Sunday, April 08, 2012

Analysis: History shows search-and-rescue aircraft must be replaced, and soon

Published on Monday 9 April 2012 

When Total’s Elgin platform had to be evacuated almost two weeks ago, major incident plans were activated to safely recover its crew. Fortunately there was no loss of life, but the whole incident brought back memories of the Piper Alpha disaster 24 years ago, which ended in the loss of 167 oil workers’ lives.

In the July 1988 disaster, the arrival overhead of a Royal Air Force Nimrod maritime patrol played an important part in saving scores of lives after the platform exploded. The presence of an “on-scene” command aircraft “brought order to chaos” as rescue ships and helicopters desperately sought to pluck survivors from the North Sea.

When the coalition government scrapped the Nimrod MRA4 in its 2010 defence review, the RAF was left without a dedicated long-range search and rescue aircraft.

The Total Elgin incident has so far not turned into Scotland’s version of the Mexican Gulf’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, but it appears to have been a near-run thing.

If such a disaster had engulfed part of the North Sea’s oil and gas infrastructure, then every aircraft and helicopter that could be mobilised would have been needed to rescue survivors, control fires and to co-ordinate any clean-up mission.

Senior RAF officers openly admit that the UK lost a precious capability when the Nimrods were scrapped, but shrug their shoulders and say there was little they could do in the face of government demands for £38 billion in cuts from the defence budget.

The information that the SNP has prised from the Ministry of Defence can be read in two ways.

Either there has been a dramatic reduction in maritime accidents since 2010, or foreign rescue agencies have just given up asking for help from the UK because they realise that we have nothing to offer. Filling the gap in UK search and rescue capability will have to be a long-term project.

In the next two years it is unlikely that the Ministry of Defence will be able to spare any money, but the issue needs to be addressed in the next Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2014.

There are several low-cost maritime patrol aircraft available on the open market, based on small airliner or transport aircraft designs. These are not in the same class as the Mighty Hunters of RAF Kinloss, but they do have useful range and endurance, as well as modern night-vision cameras to look for small boats or people in the water.

Half a dozen of these could be bought for under £300 million, and give the RAF the ability to give top cover to rescue vessels and helicopters.

To buy these aircraft during the later half of the decade, the MoD needs to begin work soon. In the meantime, it’s fingers crossed.

• Tim Ripley is a defence analyst

Aircraft jobs secured by takeover

NEARLY 200 jobs at an aircraft maintenance company in Shannon have been secured with news that the business has been purchased while recruitment of additional staff is also under way.

Air Atlanta Aero Engineering has been purchased by Moscow-based airline and aircraft maintenance company Transaero and will now operate as Transaero Engineering Ireland.

Acquisition of the company will secure the 180 jobs at the facility while, before the deal was finalized, Air Atlanta had already begun a recruitment campaign to secure additional aircraft engineers.

The operation specializes in maintenance of Boeing 737, 757 and 767 series aircraft for customers including commercial, cargo and corporate airlines and leasing.

The firm is now recruiting licensed engineers for next-generation Boeing 737s as well as Boeing 747 Jumbos and Boeing 777s.

Transaero has taken over the former Air Atlanta’s 10,000sq m hangar on the northeast side of Shannon airport. It is expected to construct at least one additional hangar there for the larger jets.

“This is what Shannon is good at,” said Shannon-based Senator Tony Mulcahy. “The airport [is] world-renowned . . . for high-quality maintenance, repair and overhaul, and Aer Atlanta had always been at the top in this area.

“This is great news, not just for the workers, and a real win-win for Shannon.”

There has been speculation that Transaero may operate commercial flights through Shannon and could reopen the Shannon to Moscow route.

Mayor of Shannon Mary Brennan said: “With Transaero now coming, maybe we could hope it may also bring some flights and that the future of Shannon would start to look brighter.”

'It's a miracle': Pilot of crashed plane expected to survive - Cessna 150H, N6616S, near Crest Airpark (S36) Kent, Washington

COVINGTON, Wash. - A pilot is "banged up" but expected to survive after Saturday's small plane crash near Crest Airpark - and some of his rescuers say it's a miracle he wasn't killed.

Friends will not reveal the pilot's name, but the registered owner of the downed single-engine said the man is a buddy of his - and that he is going to be OK.

The crash happened Saturday afternoon in a neighborhood just outside the air park. The plane flipped over and hit the ground just 15 feet away from one home where a little boy was napping in his bedroom.

Witnesses say they're just grateful that the pilot is alive and that no one else was hurt.

The first neighbors to reach the crash site told KOMO News they weren't sure if the pilot had survived, at first.

"Just looking at the airplane when I came out, I thought, 'He's going to be really lucky if he's alive,'" says Rob Regan.

The crash happened in the front yard of Regan's home. Running out to the plane, Regan found the pilot still buckled in.

"We tried to ascertain if the pilot was alive. He appeared to be breathing labored," says Regan.

He and others who were first on the scene carefully released the harness, and stabilized the man until paramedics arrived.

Regan also fly planes - and he thinks the only reason this pilot wasn't crushed is the lucky position of the Cessna when it came to rest.

"Where his head was in the aircraft, it was over the bottom of the ditch, and it actually saved him," says Regan.

A pocket in the ground where it was needed - so he was just literally saved by the ditch.

Some who saw it, including Regan's mother visiting from England, thought the same thing.

"I think it was a miracle," she says.

Regan suspects strong winds just above the tall trees may have surprised the pilot while he was taking off or maybe practicing a touch-and-go landing.

"He could have crashed into the house, or crashed into the trees, or hit the concrete," says Regan. "So there a lot of places he could have gone. He was really lucky ending up where he did."

The wrecked plane will be stored in a secure place in Auburn, where investigators can go over it to figure out what caused the crash.


Shops Take Hit After JetBlue Departure: Report

Business owners on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills are already feeling the loss of one of their biggest neighbors, the Daily News reported on Sunday.

According to the paper, since JetBlue moved its nearly 1,000 employees to offices in Long Island City last month, local shops in the area of the Forest Hills Tower are starting to notice a big dip in sales.

The owner of one mini-mart on the shopping strip told the Daily News he has already been forced to start covering his operating costs out of pocket.

ConEd will also soon move a smaller group of employees out of the same office building that houses the office of City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, the paper said.

For more, checkout the paper's story here.

Zhou Enlai's jet awaits museum

The plane of the late premier Zhou Enlai stands abandoned in a field in Feidong county, Anhui province. 
Wang Zhiqiang / for China Daily 

 The special plane of the late premier Zhou Enlai has stood abandoned in a field in Feidong county, East China's Anhui province, for about two years, according to the Beijing-based China Youth Daily.

The jet, China Air force 50050, is perched on three concrete blocks between the provincial expressway and a garden of rapeseed flowers, and has become a nesting site for birds and an attraction for passers-by to scrawl their names on.

