Saturday, December 17, 2011

United Kingdom: Flights delayed after whippet strays onto runway at Manchester Airport

Flights at Manchester airport were brought to a standstill - by a whippet. 

Managers were forced to shut down a runway after the whippet managed to evade security and run loose at the UK's 4th busiest airport.

A flight from Turkey was forced to divert to Birmingham because of the Saturday morning drama – and a dozen other flights were delayed. 

Airport staff spent forty minutes chasing the animal across the tarmac after it ran away from its owners and slipped past a manned access point into a cargo area. 

A local family were walking the pedigree dog near to The Rompers pub when the racing pedigree - capable of speeds of up to 35mph -slipped away. 

Crews instantly issued an alarm to cease all take-offs and landings after it was spotted on the runway at 10.40am. 

It is the second day in the row there have been delays at the airport after flights were held up on Friday because of 3mm of snow.
Gary Brown, the airport’s duty manager, said it took crews some time to corner the animal. 

He said: “It took some time to catch it. The airfield is obviously quite a big area. Because of the delay there was a build up of flights and we had to suspend a Turkish Airways flight from Istanbul. It was diverted to Birmingham, refuelled and has now made its way up here. 

“Basically, if there is any lost animal on the runway, we have to stop all flights straight away. Fortunately, we’ve cleared the backlog.” 

The animal was later safely re-united with its family. Fortunately, passengers who forced to wait in departure lounges saw the funny side. 

Among those caught up in the delays was DJ Clint Boon, who tweeted: “Delayed flying from Paris because of industrial action. Delayed landing at Manchester due to "dogs on the runway". I love this city.” 

In July there were delays when a pink flamingo forced the closure of the runway. 

The bird – nicknamed Ringo – evaded capture for almost five hours before being caught.

India: Dog sniffs out heroin worth Rs. 1.5 crore at Mumbai airport

Mumbai: A canine member of the integrated sniffer dog squad of the Narcotics division of the Mumbai Customs Department was responsible for yet another drug haul at the Mumbai International airport yesterday. The dog successfully tracked and intercepted a young Ugandan lady in possession of 5.5 kg worth of heroin, worth Rs. 1.5 crore.

Dana Mosuaga (25), had managed to evade detection through the preliminary security check and luggage check-in, and was ready to board an Ethiopian Airways flight, when the dog, which was patrolling the premises, stopped near her luggage and started barking fiercely. The Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) team, led by the Deputy Commissioner of Customs Sameer Wankhede, reached the spot and re-examined her baggage, where the cache was found concealed in almost 80 pouches.

"We examined the bag, and found many small pouches tucked away. They were neatly stitched up. When we tore them open, we found about 5.5 kg of heroin," said an AIU official on condition of anonymity.

On the basis of their preliminary findings, AIU officials have revealed that Mosuaga is an active member of a drug mafia operating from India.

"She collected the parcel from Delhi and reached Mumbai on Monday evening, so she could board the flight on Tuesday morning. She claimed innocence when we interrogated her, but we have learnt that she is deeply involved in this trade," he added.

Mosuaga has been detained, and is presently under the custody of the AIU for interrogation. She is likely to be produced at the Esplanade court in the afternoon today.

Nose for crime

MiD DAY had reported earlier ('No dope sneaks past this sniffer squad', November 30) how Sonu, Dolly, Anju and Goldy, the hawk-eyed watchdogs with the hypersensitive hooters, had helped officials arrest drug smugglers at the airport. Together, they have brought about seizures worth Rs. 100 crore.

India: Pay cess to make airlines reach smaller towns

If rise in international fuel prices leading to increase in cost of flying was not enough, a Planning Commission committee wants domestic flyers to pay cess to ensure that flights to smaller cities and far-flung areas are financially viable.

A plan panel committee on civil aviation has recommended creation of an "exclusive fund" to provide explicit and direct subsidy to airlines to fly to economically unviable routes and developing airports and heliports at tier-II and tier-III cities.

"The government should provide a token amount of Rs 100 crore for starting the Essential Air Service Fund (EASF)," a panel's working group chaired civil aviation secretary SNA Zaidi, has recommended.

The report also said that world over it was not uncommon to provide direct intervention mechanism by the government to provide air connectivity to underserved and unserved destinations.

"In order to further encourage provision of air transport service on such un-economical but essential routes it would be desirable to consider providing explicit subsidy support from the fund," the report said, while mentioning United States and Australia as two countries where such subsidy mechanism is available.

India's civil aviation industry is among the 10 largest aviation markets in the world and has capacity to be ranked among top five. India's passenger handling capacity has increased from 72 million in 2006 to 233 million in 2011 and cargo handling facility has witnessed seven-fold increase during the same time period.

Although the biggest growth has been in low cost airline in domestic sector, the panel felt the annual passenger load would double by 2017 if air access to smaller towns and cities is provided. This will require Rs 67,000 crore investment to develop new airports of which Rs 50,000 is expected from the private sector.

Despite the growth, the committee said, the industry has failed to reach common person (aam aadmi) and has suggestion promoting setting up of regional airlines and having a heliport in each district with the help of the new fund. "Such support should be allocated through a transparent process of minimum subsidy bidding," the report said.

United Kingdom Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB): Annual Safety Report 2011.

The Annual Safety Report was published on December 15, 2011
This is the seventh Annual Safety Report (previously named the Progress Report). It contains information on the AAIB's activity during 2010 and Safety Recommendations submitted to the Secretary of State by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Included in the report are all the Safety Recommendations made by the AAIB in 2010 including the responses to those recommendations received up to and including 30 June 2011 and those recommendations categorised as open from previous years where the category has changed and/or significant additional information has been received.

