Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Flint Bishop Airport filling available seats in March, but number of seats remains down

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 8:30 PM
By Cathy Shafran, mlive.com

FLINT, MI -- The latest passenger numbers from Flint Bishop Airport confirm what airport officials suspected. The number of people flying out of the Flint airport continues on a downward trend, and will likely continue to do so through the year.

"This year we will likely be down 10-20 percent," said Bishop Airport spokesperson Pat Corfman.

Corfman made the prediction after load factor numbers were presented at the Bishop International Airport Authority regular board meeting Tuesday evening.

"In March we were down 5.5 percent with the number of seats filled," said Corfman. "The good news is that although we are down in available seats, the seats the airport does have are consistently full."

Corfman points to what the airline industry calls its 'load factor' as proof of a continued passenger interest in Flint's airport. The load factor is the percentage of full seats for every seat available.

"The load factor tells us we were 81.7 percent full in March of this year," said Corfman. "That means we were up from the prior month when the load factor was closer to 79 percent."

Corfman says the problems for Bishop Airport continue to involve airlines serving Flint which are in a state of flux.

"American is in bankruptcy, Continental is in the United merger, Delta is still thinking of what to do with the Northwestern flights and Frontier has been dismantling the Milwaukee hub," Corfman said.

As a result of all the unknowns, she says, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines have all reduced the number of flights out of Flint, and the Frontier flights to Milwaukee were lost. AirTran flights have remained the same despite a takeover from Southwest Airlines.

Corfman says she was expecting the light at the end of the tunnel next year when she anticipated Southwest Airlines could begin adding flights from Flint.

"But now Southwest is having problems with code share with AirTran, Corfman said. "It will be difficult to add new Southwest flights until the codeshare is fixed."

Editorial: Distressing state of aviation industry - Pakistan

April 25, 2012

As some of the victims of Friday's Bhoja Air crash were being buried, two more planes belonging to a private company, Shaheen Air, miraculously escaped disaster on Sunday.

In the first incident, the tires of a Boeing-737 carrying 127 people from Islamabad burst upon touchdown due to a landing gear malfunction.

Luckily for the passengers, the aircraft did not catch fire.

Neither the aircraft nor the airport was ready to deal with any such eventuality.

The plane's emergency exits never opened, and the fire engines took a while to arrive at the scene, only to rush back to fetch water.

The passengers disembarked through the regular door and stairs.

It is not difficult to imagine what might have happened had the plane caught fire.

In the second near miss, the fuel tank of the same company's plane, carrying 200 passengers, started leaking just as it was about to take off from the Lahore Airport en route to Mashhad in Iran.

Luckily, the airport staff spotted the leakage and stopped the flight.

What these incidents close on the heels of the Bhoja Air tragedy, as well as the earlier Airblue crash clearly show is that the Civil Aviation Authority and the concerned ministry, the defence ministry, have been too lax in implementing flight safety rules and procedures.

After the Bhoja Air tragedy, the CAA officials had insisted that required safety standards and regulations had been observed in allowing the company to restart its operations after a long break.

The claim now stands thoroughly exposed.

The tragedy was waiting to happen.

And the government had been duly warned.

Notably, more than three months ago, ie, on January 9, a Peshawar High Court bench hearing a petition filed by the relatives of the passengers killed in the July 2010 Airblue plane crash had expressed dissatisfaction over "consistent negative reports" about the performance of the national carrier, PIA, as well as private airlines.

The court had given elaborate instructions to the government on ensuring the safety of all aircraft without delay, also directing it that "this aspect of the matter must be investigated by experts to be provided by the ICA, the Consortium for Aviation System Advancement, the Airlines Pilots Associations and other safety organizations." Unfortunately, however, the court's directions remained unheeded.

And within a span of two days, first there was a fatal crash and then two close calls.

Perforce the government has finally acknowledged, albeit indirectly, that there are issues that need to be addressed.

Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar announced a plan of technical inspections of all private airlines' aircraft.

In view of what has happened, it would have made sense had he ordered grounding of all planes owned by the three companies involved in the tragedies and near-misses until the inspection process was completed.

But the government has no such intention.

Which, to say the least, is sad.

In any case, public trust in the safety of private airlines having been shaken completely, few are expected to take the risk of using any of the private companies' flights.