"The colossus arrived here in late 2010 to be an exhibit at a planned museum commemorating premier Zhou," said Wang Yuhong, deputy secretary of Jiaotou village's Party committee.

"It was bought and transported here by a businessman in Hefei. The transportation alone cost 300,000 yuan ($48,000)," Wang said.

Zhang Shengkuan, the businessman, told China Daily he bought the jet at an auction in 2003 for 1.27 million yuan out of "respect for the great leader" and a "personal interest in aircraft".

Zhang said he also had a large collection of other aviation "treasures" such as retired fighter planes.

The museum he intends to build for the plane is still in the planning phase and "hopefully will be open to the public by the end of next year", Wang, the local official, told China Daily.

Zhang said that the plane, 40 meters long with a 30-meter wingspan, was bought by the central government from the UK aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft in the 1960s.

After a simple interior renovation, it later became the special plane for Zhou Enlai, the first premier of China, from 1949 to 1976. It carried him throughout China and to a dozen other countries, including Vietnam and Mongolia.

It was taken out of service in the 1980s and lent to an exhibition company in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, "with the government's approval".

"Although the engine of the plane is missing, the entire interior has been preserved," Zhang said. "And by the time it is open to the public, visitors will be able to see the desk, the seat and a Simmons bed that premier Zhou once slept on."


Armand Diangienda: He's an airline pilot by trade, but a musician at heart - Democratic Republic of Congo

A special post by the producer of this week's 60 Minutes story "Joy in the Congo," Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson

This story would probably not have been done by 60 Minutes had it not been for the insistence of a friend that I see a German documentary about a symphony orchestra in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC. Everything that seems to come out of the DRC these days is not good: civil war, child soldiers and worst of all the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war. The fact that an orchestra managed to exist in the midst of all of this was something that had to be seen to be believed.

The creator of the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, its official name, is Armand Diangienda. He's an airline pilot by trade, but a musician at heart. When the airline company he worked for went bust -- the Fokker 27 he used to fly crashed -- he decided to turn his attention to his real passion: music.

Armand belonged to a church, founded by his grandfather back in the 1920s, and they had a brass band and a chorus, so he thought (as anyone would), why not start an orchestra? That was 1992. What is so extraordinary is that his orchestra lived in virtual anonymity for some 17 years until the Germans made a short film about them. Even researching our story proved to be challenging but for a short article here or there.

I had the privilege of meeting Armand in New York when I went to see the film and was completely taken by his disposition: a very subdued human being, living in one of the toughest places in the world and somehow making music-- classical music.

When we made it to Kinshasa with a crew of 7 people, we had no idea what was in store for us. The sounds of the orchestra left us all speechless and what was all the more moving were the individual stories behind those incredible faces. To see commitment at that level is not something that can be explained.

Of the 200 members of the orchestra and choir, only two have cars. Kinshasa, where the orchestra is based, is a huge city with a population of ten million. The musicians come from all over the city and for the most part travel on foot to get there - six days a week!

Armand's place serves as a makeshift conservatory and it feels like a mini-Juilliard in the heart of Africa. It's also an oasis from the trials and tribulations most of these musicians face on a daily basis. There is never a start time to rehearse because people trickle in throughout the day and they spend hours losing themselves in music. When we would wrap up a day of shooting by 9 or 10 p.m., there were still musicians working.

I hope that with this story, the orchestra will get what it deserves and frankly needs: a proper school in order for the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste to grow and show the world that there is more to the DRC than violence. These are good citizens, wanting to do the right thing and enjoy all the things that perhaps we take for granted in the West. One can't help but want the best for them. They are simply incredible.

Montana: Kalispell Council Holding Airport Work Session

On Monday, the Kalispell city council will meet in a special work session, to begin talks about the fate of the Kalispell City Airport. 

An engineering firm recently completed a study on the airport, and recommended upgrades that would bring the facilities up to FAA standards, and expand runway spaces.

One local group, Quiet Skies, wants the airport moved or closed down. 

On Monday, the Council will discuss if they want to follow the study’s suggestions, and there will also be a public hearing on the 83-year old facility on May 7 at City Hall. 


‘Arik Air not taken over by AMCON’

LAGOS — Chief Executive Officer of Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, Mr. Chike Obi, yesterday, denied media report that AMCON had taken-over the running of Arik Air due to its indebtedness running into billions of naira.

Obi, who addressed newsmen in Lagos, described the report as false, saying that the report did not originate from him.

He said that AMCON or its management had never thought of taking over Arik Air  as reported.

He said: “The report is totally wrong. I don’t know where the paper in question got that report from. It is not true. We have not taken over Arik and had never discussed taking over Arik as I talk to you. We don’t run an airline. We cannot take over the biggest airline in Nigeria because we feel like. I don’t know where they got that report from and they even quoted me.

“The reporter called me at 9pm and I told him it was late for him to call me, so when has that response meant yes, only God knows. We have never considered taking over Arik at this point. The story is baseless. I got a call today (yesterday) that we have taken over something else.

There is somebody moving around selling dummies to the people. You need to check whatever information you have and I can tell you that it is not true and AMCON had not even considered it. How can I confirm things we had not even discussed?”

Similarly, Media Manager of Arik Air, Mr. Banji Ola, who also denied the media report, saying that the story was a total falsehood, adding that there was no truth in the report.

Arik Air yesterday said it has not been taken over by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria ( AMCON).

The clarification is coming on the heels of some reports  that AMCON has acquired the airline.

In a statement by its Media Officer, Banji Ola, the airline said: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication  suggesting that Arik Air has been taken over by AMCON.

“There is no iota of truth in the story and it was just another malicious publication against Arik Air. The story is at best a figment of the writer’s imagination and a show of irresponsible journalism.”

AMCON Managing Director, Mr Mustafa Chike Obi, who was quoted in the  story,  condemned the publication.

In a statement,  the AMCON chief said he was disappointed at the report, adding that the story was “completely false and baseless...”

Arik Air would therefore like to assure its esteemed guests that its daily flight operations are going on without any hindrance.”


Grounded flight experienced instrument problems - Mobile Regional Airport (KMOB) Alabama

MOBILE, Alabama -- A Delta Air Lines MD-90 jetliner from Atlanta with 156 people aboard landed safely in Mobile this afternoon after reporting trouble during its approach, authorities said.

Mobile Fire-Rescue Department crews were dispatched to Mobile Regional Airport about 4:30 p.m. because the Delta crew reported instrumentation problems as it came into the airport. 

Radio traffic during the alert indicated the plane approached the airport from the southeast, landing to the northwest on the airport's main runway. 

The plane touched down safely at 4:40 p.m., and the fire department alert was terminated, MFRD spokesman Steve Huffman said.

A spokesman in the airport tower described the problem with the airliner as a precautionary measure involving automation controls. 

Weather was clear with maximum visibility, and MFRD crews on the ground reported seeing the plane on approach long before it landed.

