Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Paralyzed man spared hefty air ambulance bill

He lived in a wheelchair in the shadow of a $27,800 tab charged by a London hospital to fly him home by air ambulance to British Columbia.

Brent Worrall had fallen from the heights of a one-time Canadian motocross champion -- the same sport brought him crashing down in August 2010 near London.

Paralyzed from the chest down, he was treated for eight days at London Health Sciences Centre, then flown home to a hospital by Ornge air ambulance.

The mammoth tab would follow and B.C.'s health minister would take up his cause.

But it wasn't until QMI Agency asked probing questions Wednesday that the London hospital reversed course and agreed to pay the bill.

"Upon further review, it became evident that conflicting information may have been shared regarding payment. As a result, (the hospital) is assuming the costs of the air transport for Mr. Worrall. We apologize to Mr. Worrall and his family for this misunderstanding," hospital spokesperson Tony LaRocca wrote.

"I'm a happy man today," Brent Worrall told QMI Agency from Vancouver, where he's in rehabilitation.

"To know we're not going to pay this is going to make life a little more normal."

His family in Vernon, B.C., he said, already faces extra costs as a result of his paralysis and his wife has been working hard to keep a roof over their heads.

The crash happened August 18, 2010, while he was competing at the Walton motocross race in Seaforth -- the biggest motocross event in Canada. Worrall said he'd trained all year for the race and described it as his "grail."

He got a bad start among the 37 riders, but was quickly passing them.

When he approached the first jump, Worrall said he knew he was going a bit too fast and adjusted himself in the air. But before he knew it, his fender was heading for the ground and Worrall knew he was going to crash.

"I just said to myself, 'Survive Brent. Survive,'" he recalled.

Worrall flew almost 140 feet and broke nearly every bone below his neck. His heart stopped four times.

The last thing he remembers before waking up in a London hospital about four days later was being loaded into an air ambulance from the race track. He was flown from Seaforth, Ont., to London -- a $2,040 tab Worrall said he was also billed, but hasn't paid.

In London, he was told he wouldn't be physically able to fly for about three weeks.

But on the seventh day, a social worker said a flight had been arranged to fly out the following day.

"Red flags went up," said Worrall, because he was still in a medically fragile state. The social worker assured him it was a special medical flight and when he told her he couldn't afford it, the social worker assured him it would be taken care of.

About a month later, Worrall and his wife received the $27,800 bill -- one that shocked even the social worker, he said, when his wife e-mailed her to ask why they were being charged.

"Every day it ate at me and definitely prevented me from putting my best foot forward," said Worrall, still in a rehabilitation centre. He's been away from his family for much of the past seven months.

B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong protested the charge this week and was pleased when the hospital changed course.

"I'm grateful the review took place," he said.

The situation, he added, brings to light two important issues.

First, that people involved in health-care delivery communicate with patients in a meaningful way so they understand what's happening and what their choices are, de Jong said.

"This appears to be a case of confusion that has significant implications," he said. "Most of us, unless we're wealthy, are unable to absorb a $30,000 air ambulance fee. You can't unilaterally impose that kind of fee on someone."

The second issue, de Jong said, is that while Canada has universal health care, that coverage doesn't extend to transportation between provinces.

As for Worrall, he said it's as if a medicine ball has been lifted from his body.

"I'm very happy that what they (the London hospital) said they were going to do, is going to be done. I'm just distraught it took as long as it did."

http://www.torontosun.com

Gibbs facing legal action

Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, right, and Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski. 
Photo: Jermaine Cruickshank

Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs is now being threatened with legal action should he fail to rescind, within 14 days, the contract he gave to Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Services (TTAS) for the provision of light aircraft services.

Attorney Jacqueline Chang, acting on behalf of Navi-Comm Avionics Ltd (NAL), has sent a pre-action protocol letter to Gibbs, demanding that he declare the contract he issued on December 29, 2011, to TTAS null and void and of no effect with cost.

The letter, dated March 2, outlined that it was NAL that first made a proposal to Gibbs on the use of the light sport aircraft.

The letter also provided a timeline dating back to 2002 and an exchange of letters between NAL and Government and TTPS officials with respect to the proposal.
Eddie Dallsingh, managing director of NAL, claims he first approached Gibbs with the proposal but the contract was awarded to TTAS.

Managing director of the TTAS Dirk Barnes and director Daniel Condon were working with Dallsingh to secure the contract before forming TTAS last year.

In the legal letter, Chang stated that Gibbs and the Police Service are not in law “a separate legal entity which possesses the capacity to enter into written contracts whatsoever or at all in the subject manner. Moreover, the powers of the Commissioner are clearly defined in Section 123A of the Constitution, the Police Service Act and Police Service Regulations, which when studied, does not stipulate that the Commissioner of Police is a body corporate and/or a company that is capable of entering into contracts. In view of the latter, it is submitted that the subject contract is deemed null and void since it lacks the very basic requirement of a valid contract, namely that there is no proper party to the agreement”.

The letter to Gibbs also details Condon’s involvement with NAL in its bid to secure the contract.

“In October 2010, Daniel Condon became part of NAL’s negotiating team who would responsible for securing a contract for the proposed service (the negotiating team). Thereafter, Daniel Condon, at all material times, formed part of the team representing NAL in its pursuit to attain a contract with the Ministry,” stated the letter.

The letter added that in March 2011, Barnes also became part of the negotiating team at Condon’s request. “In May 2011, Daniel Condon made a presentation to the Deputy Commissioner of Police Jack Ewatski on behalf of NAL,” stated the letter.

“In June 2011, Daniel Condon again met with Mr Ewatski on behalf of NAL to discuss the prospect of a contract for service to be provided by NAL,” the letter added.

“On 3rd July 2011, Daniel Condon flew with Dirk Barnes and Mr Ewatski on a commercial plane registration N738WM sourced by NAL. The purpose of this flight was to demonstrate to Mr Ewatski the capability of microlight aircraft. Following the demonstration, Daniel Condon became heavily involved in negotiating directly with Mr Ewatski for the approval of the use of NAL’s service,” stated the legal letter.

Chang stated that her client’s interest in the matter stems from the “obvious fact” that NAL has been the sole and primary company negotiating with the Ministry in relation to securing a contract for the provision of the subject service.

“...My client has been, and still is, being deprived the financial benefit of the substantive agreement, which, we say, was to advantage all parties of the negotiating team,” stated Chang.

