Monday, February 20, 2012

Andersen Air Force Base Forms Response Team

Guam - Andersen Air Force Base Public Affairs confirms an F-16 Falcon fighter aircraft involved in an incident in Saipan was part of Cope North 2012.

The pilot was not injured. According to a press release, while performing a training mission, the F-16 accomplished an emergency landing at Saipan International Airport at around 11 o'clock this morning. Upon landing the aircraft rolled off the end of the runway. Although there is no damage to the airfield, the damage to the F-16 is unknown. The aircraft is assigned to Eilson Air Force Base, Alaska. 

A response team comprised of aircraft maintenance personnel is being formed to provide on-scene assessment. Cope North is a tri–lateral exercise involving the Royal Australian Air Force, the U.S. Air Force and the Japan Air Self Defense Force. The exercise is designed to enhance air operations between the three countries.

Death-wish: Mallya and the masochism of airline ownership

What is it about an airline that everyone – from liquor barons to travel agents to governments – wants to own one?

In the US, the last 30 years have seen nothing less than 50 airline bankruptcies. In India, we have seen at least 10 failures ever since  aviation was opened up to the private sector in the 1990s.

And yet, masochism rules.

Perhaps there is something exciting about a machine that flies that makes all the red ink and heartburn worth it. I suppose, when you are at a party, it is better to be introduced as “Mr X owns airline Y” and let the ladies swoon rather than be introduced as “Mr A sell booze” and get an “Oh, ah” as audience response.

This is the only thing that can explain why a Vijay Mallya wants to own a bleeding airline when he has a gushing booze business. This is possibly why a Subrata Roy was happy starting an airline (for a while at least), when he was making more moolah in money collection schemes bearing the Sahara name.

Like a a flame that draws the moth, successful men seem to be drawn to airlines almost like a death-wish.

Perhaps owning an airline is like having a trophy wife, something to flaunt. For the man who has everything, the airline is the ultimate ownership challenge.

So much so that even governments looked at it as a matter of national machismo.

Before airline deregulation in the US sent the worldwide business into a tailspin, almost all governments owned a national airline (the flag carrier), never mind the costs. Initially, it helped that most of them were national monopolies, given favoured landing and other rights in their home bases. But once this ended, so did the party.

In India, we did things better, We had not just one national airline, but two – Air India, and Indian Airlines. The only good Praful Patel did when he was civil aviation minister was that he ended the double agony and merged it into one. Now, we have only one airline on perennial life-support. Patel’s successors have kept the urge to own a flag-carrier alive and well.

In the private sector, a fresh saga of airline owning mania began in the 1990s when the air taxi segment was opened up. Everyone from travel agents to sundry players signed up for the ride.

The early birds included Jet, East West, Damania and ModiLuft. All of them ran a good airline from the point of view of passenger service – but only Jet got its sums right at that time, by having fuel-efficient aircraft. The last three folded up – East West after one of its promoters was bumped off in a gangland killing, and Damania, when it found that it’s old aircraft were simply guzzling too much fuel. ModiLuft went bankrupt as its promoter could not afford it anymore.

Somewhere in the second-half of the 1990s, even Ratan Tata got the itch and tied up with Singapore Airlines – but a coalition of Jet and Indian Airlines put paid to that hope. He should be thanking Naresh Goyal of Jet for this. Goyal’s airline is bleeding like the rest of the industry. Tata is safe and sound.

In the last decade, another batch of masochists entered the picture, including Capt GR Gopinath of Air Deccan, SpiceJet, Go Air (of the Bombay Dyeing Group), and Indigo. Even Niira Radia (of Radia tapes fame) wanted to start an airline. Luckily, she was turned down.

In just a few years, everyone learnt their lesson the hard way – that the airline business is a losing one, with very few successes. Roy sold his problems to Naresh Goyal. Capt Gopinath, despite some brave noises, was happy to hand his hot potato over to Mallya.

Last year, Mallya ended his dalliance with low-cost carriers and shut down the Air Deccan part of his operation. He was actually running a better full-service airline when greed got the better of him and he bought out Gopinath.

Today, Indigo, SpiceJet and Go Air are doing the cost advantage number on Jet and Kingfisher.

But unlike Roy and Gopinath, Mallya has persisted too long with a folly called Kingfisher. If he can’t call it quits now, he might take his liquor business down with it. He can literally drown his airline sorrows in drink.

New Law Means Planes Stay Flying in Eastern Montana

Essential air service is a federally subsidized program. In Montana, it helps pay for flights from seven smaller Montana communities to Billings. It allows residents in those small towns to stay connected to transportation options.

While some lawmakers wanted to eliminate funding nationwide, the new law gives the program 140 million dollars this year. In Montana that means Silver Airways is guaranteed a 5% profit.

It might as well be a private jet. On this afternoon flight there is only one passenger going from Billings to Havre. Officials in Lewistown, the midway point, say the 19-seat plane is "rarely full."

“Some days we get quite a few people,” Andrea Burnham admits. She normally stays on the ground as a Silver Airways employee, but this day she's taking the flight to Billings for some shopping.

Three others were scheduled to hop on the morning flight to the Magic City. Larry Quinlan has used the service a few times. He was in Lewistown to watch his daughter's basketball game, opting to fly instead of driving 2 and a half hours. “Basically, right now it's easier to fly up here, it's a lot quicker for me and it's real convenient,” he says.

After a kiss goodbye, Diane Rector is heading to Minneapolis. It's simpler to fly to her connection in Billings than drive. “My husband would have to take a day off and waste a vacation day which he'd rather use for elk hunting,” she explains.

The holiday season is the busiest for the Lewistown Airport, but during the fall hunters from out of state come and meet up with outfitters at the ariport. All year long travelers take the plane to catch the train in Havre where the Amtrak stops. “It's definitely a good thing for Lewistown,” Rector adds.

The recent law will ensure these travelers can fly through 2015. Something Senator Max Baucus fought for. “If they didn't fly, those communities, some of them, would dry up. So it's really, really important,” he says.

The only way a city in Montana would be dropped from program is if it sees less than 10 passengers a day. Most flights now meet that requirement, but Silver Airways will work to make sure the planes remain flying. “We just have to make sure that we're reliable, that the price is good and is such that passengers go out and use the flights,” says Mickey Bowman, the vice president of essential air service for Silver Airways.

Without the help from the government, Bowman says the fares would double.