And as noted by the PHC, PIA's safety standards are not so reliable, either.

The seriousness of the situation warrants a matching resolve on the part of the government to right the wrongs.

Heads must roll.

So far it seems to be focused more on damage control than to stem the rot in the aviation industry.

The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali, has already rejected the 'judicial commission' the government set up to inquire into the causes that led to the Bhoja Air disaster, saying inclusion of controversial persons in it "shows that there is something fishy and the government is trying to hide facts behind the incident." The issue is too sensitive to allow any room for doubt.

An impartial inquiry commission ought to be constituted in consultation with the Supreme Court so that public confidence in both the public and private airlines is restored, and their international reputation also improves.

Source:  http://www.brecorder.com

RBS Aviation Capital has 'successful quarter'

The Irish Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2012


RBS Aviation Capital, an aircraft lessor with headquarters in Dublin, placed aircraft with three new customers, transacted 10 deliveries, signed a number of lease agreements, and reported six sales in the first quarter. Deliveries included two Airbus A319-100s to Aer Lingus in January and March.

Peter Barrett, chief executive of RBS Aviation Capital, said it had been “another successful quarter for the company”, noting that he was “particularly pleased” to have delivered aircraft to three new customers. Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui acquired RBS Aviation Capital for $7.3 billion (€ 5.8 billion) in January.

Meanwhile, fellow lessor Avolon, which was established by Domhnal Slattery, a founder of RBS Aviation Capital, in 2010, has also released its first quarter update. The aviation leasing company, which has its headquarters in Dublin, said its fleet now exceeded 100 aircraft and that total capital raised had reached $4.6 billion. It also secured commitments from three new lending banks during the quarter. According to Mr Slattery, Avolon remains on track to have a fleet of 150 aircraft by 2014.

JetBlue Flight 571 bird strike at Westchester County Airport (KHPN), White Plains, New York

Damaged JetBlue airliner after two geese struck its windshield, forcing it to declare an emergency and return to Westchester County Airport. 
Matthew Brown/The Journal News

Emergency responders and aircraft mechanics survey the damage to a Jet Blue plane that made a safe emergency landing at the Westchester County Airport in Purchase April 24, 2012. The pilot declared an emergency just after takeoff, after a pair of Canada geese struck the plane's windshield. 
 Matthew Brown/The Journal News

8:12 PM, Apr. 24, 2012 

Written by Yaron Steinbuch

HARRISON — A JetBlue airliner bound for Florida declared an emergency seconds after taking off at Westchester County Airport and landed after two geese struck its windshield about 6:30 p.m. tonight.

No injuries were reported after Flight 571, a two-engine Embraer 190 regional jet with 58 people aboard, made an emergency landing, said Jeremy Nielson, an operations manager at the airport.

"There was damage to the plane and the pilots decided to return to the airport," Nielson said. "I'm sure the passengers are happy to be on the ground."

The aircraft's windshield and wipers were damaged. Debris could be seen on the windshield as the jet sat on the tarmac with airport personnel assessing the damage.

"If the birds had ben ingested in the ingested in the engines I'd have been more concerned," Nielson said.

Nielson said the aircraft landed safely about five to seven minutes after it had taken off for Palm Beach.

The passengers were scheduled to board another aircraft by about 8 p.m. and depart for Palm Beach.


Last Updated: 7:35 PM, April 24, 2012
Posted: 7:35 PM, April 24, 2012

Geese smacked into a JetBlue plane taking off from Westchester County Airport tonight, sparking a frightening emergency that sent the crippled jet back to the airport.

“We got to come back. We hit two big geese,” a pilot aboard Flight 571 to West Palm Beach radioed to air controllers just after the plane lifted off at about 6:45 p.m.

“We are declaring an emergency,” the pilot said.

As controllers rerouted planes and helicopters taking off and landing at the airport in Harrison, the pilots of the Embraer jet made it roughly six miles northwest of the airport before they turned back.

They were on the ground about seven minutes after the crisis began.

“JetBlue 571, nice to have you back,” a relieved controller radioed as the Embraer jet landed at 6:52 p.m.

The jet was an Embraer 190, which can carry 114 passengers. It was unclear how many people were board the goose-crippled flight. Authorities and the airline did not return phone calls.