The intended legal action against Gibbs comes on the heels of Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell’s findings that Gibbs acted “without authority” with the award of the contract to TTAS.

http://www.trinidadexpress.com

Legal action on Gibbs plane

EVEN as he faces the prospect of dismissal over his decision to lease an aircraft for just under $1 million without authorization from the National Security Ministry, Commissioner of Police (CoP) Dwayne Gibbs has been given 14 days in which to rescind all arrangements with the company hired for the three month-pilot project.

The ultimatum has been given to the Canadian-born Police Commissioner by Eddie Dallsingh, managing director of Navi-Comm Avionics Ltd (NAL) of Piarco.

Gibbs was yesterday served with a pre-action protocol letter from Dallsingh’s attorneys Dave Persad, Anthony Manwah and Jacqueline Chang.

Dallsingh, an aircraft engineer, has said he was the main advocate for the concept of providing a light sport aircraft to the police service for aerial surveillance.

He said he felt betrayed by persons once close to him, who were also part of his team which made a presentation on behalf of NAL to Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski.

The legal letter, penned by Chang and addressed to the TT Police Service, alleges that neither the CoP nor the police service is, in law, a separate legal entity which can enter into written contracts.

As such, Dallsingh is contending that the purported contract between the CoP and the Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Company Ltd for the provision of 720 hours of use of a Zenith CH 750 air scout aircraft over a 12 week evaluation project for TT$902,772 was null and void.

According to Dallsingh, the purported contract with TTASC lacked the basic requirement of a valid contract as there is no proper party to the agreement.

NAL’s managing director also noted that since his company has been making presentations to the National Security Ministry and the Office of the Commissioner of Police regarding the provision of a light aircraft for aerial surveillance since as far back as 2004, any award of contract should have been entered into with his company and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry.

He said NAL has been the sole and primary company negotiating with the ministry in relation to securing a contract to provide the aerial surveillance service.

Dallsingh’s attorneys contend that he has been, and still is, being deprived of the financial benefit of the substantive agreement which, his attorneys say, was to the advantage of all parties of the negotiating team.

The letter to Gibbs also claims that Dallsingh suffered loss of business and expenses for attending meetings, conferences and making presentations to the ministry and the CoP.

Dallsingh’s letter also noted that the powers of the commissioners were clearly defined in section 123 A of the Constitution. The Police Service Act and Police Service Regulations do not stipulate that the CoP was a body corporate or a company capable of entering into contracts.

Gibbs, however, has disagreed. He insists that Section 123A (1) of the Constitution gave him the full authority to manage and control the TTPS.

Section 123A. (1) of the Constitution states: “The Commissioner of Police shall have the complete power to manage the police service and is required to ensure that the human, financial and material resources available to the Service are used in an efficient and effective manner.”

Gibbs, who took up office in September 2010, is now facing a probe by the Police Service Commission (PSC) over his decision to enter into a contract with TTASC for the leasing of the light aircraft.

The PSC is seeking legal advice on the issue.

Gibbs has been condemned by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy for taking the decision to lease the aircraft without following proper procurement procedure.

A legal opinion has also been provided by Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson Honeywell who concluded that Gibbs acted “without authority” in the award of the contract.

PILOT UNDER PROBE: Email reveals US Embassy investigating ex-employee following Gibbs' aircraft deal


Daniel Condon


The United States Embassy has been conducting queries into a former employee who is a director of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Company (TTAS), the company with which Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs signed a $900,772 lease for light aircraft services.

The US Embassy confirmed yesterday that Daniel Condon, an airline pilot, was previously assigned to the Embassy’s Military Liaison Office, Port of Spain, and that he was employed at the US Embassy from October 2009 to July 16, 2011.

On July 14, 2011, Condon was appointed director of the TTAS, a company which its managing director Dirk Barnes incorporated on June 16, 2011, with Kevon Stafford.

Both Barnes and Stafford are former soldiers. By December 2011, the TTAS was given the contract by Gibbs.

Sources told the Express investigations were being conducted by the US Embassy’s Military Liaison Office into Condon’s alleged business transactions while employed with the Embassy.

While employed with the Embassy, Condon was paid by Deputy Commissioner of Police Jack Ewatski on two occasions—June 12, 2012, and July 3, 2010—to go flying with him.

Condon resigned from the Embassy on July 16, 2011.

Ewatski has said he hired Condon, a certified flight instructor, to fly with him so he could hone his flying skills.

E-mails obtained by the Express through reliable sources also show that Condon himself admitted he was under probe.

Sources said Condon’s active role in the business of Eddie Dallsingh, managing director of Navi Comm Avionics Ltd, was also under scrutiny.

Dallsingh had previously disclosed that he introduced (Condon) to his project which he was working on since 2002—the use of light sport aircraft in the fight against crime. Navi Comm did not get the contract.

In an e-mail dated September 5, 2011, addressed to Barnes, Dallsingh and a man named David Lewis, Condon stated: “Unfortunately I need to keep quite (quiet) for a while WRT (with regard to) my visit to Trinidad and our project.

“For some unexplained reason, the new military liaison officer (someone I have never met) has launched an investigation against me for my ‘business’ dealings while attached to the embassy.

“The ambassador is out of the country right now, but will take care of this problem when she returns. This guy is coming perilously close to slander and defamation...
.
“Let me let the dust settle, and the Ambassador but (put) him in his place... I’ll keep you posted.”

Contacted yesterday, Dallsingh confirmed two officers from the US Embassy contacted and visited him in January and February of this year, querying Condon’s conduct and dealings, if any, with his company.

He also confirmed receiving the above e-mail from Condon.

Dallsingh refused to offer further comment, except to say he trusted Condon to help him secure a deal with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as he (Condon) was an employee of the US Embassy and had many important links.

In response to e-mailed questions from the Express yesterday, which included whether Condon was under probe and whether the Embassy was aware of the content of the e-mail sent by Condon, Alexander McLaren, US Embassy public affairs officer, stated:

“All US government employees are expected to uphold the highest standards of personal integrity and avoid any appearances of impropriety. Specific rules apply to specific positions and situations, but it is our general policy that we do not comment on any possible investigations.”

McLaren was asked: “Does Mr Condon have the authority to engage in contractual relationships with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service while employed at the Embassy?” His response was, “No.”

He also emphasized that “the United States Government has no involvement in any light aircraft project with any ministry, agency or service of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago”.

“The US Embassy maintains a robust and collaborative partnership with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago on a number of security-related and other areas,” stated McLaren.

