

The US first denied the report, but then admitted that they had lost a connection with one of its drone aircraft in the region.

Although Washington claimed the drone had crashed and was beyond repair, citing satellite imagery, Tehran asserted that the craft was in perfect shape. Iranian TV even broadcast footage of the drone on Thursday.

The craft was identified as an RQ-170 Sentinel drone, a model which the US Air Force have been operating for years. While the USAF have not revealed the design or capabilities of this model, many believe it to be a stealth aircraft possessing surveillance technologies.

Later, Iran announced it was not going to return the aircraft, which it claims belongs to the CIA. Iran has also addressed the United Nations, asking it to condemn the US incursion into Iranian airspace, calling it a “hostile act.”

http://rt.com/news

Government constitutes body to probe on deadly plane crash. Beechcraft Queen Air. Parañaque City, Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The government has constituted a body to investigate the plane crash on Saturday that killed 14 people, senior government official said today.

Citing a report of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general Ramon Gutierrez, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Mar Roxas said that the Aircraft Accident Investigation Inquiry Board (AAIIB) headed by Captain Amado Soliven Jr. was constituted.

"The panel will investigate why and how the Beechcraft Queen Air (RPC-834) eight-seater light plane plunged into the shanty town in Paranaque City, exploding on impact, and causing a fire that gutted a 2,000-square-meter section of the slum area," he said.

The CAAP reported that it had retrieved and secured the engines of the plane. CAAP investigators, with the assistance of the authorized repair station of the engine manufacturer, are currently breaking down the engines to determine if a mechanical malfunction had occurred.

The CAAP had commandeered the aircraft record and logbooks, as well as summary records of the training experience of the crew.

The twin engine Queen Air cargo aircraft crashed at a residential area in Taiwan Street, Don Bosco, Better Living Subdivision of Paranaque City shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The plane was bound for San Jose, Occidental Mindoro when it crashed.

http://www.philstar.com

Probe sought on Parañaque plane crash

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II yesterday met officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and ordered a thorough investigation of the light aircraft incident that left 14 people dead last Saturday.

Roxas ordered CAAP officials, led by its director general, retired Air Force colonel Ramon Gutierrez, to ascertain the liability of the owner of the light plane and effect a speedy, seven-day timeline for the submission of the investigation report.

Gutierrez reported that he has constituted the Aircraft Accident Investigation Inquiry Board (AAIIB) headed by Capt. Amado Soliman Jr. to lead the panel that will investigate the crash of the Beechcraft Queen Air eight-seater light plane (with registry number RPC-834) in Parañaque City, which exploded on impact and caused a fire that gutted a 2,000-square-meter section of the slum area.

He also informed Roxas that the ill-fated aircraft submitted an official flight plan to the CAAP hours before the flight under the registry of Aviation Technologies Innovators, Inc., a repair station/maintenance and hangar provider.

But CAAP investigators revealed that the plane had a certificate of registration under one Capt. Fidel Hembrador, a private operator, who reportedly leased ATI for the repair, maintenance and hangar parking services for the plane.

Hembrador has yet to surface following the incident last Saturday.

The CAAP reported that it had retrieved and secured the engines of the plane.

CAAP investigators, with the assistance of the authorized repair station of the engine manufacturer (LYCOMING), are currently breaking down the engines to determine if a mechanical malfunction had occurred.

The CAAP had also secured the aircraft record and logbooks, as well as summary records of the training experience of the crew.  



Jet Airways plane makes emergency landing

A Jet Airways flight, with over 50 passengers on board, made an emergency landing on Monday, less than an hour after take-off from the NSCB International airport in Kolkata.

Airport sources said the Bhubaneswar-bound Jet flight, which took off from the airport at 6.20 p.m., came back at around 7.10 p.m. after the pilot informed the ATC that the plane’s smoke alarm went off when it was mid-air.

Though crew members could not detect any smoke or fire within the aircraft despite a thorough check inside after the smoke alarm buzzer went off, they did not take any chance, the sources said.

With all emergency procedures in place, the passengers were evacuated after landing and the aircraft was now being checked by experts.

Arrangements were being made to accommodate the stranded passengers in another Bhubaneswar-bound plane, the sources said.

Czech Airlines (ČSA) seeks broad union talks to end pilots’ dispute.

Management at Czech Airlines (ČSA) called for broad talks with unions on Monday aimed at ending a bitter dispute with pilots

Bosses at Czech national carrier Czech Airlines (ČSA) called for broad talks with unions Monday aimed at ending a dispute with pilots sparked by the spinning off of a third of the aircraft fleet to a charter company.

ČSA management called the meeting with the airline’s main union, the Union of Czech Airlines Aircraft Crews (OOPL), saying other unions could also attend. The meeting is aimed at breaking a deadlock with the pilots following a breakdown in talks with their main association, CZALPA.

CZALPA pilots on Friday offered to cut their wages on condition that management immediately launches a search for a strategic partner and meets other demands related to an increasingly bitter stand-off with management. The pilots say the temporary cut in wages would save Kč 50 million in 2012, buying the struggling carrier more time to try and find a partner.

“The condition for such an agreement would be the immediate search for a strategic investor with the deadline for a sale in 2012, the normal participation of CZALPA in this process, and the immediate stop to transfer of aircraft from the flag carrier and repressive actions against individual employees and their representatives,” CZALPA president Peter Žmolík said in a statement.

