Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flights cut as tourists abandon Northern Territory

QANTAS and its budget offshoot, Jetstar, will slash flights to destinations in the Northern Territory, blaming weak demand on the high Australian dollar deterring overseas tourists.

In the latest sign of the challenges facing tourism, Qantas will halve return flights between Uluru and Cairns to seven a week from September, and reduce services between the red centre and Perth from four a week to two. It will suspend the latter service from October 28.

Jetstar will also cut return flights between Sydney and Darwin from up to 11 a week to seven from August 16. The carrier will reduce services between Darwin and Denpasar in Bali from 11 to eight from the same date.

The new chief of Qantas domestic operations, Lyell Strambi, said the performance of the routes to the Northern Territory had been poor for some time despite various strategies aimed at stimulating demand.

''The impact of the high Australian dollar on the inbound tourism market has also had a significant impact on the performance of these services,'' he said.

Qantas will redeploy several Boeing 737 aircraft used on the routes to the Northern Territory to other parts of its domestic network, including the east coast where it intends to beef up capacity.

Jetstar had signalled routes from its aircraft base in Darwin have been among its most marginal. The low-cost airline will redeploy one of four single-aisle A320 planes based in Darwin to the east coast.

In February, the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, told a Senate committee that flights to Darwin and Cairns were unprofitable. He warned law changes aimed at limiting its ability to hire foreign-based flight crews would force Jetstar to pull out of Darwin and Cairns.

A spokesman for the peak industry body, the Tourism and Transport Forum, said yesterday that regional areas such as Uluru, which were dependent on foreign leisure travellers, had been suffering for several years.

Although Australia has been benefiting from a big increase in Chinese tourists, the spokesman said they tended to stay in cities such as Sydney and Brisbane rather than venture to regional tourism hot spots.

Jet Airways sacks expat pilots: Cost cutting or seizing the opportunity?

It seems like Naresh-Goyal led Jet Airways is not only making sure it stays relatively insulated from the aviation industry’s turbulence but also that it stays ahead of the game. In its latest effort to cut costs and take advantage of the unrest at crisis-ridden Air India and Kingfisher Airlines, the private airline has decided to sack 72 of its 183 high-cost expatriate pilots, according to a report in The Economic Times.

Jet Airways’ move to do away with expat pilots who cost twice as much as their Indian counterparts stems from the surplus of pilots in the market, courtesy its one-time rival Kingfisher Airlines and the ongoing pilot crisis at Air India.  Mallya’s airline has already downsized operations and slashed its fleet to 20 aircraft, against 64 a year earlier. Meanwhile, Air India has already sacked one-fifth of its 500 striking pilots belonging to the Indian Pilots Guild.

Earlier this month, the airline had decided not to hire any foreign pilots in order to save costs as the rupee had dropped drastically. Additionally, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had given airlines a 2013 deadline to phase out expatriate pilots. In 2009, Indian pilots of Jet Airways have also gone on a strike over the exorbitant pay packages and better facilities offered to expat pilots.

The airline made its highest-ever loss of more than Rs 700 crore in the second quarter (September-ending quarter).

Meanwhile, the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA)’s annual outlook for 2012-13, released on Tuesday, said that Jet Airways will continue to be the largest beneficiary of the Air India, Kingfisher crisis as it may place an order for almost 100 narrow body aircraft in this financial year “to meet both replacement and growth requirements”. While Air India could face a temporary shutdown due to human resource issues, Kingfisher Airlines’ revival is completely dependent on whether direct investment by foreign airlines is allowed by the government, the report said.

“Kingfisher’s dramatic contraction from 66 to 16 operational aircraft, of which half are regional ATR aircraft, has left the domestic market open for Jet. Similarly the temporary industrial action on AI’s long haul international routes has driven North American and UK traffic to Jet,” the report says, adding, “It (Jet) may decide to take advantage of the situation to expand both domestically and internationally as it had done in 1996 when a number of its competitors had closed down.”

Already, the complete withdrawal of Kingfisher from international operations is benefiting Jet with higher yields  in terms of revenue per passenger. And with Air India downsizing its international operations, Jet Airways is bound to gain as there is a situation of under-capacity in peak travel season.

As Firstpost said earlier, Goyal wants to take Jet’s overseas operations from just 370 per week to a whopping 528 by the winter of 2012 – an increase of over 42 percent.