The Express tried to contact Condon for comment, but neither calls to his phone nor e-mails were answered.

http://www.trinidadexpress.com

‘Feared I’d be pulling passengers out of lake’ – flight witness

Latest witness: Alan Kirker

A Queenstown boat operator and rescue volunteer who witnessed a Boeing take off into low cloud feared he’d be picking passengers out of the water.

Alan Kirker, giving evidence in Queenstown District Court today (Thursday) during the fourth day of a Pacific Blue pilot’s defended hearing, recalled watching it from his Larch Hill Place home: “My first thought was I was afraid a wing was going to clip a tree, that’s how low I thought it was.”

The Sydney-bound plane left Queenstown Airport towards Frankton Arm before it disappeared behind Deer Park Heights.

Kirker told the court: “It was flying level. I saw it flying at what appeared to be a constant height all the way through till it got to Kelvin Peninsula, then I saw it bank very heavily, probably at a 45-degree angle.

Kirker added later: “Because I have a charter boat and we’re on a list of rescue vessels – the first thing that ran through my mind was ‘How fast can I leave here to get to the boat to get to the lake’. I’ve never seen a plane take off at that level before.”

He’d decided not to take a charter boat out earlier that day because it was “too unsafe” due to an expected southerly front, Kirker says.

The pilot, a 54-year-old Aucklander, is accused of operating the Boeing 737-800 aircraft in a careless manner.

The plane, scheduled for 4.30pm, took off at 5.25pm – 11 minutes after the airline manual stipulated it was safe to do so.

The man has been granted interim name suppression.

Also in court today, video footage recorded in the cabin before and during take-off by cameramen for reality TV show The Amazing Race Asia shows passengers boarding in torrential rain and high winds. The airport’s windsock can be seen indicating extremely gusty conditions and rain is shown lashing the cockpit windows.

The maximum thrust take-off is shown with the plane levelling off over the Frankton Arm and flying low above houses in Frankton and Kelvin Heights. It then banks to the left, but not as low as witnesses on the ground have described in court. It does not show the aircraft being flown erratically and the passengers seemed calm.

Freelance cameraman Simon Christie, who filmed part of the footage on board, gave evidence via Skype from Adelaide.

While waiting about 45 minutes on board to take off, Pacific Blue crew informed passengers about delays caused by the bad weather, he says.

“None of the first [messages from the crew] were of any particular concern. We were told Queenstown Airport didn’t have (runway) lights, so there would be a cut-off point when we could fly out of Queenstown,” Christie says.

“The worst one before taking off was of most concern, was the pilot or co-pilot saying something along the lines of ‘We are going to give it a go’.”

Earlier today Skyline Gondola operator and eyewitness Malcolm Officer was grilled under cross-examination by defence lawyer Matthew Muir.

Officer, a prosecution witness, says he saw low-lying cloud that covered Deer Park Heights and maintained his certainty despite being shown CCTV footage from Queenstown Airport that indicated the hill was in full view at the time of take-off.

Officer says he saw the aircraft disappearing into cloud as it turned above Deer Park Heights.

Muir suggested Officer’s observations could be wrong after he was presented with official data that conflicted with his accounts.

Pilots must maintain visual clearance between leaving the airport and arriving at an altitude point between The Remarkables mountain range and Deer Park Heights.

The prosecution case is expected to finish early next week, followed by the defence case.

Witness feared plane would hit trees

A witness was afraid a Pacific Blue aircraft was going to clip trees as it left Queenstown in fading light and a storm gathered, Queenstown District Court heard today.

A 54-year-old pilot, of Papakura, appeared for the fourth day of a defended hearing before Judge Kevin Phillips.

The pilot, who has interim name suppression, has denied operating a Boeing 737 in a careless manner on June 22, 2010, a charge laid by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The authority alleges the pilot should not have taken off for Sydney after 5.14pm because Pacific Blue rules stipulated departing aircraft at Queenstown needed at least 30 minutes before civil twilight at 5.45pm.

The aircraft departed at 5.25pm.

Witness Alan Kirker, who watched the takeoff over the Frankton Arm, told the court he saw an unusually low aircraft in level flight.

The skipper, whose vessel was on a list of standby rescue boats, said his first thought was how quickly he could leave his home to launch on Lake Wakatipu.

"It got to the Kelvin peninsula, banked very heavily, maybe a 45-degree bank,'' he said.

"I was afraid it was going to clip the trees.

"I was watching a front coming ... It banked heavily around the golf course. I could still see it again as it got around the base of Deer Park [Heights]. I could only see the lights. It was in the whiteout."

Kirker said an incoming southerly front brought "a blizzard; the snow hit my house probably a couple of minutes after".

Adelaide-based freelance cameraman Simon Christie was on the aircraft when it took off and said takeoff was bumpy.

Christie, speaking via a Skype videolink, said he was holding a camera but put it down during takeoff after being told over a tannoy "we are going to give it a go".

"It was bumpy, 30 seconds to a minute, then we seemed to drop; not a big drop,'' he said.

"I could see houses clearly because we were heading to a large lake.

"Maybe we weren't going to make it too far. It seemed to be a steep climb for a few minutes. Once we broke through the clouds everything was fine."

The defence says the pilot's actions were correct, Pacific Blue's policies were inconsistent and any breach of requirements, if demonstrated, fell short of carelessness.

http://www.stuff.co.nz

PAUMA VALLEY: New helipad to speed medical transports in remote area

Capt. Albert Tempel of the Pauma Valley Community Services District stands in front of a new helicopter pad Wednesday named in his honor.
JAMIE SCOTT LYTLE

Capt. Albert Tempel cuts the ribbon Wednesday at the new Pauma Valley helicopter pad named in his honor located at the Pauma Valley Community Services District. 
JAMIE SCOTT LYTLE

Mercy Air, Cal Fire and law enforcement officials stand Wednesday at the new Pauma Valley helicopter pad named in honor of Capt. Albert Tempel at the Pauma Valley Community Services District.
JAMIE SCOTT LYTLE

The new Pauma Valley helicopter pad named in the honor of Capt. Albert Tempel at the Pauma Valley Community Services District.
JAMIE SCOTT LYTLE

Long-celebrated for its stunning mountain setting, Pauma Valley is fast becoming known for something much less picturesque: deadly car crashes.

From January 2009 through Wednesday, there were 783 injury crashes and 31 fatalities on roads in Pauma Valley and the surrounding hamlets of Pala, Palomar Mountain, Valley Center and Rincon, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Starting this week, those seriously injured in crashes or stricken by a medical emergency in the remote area will have a faster option for reaching medical care.

