Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gulf Air's crew wins top award

MANAMA: Gulf Air has been honoured with a silver award at the Inflight Sales Person of the Year event held in London. Gulf Air cabin services manager Helen Friberg received the award on behalf of the airline for her outstanding customer service skills, knowledge of onboard duty free products and onboard sales, in a competition that saw over 87 airlines from across the world represented by their cabin crew in various categories.

"We are happy see a member of our cabin crew represented at such competitive awards," said chief services officer Marcus Bernhardt.

"This is the second time this year the department has received recognition after it picked up an excellent rating in the annual IATA customer satisfaction survey.

"Cabin crew are the unsung heroes of the airline industry. Without them an airline cannot operate," he added.

"We are glad to have won this award not once but three times and are really proud of our crew," said senior manager cabin services Mohamed Hassan.

The airline had previously won this award in 2004 and 2008.

Zimbabwe: Hundreds Stranded in UK After Airliner Seized

Elderly passengers in wheelchairs and families with children spent Tuesday night at Gatwick airport in London as Air Zimbabwe failed to secure the release of the plane that was seized Monday over unsettled debts.  This was the second night passengers had spent not knowing when they would fly out. On Monday night they had been put into hotels.

Tourists from as far away as Australia were among the estimated 200 people stranded without any alternative arrangements by Air Zimbabwe. The Gatwick airport press office said they had provided food, water and beds for about 50 to 60 people on Tuesday night.  The aircraft was due to be auctioned on Wednesday but according to reports Transport Minister Nicholas Goche said negotiations with their creditors were continuing and the auction would not go ahead.

Goche is quoted as saying the ministry was, “frantically looking for money” to pay the $1.2 million owed to American General Supplies, the aircraft spares company that impounded the Boeing 767-200 plane after getting a court order.

Zimbabwe’s treasury reportedly told management at the national airline that no funds were available to save the plane. The government owns majority shares at Air Zim and like other parastatals the airline has been riddled with mismanagement and corruption.

SW Radio Africa presenter Ezra Sibanda, who was one of the stranded passengers, spoke to a staff member from Air Zim who confirmed that the auction had been deferred. The source said plans had been made for the passengers to fly to Zimbabwe on Thursday afternoon but they would have to sleep at the airport again on Wednesday evening.

We were unable to reach the regional manager David Mwenga to comment. It is not clear whether the airline has secured enough funds to release the aircraft and Sibanda said people were now very tired and most have accepted that loud demands were producing no results.

Air Zimbabwe cancelled the flight from London at the very last minute Monday night, after allowing people to check in. Frustrated passengers spent Monday night in hotels around the airport. Several angry travelers were detained briefly by riot police as they demanded answers.

According to the Associated Press, another Air Zim plane was impounded for several hours last week in South Africa, over $500,000 that was owed to a ground handling firm.

Philippines presents air safety plan to European Union

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has presented to the European Union (EU) the developments in the country’s efforts to strengthen the implementation of air safety reforms in an effort to lift the EU ban on Philippine carriers. 

Viorel Isticioaia-Budura, managing director for Asia and Pacific of the European External Action Service (EEAS), said the recent measures taken by the Philippines to address air safety deficiencies are an important step to lift the EU ban.

Budura, also head of the EU delegation in the two-day 7th Philippines-European Union Senior Officials’ Meeting in Manila that concluded on Tuesday, also urged the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to address the significant concerns issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The CAAP gave a presentation to the EU senior officials as the Europeans review the measures initiated by the Philippines to lift the ban on all airlines based in the country.

Budura pointed out that the EU is not alone in identifying the safety concerns that led to the air ban. Both the ICAO and the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) have serious concerns.

The EU prohibited last year all airlines based in the Philippines to operate in EU countries due to unsafe carriers.  The EU said “serious safety deficiencies” in the Philippines’ regulation of carriers led to the air ban.   The European Commission, the 27-nation EU executive arm, cited assessments by the ICAO.  “The EU looks forward to the time when the ban can be lifted but the timing will depend on the corrective measures implemented by the Philippine government to address the deficiencies as reported by the EU Safety Assessment Mission in October 2010,” Budura said in a press conference.

The official said the CAAP gave a presentation to the EU delegation and introduced recent measures taken.  “And we feel that this is an important step forward. We really encourage the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to address significant concern issued by the ICAO,” Budura said.  He said the presentation and measures taken by the Philippine government to address the safety deficiencies in the country’s regulation of carriers “would open the door for EU to make its own assessment and prepare a mission to assess the measures in the near future.”

“Once again we look forward to the resolution of this issue as soon as the facts and the realities on the ground would permit it,” he added.

Budura pointed out that the lifting of the ban on Philippine carriers would facilitate incoming tourists to the Philippines and enable easy travel for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Europe.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Elizabeth Buensuceso said the EU and the CAAP have been engaged in dialogue and exchange of communication.

She said CAAP representatives gave the presentation to address all the six specific issues that have been raised in this sector.

“And I’m hoping that the EU will find this reply satisfactory and we will forward this process early next year by opening more opportunities for dialogue so that eventually this problem could be resolved,” Buensuceso said.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Manila International Airport Authority donate P750,000 to light plane crash victims.

MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) yesterday released over P750,000 as financial assistance to the families of victims in the light aircraft's crash that left 14 people dead and scores injured in ParaƱaque City last Saturday.

The CAAP, which regulates all air transportation activity in the country, and the MIAA, which manages three airports in Metro Manila, including the domestic airport from where the Beechcraft Queen Air (RPC-834) eight-seater light plane took off before plunging into a shanty area in Paranaque City a few minutes later, gave P500,000 and P250,000, respectively.

The cash were turned over to ParaƱaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe yesterday in a 2,000-square-meter esction of a slum area in Barangay Don Bosco that was gutted by fire following the crash of the light aircraft.  Officials said that the cash will be used for the purchase of initial construction materials to rebuild houses and a nearby school-building that were hit by the crashed aircraft and to directly help the victims’ immediate relatives.

“We are leaving it to Mayor Bernabe to decide how best to disburse the amount," CAAP Director General Ramon Gutierrez said. “What’s important is that the funds will quickly go to the victims’ families and other affected members of the community.”  Meanwhile, MIAA general manager Bodet Honrado said his office that aside from the P250,000 donation, the MIAA will continue its relief operations and medical missions to the victims’ relatives and the community.

“We started this a few days ago immediately after the accident. We’re planning to do another wave of medical missions and assistance operations this Christmas,” Honrado vowed.  The DOTC recently directed the CAAP, specifically the Aircraft Accident Investigation Inquiry Board (AAIIB) under Capt. Amado Soliman Jr., to investigate the reasons behind the crash of the Beechcraft Queen Air (RPC-834).