Žmolík underlined that ČSA pilots already agreed a 30 percent wage cut when a restructuring program was agreed with management.

Airline management refused the offer, saying that the offer was “virtual” and would interrupt the ongoing restructuring. Recent disruptive e action by airline pilots had already cost the carrier tens of millions, the airline added in a statement.

Miroslav Dvořak, the head of holding company Český Aeroholding, which now manages both ČSA and the state airports company, said on Czech public television on Sunday that there was less than a 50:50 chance of finding a strategic partner for the airline in 2012.

Negotiations were taking place with an unnamed partner but the partner was waiting to see if the results of the ongoing restructuring would bear fruit, he said. Dvořak added that losses for the airline this year could rise to as high as Kč 300 million.

The dispute between CZALPA and ČSA was sparked by the management’s announcement that 11 aircraft, including all of its regional planes, would be transferred to its charter unit Holidays Czech Airlines with around 100 pilots’ jobs at the scheduled carrier being lost as a result. Pilots from the association have maintained a strike alert following an initial stay away from work by pilots with days off and “sickness.”

http://www.ceskapozice.cz

Apache M-TADS/PNVS Team Receives U.S. Secretary of Defense Performance Based Logistics Award

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Aviation, the Apache Program Management Office and Lockheed Martin  recently received the 2011 U.S. Secretary of Defense Performance Based Logistics (PBL) Award for the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor  on the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter.

The team received the sub-system level PBL award, one of three awards given annually to recognize government/industry teams that have demonstrated outstanding achievements in providing warfighters with exceptional operational capability.

"The PBL approach allows our team to strategically attack reliability, maintainability and obsolescence issues in ways that were not previously possible, fundamentally changing the way we operate," said Terri Schwierling, director of the U.S. Army's Integrated Materiel Management Center Apache Sustainment Division. "This approach decreased the average sustainment cost by 57 percent. It is the most fiscally responsible, soldier-friendly tool that we have used to date."

The Apache M-TADS/PNVS PBL program provides efficiencies in supply chain management that have increased reliability and system readiness for the warfighter. This PBL program is a comprehensive sustainment solution that enables outstanding fleet mission capability, improves reliability and maintainability, and reduces sustainment costs using innovative supply concepts.

"Apache Sensors PBL is truly a model for how we can do business; it provides balanced, cost-effective, and timely support to our soldiers in the states and those deployed abroad," said Lt. Col. Steve Van Riper, product manager of U.S. Army Apache Sensors. "The Apache logistics team works hard each day to make the PBL effort a success. I am absolutely thrilled that their accomplishments have been recognized at the Department of the Army level."

"The M-TADS/PNVS PBL program supports over 670 U.S. Army Apache aircraft in 25 battalions worldwide, including multiple forward operating bases," said David Belvin, program director of Apache fire control programs in Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control business. "These critical supportability efforts contribute to the overall mission success of the Apache and the soldier."

M-TADS/PNVS modernizes the U.S. Army's TADS/PNVS, known as the "eyes of the Apache," by upgrading the infrared sensors and associated electronics. It provides Apache pilots the most advanced long-range, electro-optical precision engagement and pilotage capabilities, ensuring safe flight during day, night and adverse-weather missions.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 126,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation's 2010 sales from continuing operations were $45.8 billion.

For additional information, visit our website: http://www.lockheedmartin.com

SOURCE Lockheed Martin


Iran says it's almost done decoding US drone

TEHRAN, Iran—Iranian experts are in the final stages of recovering data from the U.S. surveillance drone captured by the country's armed forces, state TV reported Monday.

Tehran has flaunted the drone's capture as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.

Lawmaker Parviz Sorouri, who is on the parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said Monday the extracted information will be used to file a lawsuit against the United States for the "invasion" by the unmanned aircraft.

Sorouri also claimed that Iran has the capability to reproduce the drone through reverse engineering, but he didn't elaborate.

The TV broadcast a video on Thursday of Iranian military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Iranian state media have said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected and brought down over the country's east, near the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone.

Officers in the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, have claimed the country's armed forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.

American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials spoke anonymously in order to discuss the classified program.

U.S. officials are concerned others may be able to reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the drone's radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft's sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.

They are also worried adversaries may be able to hack into the drone's database, although it is not clear whether any data could be recovered. Some surveillance technologies allow video to stream through to operators on the ground but do not store much collected data. If they do, it is encrypted.

Sorouri racheted up the anti-U.S. rhetoric in Monday's remarks.

"The extracted information will be used to file a lawsuit against the United States over the invasion," he told state TV.

Separately, in comments to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Sorouri said Iran would soon hold a navy drill to practice the closure of the strategic Strait of Hormouz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which is the passageway for about 40 percent of the world's oil tanker traffic.

Despite Sorouri's comments and past threats that Iran could endanger the waterway if the U.S. or Israel moved against Iranian nuclear facilities, no such exercise has been officially announced.

"Iran will make the world unsafe," if the world attacks Iran, Sorouri said.

Both the U.S. and Israel have not rule out military option against Iran's controversial nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are geared toward peaceful purposes like power generation.

Saudi Arabia: Bayanat Airports showcases at Jeddah event

Bayanat Airports, part of the Bayanat Engineering Group, a leader in air traffic management systems, is showcasing its expertise at an ongoing infrastructure event in Jeddah.

