Saturday, March 17, 2012

About 3000 people affected by grounded planes

About 3000 customers have been affected by Air New Zealand's grounding of its ATR fleet, after hairline cracks were found in one plane during routine maintenance.

The airline has been carrying out inspections on Sunday on its 11 ATR aircraft, which are operated by its subsidiary Mount Cook.

The cracks were found around the cockpit windows of one plane during routine maintenance overnight in Christchurch.

Air New Zealand cancelled all ATR flights on Sunday, but the airline says alternative travel arrangements are being put in place.

Two ATR planes were returned to service between Christchurch and Rotorua and Auckland and Palmerston North later on Sunday.

Mount Cook's general manager Sarah Williamson says she expects to introduce more aircraft back into service later on Monday.

But disgruntled passengers say they were left in the dark over the airline's decision to ground the planes.

One passenger, who arrived from Australia, was meant to be travelling from Christchurch to Queenstown on Sunday.

She says she wishes the airline had contacted them earlier, so they could have made alternate plans to the six-hour bus ride it is offering.

An A320 aircraft has been brought in to provide some services between Christchurch and Dunedin and Christchurch and Wellington.

The 68 seat ATR planes have serviced 10 destinations for Mt Cook since 1999 and have an average age of about 11 years.

Air New Zealand grounds 11 planes .  .  .

Air New Zealand has grounded 11 planes for inspections after cracks were found around the cockpit windows of one aircraft.

The airline said its 11 ATR planes - the propeller driven 68-seaters operating regional services around the country - had all their services cancelled this morning after the cracks were discovered.

The planes are operated by Air New Zealand subsidiary Mt Cook Airlines.

A media statement said one aircraft in Queenstown had already been inspected, had passed, and was back in service.

Mt Cook general manager Sarah Williamson said alternative arrangements would be made for affected customers and other aircraft from the Air New Zealand fleet would be used.

"We apologise to customers for the inevitable inconvenience caused by undertaking a full check of our fleet. However the safety of our customers, our staff and our aircraft is paramount and non-negotiable for the airline."

The ATR-500 aircraft have been used by Mt Cook since 1999.

The airline said the planes were an average of 10.9 years old.

They service 10 destinations around New Zealand.


Small Plane Flips at Prince George Airport, British Columbia, Canada

Flashing lights from emergency vehicles on the runway at the Prince George Airport this afternoon ( photo submitted)

Prince George, B.C. – Prince George RCMP tell Opinion 250 that a light plane has flipped at the Prince George airport.

An RCMP spokesman says the incident occurred within the past hour, although he’s not sure of the exact timing. He says it is not believed anyone was injured. Police have an officer on scene, but they have not reported back to the detachment.

Prince George Fire-Rescue says none of its crews were sent to the airport, rather the airport fire department responded.

Calls to the airport have not been answered as yet. The type of airplane involved was not known to the police official we spoke with.

The Transportation Safety Board will be called in to investigate, as is the case with any aircraft incident.

Colditz Castle glider escape plot realized more than 65 years after the war

1945 plan by British soldiers to escape from the prisoner-of-war camp by air is finally attempted 

Terry Payne

Ninety feet above the cobbled square of the infamous Colditz Castle, the spirit of heroic ingenuity soared freely once again. Earlier this afternoon a full-size glider built in the castle’s loft space was launched off a makeshift wooden runway, so executing an audacious escape plan hatched – but never realized – more than 65 years ago.

Back in 1945 British troops held in the supposedly escape-proof prisoner-of-war camp had spent more than 18 months designing and building the original glider under the noses of German guards. It would have been the Second World War’s most ambitious escape bid, but liberation denied them the chance to see if it would fly.

Today a team from Channel 4 proved that it might have done, though air safety regulations meant that instead of two would- be escapees in the cockpit they had a dummy codenamed Alex and the demands of TV budgets and the absence of any guards saw them build it – to the exact specifications it should be stressed – in only five days.

So in bright sunshine and with much of the small village of Colditz gazing skywards the original launch method was employed;a bath filled with one ton of concrete was dropped down the side of the castle beneath the runway, providing the pulley-driven propulsion that catapulted the 19ft long and 33ft wide glider off the runway and into the air.

It was a glorious, though it has to be said short-lived, flight lasting just 15 seconds before the glider crash-landed and crumpled in the target field, flanked by houses on either side.

“I was running out of space and getting too close to the houses, so I had to bring it down,” said Patrick Willis who was controlling the flight of the glider through a remote-control transmitter linked to three receivers on the glider.

Read more:

Colditz Castle glider escape plot realized more than 65 years after the war

Flight from Colditz: British PoWs' daring glider escape takes to sky, 67 years late

Hyderabad, India: Aviation 2012 not a dream show

As the five-day India Aviation-2012 opens to the public on Saturday, there is some bad news. The Boeing 787-8 Series Dreamliner made its way back to Seattle as did four others like the Falcon.

Of the 22 aircraft stationed at the Begumpet airport, the general public will get to see only 17. The five aircraft that made their way back home on Friday include the Boeing Dreamliner, Airbus ACJ 318, the corporate jet version of the A318, Bombardier’s Challenger 300, the Q400 NextGen turboprop and the Dassault Falcon. Even the Sukhoi Superjet 100 civil airliner will take off by Saturday afternoon.“I am so glad that I could get to see it today. I came in as a business visitor along with my uncle, else I would have definitely missed this chance,” said Ankitha Rao, a student from Bangalore, who came to visit the air show. Another visitor Suresh Babu, an electrical engineer, said, “this is so unfair. When so much was invested on this show and when two days were booked especially for the public, how can one send off the Dreamliner? It might be a boring show for the public tomorrow.”

Well, not just for the public but also for the participants it seems. Compared to the last edition, this air show has evoked poor response from even the business classes. Though the popular contenders expressed happiness with the “decent turnout”, new participants complained of really long and boring show. Shweta Mane and Sarla Devi, receptionists of an evidently empty stall of Powerfly, a Deccan and Taj Air Alliance who are at the expo for the first time, admitted, “we are just bored sitting here all day.” Rashmi Tandon, manager of the Rolls Royce stall, agreed, “The show this time was organised pretty well, but I would say the turnout was pretty less!”