Already, with a change in the right of first refusal policy, Jet has been allowed to operate 74 additional overseas flights from the ongoing summer schedule. These include new flights to Bangladesh, Kuwait, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Singapore, Dar-E-Salam and Bangkok. And if all goes as planned, Jet Airways will soon surpass Air India as the largest international operator in our country by this winter.

Marijuana left in a field

This week the agents seized the marijuana after it was flown across the border. 270 pounds of marijuana was seized. It was smuggled across the border in an ultra-light aircraft. 

The incident occurred at around 3:00 pm Monday, after a concerned citizen notified Border Patrol agents of a possible load of narcotics abandoned, along with a metal basket. 

The caller said the basket was left in a field east of Calexico that was about to be plowed. El Centro Sector agents assigned to the Calexico station responded. They discovered 13 sealed packages of marijuana weighing about 278 pounds with an estimated street value of $222,000. The agents turned the marijuana over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. They did not comment on the basket.

The sky's the limit: Thermals can give gliders hours of lift, provide ‘pure piloting’ experience - Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport (KSPA), South Carolina

Alex C. Hicks Jr. 
James Wasness runs alongside a glider for a moment to help stabilize the wings during takeoff.

By Phil Randall 

 If your notion of flying a sailplane is meandering quietly among the clouds, you don’t know about the takeoff.

When the powerful winch 4,000 feet in front of you starts reeling in the line the plane is tethered to, the lightweight craft lunges forward so quickly that your stomach says, “Hello, backbone!” And the plane’s slick aerodynamics respond instantly. In less than eight seconds, you are off the ground; you feel the lift at the same time the rumble of the wheel on the grass runway suddenly stops. The cockpit is filled with the sound of air rushing through a canopy vent.

The plane climbs at such a steep angle that the airport and distant tree line are gone in a blink; blue sky and white clouds are suddenly everywhere. Planet Earth is behind you as much as it is below you.

The sailplane zips toward the clouds at about 40 feet per second. The pilot in the back seat controls the climb, and the tether automatically releases at 1,450 feet. It pops free with a bang, and you are soaring.

It’s a thrilling way to fly — a fact that the Carolina Soaring Association has been trying to get across to Upstate residents for years. It’s what keeps club members coming back to the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport almost every weekend from March through November.

“I have been doing this for 35 years,” calls out Joe Morelli, the pilot of this flight, over the wind noise in the cockpit. “I love the fact that it is pure piloting. It’s you and nature; you are harnessing nature’s energy and you are controlling this aircraft more than just relying on an engine. Your power is that thermal.”

Morelli is adept at finding thermals — air that is rising as the sun heats it. The white fluffy cumulus clouds this sunny day mark the location of the thermals that will fuel our flight. Clear blue sky, in contrast, is a “blue hole,” Morelli says, an area bereft of lift.

“We’ve got at least 15 single-seat ships in the club. So on a busy day, a nice, soaring day, you’ll see 10 or 11 of them out on the flight line, ready to go. As soon as the time is right, usually 11 or 11:30, the first guy will launch,” Morelli says. “He goes up and tests the air, and if he calls back, ‘It’s good! Ready to go! Launch the fleet!’ everybody will start launching. And these guys, the good ones, will travel up to 300 miles.”

But even if he ran out of lift, a glider pilot at 9,500 feet over Mount Mitchell, N.C., about 30 miles northeast of Asheville, could glide all the way back to Spartanburg’s downtown airport and have altitude to spare. “To help him do that, there are a lot of electronics in the plane,” Morelli says. “GPS, glide computers, navigation computers.”

Also, modern gliders are so well designed that they can obtain 45-to-1 glide ratios (travelling 45 feet forward for every foot of altitude lost), he says.

During our demonstration flight, we reach 4,500 feet, and we are bumping the clouds. The domed canopy allows an amazing view in every direction. The shadows of clouds move across the land below. The Upstate is very green and lush, and the city of Spartanburg appears to be nestled in a very green forest near the mountains.

The weight of two passengers plus the plane itself totals around 1,200 pounds. The thermals are not strong this day, yet we are climbing 1 meter per second. Morelli’s years of experience searching out the thermals under clouds could keep us flying for hours, but this is just a demonstration flight. In a few minutes he turns us back to the airport, brings us down smoothly, and lands the glider on the grass strip beside a runway with barely a bump.