Source: http://www.nypost.com

VIDEO: Bert van Leeuwen, Head of DVB's Aviation Research, talks about the recent developments in the aircraft markets

Proposed airstrip expansion creates controversy in Lake County, Florida

Posted: 6:04 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, 2012 
LAKE COUNTY, Florida —

A proposed airstrip expansion is creating controversy in Lake County.

A land owner wants to extend a runway next to the Lake Apopka preservation area so private jets can use it.

However, wildlife conservationists are fighting the project.

 “I think there is plenty of room for the airport and the birds,” project applicant Hank Scott said.

Scott took three minutes to make his case before the Lake County Commission. He and more than a dozen others wore yellow buttons describing the potential economic impact the project will have on jobs.

“They are worried about a few birds. If you don't have food to eat because you don't have a job you're not going to be able to watch the damn birds,” said Scott.

Scott wants to expand the existing runway another 1,500 feet. However, that area is considered a safety zone and planes can't land in there.

Audubon members told WFTV that expanding the runway would be a step backwards from the $150 million already spent to preserve the land and birds that were flying a top the trees.

Increased air traffic would heighten the potential for bird strikes, Audubon members said.

“We are not against projects that create jobs. We, in fact, think the restoration project will create more jobs than this project will,” said Loretta Satterthwaite of the Audubon Society.

“If we limit the size of the jet based on weight then that narrows the conflict in my opinion,” said Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner.

The commission will weigh that option and others presented on Tuesday over the next 30 days.

Lake County commissioners will also meet with Orange County leaders since part of the runway falls within their territory.

Pinnacle Airlines to furlough 450 pilots (with video)

Posted: Apr 24, 2012 4:53 PM EDT 
Updated: Apr 24, 2012 5:24 PM EDT
By Jamel Major

(WMC-TV) – Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines says it plans to put 450 pilots on temporary, unpaid leave during the next 18 months.

The airline says eliminating its United Express and U.S. Airways Express operations would force it to put nearly 16 percent of its 2,860 pilots on furloughs.

The move comes after the airline filed for bankruptcy on April 3.

Since then, pilots who say they're not getting paid have picketed the airlines' headquarters in protest.

Pinnacle hasn't said how other unionized groups like flight attendants, ground operations agents and flight dispatchers will be impacted.

"Our plan for winding down these operations includes exploring every possible option for our people who will be impacted by these decisions," said a written statement from the company. "We remain focused on providing our customers with safe, reliable and on-time service."

Pinnacle CEO Sean Menke recently resigned from the company.

He will be replaced by current Chief Operating Officer John Spanjers on June 1.

Source:  http://www.wmctv.com

Jet Airways: Plane grounded after bird strike, all 55 passengers safe

Source: DNA  
Last Updated 03:40(25/04/12)

Indore: Around 55 passengers of a Raipur-bound Jet Airways flight had a narrow escape after a bird hit the plane’s nose during take-off at the Devi Ahilyabai Holkar airport here on Tuesday night.

The Jet Airways flight 9W 2822 was grounded after the bird strike.

The flight had landed here at around 6.35 pm from Jaipur and was scheduled to depart at 7.05 pm.

During the take-off, a bird hit the nose of the plane, forcing the pilot to return, airlines officials said.

An inspection by the technical team revealed that the incident caused damage to the plane, rendering it unfit to fly, they said.

Passengers were diverted to their destinations through Mumbai and Delhi. Some of them have been lodged in city hotels and would be flown to their destinations tomorrow, sources added.

This is the third such bird hit incident in last three years.

Airport authorities have been crying foul over large number of illegal slaughterhouses in the vicinity around the airport that invite birds for easy food.

The district administration and the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) had launched drives to remove the slaughterhouses but their efforts made little headway.

Over half-a-dozen incidents of bird strikes have been reported in last one year.

This flight was the fourth airplane grounded because of the bird strike.

Flights grounded due to bird hit October 10, 2011 - New Delhi bound Jet Airways flight number S2 792 carrying 80 passengers December 28, 2011 - New Delhi bound Jetlite flight carrying 74 passengers January 23, 2012 - Raipur bound Indigo flight carrying 120 passengers.