The Saudi Infrastructure Forum and Exhibition opened yesterday (December 11) and will run until December 14.

George Hannouche, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Bayanat Airports Engineering and Supplies, said the company was studying having a presence in Saudi Arabia as part of its larger expansion programme in the Middle East.

The Arab world's leading aviation expert said Bayanat Airports has carried out Dh300 million ($81.6 million) worth projects for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah airports in the UAE and Doha (Qatar) airport over the years.

Bayanat Airports’ stand at the forum will have on display models of the projects it completed and those currently under execution in the region.

Hannouche said Saudi Arabia offers tremendous growth opportunities in aviation infrastructure in the coming years given the massive investments in airports expansion.

GCC airports, which, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), are running at an average 92 per cent capacity, while it is 130 per cent in Saudi Arabia, he pointed out.

Jeddah and Madinah airports in the kingdom are the subject of a combined $20 billion facelift up to 2020. By 2014, the first expansion phases should be complete to handle up to 30 million and eight million passengers per year, respectively.

The $7.2 billion expansion and development of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah will raise the airport's annual capacity to 30 million passengers.

There are 26 domestic airports in Saudi Arabia and four international airports and General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) plans to expand and build 28 airports in the next 20 years, a statement said.

Plans are underway by GACA to spend between $10 billion to $15 billion on building, developing and upgrading airports by 2020, in co-operation with private investors.

Jeddah airport is designed to accommodate the world’s largest aircraft, including A380s and increase the airport’s annual capacity to 80 million passengers a year by 2035, according to the statement.

GACA plans to revamp the Madinah airport to increase its passenger handling capacity to 14 million passengers a year. The project could cost a total of $2.4 billion to develop. It will be the first airport project to be developed on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.

Abha Airport project involves a massive expansion which envisages five million passengers per annum. The construction will start in 2012. Expansion of Qurayyat airport, on the Saudi Jordanian border, will be completed end of 2012.

King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh is due for expansion aimed at increasing the airport's annual capacity from 14 to 25 million passengers.

GACA is overhauling several domestic airports, at a cost of $80 million, in Al Wajih, Arar, Al Gurayat, Al Qasim, Hail, Najran, and Taif. Saudi Arabia’s three main international airports in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam are planned to be turned into ‘airport cities’.

http://www.tradearabia.com

Kuwait's Aviation Lease & Finance Co. (Alafco) posts profit jump; leases to VietJet

Kuwait's Aviation Lease & Finance Co (Alafco) posted a near quintupling in net profit to KD47 million ($169.68 million) for the full year ended Sept. 30, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Alafco said that its board has approved a cash dividend of 10 fils per share for the fiscal year.

The Kuwait-based firm posted a full-year net profit of KD10.8 million in 2010.

Alafco has a customer base of 16 airlines globally. Its lease portfolio increased to 48 aircraft during the year as it took delivery of eight new aircraft last year, the company said.

The company placed a $4.6 billion expanded order for 50 Airbus A320neo passenger jets at the Dubai Air Show last month.

It obtained financing facilities worth $313.3 million during the year from local and international banks, Alafco said, without naming the lenders.

The firm also announced that it has leased three of its Airbus A320 aircraft to Vietnam's low-cost carrier VietJet Air.

Alafco will lease the planes to the Vietnamese private airline for 8 years, it said in a statement on the Kuwait Stock Exchange, and the operation will start within three months from the date of delivery.

The planes were released from the services of Kuwait Airways, and the market value of each aircraft is above $40 million, it said. – Reuters

VietJet Air leases first aircraft from Alafco

Vietnamese start-up budget airline VietJet Air has announced it has leased three Airbus A320 from Kuwait-based aircraft leasing company Aviation Lease & Finance Co (Alafco) and that it will start commercial flights from December 25.

The initial route will be between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with subsequent routes to other destinations in Vietnam and Southeast Asia expected to be launched from the middle of 2012 when the last of the A320s is delivered. The carrier is looking at Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan and Korea as future international destinations. It plans to lease or purchase further Airbus A320s on an annual basis between 2012 and 2015.

VietJet Air secured its operating licence in November 2007 but it has only recently formalized its inauguration after four years of negotiating various legal and political obstacles.

http://www.assetfinanceinternational.com

Arua, Uganda: Antonov An-2 with American pilot carrying Uganda Peoples Defence Force officers crashes

 .
By Warom Felix Okello & Tabu Butagira
Monday, December 12 2011 at 16:12

A plane carrying UPDF officers and three whites burst into flames shortly after crash-landing in a remote part of Arua district, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. The military carrier identified by security sources as an Antonov An-2 nosedived shortly after lifting off from Arua Airfield en route to Nzara airfield in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Witnesses say the plane failed to gain altitude after take-off. It hit a tree during the fall and crash-landed on two huts in Ayivuni Sub-county before exploding into flames 5 minutes later, according to our Reporter, Felix Warom, who is at the scene.

None of the affected household members was at home.

Only three of the seven plane occupants, four UPDF officers and 3 foreign nationals, sustained minor injuries. One of the white men, believed to be an American citizen, was piloting the plane when it came down Monday afternoon.

Police fire-fighters, who arrived about 40 minutes after the crash, are trying to put out the embers, but the huts have already gone up in smoke.

UPDF Air Force Spokesman, Cap. Kiconco Tabaro, confirms the incident but says the ill-fated plane does not belong to Ugandan military.