The recommendations are grouped into eight sections:
1.    Aeroplanes  -  5,700kg MTWA and above
2.    Aeroplanes  -  above 2,250kg and below 5,700kg MTWA
3.    Aeroplanes  -  2,250kg MTWA and below
4.    Microlights
5.    Rotorcraft  -  5,700kg MTWA and above
6.    Rotorcraft  -  above 2,250kg and below 5,700kg MTWA
7.    Rotorcraft  -  2,250kg MTWA and below
8.    Others

Within each section the accidents are listed by event date in reverse chronological order. This date should be taken as the date the recommendation was made.

$50M loan to target air transportation in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas - The Bahamas is receiving a $50 million loan to improve its air transportation system in a program expected to increase flights within the island chain and modernize its airports.

The Inter-American Development Bank says its loan also will be used to create an independent body to investigate aviation incidents and accidents.

Nearly $48 million will be used for aviation reforms, while the remainder will be used for technical support and analysis of transportation issues between the smaller islands.

Five domestic airlines and 17 international ones currently serve the Bahamas.

The loan was announced this week.

$131m loans for water and sewerage, aviation upgrades

THE government put pen to paper on two loans from the Inter-American Development Bank worth a combined $131 million, to be used on water supply and sanitation upgrades and an air transport reform programme.

The Water and Sewerage Corporation will receive $81 million to rehabilitate selected sewerage infrastructure and make its other services more effective and efficient.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the majority of the money will go toward reducing water loss in the capital.

“We will direct $49 million at reducing non-revenue water, $15.5 million will go toward rehabilitating sewer plants infrastructure and designing a master plan for waste water treatment and $5.5 million will be allotted for institutional strengthening of WSC to improve staff productivity and customer service,” he said.

Environment Minister Earl Deveaux said the loan will eventually pay for itself through the savings it creates by eliminating water leakage.

“This loan means that we will be able to reduce leaks that account for five million gallons per day that is wasted. We will also be able to meet the demand for water in New Providence and the price of water will be more affordable than the water barging we just discontinued.

“We will also be able to increase water pressure from 19 pounds per square inch to 25. We will essentially increase the quality of water supply in the Bahamas.”

The $50 million Air Transport Programme loan will be used to purchase a new radar system for the Lynden Pindling International Airport; and general development at the Leonard Thompson Airport in Marsh Harbour, Abaco and the Exuma International Airport.

Some of the money will go towards reforming the aviation sector.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool Wallace expressed thanks and appreciation to the IDB for their continued assistance.

“We will use this money to show the world that the Bahamas is made up of more islands than New Providence and Paradise Island. We will focus on upgrading airports in the Family Islands and show the world the variety of the Bahamas through an improved aviation regime,” he said.

IDB vice president Roberto Vellutini signed the loans on behalf of the bank.

They are expected to be paid off in 25 years and carry an interest of 1.24 per cent.

Prime Minister Ingraham said the removal and replacement of water pipes throughout New Providence should not place a further burden on commuters as most of the work will be carried out at night and the pipes are small and require little “digging up.”

According to Glen Leville, general manager at WSC, the infrastructural work is not expected to begin until 2013, after the corporation conducts the necessary surveys and studies.

Australia: Flight path property fear

A QUARTER of a million home owners would see the value of their properties fall if the federal government approves an expansion of development restrictions under the flight path.

The dire forecast by the property industry - sections of which believe house prices could tumble by 10 percent - has been sparked by the revelation that the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group is debating whether to revise the way aircraft noise restrictions apply. The group will report to the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, next year.

Minutes of committee meetings, obtained under freedom of information laws by the Urban Taskforce, which represents leading property developers, state there is a move to dump the current measure, known as the Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF).

If an alternative system known as N70=10 is adopted, restrictions that forbid private housing developments in areas close to the airport would be expanded to encompass a further 93 square kilometres of the metropolitan area.

The world's largest commercial real estate services firm, CB Richard Ellis, maintains a ''financial impact'' would be felt in suburbs including Coogee and Pagewood in the city's east, Drummoyne and Ashfield in the inner west, and Burwood, Rhodes and Rosehill in the west, if the government overturns the aircraft noise system.

The company estimates between 170,000 and 230,000 homes would be affected, based on 2006 Census data, but says the figure could be higher.

The report states that ''the financial impact on existing home owners would vary but some of the most immediate impacts could be as follows:

Decreased 'marketability' to properties designated within a 'noise-affected' area.

Reductions in property values due to the impact of being in a 'noise-affected' area.

Increased sales periods due to the 'marketability' impacts.

Reduction in desirability of investment properties by tenants and a corresponding potential reduction in rental income.''

CBRE also raised the prospect of ''negative changes'' to the demographics of the suburbs affected, with cheaper rents and increased costs associated with renovating existing properties to comply with higher noise requirements.

The chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, a former government architect, said: "This could lead to thousands of existing homes becoming devalued through having an unacceptable noise zone listed on their land title.''

A letter from Mr Albanese sent in May to the NSW Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, said the government was keen to avoid any ''sensitive development under flight paths'', specifically where residents are exposed to more than 60 decibels - the key noise level associated with the N70=10 measure.

Any overhaul could also threaten major developments such as the 20,000-home Green Square development and further housing around Olympic Park and Rhodes, potentially undermining the NSW government's metropolitan plan to increase housing density.

A spokeswoman for Mr Albanese said while the minister could not comment on what the committee might propose before it reports, no changes were afoot.

''As the government stated in its 2009 Aviation White Paper, it will retain the current aircraft noise system in airport master plans for planning around leased federal airports.''

The state government is more concerned. Mr Hazzard said in a statement: "I have only been given preliminary information from the federal government and have to clarify whether or not the federal government is proposing these changes for Greenfield as well as infill sites. Obviously if it is for infill (established areas) it does present problems, particularly for cities like Sydney. Some of the areas in high demand in Sydney may get caught up in this regulatory change - so we will be working with the federal government on this issue."

Budget airlines slowly killing Australian tourism, expert warns

BUDGET airlines are slowly killing Australia's domestic tourism industry, a leading Australian travel agent has warned.