A new medical flight helipad was dedicated Wednesday near the Pauma Valley Community Services District headquarters, along Cole Grade Road just south of Highway 76.

The helipad will allow Mercy Air helicopters to land in Pauma Valley and transport patients in eight minutes to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, about three times faster than ground ambulances, according to the district.

"It could save someone's life," said CHP Officer Tim Fenton, moments before a Mercy Air chopper touched down for the first time at the 50-foot-by-50 foot landing zone, with about two dozen residents and emergency officials watching.

"Time is critical," added Buzz Mills, who piloted the Mercy Air helicopter Wednesday. Mills said having an established helipad "probably saves a couple minutes" compared with searching for a safe spot to land on a highway or field.

Residents and law enforcement officials say Pauma Valley has been the scene of more traffic emergencies as casinos have expanded in the area. There's been a surge of drivers on the narrow, backcountry roads and added car wrecks, they said.

"We hear the sirens a lot," said Dave Sebastian, who said he's lived at the nearby Pauma Valley Country Club for 10 years. "(Having the helipad) raises the comfort level a little bit."

Steven Hamlin, the club's assistant manager, said the helipad will provide reassurance for club residents, many of whom are older and could face medical emergencies.

The landing zone is named Tempel Field, after the district's security captain Albert Tempel, who led the effort to build the helipad.

Tempel said he spent about $1,000 of the $2,500 set aside by the district on the helipad, noting much of the work and materials were donated by community members and local companies.

He said he will voluntarily maintain the T-shaped landing spot, made of decomposed granite and outlined by light-colored rocks.

Tempel said the helipad is one more way Pauma Valley, a town "in the middle of nowhere," functions as "a self-supporting city."

"Hopefully, we don't have to use it too much," the captain added.

Pilot escapes injury after helicopter hits powerlines and crashes nearTamworth

Kootingal Rural Fire Service volunteer Keith Thompson inspects the chopper which hit powerlines and crashed in a corn field near Tamworth. 
The Daily Telegraph

THE PILOT of a helicopter has escaped injury after the aircraft hit powerlines and crashed 5km north of Tamworth.

Police received calls about the crash at about 12.40pm today.

The pollination helicopter hit powerlines before crashing into a cornfield at Nemingah.

The pilot, a 52-year-old man, was uninjured. He was the only person in the helicopter when it went down.

The lucky survivor told thetelegraph.com.au that he was "shaken" but unhurt. "I'm going home to have a stiff drink," he said.

The scene was attended to by Rural Fire Service officers.

Residents lash out at Greater Toronto Airports Authority

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA)was forced to go on the defence this evening, telling close to 200 residents at a community meeting it wants Pearson Airport to be a global hub with more nightime flights.

The idea however didn't fly with most in attendance, many of whom were infuriated Pearson International Airport is seeking permission to increase the number of flights that arrive and depart late at night and in the early morning hours.

"Are you going to pay me the difference when my property value goes down," Applewood Hills resident Jim Frederick told a GTAA member.

Currently, an average of 36 flights arrive at or depart from the airport daily between 12:30 and 6:30 a.m. Pearson officials are asking Transport Canada to allow them to increase that number to 41 flights.
 
A decision is expected from Transport Canada this year.

The GTAA, which operates Pearson, hosted a public meeting/open house on the issue tonight at the Dixie Curling Club to "help people understand the complexity of an international airport," according to GTAA spokesperson Lorrie McKee.

"We're responding to demand and the demand for nightime flights is increasing," she told The News. "We want to be a global hub and we're having to turn flights away and that's a lost opportunity."

McKee said Pearson has been engaging the community via public meetings and its website (www.torontopearson.com/nightflightsoutreach), although it isn't required to as part of the application process.

Applewood Heights resident Pablo Loeffler said he is worried that increased flights will prove to be a disturbance to him and his neighbours. He's also concerned about the affect on property values and quality of life.

Loeffler said that while the flights don't wake him, they're loud and intrusive.

"I don't want to see an increase; I want a decrease in night flights," said Loeffler.

Applewood Hills resident Michelle Robyniuk said she too, is opposed to the increase.

"I can hear them from my house. You can definitely hear them," she said.

To help manage the impact of night flights, the airport uses runways that don't pass over heavily-populated areas and it doesn't allow low-altitude turns by departing planes, the GTAA said.

Ward 3 councillor Chris Fonseca, who attended tonight's meeting, said MPs need to "get engaged."

There were no MPs at tonight's meeting.

Fonseca said residents are part of this process and their voices must be heard.

"It's a balance between what's good for the economy and business and on the other end you have our neighbourhoods and we have to respect that," she said. "I recognize the airport is an economic driver. No matter what, planes will be flying over neighbourhoods."

http://www.mississauga.com

Author's novel blends spy action, history during time of three wars


If you're looking for vampires, zombies or alternate history in your recreational reading, Bellingham's Robert A. Wright isn't your author. But if realistic protagonists coping with the sweep of historic events intrigue you, his first novel, "Beyond Ultra," might hold your interest.

Wright, 63, operates Wright Aviation Solutions, with an emphasis on consulting about safety. He served 22 years as an executive with the Federal Aviation Administration, is a former commercial pilot and flies his own Beech Bonanza.

Question: What makes a fellow with a long career in aviation become an author of historical novels?

Answer: I became interested in writing in the last five years because I finally had the time. I'm thoroughly grounded in reality; I'm not into fantasy. My characters are genuine human beings, often faced with difficult decisions and sometimes conflicted, but always with realistic motivations.

Risks to Londoners from Heathrow already unacceptable


From Mr Gordon Glass.

Sir, It is timely to remind our government why all the political parties opposed a third Heathrow runway at the last general election. It would generate entirely new take-off and landing flight paths over London. Why? Solely to serve as a short-haul runway feeding passengers into even larger long-haul aircraft on the existing flight paths, with all the consequent increase in noise, pollution and crash risk.

Even BAA itself argued against a third runway at the Terminal 5 inquiry. In his report in 2000, the inspector noted “BAA’s request that the secretary of state should rule out the prospect of an additional runway” and said: “I agree with BAA that the evidence placed before me demonstrates that a third main runway at Heathrow would have such severe and widespread impacts on the environment as to be totally unacceptable.”

Even without the third runway, the inspector said, poignantly: “Terminal 5 would increase the risk of a major air crash, involving many casualties on the ground, which would raise questions about the future role of Heathrow.”