He says: “It is not a UPDF Air Force aircraft and I am not better placed to comment on an asset that does not belong to us.”

Preliminary reports suggest the plane was hired by an American Company and flying in on a yet undefined business. UPDF and their American counterparts are in parts of eastern DRC on the hunt for LRA leader, Joseph Kony, and his fighters.

http://www.monitor.co.ug

Military plane crashes in Arua, no deaths
Publish Date: Dec 12, 2011
By Vision Reporter 

A military plane ‘Dakota’ has burnt to ashes after it crash-landed in Arua district. A military source confirmed to the New Vision that the plane crashed after 3pm in a village called Mingoro, about 8 km from the Arua airfield.

Mingoro is close to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An eye witness said 2 white people were rushed to Arua referral hospital. It is not clear how many were on board but no death has been reported.

Police fire fighters have rushed to the scene.

Army Spokesperson Felix Kulaigye said he was in a meeting and had not been briefed about the accident. 

Kingfisher Airlines: Vijay Mallya meets Central Board of Excise and Customs chief, seeks defreezing of accounts

Debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines' promoter Vijay Mallya today called on CBEC Chairman S K Goel and sought de-freezing of the carrier's bank accounts, a senior Finance Ministry official said.

Last week, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) had frozen 10 accounts of Kingfisher Airlines for allegedly defaulting on service tax it has collected from passengers.

Last week, Goel had said that Kingfisher owed Rs 110 crore towards service tax for April-November period.

Mallya has promised to clear November service tax dues within a day, the Finance Ministry official said.

"Vijay Mallya is seeking to resolve the issue and he will pay November service tax (dues) by tomorrow morning," an official said requesting anonymity.

The November service tax dues are estimated at Rs 10-15 crore.

Coming out after meeting Goel at North Block, Mallya refused to speak to waiting reporters.

Sources said Mallya also assured that the remaining service tax dues of Kingfisher would be cleared by March 31, 2012.

http://www.dnaindia.com

Competition among low-cost carriers drives down airfares

"The low-cost carriers are forcing the traditional airlines to adjust their pricing" ... Webjet's managing director John Guscic.

FIERCE competition between airlines on international routes is giving passengers an early Christmas present in the form of cheaper fares to most destinations than at the same time last year.

The largest online and traditional travel companies say the discounted fares are the main reason people are traveling abroad in record numbers - not the strength of the dollar.

Flight Centre said economy fares for flights to destinations overseas were in most cases less or similar to those on sale this time last year. The cheapest destinations include New Zealand, Britain and Bali.


While economy fares have been at or near historical lows for the past two years, Flight Centre said the significant increase in flights by large Chinese airlines had led to even tougher competition between carriers.

The cheapest business-class fares for return flights to Europe are now less than $4000, compared with between $6000 and $7000 previously.

However, travel companies say the heavy discounting of international fares has not been replicated to the same degree in the domestic market.

While historically low fares are good news for passengers, they leave airlines struggling to make money on international routes in the face of higher fuel bills.

Although fares to the US have risen, they are still below historical averages due to strong competition between Qantas, United Airlines, Virgin Australia and Delta Airlines. The trans-Pacific route has been Qantas's best performer on its international network this year but it is still barely profitable.

Webjet's managing director, John Guscic, said international fares this year had been cheaper than last year because a larger percentage of Australians were travelling on low-cost carriers, forcing established airlines to reduce their ticket prices.

''The cheaper airfares are the continuing driver of Australians travelling overseas rather than the strong Australian dollar,'' he said. ''The low-cost carriers are forcing the traditional airlines to adjust their pricing.''

Mr Guscic said he expected international fares to remain low next year because of the strong competition. In contrast, domestic fares had risen by between 3 per cent and 5 per cent over the past two months.

When it released earnings guidance two weeks ago, Qantas was reasonably bullish about forward bookings. The airline expects yield - a measure of the value of ticket sales - to be 3 per cent to 5 per cent higher in the second half, compared with the same period last financial year.

To ease its exposure to ailing economies in Europe, Qantas will reduce flights on the ''kangaroo'' route from five to three a day from April. Flights from Hong Kong and Bangkok to London will be filled by its joint venture partner on the routes, British Airways.

http://www.smh.com.au

MK-42 Sea King, IN556: Naval chopper damaged in fire at old Bajpe airport, India.

MANGALORE: An Indian Navy helicopter caught fire at the old terminal building of Bajpe airport here on Monday.

Personnel on board Indian Navy Helicopter bearing call sign/registration IN556 had a close shave when the helicopter in which they arrived from Kochi at the apron of the old terminal building. Rescue and fire fighting personnel of Airports Authority of India alerted by Air Traffic Control (ATC) immediately rushed to the site and put off the fire using foam compound.

The Sea King MK-42 helicopter, with 13 personnel on board, that was on its way from Indian Navy's aviation base Garuda at Kochi and on its way to Mumbai landed at the runway of old terminal at 10.45 am and taxied to the apron. When the helicopter was on parking stand 1, CISF personnel on duty noticed smoke near the rotors that had stopped at 10.56 am and reported it to the ATC. The rescue and fire fighting personnel put out the fire at 11 am.