Alan Dodson, who is managing director of travel company Holiday Planet, said he was finding it harder and harder to market Australia as a destination with low-cost carriers such as AirAsia and Jetstar offering such cheap packages to Asia.

Earlier this month AirAsia was advertising fares to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia from Melbourne, Perth and the Gold Coast from $199 one way.

"If the low-cost carriers continue to grow I think Australia is going to struggle more and more to fill leisure beds,'' Mr Dodson said.

While his company still advertises domestic packages, Mr Dodson said it was very difficult to compete on price.

"You can get four nights accommodation on the Gold Coast for $250 to $300, but for not a lot more than that you can get a cheap package deal overseas,'' he said.

"We're persisting with it because we think there are some people who definitely prefer to travel domestically but if anybody is looking at a budget it's very difficult to justify paying so much more to travel domestically.

"Unless somebody looking at the dollars and cents hates Asia it makes it hard to add up - especially if you have a couple of kids involved.''

Mr Dodson, who is originally from the United Kingdom, said he could see Australian holiday destinations following the same path as the one-time tourist hotspot of Blackpool in England, which died a slow death after budget airlines were introduced in Europe.

"You go back 15 to 20 years ago when the likes of EasyJet and Ryanair launched it encouraged more people to travel,'' he said.

"There used to be 16 million people a year holidaying within their own country.

"Blackpool had thousands of hotels - it's now given over to workers coming over from Eastern Europe renting accommodation.

"It's the same problem that's starting to happen here.''

But Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee said low-cost carriers also gave international source markets access to Australia and domestic airfares are more affordable now than ten years ago.

"The key for Australian tourism operators is to know what those markets want and ensure we are marketing ourselves effectively,'' he said.

"Australia can't compete on price alone, so we need to offer value instead - that doesn't mean cheap, it means bang for your buck, with great accommodation, unique and authentic experiences, great locations and high service standards.''

Mr Dodson has been operating his company for more than a decade and said it cost 20 to 25 per cent less to travel to Bali than it did two years ago.

"Consumer's perception of what they should pay has altered dramatically over the past few years,'' he said.

"There's more and more people going away two and three times of year because it's so cheap.''

The low-cost carriers had also encouraged full service airlines to lower their fares to be more competitive.

"For a little bit extra you can travel with the likes of Garuda Indonesia to Bali or Thai Airways to Phuket and have the advantages of movies and food included,'' Mr Dodson said.

AirAsia's Australian marketing manager Stuart Myerscough said the increased availability of travel options was only stimulating more frequent travel among the Australian public, including domestic breaks.

"At the end of the day what budget international carriers are offering to the general public of Australia is a greater choice,'' he said.

"Australians are now better off for having a greater availability of holiday destinations both at home and abroad.''

Mr Myersough said the number of Malaysian and Chinese passengers flying into and out of Australia on AirAsia X far outweigh the number of Australians flying out.

"The net effect of these budget airlines on the overall Australian tourism industry then could be said to be very positive, with more tourists being flown into our tourism markets, than being flown out.''

Australia: Taxpayers pay for ghost flights

Stephen Smith has been flying solo aboard special-purpose air force VIP jets at a cost of more than $120,000.

This inludes a 30-seater Boeing 737.

In some cases, the RAAF planes fly empty to collect the Defence Minister or return as an empty "ghost flight".

Department of Defence documents obtained by the Sunday Mail show Mr Smith took five flights as the only passenger between January and July this year.

The special-purpose flights documents reveal taxpayers spent nearly $780,000 in six months on flying empty air force VIP aircraft to collect politicians.

The RAAF "ghost flights" were ordered by Government and Opposition MPs to fly empty between cities including Perth, Brisbane and Canberra, despite the availability of commercial flights.

The fleet includes two 737 Boeing jets and three Challenger 604s.

The 737 is crewed by up to three flight attendants and two pilots and features full food and beverage service.

The nine-seater Challenger has up to two flight attendants and two pilots.

Mr Smith authorised himself to fly as the lone passenger from Brisbane to Perth on January 12 in a 30-seater Boeing 737 VIP jet.

The flight from Brisbane, where Mr Smith had been visiting the floods, lasted 4.6 hours and cost $15,088. Mr Smith said through a spokeswoman that there was "no viable commercial alternative" to taking the VIP jet.

The following day, the 737 flew empty to Canberra at a cost of $12,136. On March 14, the documents show an empty nine-seater Challenger jet signed off by Mr Smith flew 4.5 hours from Canberra to Perth at a cost of $14,760.

Mr Smith flew solo from Perth to Canberra for Cabinet aboard the jet the following day at a cost of $10,824.

On April 3, the jet was again summoned to Perth from Canberra where it flew empty except for its crew for 4.1 hours at a cost of $13,448.

Mr Smith boarded the plane in Perth on April 4 before travelling solo back to Canberra for Cabinet on a 3.6 hour flight, costing $11,808.

The jet was again enlisted on May 1 to fly empty from Canberra to Perth to collect Mr Smith, who flew solo back to Canberra, again for Cabinet, the following day at a total cost of $27,224.

On June 17, Mr Smith flew alone from Coolangatta to Perth on the nine-seat Challenger jet at a cost of $17,384. He had been in Queensland to attend the funeral of Sapper Rowan Robinson, killed in Afghanistan on June 6.

The total bill for Mr Smith's solo flying comes to $122,672, and his total VIP bill is $389,845.

For each of the flights, Mr Smith's spokeswoman said: "There was no viable commercial alternative. Mr Smith did not request the aircraft to fly empty (to collect him)".

She said the RAAF's 34 Squadron made the ultimate decisions about when jets flew empty. "As 34 Squadron is based in Canberra, at times aircraft need to be pre-positioned in other locations to pick up passengers. On these occasions aircraft can transit without passengers," she said.