Quite alarmingly, as the opposing local authorities could not afford the continuing high cost of the longest planning inquiry ever, it fell to me, as an unpaid individual professional, to be the sole body left challenging the development on the crash risks over London. I now run a not-for-profit company to “educate” public organisations on the risks to the wider public from transport. It is not public knowledge but, believe me, the risks to Londoners from Heathrow are already totally unacceptable ... and rising continuously.

Gordon Glass, Bath, Somerset, UK 

Air KBZ - Flying beyond expectations: Air Kanbawza - Avion de Transport Regional ATR-72-500, XY-AIT, Flight K7-243. Accident occurred on February 17, 2012 at Thandwe airport - Rakhine State, Myanmar

This plane hit the ground 5 times before coming coming to a halt. Nobody was injured in the incident.


De-Luxe transfer from Sittwe Jetty to Shwetazon Hotel:

CTC Aviation Training (New Zealand) Limited hosts open day for aspiring airline pilots, 24 March

Hamilton, New Zealand - CTC Aviation Training (NZ) Limited, a global leader in airline pilot training, is holding an open day at its state-of-the-art Crew Training Centre in Hamilton on Saturday, 24 March. 

Ian Calvert, CTC Aviation Training (NZ) Limited CEO, says one of the company’s main recruiting focuses this year is for people looking to take up the Jetstar Ab-Initio Cadet Programme which is intended for candidates with limited or no previous flying experience. 

Visitors will receive information about what it takes to be accepted into the programme.

“Two years on since we began training pilots for Jetstar, many CTC graduates are now flying with the airline. We need to recruit 32 Jetstar ab-initio trainees this year, so there’s huge opportunity for New Zealanders to land a career as a pilot with one of the region’s top airlines,” he says. 



Jetstar’s Training Captain and Flight Operations Development Manager, Richard Faulkner, will be on hand to speak with open day attendees about the state of the Australasian aviation industry and employment with the airline. 

“The benefit of training with CTC lies in our reputation as an organisation that works with our graduates to help them gain positions as airline pilots. 

“Our annual open days are an excellent way for aspiring pilots to meet with one of our airline partners – in this case, Jetstar – to see firsthand how we work. If you are someone who is researching flight training options, this is an event not to be missed,” explains Mr Calvert.

Those attending the open day will get the chance to take a guided tour of CTC’s extensive training facility located near Hamilton International Airport. Visitors will also get up close with the company’s G1000 (glass cockpit) aircraft, including the Diamond DA42 and Cessna 172, as well as the Diamond DA20 Katana.

Members of the CTC flight training team and current cadets will also be available to answer any questions. 

In addition to the Jetstar pilot cadet programme, the open day event will provide information on other CTC training programmes. Everything from the CTC Wings International Pilot Programme - for students with little to no flying experience - to the Instructional Techniques Course - for the qualified pilot wishing to become an instructor - will be covered.

There will be prize draws for presentation attendees to win a flight in a DA42 aircraft. Others will win the opportunity to try out CTC’s flight simulators.

Those interested in attending CTC’s open day on 24 March must register ahead of time via the website www.ctcwings.com/nz or by phoning 07 843 3304.

http://www.scoop.co.nz

Canadian Helicopters wants financial help from city to move to International Airport

EDMONOTON - A major player in the local aviation industry wants financial help from the city to move into more expensive space at Edmonton International Airport.

Don Wall, president and chief executive of Canadian Helicopters, which is the country’s largest helicopter operator, has to relocate from its current site at the City Centre Airport which is being closed to make way for residential development. The company’s lease at the City Centre Airport expires in September.

Wall told council’s executive committee Wednesday that the company, with 50 years in Edmonton, would like to keep operating locally. But to do so, it wants help covering some of its costs associated with moving to Edmonton International Airport.

The cost of operating an office and hangar at the International is about $33 per square foot, compared to about $11.50 per square foot at the City Centre Airport, Wall said. The company asked the city to help cover moving expenses of about $200,000 and provide a subsidy of $100,000 every year for five years to help absorb the higher operating costs.

“That’s a very small percentage of what it’s going to cost us,” Wall said. “We think that’s a very fair number based on what it’s costing us.”

Without assistance, the company will have to consider leaving the area, officials said.

“It’s not our first choice. We’re looking at the city to take a pro-business approach,” said Robert MacKay, Canadian Helicopter vice-president of special projects.

No decision on the matter was reached Wednesday. The committee, which includes several councillors and Mayor Stephen Mandel, discussed the request and asked city administration to continue talking to the company. Mandel said he believes the city should try to help Canadian Helicopters, if it can.

“We spend tens of millions of dollars to attract business here and we have one here that’s a top-notch business,” Mandel said. “We should try to do what we can to keep them here.”

Canadian Helicopters provides transportation and associated services internationally and supplies support operations in Afghanistan and Antarctica. It has operations in Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and regions of Southeast Asia.

http://www.edmontonjournal.com

Airbus fine-tunes tactics after record order run

(Reuters) - After taking the airline industry by storm last year with record sales of a revamped passenger jet, Airbus (EAD.PA) is quietly switching tactics by putting emphasis on sales of the preceding model to prevent unwanted gaps in production.

Executives said the European planemaker has set a target to sell 300 of the 150-seat A320s this year, even as it puts the finishing touches to designs for a more fuel-efficient version, the A320neo, which is the current flavor of the market.

The temporary change of focus highlights a dilemma common to Airbus (EAD.PA) and rival Boeing (BA.N) as well as other manufacturers with long lead times - how to preserve demand for existing products while promising something better tomorrow.

It also sheds light on the financial risks of allowing any gaps to appear in an impressive but fragile production machine that churns out on average more than one medium-haul Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 airliner every day on each side of the Atlantic.

"The way to make sure there isn't a problem is to continue the sales process," Airbus sales chief John Leahy told Reuters.

"Last year we sold 244 (of the existing A320s), and I have set a sales target this year of selling 300."

Airbus plans to introduce the spruced-up A320neo from 2015, and Boeing is responding with its revamped 737 MAX, due in 2017.

By adopting the latest engines, both aircraft are meant to cut fuel costs by about 15 percent, leading to a flood of orders from airlines struggling with high fuel costs.

"There is a transition period that will run to 2018," Leahy said. "We are sold out in 2013 and '14, but we still have open slots in '15, '16 and '17, which I would like to sell as many of as possible this year."

Planemakers previously suggested they were heavily sold out until late in the decade for the most popular models.