However, officials at the Airworks Pvt. Ltd stall claimed to have received a better response. Sales manger Amar Singh said, “The crowd this time was more vibrant. Customers looked very much interested and yes, we are having a great time here.” Ramamoorthy, deputy general manager of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, too echoed the same view. “The turnout has been good this time and we have had quite a lot of enquiries,” he said.

The stores that had the maximum turnout and had really busy days were the stalls of the various pilot training institutes like the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi and the Bangalore Aeronautics Technical Services. A lot of foreign institutes like the International Aviation Academy of New Zealand, HELiPRO Aviation Training, Ardmore Flying School also said that a lot of students walked in for enquiries.

India Aviation 2012 show disappoints visitors

HYDERABAD: It was a disappointing day at the India Aviation 2012 for the thousands of Hyderabadis who thronged the venue on Day 1 of the two-day public show on Saturday. Apart from ruing the 'missing' aircraft -- the Dreamliner and three others had flown out before the gates were opened -- they also grudged the absence of aerobatics and heavy security barricades. What, however, saved the day for many were the two helicopters -- Bell and HAL -- the only attractions still parked in an otherwise near-deserted exhibition hall.

The show opened on a dull note with poor turnout of visitors. However, the crowd started to swell as day progressed with large groups of enthusiastic visitors walking through the gates. From students to families, with children in tow, to even senior citizens descended on the Begumpet airport to catch a glimpse of the 17 aircraft that had stayed on post the three-day business meet. "Children are always thrilled to see planes. But I wish they were allowed to take a closer look at them," said T Anuradha from Mehdipatnam in between managing her tiny tots who looked all too eager to pull down the barricades and make their way into the stationed jets.

The soaring temperatures in the open arena, where the aircraft were on display, prompted visitors to seek refuge in the air-conditioned comfort of the exhibition hall where, apart from large-sized helicopter models, miniatures of airbuses and Boeing aircraft were lined up. A mammoth crowd was seen gathering around the HAL stand where kids were given a chance to take a sneak peak into the interiors of the flying machine. "This has turned out to be the only attraction of the air show this year," said a junior college student V Vidyuth while posing with his friends for a photograph with the chopper. He added, "Last year, we at least got to see the planes in action. This time it's all very boring." That he and his friends had to shell out Rs 200 each to only see a handful of aircraft from behind security barricades was something the teenager wasn't too happy about.

And while the younger lot complained about the lack of 'adventure' at the show, the elders rued the absence of basic facilities promised by the authorities. While the organizers, in a release issued on Friday, had stated that visitors parking their vehicles outside the airport premises would be ferried to the venue, there seemed to be no such arrangement in place on Saturday. "We saw no bus or car at the gate to take us inside. It has caused us much inconvenience," said P Raju (62) who along with his wife was seen painstakingly making his way to the exhibition arena, which is a good kilometer or two away from the main road.


Venezuela - Missing plane leads to a working vacation

Submitted photo
Tim Evinger

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger spent a week in February searching for a missing plane in the Venezuelan jungle. Here he is shown flying over possible crash sites in a rented plane. 

Submitted photo

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger practiced rappelling from the skids of a helicopter during his trip. He said he learned how to rappel while on the SWAT team, but needed to learn the commands and hand signals used in Venezuela.

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger spent his recent vacation searching the Venezuelan jungle for a plane missing since February 2009.

Bob Norton and his wife, Neiba, were flying a missionary mission in Venezuela in February 2009. The couple’s plane, a Cessna 182, was loaded to capacity with a school teacher, four indigenous Venezuelans and a full tank of gas.

One of Norton’s passengers had a burst appendix and needed immediate medical treatment.

But the plane never made it.

“It was a horrible, stormy day and they were using an amateur radio for communication,” said Evinger, who founded a team that searches for missing aircraft. “Norton made a call on the radio that was indecipherable and they were never heard from again.”

A working vacation

Evinger and fellow volunteers from the Missing Aircraft Search Team spent a week in mid-February in Venezuela trying to determine what happened to the Nortons.

They interviewed villagers, flew over possible crash sites and investigated “conspiracy kidnapping” scenarios.

“It’s how I like to spend my vacation time,” Evinger said.

Evinger uses skills he gained during his days as a member of the local SWAT team, his search and rescue experience and his abilities as an airplane pilot to hunt down missing aircraft. He has been sheriff since 2001 and announced late last year he wouldn’t run for re-election.

Evinger and team member Bob Edwards, who was best man at the missing pilot’s wedding, interviewed villagers from the region with the help of an interpreter. From the information gathered on the trip, Evinger said they were able to determine the points at which the missing plane was last seen and last heard on the day it disappeared.

“The goal was to narrow the search area,” he said. “But really we’re looking for some closure on what happened to this aircraft.”

The team’s next step is to gather together in the U.S., do an analysis of possible areas the plane might be and figure out where they’ll search if they’re able to return.

“Venezuela is a politically tumultuous country in the middle of an important election,” Evinger said. “Right now we are weighing the risk versus benefits of returning.”

Kuwait - What is happening to the aviation sector?

By Muna Al-Fuzai, Kuwait Times

What is going on with Kuwait’s state-owned airlines? Is the government facing a tough time? Is competition very high? What makes others win while we keep faltering? Look at Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. They entered into service quite recently and now they are famous. Kuwait Airways was launched in 1953, and today it is teetering on the brink of extinction. What is the secret of regional airways’ success?

The above-mentioned airlines offer excellent services and continuously improve customer service, aircrafts and facilities offered on board to all passengers , be it economy, business or first class! Clearly, their target is not to attract customers for one flight, but winning their hearts for a lifetime. That is what I call talent and success. So marketing is their key to success and they have done their homework well. I believe that Kuwait Airways failed due to the lack of a marketing policy , strategy and a business plan.