Silver Airways is paid for every complete flight. The planes even fly if there are no passengers on board. Bowman says the route from Billings to Sidney is the most popular.

Each one way ticket costs $75 including fees and taxes. Just like at big airports, essential air passengers go through security. Unlike big airports, in Lewistown parking is free.

Silver Airways is also working on a flight from Billings to Helena. It would not be part of essential air service and would cost more than $75 each way. Bowman says it could be up and running by May.

Airport authorities implement some proposals of Gokhale report

A new Air Traffic Control Tower to be set up within a year

As per the recommendation made in a report regarding the May 22, 2010, air crash, a new Air Traffic Control Tower will come up at the Mangalore airport within a year at an estimated cost of Rs. 19 crore.

The Court in Inquiry, headed by Air Marshall B.N. Gokhale, has made the recommendation in a 175-page report on the tragic incident of the Dubai-Mangalore Air India Express that claimed 158 lives. The Boeing 737-800 overshot the runway and plunged off the cliff into a wooded area.

Airport Director M.R. Vasudeva told The Hindu on Monday that the new 21 M building would house the communication equipment, radars, aerodrome control unit, and would have enough space for improvement. Some of the control units were functioning from the old building of the airport terminal. The Gokhale report had suggested that ATC should be centrally located to offer a clear field view to the ATC controller.

Mr. Vasudeva said the airport had raised the level of overshoot area of the tabletop runway at Mangalore Airport thereby meeting another recommendation. The probe report quoting International Civil Aviation Organisation said that most accidents occurred during landing and take-off phases with aircraft overrunning into the overshoot area. The airport had ensured that the Instrument Landing System's antenna at the end of the runway was fragile. It might be recalled that a wing of the ill-fated aircraft had hit the non-fragile antenna before veering to the edge of the tabletop runway as the pilot attempted a belated take-off.

Mr. Vasudeva said that maintenance of the runway-end safety area had been ensured. Recommending this, the probe report pointed out, “there were not only a number of shrubs growing all over, but some of the approach lights had their concrete mountings jutting out above the surface.”
Left out

One area that is yet to be addressed, however, is providing the engineering material arresting system in the overshoot area which was found necessary by the Court in Inquiry “especially for tabletop airports such as Mangalore” to bring the veering aircraft to a halt.

Mr. Vasudeva said this was still “under consideration”.

The Gokhale report recommended this considering the large number of runway excursions leading to hull loss accidents. Mr. Vasudeva said mining activity had not been observed that could narrow down the width of the runway.

Pointing out that width of the runway was 150 metres instead of the standard 300 metres, the probe report said: “The limited strip width is one of the permanent concessions sought by the Airports Authority of India (which runs the airport) for licensing…”

The report insists that all operators should cater to safe crosswind limitation for the type of aircraft operations in view of the narrower strip width. “The ATC controller needs to caution the pilots in this regard.”

On the Gokhale report's recommendation to initiate engineering measures to prevent erosion of strip width, Mr. Vasudeva said retaining walls had been built wherever required.

Melbourne International Airport (KMLB): Melbourne gives initial approval for MidairUSA hangars

Midair needs special permit for the hangars due to their height

City leaders gave their approval to a revamped plan that allows MidairUSA to build a 200,000 square foot hangar for its aircraft overhaul operations at Melbourne International Airport.

The City Council hosted a special meeting to review plan revisions that came after neighbors expressed concerns on how the project would impact their property. A final vote will take place Feb. 28.

Midair needs a special permit from the city because of the proposed height of the hangars.

Among the changes are:

— Turning the proposed hangar so its doors face away from neighborhoods
— Extending a berm to buffer homes located to the north of the property
— Moving jet parking and fuel tanks away from homes.

Midair has been overhauling Boeing 747s at a location 800 feet south of the proposed site since March when they moved started the Melbourne operations.

The project is expected to create more than 450 jobs, paying an average annual salary of $55,000. So far, Midair has 81 employees at Melbourne airport, only three of which were transferred from Midair’s Rome, N.Y. location.

Mechanicsburg student uses flight training to be better pupil

MECHANICSBURG - Jennifer Mastoris openly admits she is not like others her age and is proud her priorities are different than those of many other 17-year-olds.

This is evident when speaking about her most recent accomplishment, obtaining her private pilot certification.

"My soul is up there," she said about flying.

Daughter of Lori Cook of Mechanicsburg and John Mastoris of Springfield, the Mechanicsburg High School senior said her path to flying "just kind of happened."

She remembers flying for the first time the summer after eighth grade when she took a commercial flight to visit her aunt in Arizona. She loved it. Mastoris said her grandmother and uncle both have a love of aviation, and it was passed to her.

It's been almost three years since her first flying lesson, which Mastoris said is more than enough time to earn the certification.

"It was hard to pay for ... and it's a lot of studying," she said of the process.

Mastoris, however, made it one of her top priorities, along with her education. She's a member of Student Council and National Honor Society at Mechanicsburg High School and attends Clark State as part of the two-year professional pilot program. After completion, she will have her associate's degree in science, aviation and technology, along with a variety of certifications that will allow her to be a flight instructor.

She also is training to be a state-tested nurse's aide (STNA) at Clark State.

"Education comes first for me," she said, and she puts it and flying before almost everything else in her life.

"Flight school has helped me become a good student," Mastoris said.

Her flight training has come from flight instructor Aaron Coleman of Mad River Air, located at Grimes Field for just over a year. He has 10 students, but said Mastoris is a student who stands out.

He said it's "pretty rare" to have a teenager become certified as a pilot. Only 0.5 percent of pilots in the United States are 19 years or younger.

One reason for this is it can be costly, $6,000-$7,000 on average, to reach certification, he said. He has had many young people come to him for lessons, then never return for more.

He said Mastoris had a few rough times during training, "but we pushed it through."

"She worked really hard," Coleman said.

Mastoris took her written pilot's test last winter, but took the next year to complete the necessary flight hours, finishing with her check ride in January.

"I flew whenever I could schedule time," she said, working hard to master certain maneuvers she found most difficult. Landing was rocky in the beginning, but now it is smooth and natural for her to do.

"I always thought that I connected with the plane on a certain level ... I could depend on it," she said. It's hard to believe she once was afraid of heights.

Mastoris said she gets a "natural high" from flying. "It gives me a chance to let go and be me."

She credits her father for helping her make the decision to pursue her dream.

"So much of this is because of him," she said. She hopes one day to take her father up in a plane with her. The only relative who has taken that ride is one of her older sisters.