Secretary Mar Roxas convened the fact-finding panel to determine the liability of the owner of the light plane; effect a 7-day timeline for the probe; and prevent the recurrence of similar accidents in the future.  “I have tasked the fact-finding panel to come up with a report and recommendations within the week,” said Roxas.  “We will make sure that all facts of this unfortunate accidents are investigated, the victims duly compensated, and make sure that similar accidents do not happen in the future,” he added.

Aviation Ministry gets report of alleged N13bn fraud on radar project

IKEJA—The Aviation Ministry has confirmed receiving the report of the alleged N13 billion fraud on the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria Project of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA.

This is coming on the heels of denial by the agency that the alleged N13bn fraud discovered in the TRACON project was a scam.

Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that the ministry had received the alleged N13bn fraud on the TRACON project and was still studying the documents.

The minister’s Special Assistant, Media, Mr. Joe Obi, told Vanguard that the report had been submitted to the ministry, but denied the summoning of NAMA Managing Director, Mr. Nnamdi Udoh, to Abuja by the ministry.

Obi, however, declined to comment on steps the ministry would take if Udoh was found wanting on the contract award.

He said: “We can’t pre-empt the action of the ministry until after our own investigation.”

Meanwhile, the General Manager, Public Affairs, NAMA, Mr. Supo Atobatele, insisted that the report was a technical one, adding that the managing director was not summoned to Abuja.

He said: “It’s a technical report on TRACON project and it’s a technical issue. I can tell you that there is no fraud in it. The amount mentioned is almost the entire amount dedicated for the project and if there was such fraud, it means the project was never executed.

“Nobody summoned our MD to Abuja on the report. He only went to Abuja for an official assignment and he’s due back today (yesterday).”

A newspaper had reported on Monday that vital components of the €66,500,870 (N13.99 bn) TRACON, were not supplied at the time of installation of the equipment and that many other components installed had never worked since the project started in 2003.

The report also purported that N4bn worth of the components for the project were not supplied, and that those installed never worked, thus flouting the terms of the contract and technical support services agreement (TSSA).

The primary objective of TRACON is to improve surveillance of aircraft in Nigeria’s airspace, and by so doing, improve safety and security of air transport.

The project consists of the provision of the state-of-the-art surveillance systems, including Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar (MSSR), RSM970, Integrated Flight and Radar Data Process System, Eurocat 2000-C and other associated equipment for four major airports – Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, as well as stand alone MSSR RSM 970 in five other locations: Talata-Mafara, Maiduguri, Numan, Obubra and Ilorin.

The contract for TRACON was awarded by the Federal Government to Thales S.A of France, in 2003, with a completion period of 36 months, but due to inconsistent government policies, the project was dragged till October 2010.

The project was commissioned October 18, 2010, by President Gooodluck Jonathan in Abuja when it was still under installation.

Supreme Court asked to look into Pakistan International Airlines affairs

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has been requested to take suo moto notice of the shabby affairs of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) as the airline is following the steps of Pakistan Railways and is in loss of Rs144 billion with deliberate default of payment of repairs, causing grounding of 12 plans and fabricating excuse for buying 39 planes at estimated cots of $2.5 billion in violation of PPRA rules.

The Transparency International has sent a complaint to the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court saying that the court should take notice of the news published in The News of November 19, 2011, revealing the facts that deliberate losses being incurred by the PIA at the cost of public money as alleged by PIA employees, Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA), Society of Aircraft Engineers of Pakistan (SAEP), Aircraft Technologists Association of Pakistan (ATAP), Flight Engineers National Association (FENA) and many more.

Syed Adil Gilani, Adviser to the TI-Pakistan, in his complaint to the SC on behalf of the TI has written that the affairs of PIA are very strange, with contradictory statements given by the PIA in the National Assembly, which gives impression that nothing is right in PIA. Following serious facts/irregularities are brought into the knowledge of the chief justice.

“That on February 24, 2011, Ch Ahmed Mukhtar, the Minister of Defence, informed the National Assembly (NA) that the national flag carrier, PIA, was only operating in 27 countries out of more than 250. “The reason for not operating in other countries is that it is not economically viable and said that the PIA currently had a fleet of 40 aircrafts, insured by the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL), which are in an operational condition. He said, “All the 40 aircraft are in operational condition; however, they are taken out of service for short durations for routine maintenance as per the maintenance schedule.”

“That however on December 7, 2011, the PIA has tendered for leasing of 39 Aircraft, with 12 aircraft to be introduced in next 4 months. The question raised by PALPA, SAEP, ATAP and FENA is that there is no funds for purchase/lease of these planes, and also therein no need as the minister himself has declared that all 40 aircraft are operational. The allegations made by them on the PIA management is the current status of the PIA cancellation of flights, that long delays, non payment of bills for firms repairing aircraft engines, viz M/s JALCO Amman, where 4 PIA engines are repaired and ready for delivery since last 5 months, and 2 PIA engines of A 310 are repaired and ready since last five months, but due to non payment of dues, they are not delivered. Instead two aircraft were leased during Haj by more payment made than the due for the six engines, which would have made 2 A 310 and one B 747 operational. Many more allegations of corruption have been made by JACPIAE in its letter dated 15-11-2011.”

That PIA Managing Director Muhammad Aijaz Haroon on September 26, 2010, told the Public Account Committee (PAC) that the PIA is suffering accumulative losses of Rs144 billion. And the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence on December 9, 2011, was informed by MD Nadeem Yusafzai that financial losses of the PIA have swelled to approximately Rs100 billion.

That such divergent and self-contradictory financial figures submitted by the chairmen to the National Assembly Committees needs to be seriously examined by the chief justice in the light of allegations made against the management for misguiding the nations as well as Parliament by PALPA, SAEP, ATAP) and FENA.

On October 27, it was reported that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has had to reduce its flights by 23 percent because nine of its 39 aircraft have been grounded for want of spare parts which are to be supplied by a Dubai-based US firm-Transworld—under a controversial multi-billion-dollar agreement. That as reported in daily Jang of November 6, 2011, the PIA has allegedly committed corruption in 2010 Haj operation by giving bribe to Saudi officials.

It has been reported in press that the PIA is getting ten A321 aircraft and ten A320 aircraft in 2012. In 2013, the PIA would acquire as many as four ATR-72 and five 777-300ER aircraft while it would get six A321 planes in 2014.

Who is responsible for corruption, and who is benefiting from such corruption and corrupt practices cannot be determined unless this court takes a suo moto notice of the facts and circumstances so that the persons responsible be punished and money pocketed by them at the cause of National Flag Carrier be punished.”

New airport terminal to be delayed

KOLKATA: The city's track record of delays in major projects remains unbroken. After Metro Railways and flyovers, the modernization of Kolkata airport has spun out of schedule with the project deadline long over. Airports Authority of India (AAI) will now incur further cost and time over-runs. And passengers will be forced to bear with poor services at the current terminal with AAI pleading it can do little given its space constraints.