A report released by a fact-finding commission in 2012 on the status of Kuwait Airways and its subsidiaries have stated that it incurred KD 591 million losses in 15 years. Of this, KD 164 million was lost in the form of huge wasteful blunders. For example, many overseas operations failed to achieve a target revenue. The report cited many reasons like failure to conduct proper feasibility studies. The bottom line here is that the marketing policy was skewed. I wonder why employees from this department were sacked. I would say it is wasta!

It is not news that many Kuwaitis and expatriates don’t wish to travel in Kuwait Airways unless they run out of options. I have flown in both Emirates and Kuwait Airways. Most passengers dread the delay that may set in. No one wishes to be stranded in the airport for several hours during a short trip from Kuwait to Dubai! In Emirates Airways, no delay will last for more than an hour, but Kuwait Airways takes hours to resolve the issue! It is a matter of shame for Kuwait’s oldest carrier.

In UAE, several private carriers have entered into service to cater to the needs of all passengers in the Gulf region. Wataniya Airways is another example that came to an abrupt end after a short stint. It entered into service in 2009 but completely halted operations in 2011.Reasons for this vary from stiff competition faced from other carriers and high fuel prices. There were two other Kuwait-based carriers operating at the same time – Kuwait Airways, and Jazeera Airways, a budget carrier. Wataniya positioned itself as a luxury service provider. Sadly, it met a natural end.

Kuwait Airways has not been able to keep up with the needs of today’s customers. I feel sorry for the situation it is in because it is a national carrier. I do not care much about the people who caused this fall. But, I guess the board members knew this is inevitable. Their staff members are asking for salary raises and are staging strikes. I am sure this is the last thing the management wants to deal with. Crisis comes in different packages! There can be no end to this unless this company is sold to a to a third party. Maybe selling it to the UAE or Qatar would not be a bad idea. I think they will be able to do a better job.


Nigeria biggest airline to stop Abuja-London route

ABUJA, March 17 (Reuters) - Nigeria's biggest carrier Arik Air said it would have to stop its daily flights between Abuja and London because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports, an accusation that risked reigniting a diplomatic row.

Arik Air - the only Nigerian airline flying to Britain - said slots it had leased from Lufthansa's British unit bmi at London's Heathrow airport were about to expire and it was now facing unspecified "restrictions".

"Whilst it is regrettable to have to suspend our services between Abuja and London, we simply could not continue with the route due to the restrictions placed upon us in accessing arrival/departure slots into UK airports," Arik's chief executive Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, said in a statement on Friday.

He did not spell out who was imposing the restrictions on the company.

But a similar row over landing slots and ticket pricing between Nigerian and British authorities in November almost grounded all flights between the two countries.

"It is an unfortunate situation and one that we felt was being resolved at government level and we hoped that an agreement would have been reached before the start of the summer schedule," said Arumemi-Ikhide in the statement.

The suspension did not affect Arik's flights between London and Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos.

Landing slots at Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports, are popular and over-subscribed. Nigeria's government and Arik Air want the British government to help it get more slots at Heathrow but UK authorities have said it is not their responsibility under a joint agreement between the countries.

Britain and Nigeria have a bilateral air services agreement (BASA) which allows them each 21 equal flight frequencies between the two countries, which their airlines can use.

The UK argues that Nigeria is entitled to 21 flights to the Britain a week but it can not guarantee them 21 landing slots at Heathrow. Other London airports have slots available.

Arumemi-Ikhide said Nigeria gave UK carrier "unfettered access" to the slots at Nigeria's Abuja and Lagos airports. "However, this is not reciprocated in the UK," he added.

The Nigerian aviation ministry was not immediately available for comment on Saturday. It warned last year that it would not "stand idly by while Nigerian flag carriers are unfairly treated when BASA agreements clearly state otherwise."

Nigerian authorities fined BA and Virgin Atlantic a total of $235 million for alleged price fixing in November, which both airlines deny.

The aviation minister has claimed BA flights between London and Nigeria we more expensive than flights covering a similar distance between Britain and Ghana.

Searches on the BA website show flights to Ghana are significantly cheaper than to Nigeria in business class and first class but not in economy class.

Saudi Airlines Cargo expands to Frankfurt, Vienna

Saudi Airlines Cargo is to expand its European operations with the addition of two new destinations.

As of March 25, Saudi Airlines Cargo will operate four direct freighter flights per week from Frankfurt to Saudi Arabia and two direct flights per week from Vienna to Saudi Arabia, connecting directly with Hong Kong and the Far East.

“We are extremely excited to be introducing these new services from Frankfurt and Vienna, which will provide a great boost to our existing activities in Europe where we currently operate scheduled freighters from Brussels, Amsterdam and Milan,” said Peter Scholten, VP commercial at Saudi Airlines Cargo.

“Frankfurt is the financial and transportation center of Germany, the largest and most important market in the European Union, while Vienna is the gateway to Eastern Europe. Offering a high frequency of services from these key cities with direct connections to the Far East will allow us to grow our business as well as to expand our activities into Eastern Europe,” he added.

The airline will use B-747 freighters in Frankfurt and MD11s in Vienna.

Frankfurt Airport ranks among the world’s 10 largest cargo hubs and is conveniently located in the middle of the Rhine-Main metropolitan area, an economic powerhouse.

The airport is very close to numerous production facilities and is connected to an excellent road and rail infrastructure.

Numerous freight forwarders have an active presence at the airport, including seven of the world’s largest IATA forwarders.


Eshott Airfield in Bockenfield, UK: Pilot jumps to safety as Flash 2 Alpha Microlight takes off on its own then crashes in flames after throttle got jammed

Trainee pilot taken to hospital after plane runs over his leg

A pilot had to jump out of his plane today after it became jammed on full throttle and careered dangerously out of control.

The microlight ran over the man's leg before taking off and performing two 360-degree loops.

But the aircraft soon stalled and crashed to the ground in a ball of flames at Eshott Airfield in Bockenfield, Northumberland.

The pilot, believed to be a trainee at the airfield in his 30s, was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Emergency services were called just after 1.10pm to reports of a crash.

It is believed the pilot had been starting up his Flash 2 Alpha Microlight aircraft when the technical mishap occurred.