Labor's Warren Snowdon was the greatest user of the empty "ghost" flights, costing taxpayers $78,392 to collect him from his remote Northern Territory electorate, while Treasurer Wayne Swan spent $75,440. Opposition leadership team Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop cost taxpayers $90,528.

Mr Abbott ordered the jet to collect him on empty flights worth $51,496, and deputy leader Julie Bishop was responsible for a total of $39,032 in empty flights.

The VIP flights, provided by the RAAF, cost Australia a total of $4.7 million in the first half of 2011, including the Prime Minister's tally of $921,565 and the Governor-General's bill of $750,794, including ghost flights. Mr Abbott's overall flight bill was $266,694.

Other solo flyers were Labor's Senator Kim Carr, who took a $2296 flight alone, and Veterans Affairs Minister Mr Snowdon, who took flights worth $38,704.

REDjet looks to new routes

LOW-cost Caribbean airline carrier REDjet, which last month began flying from Barbados to Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and Antigua, is looking to add new routes as it begins to fine-tune its operations.

On the 20th of November, REDjet launched its inaugural flight from Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, to Kingston Jamaica. The next day it flew from Trinidad to Barbados and the following day it flew nonstop direct from Guyana to Antigua, the first time that route has ever been flown.

In effect, the airline opened up three new routes rather quickly and is looking to expand on those. It has already lined up flights to St Lucia and is now contemplating operations in Latin America.

Speaking to Caribbean Business Report from the airline’s headquarters in Barbados, REDjet’s chairman Ian Burns said: “The real key thing is that we have now linked the northern Caribbean to the eastern and southern part of the region with a nonstop all-jet service. We made the promise that we would reduce the cost of flights in the region by 60 per cent and we have done so. If you look at the prices in the region there has been a fantastic reduction. One can fly from Jamaica to Barbados round-trip for just US$200.

“From Barbados to Guyana the fare is between US$100 and US$120 including taxes. A round-trip from Trinidad to Barbados will set you back about US$90. The great thing about linking the Caribbean is that you don’t need visas, you just grab your passport and away you go. We are now linking the Caribbean in a very affordable way.”

A helping hand to Caribbean students

Burns points to the travel bill of students of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and notes that is yet another hardship they have to bear on top of high fees and the rising cost of living. He declared that as far as air travel is concerned, REDjet is now able to cut airfares by over 50 per cent for students.

Already REDjet is allowing students in the region to travel with two free bags. He insists that even with baggage, students would still see a 50 to 60 per cent reduction in airfares. He believes those savings can go back into education and during recessionary times students need every penny that they can get.

Targeting the Spanish speaking region

REDjet has considered going into Suriname, but is aware that it already has a national airline. Countries that do have a national carrier will no doubt prove difficult for REDjet to go up against.

The airline’s ambitions do not reside just in the English-speaking Caribbean. It sees plenty of opportunities in the Spanish-speaking side of the region and has set its sights there. “If you are going from English-speaking countries into Spanish-speaking countries, then you have to make a sizable investment in the sense of changing systems, language and specifications on all aircraft designated for those destinations. We are now in the process of doing all that. We have a critical plan in place for the Spanish-speaking countries of the region. The populations are obviously bigger than the English-speaking Caribbean countries and we think we can make our presence felt there,” explained Burns.

More airlift needed for the Caribbean

Many have declared that the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and Caricom as a whole has been most disappointing and indeed may well become a failure. One of its shortcomings has been its inability to effectively link the region by air travel which stymies the search for employment opportunities and leisure travel. The linchpin of both the social and economic benefits of the CSME was to be good air links, but after fifty years this has not yet materialized.

On this issue, Burns said: “Most of the countries of Caricom have made it clear that they need more airlift as a key driver of stimulating social and economic growth. What people have not agreed upon is, how are they going to do it? What is plain to see is that the incumbent airlines do not have the capacity to increase the amount of airlift in the region and have been unable to do so for the last 40 years. In fact, it has retracted, so one clearly sees that new airlines in the Caribbean are needed. We need people with a new approach and a new product. The Caribbean region has fallen way behind in competitiveness over the last 20 years, and the cost of air travel has been a major factor here. That’s why many people, both in and out of the region, find it difficult to do business there. Here I’d like to think that REDjet is a catalyst for serious change. When one looks at communication, Digicel came in ten years ago and nothing has come in afterwards. We want to re-energize the airline business in the Caribbean.

“Recently the minister of finance of Barbados was talking about an inner and outer Caribbean. I think that is a retrograde step to say that; after all, Barbados is responsible for the CSME. The region is supposed to be a single market, not an inner and outer disparate entity. What we are finding over the years is that decisions are being made based on what countries in the Caribbean cannot have airlift. Barbados is now deciding which countries around it can have low-fare airlift and I don’t think that is right. You shouldn’t be able to determine for another country whether they can or cannot have a low-fare carrier. Clearly not every country can afford to start an airline because the markets just aren’t big enough. When you have an airline , you have a responsibility to the region and to the consumers not just in your own country. That has to be taken into consideration far above any narrow sense of agenda such as protection of a local airline.”

Red tape eating away at REDjet’s initial US$8-million investment

REDjet’s Barbados partner, the chairman of Williams Industries, Ralph “Bizzy” Williams, has said that excessive delays and suffocating red tape had eaten away at the initial US$8 million set aside for operating expenditure. Now with 100 staff members and three routes secured it finds itself financially constrained and unable to aggressively go about taking market share.

“The money had to be used in all of the delays that took place while we were waiting for permission to fly. We had to use it to pay staff and keep things going though we were not flying.... I am going to lose millions of dollars.

“I believe the technocrats decided that the politicians were wrong in designating REDjet as the national airline of Barbados, so the politicians had to wait on them to proceed; they are the ones who sabotaged us,” Williams is reported to have told the Barbadian press.