Already delayed by eight months, Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman VP Agrawal said the completion deadline for the integrated passenger terminal could be pushed back by another two months. But that may still prove elusive with an impending work-to-rule agitation by a section of employees set to derail the deadline by several months more.

In purely monetary terms, Rs 1,700 crore or three-fourth of the funds has been spent. That means, a quarter of work is yet to be done. The project that was to be completed in 30 months is already in its 36th month and may finally get over in 42-48 months.

The initial completion target of the under-construction integrated terminal with an annual capacity of 20 million passengers was July 2011 but was pushed back to October 2011, followed by December 2011 and March 2012. On Wednesday, Agrawal announced a revised deadline of June 2012. But if the AAI engineers engaged in the project work for only eight hours from Monday, it could push the completion deadline back by a further four-five months.

The 60 AAI engineers working on the project are among 600 officers cadre employees

countrywide who plan to embark upon the work-to-rule agitation to force the management to address an HR issue that has been hanging fire since 1995 when international and domestic divisions were merged to form AAI. Of the 600 aggrieved employees, 120 are from Kolkata.

"At this crucial juncture when the tempo of work is at its peak, any agitation will adversely affect the project. We are aware of the anomaly and are trying to address it by creating 200 new posts. I hope officials will acknowledge our effort and recognize the need to join forces so that this prestigious project is completed on time," Agrawal said.

Following the disinvestment of Delhi and Mumbai airport and private green field airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai are the only two metro airports in AAI fold. Of the two, the Kolkata airport project is by far the most prestigious one that AAI has undertaken in the country.

It was sustained pressure from the officers' association and employees' union at Kolkata airport as well as the Left in 2005-06 that prevented former civil aviation minister Praful Patel from divesting government's stake in the airport like it had done in Delhi and Mumbai. The face-off between Patel and Left led to a stalemate for two years.

Finally, at the foundation stone laying ceremony in December 2008, Patel had remarked that unions in Bengal needed to improve work culture and display discipline to build and operate a world-class airport. By then, the project cost had escalated from an initial estimate of Rs 1,800 crore to Rs 2,300 crore. To prevent the project cost from shooting up by a further Rs 300 crore, the new air traffic control tower was dropped from the plan.

Patel words are proving prophetic with the project deadline being continually revised. Agrawal, who reviewed the project progress on Tuesday, said: civil work was nearing completion.

"Work will begin on the exterior facade as well as interior fitments soon.

We should be able to hand over the terminal to airlines and other agencies by March-end. Thereafter, airlines and other concessionaries will take two-three months to get ready and start operations from the terminal," said airport director B P Sharma.

The delays notwithstanding, several airlines have expressed interest to operate from Kolkata once the new terminal is in operation. Foremost among them are passenger carriers Fly Dubai and Cathay Pacific as well as freighter service FedEx Cargo. Jet is also keen to connect Kolkata to Sydney and Melbourne.

" British Airways, Japan Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Air Mauritius have also shown interest. We are in discussion with these and several other airlines. The project may be slightly behind schedule but when the new terminal becomes operational, it will be the pride of Kolkata and others' envy," Sharma added.

Horry County airport board talks fuel farms

The general public can’t see them, but they’re there.

There are two fuel farms behind the aircraft rescue and firefighting facility at Myrtle Beach International Airport, and they hold approximately 158,000 gallons of jet fuel, said Ken Hawk, with the Horry County Department of Airports.

Over the next few months, one of those farms will undergo renovations.

Hawk told the members of the Horry County Airport Advisory Board at Wednesday’s meeting that one of the pumping systems is going to be changed, and an 8,000-gallon tank will be replaced by a 20,000-gallon one.

Bids are being taken on the work, Hawk added. He estimated the work would cost $400,000, and the hope is to have it finished before the start of the 2012 summer season.

The airlines purchase the fuel they plan to use, while Myrtle Beach Airport officials place the orders.

The board also got the latest construction update on the terminal expansion project.

Mike Illes, construction manager for the department of airports, said steel beams have been erected for two-thirds of the new concourse.

The new toll plaza is about 80 percent complete, and the new rental car lot should be finished by April 1, he added.

As far as remodeling work in the existing terminal, Illes said it’s been scrapped because the contractors wouldn’t be able to meet pre-set deadlines.

The work will resume once the new terminal is open.

Lauren Morris, marketing director, said the goal was to have the renovations done by the time the busy travel season resumes in the summer. However, if the deadline wasn’t going to be met, the airport didn’t want to affect operations any more than they already have been by the expansion.

The $118 million project is going to expand the airport from seven to 13 gates. Passengers will start using the extended facility in January 2013.

As for the Harrelson Boulevard extension, Illes confirmed the grand opening would be Jan. 23.

“Harrelson’s looking good,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice road to drive on.”

The extension connects Harrelson Boulevard to Kings Highway, and is a vital component of the airport’s expansion.

Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry demands extension of airport runway, fuel bowl.

Business Recorder Logo Chairman sub-committee for Civil Aviation Airport of Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HCCI) Abdul Qayum Nusrat in a press release said that, Hyderabad airport was being strongly felt the need of extending the runway and fuel bowl.

He said that due to the unavailability of fuel bowl at Hyderabad airport, the flights flying from Hyderabad to Islamabad and Lahore had to make land at Nawabshah airport for fuel, which is not only the waste of time for the passengers, but also increasing the fuel cost of Pakistan International Airlines.

Abdul Qayum said that in developing countries the airports had been built on a small distances so that vocational and technical fuel service could be easily provided to the planes.

He said that, by upgrading the Hyderabad Airport Runway and constructing the fuel bowl, the operational flights system would get benefits and need for the cargo service from Hyderabad to the different countries of the world would meet.

He said that, in foreign countries there is a good market of fresh fruits, vegetables and rose.

In Hyderabad and surrounding areas, the high quality fruits, rose, including the agriculture is produced in sufficient quantity.

By exporting the fruits and vegetables in Cargo service from Hyderabad a sufficient amount of exchange can be made for the country.

He demanded of the Prime Minister and Federal Defence Minister that, by upgrading the Hyderabad runway the Boeing planes service should be started.

Latin America's biggest airline LATAM is approved

The merger of two major Latin American airlines has been approved, creating the largest carrier in the region.

Brazil's anti-trust authorities said they approved the merger of the Brazilian airline TAM with Chile's LAN, first proposed in 2010.

The new airline, LATAM, is valued at about $14.5bn (£9.4bn) and will represent 6% of global air transport.

Last year, TAM and LAN flew more than 45 million passengers and 754,777 tonnes of cargo.

The combined airline would fly to 115 destinations in 23 countries, with a 40,000-strong workforce.