The MD-90 is a twin-engine standard-body airliner with its engines mounted to the rear.

FOX10 News has a crew on the way to the scene to find out more.

Acoustic Climb to Cruise Test (Video)

by NASAcasi on Apr 3, 2012 

Flight test film footage of three different aircraft testing the acoustical noise levels during take-off, climb, maneuvers, and touch and go landings are described. These sound tests were conducted on two fighter aircraft and one cargo aircraft. Results from mobile test vehicle are shown.

Cape May County, New Jeresy: Grandson Remembers Local Aviator

Cox with daughter Maureen.

United States Overseas Airlines plane

ERMA – It would be a shame if the life of aviation pioneer and local resident Dr. Ralph Cox isn’t someday made into a movie. He passed away March 1 at the age of 97.

Picture this: Scene one: Cox is discharged from the Navy where he flew anti-submarine missions along the U.S. east coast and Europe. He is a licensed dentist but decides to buy government surplus planes to start an airline based at the Cape May County Airport. He starts United States Overseas Airlines specializing in transporting military personnel around the world and employs 1,000 persons making it the largest employer in the county.

Scene two: Cox and his planes spray insecticide over Iran in 1952 for a huge infestation of locusts. Harry Truman sends Cox a thank you letter.

Scene three: It’s 1962. Cox has built a safe, reliable air carrier with 12 DC4’s and six DC6’s operating from the county airport. The planes are grounded and the air carrier is bankrupt because military air transport contracts were suddenly cancelled and given to a smaller air carrier: Southern Air Transport (SAT). Cox suspects the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was responsible since it operated SAT and other airlines that received contracts had secret intelligence connections.

Scene four: The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) tries to suppress the small independent airlines to the benefit of the major carriers. United States Overseas Airlines shuts down.

There is much more worthy of a movie in the life of Cox, a man who knew Howard Hughes and collected a museum’s worth of antique cars, fire engines, player pianos, streetcars and even a steam locomotive that ran at Allaire State Park in New Jersey for many years. Cox was able to load items for his collection on his cargo planes and fly them home.

His grandson Ian Harris recalls working with Cox restoring his car collection right up until the end of his life.

Harris said his grandfather found standing in a cubicle all day practicing dentistry boring, so he enlisted in the Navy and became a pilot. He said his grandfather’s airline began with one plane, a DC4.

Besides transporting military personnel and gear, Cox offered low cost flights to the general public to Hawaii, Miami and other vacation destinations.

In 1947, the nation of Israel “stole” one of Cox’s planes and put it into use to shuttle dignitaries into the newly formed nation, according to Harris. The story gets complicated and includes Al Schwimmer who was involved with Iran Contra Affair many years later.
Schwimmer leased one of Cox’s plane and reportedly ferried both diplomats and arms to Israel. The U.S government threatened to shoot the plane out of the sky, so it was repainted with El Air markings. Eventually, Israel retuned the airplane to Cox.

Schwimmer has been called the father of Israel’s Air Force. During the complications with Israel, Cox would check into hotels under assumed names for his own safety, said Harris.

Harris said Cox did not take the loss of his business lightly in the 60s. He spent a lot of money suing the federal government. The safety record of United States Overseas Airlines was flawless, he said.

The company was staffed by ex-military pilots and mechanics. Cox’s airline was the only air carrier with its own engine shop. The other airlines sent their work out to contractors.

“When he started the airline, he had a lot of people tell him that it couldn’t be done,” said Harris. “He still held onto that dream, he still pursued it.”

Cox’s aviation dreams started when he watching barnstorming pilots as a child.

After the air carrier business ceased operation, Cox bought the Wildwood Canadian Campground in Erma.

For years it was rumored Cox had purchased one or two of Adolph Hitler’s cars. Harris said Cox sold one to Ritchie Klein, owner of the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas. The second car is in the Rockefeller Museum in Arkansas, said Harris.

He said Jay Leno inquired about one of the cars.

Cox met Howard Hughes when he asked him to carry passengers he could not accumulate on his airline, TWA.

“With overbooked airlines, he (Cox) would swoop in and cut a deal with them to fly the passengers,” said Harris.

Cox sold the City of Cape May its gaslights, he said. Cox purchased them when the City of Philadelphia was scrapping the lights, he said.

Harris called his grandfather a “walking encyclopedia who was fun to be around.” An accurate account of Cox’s days exists. He kept a diary from the age of six.

Cox was friends with Dr. Joseph Salvatore, founder of Naval Air Station Wildwood at the county airport. The hangar the museum occupies once house Cox’s airline.

Harris said an airplane wing remains at the museum at the top of the hangar which is currently inaccessible. He said Salvatore told him when the wind blows, check stubs from United States Overseas Airlines come out of the rafters.

Easter holiday horror as two killed in plane crash. New South Wales, Australia

Police investigate the scene of a fiery plane crash just outside Cootamundra which claimed the lives of two pilots on Saturday night. 
Picture: Addison Hamilton

Police examine the site and wreckage of a light plane crash near Cootamundra. 
Picture: Addison Hamilton

THE aviation community is mourning the loss of two pilots who were killed on Saturday night when their microlight trike crash-landed on a property near Cootamundra and burst into flames.

The 50-year-old man and 53-year-old woman, who have yet to be identified, are believed to have been returning home from the 2012 Natfly in Temora about 6.30pm when their aircraft reportedly came into contact with a windmill on a property on Stockinbingal Road, about five kilometres from Cootamundra.

Paul Ballard, who was working in the shed of his West Kinlock property when the aircraft crash-landed a few hundred metres away, said he heard a loud bang.

By the time he made it outside, the towering flames which had engulfed the shell of the plane were visible above the line of trees that bordered the paddock.

“At that point I had my mobile phone in one hand and running shoes in the other,” he said.

“But there was not much I could do.” 

Cootamundra Local Area Command duty officer Inspector Matthew Tishler said by the time emergency service crews arrived at the scene the plane was well alight.

“It was extinguished by the fire brigade, that’s when we discovered the two deceased,” he said.

The two bodies were removed on Saturday night before police postponed the investigations until yesterday.

Yesterday, detectives from the NSW police aviation support branch and personnel from Recreational Aviation Australia did a series of fly-overs, assessing the Cootamundra property and mapping out the possible scenarios which may have brought the plane ride into jeopardy.

Inspector Tishler said while it had been confirmed the pair had taken off from Temora Airport about 6pm, there was little information as to how the flight unfolded. 

“It will probably be some time before a determination can be made as to what has bought about the aircraft failure or the accident,” Inspector Tishler said. 

“Then it will be a matter for the coroner. 

“Without going into the specifics of the legislation I understand there is some requirement they are on the ground before daylight ceases so that is something that has to be examined as well.”