An eyewitness told how the aircraft raced down the runway, at which point the man decided to jump out.

He said: 'The student, who I believe is called Paul, started up the plane, but it was stuck on full throttle.

'The plane ran away down the runway and he decided to jump out.

'But it ran over him. I don't know if he broke his leg or injured his knee. The plane managed to take off without anyone in it, where it did two 360-degree loops.

'On the third loop, it stalled and crashed to the ground and then burst into flames.'
Read more and photos:

U.K. Airlines Concerned About Disruption During London Olympics

The U.K.’s largest airlines, including British Airways Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., said they’re concerned about potential delays at London airports during the 2012 Olympic Games

“The industry believes that there is a significant risk of severe delay and disruption at all of London’s major airports unless urgent action is taken,” airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, British Midland International and EasyJet Plc said in a letter dated March 15 to U.K. Transport Secretary Justine Greening and other officials.

“Failure to respond leaves the U.K. vulnerable to the type of major disruption that will cause significant reputational damage and would be foolhardy and reckless,” the letter said.

The London Olympics will attract more than 320,000 foreign visitors, national tourism agency VisitBritain has said, citing a study conducted by Oxford Economics. Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris are also seeing an increase in travel during the Olympics period, Madrid-based Amadeus and Barcelona-based Forward Data said in a report this month.


New Zealand pilot dies in helicopter crash in Papua

A New Zealand pilot has died in a helicopter crash in a remote Indonesian province.

Kershaw Aviation Group, a Queenstown-based aviation supply company, says 42-year-old Shri Rama Krishnan, of Auckland, was flying a six-seater Squirrel with two passengers on board on a routine food supply trip when the helicopter went missing yesterday morning.

The helicopter was on charter to the Indonesian arm of US mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

Searchers found the helicopter crash site today and confirmed all three aboard had died, news agencies Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press reported.

"Three passengers were found dead and were being taken to a hospital," Freeport Indonesia spokesman Ramdani Sirait said, adding they were two Freeport Indonesia contract workers and Mr Krishnan.

The Squirrel left the airfield at the mining town of Tembagapura at 8.12am local time, Kershaw Aviation Group said in a statement.

It was attempting to turn back after encountering bad weather, when the control tower lost contact at 8.30am.

Mr Krishnan was a very experienced pilot who had worked for the company for 12 months, Kershaw Aviation Group chief executive Josh Kershaw said.

He had travelled the route many times and he had extensive experience in similar environments.

"Two members of our senior management team are on their way to the province to work with authorities," Mr Kershaw said.

"Safety is our number one priority and we will also be conducting a full internal investigation into this incident."

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told NZ Newswire the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta was liaising with other agencies about Mr Krishnan.

Direct international flights planned for Cayman Brac

The Gerrard-Smith airport in Cayman Brac.

Photo: Submitted

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority has announced the planned expansion of terminal facilities at the Gerrard-Smith International Airport on Cayman Brac to accommodate direct international flights.

“The CIAA is delighted to announce that over the next few months, subject to approvals by the Central Planning Authority, our Board will oversee the commencement of enhancements and expansion of the Gerrard-Smith International Airport’s terminal facilities,” said Cayman Islands Aviation Authority Board Chairman Richard Arch. “The enhancements will allow scheduled non-stop service between Cayman Brac and the US and elsewhere. Additionally, the funds invested in the airport redevelopment will also have a positive impact on the Brac’s economy.”

The aviation authority has appointed Mr. Nicholas Johnson as project manager for the expansion. He will be working with Donal McGrath of BDCL Architects.

“Once the design and planning phases are completed the project will go out to tender for the submission of contractor bids,” Mr. Johnson said. “As the terminal facility is to remain operational during the construction phase, efforts will be made to carry out the additions to the facility with minimal interruption to passenger processing. The terminal building will extend to the east and west and there will be some temporary relocation, to allow for refurbishments to be carried out on the existing facility.”

Phase one of the project will accommodate a larger ticketing hall, enhanced passenger screening and hold baggage ccreening facilities and the addition of outgoing Immigration counters. The departure lounge will also be expanded to create additional retail space and a larger restaurant.

The renovation will also create office space for Cayman Airways as well as the airport’s security unit.

Phase two of the project will see enhancements to the arrivals hall for the Immigration and Customs Departments, as well as the creation of space for public health and agriculture.

“The expansion of the Brac terminal is being funded by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority,” said Jeremy Jackson, the airports authority CEO. “This project will undoubtedly provide a much-needed boost to the island’s economy which has seen its fair share of challenges since the passing of the devastating Hurricane Paloma in November 2008. We are confident that the ability to attract direct international flights, without the stopover on Grand Cayman for passenger and baggage screening, will provide even greater opportunities for local businesses in the years ahead.” 

Fog grounds flights in north China

BEIJING - A widespread fog effecting the North China region including Beijing and Tianjin has grounded hundreds of flights Saturday morning.

The Beijing Capital International Airport said by 9 am, 199 flights were canceled, as the visibility at the airport was less than 200 meters.

Meanwhile, airports in Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou in North China were all enveloped in dense fog Saturday morning, with the visibility in Tianjin's airport less than 50 meters.

The fog has stagnated air pollutants. The averaged PM2.5 air quality reading in Beijing from Friday night to Saturday morning hit 144 micrograms of fine particles in per cubic meter of air.

The Municipal Meteorological Station said a gale following a drizzle Saturday evening would help dissipate the smog, but bring down the temperature by 10 degrees Celsius.

'Importing jet fuel is fine, but where will you store it?'

Though the Budget apparently gives instant relief to ailing airlines by allowing for direct import of ATF, experts argue that lack of infrastructure would negate the good news

The high-flying proclamation in the Union Budget '12 that the government would accept the proposal of cash-strapped airline carriers for directly importing aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to reduce oil costs is just white noise, aviation experts said.

With no infrastructure to import and store the oil, the pronouncement will make little difference, they observed.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that the aviation industry was in dire financial straits and as the operating cost is largely owed to the high fuel cost -- which ailing carriers have been making a hue and cry about -- the government decided to permit direct import of ATF to cut costs.