At one time Mastoris considered going into the military for flight. Her favorite jet is the F-16. She, however, decided she wants to be an instructor to help others.

"I want to inspire myself," she said, and eventually inspire others.

Airports get into the fitness craze for stressed travelers

Jennifer Purdie recently had to figure out what to do with a two-hour layover at San Francisco International Airport. She could have gone to a bar and had a cocktail. But she wanted to try something healthier.

So she pulled workout pants and a T-shirt out of her carry-on bag and stopped by the airport's new yoga room. Afterward, she changed in the bathroom, cleaned up with some antiseptic wipes, and boarded her flight in time.

"I try to find a fitness option, especially for long layovers, so I don't feel like I'm wasting my time," she says. "It kind of de-stresses you."

As the country becomes more conscious of its obesity problem, even airports are getting into the fitness craze. With delays and long layovers increasingly common, airports are offering travelers alternatives to passing the hours on a bar stool.

San Francisco International unveiled its yoga room, painted in a calming blue palette, last month in its recently refurbished Terminal 2. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has a 1.4-mile marked walking path in a couple of concourses. At Los Angeles International Airport, travelers can hit an 18-hole golf course or do yoga or tai chi at the LAX Flag Courtyard.

A number of airport hotels also have opened up their fitness centers to all - for a fee. For $30 you won't have to leave Terminal D of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to work out. Pop over to the Grand Hyatt's full-service fitness center and spa. Lockers are designed for carry-on bags, and workout clothes are available for purchase. Above the U.S. Departures area in Vancouver International Airport in Canada, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel offers travelers a health club and pool for an $18 day pass. At the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport, non-guests can buy day passes for $10 or $19, depending on their loyalty status.

"There certainly is more of an awareness, and there's a great deal more attention given to the idea of maintaining an active, fit lifestyle," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. "It's in large part due to the disturbing obesity statistics our nation is facing. With regard to air travel, it's also an attempt to limit the risks of air-related health problems."

Among potential hazards: blood clots from sitting in cramped quarters, dehydration or jet lag. Moving regularly, drinking lots of water and eating healthy would improve the increasingly uncomfortable flying experience, Bryant says.

"Really, if people would just look for any and every opportunity to move when they're traveling, they will feel better during travel and when they reach their destination," he says.

A list of airport gyms

Kevin Gillotti considers himself an athlete first and a traveler second. A few years ago, he figured out how to combine his two passions by starting a website called He encourages travelers to write in when they find a fitness center at an airport or within a 10- to 15-minute ride from one. He then lists them by state.

"I'd have these massive layovers where I'm sitting there doing nothing, and for an active guy like me, I can't sit like that," says the San Diego-area resident and avid runner. "I think the public is slowly coming around to fitness and the value of it."

For many airports, building a gym can be risky. A restaurant or other concession may be a better payoff for the limited amount of space. There are also security concerns. For that reason, experts say, you will likely find most fitness options outside of an airport's security zone.

Still, many airports are experimenting with options such as the yoga room. They are also attracting food vendors with more organic and healthier dishes on their menus.

"I think airports are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and to stand out," says Jason Clampet, editor of guidebook publisher

Minneapolis-St. Paul's airport started its walking path as part of the American Heart Association's Start Walking program. The infrastructure was already there past security. All it had to do was delineate the path on overhead signs and on the terminal directory.

"The travelers benefit from having a set, measured exercise route, and the Airports Commission benefits from getting travelers to see more of the airport, including many of the shops and restaurants available that they might later decide to visit," says Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the airport.

Says Beth Blair, a writer and flight attendant who often uses the path: "It's inspiring to watch passengers change shoes and hit the path during their layovers."

Walking it off

Some active Road Warriors say they don't need a gym or a walking path to fit in some exercise. They just walk through the terminals, avoiding the moving walkways, elevators and escalators. Some use their carry-on bags as weights.

Terry Buchen, a golf course agronomist in Williamsburg, Va., spends a lot of time at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He doesn't take the train between terminals and walks instead, pulling a roller board and large briefcase for more exercise.

"I am always concerned about blood clots from sitting too long in airplanes," he says. "That is an added incentive for walking as much as possible in airports, which I feel makes the flights much easier."

By Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY

Alcohol in the cockpit

Joe Balzer

February 20, 2012 by Bob Collins

For the second time in a couple of weeks, a flight crew on an airline was pulled off a flight, possibly because of alcohol consumption. 

Pinnacle Airlines pulled the pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendant from its Grand Forks to Minneapolis flight yesterday. The Park Rapids Enterprise said the suspicion is that at least one of the crew members was drunk, or had been drinking within 12 hours of the flight, against company policy.

The action comes four days after Frontier Airlines intercepted a suspected drunk pilot.

Northwest Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota is responsible for one of the most famous examples of drunk flying. The crew of a Northwest Airlines flight from Fargo flew drunk in 1990, and did prison time for it.

In 2009, I met one of the participants in that case. Here's the post I wrote about it:

"Tell those people up in Minnesota 'I'm really sorry,'" Joe Balzer said to me as I left our meeting at the EAA air show in Oshkosh a few days ago. "I had my worst day," he said of the day he committed what many, perhaps, believe to be an unforgivable act. He and two others on the flight crew of a Northwest Airlines flight with 91 people aboard, were drunk when they flew from Fargo to Minneapolis.

He was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison.

Before the flight, he and his crew spent hours in a Moorhead bar, pounding down rum and Cokes and beer.

"That evening I was full of fear," he said. "I was on probation from Northwest Airlines, things weren't going well with the crew, we were a little dysfunctional. It was a terrifying event. It was the culmination of the ultimate struggle. A year before I had a blackout in Los Angeles as a pilot for Eastern Airlines. I tried to quit drinking on my own... I didn't have a support group, I didn't have a 12-step group, I wasn't seeking wise counsel from others. My chances of success were not very good."

Balzer, who's just released his book, "Flying Drunk", says he got drunk for the first time when he was three years old, drinking with his grandfather.

The low point of his life was hours after his flight landed in Minneapolis. "There we were in (Northwest Airline's) headquarters and the results came back and they said, 'All three of you guys tested positive for alcohol,' and I thought, 'This is bad, I'm going to lose my job and I'm going to lose my pilot's license.' That night I was stranded in a hotel in Minneapolis and I paced it off in the room. I walked back from the window and I thought, 'If I get going good I can get through that window and do a swan drive.' That's how ashamed I was about what I'd done. I let myself down and I knew that, but I looked at that window and I thought, 'This isn't the right thing to do; it'd be very selfish.' I had a good cry from deep inside and I just decided to accept responsibility and change my life."