Industry sources say that as the first delivery for the A320neo or 737 MAX approaches, it will be harder to sell existing models, even though some airlines are impatient to get rid of old fleets or unwilling to pay premiums for new models.

Some analysts add that dominant players Airbus and Boeing are playing a risky game by sticking to plans to raise output ahead of the changeover and may have to slash prices.

"Airbus and Boeing both have to bridge the gap, and it is not going to be easy to keep going at very high rates," aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of Virginia-based Teal Group said.

"The only way to avoid it is to discount heavily, and even then there is a question of whether people will finance the last few aircraft in the existing series."

CASH COW

The financial stakes behind the sales tactics are high.

Production gaps would hit revenue further down the line as about 80 percent of the value of a plane is paid on delivery. But having gaps in production of the most popular jets can have an even deeper financial impact by reducing the cash available for costly future airplane developments.

Lower production also drives up marginal production costs.

"Costs are particularly sensitive to volume when it comes to the single-aisle aircraft," a senior industry official said.

Buoyed by growing demand for air transport in emerging markets, Airbus and Boeing are keeping their production lines for medium-haul jets such as the A320 and Boeing 737 at record levels despite the economic gloom in home markets.

Airbus plans to increase production across the board this year, with the A320 rising to 42 aircraft a month by the end of the year. It plans to lift A330 wide-body output to 9.5 aircraft a month and A380 output to 2.7 aircraft a month by end-year.

Industry sources say Airbus has a particular interest in keeping production up because a relatively high proportion of A320 variable costs are in dollars - improving its defenses against currency volatility. Aircraft are paid for in dollars, but Airbus parent EADS must account for them euros.

Airbus plans to deliver 450 A320 single-aisle aircraft this year out of a total delivery target of 577.

Boeing, which delayed a decision to revamp its 737 after hesitating whether to go for an even bolder redesign, is meanwhile expected to dominate sales of the new generation of aircraft in 2012 as it chases its rival. It foresees 1,000 sales of the MAX, after Airbus sold more than 1,000 A320neos in 2011.

As an insurance policy, both Boeing and Airbus are believed to be encouraging airlines to take some of the classic models when they place new orders for the revamped A320neo and 737 MAX.

This year's mostly keenly awaited order for some 150 aircraft from United Airlines (UAL.N), postponed from January and expected in a month or so, is likely to contain several dozen of the older models whoever wins, market watchers say.

http://www.reuters.com

Seymour Johnson conducting operational readiness exercise

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. - A local Air Force base wants to warn everyone who lives and works around it that it may get a little noisy.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is conducting an operational readiness exercise through Thursday.

If you live nearby, you'll likely hear increased jet noise, low-level flying, and loudspeaker announcements through the day and into the night.

Officials say delays are possible if you're trying to get on or off base.

Flying Around The World At 30 MPG


Slovenian airplane maker Pipistrel continues to make headlines in the aviation arena with an ultra-efficient around the world flight. 

The relatively tiny, two seat, 640 pound Pipistrel Virus SW914 is piloted by Slovenian photographer Matevž Lenarčič who has completed more than two-thirds of his GreenLight WorldFlight that will take him to every continent on the planet. Yes, he already flew the 100 horsepower airplane to Antarctica.

The flight is part of Lenarčič’s goal to produce a book documenting the world’s water from the deserts to the oceans. The slightly modified airplane is powered by a turbocharged Rotax motor allowing cruising altitudes as high as 30,000 feet, a key to gaining some extra speed, as well as extra time and gliding distance for some of the longer legs over the oceans. The flight should cover more than 50,000 miles on its westbound journey, crossing the equator six times.

After departing Slovenia on January 8, Lenarčič crossed the Atlantic to South America and continued up through North America before heading south again. After a bit of permit wrangling, he made the truly impressive, albeit relatively short five hour flight from Ushuia, Argentina to Marsh Martin, the Chilean base on King George Island, Antarctica.
 
After a brief stop on the driest, coldest and windiest continent (picture at top), the pilot turned north again to Chile before departing on his longest flight to Easter Island. With his airplane’s weight doubled with fuel, Lenarčič was able to fly the 2,282 miles to the legendary island in 15 hours. He followed up the Easter Island leg with another long flight over the Pacific, 11 hours to French Polynesia.

In addition to documenting the world’s water in an effort to raise awareness over water issues, the airplane is also equipped with an air sampling device that will allow for measurements of soot to be made in some remote locations that have never been investigated. Yes, we all see the challenge of justifying burning all that fuel to measure the output of burned fuel.

Trained as a biologist, this is not Lenarčič’s first long distance flight. He has flown around the world before (eastbound) and has made several other long transect flights including in Siberia and Africa. He has published several books featuring the aerial photography from his flights.

Currently Lenarčič is crossing Australia and is in the middle of the country. After island hopping across the Pacific, Lenarčič and his Pipistrel are near Ayers Rock. Other than some permit and small issues with radios, Lenarčič’s first significant mechanical repairs happened in Tahiti after he decided to take care of some engine vibrations and a leaky carburetor. He has flown more than 38,000 miles so far averaging around 30 miles per gallon at roughly 150 miles per hour during the flight (some friendly tail winds for the small airplane).

Pipistrel, the company that built the efficient composite airplane making the flight is enjoying an impressive year of aviation accomplishments. The company won NASA’s Greenflight Challenge with its twin fuselage electric airplane last fall and earlier this year was nominated for the Collier Trophy, aerospace’s highest honor.

Virginia Resource Authority says Tappahannock has ‘moral obligation’ with airport’s debt

Last week, Tappahannock officials agreed to allow legislation to move forward that would effectively sever the town’s ties with the local airport authority, secure in the knowledge that the town would not be liable for any future financial obligations related to the airport.

However, the decision has one state agency warning that the situation may not be so cut and dry.

“There is a moral obligation pledge on a loan issued in 2007,” said Virginia Resource Authority Program Director Peter D’Alema in a March 1 interview. “It lays out the support for the debt service that [in the event of default] would be split between the county and the town.”

According to D’Alema, new legislation introduced by Senator Charles Cogan, (D-Dist. 29) that went into effect on July 1, 2011 enhanced the VRA capability to collect on any unpaid debts issued through moral obligation bonds.

“If the Tappahannock-Essex Airport Authority defaults on the bonds, that is where the moral obligation that the town and county pledged comes into play,” D’Alema said. “They entered into an agreement, a pledge in support of the local authority. Potentially, state aid that is [earmarked] for Tappahannock could be diverted to the VRA to remedy the loan.”