Former Air India MD Captain DS Mathur said, "No doubt, this budget is immediate oxygen for the ailing aviation sector. The government has addressed the concerns of carriers. But the main challenge lies in implementation. We will have to see how the government addresses the 'ifs and buts' pertaining to the new announcements. The big question is, how will ATF be imported and stored, as the infrastructure for the same lies with state-owned oil companies."

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, top aviation expert, agreed. "Permitting the import of ATF is good but how will it be imported and where will it be stored. I don't think the budget would make a big impact on the health of the Indian aviation industry," Ranganathan said.

The provision of increasing the service tax from 10 to 12 per cent will make the airfare costlier, up by Rs 200-300. However, the limit of duty-free baggage allowance for Indians travelling abroad has been raised.

Allowance for adults has been marked up from Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000 and for children from Rs 12,000 to  Rs 15,000.

"If it is just a hike of Rs 200-300 in total, I don't think any passenger will be affected. Increase in duty-free baggage allowance is good news as people spend so much on foreign tours but cannot shop because they do not want to pay the heavy duties," said Ashutosh Mishra, senior manager with a leading corporate industry.

Air India employees are pleased. Having not got salary and allowances for the past 3-5 months, an AI commander said on condition of anonymity, "I hope we get the salary as the government has decided to pump Rs 4,000 crore in the airline."

'Welcome changes'
Vijay Mallya, chairman of loss-making Kingfisher Airlines, welcomed the budget.

"External Commercial Borrowing for working capital is welcome. Interest costs and hedging costs will be much less than rupee-denominated costs. Direct import of fuel, announced earlier but confirmed now, will greatly reduce fuel cost. Permitting foreign airlines to invest up to 49 per cent as and when will be good," Mallya said. 

Rs 35,000
Duty-free baggage allowance for adults

Rs 15,000
Duty-free baggage allowance for children up to 10 years

Wanted: A professional to bring Air India on track

By Govindraj Ethiraj

Whether or not the "subsidy" bill for Air India is raised in Budget 2012, the fact is that the flag carrier's mounting losses and "revival plans" will have to be accounted for soon enough. At least, partly.

It's amply clear that Air India is an extravagance the government will hold onto with dear life. Say what you want.

It's equally clear that criticizing Air India for its sloth and size is, thus, futile. Moreover, be advised that the sinking airline will continue to devour thousands of crores of taxpayers' money as well as public sector bank deposits all the way to the blue sky yonder.

REDJet abruptly suspends all flights ‘indefinitely’

The Barbados-based airline REDjet announced late Friday it was suspending all flights from Saturday after ten months in the air in a bid to “protect the long term interests of the business”, the company said.

“REDjet has no alternative but to suspend flights from 23.59 p.m. on 16 March until further notice,” said a message posted on the airline’s website and emailed to the media.

But the airline said a further update would be given on Monday and said “all tickets for future travel will remain valid”.

In the email signed by REDjet director Robbie Burns, the airline outlined a three-week process for travellers to get refunds and urged travellers to check the company website and call centre for updates.

“Passengers booked on any REDjet flight from 17th March should contact the call centre or check the website for information about their flight 24 hours prior to departure,” Burns said in the email.

Billed as a low-cost, no-frills carrier initially offering fares as low as 9.99 US dollars, REDjet this week began selling tickets for flights between Barbados and Antigua to start in June.

The privately owned airline did not give specific reasons for the shutdown but suggested that it was expecting “state assistance” to continue operations and blamed “subsidised” competitors for its troubles.

“REDjet is hopeful that we will be given a small part of the State assistance others receive, as it will allow us to get our recently approved and exciting new routes established and profitable. Once this happens, our shareholders and staff will do their utmost to see that there is no return to high fares and business as usual,” the company said.

Incorporated in Barbados, REDjet took to the air with a regularly scheduled service between Barbados and Guyana in May 2011.

Last month, the airline began operating a service to St Lucia. It also flies to Trinidad and Jamaica and had announced it was to begin flights to St Maarten in May.

The regional aviation industry retains heavy government ownership, control and direction, with Caribbean Airlines/Air Jamaica and LIAT remaining state-owned enterprises, often in the grips of labour disputes, heavy losses, cash bailouts and customer dissatisfaction.

But since REDjet’s arrival the two island-hopping carriers have stepped up competition in pricing and scheduling.

“We have seen other carriers drastically cut their fares in an effort to shut down REDjet and return to high fares and business as usual with no regard to the negative impact on travellers. Unlike us, they do not have to be profitable to stay in business,” REDjet said.

“In spite of their subsidised efforts, our passenger numbers have continued to rise,” the airline added.

The airline’s supporters say the low-cost model would spur greater intra-regional travel and tourism and offer more options for traveller. Critics remain unconvinced that a low-cost business model can fly regional skies, already the graveyard of several similar upstart carriers over the last two decades.

Apart from generating unprecedented press notice, REDjet’s entry into the aviation marketplace scored several coups in intra-regional travel beyond the low-cost model. It joined Caribbean Airlines in offering inter-island jet travel and made heavy use of social media marketing.

Within a week of launch last year, the airline’s Facebook page had already surpassed 16,000 supporters. It has introduced ticket sales through cellphone kiosks and began flying the West Indies cricket team during their home series with Pakistan and India.

Arik Air, Nigeria’s major airline, suspends its Abuja-London routes over landing slot dispute

LAGOS, Nigeria — Arik Air Ltd., the major air carrier in Nigeria, says it will suspend flights from the oil-rich nation’s capital to London over an ongoing dispute with the United Kingdom over landing slots.

In a statement Friday, the carrier said its Abuja-London route would stop over its lack of slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The Nigerian airline has said a government agreement entitles local airlines to 21 slots at U.K. airports, but the airline refused to pay increased rates for some Heathrow slots, which are administered by a private company.

The company suspended flights for some time last year, sparking a dispute between Nigeria and the U.K. that saw British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways fined $235 million over alleged inflated ticket prices. Those fines have since been dropped.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Superjet liner in emergency landing

The crew of a Superjet-100 airliner of the Russian company Aeroflot has aborted a flight to Astrakhan and returned the plane to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after discovering problems with their plane’s landing gear.

