Thursday, March 22, 2012

Directorate General of Civil Aviation to be replaced with Civil Aviation Authority soon

NEW DELHI, Mar 22, 2012, DHNS:

New forum to secure passengers’ safety

To facilitate safe, secure and affordable service to air passengers, the government will soon set up a Civil Aviation Authority replacing the present Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

“The proposal to form a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in place of the DGCA is in formative stage,” Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question.

The proposed CAA will have adequate financial and administrative flexibility to meet functional requirements for an effective safety oversight system. In addition, it will also have the powers of economic regulations, consumer protection and environment regulation.

With the passenger volume going up steeply and the number of civil aircraft operating in the country also expected to increase, such an authority has become a necessity in India, analysts opine. Similar set up exists in many countries, including the US, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The minister informed the House that the CAA will be set up through a separate Act. However, the present legal framework such as the Aircraft Act 1934, will continue to govern the aviation sector.

President Pratibha Patil had earlier this month said the government will soon bring a bill in Parliament towards setting up of the CAA. In her address to the joint Budger session of Parliament, she also announced constitution of Accident Investigation Bureau in due course.

Singh informed the House that an inter-ministerial working group set up to identify reasons causing stress in the civil aviation sector and suggest remedies, has recommended rationalisation of value added tax on aviation turbine fuel, permission to foreign airlines to invest in the domestic carriers and allow airlines to import ATF directly.

The group has also recommended revision of fare structure by airlines to meet the rising cost of operations.

According to the returns filed by airlines with the DGCA, all scheduled airlines, except IndiGo, are incurring losses.

Industry sources have placed Rs 26,000 crore of operational losses between 2007-2010 and Rs 10,000 crore loss anticipated in 2011-12. The spiraling cost of aviation turbine fuel, global economic slowdown and low yield due to intense competition and consequent widening the gap between revenue and expenses have contributed to losses by airlines.


Grounding fleet up to airline: Qantas

Qantas says forcing airlines to submit a safety case to the regulator and the government prior to grounding its fleet would be impractical and could put passengers at risk.

A Senate committee has suggested that any decision to ground planes should be ticked off by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the federal transport department.

The recommendation comes after Qantas grounded its entire fleet in October 2011 due to an industrial dispute with pilots, engineers and baggage handlers.

"Qantas' decision to lock out its workforce and ground its fleet on October 29 was highly controversial," a report from the Senate's transport committee states.

"The committee is of the view that the repercussions of this on the tourism industry, the Australian economy and Australia's international reputation should not be underestimated."

The lockout directly affected 35,000 Qantas employees and their families and 98,000 members of the travelling public.

In light of the October grounding the Senate committee recommended that airlines be required to submit "a safety case" to the relevant authorities prior to making a formal decision to ground its fleet of aircraft.

The committee says that a fleet should only be grounded "in the interests of safety" and that if an airline cited safety concerns without a valid reason they should be hit with a financial penalty.

But Qantas rejected the proposal that CASA and the government approve any potential grounding.

"This is impractical when speed of response is essential to safe operations," spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said in a statement.

"If introduced this could put the safety of the travelling public at risk.

"The decision to ground a fleet must remain with ... the airline."

Ms Wirth said Qantas' grounding of its A380 fleet in late 2010 following the failure of a Rolls-Royce engine demonstrated that airlines were in the best position to make timely decisions regarding the safety of passengers and crew.

"To be required to undergo a time-consuming process of justification and approval prior to taking safety action is unacceptable to Qantas and contrary to basic safety management principles."

The Senate's transport committee was examining draft laws, sponsored by independent senator Nick Xenophon and Australian Greens' leader Bob Brown, which would ensure Qantas maintained its principal operational centre in Australia and used local cabin crew on domestic flights.

The committee, in its final report released on Thursday evening, recommended the bills not be passed as they could adversely affect the ability of Qantas to be competitive in overseas markets.

Velvet Sky loses operating license

Velvet Sky has been grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Velvet Sky, which has been grounded since March 5 after running into millions of rand in debt, will remain on the ground – the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has suspended its operating license.

CAA spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said the suspension was a temporary move.

Following discussions with Velvet Sky’s management, the CAA had decided to temporarily withdraw the airline’s aircraft operator certificate, Ledwaba said.

This would let the CAA conduct the necessary safety and compliance oversight over the resumption of operations upon confirmation from Velvet Sky that it was ready to resume operations, he said.

Ledwaba said the CAA would review the situation and lift the suspension if it was confident that safety and legal compliance were not compromised.

The latest development was discussed on Facebook.

A post yesterday read: “The CAA has withdrawn its Aircraft Operator Certificate. A completely new and separate airline is to be built from the ground up, run by the very good people we had, who are now rid of the very bad bad (sic) people. It will, of course, not happen overnight.”

The Mercury could not reach Velvet Sky CEO Dhevan Pillay or chief operations officer Gary Webb yesterday.

However, flight operations director Paul Green said the airline’s certificate had been temporarily suspended within the context of its “current financial difficulties”.

He said a business rescue process aimed at restructuring Velvet Sky to get the airline back into the air was still under way.

“There is a lot of speculation going around. Sensitive negotiations in the business rescue process are under way, and premature comments being made are not good. These sorts of comments could jeopardise negotiations,” said Green.

He said he was not directly involved in the negotiations and had no indication when Velvet Sky would be back in the air. Green said no staff had been retrenched. However, they had been put on “short-time”.