A way for everyone to fly

Morelli, who is president of the Carolina Soaring Association, and his wife moved to Greer after he retired from the Navy. He has been flying since he was 15, got his license when he was 16 “and never looked back.”

He particularly loves gliders, however, because soaring is all about fun in the sky. “This is pure sport,” he says. “You learn to do this because of the skill involved, and in doing it, you are developing that skill.”

It also is a very economical way for people who have longed to fly to get airborne. The training costs are lower, the club‘s sailplane is available to members, and there is a supportive esprit de corps among sailplane pilots that comes free with the territory.

Morelli says, however, that many people who would love soaring see it too much as a “rich man’s sport” and don’t try it. While a state-of-the-art sailplane can run $140,000, excellent used gliders can be had for $35,000 and older but very functional gliders can be purchased for $10,000 to $15,000. Club members often partner to buy a glider as well.

“The reason they call it a rich-guy’s sport is because the rich guy is the only one who can afford the state-of-the-art equipment,” Morelli says.

And because it’s so much fun, it’s easy for a well-to-do retiree to get gung-ho on the sport, complete with $150,000 motor home pulling a $130,000 glider to exotic flying venues all over the country. But it doesn’t have to be that way — and such a rig wouldn’t get to all the great places to soar, anyway.

“This sport is done worldwide. You name a country, and there’s somebody who does it there,” Morelli says. “Japan. Australia. New Zealand. They have some of the best soaring sites. New Zealand because of their mountains. Australia because of their desert area.”

One of those great spots is Upstate South Carolina. With the Blue Ridge Mountains nearby, and the rolling countryside of Spartanburg County, there is a lot of beauty to behold from South Carolina’s skies. In fact, the president of the Soaring Society of America, Al Tyler, lives in Perry, S.C. Each spring a regional soaring competition is hosted in Perry, attracting scores of competitive glider pilots.

“We’ve got club members who started two, three years ago,” says Morelli, the club’s president and one of its flight instructors. “My last student got his license last fall. He’s 72 years old. And he is so good! So it is really not age-limited. It is more your ability and dedication to training. But we’ve got old students, young students — 16 years old girls, the whole gamut.”

In fact, the club has a youth program, and two of its youth members have gone on to the U.S. Air Force Academy, which begins pilot training using gliders. So those young members had a head start. “They are very good pilots,” Morelli says.

‘We used to dream of flying when we were little’

Larry Travers, the club’s chief instructor, is much like Morelli in that the flying bug bit early in life. In fact, that’s the way it is with most glider pilots.

“Just can’t stay away from it,” Travers says. “We started that way. … We used to dream of flying when we were little. I think we dream the most when we are little, don’t you think? And I used to dream of flying.”

However, Travers did not take his first glider flight until he was in his 40s, visiting a glider port in Chester in 1987.

“I talked to my instructor, and I said, ‘I’m going to come down here every Saturday and Sunday, and I want you to schedule me double lessons, in the morning and in the afternoon. Every weekend. I want to get this done.”

Decades later, Travers loves to train people with the same “just-can’t-stay-away-from-it” enthusiasm. He says 50 flights is a normal training time, but “I have a whole file of people, and none of them are the same. I’ve had some go 65, some go 30. It just depends on how good your eye-hand coordination is, and how much you want to study.”

What about the cost? Morelli offered some numbers.

“I would say the average training period for a student who had never done it before would run plus or minus $3,000. To get a power rating, you are looking at $15,000. When I did mine — I did my power rating when I was 16 years old — it cost me $650-$700. …. I was paying $10 an hour for the airplane. Now you gotta pay $90 an hour for the same airplane.”

With aviation fuel at $6 a gallon, soaring is both an economical alternative and environmentally friendly sport. The winch that pulled the sailplane airborne might use a quart of fuel, Morelli said. A season of soaring would probably require less fuel than a small private jet uses during takeoff.

“We can go for hours up there,” Morelli says. “Where we were before, we could have hung out under those clouds all afternoon.”

But sometimes, the lift runs out before you’re home. That’s when another benefit of the soaring club becomes evident …

‘Everybody lands out’

When glider pilots run out of lift far from home, they “land out” on the nearest runway if possible. Travers says he has landed out 15 or 20 times.