The touchdown was flawless, all 65 passengers and 4 crew on the flight are safe and well. The homing operation involved hours of circling to burn off the fuel.

Bonanza F33A C–GSCZ: Transportation Safety Board of Canada releases report into the November 2010 crash near Toronto/Buttonville Municipal Airport, Ontario

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (A10O0240) into the 18 November 2010 loss of control and collision with terrain of a Beechcraft Bonanza F33A, operated by the Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology near the Toronto/Buttonville municipal airport. 

The aircraft left the Buttonville airport on a flight to Kingston, Ontario, with an instructor and two students on board. Weather en route began to deteriorate and the flight headed back. On radar, it was observed to be westbound in level flight before it turned north and began to climb. The aircraft then turned abruptly to the left and descended. It was located in a ploughed field approximately 10 miles east of the Buttonville airport. It was destroyed on impact. The three occupants did not survive. 

The report is available on the TSB website at

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

Nigeria: Abuja Airport Manager Berates Airlines Over Delays

Few days after the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority has promised to introduce penalty measures against airline flight delays and cancellations, the manager of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport Abuja Chris Bature has lamented the arbitrary ways domestic airlines delay flights at the airport..

Bature said that the delay of passengers by airlines as a result of cancellations and non-adherence to schedule has led to congestion of the terminals of the airport, adding that this over stretches the facilities at the halls.

According to him, the facilities at the airport were installed based on certain number of passengers which have been exceeded, adding that the burden was becoming too high for the facilities to accommodate.

"The congestion of the terminals due to delay by airlines has put a lot of burden on the passengers because the facilities was built with number of people in mind and once you begin to over load the structure with more than necessary number of people, the cooling system will become ineffective and seating will not be enough".

The airport regional general manager explained that sometimes a flight scheduled for 10:00 am would take off by 5: 00 pm or 6: 00 pm making passengers to pass through unnecessary stress, pains and discomfort at the airport.

On the pace of work at the domestic wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport, Bature said work was on going at impressive pace, remarking that the airport was going through a total rehabilitation with a new structure being put up.

He explained that the old domestic terminal under construction would be used for pilgrimages and also for general aviation, adding that it will not be used by domestic operations.

He said that domestic passengers would be using the module D facilities presently being used by Arik and Air Nigeria which has a lot of check in counters.

He said there was plan to commence work on the facilities so that in the next two years, the place would be ready and would consolidate domestic operations there, stressing that all necessary requirements for an airport would be fixed.

European Pilot Academy invests in flight simulator

Falcon Alliance Group, which runs the European Pilot Academy at Malta International Airport, has invested in a €324,000 simulator, which is set to significantly facilitate pilot training. The cost was partly covered by the European Regional Development Fund.

Small Business Minister Jason Azzopardi presided over the official opening of the simulator yesterday, saying that the European Pilot Academy was set up almost 19 years ago and employs 38 people.

Referring to the company as a success story, Dr Azzopardi said: “The people who run this company have demonstrated a strong sense of entrepreneurship, and they have been creating job opportunities by means of their continuous investment. Companies such as this are the unsung heroes of the economy.”

The company plans to employ more people in the coming months.

Falcon Alliance Group chairman Captain Ray Zarb explained that people come to train at the academy from a number of countries in Europe and beyond. About 130 people received training at the academy last year.

It is the only flight training organisation licensed by the Civil Aviation Directorate, and the training provided includes that required for the Airline Transport Pilot Licence.

The academy’s fleet includes both single and multi-engine aircraft, Tecnam P92-JS, Tecnam P2002-JF, Piper Warrior ll and Piper Seneca llBRNAV, and the pilot training portfolio ranges from AirCadets to Advance AirCadet and ab-initio student pilot through JAA-Airline Transport Pilot Licence.

By means of the new simulator, FNPT 2, the European Pilot Academy can offer training to professional commercial pilots before they start working for airlines. One of the advantages of the simulator is that training will be cheaper and can be carried out any time, and irrespective of the weather conditions. Among other things, pilots can simulate an engine failure and practise the methods used to control the aircraft with just one engine.

Falcon Alliance Group chief executive officer Sarah Zarb said that since the creation of an aircraft register, the academy has started receiving requests to carry out maintenance on general aviation aircraft.


Boeing 787 Dreamliner kicks off global tour in Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY — There is a lot to know about Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, like the fact it gets 20 percent better fuel economy, in part, because the carbon fiber structure has 1.2 million fewer fasteners than aluminum-skinned airliners.

The composite structure is flexible and durable enough the wingtips can flex upwards until they touch each other — though you wouldn't want to be on board in weather conditions that would make that happen.

But here's what you really want to know about the Dreamie: There is more room under the seats for your feet; the windows are a lot bigger for a better view and have electronic darkening; the ceilings are higher so the cabin feels less like being inside a tube; the cabin air is a lot moister so your eyes don't dry up and fall out while counting the seconds until the beverage cart rolls by to soothe your dehydration — and the overhead luggage bins are 50 percent larger.

Boeing is doing a global show-and-tell with its newest aircraft, and the plane whispered into the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday after a similar event in Long Beach. That's another thing: the engine design makes its two engines quieter, which may be of as much interest to people living under the airport approach as the passengers on board.

VIPs and the media got the nickel tour of the new aircraft Thursday, followed by the 700 workers at Boeing's Utah operations, where structure for the 787's flight deck and its vertical stabilizer are built.

Saved for Thursday's event was the announcement the Boeing fabrication plant on the east side of the airport will also be building some of the 787's horizontal stabilizers soon — about four a month once the Salt Lake facility fully ramps up, according to Craig Trewet, Boeing's Salt Lake City director.

New work also means more jobs, with the current workforce in Salt Lake City of 520 expected to grow to 660 by the end of the year. Boeing also has a plant in Ogden and contract suppliers in the state that support the supply chain for the new Dreamliner. Parts are then shipped to two final assembly plants. The primary assembly location outside Seattle puts jets together in a building large enough that Disneyland could fit inside.