Source:  http://daily.bhaskar.com

Velvet Sky: Passengers still waiting for refunds

Thousands of passengers who purchased tickets to fly with Velvet Sky have been left in the lurch as they continue to wait for refunds from the dysfunctional airline. 

24 April 2012 | AVASHNEE MOODLEY 
JOHANNESBURG - Thousands of passengers who purchased  tickets to fly with  Velvet Sky have been left in the lurch as they continue to wait for  refunds from the dysfunctional airline.

Despite promises from the embattled Durban-based airline to refund customers who had purchased tickets on the airlines website, many have yet to receive their money back.

The airline was grounded in February after running into millions in debt.

Since then the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also suspended its operating license.

Passengers who booked on the Durban-based airlines website were told to fill out refund forms, but the airline does not appear to have issued any refunds, saying its bank needs 14 to 21 days to process them.

Two months later irate customers are still fuming after not being able to get their money back.

They have also received no response from the  airlines call centres.

Livia Dyer from Bowman Gilfillan attorneys explained that in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 68 of 2008, consumers of services such as airline passengers have  rights, including timely performance, completion of the services and timely notice of any unavoidable delay.

“Where a supplier does not perform a service in accordance with these standards such as by providing a service late or not at all, the consumer has the right to a refund of an appropriate portion of the purchase price,” she said.

Dyer said the amount that should be refunded must be calculated with regard to the extent of the suppliers failure to properly supply the service. She advised consumers to  submit a complaint in terms of the CPA to the National Consumer Commission (NCC) when this is not done.

“The NCC can either refer the complaint to an appropriate body for adjudication or can investigate the complaint,” said Dyer.

Meanwhile,  passengers who purchased tickets  from any computicket travel outlet nationwide have been refunded. Despite not being under any legal obligation to do so, computicket travel have reimbursed R2.2 million worth of Velvet Sky tickets purchased over their counters.

Caribbean Airlines: Pilots offered new contracts

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is willing to offer the 75 pilots axed last week new contracts.

This comes as CAL closed a Kingston, Jamaica subsidiary company, Caribal Limited, which saw the affected pilots operating Air Jamaica aircraft out of that country.

According to reports, the pilots are now being offered contracts directly with CAL. A release pointed out that the new contracts will see all benefits remaining unchanged.

CAL has also given the Jamaican Airline Pilots Association, the assurance that the pilots’ employment with the airline will see a smooth and seamless transition using a transparent process to ensure smooth and seamless transition.

Source: http://www.caribbean360.com

Bankruptcy at 30,000 Feet: The Battle for the Future of American Airlines

By Bill Saporito 
April 24, 2012

What would you call the combination of US Airways with American Air? US American Airways? It’s redundant, in the same way that airline service is a contradiction in terms. But a merger between the two is slightly more likely than, say, you finding a frequent flier award seat to Europe this summer. American’s union workers would pretty much prefer to work for any other airline than the one that currently employs them, which is why they have been open to a takeover bid by U.S. Airways. This isn’t what you call a good labor situation.

AMR Corp., the parent of American, was in bankruptcy court in New York City today with the stated intention of lowering costs 20% to get competitive with the rest of the industry. American has proposed to slash 13,000 jobs in addition to wage and benefits adjustments to save $1.25 billion annually. The unions have balked at the new contract proposals, so yesterday American explained to a bankruptcy judge why it should be allowed to abrogate the current contracts. “A restructured job is better than no job,’’ an airline attorney told the court, according to the Associated Press. Outside the courtroom, union workers chanted:  “AA got bailed out, we got sold out.” If the court agrees with American’s plan — and bankruptcy courts tend to favor current management — it would have the leverage it needs to crush the Transport Workers Union that represents most of its ground workers, and bring the pilots and flight attendants unions to heel.

That’s what you do in bankruptcy — dump pricey contracts and debt obligations, refinance if needed, and then reemerge a stronger, less indebted company. The court has given AA until September to work this out on its own. But the three unions, including Allied Pilots Association and Association of Professional Flight Attendants have some leverage. They’ve signed deal sheets with US Airways that will take effect in the event that US Airways takes over AA. The pilots, for instance, would get an immediate 5.5% raise. There would still be layoffs, but only half the number that American has proposed.