“Everybody who flies serious cross-country lands out,” he says. Pilots try to use one of the many airports in the Upstate, and “we have such nice navigational programs now that you can say, ‘Hey’ where’s the nearest airport?’ and it says, ‘Over there, four miles.’”

The pilot can radio the other club members, or one of the club’s volunteer tow-plane pilots, to bring his car and glider trailer to him and help him load it up.

“If you landed out today, you’d call us and say, ‘I’m not going to make it, I’m going in here or there,’” Morelli says. “And we’ll go ahead and finish our day, put our planes away, and come and get you. But the driver gets free dinner. It’s a custom. You gotta buy the guy dinner.”

The club has between 40 and 50 members, and it has about 15 gliders that members own. “There are times when we have so many people out here that they are standing in line to glide,“ Morelli says: “Single-seats launching, people standing around talking.”

In addition to the winch, club members have access to a tow plane that can get them airborne with the help of a volunteer tow pilot.

“Nobody gets paid. We are trying to build a club,” Morelli says. “We are trying to get you interested to come out and fly.”

And that is just fine with Stuart Jackson, a member, volunteer tow pilot, and winch operator. He has been flying for five years.

“When you have a passion so serious, one of the most rewarding things is to be able to share that passion with other people,” he says.

Morelli agrees. “I have been doing this for 35 years,” he says. “You just wouldn’t believe the enjoyment.”

Story and photo:

RAW VIDEO: UPS plane makes emergency landing at Tulsa International Airport (KTUL), Oklahoma

TULSA, Oklahoma - A UPS airplane headed to Tulsa from Louisville, Kentucky early Wednesday morning had to make an emergency landing at Tulsa International Airport when a warning light indicated landing gear problems.

Tulsa Fire scrambled as the Airbus landed on the airport's main north-south runway.

After landing safely a crew had to tow the jet off the runway, so the airport could reopen the runway to commercial traffic.

There were only two people aboard the UPS airplane. Neither was injured.

Story, comments and video:

Russian military jet crashes in Czech Republic

At least six people have been injured as a Russian army plane skidded off the runway and caught fire while landing at a military airport at Caslav, east of the Czech capital. 

 The Russian Defense Ministry says the jet carrying 23 people encountered a problem with the landing gear. When the aircraft attempted to land, its front undercarriage broke off, the plane shifted to the side of the landing strip and caught fire.

The Antonov AN-30b was carrying out a mission under the Open Skies international program – an effort by 34 states to promote openness and transparency of military forces and their activities.

There were 14 Russians and nine Czechs on board. Some of the injured have been transported via helicopter to a hospital in Prague with serious burns.Others were treated on the spot or taken to a local hospital.

Designed for air surveillance and photo recording, AN-30b planes are in service in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bulgaria.

Thinking about buying an airplane?

Pennsylvania is considering a bill that would extend sales tax exemptions for plane purchases and maintenance. Proponents say the measure will help keep the work in PA, but opponents say it just isn’t fair. 
Pennsylvania House OKs sales-tax exemption for airplanes

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A bill to exempt the purchase and maintenance of airplanes from Pennsylvania's 6 percent sales tax won a strong vote of confidence in the state House of Representatives.

The House gave its final approval to the measure Tuesday by a vote of 179 to 19. It now goes to the Senate.

Critics say this is not time for the state to be handing out tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations that will deprive the state of millions of dollars of badly needed revenue. Proponents say the bill would match tax exemptions available in neighboring states and make up the lost revenue by creating good-paying jobs and drawing airplane owners to Pennsylvania maintenance centers.

Pennsylvania passed a similar tax break for helicopters in 2009.


Employment Opportunity: Grant County Airport, Oregon - Manager

Posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 1:39 pm. 

Grant County Airport

Airport Manager

Job Duties: An employee in this class is responsible for administering operational policies and rules regarding airport security, safety and facility operations and maintenance. Responsibilities involve liaison and public relations work in dealing with federal and state regulatory authorities and with users and tenants of airport facilities. Administers the day to day operations of the County Airport facility; performs related work as required. 

Screening Requirements: Thorough knowledge of airport and fueling station management and operations, including leases and contracts; federal, state and local rules and regulations pertaining to airport operations, traffic control and management of airports; airport maintenance requirements and necessary supplies, materials and equipment. Knowledge of light vehicle/equipment operation and maintenance; Unicom radio operations and terminology. General knowledge of meteorology and airport safety.