Nineteen years after the incident, and years after prison in Georgia, Balzer rebuilt his aviation ratings. "One day I walked into American Airlines after they saw me speak. I'd been rejected by over a hundred different airlines." He was hired.

Not all airline pilots have forgiven Balzer. After the arrests and trial in Minneapolis, airline pilots were the target of jokes from late-night comedians. "What matters is I own my part and I've made amends to my professional brothers who made a living," he said. "At the time I thought I was OK to fly and I know today with the clarity of a recovering person... I had no business being near an airplane that morning. Had it happened before? Yes. Does it happen with pilots? Yes. It's a problem with brain surgeons, and pastors, and school teachers, and everyone. Ninety-eight percent of alcoholics show up and do a job. There will be pilots who will still hold it against me personally and all I can do is say 'I'm sorry.'"

He's still flying for the airline and still speaking to people, knowing that there's probably a drunk in the audience. "The pilot who knows he has a problem is really playing with fire. Alcoholism is a 100-percent fatal disease. It's very important for pilots who have scared themselves ... just like I did out in Los Angeles ... if people are having episodes like that and finding themselves with DWIs, they need to get some help," he said.

One of his messages to airline pilots is seeking help doesn't have to involve losing a career. He says the FAA, pilots unions, and the airlines have created programs for recovery.

"First they can save their lives. Then they can save their careers," he said.

Listen to the interview:

Alva Regional Airport (KAVK) has largest fuel month ever

At the regular monthly meeting of the Alva Airport Authority held February 13, 2012, Manager Tyson Tucker reported fuel sales for January, 2012, hit $61,000, the largest volume month in the history of the airport. He said the increased sales came because of helicopter traffic brought on by the oil exploration work, but also by increases in light jet traffic made possible by the new longer runway.

Profit totaled $38,500. Tucker said he had reduced the price of low lead 100 fuel down to $4.75 per gallon in order to be competitive with nearby airports. That fuel is used primarily for small general aviation aircraft.

Water Drainage Problems

Since the new runway project was completed, water drainage problems have surfaced. Board member Paul Kinzie said he had stopped by the airport after the recent heavy rain and took photographs of the various “lakes” that formed. The board spent several minutes discussing possible remedies and also if the original contractor could be held responsible for some of the problem.

GPS Instrument Approach

At present, the only instrument approach to the airport is for the old runway. The manager said Air Metric has been hired to do the aerial survey work needed to complete the application to the FAA for a GPS approach to the longer runway.

Repairs to the AWOS (Automated Weather Observation System) are nearly complete. Tyson Tucker said the final two pieces have been repaired and the airport should expect a bill in the amount of $2675. He said the total cost of the lightning strike will range from $8,000-$9,000.

Tucker said the PAPI (Precision Approach Path Indicator) light system at the airport continues to be erratic. He said, “On nice days they stay lit, but when the wind blows the whole system goes out. He mentioned that Will Rogers Airport in OKC is having similar problems with their system by the same maker. A PAPI system consists of light boxes with two lights in each box and a metal divider such so the pilot sees two red lights if the aircraft is below the appropriate flight path, two white lights if above the flight path, and a combination of both colors if on the mark.

Possible CNG Fuel Station

A guest at the meeting, Danny Lawrence, asked the board if they would consider leasing one acre of land near the State Highway Department site for the construction of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) refueling station. There are several hundred pickup trucks in the Alva area that require that type of fuel. The nearest refueling stations are in Waynoka and Cherokee. President Bob Baker said he would prefer that Lawrence approach a private land-owner because of the red-tape the FAA would require.

Tyson Tucker echoed that by saying they and the FAA would need to see drawings of the proposal station. Baker also mentioned that he owned land across the highway from the airport and he would be willing to talk about a possible lease. He also mentioned land owned by Monte Lohmann south of the airport.

Survey for Salt Water Line

Next, Tyler Larsen and Aaron Cowlan representing Chesapeake Energy appeared before the board to discuss purchasing right-of-way to place an eight-inch low pressure salt-water line on the east side of the airport that would continue to the “Hollow Log” disposal well further west.

Last month the airport board approved for a land survey to be made by Chesapeake so that a drawing could be brought to the board to show the exact location being requested.

Unfortunately, no one told Chesapeake the survey permission had been approved. As a result, Larsen and Cowlan were surprised to learn this and said the survey would begin immediately. Larsen said Chesapeake will pay $60 per rod (5.5 yards). They estimated the one-time payment to the city would be around $19,200.

They also said Chesapeake will sign a two-year abandonment contract to remove the two shut-off valves and the line if they ceased to use it. They said the pipe would be made of a poly/Fiberglas material. The system would include electronic telemetry so that in the event of any problems, the salt- water flow would automatically be shut off or diverted.

Steven Brown's Last Meeting

At the conclusion of the meeting, President Bob Baker mentioned that City Manager Steven Brown was retiring and this would be his last meeting. Baker strongly praised Brown for helping the airport to make it through the new runway project. Brown thanked Baker for his remarks saying, “We're going to see a lot of exciting changes in the next few years.”

Support for national carrier urged

BAHRAIN's government has been urged to do more to support the country's national carrier. Gulf Air has been hit hard by political upheaval both abroad and at home since the start of last year, derailing a recovery plan that was designed to guide the airline into profitability.

Head of the Shura Council's financial and economic affairs committee Khalid Al Maskati yesterday said the government must come up with ways to prop up the airline.

He also called for a purge of "incompetent" staff - whether Bahraini or expatriate.

"The problem with Gulf Air is that the government wants it to continue, but is not helping it enough - as other countries have done with their airlines - to stay on its feet and compete," he said as the upper chamber of Bahrain's National Assembly met yesterday.

"Abu Dhabi's government paid a lot to support Etihad, the same was done by Dubai's government with Emirates and so on except for us, as (it seems) we just want Gulf Air to perform excellently without anything to help it.

"Bahrain has to look for ways to support the airline whether through revising aviation fees imposed on Gulf Air or the price of fuel being provided," Mr Al Maskati added.

He said people remained proud of Gulf Air because it was still operating despite the setbacks it had faced.