Chile's anti-trust authorities had already approved the merger but had set 11 conditions, including fewer flights to the Peruvian capital, Lima.

Brazil's body also set some conditions, including a reduction in the number of flights between Sao Paulo and Santiago and that the two airlines join a single international body.

TAM is a member of the Star Alliance group of airlines, which includes BMI, Lufthansa, SAS and Air China.

Meanwhile LAN is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, which includes Iberia, British Airways, Qantas and JAL.

The airlines have not yet said which one they will join.

MASwings can benefit from ‘link-ups’ with private sector

KUCHING: MASwings Sdn Bhd (MASwings) should explore ‘link-up’ opportunities with the private sector in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region.

Industry sources observed that recent annoucements that MASWings was gearing itself to venture into the BIMP-EAGA routes as early as February 2012 would be far more successful if the rural service airline paid attention to further tie-ups with third parties.

They explained that for long-term sustainability, a common package among the destinations in the regions should be established, and that required the involvement of the private sector in all fields such as travel agencies, hotel associations and so on.

“When common packages are in place, only then can joint promotion and marketing strategies be explored between the region. In order to retain viable routes, study as well as research should be done within the private sector too,” BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council Malaysia chairman Datuk Wee Hong Seng told The Borneo Post.

He further pointed out that tourism is a private sector driven initiative. “The private sector plays a vital role in contributing to the country’s economy and also helps to maintain the sustainability of the airline industry.”

“Within the BIMP-EAGA region, there is a massive population base of more than 60 million, covering an area of 1.56 million square kilometres. Considering the vast tracks of unexplored routes, it augurs well for the region to ‘get cracking’ and connect the dots,” he stressed.

Within the region, there existed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ‘Expansion of Air Linkages’ between the governments of BIMP-EAGA, which was signed back in January 2007. It granted the Fifth Freedom Traffic Right (FFTR) airports in the EAGA countries to cater for EAGA carriers.

The FFTR arrangements allowed an air carrier of one EAGA member country to pick up traffic in the territory of the other EAGA member country and carry it to a third EAGA member country as part of the service to/from the home country of the operating carrier.

“Technically, the MoU should propel BIMP-EAGA air services into a whole new scenario – an ‘open sky’ era, however that has not yet materialised. With the support given from the region, MASwings should be able to create a niche in the hotly contested air routes competition provided it takes into account other private sector participation startegies,” said Wee.

Currently, MASwings owns 10 ATR 72-500s and four DHC-6 Twin Otters. It was required to acquire at least four jetliners in order to fulfill the requirement of being a regional airline. Speculations were rife that MASwings may be acquiring the 737-800s aircraft from one of its sister companies Firefly under MAS.

Moving forward, MASwings is set to hold its official ‘BIMP-EAGA Operations’ media briefing in Sabah today, revealing its business expansion to BIMP-EAGA which was scheduled to take effect in February next year.

While MASwings is endeavouring to capitalise on the open sky policy, other regional players are also looking at the sub-regional landscape with a magnifying glass to further make their presence felt as early players.

AirAsia co-founder and chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes recently highlighted to The Borneo Post about the company’s plans to commence a Kuching-Bangkok route, currently at the ‘waiting for approval’ stage. He was also looking at restarting the Kuching-Jakarta route.

On the international front, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air of the Philippines also expressed its interest to expand its international routes in Malaysia by making Kuching its next stop after Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

Industry sources and analysts concurred that with the growing connectivity demand within the region, the aviation landscape would be transformed into becoming a hive of activities, while more announcements should be forthcoming in the near future.

JetBlue to Buy Pratt & Whitney Engines

JetBlue Airways Corp. agreed to buy 86 engines valued at about $1.03 billion from United Technologies Corp. Pratt & Whitney unit for 40 Airbus SAS A320neo jets the carrier ordered.

JetBlue becomes the first U.S. customer for the PurePower geared turbofan engine on the A320neo, the companies said in an e-mailed statement today. The airline declined to comment on cost. The engines have an estimated list price of about $12 million each, though carriers usually get discounts on big orders.

Pratt & Whitney beat out CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric Co. (GE) and Safran SA. (SAF) JetBlue has been evaluating engine suppliers since announcing a $2.5 billion order for the Airbus planes in June. The new model provides as much as 15 percent in fuel savings as well as longer range compared with the New York-based airline’s current A320s.

“We are confident we’ve made an excellent choice for our aircraft,” Chief Executive Officer Dave Barger said in the statement, after briefing JetBlue managers on the agreement.

JetBlue’s current A320 jets have engines made by International Aero Engines, a joint venture in which Pratt & Whitney in October agreed to acquire a controlling interest. JetBlue’s Embraer SA E190s have GE engines.

The new Pratt & Whitney agreement includes long-term maintenance. Before the JetBlue accord, Pratt & Whitney already had firm engine orders for 370 A320neos.

JetBlue is scheduled to receive the first of its twin- engine A320neos in 2018.

The A320neo has become the best-selling aircraft in aviation history, with Toulouse, France-based Airbus securing about 1,200 firm orders during the past year. United Technologies has its headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut.

Central Board of Excise and Customs lifts freeze on bank accounts of Kingfisher, Air India

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has lifted the freeze on the bank accounts of Kingfisher and Air India. This was done after both the airlines made part-payment of their service tax dues. The Board, earlier this month, froze some accounts of both the debt-laden airlines for defaulting on service tax payments, despite collecting the same from passengers.

According to sources, Kingfisher paid Rs 9 crore and Air India Rs 8 crore towards dues for the month of November. After this the freeze on the accounts was lifted, on Tuesday, they added.

Kingfisher has given a written “undertaking” that it will pay the remaining dues toward service tax by March 31, 2012. Kingfisher has total dues of Rs 110 crore for April-November while the national carrier had defaulted on the payment of Rs 310 crore for the same period.

Kingfisher's owner, Mr Vijay Mallya, had met the CBEC Chairman, Mr S. K. Goel, and requested a de-freezing of the airline's bank accounts. The Department reportedly asked him to pay at least the dues for the month of November.

Couple faces military jet fuel theft charge

EDMOND — A federal grand jury has indicted an Oklahoma couple for conspiracy to steal jet fuel and defraud the United States.

The indictment claims Latimer Trucking, owned and operated by Doyle Latimer, 55, subcontracted to provide several drivers and trucks capable of hauling about 7,500 gallons of jet fuel from facilities in the state to various military bases.

Cynthia Latimer, 59, was employed by Latimer Trucking and kept the business and payroll records. Both Elgin residents are named in the indictment.

It is alleged that Latimer Trucking’s drivers made an average of two deliveries per truck per day to designated military bases and that Latimer’s trucks, which normally burn diesel fuel, can also operate on the jet fuel.