NAPLES, FLORIDA: See where this goes -Letter ... Immokalee Regional Airport (KIMM)

Posted May 23, 2012 at 4 a.m. 

 Louis S. Moore, Naples

See where this goes

Nice article on May 14, "Our World: Still putting the pedal to the metal," but there may be one error you might check on.

It said after an inquiry by the Federal Aviation Administration, the race track rent was doubled at Immokalee Regional Airport.

I have been a pilot in the Naples area for 53 years; and I will admit I was not present, but I can assure you that the rent doubling was not the result of an FAA investigation. They would have simply investigated as to whether the operation was appropriate to the airport.

The rent doubling was done last year when the new manager took over. The racetrack people were so incensed they would have moved elsewhere had there been a place to go. The crop-dusting operation saw its rent and gasoline price go up and also looked for another location. The Glider Club moved up to LaBelle. About six hangar tenants left as their leases ended. The model airplane club was barred from the field after some years of safe operation. The owner of an aircraft museum was looking for a new location — I don't know how that turned out.

A friendly, happy airport turned into a hard-nosed business operation, hoping to improve income; but I doubt if they have replaced many of the previous tenants.

It would be interesting to see the bottom line after 12 months of management.


Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan welcomes progress on Barra aircraft procurement

Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed a response he has received from Transport Minister, Keith Brown, which confirms that the Government hopes to have an order placed with an aircraft manufacturer by the end of October 2012 to replace the aircraft currently serving the island. The intention is to have aircraft in place immediately following the expiration of the current contract at the end of March 2013.

Alasdair Allan commented: “The air routes to Barra are a lifeline service for the island and are crucial for everything from the health service to tourism. They are vitally important connections to the mainland and to Uist for the many islanders who use the service.

“There has been much pressure to ensure that the existing pair of twin otter aircraft are replaced to ensure the future of the island’s unique airport, where planes from Glasgow and Benbecula land on the beach. The Scottish Government is committed to the service and have already committed to the replacement of the two aircraft which, while meeting all safety standards are ageing and costly to maintain.

“This response I have received from the Minister for Transport confirms his commitment to the procurement of the new aircraft, giving a clear date for this, and I hope now sets out a clearer transition process next year when the current Twin Otters are currently due to come out of service.”


SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS: Former Tamaulipas governor, businessman targeted by feds

An indictment and two forfeiture complaints filed Tuesday seek at least $40 million in damages from Fernando Alejandro Cano Martinez, 55, of Ciudad Victoria, Tamps., who faces charges of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and bank fraud.

Federal prosecutors have targeted a former Tamaulipas governor and fugitive Mexican businessman who they say accepted millions of dollars in bribes from the Gulf Cartel that were laundered in a series of business and property deals throughout South Texas. An indictment and two forfeiture complaints filed Tuesday......

The government is seeking $40 million beyond the forfeiture of Cano’s assets, which include a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft and several bank accounts that belong to Cano.

The Swiss-made plane has made at least 20 trips between late January and April, flying between Brownsville and Houston, San Antonio, Ciudad Victoria and Monterrey, online flight records show.

The plane last flew April 22, on a one-way trip from Brownsville to Monterrey.

Read full story:

NOTICE OF INVITATION FOR BID: Phoenix‐Mesa Gateway Airport Authority

The Phoenix‐Mesa Gateway Airport Authority (PMGAA) is soliciting sealed bids for the construction of Taxiway ‘P’ Reconstruction (Base Bid, PMGAA Project No. 509), and Compass Calibration Pad (Add Alt No. 1, PMGAA Project No. 628) at the Phoenix‐Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA). 

Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program in Poznan 2012

 May 16, 2012 by AeroPoznanFTO 

 Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program is run by COPA - Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association since 2002. For the first time CPPP took place in Poznan, hosted by Aero Poznan - Cirrus Training Center at Poznan Lawica (EPPO)

Bangladesh aviation regulator dogged by cash crunch

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) is facing a severe fund crisis as four local airlines have defaulted on their dues with the civil aviation regulator.

As of February 29, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, GMG Airlines, United Airways and Regent Airways owe 317.21 crore taka (US$38.77 million) in aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges to Caab, according to a letter that Caab wrote to the civil aviation and tourism ministry.