"We congratulate the management on taking correctional measures all the time to help the company, but it is time for the internal structure to be revised," he said.

"The best must stay, whether Bahraini or expatriate, and the incompetent must go."

Meanwhile, Mr Al Maskati urged the government to reconsider the suspension of profitable Gulf Air flights to Iran and Iraq.

They were suspended in the wake of anti-government protests last year, amid allegations of foreign interference in Bahrain's internal affairs.

"Gulf Air is either a company that should be looking for profit or is a political scapegoat for the government in its conflict with both countries," Mr Al Maskati said.

"Saudi Arabia has flights ongoing to Iran despite their tense relationship with the leadership of that country and everyone is asking until today why flights to both countries are still halted?"

Mr Al Maskati was speaking as the council approved a royal decree dating back to 2010, which granted BD400 million to Gulf Air to support its recovery plan.

Gulf Air chairman Talal Alzain also spoke at the session yesterday and denied allegations that the airline had not been investing in new planes.

"Previously we had aircraft that were more than 12 years old, but today our aircraft are just six years old," said Mr Alzain.

"Those flying to Gulf destinations can see that we are using new aircraft introduced in the market for the first time.

"We are competing with big airlines in the region that are backed by their governments and our only option is to introduce new aircraft to complete with them."

However, he said the airline had suspended the use of aircraft dating back to 1995 because it couldn't afford a refit.

"While other airlines change chairs every five years, we are unable to do so," he admitted.

Mr Alzain said negative Press about Gulf Air was affecting the morale of its staff and stressed that it was operating in a small market in Bahrain - having previously been catering to travellers in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Oman before those governments pulled out of a joint ownership arrangement to concentrate on their own airlines.

"We have to acknowledge that the market is small and our share in it is small," said Mr Alzain, who is also chief executive of the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, which oversees government investments and manages a portfolio of companies, including government-owned Gulf Air.

"Bahrain can't take more than one national carrier."

Meanwhile, he said the BD400m cash injection from the government in 2010 significantly helped balance the books.

He said by the end of that year the airline was well ahead of its targets in terms of reducing losses.

"We on paper had a figure that we wanted erased from the deficit, but we were way ahead and managed to reduce it further - but last year's unrest put us back hugely," he said.

"Everyone knows that the whole network in the region has been affected due to unrest in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and most notably on our home ground," he added.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Kamal Ahmed said Gulf Air had not been the only company to suffer as a result of the unrest over the past year.

"Gulf Air, like many other sectors in Bahrain, has been affected due to the unrest and before the company had a market of four member countries (Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Oman), but today mainly depends on passengers from Bahrain," he said.

"The small market means that the government has to support the company throughout and in return the airline will support the economy directly and indirectly.

"We have various options for Gulf Air and how it should be run in future, but all are difficult and need the support of everyone, whatever is chosen," Mr Ahmed added.

Four government proposals for the airline currently under review include dissolving the airline altogether, selling it off and launching a new national carrier, downsizing it or allowing it to continue in its current form with government support.

A joint parliament and Shura Council committee was formed last month to study the proposals.

The Truth Behind Cell Phone Calls, Airplanes And Interference

Greensboro, NC -- You hear it every time you fly..."Please turn off all your Electronic devices".

Why on earth do they tell us that? You can not tell me my cell phone will bring down a plane!

"Each time we fly and people leave devices on, they're conducting an unauthorized scientific experiment to see if this time it makes any difference," says Captain Chesley Sullenberger. "To see if it affects anything electronically on the airplane."

If anyone knows strange things can happen on a plane, it's Captain Sullenberger.

"The documented problems are fairly rare, but there are some."

Since 2004, NASA's Aviation Safety reporting system listed only about a half a dozen incidents where phones blocked air traffic control frequencies and navigational instruments.

A Boeing expert says on the ground, your phone signal reaches a cell tower or two. But in the air, a phone could possibly reach hundreds of towers and if a passenger is positioned near the airplane's attennea there is a potential for interference.

The interference issues don't end there. When you make a call it comes to a cell tower and then it travels down a wire into the ground. Your cell call then goes through the old-school grid full of telephone wires, poles and underground fiber optic cables to the next cell tower.

But a company called Lightsquared wants to by-pass all that and beam your call to a satellite. The FCC believes that will jam GPS for folks on the ground and anything in the air.

"It's a serious problem, " says North Carolina A&T Electrical Engineering professor Dr. Numan Dogan.

He and his four doctoral students study these types of signals and say the danger is real.

PhD student Jonathan Maston made the interference explanation visual. (You can see it in the attached videos)

The information gets broadcast up and we think it goes straight up, but it spreads out light a flashlight beam. And when a plane flies into the signal path, there's a problem. The plane loses it's GPS and the pilot doesn't know where he is.

But not necessarily all the time....

"Maybe there is a cloud here today and there are no issues, so it's not like you can test it once and it's okay. You could figure out if this interference is recurring, but it might be too late"

Dr. Dogan says intended applications often have un-intended complications. Partly because no device is perfect and in this case, because Lightsquared's band width signal is simply too close to the GPS signal.

Once again, Doctoral student Jonathan Maston visually explains:
GPS is sitting here, this is their real estate and they've built this up and they have their usage. Lightsquared bought the property next to them and wants to build their highway right there here."

Lightsquared's idea for faster 4G service may be dead, but these engineers know, they won't be the last company to push the boundaries.

"It makes me want to be better at my job," says Doctoral student James Griggs. "We haven't designed the perfect system yet so there is still room to grow."

According to our NC A&T engineers, there is no end to the generations available, although they say noone really is talking about 5G as of yet.

In fact, the criteria to define 5G hasn't even been set. And for good reason. 4G is not yet implemented. Current 4-g phones are not truly 4G they just have the capability of some day being 4G (the only caveat to this is in two cities where 4G is truly available).

Virginia State Police rarely monitor speed via aircraft

You've probably scene this sign while driving at some point: "Speed limits are being enforced by aircraft."   Turns out most of the time, it's not true.  Aerial speed enforcement operations last four to six hours and cost $150 an hour, plus overtime for extra troopers.

Large signs lining Virginia's highways ominously warn drivers that someone up in the sky could be watching them speed. But that's almost never the case.

The aircraft used by Virginia State Police to catch speedsters on interstates were deployed only five times since 2008 and just once in all of 2011. None of those speed checks in the last three years were in Northern Virginia.