The JP-8 jet fuel contains a fuel system icing inhibitor used by military aircraft. Without JP-8’s additives, the operation of the aircraft is endangered at high altitudes where temperatures are below freezing.

The indictment alleges the Latimers conspired to steal the jet fuel intended for delivery to the military and use that fuel to operate its fleet of trucks in order to substantially reduce the costs of their daily trucking operation.

Specifically, it is alleged that Doyle Latimer directed his truck drivers to steal jet fuel after picking up loads from a Conoco facility in Oklahoma City or the Wynnewood Refinery.

They were then to divert some of the fuel into storage tanks at one of Latimer Trucking’s business locations or directly into the truck saddle tanks before delivering the load to the designated military installation.

To do so, it is alleged that the drivers would remove the seal intended to prevent theft or contamination, divert the fuel, and replace the seal prior to delivery.

Upon delivery, it is alleged that Latimer would present military personnel with bills of lading that falsely represented it was a full load.

It is also alleged that Latimer Trucking drivers would steal additional fuel by not unloading all of the fuel at the destination and later transferring the remainder into tanks owned by Latimer Trucking at one of their locations.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, plus mandatory restitution.

The defendants were not in custody and a warrant was to be issued, according to the indictment. Prosecutors recommended that the defendants be on their own recognizance.

Information for defense counsel was not available. An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial, at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

These charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Devils Lake Regional Airport: Coming soon – Great Lakes Air

Devils Lake, ND —  Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven, Congressman Rick Berg and Governor Jack Dalrymple received word Tuesday that Great Lakes Aviation will begin service into Devils Lake this Saturday, Dec. 17, much earlier than the previous target date of January 1, 2012.

"This is great news for Devils Lake and the surrounding communities. The expedited service from Great Lakes will help ensure that North Dakotans' holiday travel plans stay on track," the North Dakota leaders said in a joint statement.

Beginning Saturday, Dec. 17, Great Lakes Aviation will offer two round trip flights a day to Minneapolis - St. Paul (MSP). The airline plans to increase to three round trips a day by Feb. 1. The flights will operate as Great Lakes Aviation, still connecting to Delta Airlines.

Great Lakes Aviation is filling the void left by Delta, which suspended service into Devils Lake after the regional jets had difficulty operating at the airport under certain conditions. Delta — which is legally obligated to serve the community — tried to rectify the problem by busing Devils Lake passengers to Grand Forks when flights were cancelled. However, the North Dakota leaders said that solution was unacceptable and pressed U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and Delta to find a solution to ensure the community would be served.

"We appreciate Great Lakes coming in to honor the commitment to serve the Devils Lake community. We will continue to work with Delta and the U.S. DOT toward a long-term solution for timely and efficient air service into and out of Devils Lake," the Congressional delegation and Governor said in a joint statement.

Great Lakes Aviation is based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and provides passenger service at 42 airports in eleven states.

FAA Proposal Targets Stall Recovery After Deadly Crash


Federal aviation regulators released draft recommendations detailing measures to prevent airline pilots from flying aircraft too slowly and risking the onset of dangerous aerodynamic stalls, such as the one that caused a much-publicized 2009 crash near Buffalo, N.Y., that claimed 50 lives.

The Federal Aviation Administration's document, released on Tuesday, pulls together a wide range of recommended practices for training pilots to avoid and recover from hazardous stall situations. Although the recommendations are still preliminary, the so-called advisory circular spells out for the first time in one place uniform recovery standards for pilots, training instructors, simulator providers and other segments of commercial aviation.

The preliminary recommendations, which incorporate suggestions from aircraft manufacturers, industry associations, pilot unions and safety groups, represent the FAA's most focused response yet to the crash of a Colgan Air Inc. turboprop two years ago. The crash sparked both public and congressional outcry over inadequate pilot knowledge and training in responding to stall dangers.

Many of the FAA's recommendations are likely to become binding over the next few years.

The Colgan cockpit crew lost track of the plane's speed as it approached the airport, prompting the captain to yank sharply on the controls to raise the nose of the slow-moving Bombardier Q400. The proper response is to push forward on the yoke to recover from a stall.

An aerodynamic stall occurs when a plane's speed drops, allowing the wings to lose lift. Under those circumstances, pilots can't maintain controlled flight.

The FAA document stresses "growing concern within the FAA and industry" about professional pilots losing control of aircraft in such situations, often due to "inappropriate reaction to the first indication of a stall."

The FAA said it found "significant evidence" of lapses by U.S. airline crews in realizing and properly reacting to the "insidious onset" of a stall under both manual and autopilot flight controls. To enhance safety, the FAA proposed formally endorsing the conclusions of various and national and international safety groups that stress the importance of immediately lowering an aircraft's nose when confronting a stall.

Regulators believe training should include simulator sessions during which pilots learn to cope with the "startle factor" of a dangerous stall event that occurs without warning.

The document emphasizes that it's acceptable to lose altitude during a recovery maneuver. "At no time should minimum altitude loss be a criterion for successful demonstration of" stall prevention or recovery maneuvers, according to the agency.

In the past, flight instructors tended to stress recovery with barely any loss of altitude.

The FAA also wants pilots to get more ground school instruction about the aerodynamic principles that can lead to stalls. Unlike many earlier training programs that often targeted stall-recovery techniques at relatively low altitudes, the agency is now urging that pilots practice such maneuvers at high altitudes using more-realistic scenarios.

Goodyear Says Aircraft Tire Plant Still Hampered


Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. said Wednesday that a flood-hit aircraft tire plant in Thailand wouldn't resume full production until May, creating a potential shortage for airlines early next year.

The company is the world's largest producer of tires for commercial and military jets, as well as smaller planes, and is working to boost production at plants in the U.S. and the Netherlands to prevent bottlenecks it warned could emerge as early as February.

Tire shortages have been a problem in recent years for other big-ticket equipment such as the heavy machinery produced by Caterpillar Inc., and the disruption in Thailand comes as airplane makers prepare for a big rise in production amid record order levels. Some airline and leasing customers also have expressed concern about shortages for such elements as aircraft seats and galleys.

The Goodyear plant in Bangkok was hit by flooding in October, though the full extent of the damage didn't become apparent until late last month, and the company last week flagged the potential shortfall in tires as "an industrywide concern."

Airbus and Boeing Co., the world's largest aircraft makers, this week said they are monitoring the tire situation though didn't see any immediate impact on aircraft deliveries, and have expressed confidence in their wider supply chains to support higher production.

The Goodyear plant produces new tires and retreads—airlines typically retread tires five or six times—and the supply problems are particularly acute for bias or cross-ply types, the most commonly used in the industry.

"We are doing everything we can to address the potential shortage," said a Goodyear spokesman on Wednesday, with full production at the Bangkok facility expected in May.