Boeing unveiled the 787 on July 8, 2007, but numerous program delays pushed the projected May 2008 in-service date to this past September.

"It's not been the smoothest of roads, but we're proud of what we have done," said Ross R. Bogue, vice president and general manager of Boeing Fabrication.

Individual airlines hold their future route and equipment plans close to the vest, so it's hard to say which airlines might be flying 787s in and out of Salt Lake City, or when, said 787 communications manager Lori Gunter.

Only five 787s are in service so far, all with ANA Airlines in Japan. Boeing has orders for about 870 Dreamies at this point, which will take until 2019 to build and deliver, Gunter said. Full scale, Boeing expects to build and deliver about 10 Dreamliners a month.

The Boeing staff showing off the Dreamliner on Thursday made comparisons between the 787 and its other equipment, with the boost in fuel economy compared to the 767; and to Airbus, its only global competitor for large, commercial aircraft.

A "happier, more refreshed customer" was a top priority in the development of the Dreamliner, Bogue said.

Humidity is dropped to near zero in metal-framed aircraft to reduce corrosion, resulting in dry eyes and dehydration for the people aboard. The 787's largely carbon-fiber construction allows cabin moisture of a much more comfortable 15 percent. Air filtration, in addition to reducing particulates, is also designed to remove undesirable gaseous odors, like lingering food smells and smells from other passengers.

The particular seating experience for passengers depends on the airline. Boeing offers a number of different seating configurations, like fully-reclining seats in first class, that are among the options that drive the base price of the plane from $185 million to a top end of $218 million.

Room for feet is improved by moving electronics for passenger entertainment systems from under each seat to below the floor deck. The higher ceilings and bigger windows helps passengers "reconnect with the magic of the flying experience," Bogue said.

For the pilots, the cockpit features heads-up displays more common in military fighters and a sleeping loft above and behind the cockpit to accommodate crew rest required on longer flights.

Boeing's 700-series passenger jets date back to the launch of the 707 in 1958. Military versions of the 707 can still be seen on the east side of the Salt Lake City International Airport as part of the National Guard's refueling tanker fleet. says it's a myth to label any future Boeing projects as the 797, but sooner or later the aircraft giant will run out of 700s.

What will the naming convention be after that?

"Nobody knows," Gunter shrugged.

Read more:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Butuan City, Philippines - Huey choppers battered but not retiring soon

The recent crash of another Philippine Air Force (PAF) UH-1H Huey helicopter in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte last Sunday has lead to questions whether the aging refurbished aircraft is still air worthy or needs to be replaced and retired.

“We are still confident that with proper maintenance, the Huey is still air worthy and a huge essential part of our Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Elpedio B. Talja, commander of the PAF Tactical Operations Group 10 based in Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro City. “Our existing helicopters are still reliable and perform well. All that is needed is good check-ups and spare parts,” he added.

Talja pointed out that the Air Force has no plans yet of retiring the existing UH-1H fleet and it will be working hand in hand with the recent arrival of the PZL Swidnik W-3 Sokol from Poland.

PAF currently has 40 Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters in service, which has served as the workhorse of the Armed Forces in transporting troops and supplies, as well as for search and rescue (SAR) operations since the late 1970s. Back in December 2010, five newly refurbished Hueys were turned over by the United States government to the Air Force to augment the aging force.

Unfortunately, there had been numerous crashes involving the Hueys since the 1980s that led to injuries and fatalities. Last year alone PAF suffered two Huey crashes – one on April 1 in Antipolo, Rizal that injured five, and another in October in Sulu, killing three Air Force personnel.

The incident in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte last Sunday, where seven were injured, was the first incident this year.

“The purchase of eight Sokol combat utility helicopters is a welcome sight for the Armed Forces,” Talja said.

Last February, four of the eight Sokols were delivered to the Philippine government. The final four helicopters will be delivered later this year.

The aircraft’s ancestry can be traced to the concept of the Soviet’s Hind attack helicopters.

“Actually, there are many modernization projects in the pipeline, a lot of plans are in the works, like long range patrol aircraft, light attack helicopters and fighter aircraft,” Talja added.

The need for long range patrol aircraft, like the US P-3 Orion, was in discussion since the late 1990s as part of AFP modernization program under the Capability Upgrade Program (CUP).

The last 10 Northtrop F-5 Freedom used by PAF as air superiority fighters were decommissioned back in September 2005. Since then, Philippines does not have any fighters to intercept any aircraft entering its air space. 

Piaggio's P180 Avanti II Turboprop Challenges Executive Jets

By Jason Fogelson, Forbes

Piaggio Aero Industries S.p.A. was founded in 1998, when a consortium led by Piero Ferrari (of the famous automotive family and current Vice President of Ferrari S.p.A.) acquired the aeronautical and mechanical assets of Rinaldo Piaggio’s company, which had been producing airplane engines since 1915 and airplanes since 1925. Today’s Piaggio is headquartered in Genoa, Italy, producing a twin-engine turboprop plane, the P180 Avanti II.

The company is jointly owned by three groups: The Di Mase and Ferrari families out of Italy; Tata Limited, a British division of the Tata Group of India; and Mubadala Aerospace, a business unit of Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Company.

John Bingham is President and Chief Executive Officer of Piaggio Aero America, and Chief Marketing Officer for Piaggio Aero Industries. A charming Londoner with a sophisticated accent, Mr. Bingham spoke with me via telephone from his United States home in Florida.

FOGELSON: First of all, the Avanti II is a very cool looking little plane.

BINGHAM: Yes, it is very cool. It’s a plane that draws a huge amount of attention whenever it pulls onto a ramp. It is different. Once people get inside it they understand why people are so enamored with the aircraft because the cabin is huge. We have been making the Avanti II since around 2006. It is an aircraft that we make to order. In that way, with the peaks and troughs of the market, we are able to ride them easier than some of our other aviation competition. We have the ability to make up to thirty aircraft. We have just recently embarked on building a new factory in addition to the one that we have in Genoa. With our new factory, we will be able to build between forty and forty-five aircraft a year. In 2010, we only produced eleven and in 2011, we produced fourteen. In 2012, we think we will comfortably surpass fourteen.