The state rarely uses Aerial Speed Enforcement operations because of budget constraints. It costs $150 an hour to fuel and maintain the aircraft needed for the surveillance, according to the Virginia State Police, plus overtime expenses for the additional troopers needed to assist in the effort. Missions tend to last four to six hours.

"It happens to be expensive and it does require a number of resources," said State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. "Because of the economy we've had to make cuts. It's just another tool in our toolbox."

Along Interstate 95 between Richmond and the Potomac River, signs claiming "Speed limit enforced by aircraft" outnumber the actual number of aircraft operations in recent years.

"[We want] to let the public be aware that in Virginia it is a tool that law enforcement are permitted to use," Geller said. "If [the signs] also serves as a deterrent to get people complying with a speed limit -- you always want people abiding by the law."

The General Assembly allocates a lump sum to the Virginia State Police, which typically isn't enough to pay for the aerial operations. Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed about $556 million for state troopers in his two-year budget.

State Police instead rely mostly on federal highway safety grants to run the aerial operations and are still waiting to see if funds will be available for 2012. Revenue generated by State Police tickets pays for teacher pensions and school construction.

Aerial Speed Enforcement relies on police in the air tracking vehicle speeds below. When they spot a speeder, they radio troopers on the ground to nab the driver. The five deployments of traffic-monitoring aircraft since 2008 generated 87 total tickets to drivers, and not always for going too fast. Troopers also issued summonses for reckless driving and seat belt violations.

The single 2011 Aerial Speed Enforcement was over Route 460 in Surry County in the Hampton Roads area. State Police used the planes three times during a two-day sting in 2010 in Hanover and Washington counties and issued 53 tickets. 

The lone 2009 mission was canceled because of weather.

Cessna 414A Chancellor, N4772A: Accident occurred February 19, 2012 in Hayden, Colorado

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA161 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 19, 2012 in Hayden, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/23/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 414A, registration: N4772A
Injuries: 2 Fatal,4 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot performed an instrument approach to the runway with an approaching winter storm. A review of on-board global positioning system (GPS) data indicated that the airplane flew through the approach course several times during the approach and was consistently below the glideslope path. The airplane continued below the published decision height altitude and drifted to the right of the runway’s extended centerline. The GPS recorded the pilot’s attempt to perform a missed approach, a rapid decrease in ground speed, and then the airplane descend to the ground, consistent with an aerodynamic stall. Further, the airplane owner, who was also a passenger on the flight, stated that, after the pilot made the two “left turning circles” and had begun a third circle, he perceived that the airplane “just stalled.” An examination of the airframe and engine did not detect any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The airplane’s anti-ice and propeller anti-ice switches were found in the “off” position. A review of weather information revealed that the airplane was operating in an area with the potential for moderate icing and snow. Based on the GPS data and weather information, it is likely that the airframe collected ice during the descent and approach, which affected the airplane’s performance and led to an aerodynamic stall during the climb.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot’s inadvertent stall during a missed approach. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s operation of the airplane in forecasted icing conditions without using all of its anti-ice systems.


On February 19, 2012, at 1525 mountain standard time, a Cessna 414A airplane, N4772A, impacted terrain at the Yampa Valley Airport (KHDN), Hayden, Colorado. The commercial pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and four passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions developed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The flight departed the Dalhart Municipal Airport (KDHT), Dalhart, Texas, approximately 1415 central standard time.

A review of air traffic control communications revealed that the pilot was cleared for the instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 10 via the initial approach fix REVME.

Airfield personnel and airfield rescue and firefighting (ARFF) provided an enhanced universal communications (UNICOM) service for inbound traffic and were monitoring both the UNICOM and Denver Center radio frequencies, at the time of the accident. Airfield personnel heard the pilot report he was on final approach over the UNICOM frequency. Airport personnel then selected the airport lights to high, and the pilot acknowledged the light status. There was no report of a distress call being made by the pilot.

In an interview with the airplane's owner, who was also a passenger, he stated the airplane was maneuvering to land at KHDN. The pilot had made two left turning circles and had begun a third circle when the he perceived that the airplane "just stalled." He added that the airplane fell straight down and impacted terrain. In addition, he recalled that the engines were running at the time of the accident. In a subsequent statement made by the owner, he stated that immediately preceding the crash, he heard a very load “pop” or “bang” from the right side of the airplane, possibly the right engine, moments before the airplane “went down.” He recalled the pilot looking to the airplane’s right and that the pilot immediately reached towards the center console near the throttle controls. Moments later, the airplane crashed.


The pilot, age 75, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, airplane single engine sea, instrument airplane, and gliders. In addition, the pilot held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine, airplane multi-engine, instrument airplane, and gliders. The pilot was also an airframe and power-plant mechanic who would perform some maintenance tasks on the accident airplane. On March 31, 2011, the pilot was issued a second class medical certificate with the restriction to wear corrective lenses. A review of pilot training information revealed his previous flight review was on October 27, 2011, in the same make and model as the accident airplane.


The airplane was a two engine, low wing, eight seat Cessna 414, serial number 414A005, and was manufactured in 1978. It was powered by two, 310-horsepower Continental Motors TSIO-520-NB engines that drove three-bladed, variable pitch, McCauley propellers. A review of maintenance records revealed that the previous annual inspection was completed on December 8, 2011, at a total airframe time of 8,245 hours, a left engine time since major overhaul of 2,028.9 hours, a right engine time since major overhaul of 901.6 hours, and a tachometer time of 2,794.7. At the accident site, the airplane’s tachometer read 2,833.9 hours. The airplane’s published stall speed is 70 knots.


The National Weather Service Surface Analysis Chart issued at 1400 mountain standard time depicted two low pressure systems over eastern Colorado associated with a cold front moving across the Rockies and a developing warm front over eastern Colorado. Satellite imagery showed extensive cloud cover over the accident area with cloud tops near 27,000 feet. An upper air sounding taken near Grand Junction, Colorado, reported a freezing level at 5,703 feet mean sea level (msl), with conditions favorable for icing in clouds and in precipitation above the freezing level.

At 1515, an automated weather reporting facility located at KHDN reported wind from 310 at 8 knots, 5 miles visibility, few clouds at 800 feet, scattered clouds at 1,700 feet, broken ceiling at 2,900 feet, temperature -1 Celsius (C), dew point -3 C, and a barometric pressure of 29.62 inches of mercury. At 1535, wind from 290 at 10 knots gusting to 14 knots, visibility 1/4 mile, ceiling overcast at 400 feet, temperature -2 C, dew point -3 C, and a barometric pressure of 29.62 inches of mercury. This facility does not report precipitation, however conditions were favorable for the production of heavy snow.