The company said it didn't foresee any "material" financial impact from the Thai closure following insurance payouts.

Goodyear said it is looking for other viable supply sources for its customers and is also asking other aviation-tire manufacturers to help mitigate the situation. Michelin and Bridgestone Corp. are among the other big players in the sector.

—David Kesmodel and Daniel Michaels contributed to this article.

Mumbai, India: Fewer flights delayed this month - ATC

Fewer city-bound flights are being forced to circle above the Mumbai airport owing to air traffic congestion compared to last month. This has led to fewer flight delays. According to air traffic control (ATC) officials, movement in and out of the airport has become smoother because of a reduction in the daily take-offs and landings from 750 to 720.

The ease in traffic load was witnessed soon after Kingfisher Airlines reduced 10 scheduled flights out of Mumbai last month. In November, the airline had curtailed 40 flights from its national network because it wa s making losses on these routes.

“Owing to the reduction of 10 flights the numbers of daily movements have come down by 30. So, very few flights have to hover above the airport even in peak hours,” said a senior ATC official requesting anonymity.

Normally, Mumbai-bound flights circle above the airport for about 10 to 15 minutes on an average during peak hours. As a result flights from 6am to 9am and 8pm to 10 pm often get delayed. But now the circling time is not more than three minutes, said ATC officials.

Sources said that they have saved enormous amounts of fuel thanks to this reduction in time.

Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Receives FAA Certification

Boeing's newest passenger airplane on track for delivery in early 2012

EVERETT, Wash., Dec. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Boeing BA -1.35% received certification for the new 747-8 Intercontinental from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Certification clears the way for delivery of the new airplane early next year.

The FAA presented Boeing an Amended Type Certificate (ATC) and the amended Production Certificate for Boeing's newest passenger airplane, the 747-8 Intercontinental Wednesday. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is expected to issue its ATC for the airplane Thursday. Boeing received its FAA and EASA certificates for the 747-8 Freighter in August.

"This is a great achievement for Boeing and for the 747-8 program," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, "We look forward to delivering this fabulous airplane to our customers."

The certificates validate that the design of the 747-8 Intercontinental is compliant with all aviation regulatory requirements and the production system can produce a safe and reliable airplane, conforming to the airplane's design.

"Soon people around the world will fly on the newest 747," said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager, 747 program. "This is a great day for our customers and for a team that has worked incredibly hard to certify the newest version of the Queen of the Skies."

The 747 program is now in the final stages of preparing to deliver the first 747-8 Intercontinental early next year.

The 747-8 Intercontinental provides double-digit improvements in fuel economy and carbon emissions per passenger and generates a 30 percent smaller noise footprint than the 747-400. The new 747-8 Intercontinental features a new wing design and an upgraded flight deck and applies 787 Dreamliner inspired interior features including a new curved, upswept architecture giving passengers a greater feeling of space and comfort.


Flying Colours expected to announce expansion

MPP Jeff Leal, left, chats with director, completion sales and management Eric Gillespie and Provincial infrastructure minister Bob Chiarelli, who was in Peterborough checking up on the province's $7-million investment at the Peterborough Airport Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011 at the Flying Colours Corp. building. Flying Colours is making an announcement Wednesday morning on an expected expansion.

Flying Colours is soaring with the Peterborough-based aviation service company planning to expand its facilities and add jobs.

Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal plans to make a funding announcement at Flying Colours at the Peterborough Airport at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. A Flying Colours representative couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

The company has given several indications of its plans, recently announcing a new agreement for servicing and modifications for turboprop aircraft and a partnership that will lead to Flying Colours establishing a base in Asia to support its growing customer base in that region for aircraft servicing and refurbishments.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty toured the Flying Colours facility in October when they announced the completion of the $28.6-million upgrade of the city's airport through a joint federal-provincial-municipal project.

After that announcement in October, Flying Colours president John Gillespie told The Examiner the company was in negotiations with the city for another site at the airport for a 45,000-square-foot facility to handle larger Boeing and Airbus aircraft for its maintenance and refurbishing business.

"We'll be adding jobs…. Within five years it will double our workforce to about 350," Gillespie said.

In March 2010, Gillespie said the company's plans to build a new $12-million facility and add 175 jobs to its 200-person workforce hinged on the $28.6-million upgrade of the airport, which included a 2,000-metre runway extension.

The company opened a new 24,000-square-foot hangar and office building in 2008 to expand to 100,000 square feet of floor space at the airport. It had plans to build another 60,000-square-foot hangar.

Flying Colours specializes in converting large regional commercial jets into 14- to 16-seat corporate planes with custom details. It builds specially designed cabinets, upholsters seats and makes other interior features as well as upgrading capabilities of aircraft.

Flying Colours has facilities in Peterborough and Chesterfield, Mo.

Piper Aircraft: Ministry of Finance to acquire Imprimis' management rights and equity interests

THE Ministry of Finance (MoF), through its investment vehicle, will soon acquire the management rights and equity interests of of investment company Imprimis Strategic Investment Corporation (NBD) Sdn Bhd (ISIC) and Florida-based aviation manufacturer Piper Aircraft under a transfer expected to be completed in the "near future".

A statement from the MoF yesterday said Imprimis Group (Imprimis), which manages the investment company, has agreed to transfer the rights and interests of ISIC, which owns Piper Aircraft Inc (USA) and Piper Capital (NBD) Sdn Bhd, to the ministry's investment agency.

"ISIC was set up to invest in companies that can contribute to the long-term diversification of the Brunei economy," the statement read.

In relation to the transfer, Imprimis Managing Partner Stephen Berger has resigned as chairman of Piper Aircraft, while Imprimis Director Joseph Gotuaco has resigned as director of Piper Capital.

"We have greatly enjoyed our work with the Brunei Ministry of Finance and Piper and wish both parties every success in future," Berger was quoted as saying.

Imprimis, which has offices in Bangkok, Singapore and Brunei, bought Piper in 2009 from a private equity firm and global asset manager, American Capital. The aviation company's range of products included single-engine and twin-engine trainer, personal and business aircraft.

Imprimis said in a statement issued then that it intended to invest significant capital in Piper's operations to strengthen its position in its traditional markets and support the development of key new products, such as the PiperJet.

The group was reportedly drawn to Piper because of the significant potential for it expand its activities into new markets in Asia Pacific, which was expected to experience steady growth for two- to six-seat aircraft, in part due to shifting demographics and increasing demand for pilot training from training schools and flying clubs (commercial and private).

A pilot academy was also scheduled to be opened by Piper this year, that would serve to train pilots from around the region.

The Brunei Times

Private jet to New York City, posh hotel, Tiffany shopping spree land California women in jail

(CBS/AP) WESTMINSTER, Calif. - A private jet ride to New York City, a hotel room in Times Square, a shopping spree at Tiffany & Co... did this paralegal and school teacher win the lottery?