Initially, town council had voted to request that the bill, which would remove the town from the authority and reduce authority board members from seven to five, be tabled for a year while its potential implications were investigated.

On Feb. 27, council members heard for the first time from town attorney Bill Lewis, who advised members about the ramifications of the legislation that had taken many in Tappahannock by surprise nearly two months after being initiated by Essex Supervisor Bud Smith.

After weeks of speculation, Lewis eased fears that the town would still be liable for financial obligations related to the airport, explaining that the Tappahannock-Essex Airport Authority was a political entity unto itself and solely owned both the airport and the debt it carried.

Under direct questioning from councilman Peter Trible, Lewis said that neither the town nor the county had any direct obligation to finance the airport and that once passed, the town would not be held liable if the airport were to default on any of its state issued bonds.

It is an assertion that officials at the VRA, the bond purchaser, contradict.

D’Alema said that according to the VRA, the backing of the town and county were a crucial aspect in the financing agreement.

“The crux of the credit is the backing of the localities that want to support the authority,” D’Alema said. “The Airport Authority needed that backing because it is a start-up entity.”

He added that any failure to complete payments on the bonds could hurt the county and the town.

“It certainly would make it difficult for them to borrow again, when creditors see that,” D’Alema said.

As of March 1, D’Alema said that he and the VRA were under the impression that the bill had been withdrawn.

However, the town voted to retract their request after the meeting with Lewis, with only council member Marcia Jenkins dissenting.

Trible said that he found the new information to be “disappointing.”

“We went into the meeting with legal counsel giving assurances that we were no longer obligated for anything,” Trible said. “This would have made me change my vote and is something that the council is going to have to take up at a later point. It is troubling.”

Upon learning of D’Alema’s assertions, Jenkins said she was “not surprised.”

“As you know, I voted against it because I didn’t think we had enough verified information to make the decision,” Jenkins said in a recent interview.

Mayor Roy Gladding agreed that the VRA’s stance was not shocking, but added that he still felt that council made the best decision.

“I don’t have the concern that the airport is going to fail,” Gladding said. “The Airport Authority is probably one of the best run groups around and they are doing an excellent job with what they have to work with.”

Following the town’s approval, the bill was pushed through by its sponsors, 99th District Del. Keith Hodges and State Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover). The Senate unanimously passed it on March 2.

Town Attorney Bill Lewis did not return calls from the Northern Neck News as of presstime on Tuesday. However, when an Airport Authority member brought up the VRA issue during last week’s meeting, he said that he disagreed with the bond administrator’s comments.

Other issues stemming from the legislation, including “informal” county meetings that allegedly are in violation of open meeting laws, accusations that Gladding overstepped his authority by acting on behalf of the town without council members’ knowledge or permission and allegations that the initial legislation was drafted without public notice, by one individual and through the use of public funds by way of county attorney Sands Anderson are expected to be addressed at future public meetings.

http://www.northernnecknews.com

Airbus Attacks Boeing Cargo Dominance by Converting Jet: Freight

Airbus SAS (EAD) research that predicted a surge in demand for cheaper mid-sized cargo jets presented the company with a conundrum: it had no model to match Boeing Co. (BA)’s offering in the class and faced a steep bill for producing one.

The solution, an alliance with Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. (STE) to convert redundant A330 passenger planes for cargo use, aims to boost Airbus’s efforts to win a bigger slice of a freighter market dominated by Boeing while limiting the European company’s exposure to the project’s development costs.

“This makes good sense,” said Yan Derocles, an analyst at Oddo Securities in Paris. “Given the size of its order backlog Airbus is in no position to do something like this on its own, so partnering with Singapore Technologies avoids cannibalizing its own resources. Plus a freighter conversion extends the life of the A330 passenger model and protects residual values.”

Airbus estimates a need for 2,731 cargo jets through 2030, according to the company’s first ever market forecast solely for that sector, published last month and obtained by Bloomberg. While the mid-size bracket served by its only dedicated freighter, the $211 million A330 200F, is the biggest with a predicted 49 percent of sales, the survey says two-thirds of demand in that division will be for less-costly converted jets.

The European company, the world’s biggest maker of civil aircraft, is seeking to narrow Boeing’s lead in an air-cargo market where its rival claims a 90 percent share of dedicated capacity, or that provided by new and converted freighters rather than in the holds of passenger planes. The revamped A330 would compete with converted versions of Boeing’s 767.

Different Markets

Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders, who opted to go ahead with the project last month following pressure from A330 operators including Qatar Airways Ltd., has said the converted plane -- known as the A330P2F, or “passenger to freight” -- won’t hurt sales of the new-build A330. Andreas Hermann, who heads the Toulouse-based company’s freighter unit, reckons the two models will appeal to very different buyers.

New-build planes tend to be used by carriers with high- intensity cargo operations and minimal downtime, Hermann said in a telephone interview, citing a 99.6 percent reliability figure for the A330F, whereas converted aircraft are generally preferred by airlines which require lower utilization and therefore aren’t prepared to pay top dollar for a mint model.

Extra Value

Higher oil prices have complicated the equation, with kerosene that once accounted for 25 percent of airline operating costs now making up about 50 percent. While that’s accelerating retirement of cargo stalwarts such as the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-10, dating to the 1960s, the A330, which first flew in 1992, is modern enough for fuel thirst not to be an issue, he said.

“The A330P2F offers an opportunity to provide a modern- technology, fuel-efficient aircraft at a relatively low price, while airlines with well-developed networks and high utilization can afford a new-build A330-200F,” Hermann said. The plan should also allow airlines to wring extra value out of the more than 830 A330s operating worldwide today, he said.

The price of so-called feedstock for the conversion program will vary according to the condition of available planes and levels of demand, with a 15-year-old A330 likely to cost from $30 million to $40 million, the executive said.

According to the agreement with Singapore Technologies the Asian company’s ST Aero unit will take the lead in developing the new model, with EFW, an existing Airbus conversion business in Dresden, Germany, heading up the industrial phase.

Conversion work will be split between the two, with the majority being performed at in Germany, Hermann said.

Behind Boeing

The EFW facility, owned by Airbus parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., currently offers conversions of A300 and A310 planes, which though similar in size to the A330 are 40 and 30 years old respectively and more expensive to fly.

Airbus abandoned plans for a venture with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. to convert A320-series narrow-body jets to carry goods last June, saying cargo demand had dropped and that used jets were being bought for passenger deployment. It also aimed to build a freighter version of the A380 superjumbo before a series of delays forced the project’s indefinite postponement.