A review of HDN’s weather observation data revealed that between 1430 and 1445, a front passed over the airfield, which shifted the wind from the east to the west and deteriorated the ceiling and visibility. Weather in the area could produce snow that continued through to the time of the accident, when the lowest visibility and ceiling was reported.

An automated weather reporting facility at the Craig-Moffat Airport (KCAG), located about 14 miles west of KHDN, could report precipitation, with the exception of freezing rain. At 1506, the station began reporting light snow with a wind shift having occurred at 1450. At 1525, it reported light snow and freezing fog. Then at 1553, moderate snow and freezing fog was reported.

Several Airmen’s Meterological Information (AIRMETs) were active for the time of the accident flight. These AIRMETs warned for IFR conditions, mountain obscuration, occasional moderate turbulence below 18,000 feet, and moderate icing between the freezing level and 18,000 feet.


The approach flown by the pilot was the ILS to runway 10. The inbound course was 104 degrees, with the initial approach fix (REVME) located along the localizer course at 15 nautical miles, and the final approach fix (INEDE) located along the localizer course at 8.1 nautical miles. The decision height was at 7,371 msl, with a weather requirement of an 800 foot ceiling and 2 ¾ miles visibility. The touchdown zone elevation for runway 10 was 6,591 feet msl.


A review of radar audio revealed that the pilot had checked in with Denver Center and requested a visual approach if the ceiling was greater than 1,000 feet. Denver Center replied that a previous airplane flew the ILS approach into KHDN and had broken out of the clouds at minimum altitude (800 feet). The pilot then accepted an IFR clearance and was cleared to fly the ILS approach into KHDN.


The Hayden/Yampa Valley airport (KHDN) is located approximately 2 miles southeast of Hayden, Colorado, with a field elevation of 6,606 feet and a single runway oriented along 100/280 degrees. Runway 10 had a precision approach path indicator located to the left of the runway, and had a medium intensity approach light system with runway alignment indicator lights. The airfield is non-towered so pilots utilized UNICOM to coordinate their movements on the airfield. As previously noted, ARFF provided advisories to pilots over UNICOM.


The accident site was located about 95 yards south-southwest from the edge of runway 10. The wreckage path aligned generally along a 090 degree heading. The debris path contained the left aileron and right propeller. The main wreckage came to rest facing 320 degrees. The fuselage displayed buckling and crushing throughout its length. Damage to the left and right wings was nearly symmetric. The elevator counter weights separated in a downward direction. All major airplane components were accounted for at the accident site. Flight control continuity was established from the controls to their respective surfaces. The flaps and landing gear were found in the retracted position. The airplane’s electric anti-ice and propeller anti-ice were found in the “off” position. No preimpact anomalies were detected with the airframe that would preclude normal operation of the airplane.

The engines were removed and shipped to Continental Motors Inc., Mobile, Alabama, for test runs. Under the auspices of the NTSB, both engines were placed on test beds, started, and operated throughout their power ranges. No preimpact anomalies were detected with the engines that would preclude normal engine operation.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Douglas County Coroner’s Office, Castle Rock, Colorado, as authorized by the Routt County Coroner. The autopsy noted the following findings:

Right coronary artery narrowed more than 90 percent, with evidence of recanalization.
Severe cardiomegaly, with a weight of 570 grams.
Myocardial fibrosis of the left ventricle.

The Federal Aviation Administration Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.


Garmin GPSmap 295

A global positioning system (GPS) was located in the cockpit area of the airplane and sent to the NTSB laboratories in Washington, D.C. A download of the device displayed the airplane’s flight path along the ILS approach. The airplane turned inside of the initial approach fix for the ILS 10 approach. During the approach, the airplane crossed through the approach course several times. The pilot crossed INEDE 260 feet below the published altitude for the final approach fix and was consistently below glide slope during the approach to the airport. Utilizing the GPS altitude, at 1523:25, the airplane was below glide slope, drifting right on the localizer approach course, and three miles from the airport, when the airplane reached the decision height of 7,331 feet msl. The airplane continued to drift to right of the localizer course while continuing to descend to an altitude of 6,591 feet msl, before it climbed to 6,824 feet, and then descended towards terrain. During this climb, the airplane’s groundspeed decreased to 78 knots.

REFUGIO - A close-knit community is mourning the loss of a longtime pilot who coached people at Refugio County Airport for several years.

Hans Vandervlugt, 75, of Refugio was piloting a twin-engine Cessna 414A carrying five passengers en route to Yampa Valley Regional Airport about 125 miles northwest of Denver on Sunday when the plane crashed in a snow storm.

Vandervlugt and Gaby Humpal, of Corpus Christi, were killed, said Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg.

Also in the plane were Humpal's husband, Scott, and their three children.

The family was on their way to Steamboat Ski Resort.

Vandervlugt's death came as a surprise to James Henry, a former Refugio County commissioner, who knew Vandervlugt.

Henry said Vandervlugt moved to Refugio in 1972.

"We're pretty much shocked with it," Henry said. "He was a real professional pilot."

Vandervlugt had more than 6,500 hours of flight experience and worked as an instructor at the airport.

This was not the first time Vandervlugt had flown to the ski resort, Henry said.

Vandervlugt's wife, Ruth, who answered the phone at the Refugio airport, did not want to comment on the death.

"It looks like they bumped into some weather phenomenon that was not predicted," Henry added.

Vandervlugt had taught in aviation for more than 50 years, according to a 2010 Advocate story about young pilots.

Vandervlugt enjoyed teaching younger students because he felt they were aviation's future.

"They're such a rare breed," he said in the 2010 story.

Scott Humpal, a physical therapist, suffered several broken bones. Their sons, 18-year-old Tad and 13-year-old Dillon, also had broken bones.

The family's 10-year-old daughter, Sara, suffered critical injuries and was flown to a Denver hospital.

A snow squall reduced visibility to less than a quarter of a mile just before the crash, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel told the Steamboat Today newspaper.

The newspaper said the plane came to rest in knee-deep snow and airport crews plowed a path to the wreckage for emergency responders.

The airport was closed to incoming traffic until Monday morning.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Monroe airport getting a business plan

For the first time, the Monroe Regional Airport is in the process of developing an organized strategic business plan to maximize its growth potential.