The aviation regulator asked the ministry to take action against the airlines as they failed to pay the dues even after several reminders.

Meanwhile, the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General raised its objection in its audit report and said the Caab failed to make any progress in recovering its dues.

Caab's efficiency was also questioned by the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts, and the panel sought explanations from the aviation authority.

The financial health of the aviation authority eroded and its net profit came down to 155.53 crore taka ($19.01 million) in 2010-11 from 291.22 crore taka ($35.59 million) in 2009-10, according to Bangladesh Economic Review 2011.

Caab has dues of 226.88 crore taka ($27.73 million) in aeronautical charges and 90.33 crore taka ($11.04 million) in non-aeronautical charges with the local airlines.

Biman Bangladesh, the national flag carrier, is the biggest defaulter with 255.3 crore taka ($31.20 million). GMG Airlines that shut its operations in March is the second largest defaulter with debts of around 51 crore taka ($6.23 million). United Airways and Regent Airways will have to pay 10.92 crore taka ($1.33 million) and 2.63 lakh taka ($3,214).

Aeronautical charges mean the charges that are directly related to the operations of an aircraft at the airport. The amount includes landing and parking charges, air navigation fees, cargo handling charges, fuelling charges, security and passenger charges.

Non-aeronautical revenues come from activities that are undertaken on top of this core business, such as retail, parking, other concessions and rentals. At medium and large airports, this revenue may account for more than 50 per cent of the total income.

Biman that is now struggling hard to overcome its own losses seeks to pay the dues to the Caab in phases, said a senior official of the airline.

“We have taken steps to settle down the issue amicably as soon as possible. It may take a little time to pay the total dues to the Caab, but we will certainly pay the dues,” said the official, preferring not to be named.

GMG Airlines is reshaping its workforce due to poor financial health of the carrier. Now the company plans to employ people only to maintain its two McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and two Bombardier Dash-8s, said Asif Ahmed, director for marketing and customer experience of the airlines.

He said the airliner met Caab in March and paid an instalment of the due. But he did not say what the amount was.

Apart from this, Imran Asif, chief executive of Regent Airways, said his company has no due with the Caab now. “Some outstanding amount was not adjusted when the Caab issued the letter in March. Now those amounts have been adjusted and we have no dues whatsoever with them.”

Karachi, Pakistan: Safety in the air

By Letter 
Published: May 23, 2012

This refers to a report in your newspaper titled “No respect for rules: Ali Musa Gilani’s brawl with flight crew” (May 18).

The passenger, who happens to be a member of parliament and the prime minister’s son, was on PIA flight PK-305 from Lahore to Karachi. He insisted that his guard, who had an economy class ticket, be seated next to him in business class. When the crew did not agree to this request, a brawl took place.

The matter was resolved when the captain of the flight came to intervene and told Mr Gilani that what he was asking was against the rules and that if he (Mr Gilani) continued with his demand, he (the captain) would turn the flight back to Lahore.

The question that needs to be asked is:  who is responsible for dealing with violent passengers on board a commercial airliner? The cabin or cockpit crew members can only advise and stop passengers if they are violating any rules of the airline but legally, they cannot enforce the law physically if the situation turns ugly and a scuffle breaks out. Had a scuffle actually ensued between the MNA and members of the cabin crew, the only people who would have been able to control it would have been air guards (or sky marshals as they are called in some countries).

This raises a related question which is, given the region where Pakistan is situated and given our participation in the war on terror, shouldn’t airlines be deploying air guards?

The details of passengers and air crew who died in the Airblue and Bhoja Air plane crashes in July 2010 and last month, respectively, did not mention the names of air guards. Airlines that operate in Pakistan should seriously consider this option because hijacking a plane is a time-tested tactic used by terrorist organizations all over the world.

I would advise the federal government to immediately depute guards from the Airport Security Force as sky marshals on all flights of airlines operating in Pakistan.

Sqn-Ldr (retd) S Ausaf Husain

 Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.


Flyer scalded in his genital area by hot tea wins €4k

A 39-YEAR-OLD man was scalded in his genital area by hot tea during a Ryanair flight after a tray collapsed, a court heard.

Darren Weldon told the Circuit Civil Court that on August 19, 2007 he and his cousin Greg Woodley were travelling from Murcia, Spain, back to Dublin, when the incident happened.