M R Vasudeva, airport director, Mangalore Airport told TOI that the helicopter's rotors were switched off when the smoke was seen and the rescue and fire fighting personnel used less than 50-litres of foam compound to douse the fire. Defence helicopters landing at old airport for refueling while overflying Mangalore under the visual flight rules is routine, he said, adding they normally carry just 30 minutes of extra fuel on such sorties.

The flying time from Kochi to Mumbai is around 260 minutes and helicopters stopover for refueling here. Indian Navy sent a technical repair crew on its Dornier aircraft later in the day to carry out repairs and to transport the aircrew on board the damaged Seaking back, he said, adding that the Indian Coast Guard station here took care of needs of the aircrew in the interim. The Sea King will return once it is technically cleared by the Navy, he noted.

Germany eyes Britain's air-traffic control service.

Germany has admitted it is interested in acquiring a stake in Britain's air-traffic control service in a deal that could revolutionize control of the skies in Europe.

Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), Germany's state-owned air-traffic service, believes the flow of air traffic from north-west to south-eastern Europe means there could be benefits from acquiring the Government's 49pc stake in Britain's National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

"We believe there could be good co-operation," a DFS spokesman said. "We already have good co-operation with NATS and the operational side of the business is not bad."

George Osborne, the Chancellor, said in his emergency Budget last year that the Government was ready to sell its stake in NATS, which could be worth more than £500m, to raise public funds.

However, progress has been slow and the prospect of selling control of Britain's airspace to a foreign investor is likely to be controversial.

DFS, which manages Germany's military air traffic as well as civil aircraft, is understood to have asked investment banks to pitch as advisers on a potential deal last week.

http://www.telegraph.co.ukl

Could air-traffic control become computerized? Meet the inventor trying to drag air-traffic control into the digital era to save fuel, carbon, time and money

Wouldn't it be nice if there were an easy way to slash global carbon emissions by more than 40m tonnes each year? That's a serious saving – about as much as the entire Danish economy.

What if the total impact on combating climate change was twice as much as that figure suggests, because all that carbon would have been emitted – along with a cocktail of other pollutants – at high altitude? And what if the plan would also save huge amounts of time and money?

If that sounds too good to be true, then you probably haven't met David Parkinson, the inventor and engineer on a one-man mission to drag air-traffic control (ATC) into the digital era. Parkinson believes that using computers to calculate perfectly smooth trajectories for planes could painlessly cut 8% of aviation emissions.

"We've already done it on the railways," Parkinson says. "Many people assume that train signals are still controlled manually by signalmen, but in truth the system was automated years ago."

Parkinson opens his laptop to reveal a radar-style map with flashing little dots representing planes moving towards their destination. This, he explains, is a working prototype of his system – a model of airspace above the south-east UK. It looks like the screens used by the existing air-control teams, but there's a crucial difference: the computer calculates the most efficient trajectories for each plane, which saves time and fuel compared with sticking to sub-optimal routes flown at the moment.

The problem, according to Parkinson, is that the current system is hugely out of date. "The operational concept is 50 or 60 years old. The guys do a good job. They're very skilful people. But the tools at their disposal include scribbling on paper strips. Planes have enormous navigational capability that has evolved over time, but for largely historical reasons controllers are still chained to manual systems."

If he's correct, Parkinson's proposals could save huge amounts of fuel, emissions, time and money. Automation could also improve safety, as it has done on the railways (though admittedly that might be a hard sell to the public). Yet despite Parkinson's impeccable CV – which includes developing the ATC system used over the North Atlantic for almost 20 years (with computerization built-in) – he has found it almost impossible to get anyone in the air-traffic establishment to even look at his proposals.

I asked NATS (National Air Traffic Services), which dominates ATC in the UK, what they thought of his proposals. When I described his prototype, the spokeswoman quickly suggested he must be a crank. When I described his CV, she warmed a little but still sounded very defensive. She promised to speak to colleagues and come back to me, but I haven't heard anything since.

That response – or lack thereof – chimes with Parkison's claim that the status quo recognizes the potential of automation while being reluctant to seriously engage with it. There is work being done on efficiency more broadly, as evidenced recently when the Civil Aviation Authority announced new targets for NATS to make significant fuel and carbon savings using better flight trajectories. But there appears to be a reluctance to consider more ambitious plans such as those developed by Parkinson.

It's impossible to gauge the viability or desirability of Parkinson's proposals. But his arguments about air-traffic systems completely failing to keep up with the available technology are compelling. And his detailed plan for safely transitioning from where we are now to a more efficient system sounds sensible.

So here's my challenge to NATS and other relevant bodies: why not assess Parkinson's proposals properly? Surely at a time of financial and environmental crisis, any technology that could safely cut both costs and emissions must be worth at least seriously considering?

http://www.guardian.co.uk

Qantas faces long wait on dispute

QANTAS will have to wait at least six months before it can put its damaging industrial dispute behind it because of a longer-than-expected period before a full bench of the industrial umpire hears a case between the airline and its long-haul pilots.

After recently putting the total cost at $194 million, the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce, told analysts at a closed briefing yesterday that ''all the signs are that the damage [to the Qantas brand from the dispute and subsequent grounding of its fleet just over a month ago] is neither extensive nor permanent''.

Mr Joyce said he was also confident that the outcome of binding arbitration before Fair Work Australia involving Qantas and three unions would be ''reasonable and will exclude the extreme claims that would have threatened our capacity to make the necessary transformation to our international business''.