Recreational Aviation Australia will be continuing the investigations.


de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300, Trigana Air, PK-YRF: Hunt Begins for Gunmen Who Strafed Plane. Mulia airport, Puncak Jaya district, Papua

Ambushed: The Twin Otter aircraft of domestic carrier Trigana Air is seen with its front resting on a building at the airport of Mulia town after gunmen fired on the plane as it landed.

Jayapura. Police and soldiers of the Indonesian Armed Forces are combing the hills in Mulia, Papua, after gunmen sprayed an incoming commercial flight with bullets, killing one passenger and wounding four people on Sunday.

“Joint personnel from the police and Armed Forces [TNI] are going after the perpetrators, who ran into the mountains around the airport,” Papua Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Yohanes said.

The search team included members of the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) paramilitary police unit from the Puncak Jaya district police as well as soldiers from Batallion 7534 AVT based in Nabire.

Yohanes said a group of at least five men fired on a Trigana Air Twin Otter that had flown from Nabire and was about to land at the airport in Mulia town in Puncak Jaya district at around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday.

“The pilot panicked and could not control the airplane so that it veered off the runway and hit a building,” Johanes said, adding that the plane struck a warehouse.

He said one person died in the incident while four others, including the pilot of the flight, Captain Beby Astek, were wounded during the crash.

The sole fatality was Leiron Kogoya, a journalist working for Papua Pos, who was shot in the neck.

“Leiron Kogoya was our journalist who had worked in Puncak Jaya. He had been assigned there for a year,” said Angel Berta Sinaga, the chief editor of the Papua Pos.

Angel also said that Leiron was a native of Puncak Jaya and added that his family had already claimed the body.

Yohanes said that other injuries were sustained by co-pilot Willy Resumun, a 4-year-old boy and the boy’s mother.

The spokesman also said police were combing the airport for clues and evidence, adding that the airport was not closed since it did not have that many flights to begin with.

“The airplane’s fuel tank was hit by a bullet but did not explode,” said a Trigana Air employee who refused to be identified.

The wounded pilot and co-pilot were flown to Jayapura with the help of another Trigana Air Twin Otter plane, said Bustomi, who heads the Jayapura office of the airline.

They were transported to the Dian Harapan Waena hospital, he said, adding that the wounds did not appear to be too serious.

“We are temporarily halting all flights to and from Mulia, and we will wait for the situation to become more conducive to everyone’s safety,” Bustomi said.

He also called for better security at the airport, especially since the town was dependent on flights for needed supplies.

The airport has experienced several recent shootings, the last one injuring the local police chief in October.

Stories of human error in ‘The Map of My Dead Pilots’

by David A. James / Books in Review

April 08, 2012

FAIRBANKS - An acquaintance once told me that if you live in Alaska long enough, someone you know will die in a plane crash. In my case it took 10 years for this prophecy to come true, but it did.

Colleen Mondor, who spent the 1990s running operations for a small commuter and freight airline based in Fairbanks, knew enough aviators to learn this lesson several times over. In “The Map of My Dead Pilots” she brings their stories vividly alive and recounts numerous other mishaps experienced by the men she dispatched to remote corners of the state.

Alaska’s vast and varied landscape, combined with its severe shortage of roads, has made aviation the most logical means of long-distance transportation. However, its unpredictable weather and countless rugged mountain ranges strewn about in every direction render this mode of travel far more treacherous than in milder latitudes.

That combination, Mondor suspects, attracts pilots willing to take bigger chances and push their planes much further than their counterparts down south would ever dare.

In this dark — and darkly comic — account, Mondor draws readers into the daily happenings at the unnamed business she refers to only as “the Company.” Coming across as something of a bottom-feeder among the local puddle-jumper outfits, the Company flies routes between small villages, regional hubs like Bethel and Barrow, and the state’s metropolitan areas. Passengers and freight of every sort imaginable are toted along, although mail delivery is what keeps the business in the air.

The pilots are a ragtag lot of men looking to get enough hours to qualify for better jobs in the Lower 48. Most would rather be anywhere else, but fate and a misguided sense of adventure have landed them in the far north.

Here they are pushed beyond their limits by the demands placed on them by the Bosses and the Owners (like the Company, always capitalized, and like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon, always offstage but ready to disrupt the proceedings at any point).

Mondor gets off to a shaky start. The early chapters set the stage but do so in a nonlinear and somewhat unfocused manner that might discourage some readers from sticking with her. They definitely shouldn’t quit, however, because starting with the fourth chapter, the stories start pouring out and the book becomes impossible to set down.

The tale that gets things moving concerns a pilot known for his daring-do who got away with poor decisions enough times to consider himself charmed. His luck ran out while flying a group of schoolgirls from Gambell on St. Lawrence Island to the mainland. He’d taken off with just enough fuel to complete the flight, provided no complications arose. But arise they did and he made an emergency landing on the sea ice.

No one died, and the pilot lied to everyone (including the Federal Aviation Administration) about the cause of his forced landing.

No one bought it, of course, except for the pilot himself who held onto his fabrication until the day when even he couldn’t believe it anymore.

The reality of the catastrophe he narrowly avoided causing sets in, and then his personal problems commenced and his chances of ever flying again evaporated.

While this pilot survived physically, if not spiritually, another flier known for cocky behavior slammed into a mountain and died on a clear day while looking for a wolf pack to harass instead of looking at his surroundings. Mondor examines the incident looking for some justification but concludes that if he hadn’t crashed this time, he would have done it another, for as a friend tells her, “He flew into a mountain.

You can’t save someone who’s going to fly into a mountain.”

A running theme in this book is the attempt at understanding what causes accidents. Virtually all of the ones she describes boil down to pilot error, and for Mondor, this indicates that Alaska draws people who seal their destinies simply by coming north.

One of the most troubling deaths for her is that of a pilot who worked for the Company and who she greatly admired for his skill and his innate decency. Taking off from Tanana, he ran into immediate trouble with one of his engines and crashed into the Yukon River while trying to return to the village airport.

Parts of the plane, including the engine believed to have failed, were washed downriver and never recovered, leaving the FAA unable to determine the crash’s cause. The other Company pilots, interviewed for this book, offer broad-ranging speculations on what went wrong. Ultimately it all comes back to the decisions made in the cockpit in a matter of seconds under extreme stress. In other words, pilot error once again. There’s more than just death in this book, and as dark as it gets, it’s also very funny. Several chapters give readers an idea of just what sort of freight gets hauled around the skies above us — soda pop, liquor, potato chips, meat, animal and human carcasses, and so on. We also learn why the Company quit hauling sled dogs. Elsewhere the story of a mercy flight to save a village teenager from her suicide attempt turns anything but heroic. Mondor also revisits some of the highlights of Alaska Bush piloting history to show how little has changed since the pioneer days.

What Mondor ultimately recognizes about Alaska aviation, though, is that pilots are easily replaced, more so than the planes, which cost money. If you think you matter, she writes, then get yourself killed, “And within a week, your company hires someone else to take your place ... Welcome to the Last Frontier.”