The plan’s aim is to create a smooth transition from the airport terminal’s construction stage toward operational excellence, said interim airport manager Ron Phillips.

For years, strategic plans at the airport have addressed only infrastructure improvements, but the new plan Phillips has assembled focuses on four key areas to ensure that the airport is an efficient and effective transportation resource for the city and surrounding community, he said. Those focus areas are: keeping the airport cost-competitive, improving customer satisfaction, achieving operational excellence and encouraging employee engagement.

Phillips hopes the airport will eventually become one of the best if not the best airport in the southwest.

“This is something that we feel is important to do because it will help create a framework for us to achieve the goals we desire to achieve,” Phillips said. He added that this plan will help keep the airport focused on its business goals while the airport simultaneously tends to other improvement projects such as runway rehabilitation, fence realignment, or construction of a new fire station on airport grounds.

Mayor Jamie Mayo said the airport previously had individual business goals such as bringing American Airlines back to serve Monroe, creating a marketing manager position to help increase promotions, work with the airlines to keep costs down and maximize boardings.

However, because the airport will be double the size of the old terminal when all construction phases are complete, Mayo said it will be at “another level.”

“This will be the first strategic business plan. We’ve had a plan to do a number of different things that have carried over one administration to the other. We want to enhance that by having an organized strategic business plan,” he said.

Before the business plan was put together, Phillips and former airport planning consultant Nikhil Joshi studied the strategic plans of other successful airports, such as those in Mobile, Ala.; Dayton, Ohio; Birmingham; Atlanta; and New Orleans.

Combining components of those plans, Phillips said he put together this one, which he expects will take six months to fine-tune and implement. The plan seeks to help the airport identify, increase and diversify revenue streams and keep airline costs low so carriers will be more likely to expand service here, he said.

For the 2011-12 fiscal year the airport’s revenues are at $2.1 million, according to Director of Administration David Barnes. For the last 10 years, the city’s average revenues have been about $1.5 million, with primary revenue sources being rentals and leases for the lounge and restaurant, landing fees, jet way usage fees, advertising fees, and car rental facility charges. Historically, the advertising revenues have been low, Phillips noted.

Furthermore, he said there are still 1,100 square feet of office space ready to be leased, and another 1,500 square feet available for vending. Phillips is hoping to attract a retail store or high-quality news and gift shop vendor to the airport.

The business plan also seeks to help the city build customer loyalty and cultivate a culture of excellence at the airport by developing a workforce that supports the airport management’s vision — not because management told them to do so, but because they believe they are a part of the planning process, he said.

To that end, Phillips said he will meet with staff weekly and provide customer service training sessions and training in those areas identified for improvement.

He will also seek passenger feedback by way of customer surveys, comment drop boxes or comments submitted through the airport’s website, he said.

By striving for excellence in all areas of business, Phillips hopes the airport will earn a positive reputation among airlines and passengers.

As of now, Phillips said the Monroe airport is being marketed in Shreveport, Alexandria and Jackson, through radio spots and newspaper advertisements.

Mayo added that the Monroe airport has also been advertised in southern Arkansas and western Mississippi as well. Advertisements are intended to increase leisure travelers as well as business passengers, though currently, Phillips said business travelers are the airport’s “bread and butter.”

FAA Investigating Incident Involving Minneapolis-Bound Flight

A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed an investigation into a flight heading from Grand Forks to Minneapolis that was cancelled Sunday after a flight attendant was taken off the job.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory says the agency is investigating the cancellation of Delta Connection 3743. The flight was scheduled to depart shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday but was cancelled before taking off.

Pinnacle Airlines operated the flight.

Pinnacle spokesman Joe Williams said the flight attendant has been relieved of duties and is the focus of the investigation.

He would not say why the flight attendant was let go, saying it was an ongoing investigation. He said the pilot and copilot are not being investigated.

Williams says the 30 passengers were placed on later flights.

Merpati Airlines Aims to Make a Profit This Year

It may be heavily burdened with debt and known for its checkered safety record, but state carrier Merpati Nusantara Airlines says it can turn a profit this year by more than tripling the number of passengers it carries.

And its growth plan extends through the next seven years, during which it will take possession of 40 new aircraft following a deal it struck last week.

Sardjono Jhony Tjitrokusumo, the airline’s president director, mapped out the beleaguered carrier’s targets on Monday in Jakarta. It is shooting for a Rp 67 billion ($7.4 million) profit, with revenue to grow 200 percent to Rp 3.6 trillion.

Such a result would be an impressive turnaround given the airline is estimated to have lost Rp 146 billion last year, according to state asset-management firm Perusahaan Pengelola Aset.

A massive surge in passenger numbers is central to the carrier’s goal. Sardjono said the airline was aiming to carry 5.5 million commuters this year, up 260 percent on 2011.

The “golden year” predicted by Sardjono follows four challenging years for the carrier. From 2008 to 2011, PPA guided a debt restructuring at the airline. Last November, the government injected Rp 561 billion to keep it afloat, following a commitment by Sardjono to trim staff and cut costs in an effort to improve its efficiency.

To meet the passenger goal, Merpati will be increasing its fleet to 36 airplanes, from the current 25, with the addition of 11 new Boeing B737-400s.

Later in the decade, the airline will be taking delivery of 40 Chinese ARJ21-700 aircraft, which can each accommodate 100 passengers. The airline is set to progressively bring them into operation between 2013 and 2018.

Sardjono said that the ARJ21-700, although assembled in China, would have 40 percent of its metal content produced by state-owned aviation firm Dirgantara Indonesia in Bandung.

He said that the deal for the Chinese airplanes had been clinched at an airshow in Singapore last week.

Sardjono acknowledged that at present, Merpati had “negative equity, liquidity and cash flow,” but he added that there were no other airlines capable of flying to the isolated destinations it serviced.

Iskandar Abubakar, the Transportation Ministry inspector general, said the new aircraft should reinforce Merpati’s capability to serve lightly trafficked routes, especially in eastern Indonesia.

“Although Merpati also wants to serve western Indonesia, we are asking Merpati to focus on servicing pioneer routes in eastern Indonesia, because at present only Merpati is capable of reaching them,” Iskandar said.

Last year, Merpati provided services between more than 25 domestic destinations, with hubs in Jakarta, Denpasar and Surabaya, as well as international flights to East Timor, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

Its fleet also includes Fokker 100s, Twin Otters, Cassa C-212s and MA-60s.