But Qantas will have to wait longer than thought before three commissioners from the industrial umpire hear its dispute with the Australian and International Pilots Association, which represents long-haul pilots who work for the loss-making international business that management has targeted for change.

A Fair Work hearing for the dispute involving the pilots has been set before three commissioners from June 4 to 8 in Sydney, and from June 12 to 15 in Melbourne. Qantas has to submit witness statements and expert evidence to the workplace umpire by March 19, while the pilots' union has to do likewise by April 30.

The full hearing was originally expected in May but is believed to have been delayed because of the complexity of the dispute. The pilots are also running a parallel case in the Federal Court challenging the industrial umpire's termination on October 31 of its protected industrial action against Qantas.

The other two disputes involving licensed aircraft engineers and ground crews to be referred to binding arbitration are expected to be concluded well before the pilots' case.

A full bench of Fair Work will hear the dispute between Qantas and the Transport Workers Union, which represents baggage handlers, in late March. Although the two sides are expected to resolve pay claims of between 3 and 5 per cent, the main sticking point remains TWU job-security claims.

The aircraft engineers are considered most likely to resolve most of their differences with Qantas. The two sides will meet before Fair Work next Monday.

''We are still talking to Qantas and we still see there might be some chance of an outcome which minimises the points of difference,'' a spokesman for the engineers' union, Peter Somerville, said.

Qantas has indicated it hopes to settle the dispute with engineers as early as this month.

A Qantas spokesman said yesterday the timing of the Fair Work hearings was ''of little consequence because the unions can't take any industrial action'' after the umpire terminated the dispute.

Executives reiterated to analysts yesterday that talks were continuing about setting up an ultra-premium airline in south-east Asia.

Qantas talks on Asia airline continue; bookings recover

(Reuters) - Australia's Qantas Airways said on Monday that talks on setting up a premium airline in Asia were continuing, while domestic bookings have recovered back to normal levels after months of industrial disputes.

Chief Executive Alan Joyce, who grounded the airline in late October over a dispute with unions, told investors that Qantas will continue its focus on cutting costs and lifting productivity because competitive pressures from Middle Eastern and Chinese carriers will increase.

"We have announced our plans to invest in a premium airline based in Asia. Talks continue, and it remains premature to make any announcements at this stage," Joyce said at the airline's strategy day.

There have been media reports that the Asian premium airline, seen as key to turning around the loss-making international operations, was going to be dropped.

Qantas has previously said that it has held talks with Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia (AIRA.KL), and also with Singapore over its plans for a base in Asia.

Qantas took the drastic step of grounding all flights for two days in late October, disrupting 70,000 passengers and spurring the government and the labour-market umpire to seek a quick end to hostilities between the airline and three unions.

Joyce said sending the dispute for arbitration by the labour umpire Fair Work Australia had given certainty to passengers and led to a strong recovery in forward bookings.

"Domestic bookings, including from corporate accounts, have recovered particularly well and are now back to normal levels," he said.

International bookings were recovering at a slower rate for the period through to January, but beyond January were in line with levels before the industrial action, he said.

Joyce said Qantas was confident the Fair Work outcome would be reasonable and "exclude the extreme claims that would have threatened our capacity to make the necessary transformation of our international business".

Experimental planes: How safe are they? 9OYS Wants to Know

VAIL, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) –Authorities have identified a pilot who was killed when his small plane crashed in Surprise.

Surprise police spokesman Sgt. Bert Anzini said Sunday 53-year-old Terence Donohoe was piloting the plane that crashed Saturday afternoon.

The plane was an experimental aircraft.

To learn more about such planes, KGUN9 met with Duane Boyd, the president for a local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

“An experimental aircraft is one that's been built at home,” he explained.

He said he’s been following the news coverage on the plane crash in Surprise.

“The airplane that crashed is a very very good airplane. Vans Aircraft has a beautiful kit. Most of the people that build them build a good airplane. Something strange happened, I don't know,” he said about the recent crash.

Kits, to build your own plane, range from $6 thousand to $40 thousand. Boyd says a manufactured plane costs at least $130 thousand.

We asked Boyd what the dangers of building your own aircraft are.

“For 90 percent of the people that build them, nothing," he said. “They're as good as or better than a manufactured airplane."

The other 10 percent, he said fail to follow the service manual. He says groups, like the Experimental Aircraft Association, are available to help other builders construct their plane safely.

“Maybe you never built a house or a garage, but if you watch and work with somebody you can learn and you can do it, and an airplane is no different, like putting an erector set together,” he said.

Before its first flight, an experimental aircraft has to be inspected and approved by the FAA.


http://www.kgun9.com

Etihad Airways employs first class chefs

MANILA, Philippines — Qualified First Class chefs are now officially on board Etihad Airways flights to Sydney, Melbourne, London and Paris, and will be introduced progressively to the airline’s other First Class destinations by early 2012.

The airline has hired approximately 110 chefs since announcing in May it would introduce fully qualified and classically trained international chefs dedicated to food service excellence in its Diamond First Class cabins. First Class chefs will also contribute to menu development for the airline’s lounges and inflight service.

Etihad Airways’ First Class chefs are provided with a pantry stocked with prime cuts of meat, sauces, par-cooked items, spices and freshly chopped vegetables. The pantry allows them to prepare for service and personalize dishes in the same way chefs in a restaurant kitchen do. Tools not typically seen on an aircraft, such as a whisk and foamer, are also at their disposal.