Freelance writer David A. James lives in Fairbanks.
The Map of My Dead Pilots

By Colleen Mondor

Lyons Press • 2012

256 pages • $22.95

Bangladesh Air Force investigator found dead in hotel

A squadron leader of Bangladesh Air Force, who was investigating alleged looting of a Chittagong shrine by Rab personnel, was found dead in a hotel room in the port city yesterday.

Police recovered the body of Squadron Leader Mamun Ur Rashid, 45, from a room of Silver Inn on Station Road around 2:00pm.

Mamun, son of Mujibur Rahman of Rangpur, was stationed in Kurmitola Air Force base in Dhaka. He went to Chittagong on Tuesday to conduct a departmental probe into the activities of Flight Lieutenant Mahmudul Hasan, who was among 10 Rapid Action Battalion personnel accused of looting the money of a shrine in Talshara of Anwara upazila in November last year, said Rab-7 Commanding Officer Major Ziaul Ahsan Sarwar.

Even though the robbery happened in November last year, the case against the Rab personnel, two of their informants and 15 unnamed people was filed last month with Anwara Police Station.

“Mamun was familiar as Additional Deputy Commissioner (general) of Khagrachhari Salahuddin had introduced him to me two years ago,” said Silver Inn owner Md Asaduzzaman.

“Salahuddin urged me to get a room for Mamun in my hotel,” Asad said, adding that Mamun checked into non-air conditioned room-208 around 8:10pm on Wednesday.

They had tea at the hotel and two of Asad's friends--Mahmud Ali Khan and Mohammad Shahed--joined them a few minutes later, Asad said.

“As I had an early appointment, I asked my friends to give Mamun company and left around 8:30pm,” Asad said.

Mahmud told The Daily Star that after some chit-chat Mamun wanted to have some foods and he felt his peptic ulcer pain. Mahmud took Mamun to KGN Restaurant on Kazir Dewry Road on his car and had roti and chicken there.

“While returning, Mamun requested me to stop the car at an open space since he was feeling bad,” Mahmud said, adding that they stopped near the hotel. Mamun got down and puked, he said.

“Then I called Shahed, who went to a nearby bus counter to buy a ticket for Dhaka for Mamun. As we reached the hotel we both took Mamun to an AC room in the hotel where Mamun had some medicines from his bag,” Mahmud said, adding that they left after midnight.

Mamun was then in room-213 which was air-conditioned and was closest to the staircase, Mahmud said.

Hotel supervisor Jamal said they got no response from the room in the morning despite repeated knockings at the door. They informed Asad of the matter.

“I tried to contact Mamun over his mobile phone several times but none received the calls which made me suspicious,” Asad said. He then contacted Mamun's younger brother Russel who works for a bank in Chittagong.

The hotel owner told police of the matter and the door was opened in police presence with a spare key around 1:30pm.

Officer-in-Charge Rafikul Islam of Kotwali Police Station said they found no mark of injury on the body during primary investigation.

“We came to know from the family members of the deceased that he was suffering from cardiac diseases and high blood pressure,” said the OC, adding that the reason for his death could be known after the autopsy and forensic tests.

The body was sent to Chittagong Medical College morgue around 6:30pm.

An unnatural death case was filed with Kotwali Police Station in this connection.

Teams from Bangladesh Air Force, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) visited the spot.

Aero Vodochody L-39ZA Albatros: Bangladesh Air Force officer killed, pilot critical in trainer jet

The wreckage of the training aircraft that crashed in Madhupur upazila of Tangail yesterday.

A pilot officer died and a squadron leader received injuries when a Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) training aircraft crashed in Madhupur upazila of Tangail during a training session yesterday.

Pilot Officer Shariful Haque succumbed to his injuries at Combined Military Hospital in Ghatail, reports our correspondent in Tangail.

Injured Squadron Leader Muhammad Mamunur Rashid is recovering at the same hospital, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release said.

"Mamun sustained only some cuts and bruises," MA Masud, additional police super of Tangail, told The Daily Star yesterday.

The ISPR statement said a committee has been formed to investigate the cause of the accident.

Sharif's death brings the number of BAF pilots killed in air crashes over the last three years to three. Four others were injured in the four separate air crashes.

Mohammad Ali, an eyewitness, said the aircraft circled twice over a paddy field before crashing. He said Mamun jumped from the plane with a parachute before the crash. 

On reaching the ground Mamun raised a hue and cry prompting local people to rescue Sharif from the crashed aircraft, he said. Troops from the Ghatail Cantonment later took the injured men to the hospital.

The ISPR release however said both pilots managed to eject from the aircraft before the crash. It also said both injured pilots were taken to Ghatail CMH where doctors declared pilot officer Sharif dead. 

Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operation and Training) Air Vice Marshal Abu Esrar visited the scene of accident with other BAF high officials, the ISPR press release added. 

The L-39ZA aircraft went down into the marsh in Mohishmara Ghonapara area of the upazila around 12:30pm.

On October 22 of 2009 a BAF training aircraft crashed while trying to land at a local airport at Arulia in Bogra sadar upazila. Two pilots - squadron leaders Jamal Uddin Ahmed and AAMM Shamsujjahan -were injured.

On September 23 of 2010 a BAF fighter jet crashed into the river Karnaphuli near Patenga Boat Club. The pilot Flight Lieutenant Ahmed Sanjid was alone on board the routine training flight at the time. He escaped unhurt after ejecting from the jet with a parachute. 

On December 20 of 2010 two BAF pilots - Squadron leaders Ashraf Ibne Ahmed and Mohammad Mahmudul Haque - were killed when their aircraft crashed near the main entrance of Barisal Airport.

On October 10 of 2011 a fighter aircraft of Bangladesh Air Force crashed at Shah Amanat International Airport in the port city. Flight Lt Muntasin, the lone pilot of the aircraft A-5, managed to eject by parachute.
In addition on March 9 of 2009, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 55 Infantry Division and Jessore Area Commander Maj Gen Rafiqul Islam and pilot Lt Col Md Shahidul Islam lost their lives when an army helicopter crashed at Rouha under Kalihati upazila in Tangail.

Fly Baseball Star Brian Wilson’s Beard on This Awesome Airplane [VIDEO]

It’s a beard! It’s a plane! It’s Brian Wilson’s beard on a plane! 

Indian aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul business set to soar

India's aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business is set to rise as a result of the government's plan to slash high custom duties on aircraft parts, tires and other equipment.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the Finance Bill 2012-13 has proposed to provide full custom duty exemption to new, retreaded tires as well as testing equipment for aircraft which will be imported by third-party MRO units.

Aircraft parts and tires currently attract around 30 percent basic and additional customs duty on import. Due to this, the domestic MRO sector had become uncompetitive.

Reading out his budget recipe, Mukherjee said: "India has the potential of establishing itself as a hub for third-party MRO of civilian aircraft."