Wherever REDjet has gone, it has been met with resistance and a surfeit of bureaucracy that is an abject lesson in how to prevent foreign investors coming to your shores. So what are Burn’s thoughts on this matter?

“Decision making throughout the Caribbean is unbelievably slow and people seem afraid to make decisions. This prolonged decision-making process causes frustration and heightens tensions and leads to the wasting of money. Obviously decisions have to be considered and measured but it has to be much speedier than what currently pertains in the Caribbean. It should be a much more open and transparent process.

“You have people hiding behind closed doors. No one will tell you what level of subsidy Caribbean Airlines and Liat got last year and yet this is taxpayers’ money and taxpayers are entitled to know these things. Governments here tend to adopt this clandestine approach to taxpayers’ money and I don’t think that is right. The taxpayer and consumer should be given far more consideration. Today people want more information and that should be embraced. It’s not the government’s money, it’s the taxpayers’ money and they want to know how it is spent. We have experienced some horrendous delays with governments which have cost us a fortune. For example we have been looking at four routes over the last two years which has meant that Barbados has lost 125,000 passengers which means US$58 million could have entered the economy which will not come back. Now that doesn’t just hurt Barbados, it hurts its neighbors as well.”

Getting a hard time from the competition

REDjet’s CEO added that he is fully aware that many other Caribbean carriers do not want REDjet in the region and regard it as a threat to their business. He mentions that a CEO of one of the key regional carriers came on television and said REDjet has forced it to reduce its fares on certain routes.

“Now that’s something they shouldn’t be announcing with a heavy heart. It’s something that they should be striving to do. It should be one of their internal objectives. To say that you have been forced to reduce fares is symptomatic of the attitude that has prevailed and why airfares are so high in the region,” said Burns.

Four new aircraft for next year

REDjet currently has two airplanes with a third expected to be operational this month. There are plans to add a further four aircraft next year.

However the airline is not yet certain of what routes it will be flying and therefore cannot be more specific as to when the additional planes will become operational, as Burns says, “ It’s not in our economic interest to bring in planes and then wait for routes. The really bright spot in terms of doing business in the region is that five countries gave REDjet permission to fly before Barbados did."

St Lucia, St Kitts, St Maarten, Antigua and Grenada all want low fares because they have lost jet services to their countries with Caribbean Airlines pulling out and Air Jamaica no longer going down there, meaning these countries have lost significant airlift. Unfortunately Caribbean Airlines and Liat will not bring back those numbers, so therefore we are the only show in town.”

REDjet’s Boeing aircraft are comfortable and the service is friendly. Passengers are not cooped up on top of each other. Although 179 seats could have been put, in to make flights more comfortable, they opted for 149 seats in order to give passengers extra leg room. Burns says he is very pleased with the feedback so far and that passengers have taken well to the product.

“We have started a brand new business, a business that didn’t exist before. The way we go to market is different from other airlines. I think people are finding it very easy to do business with REDjet and in fact other airlines are beginning to copy our distribution models. We seem to be able to engage with the average person on the street. Our passenger is generally someone who was not able to previously travel because of cost,” explained Burns.

Based in Barbados

So what advantages does he see being based in Barbados? He responds by reiterating that REDjet is a Pan Caribbean airline with a model that sees it having a number of bases throughout the Caribbean. “Barbados happens to be the country that said yes first, so we were always going to be based here. We would love to have a base in Jamaica and three other bases in the region. Being in Barbados means that we have received a degree of political acceptance although over the last two months the waters have been muddied a bit. These things we will overcome. We are very grateful that Barbados said yes to us first.”

The northern Caribbean is clearly more populated than the eastern Caribbean and so REDjet will be concentrating its commercial activity in terms of flying on the northern and western Caribbean. However, it will remain headquartered in Barbados for the foreseeable future.

Airlines can be run profitably

“Our objective is that everyone can fly somewhere for US$50. No other airline thinks that way. If you look at fares over the last four years they seem to be increasing at a quick rate despite everybody having either a fuel or government subsidy. That is no good for the people of the Caribbean. It seems to me that the more money these governments put into these airlines the higher the fares go. So where is the money going? No one appears to be accountable. You can understand why there is institutional resistance to REDjet because people will have to become accountable for what they are doing, because competition means if they don’t provide a decent service at a fair reasonable price then the passengers are going to keep going to where the cheaper fares are. Now why do I say this? Because on the routes that we fly where there is competition, the fares have come tumbling down. If you have to keep putting taxpayers’ money into a business every year then it is a failure, don’t you agree? The bottom line is that airlines can be run profitably and I think it is incumbent on the political body within the region to make airlines much more accountable in terms of the dollar spend and making the taxpayers’ money go further,” said the REDjet boss.

Etihad links Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf

Etihad Airways has commenced non-stop flights from its home base in Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Greeted by a traditional water cannon salute on arrival, EY 23 touched down on schedule at the North Rhine Westphalia airport at 6:25am local time Friday.

The airline will initially operate four weekly return services to Dusseldorf, rising to a daily operation already in April 2012.

The route is being served by an Airbus A330-300 aircraft, in a three-class configuration, offering eight Diamond First Class suites, 32 seats in Pearl Business class and 191 seats in Coral Economy class.

Speaking in Dusseldorf, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer Peter Baumgartner said: “Germany is a strategically important market for Etihad Airways.

Baumgartner added: “We have carried more than 1.7 million passengers to and from Germany since we started flights to Munich back in 2004, and now we operate 25 weekly services to Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. Dusseldorf was a logical step in growing our European passenger operations. By growing direct point to point traffic between the two cities, we also look forward to strengthening business and leisure ties between the capital of the UAE and Germany.”

A key benefit to travelers of the new non-stop Abu Dhabi-Düsseldorf service is convenient flight arrival and departure times and network connectivity at the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub.

Mohammed Ahmed Al-Mahmood, UAE ambassador to Germany, congratulated Etihad Airways and Dusseldorf Airport on the launch of services from the UAE capital to Düsseldorf.