FOGELSON: Looking at the configurator on line it looks like the seating capacity of the P180 is about six plus cockpit?

BINGHAM: It is actually seven, laid out as club seating. The other thing about the P180 is certified for a single pilot. You can also put someone else in to the right pilot seat, and the washroom is certified for take-off and landing.

FOGELSON: So you could have a flight attendant who started off in the washroom for instance?

BINGHAM: Yes, absolutely.

FOGELSON: Do you sell any of these to airlines or are they all strictly private aircraft?

BINGHAM: They are basically used in a variety of circumstances. Those circumstances range from private owners to companies to air taxi companies and charter and through to fractional ownership.

Our biggest owner is actually in the United States and they have 57 of our aircraft and they operate those on a fractional program. They are operating all over the United States.

Read more:

Bermuda: Iberia Airlines flight diverts for sick passenger

At approximately 3.45pm today [Mar.15] a Guatemalan-bound Iberia Airlines flight diverted to Bermuda after a passenger required medical care.

Ambulance and Bermuda Fire Service personnel met the arriving airline, and the passenger was taken off the plane in a wheelchair, escorted into a waiting ambulance and transported to King Edward Memorial Hospital for treatment.

The aircraft was en route from Barajas International Airport in Spain to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. The aircraft took on fuel in Bermuda, and departed at approximately 5.30pm.

Pilot’s departure actions “recipe for an accident” - Queenstown Airport, New Zealand

A pilot’s “deliberate decision” to allegedly flout take-off rules at Queenstown Airport could have led to “catastrophic consequences”, a top aviation official says.

Mark Hughes, general manager of airlines for the Civil Aviation Authority, told Queenstown District Court today (Thursday) that a Pacific Blue pilot’s actions during the June 22, 2010 departure were a “recipe for an accident”.

The Auckland-based pilot, 54, is accused of operating a Sydney-bound Boeing 737-800 aircraft, carrying 70 passengers, in a careless manner. He has been granted interim name suppression.

Hughes says because of the risks of the aircraft losing grip from the runway, the fact that the pilot was allegedly 600 feet below the minimum safe crossing altitude at a point between Deer Park Heights and The Remarkables mountains and that because low cloud eliminated a safe return option to Queenstown, the pilot compromised passengers’ safety.

“Once airborne, the aircraft was operated in an unsafe manner,” he says.

“If an engine failure had occurred, there were no safe options. This was the direct result of a pilot-in-command’s decisions to depart in breach of requirements.”

Hughes adds: “The fact that the take-off was achieved in no way reduces the elevated risk that existed as a result of the crew’s decision. Any significant wind change during the take-off role or aircraft malfunction could have resulted in a catastrophic runway excursion.”

Hughes couldn’t find any evidence of the pilot being affected by fatigue, or that the airline had put pressure on the crew to take off that night. The aircraft was transporting contestants from reality TV show The Amazing Race Asia.

“It is my assessment that the safety was compromised as a result of a deliberate decision by the defendant rather than by human error. The consequences of that decision could have been catastrophic.”

The pilot refused to be interviewed by CAA investigators after the incident.

CAA alleges the pilot – one of the most experienced on the fleet – flew out 11 minutes after rules stipulated it was safe to do so. That, compounded by low cloud and high cross-winds, meant that a prudent and responsible pilot would have left the plane grounded.

Defence argues that there are many inconsistencies within the different requirements set down by CAA, Airways corporation and Pacific Blue, and his decision-making was that of a reasonable and prudent pilot.

The defended hearing, which has been presided by Judge Kevin Phillips, was adjourned today after nine days. The defence case hasn’t been heard yet. It’s likely the hearing will resume in June.

India - Small airports are the next big thing: Experts

HYDERABAD: Small airports are part of remedial plans to resuscitate the ailing Indian aviation sector and, not surprisingly, 'non-metro airport' was the buzzword at India Aviation 2012.

During a panel discussion on Thursday, queries on the subject of small airports was eloquent testimony to the growing interest on this business model.

Umesh Kumar Baveja, founder and chairman of Regional Airports Holdings International Ltd (RAHI), a company that is developing two non-metro airports, at Gulbarga and Shimoga, had to request for off-line questions when the discussion on 'Roadmap for Civil Aviation: turbulence and recovery' wound up before lunch as he was inundated by questions from the audience.

Counting on the growth potential of an Indian market that is expected to have 300 million passengers towards 2020, industry players are exploring various business models in different domains. In the wake of these developments, it would safe to say that the sentiment on non-metro airports is bullish.

The Indian aviation sector, currently catering to 64 million passengers, including domestic and international passengers, has 135 airports at a time of burgeoning demand, considering the passenger outlook for 2020.

The market is estimated to grow to have over 1,000 airports by 2020. About 500 of these would be non-metro airports. While big airports are coming up with altogether different dynamics, the small or 'non-metro airports', have greater opportunities, experts said. "Considering factors encouraging the idea of non-metro airports, we can easily say 'small is beautiful.' Investment is small and therefore the risk, too, is small.

"No-frills and low-luxury are the differentiators for non-metro airports. This differentiator results in lower overheads that in turn makes the return on investment (ROI) more attractive," said Captain Gopinath, the pioneer of low-cost airlines in India and among the first to espouse the idea of small airports.

"Tapping the aviation market in tier-II and tier-III cities is a different ball game altogether. The financials are different and the revenue model is unique. You can't measure it by the same yardstick used to measure the biggies, so the game is not exactly easy," said Umesh Kumar Baveja.

According him, the capital cost to develop a Greenfield non-metro airport is Rs 200 crore while the operational cost is Rs 10 crore per year.

And it can be further reduced by smart technology and a simple revenue model. While the expected air traffic is a mere 45 aircrafts a week, the revenue depends on both aeronautical and non-aeronautical factors including landside development.

For instance, in Gulbarga, out of 700 acres of land, 350 acres is used for airport development, while another 350 acres is being utilized for landside development that includes setting up of an international aviation academy.