AMR boss Tom Horton, in a letter to employees, responded by saying, in essence: why would you leave all this? “There is real substance in our plan to build American with our industry-leading aircraft orders for 460 new narrowbody jets, up to 100 787s and 16 777s,” he said. “These are planes which should benefit the careers of American pilots and flight attendants.” There is, obviously, some short term pain.

Kuwait Airways float unlikely to fly

Proposals to float off a major part of Kuwait Airways are unlikely to attract many buyers because they offer investors too little control, and not enough return, say aviation analysts.

David Black
Apr 24, 2012

Kuwait's cabinet approved an amended draft law on Sunday paving the way for the partial privatisation of Kuwait Airways within three years.

Under the new draft law, which still needs to be approved by the National Assembly, the government will offer a 35 per cent portion of its share capital of 220 million Kuwaiti dinars (Dh2.9 billion) to potential long-term investors, amounting to around US$280m.

The offering will be to companies listed on Kuwait's stock exchange as well as to international investors, with the stake going to the highest bidder. The auction should happen within the next three years, the national news agency Kuna quoted the communications minister Salem Al Athaina as saying.

The Kuwait Investment Authority, the country's sovereign wealth fund, would retain a 20 per cent stake, while 5 per cent would be distributed to airline employees. The deadline for submissions is August 25.

Kuwait Airways, which operates 17 aircraft, last year appointed Citi, the auditors Ernst & Young and aviation consulting firm Seabury to handle the privatisation.

The country is the world's fourth largest oil exporter, but is on a drive to build its private sector and reduce dependency on oil revenue.

"Any sale of the company must realign the airline towards a successful future entity that builds on the aspirations of the Kuwaiti people and the past successes of this national institution," the government's privatisation committee said.

However, analysts say the airline is unlikely to prove a good fit for any of the major regional airlines like Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways.

"The airline has been struggling for some time now," said John Strickland, the director of the airline analysts JLS Consulting. "It's unlikely to gather any interest from the other big players in the region unless it gives a good deal and more control in its functioning."

"From the airline's aspect, this may be seen as an opportunity to raise capital for aircraft replacement," said Peter Morris, the chief economist at the consultancy Ascend Aviation. "But I don't see how buying into a part ownership of a very specific national airline with issues will be of any interest to investors," he added.

"We never comment on speculation of this nature, except to say that we talk regularly and frequently to many airlines and a range of other businesses from all over the world about issues and opportunities", said an Etihad Airways spokesman.

Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways did not respond to questions over any potential interest.

Any sale of a stake in Kuwait Airways, which mainly flies to Europe, the Middle East and Asia, would be the first privatisation of a Gulf-owned carrier but the airline is burdened with high labour costs and has struggled financially for years.

Kuwait's parliament previously approved privatising the company in 2008, but the move has been repeatedly delayed. Last month, the airline was hit by a strike over pay.

Cost of efficiency: Pakistan International Airlines plane departs early, leaves behind passengers

By Manzoor Ali
Published: April 24, 2012

PIA spokesperson Sultan Hassan corroborates claim that most passengers had been informed of the change beforehand. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistan International Airlines appears to have pulled up its socks a little too high following this week’s tragic Bhoja Air disaster that killed all 127 passengers and crew on board.

On Monday, a PIA Karachi-bound flight from Peshawar took off an hour before scheduled time, leaving some passengers behind at the Baacha Khan International Airport.

Angry at being left behind, over a dozen passengers then mounted a protest after which they were accommodated on another Karachi-bound flight.

“The plane had left due to an onward connection at Jeddah at 7:40 am, leaving behind 20 passengers in Peshawar,” an airport official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. He sought to dispel the impression that a technical fault had caused the situation.

He claimed that most passengers had been informed of the change in schedule but some of them could not be reached via phone, leading to the inconvenient situation.

PIA spokesperson Sultan Hassan corroborated the claim that most passengers had been informed of the change beforehand. However, he had a different reason for the plane’s over-efficiency.

“It was a result of rescheduling of flights that had occurred due to the situation in the past three days. This flight was rescheduled the night before,” Hassan told The Express Tribune.

He also said the plane was to fly on to Faisalabad, not Jeddah, from Karachi. According to him, 10 to 15 passengers had missed the flight.