According to a civil aviation ministry report, the Indian MRO industry is expected to triple in size from Rs.2,250 crore ($440 million) in 2010 to Rs.7,000 crore ($1,369 million) by 2020.

However, this is quite small when compared to present size of per annum MRO business in the UAE ($1,565 million) and China ($1,956 million).

Yet, sectoral experts and passenger carriers have welcomed the move which they say can offset cost and give a boost to the country's MRO and airline sectors.

"It's a bold policy measure that will help the domestic aviation ancillary units grow, very similar to what happened in the auto boom of the 1990s," Amber Dubey, director (Aerospace) in consultancy firm KPMG, told IANS.

According to Dubey, the proposal will give advantage to the domestic MRO sector, which can utilise the abundant cheap labor in the country.

"Globally, labor constitutes around 50 percent of MRO's total expenditure. Leveraging India's relatively inexpensive pool of manpower of engineers and technicians will help MRO players."

It is also expected that the measures will come as a relief to the ailing domestic airline industry as well which incurs high costs on sending aircraft abroad for repair and maintenance.

"It will help save the significant cost involved in sending empty aircraft and crew to foreign locations for repairs," Dubey added.

Cash-strapped national carrier Air India sees the proposals as a boost to its own plans for the MRO business.

"The proposal will help us cut cost but more importantly assist us in our other plans for the MRO sector. We aim to transfer nearly 7,000 employees to our upcoming regional MRO facility for third-party work for generating extra revenues," a senior Air India official told IANS.

The airline said the proposal will help maintain a higher margin on its third party MRO work.

"Till February 2012 we had generated a total revenue of around Rs.14.3 crore in the northern region alone. This margin will increase with reduction in custom duty on parts."

Some industry experts think the plan may eventually not work out as other provisions mandate an MRO to stock spares only for a period of three months after which it has to pay the custom duty.

"MROs can only stock spares for a period of three months, falling which it will be required to pay the import duty. Similarly, spares have to be accounted for and it has to be ensured that they are used only for the aircraft for which they have been imported," said Rohit Kapur, president of Business Aircraft Operators Association (India).

"This defeats the purpose of spares stocking and also introduces an 'inspector raj' where the MROs will have to be frequently audited by the authorities."

Kapur said the country had the advantage of cheap labour, but this will be offset by high taxes and regulatory environment. A clear focused strategy for the sunrise sector was the need of the hour, he added.

At Atlantic City International Airport (KACY), a record-breaking March

By John Barna/Gloucester County Times 
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012 

EGG HARBOR TWP - It was a record-breaking month in March for the operators of the Atlantic City International Airport here.

A total of 122,597 passengers used the airport in March, an 11.46 percent increase over the same month in 2011.

South Jersey Transportation Authority, operators of the airport, noted the passenger record was more significant as AirTran Airways discontinued service to Atlantic in January. AirTran accounted for 8,128 passengers in March 2011.

Overall, passenger traffic at the airport is up 6.5 percent thus far in 2012 compared to the same period a year ago, said Bart Mueller, executive director for the transportation authority.

“We anticipate continued passenger growth with the return of seasonal daily service to Chicago and Detroit in May,” Mueller said. “Spirit Airlines has stepped up with service to Atlanta, also beginning in May, which will fill the void left by AirTran.”


Market forces are at play at regional airports

The number of passengers using the airport — about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles — has dropped from 6.8 million passengers in 2007 to about 4.4 million in 2011, according to federal statistics. In January, passenger traffic dropped 7.4% compared with the same month in 2011.

Passenger numbers have also dropped, although less dramatically, at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.

In contrast, Long Beach International Airport — about 20 miles south of L.A. — continues to grow, serving more than 3 million passengers last year, a 7% increase over 2007, with growth continuing in 2012.

What’s to blame for the differing changes in passenger numbers among small airports in the same region?

Airport experts have several theories but many point to market forces, such as soaring jet fuel prices, and the added security measures passengers face since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Many small airports primarily serve short-haul flights to destinations 300 to 400 miles away. But many passengers are now opting to drive such distances to avoid the frustratingly long airport security lines, said Roy Williams, an airport consultant and former director of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

“It’s the ‘hassle factor’ and it has impacted the short-haul routes,” he said.

In addition, the soaring price of jet fuel has forced airlines to cut service to smaller airports that generate only slim profits, said Bill Fife, former chief of planning for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates five airports including John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia.

“Airlines are much more careful,” he said. “They are looking to see which are money-making and which are money-losing routes. These are market forces taking place.”

As for L.A./Ontario International Airport, Ontario city officials have long blamed the airport’s woes on poor management by the city of Los Angeles — a charge refuted by L.A. officials.

Meanwhile, Long Beach Airport officials say they are bucking the trend by keeping the landing fees and terminal rental costs charged to airlines low, airport director Mario Rodriguez said. That makes it cheaper for airlines to fly out of Long Beach and pass the savings on to passengers, he said.

In fact, the average domestic airfare for flights out of Long Beach is $240, the second lowest price in the nation, according federal statistics for July through September 2011, the most recent data available. The average ticket from Ontario is $97 higher, statistics show.

In addition, Rodriguez said, Long Beach Airport serves many medium-distance routes, such as Salt Lake City and Seattle.

“We are not just for short-hop flights,” he said. “We have long-haul flights as well. You can get places from here.”


Pub named after Second World War pilot on spot where he was shot down

A pub is to be named after Sergeant Noble 

Sunday April 8,2012
By Richard Creasy 

 DENNIS NOBLE was 20 when his Hurricane fighter was shot down at the height of the Battle of Britain. Now, more than 70 years later, a pub named after him has opened on the spot where his plane crashed.

The name Noble House was chosen as a tribute to the young pilot killed during the Second World War.

Even the beer taps will feature the clean-cut face of Sergeant Noble, who had been with his squadron for just 27 days when he was shot down by a German Messerschmitt in August 1940.

His plane nose-dived into a pavement in Hove, ­Sussex, where the new pub opened this weekend with a large painting of the pilot above the bar.

Joint landlord Peter Wilson said: “It is great that in this day and age people still want to remember men like Dennis who was so young when he died. We could have chosen some trendy modern name but no one wanted that. We canvassed opinion and it was unanimously in favour of honouring him.”

Sergeant Noble was working in a London radio shop and serving with the Auxiliary Air Force when war broke out. The crash left a 15ft deep crater in the road. Because of difficulties retrieving his body, the hole was simply filled in and his remains were retrieved only after an excavation in 1996.

He was buried in his home town of Retford, Nottinghamshire, but people living near the crash site still feel a close affinity with the pilot.

Aviation historian Keith Arnold, who led the excavation, said: “The people in the area have really taken Dennis to their hearts. This is a wonderful gesture to name the pub after him.”

Seventy-two years after a Second World War pilot was shot down over Sussex, a pub has been named after him on the very spot where the plane crashed.