The envoy said: “Etihad Airways’ new route to Düsseldorf will enhance industrial relations and promote economic cooperation, trade and tourism between the UAE and Germany.”

Christoph Blume, CEO of Düsseldorf International Airport, said: "Due to the economic power and the central location of both destinations in two major regions of the world, we are certain of the potential and the long-term nature of the new connection between Abu Dhabi and Düsseldorf.”

Israel: Joys and Dangers of Experimental Aircraft.

Written by: Dr. Ernie Moore

Ultra-light aircraft are a common sight in Israel. From the time we first wrote of them in 2002 in our One Time Messenger novels, we have known they were popular. And dangerous.

When I was working on the novel we used a Cessna 180. When I had lunch with one of my great sources, he read that and said, “Never happen!”

Of course I wanted to know why. The Israel Defense Forces eyes and ears atop Mt. Hermon would tip off the Israeli Air Force and any full-bodied aircraft would soon find itself in the company of Israeli fighter jets.

An ultra-light, on the other hand might – MIGHT – be able to sneak in as far as Kiryat Shmona, as we posed in the novel.

On the other hand, when Hezbollah attempted the same thing in real life in the western border area. That one was downed just as it got to the border.

If you travel down Route 2 or 4, you are very apt to see one of the craft. They fly out of a strip at Herzlyia.

Now, there has been an upgraded “light aircraft” that crashed in the area near Modi’in, killing two people. It lost power and hit an empty parked car.

Modi’in is located about half-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200: Auction of impounded airline plane deferred

THE Transport Ministry says it is “frantically looking for money” to recover a national airline jet impounded over debts in Britain.

The Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200 was seized at London’s Gatwick airport on Monday by a United States company, American General Supplies for arrears of US$1,5 million for spare parts and maintenance equipment.

Transport Minister Nicholas Goche says an auction of the plane that had been scheduled for yesterday won’t go ahead while negotiations continue between the airline and its creditors.

“We hope to get the money soon,” he says.

Another plane was impounded for several hours in South Africa last week by a ground handling firm that the troubled airline owes US$500 000.

The State-owned airline has had financial problems for years and many workers have not been paid for six months.

Board chairperson, Jonathan Kadzura, blames the situation on the Ministry of Finance and the power-sharing government.

“From our part we are very clear that this issue is political and we are hoping that the Finance Minister Tendai Biti will be able to see what we mean when we say he should support the parastatal. Surely the government has the capacity to pay the outstanding US$1,2 million debt,” said Kadzura.

Biti, a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party, has refused to make unscheduled payments to Air Zimbabwe, until it presents a full accounting of its expenditures and a business plan to return to profitability.

More seizures are possible, warned others close to the airline.

Another international company, ASECNA has already secured a court ruling in France over which it could impound Air Zimbabwe's airplanes due to an overdue debt.

Once rated as one of the best airlines in Africa, Air Zimbabwe has been run down due to successive years of mismanagement.

Caribbean Airlines begins flying Guyana-Barbados route

Caribbean Airlines has commenced flying out of Guyana to Barbados, a release to the media on Friday stated.

CAL received approval from the Barbados Civil Aviation Authority (BCA) recently after submitting three requests to the BCA seeking licences to operate services out of Barbados to two regional and a South American destination currently serviced by the airline.

“Caribbean Airlines is happy to have started service on December 16, 2011, non-stop from Guyana and Barbados, three times a week – on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays .These flights facilitate day trips, with the first flight departing Guyana at 8:00 am, returning non-stop out of Barbados at 7:30 pm.”

The route offers customers more options to fly within the region at “the best price”. According to CAL, fares start from as low as US$90 one-way, inclusive of taxes. “There is added value in our product, as we continue to provide a reliable, flexible and a robust operation. Customers are entitled to benefits, including frequent flyer miles and in-flight entertainment and two complimentary bags at 50 lbs each for the launch of this service,” the release added.

That aside, students and senior citizens can get up to a 10 per cent discount. CAL serves 18 markets in the Caribbean, South America and North America, including routes operated by the Air Jamaica brand.

CAL’s acting CEO Robert Corbie said, “The introduction of direct regional services into and out of Guyana solidifies our commitment to offering our customers better connectivity and more travel options within the Caribbean. Caribbean Airlines continues to introduce the latest in turboprop technology to regional aviation, as the ATR -600 series aircraft are optimally suited for short-haul routes, and will reflect a reduction in fuel consumption and operating costs. Our 737 fleet will also operate the direct services between Guyana and Barbados.”

Bangladesh: Dense fog blinds Shah Amanat International Airport

Chittagong, Dec 17 ( – Flight operations at the city's Shah Amanat International Airport were disrupted on Saturday morning due to dense fog.

Some domestic flights landed at the airport long after their scheduled arrival.

According to the Chittagong airport control room, no domestic flights from Dhaka came to Chittagong due to heavy fog on Saturday morning. Flight operations in the port city resumed around 11am.

Airport manager squadron leader Anis Ahmed told that three international flights landed in Chittagong instead of Dhaka due to dense fog in the capital as well.

"A flight each from Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok couldn't land in Dhaka due to heavy fog. They landed in Chittagong at late (Friday) night," he said. "The flights left for Dhaka after the fog gave way in the morning."

The biting chill and the fog also left life paralysed in the city on Saturday, with office-goers having to fend for themselves since few public transports were available in the morning.

Chittagong maritime port secretary Syed Farhad Uddin told that loading and unloading at the jetties and outer anchorage of the country's premier port were as usual.

Meghnad Tonchonga, an official at Patenga meteorological office, said there could be moderate to heavy fog in the morning and night till Sunday.

Zimbabwe: Joburg Flights Suspended and AirZim London Crisis Continues

Air Zimbabwe passengers stranded at Gatwick Airport since a plane was seized Monday went into a fifth day Friday without knowing when they would depart for Harare.