Mr Weldon, of Colbertsfort, Belgard Road, Dublin, said he was sitting in the middle seat and ordered food and a cup of tea which he placed on the tray in front of him.

He said he went to the toilet and when he came back his cousin Mr Woodley held the cup of tea to allow him to sit back in the middle row.

The court heard that when Mr Woodley placed the cup on the tray in front of his own seat, the tray collapsed. The cup landed on Mr Weldon's lap and hot tea had splashed over his lap.

Mr Weldon claimed he was scalded to his genital area and burned.

He later went to Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, where he was given a cream and painkillers.

John Doherty, counsel for Mr Weldon, said that before the incident, his client had brought to the attention of an air hostess that the tray was faulty.

Mr Weldon sued Ryanair Ltd, of Dublin Airport, Collinstown, Dublin, for negligence.

Ryanair denied liability and said there had been some horseplay between Mr Weldon and Mr Woodley before the incident. It denied the tray was broken before taking off.

The airline said that when Mr Weldon notified the air hostess that the tray was faulty, she told him not to use it and to use the middle one instead.

Ryanair, which denied negligence, said that the hostess proposed assistance when she became aware of the incident.

Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Matthew Deery, awarding Mr Weldon €4,000 damages, saying once they had become aware the tray was faulty, the airline crew should have marked it with tape to prevent people from using it. 


Accepting FAA funding comes with some obligations: County not able to just say ‘no' to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport changes

 Setting aside 80,000 square feet for a new Aspen-Pitkin County Airport terminal doesn't mean a building of that size will be constructed, but the county will have less say about accommodating a second, and even a third, fixed-base operator at the airport.

That was the gist of a lengthy discussion Tuesday about an updated master plan for the airport. County commissioners quizzed John Bauer, manager of the Denver Airports District Office for the Federal Aviation Administration, about the county's obligations when it comes to future development at the airport and to what extent the county can say “no.”

When it comes to fixed-base operations — private businesses that offer aircraft services and sell fuel — commissioners will have little choice but to make space for a second one, or even a third, if adequate physical space and market demand exist, Bauer said. That would be the case under the existing airport master plan, as well, he said.

Interest among various parties in establishing a competing fixed-base operation at the airport, where Atlantic Aviation is currently the sole such operator, is driving a master-plan process that is setting aside space for various future facilities, including fixed-base operators, a larger terminal and a proposed parking garage.

Because the airport has accepted FAA grant funds — it has received some $64 million in state and FAA money over the past decade — it is obligated to meet various FAA requirements, or “grant assurances,” Bauer explained.

In short, the assurances include accommodating additional fixed-base operators as space allows and the market dictates, he said. Alternatives in the draft master plan place a second fixed-base operator on the east, or Highway 82, side of the airport or on the west side, off Owl Creek Road. The latter would require a second taxiway, parallel to the runway.

Fixed-base-operator proposals would have to meet the airport's minimum standards for the operation, but that wouldn't preclude a proposal for something larger, Bauer said, when commissioners asked if the county could prevent the development of large hangars for private jets on the west side.

“Could we say, ‘Nope, sorry'?” Commissioner Rachel Richards asked.

Denying a proposal requires a “clear, justifiable reason,” Bauer said.

“OK, justifiable reason: We don't want 200,000 square feet of hangar space on the west side. What discretion do we have?” Commissioner Jack Hatfield asked.

The FAA would want an explanation, Bauer responded. If such development is out of character with Aspen and the airport, the agency would want to know why it's out of character, he said.

Taking west-side development off the table entirely is also out of the question, Bauer advised.

“Those grant assurances assure me that we might get something at the airport that we don't want,” Hatfield said.

The final master plan is now expected to be ready for formal county review by August, according to Jim Elwood, aviation director at the airport. While the document will be adopted by commissioners, the FAA will approve parts of the plan — its forecast for airport operations and the layout plan for facilities.

Some elements — a new terminal and parking garage, for example — are essentially up to the community, according to Bauer.

“You're not going to see the FAA saying, ‘Aspen, you need to build an 80,000-square-foot terminal,'” he said.

But grant assurances related to economic nondiscrimination and avoiding the granting of exclusive rights mean denial of a proposed fixed-base operator could result in a complaint to the agency, Bauer said. Future FAA funding for the airport could ultimately be at stake, he said.