Noble House has been named in honor of Sergeant Dennis Noble, who was just 20 when he was killed during the Battle of Britain.

His Hurricane fighter plane plummeted into a street in Hove, Sussex, where the new pub opened this weekend.

Above the bar hangs a large painting of the hero pilot and even the beer taps will feature the face of the sergeant.

Sergeant Noble, who joined the squadron just 27 days before his death, was taken out by a German Messerchmitt in August 1940.

Peter Wilson, joint landlord, told the Sunday Express: 'It is great that in this day and age people still want to remember men like Dennis who was so young when he died.

'We could have chosen some trendy modern name but no one wanted that.'

Sergeant Noble was working in a radio shop in London when war broke out but served with the Auxiliary Air Force.

The plane hit the ground with such force, it left a 15ft crater in the road.

Due to difficulties recovering his body, the hole had to be filled before it could be removed.

It was only in 1996 that his remains were finally excavated and buried in his home town of Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Keith Arnold, aviation historian, said: 'The people in the area have really taken Dennis to their hearts.'

Read more:

Death Postponed: Captain Burrell's horrifying helicopter escape. 'I felt that it was the last day of my life,' says Jamaica Football Federation president

BURRELL… I have been through a lot, but that was the closest I had come to dying 

Sunday, April 08, 20

This is the eighth in a series of feature stories recounting close encounters with death by Jamaicans, some of them in prominent positions of society.

As a businessman and sports administrator Captain Horace Burrell has logged many hours flying across the globe. However, there is one flight that the retired army officer will never forget, because it almost ended his life.

It happened here in Jamaica during the 1980s when Burrell was a member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

"I was a commander in the First Battalion, Jamaica Regiment and we were conducting a company exercise across the island and this involved flying by helicopter," Burrell, the charismatic president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), told the Jamaica Observer.

"This particular sector was one in which we moved from Old Harbour in St Catherine, through Chapelton and Summerfield in Clarendon and while our two aircraft were flying low over Chapelton, the one that I was in unfortunately hit a power line, which had four massive power cables," he recalled.

"When we hit the big, high tension wire, luckily the aircraft was travelling with a wire cutter, because we were going fast, about 150 knots. It was the power cables which supply electricity to most of the parish of Clarendon.

"Three strands of the high tension wire were cut down, but luckily we missed the ground strap by passing about a foot over it. Had we hit the ground strap, that would have caused a major explosion. Only a foot lower and the aircraft would have blown up in mid-air," he revealed.

It was, he admitted, his "worst life-threatening experience".

Today, though, Burrell can laugh about the ordeal as he recalled how one Sergeant Gentles, who was in the aircraft, became hysterical after the helicopter made an emergency landing.

According to Burrell, Gentles ran off saying "oh my God, I am a duppy, I am a ghost, I am dead".

"The other troops had to run after him and told him to get a hold of himself," Burrell said.

"The skipper at that time was Lt Col Oscar Derby, who is now the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, and when we got out of the aircraft we were just hitting fists, because that was the closest shave for us," said Burrell.

"Seconds before, I felt that I was a goner. It was so severe, when those massive cables busted Frankfield was out of light, and other areas like May Pen, Kellits, Chapelton and other parts of the island were out of power, because the lines had been cut up.

"I felt that this was the last day of my life. It happened in a matter of a split second. We came upon the wire quickly, but fortunately the wire cutter saved us. I would have been history. I have been through a lot, but that was the closest I had come to dying," Burrell said.

Before that, though, the May Pen, Clarendon-born Burrell had, as a soldier, many dangerous encounters with gun-toting killers, who operated with impunity.

He recalled that during the middle and latter parts of the 1970s and early 1980s, sections of the Corporate Area were regarded as killing fields.

During one operation in the South St Andrew section of Wilton Gardens (Rema), Burrell again came close to meeting his maker.

"I remember in the early years of my return from training overseas (Sandhurst Academy in England), this one afternoon we were sent down to Rema to quell a battle, because there was a lot of shooting in the area," Burrell told the Sunday Observer.

"We came out of our vehicle and were moving tactically in no-man's land. While doing that we came under intense fire and we had to jump into a canal to save our lives.

"The shots were just ricocheting over us. In a matter of seconds it was like being on a battlefield. It was another close shave. That was near to the 1980 election and in those days the gunmen were far more brazen. There was sustained fire. The gunmen used to be very fierce. They used to be on top of the high-rise buildings where they would deploy themselves tactically. They would have a lookout and they would alert the others," he said.

Captain Burrell's colourful history could not be written without reference to the role that he played in efforts to restore order to the Caribbean island of Grenada, following a coup d'etat in 1983.

He was among a group of JDF soldiers that formed the Caribbean team that headed to the spice isle when then Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was toppled and murdered and other members of Bishop's New Jewel Movement assumed authority. The move prompted the United States and other governments in the region to invade the Windward Island state with a view to returning democracy there.

In the end, the USA-led troops prevailed and members of the New Jewel Movement were held and imprisoned.

"In Grenada there was sporadic gunfire. It was also a very frightening experience," Burrell said. "We went shortly after the invasion and the difficulty we faced was that the PRA (People's Revolutionary Army) exercised guerrilla-type warfare, and whenever the troops were approaching they would switch to civilian clothes and that was very dangerous, because you were taught not to shoot on sight, that you had to be very careful, because it was not an area that you had only military, there were a lot of civilians as well."

The PRA was the military arm of the New Jewel Movement, but its efforts at keeping the invading forces at bay were short-lived.

"The PRA soldiers were not professional soldiers," said Burrell, who served the Caribbean forces as operations officer. "They were like guerrillas who had guns concealed and at intervals they would fire. When it suited them they would have uniforms, and at other times they would have civilian clothing. On one or two occasions we came under fire, but thanks be to God, we were able to repel the fire, because they were not as well-trained as regular soldiers."

One of the major challenges of Burrell's army career, though, confronted him during his early years, while he was a second lieutenant.

He had apprehended a small plane which had apparently landed in South East St Elizabeth to pick up marijuana, and held its two passengers, along with an estimated US$550,000.

Despite a move to bribe him in order to secure their release, Burrell insisted that what they were doing was illegal and proceeded to take them into custody.

"I was a young officer and in those days I had family members in St Elizabeth. One Sunday they left before me and as soon as I finished training I decided to head down," he related.

"There was an airstrip at Nain that was active, because at that time the Alpart bauxite plant used that airstrip to land their planes. I was always a very keen young officer and if I saw anything that looked suspicious, I would investigate. Just as I was about to pass, I saw an aircraft land," he said.

"Being in the JDF in those times, we used to do a lot of ganja eradication work with helicopters across the country, so we were fully aware of some of those illegal activities that take place across the country. I was alone, driving past and saw the plane land. I also saw two cars and a pickup. The moment I turned in I saw the vehicles speeding away and the plane was left on the ground," Burrell explained.