A passenger stranded at the airport told SW Radio Africa they had been shown proof of money transfers that were made on Thursday and Friday, covering the $1.5 million owed by the national airline to American General Supplies, who impounded the plane after getting a court order.

The passenger said Air Zim officials were now awaiting confirmation from the company that the funds had been received. "They say it will then take 7 hours before we can fly out once the plane has been released," the passenger explained.

But is not clear what day the Air Zim flight will depart, even if the funds are cleared on Friday.

To add to Air Zim's holiday woes, their flights to Johannesburg were reportedly suspended following claims that the management do not want to risk losing aircrafts to Bid Air Services, a grounds company demanding payment of a $500,000 debt.

It has been a week since Air Zimbabwe last flew to South Africa. According to reports, Air Zimbabwe Chairman Jonathan Kadzura said there would be no flights to Johannesburg until Bid Air Service has been paid.

In London stranded passengers have been given vouchers for hotel accommodation and food. But for many of the tourists heading to Zim, it is now too late to join the guided tours they booked for the holidays. The news that flights to Johannesburg are suspended added misery to more tourists who had hoped to travel during the holidays.

India: Kingfisher Airlines to get $47m loan from Sahara - Report.

Are Mutual Funds betting on Kingfisher Air?

The Sahara group will give a loan of more than Rs 2.5 billion to cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines , to help the carrier continue operations, the Times of India reported on Saturday, citing sources.

Kingfisher, India's third largest airline by market share, has been struggling to raise funds to continue operations and repay debt.

The carrier, majority-owned by Vijay Mallya controlled UB group, has a debt of about 65 billion rupees and its creditors have asked the airline to raise at least USD 160 million in equity.

"We neither confirm nor deny speculation," Ravi Nedungadi, group chief financial officer and president of UB Group, was quoted as saying in the report.

Early this year, the Sahara group invested $100 million in Force India for a 42.5% stake and now co-owns the Formula One motor racing team with Kingfisher Airlines Chairman Vijay Mallya.

Spokesmen for both Kingfisher Airlines and Sahara group declined to comment on the report when contacted by Reuters.

India: Has Kingfisher Airlines CEO Sanjay Aggarwal quit?

New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Dec. 16:

The Chief Executive Officer, Kingfisher Airlines, Mr Sanjay Aggarwal, is believed to have put in his papers. A final decision on Mr Aggarwal will only be known after the airline board approves the move. He joined Kingfisher in September last year.

An airline spokesperson however denied that Mr Aggarwal had put in his papers. “These are rumours which have been floating for some time now,” he said. Text messages sent to Mr Aggarwal seeking his comment remained unanswered.

Meanwhile, banking circles, involved with the restructuring of airline debt, told Business Line a “big announcement” is expected on Saturday. Sources indicated that rumours about Mr Aggarwal leaving Kingfisher Airlines have been around for some time now.

In the recent past, airline staff have had meeting with a Senior Vice-President, Mr Hitesh Patel, to air their grievances and seek answers to when their dues would be cleared.

Mr Aggarwal is believed to not have been involved in key negotiations the airline has been engaged in.

The airline, which has accumulated debt of over Rs 7,200 crore, saw losses more than double to Rs 469 crore in the quarter ended September this year. During 2010-11, Kingfisher had incurred a loss of Rs 1,027 crore.

India: Kingfisher Airlines ejects 60 pilots in frantic bid to halve crew

The ailing Kingfisher Airlines is in a tearing hurry to shrink its crew size, according to aviation industry sources. On December 13, the airline asked at least 60 pilots to leave within 48 hours. They were not even permitted to serve out their notice periods, sources said.

“One pilot was in London when the airline called up and asked him to leave within a day. It has been a very abrupt move,” a source said seeking anonymity.

When contacted, the airline itself neither confirmed nor denied the alleged sacking of pilots.

A pilot who quit the airline last week, however, pointed out that Kingfisher has made it clear it will downsize further. “Apart from the 60 who were sacked abruptly, another 100 pilots are already serving their notice periods and will leave gradually. The airline wants to almost halve its fleet size to 350 to 400 from about 700.”

Another pilot said many of Kingfisher pilots are still awaiting their November salaries. “After we decided to announce the salary delay over the PA (public address) systems during all flights across India on the 4th and 5th of December, the management got jittery and released our October salaries. But the payments for November have not been made. We are told they will be released on the 20th, but it seems unlikely.”

Some pilots alleged that the airline had been refusing permission for them to form a union. Unconfirmed speculation is that several Kingfisher pilots are keen to join two rival carriers IndiGo and Go Air which are expanding and in need to pilots.

Airport lounge whispers even hint that Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal might be on his way out, on the heels of the human resources head.

But, a Kingfisher spokesperson scotched such talk.

Kingfisher’s executive vice-president (engineering and operations), Hitesh Patel, has been looking after all salary-related issues.

Industry sources expect the troubled airline to seek short-term working capital funding of about Rs500 crore from a lending consortium comprising 13 banks. The consortium had picked up about 24% equity in the company and its total exposure so far stands at nearly Rs7,000 crore.

Indonesia: Police say gunmen attack chopper with Freeport workers, 1 wounded

Pro-independence militants have waged a long-running insurgency against Indonesian rule in Papua
(AFP/HO, Indonesian National Police)

 Airport officials and plain-clothed security officers examine a damaged helicopter that was shot by unidentified gunmen, inside a hangar at an airport in Timika, Papua, Indonesia, Saturday. Gunmen attacked the helicopter carrying 29 workers and family members from Freeport-McMoRan's trouble-plagued gold and copper mine in eastern Indonesian, wounding one person Saturday, officials said.
(AFP/HO, Indonesian National Police)

TIMIKA, Indonesia (AP) — Gunmen attacked a helicopter carrying 29 workers and family members from Freeport-McMoRan's trouble-plagued gold and copper mine in eastern Indonesian, wounding one person Saturday, officials said.