The launch is marked by a complete redesign of the airline’s First Class menu, now called The Mezoon Grille.

An entirely new Mezoon Grille menu will offer First Class guests an unparalleled variety of choice in inflight dining. Guests may select from a menu of four to six proteins (large, 160-gram portions of beef, chicken, lamb and seafood), four sauces and four side options, all prepared to order. Guests are guaranteed their first choice of protein and Etihad Airways’ chefs can also create custom sides and sauces to suit individual tastes.

On applicable day flights, Etihad Airways will also be replacing its previous degustation menu with a taste of Arabia menu, which is similarly formatted with a menu of six tasting servings, all with a distinctive Arabic flavor.

The a la carte menu will maintain a similar formatting, featuring appetizers, mains and desserts, although the dishes can now be adapted with the help of the chef.

Lee Shave, Etihad Airways’ vice resident guest experience, said: “By introducing First Class chefs and refocusing our unique food and beverage managers in Business Class, Etihad Airways has created the most robust inflight culinary team in the skies.

“We have consistently elevated our inflight dining experience by putting culinary experts in airline roles as opposed to airline experts in culinary roles. In this way, our innovative team is challenging industry standards and finding new ways to bring a fine dining restaurant experience to our guests, both on ground and in air.”

First Class chefs are fully qualified professionals, trained under reputable culinary institutions and/or apprenticeships. Etihad Airways requires a minimum of six years of professional experience in five-star restaurants and hotels, though the majority of the chefs have at least 10 years’ experience. Several come from Michelin-starred restaurants.

Remaining First Class destinations to launch include Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Narita, Seoul, Brussels, Milan, Munich, Casablanca, and New York.

Etihad Airways to be largest Dreamliner operator. Abu Dhabi-based airline orders 10 new planes

Etihad Airways has raced ahead by announcing its purchase of 10 more Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in a deal which will make it the largest operator of the aircraft type in the world.

The airline has also ordered another two Boeing 777 Freighters for its fast growing Etihad Crystal Cargo operation.

The 12 additional aircraft are valued at $2.8 billion at current list prices.

The extra Dreamliners mean Etihad Airways will now take delivery of 41 787s between late 2014 and 2019.

The airline also has options and purchase rights on 25 more 787s.

The 787-9 will carry up to 300 passengers and have a range of 8,000 nautical miles and will be initially used on Etihad Airways routes to destinations including Dublin, Frankfurt, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Nagoya, Delhi and Istanbul.

“Our decision to expand our Dreamliner fleet is testimony to Etihad’s commitment to operating one of the youngest and most fuel efficient fleets in the skies,” Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, said.

“It also reflects our confidence in the 787’s ability to have a significant impact on our operating efficiencies and the passenger experience we can offer onboard this revolutionary aircraft.

“Both the 787 Dreamliner and the 777 Freighter offer highly attractive operating economics and will facilitate our global expansion plans by allowing us to transport passengers and cargo into new markets from our hub in Abu Dhabi,” Hogan said.

The two extra 777 Freighters mean Etihad Airways will have a fleet of 21 777s (18 passenger aircraft and three freighters).

“We continually review our operating environment and look to leverage off the great flexibility which we built in to our 2008 fleet order.”

At the 2008 Farnborough International Air Show, Etihad had announced orders up to 205 aircraft – 100 firm, 55 options and 50 purchase rights.

The twin engine, carbon composite 787 made its first commercial flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong on October 26.

The Dreamliner offers exceptional environmental performance, burning 20 per cent less fuel than other similar sized aircraft.

http://www.emirates247.com

Charleston, West Virginia: Many workers returning to Constellium plant.

Constellium is preparing for trial production in 2012 for a joint project with Dassault Aviation to produce eco-efficient aluminum for aircraft. The project is part of a $2.2 billion public-private partnership in Europe aimed at reducing the aviation industry's impact on the environment.

The Constellium Rolled Products plant in Ravenswood has recalled 25 laid off employees and returned all hourly workers to full-time status as the aluminum rolling mill gears up for what officials call a "tremendous opportunity" in overseas markets.

Earlier this fall, the company — formerly known as Alcan Rolled Products — informed its employees that they would need to reduce hours for some workers as the plant underwent a significant upgrade.

With nearly 1,000 employees, the Constellium plant is the largest private employer in Jackson County and focuses primarily on producing aluminum products for the aerospace industry.

The upgrades were needed to help boost operating efficiencies at the plant, which was expected to lose about 20 cents on each pound of aluminum it shipped this year.

The Ravenswood plant was originally constructed in the 1950s by Kaiser Aluminum. Constellium announced earlier this year that it planned to invest up to $50 million in upgrading the facility.

That included major maintenance and improvements on the facility's main aluminum stretcher and furnace. However, that maintenance forced some production outages and slowdowns that led to the reduction in work hours.

Over the past few months, several workers in various departments had their hours reduced from 40 to 32 hours per week as their departments experienced slowdowns. It was originally estimated that about 400 workers would be affected by the reduction, but a company spokesperson could not confirm the final number last week.

In a letter dated Dec. 2, Constellium Global ATI CEO Christophe Villemin and Kyle Lorentzen informed workers that the hourly reductions would soon be coming to a close and the company would begin calling back some workers that had been laid off previously.