"The pilot had already cut the engine, so I pulled my pistol and rushed up to the plane. The moment the vehicles sped away, it occurred to me that something was wrong and that it was an illegal landing. I rushed up, keeping away from the propeller all the time. The pilot attempted to restart the engine, but I pointed my gun at the cockpit and signalled to him to cut the engine as I was about to fire," said Burrell.

"After that I ordered him to come out of the aircraft. While he was coming out, I asked him 'what are you doing here?' He said he had a problem with his engine and he decided to land. I said 'no', and asked him why the people who drove away were there and he said he didn't know. So immediately I told him and the other man, under the gun, to get out of the aircraft and to follow me out into the road, which was several metres away. They both obeyed. We went out to the road, I saw a motorist and told him to go to the police station and advise the police that I had apprehended a crew which had made an illegal landing." Burrell recalled.

"The men wanted to offer me money. They said whatever I wanted I could get. I told them how dare them, and that what they were doing was illegal.

"In no time the JDF was signalled and sent a helicopter down with troops and the men were locked up in the Nain station. The JDF took control of it and the legal procedures followed after that," Burrell said.

Describing his army experience as invaluable, Burrell said that despite the many dangers he would not give up the JDF for anything.

"If I had my life to live over I would join the army again and again," he said. "My experience in the Jamaica Defence Force has been the greatest thing that has happened to me. It is the most satisfying and fulfilling experience that I have had; one that assisted me in building character and really moulded me into the kind of person that I am.

"This is why, even emotionally sometimes I say to people that I find it hard to cry. I would love to cry at times, but I find it difficult, because as a trained military officer, as they say, death before dishonour. You cannot display emotion. I do not believe, no matter what the situation, in openly displaying emotion. That is not a part of my training. It is something that is inculcated deep inside of me and to show emotions openly is certainly not in my book," he confessed.

"I would love to at times even shed a tear, but could not do that because of the kind of training and discipline instilled in me during the various levels of training, but mostly in Canada and England," Burrell said.


Why no air transport talks including REDjet?

April 8, 2012 | By KNews
By Sir Ronald Sanders

(The writer is a Consultant and former Caribbean diplomat)

What prohibits a meeting of representatives of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments on the crucial matter of air transport within the region, even as the situation worsens, is beyond comprehension.

Three blatant realities are these: Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) is losing money once its massive fuel subsidy from the Trinidad and Tobago government is subtracted from its declared profits; LIAT, the smaller Caribbean airline, is also losing money, in part because it is competing with CAL on an uneven playing field; and REDjet, a low-cost carrier has had to suspend its much sought after service, because of what it says are broken promises by the Barbados government and long delays by some Caribbean governments to grant it licenses to fly into their countries.

It has long been the case that air transport in the region requires rationalization that takes account of costs, wasteful expenditure, and a means of satisfying the pent-up desire by the people of the Caribbean to travel within the region at reasonable prices.

Today, the need for such rationalization is urgent.

If matters continue as they are, LIAT – whose majority owners are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines – will grind to a halt. It cannot much longer compete with CAL when it pays US$110 a barrel for oil while CAL is paying the highly-subsidized price of US$50. Because of the subsidy by the Trinidad and Tobago government, which also owns CAL, the airline can set a lower price for tickets than LIAT. To compete, LIAT has to lower its prices and this adds to the factors that cause it to lose money. Other factors are that LIAT employs more than 150 people than it needs, and the maintenance and breakdowns of its aging fleet are costly.

Long ago, CAL and LIAT should have held discussions to work out how the two airlines could co-operate to ensure the survival of each, while providing an affordable service to the people of the Caribbean. One element of such a discussion could have included agreement for LIAT to service CAL’s long-haul flights from key Caribbean hubs such as Barbados, Antigua and Trinidad – in other words share the Caribbean routes.

The most satisfactory approach would be an agreement for CAL and LIAT to amalgamate into a single airline, with all the governments that are now shareholders in CAL and LIAT becoming shareholders in the new company, on the basis of some agreed principles. Among such principles would be that the subsidy now enjoyed by CAL would be extended to the new amalgamated airline. This would help to bring down the costs of travel for Caribbean people. Another element would be recognition by all governments that some routes in the Caribbean will always be unprofitable and would need to be subsidized by all governments.

There is nothing novel in the suggestion of a subsidy. As has been pointed out repeatedly, many Caribbean governments are subsidizing flights of foreign airlines, such as American, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, to the tune of millions of dollars a year. They do so to keep tourists coming in to their countries and to protect jobs in the tourist industry. But, there is little appreciation that Caribbean people are tourists too. In some countries, they represent the third largest number of tourists, and could be so for others if the cost of air fares is made reasonable.

The recent (third) resignation of CAL’s chairman, George Nicholas, could be an opportunity for CAL and LIAT to work out a co-operative arrangement or amalgamation. Mr Nicholas had shown no interest in discussions with LIAT’s management that had begun under his predecessor. But, such a meeting, while highly desirable, is not a substitute for Caribbean governments to hold an extraordinary session on the matter.

Neither the purposes of regional integration nor enhanced tourism is served by the current situation and, in this connection, the suspension of flights by the low-cost carrier REDjet is particularly to be regretted. There is great sympathy for the airline’s employees, and for potential passengers who paid for flights and are waiting in hope for the airline to resume flying. But there must also be sympathy for REDjet’s investors, who began their operations on the basis of written agreements and promises that have not been met.

Much was made recently of concessions to REDjet by the government of Barbados, where the airline is headquartered. And, while these concessions are not to be dismissed, they are no more than are given to other investment companies. They did not give the airline an advantage over LIAT and CAL, which also do not pay many of the taxes and dividends from which REDjet is exempted.

Two years ago, in April 2010, REDjet was assured by the Barbados government that “a policy decision has been taken” that “it should be recognized as a Barbadian carrier” and that it would be provided “with the requisite aeropolitical support” to secure authorizations to fly into countries “with which Barbados has air services agreements”. Those agreements exist with all CARICOM countries. Yet, both Trinidad and Jamaica delayed licenses while the airline hemorrhaged money.
In January this year, before REDjet announced suspension of its flights, there was a written understanding that the Barbados government would “pursue particulars of a possible guarantee for a loan facility” to assist with a US$4 million injection into the company. This did not happen even though subsidies to foreign airlines continued.

The government of Guyana has indicated a serious interest in helping REDjet to resume its flights, particularly as the demand for airlift is currently increasing by 25% a month and authoritative indications are that a leading Caribbean bank is prepared to lend the airline money if the governments of Guyana and Barbados come to the table.

The Caribbean public and REDjet employees would certainly welcome the airline back in the air. A Guyana-Barbados government arrangement offers that prospect, and we must hope that it is pursued.

But, what is really needed is a comprehensive approach to affordable regional air travel.

(The writer is a Consultant and former Caribbean diplomat)