Velvet Sky’s troubles first hit the headlines on February 22, when flights were delayed following a financial dispute with service provider SAA Technical.

It then suspended all flights from February 27 in the wake of BP filing papers for the airline’s liquidation after it failed to pay money owed for fuel.

BP claimed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court last month that Velvet Sky owed R29 million for aviation fuel. The airline averted the liquidation application after coming up with a business rescue plan.

Velvet Sky, whose majority owner is Excalibur Aerospace, said at the time that discussions were under way with a number of parties about its future ownership.

Excalibur Aerospace is headed by Joburg lawyer Stephen Nthite. Pillay, the airline’s founding CEO, is also a shareholder.

Culpeper, Virginia: Longtime judge and avid aviator dies

Former Culpeper Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge William D. Reams Jr. with his portrait at the courthouse portrait dedication in January of 2002.

Services for former Culpeper County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge William D. Reams Jr. will be held Friday morning at St. Stephens Episcopal Church on North East Street.

Reams, who served in the Culpeper Commonwealth Attorney’s office for a decade and as one of two Virginia 16th Judicial District Juvenile Court judges for 21 years before retiring in the late 80s, passed away Monday. He was 82 years old.

In addition to his legal career, Reams was a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, a civic and church youth group leader and an avid fitness advocate.

Current Culpeper J&D Court Judge Frank Somerville said Reams handled Culpeper and most of the rural counties in the 16th District.

“There were only two judges for the entire district, which includes eight counties and the City of Charlottesville,” Somerville said. “Of course, the caseload wasn’t as large in those days.”

A second judge predominantly handled Charlottesville’s caseload, while Reams rotated amongst most of the other courthouses, he said.

A lifetime resident of Culpeper County, Reams was known to run his court with a firm hand, but was considered an even-handed and fair member of the local judiciary.

“Judge Reams was a nice and fair man, but he was firm,” said Culpeper County Sheriff’s Deputy M.N. Jasper, who has worked in law enforcement in Culpeper for 43 years.

“He was honest, and very community minded,” Jasper said.

Jasper noted that Reams was always concerned with physical fitness and was a runner long before running became a popular activity.

“He ran marathons. He was always in excellent shape,” he said.

Most teenagers in the community encountered Judge Reams upon receiving their drivers licenses, an occasion upon which the judge had stern words of caution for Culpeper’s young residents.

“He’d tell kids they need to slow down and not follow so close or you’ll end up getting yourself killed,” said another courthouse official. “And he was exactly right.”

T.I. Martin, a fellow South East Street resident a few years older than Reams, said he heard Reams’ driving speech on a few occasions and noted “the lecture he gave was fantastic.”

“He did a great job as a juvenile judge,” Martin said.

Reams was also known for his community activities, which included being a Master Mason, a member of the Culpeper Volunteer Rescue Squad’s water recovery team, a youth football coach and an active youth leader at St. Stephens Episcopal Church.

Culpeper attorney Andrew Gayheart said he remembers Reams taking members of the church youth group on many camping trips during his childhood.

“He’d go on all the camps and the youth really liked him,” Gayheart said. “He was always really involved with his kids, too.”

After his retirement, Gayheart said he emceed a “retirement roast” for the former judge.

“All the other judges were there. I’d say he took it all pretty well,” Gayheart said.

“I knew Judge Reams as a kid, as an adult, and then as an attorney,” Gayheart said. “He was an amazing guy. When I was young, it was always my fear that I’d end up in front of him in his court, but fortunately I never did.

“He was somewhat intimidating as a judge,” he said.

C.W. Goldsborough and his family family lived next door to William and Nancy Reams on Mountain Run Lake Road for decades.

“We bought that land together and flipped a coin over who would get which parcel back in 1962,” Goldsborough said. “We were the first two families to build on Mt. Run Lake Road. It was still a dirt road then.”

Goldsborough said, in addition to his love for running and swimming, Reams was also an avid aviator.

“He got his pilot’s license at the same time as his father, back when he was 16 or 17. The first time I went flying was with Billy Reams in an old Piper Cub.” He said. “I was thinking, ‘The only thing between me and the ground is this piece of canvas?’”

Lee Goldsborough, Reams’ godson, said his fondest childhood memories of the judge were occasional trips into downtown Culpeper for ice cream.

“From time to time he would load all of us kids into the back of his pickup truck and take us into town to the Tastee Freeze by McDonald’s for ice cream,” he said. “I always thought it was really very nice of him to do that for us.”

Laura Reams-Fitzgerald said her father was a modest man who was not big on discussing his achievements.

“Daddy was very humble when it came to his accomplishments. He preferred action to words, both of himself and others,” she said.

A memorial service for Reams will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Stephens Episcopal Church on North East Street.

Hawker Board Restores Salaries For Top Executives

Hawker’s board of directors approved the salary adjustments, including back pay.

Reporter: KAKE News

Three top executives at Hawker Beechcraft will be receiving salary adjustments after filing an 8-K document with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the filing, Hawker’s board of directors approved the adjustments, including back pay. The modifications will affect salaries for Bill Boisture, Hawker chairman and CEO, and vice presidents Shawn Vick and Bill Brown.

Boisture took a voluntary 10-percent pay reduction in 2009 during mass layoffs. Vick and Brown took 10-percent cuts the following year.

The company said in a news release the board is retroactively restoring those reductions to the salary levels before the reductions.

Vick and Brown also received four-percent pay raises.

The filing also shows the company made severance agreements with the vice presidents if they are terminated.