A company spokeswoman confirmed last week that the Ravenswood plant had followed through with that plan.

"We have returned to normal work weeks and have recalled 25 employees, and are pleased to have been able to do that before the holidays," said spokeswoman Laura Prisc.

The worker recall comes as the plant gears up for trial production runs for a new project in 2012.

In October, Constellium announced it was teaming up with Dassault Aviation to begin producing eco-efficient aluminum for aircraft as part of the $2.2 billion European Clean Sky Programme — a public-private partnership researching ways to reduce the aviation industry's impact on the environment.

In their letter, Villemin and Lorentzen said the new contracts the company has secured in Europe could guide the future of the Ravenswood plant.

"Our ability to successfully deliver the trial in 2012, with the required level of quality and service, is essential to the future success of Ravenswood," the letter said.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to improve our business, and to insulate it from the ups and downs of the aerospace and aluminum cycles."

Success at the Constellium plant could also lead to further good news down the road. The Ravenswood rolling mill is located next to the Century Aluminum smelting plant, which has been closed since February 2009.

The Century plant used to be the primary supplier of molten aluminum to its sister plant before it shut down. Century officials have said they would need to stability in the aluminum market and sales contracts, along with stable power and labor contracts, before they would decide to restart the plant.

http://dailymail.com

Woodbine Municipal Airport (KOBI) is one of my favorite airports in New Jersey. Red Tape Committee Helps Jumpstart Grounded Airport Project.

 .
By William Pikolycky
Mayor, Woodbine

The Borough of Woodbine has sought to redevelop its airport property for the last 10 years. Along with the Woodbine Municipal Airport Port Authority, the borough has focused on both developing a business park and improving airport facilities. One obstacle had been the airport’s location in the Pinelands region, where restrictions on development abound.

When we heard about the state’s new Red Tape Commission, I, as Mayor, immediately began a  dialogue with the offices of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Commissioner Bob Martin of the Department of Environmental Protection. Because of the potential benefits to accrue to the Airport and Airport Business Park, we also coordinated our efforts with Commissioner James Simpson from the Department of Transportation. Our detailed explanation of our concerns in a chronological and historical context brought considerable attention to Woodbine’s dilemma—one that resulted in a commitment of the lieutenant governor and the DEP to work with the Pinelands Commission, to achieve a solution. Their work enabled Woodbine to aggressively promote its airport and Airport Business Park.

The result was that, in less than six months, an otherwise protracted process extending over several years was brought to a conclusion. In effect, areas within the airport have been delineated as no longer adversely impacting threatened and endangered species and, therefore, require no further study. Now the borough is able to aggressively pursue private sector business and industry opportunities. Developers can be reassured that the process of securing permits is consistent with normal permitting of approximately 60-90 days through the local Planning and Zoning Board reviews.

That was quite a welcome change from the past. Long recognizing the airport’s potential, the borough in conjunction with the Port Authority worked hard to secure the permits necessary to implement the goals in the Airport Master Plan. This included securing designation as a Pinelands Town/ Center of Place, a joint action by the Office of State Planning and the Pinelands Commission. The designation recognized Woodbine’s prior heritage as a business and industrial hub in the Cape May County region.

The borough also pursued and received approval of its Water Quality Management Plan and secured several grants to insure that an adequate potable water supply would be available to support development at the airport. In addition, the borough combined regional, federal, and state funding, along with local resources, to construct an on-site public sanitary sewage treatment system employing state-of-the-art design standards to protect the pristine Pinelands.

After all these efforts, including numerous expensive threatened and endangered species studies and analyses, one would assume that this extraordinary resource could, in fact, begin to produce substantial returns to benefit the borough’s long-term economic future. However, the reality was continuing concerns by regulatory agencies that development would still have an impact on wildlife, vegetation, etc. Moreover, there did not appear to be any finite endpoint that would release the airport property from further environmental review. As a result, any private sector development would require a prospective business or industry to undertake independent permitting that could require as much as 18 to 24 months with no assurance that a permit to develop would be secured.

This despite the fact that this area has public water, sewers and roadways in place.

This experience was not only frustrating but also costly because of the projected need for additional studies. As the process dragged on, so did the wait for new private investment, new jobs, and ratables for the borough. This put additional stress on the borough’s already limited resources and local economy. Woodbine is among New Jersey’s top 10 percent of most distressed municipalities, with a Municipal Distress Index rating of 86 out of 566.

The borough applauds the governor’s commitment to streamline the permitting processes and the lieutenant governor’s hands-on participation in seeing to these goals being met. Special recognition is also warranted to Pinelands Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg and her staff, DOT Commissioner James Simpson and staff as well as DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and Assistant Commissioner Michele Siekerka and staff. They all worked together to review this issue and to present the Borough of Woodbine and the Woodbine Port Authority with an extraordinary opportunity for economic growth—all by cutting through red tape.

There remains a need to resolve the outstanding issues associated with the Countywide Water Quality Management planning process. In this regard, efforts are underway to either allow Woodbine to file its own updated plan or be among the first communities to be assessed through the county program. While this is still a major hurdle, based on this most recent success with DEP and Pinelands, we are confident that a timely strategy can be developed. It is comforting to know that we have the state on our side in regard to economic development.

As Mayor, I can confidently state: Woodbine is open for business!

By William Pikolycky
Mayor, Woodbine

Originally published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 88, Number 9, December 2011