Or did they forge a check for more than a quarter of a million dollars from a law firm and go on a wild spending spree?

Authorities say it was the latter.

CBS Los Angeles reports that according to the Orange County District Attorney's office, sometime between Sept. 21 and Nov 16.,  Alexa Johzen Polar, a 34-year-old paralegal, and Rovin Antonella Pabello, a 33-year-old teacher, both from Garden Grove, Calif., stole a check for over $19,500 from the firm where Polar worked.

Officials say the pair then removed the payee's name and replaced it with Pabello's. They then forged the amount for $285,000.

On Nov. 16, police say the friends used an ATM to deposit the check into a joint account they held.

The women used the money to charter a private jet to fly themselves and several friends to New York City, rent five rooms at a hotel in Times Square and go on a spending spree at Tiffany & Co, investigators say.

Bank officials discovered the thefts after "the issuing bank rejected the check that the receiving bank had processed," the DA's office said in a press release. They allegedly spent the money very quickly; it was only a week after the check was deposited that the forgery came to light.

CBS Los Angeles reports the duo posted pictures of their trip on Facebook.
Cypress police detective Greg Faessel told the Los Angeles Times that the women wanted to "live like kings during the holidays. These women were already deep in debt and wanted to enjoy life without any cares for a while."

Polar and Pabello are each facing two felony counts of forgery, one felony count of grand theft, and one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement.

If the women are convicted on all counts, they could face a maximum of more than six years in prison. They are being held in jail on bail of $285,000, the amount they attempted to steal.

"They have to prove that the (bail) money is from a legal and legitimate source," instead of from the allegedly stolen funds, a spokeswoman for the DA's office said.

Canadian NORAD Region Announces Santa's Escort Pilots

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, Dec 14, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- With Christmas rapidly approaching, the Canadian NORAD Region has finalized plans to track and escort Santa Claus during his visits to Canada with the selection of four CF-18 fighter pilots who will act as Santa's official escorts.

First to welcome Santa will be pilots Captains Gregory Myers and Aaron Dhillon of 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron who will launch from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., as the sleigh approaches Canadian airspace. Taking over escort duties as Santa makes his way into Western Canada will be the Commanding Officer of 410 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hamilton and his wingman for this mission will be Captain Corey Mask of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta.

The Canadian Air Defence Sector Operations Centre at 22 Wing in North Bay, Ont., will alert NORAD when their radar and satellite systems detect Santa approaching North America. The two CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 3 Wing will welcome Santa off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, then handover their duties as he nears western Canada to the two CF-18 Hornets from 4 Wing who will escort him ensure for the remainder of his Christmas voyage.

Special NORAD 'SantaCams', positioned around the world, will take photos and video of Santa and his sleigh as he journeys around the world. The 'SantaCams' instantly download the photo and video imagery so that it may be viewed by children worldwide on the NORAD Tracks Santa website on December 24.

Starting at midnight MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa as he makes all the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can talk to a live phone operator to inquire about Santa's whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email. NORAD's "Santa Cams" will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations worldwide. Last year on Christmas Eve alone, NORAD "Santa Trackers" answered thousands of telephone calls and emails over a 25-hour period.

NORAD is a bi-national United States and Canadian organization, charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. NORAD performs its mission 365 days per year, but on Christmas Eve, NORAD performs an additional mission - tracking Santa around the world.

NORAD's Tracks Santa program website is

NORAD's Tracks Santa program email address is:

Contact information:

To arrange an interview with an escort pilot (up to and including December 16), please contact:

Second-Lieutenant Melanie Jodoin, 3 Wing Public Affairs, at (418) 677-4000 ext. 4145; or Lieutenant (Navy) Bettina McCulloch-Drake, 4 Wing Public Affairs, at (780) 840-8000 ext. 8121

To arrange an interview with a radar operator (up to and including December 16), please contact:

Lieutenant Leah Pierce, 22 Wing Public Affairs, at (705) 494-2011 ext. 2822

For more information on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, please contact:

Captain Jeff Noel, Canadian NORAD Region Public Affairs, at (204) 833-2500 ext. 2028

Information: 1-866-377-0811 / (613) 996-2353

SOURCE: Department of National Defence

Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR) gets OK for Boeing's biggest-ever plane. Newark, New Jersey.

NEW YORK — The biggest airliner Boeing has ever built could soon be coming to Newark Liberty International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given the airport a waiver so it can receive flights by the massive Boeing 747-8 even though its runways and taxiways don’t meet the width requirements for such planes.

FAA has a few conditions, though: The 747-8 has to stay off certain taxiways on the north and south ends of the airport, and it can’t taxi faster than 20 mph. The agency posted the waiver online this week.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York received a waiver for the plane in June.

The new Boeing is 13 feet wider and 18 feet longer than the company’s previous version, the 747-400. It can carry up to 581 passengers, while a 747-400 can carry 524. But a typical 747-8 would carry 467 people in three classes.

Boeing is already delivering freighter versions of the 747-8. Lufthansa will start flying the first passenger version early next year, though the airline hasn’t said what routes the plane will fly.

In April, an Air France Airbus A380 clipped a regional jet on the tarmac at Kennedy Airport, raising concerns about the growing number of super-large aircraft at U.S. airports that don’t meet the federal space requirements for them. Kennedy has a waiver for the A380 because its taxiways are too close together.

Both the 747-8 and Airbus 380 fall into a new size category known as Airplane Design Group VI.

Airports are supposed to have 200-foot-wide runways to handle Group VI planes, but Newark’s runways are only 150 feet wide. The regulations also call for 324 feet between the centerline of one taxiway and the centerline of another, but Newark’s range from 267 feet to 314 feet.

The airport also plans to send the 747-8 down taxiways that are 75 feet wide. The standard is 100 feet.

The FAA cautioned the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Newark Liberty, to be on the lookout for any problems caused by the 747-8’s jet blast as the airliner moves around other planes, vehicles and workers. It also urged the agency to consider moving some truck roads farther away from taxiways.

The FAA has issued waivers to 19 airports to receive the 747-8. Along with Kennedy, Dallas-Fort Worth and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska have waivers to receive the Airbus 380.

New Delhi, India: New Civil Aviation policy in five months - official

NEW DELHI: The government is working on a new civil aviation policy which will promote investments and setting up of the required infrastructure for the sector, a senior official said Wednesday.

"We have about five months to complete the process," Nasim Zaidi, secretary, civil aviation ministry, said while inaugurating an industry event organised by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) here.

According to Zaidi, the new policy will encourage private sector investments and lay emphasis on setting up an air cargo promotion board.

Zaidi added that the air freight stations at Mumbai and Chennai will be operationalised soon to keep up with the booming traffic.