The attack came as thousands of unionized employees were preparing to return to the Grasberg mine in the mountains of Papua province following a three-month strike that has crippled production at the sprawling operation.

Though the 8,000 striking workers were supposed to be back on the job Saturday after management agreed to a 37 percent pay hike, union spokesman Juli Parorrongan said plans were pushed back so the two sides could iron out last minute details.

It was not immediately clear who was behind Saturday's attack or what the motive may have been.

Those on the Hevilift chopper did not appear to be tied to the work stoppage.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire minutes after liftoff from the mining town of Tembagapura, said police spokesman Col. Wachjono.

With only slight damage to the body of the aircraft, the Russian pilots were able to continue on to Timika, where they landed safely.

Mary Jane Mather, the Filipino wife of one of the employees, was being treated for shrapnel wounds, another police officer said.

The Phoenix-based Freeport — which had hoped the end of the three-month strike would spell the end of trouble at its Grasberg mine — said a full investigation would be carried out into the attack.

Parorrongan, the union representative, meanwhile, said he hoped the striking workers would be back to their jobs "soon," possibly by the middle of next week.

The two sides still were hammering out the finer points, such as how to mobilize those who live far from the mining town and the need for a guarantee that those who took part in the strike would not face any sanctions, he said.

Indonesia has had a long, complicated relationship with Freeport — a powerful player in the world markets for gold, copper and molybdenum — and Papua, home to a decades-long low-level guerrilla war that has left more than 100,000 people dead, many at the hands of security forces.

The company's admission several years ago that it was paying military and police to handle security operations at Grasberg, located high in the jungle-clad mountains, has been a source of ongoing controversy.

Locals also complain that, despite the mine's massive profits, they have seen little benefit, earning as little as $2 an hour. They point also to environmental damage caused by mine waste products pumped into the Aghawagon River and its tributaries.

Australia: WWII pilot's invite from Tendulkar

Reg Ellis, Lancaster bomber pilot and last surviving member of the post war Australian side, at the Sir Donald Bradman Oration. 
Picture: Gary Ramage

IT WAS a room full of some of the greatest cricket players, including "the Little Master", Sachin Tendulkar.

Yet the one cricketer everyone wanted to speak to never played an official Test match - and remains almost anonymous to Australian fans of the game.

At Wednesday's Sir Donald Bradman Oration in Canberra, Indian batsman Rahul Dravid enthralled the crowd at the Australian War Memorial as he spoke of the common links between Australia and India in cricket and in battle. In the audience was Adelaide's Reg Ellis, 94, the last survivor of the Victory Tests played by ex-servicemen immediately after the end of World War II.

Mr Ellis and his remarkable team, which included future Test stars Flying Officer Keith Miller and Warrant Officer Lindsay Hassett, were honoured at the function, which took place in the shadow of the Memorial's G for George Lancaster bomber.

It's the same type that Mr Ellis flew in 11 missions over occupied Europe - including two when he landed the heavily damaged plane wheels up.

But as always for Mr Ellis, he was happiest talking about the cricket, not war. "It was fantastic," the sprightly Mr Ellis said from his Noarlunga home on his return on Friday.

"The Indian team couldn't have been better.

"The chap who made 219 (Virender Sehwag, who recently set the one-day international record) - I spoke to him for quite a while.

"Tendulkar, he grasped my hand and was very friendly. He invited me to be the guest of the Indian team when they played in Canberra the next day but I had to come home."

Mr Ellis was interviewed on stage by MC and Channel 9 commentator Mark Nicholas, and delighted the audience with stories of a world tour that included unofficial Tests in England, as well as matches in India and Australia.

Mr Ellis's friend and chaperone, Bill Hart, 73, said the guest of honour - who can be humble to a fault - enjoyed his time in the spotlight.

"He practically ran up the front and leapt up on stage when Mark Nicholas introduced him," he said.

Mr Hart is also a former wartime flyer who served in the British Fleet Air Arm and survived two ejections from carrier aircraft.

He met Mr Ellis in his role as a volunteer at a Noarlunga nursing home. Every day Mr Ellis visits his wife, Verna, in the home. He was hesitant at first about leaving her for the trip to Canberra, but from the twinkle in his eye you could tell the evening had been one of the highlights of a life full of accomplishments.

"He was even rating the take-offs and landings on the flights to and from Canberra," Mr Hart said.

"And he kept on thanking me for helping him make the trip.

"I said, 'don't thank me, Reg. We should all thank you, for what you did in 1945'."

United Kingdom: In Pictures - London Air Ambulance Gets New Helipad

Two days ago, London Air Ambulance moved into its new home, 17 storeys above Whitechapel Road. The helicopter-cum-ambulance has been based at the Royal London Hospital since 1989, operating from a pad on top of the main hospital site.

Now, a new perch is ready, much higher and much better equipped than its nearby predecessor. We took a look round on what turned out to be the coldest day of the winter so far. So bitter, in fact, that you could see the snow on London’s surrounding hills from the 87-metre-high platform.

The helicopter, and special rapid-response car which assumes the burden during hours of darkness, attends an average of around five emergencies a day. The team are called for trauma incidents, including stabbings, shootings, road-traffic accidents and falls from height. An onboard doctor and paramedic are trained to perform life-saving operations, even open-heart surgery, at the roadside. When the patient is returned to Whitechapel, a new high-speed lift will whisk them down to the emergency unit at the base of the Royal London’s new building — from pad to surgery in just two minutes.

London Air Ambulance is operated as a charity, and relies heavily on public donation. If you’d like to help this very worthy cause, follow the instructions here.

We’ll be hearing more from the London Air Ambulance in a forthcoming episode of our podcast, Londonist Out Loud. Pictures and video from our previous visit, to the old pad, can be found here.