Boeing offers a far wider range, producing new-build cargo versions of the 737, 767, 777 and 747-400, as well as of the 747-8, its most recent model. The Chicago-based company also oversees passenger-to-freighter conversions in every category of plane, including defunct types such as the 757 and MD-80.

There are 1,274 Boeing freighters in service, including conversions, compared with 263 Airbus planes, according to data compiled by aviation consultancy Ascend. The U.S. company has 175 outstanding orders and its European rival has 52.

Qatar Negotiations

Airbus’s decision to go ahead with A330 project was colored by Qatar Air CEO Akbar Al Baker’s announcement last year that he planned to switch a batch of the planes to cargo use by 2016 and would buy converted 767s if the planemaker wouldn’t do the work.

The third-biggest Middle Eastern airline is now in talks with EFW about the specifics of the project, Al Baker said yesterday in an interview, adding that he’s pushing for the installation of a mechanism to allow pallets to be shifted around under power within the aircraft. While the technology is available, it would add weight and complexity, he said.

Qatar Air, which is building up its cargo business after last year buying a 35 percent stake in Luxemburg-based Cargolux Airlines International SA, Europe’s No. 1 freight-only carrier, is interested in the conversion of as many as 20 A330s and would contribute an aircraft for certification purposes, the executive said in an interview in Berlin. The carrier is also looking at the potential for a converted version of Boeing’s 777-200ER.

“We will not buy new freighters,” he said. “The cost of ownership is so high that there’s no way we’d make any money.”

http://www.bloomberg.com

Gasping for air: Kingfisher, Jet, And Air India descend into chaos over mounting liquidity problems and pilot trouble

Kingfisher Airlines (KFA), which is staring at terminal financial illness, suffered a crippling blow on Wednesday.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) ordered over 30,000 of its affiliated travel agents to stop booking tickets for the airline over its failure to settle outstanding dues since February - a move akin to the RBI removing a commercial bank from its currency clearing system.

Alarmingly, the rot has metastasized to other players in the aviation sector.

One such carrier is Jet Airways. It reported protests from employees over delayed salaries and other emoluments.

Another is the state-run Air India.

Bleeding under a mountain of debt, it also almost simultaneously found its pilots agitating vociferously over the non-payment of salaries.

Claiming that the management had set itself a deadline of March 31 to clear their dues, they threatened to go on a strike from April 1.

The employees of Kingfisher and Air India have remained unpaid for over three months. The KFA was dealt two additional jolts on Wednesday.

First, the income tax department froze more bank accounts of KFA for non-payment of dues.

Then, oil companies switched off its fuel tap stopping supply across airports over unpaid dues to the tune of Rs 770 crore. Even as sources said negotiations were on, six Kingfisher flights at Mumbai airport were delayed because of no fuel supply.

'IATA has suspended Kingfisher Airlines' participation in the IATA Clearing House (ICH). This is because the airline did not settle its ICH account within the stipulated deadline,' IATA announced in a statement.

This development will handicap the airline's ticketing as over 85 per cent of bookings for domestic and international flights is done by agents.

It puts a question mark over whether tickets for the carrier can now be booked using globally interconnected systems such as Galelio, Sabre and Amadeus. Capt. G.R. Gopinath, founder of India's first low-cost airline Air Deccan was of the view that airlines were themselves partially and, in some cases, largely responsible for the crisis they were facing today.

'They have failed to build a sustainable aviation model suitable for the country.

Therefore, there is no apparent need for the government to intervene in terms of writing off individual loans or sinking more taxpayers' money to bail out Air India,' he pointed out.

'But none of the government's stimulus plans has had any positive impact on the aviation sector because they are not manufacturers, nor are they considered infrastructure providers,' Gopinath added.

DEEPENING CRISIS

FEB 2, 2012 IATA bars Kingfisher from ticket clearing house system, but reinstates it eight days later

FEB 20 Govt rules out bailout to KFA; abrupt cancellation of dozens of flights cause hardships to fliers

FEB 21 SBI offers Rs 1,500-cr lifeline to KFA; I-T dept defreezes some of its accounts; DGCA chief sets 24-hour deadline for the carrier to come up with a realistic flight schedule but rules out punitive action

MARCH 1-2 Service Tax dept freezes 40 bank accounts for failing to clear dues of Rs 40 cr by Feb 29

MARCH 7 IATA suspends KFA for nonpayment of dues; I-T dept freezes 19 more accounts & issues show-cause notice for not paying tax arrears, oil companies stop fuel supply to KFA

Air India's former executive director Jitendra Bhargava told Mail Today: 'Most airlines are in deep financial distress because the operational climate is not conducive for profitability.'

Elaborating further on the issue, he said: 'With the aviation turbine fuel prices (which make up 42 per cent of the operating costs) 50 per cent higher than those in the rest of the world and fares much lower than global levels, airline companies are only bleeding, some even haemorrhaging badly.'

A strong indication of this came from Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways where the airline's pilots started an indefinite protest owing to a delay in payment of their salaries over the last four months. On Wednesday, the pilots wore black badges as a mark of protest though they reported to work. Reacting to this news, the Jet Airways stock plunged 4 per cent at the BSE, even as it made up to some extent later to close at Rs 278.80, down 0.84 per cent.

'There is no reason why salary payment should be delayed. We have found out that the management is spending a lot of money elsewhere and deliberately delaying salary payments. We will make it public at the right time. We are not going to call a strike; we are only protesting,' a senior Jet Airways captain said, asking not to be identified.

Industry experts expect IATA's move to affect up to 35 per cent of KFA's business. 'Kingfisher's participation in the ICH will be reinstated after the airline fulfils ICH requirements,' IATA specified.

'As of now, KFA cannot settle its transactions with other ICH members through the clearing house. The carrier can function by settling with its partners on a bilateral basis,' IATA, an association that has all passenger and cargo carriers as its primary members, said.

IATA had previously barred Kingfisher from its ICH on February 2, but reinstated it eight days later after some payments were made. The action also comes in the wake of KFA abruptly cancelling scores of flights for over three months and inconveniencing fliers owing to financial difficulties.

KFA, for its part, said: 'Owing to the bank accounts getting attached by the tax authorities, we were not able to make a payment to ICH.

This resulted in a temporary suspension. We are working with the tax authorities and expect the accounts to be unattached shortly. As soon as this is done, we will pay our dues to IATA and get reinstated.'