Zaidi also called for reforms in the customs procedure and said speedy clearances of cargo was required for the sector to maintain high growth rates.

"We need to decongest cargo terminals with simplification of customs procedures, greater use of mechanised handling and speedy clearances," Zaidi said.

"India has the potential to emerge as a global trans-shipment hub," He added.

Central Board for Excise and Customs chief commissioner Najib Shah said the authorities have put in place a risk management system for self-declaration by exporters.

"Efforts are being made to upscale infrastructural facilities and reduce dwell time," he said.

Meanwhile, industry stake-holders called for reduction in transaction cost by increasing the usage of technology like e-enabled transactions, processes and common IT (information technology) platforms.

"We must have modern integrated cargo terminals, cargo villages, automated storage and rack systems, cold chain facilities to support pharmaceuticals and perishable cargo," said K. Narayana Rao, chairman of Assocham's civil aviation committee.

The air cargo industry has been averaging an annual growth of 12 percent.

The total cargo handled by Indian airports in 2010-11 was 2.33 million tonnes, up from 0.5 million tonnes in 2005-06.

While, domestic cargo is expected to increase from 0.8 million tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes by 2016-17, the international cargo traffic is projected to move up from 1.5 million tonnes to 2.7 million tonnes in the same period.

The government has also raised foreign direct investment limit in cargo airlines from 49 percent to 74 percent.

Experts on the sector said that air freight stations would eventually be shifted to Tier II and Tier III cities to offset limitation of space and decongest warehouses at main airports.

"As the key infrastructure sector expands, to keep up with rising passenger and cargo traffic, investments of Rs 1.5 lakh crore will be required in the next 15 years," Assocham said in a statement.

Rurocopter AS350, N37SH: Accident occurred on December 8, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada

NTSB Identification: DCA12MA020 
 Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 07, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER FRANCE AS350B2, registration: N37SH
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 7, 2011 at 1630 Pacific Standard Time, a Eurocopter AS350-B2, registration N37SH, operated by Sundance Helicopters as flight Landmark 57, crashed in mountainous terrain approximately 14 miles east of Las Vegas, Nevada. The 14 CFR Part 135 flight was a tourist sightseeing flight, which departed from Las Vegas McCarren International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, NV, intending to fly to the Hoover Dam area and return to LAS, operating under visual flight rules. The helicopter impacted in a narrow ravine in mountainous terrain between the city of Henderson and Lake Mead. The pilot and four passengers were fatally injured, and the helicopter was substantially damaged by impact forces and post-crash fire. Weather was reported as clear with good visibility and dusk light conditions.

Radar data obtained from the FAA show that the helicopter departed LAS and followed a normal route of flight easterly out of the LAS airport traffic area, then turned to the southeast toward Hoover Dam. Tour routings are standardized for all the area tour operators. The helicopter was level at 3,500 feet mean sea level (MSL) at approximately 120 knots. About one minute prior to the accident, the radar indicated the helicopter climbed to 4,100 feet MSL and turned about 90 degrees to the left. The left turn and climb are not part of the normal route. Radar then indicated the helicopter descended to 3,300 feet MSL and tracked a northeasterly course for about 20 seconds, until entering a left turn then a descent. The last radar target received was about 1/8 miles from the accident site.

A lawyer representing a honeymooning couple from India killed in a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter crash has filed the first negligence lawsuit in the case.

LAS VEGAS -- The first wrongful death lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Nevada on behalf of the families of a honeymooning couple from India killed in a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter crash that also took the lives of the pilot and a northwest Kansas couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

The civil lawsuit names Las Vegas-based Sundance Helicopters Inc., the operator of the twilight flight that crashed Dec. 7 near Lake Mead.

"The families are heartbroken by these deaths, and they want answers," said Gary Robb, the Kansas City, Mo.-based lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the parents of Lovish Bhanot, 28, and Anupama Bhola, 26.

Sundance officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the lawsuit filed in Clark County District Court.

Also killed in the crash were pilot Landon Nield, 31, of Las Vegas and tourists Delwin and Tamara Chapman, both 49, of Utica. Nield, a devout Mormon who grew up in Wyoming and Utah, was a newlywed who was married in June, and the Chapmans were in Las Vegas celebrating their 25th anniversary.

Robb pointed to a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report released Tuesday that focused on unexplained turns and a sudden climb moments before the AS350-B2 aircraft crashed in a remote ravine.

"The left turn and climb are not part of the normal route," said the report, which summarized some details of the crash that were already made public. The report makes no conclusions or recommendations. NTSB officials said a final report on the crash could take a year.

Transportation board member Mark Rosekind told reporters last week the ill-fated helicopter, built in 1989, underwent routine maintenance the day before the crash. The engine was replaced, along with mechanical devices called servo-actuators in the tail and main rotor.

The chopper made one test flight and two passenger tours before the fatal last flight. Rosekind said evidence showed the engine was producing power when the aircraft crashed.

Radar records show approximately a minute before the crash, the aircraft climbed 600 feet and turned sharply left, fell 800 feet, turned left again and plunged into the ravine, the report said.

"All indications are that they had an inflight loss of control," Robb said. "That's the only possible explanation for the erratic and abnormal maneuvers prior to the crash."

Robb, who specializes in helicopter crash safety lawsuits, won a $38 million settlement in a Nevada court in December 2005 on behalf of a New York woman severely burned and injured in a Grand Canyon sightseeing helicopter crash.

NTSB investigators were due to leave Las Vegas on Tuesday, a day after large pieces of the wreckage were airlifted out of the ravine for transport to Phoenix and testing at an NTSB lab. The French accident investigation agency BEA also is taking part because the aircraft was built in France.

Sundance Helicopters chief executive Larry Pietropaolo previously said there was no distress call before an automatic GPS signal stopped during what typically is a 40-minute twilight tour over Hoover Dam and the neon-lit Las Vegas Strip.

The helicopter was not required to have a "black box" data recorder and was not equipped with one.

The crash renewed questions about air tour safety and focused scrutiny on a company that had at least five accidents since 1994 and was the subject of 10 federal enforcement actions, mostly for minor infractions.

In September 2003, a pilot and six passengers were killed when a Sundance helicopter slammed into a canyon wall east of the Grand Canyon West Airport. The pilot was blamed for violating federal aviation regulations. The company was not punished.

Pietropaolo said he believes Sundance has an excellent safety record compared with the air tour industry and general aviation.

  Regis#: 37SH        Make/Model: AS35      Description: EUROCOPTER AS350
  Date: 12/08/2011     Time: 0115

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Fatal     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Destroyed

  City: LAS VEGAS   State: NV   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   5
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   1     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   4     Fat:   4     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    


  Activity: Aerial Observation      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: LAS VEGAS, NV  (WP19)                 Entry date: 12/08/2011