Various elements of the airport master plan have come under fire of late, particularly by a group that calls itself Citizens for Responsible Airport Development, founded by Cliff Runge, an owner of the former fixed-base operator at the airport.

Commissioners sought clarification Tuesday on how much say they have over future development at the airport and stressed that individual new facilities will go through a review process that is separate from the master-plan update.

“The fact that we have 80,000 square feet reserved does not mean we will build an 80,000-square-foot terminal. I'll say that bluntly,” Commissioner Rob Ittner said.

“We're not getting railroaded on this by any means,” he added later.

And about wingspan …

The FAA is not likely to loosen up the wingspan restriction in place at the Aspen airport, Bauer added as a side note to Tuesday's discussion.

Any change from the 95-foot wingspan limit now in place would require approval by both the FAA and the county, according to Elwood, and Commissioner Michael Owsley stressed that commissioners have expressed no desire to take the issue up.

A question about how to measure wingspan on aircraft that have “winglets” that tilt upward at an angle at the end of the wings was kicked up from the FAA's Denver office to a regional office and then to Washington, Bauer said.

Prompting the question in Aspen was the new Gulfstream 650, a jet that isn't yet certified for use but that has a wingspan of nearly 100 feet when the winglets are taken into account.

The FAA has clarified that the distance from wing tip to wing tip constitutes wingspan, Bauer said. Drop a line from the tip of the winglets to the ground, and measure the distance between those two points on the ground — that's the wingspan, he said.

The tight space between the taxiway and the runway at Aspen's airport drove the 95-foot limit that's in place, he explained.

“We always err on the side of safety,” Bauer said. If the county asked the FAA to revisit the wingspan limit, the agency would consider it, but that doesn't guarantee the agency would be willing to alter it, he said.


Zephyrhills Municipal (KZPH), Florida: Airport won't move WWII-era plane

The C-47 aircraft may eventually be mounted and surrounded by a garden at its permanent home at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport

ZEPHYRHILLS -- Volunteers at Zephyrhills Barracks Museum, located at the city's municipal airport, have been bringing a C-47 aircraft frame back from the dead. At this week's meeting, the city's airport authority decided to display the iconic craft right where it is — just behind the museum. 

 "Most of us in the museum group are satisfied to keep it where it is now," authority Chairman Dan Evans said. Originally, there were plans to display it at the entrance to the facility, but Evans said it would be risky to move it any distance.

The plane, designated as both a C-47 and DC-3, was the primary cargo and glider towing plane in World War II. It was discovered in a state of decay in Georgia, and museum volunteers had it trucked to the airport. A hunt for missing parts ensued, and things like engines and landing gear were pain-stakingly reassembled. The plane will never fly, but it will be an accurate representation of what it once was.

Evans told authority members that a Boy Scout is interested in creating a memorial garden around the plane and airport consultant AVCON has agreed to design a mount for the aircraft.

The bulk of the authority's meeting was taken up with consideration of regulations for the operation of powered parachute aircraft.

Gary Fitzgerald has been the lone operator of such a craft at the airport for years, but he bumped into existing airport regulations because he has no tail number. Powered parachutes don't have a tail.

The authority was considering a set of regulations which Fitzgerald had compiled based on his five years of flying the powered parachute, which is basically a go-cart, driven by an aircraft engine and lifted by a large parachute.

The problem, as seen by pilots on the authority, is mixing the slower powered parachutes with much faster aircraft in the landing patterns.

By a 3-2 vote, the authority denied the powered parachute operations, but gave Fitzgerald the option of re-applying.

Program Spends Thousands In Taxpayer Dollars On Empty Airline Seats

BY: Kristin Volk/Jim Osman

At a time when budgets are tight all across the nation, a federal program is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on empty airline seats.

The Scripps National Investigative Team took a closer look at the Essential Air Service program. The Essential Air Service helps subsidize small airports. It was created in 1978 out of fear the larger airlines would abandon smaller airports during deregulation. The program was only supposed to last a few years, but 34 years later it's still being paid for by taxpayers.“This is absolutely outrageous,” said Florida 

Congressman John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation Committee which oversees the Air Service. “You know we're running $17 trillion in deficit.”

Our investigation exposed one flight between Baltimore and Hagerstown, Maryland – just about 75 miles apart - was so sparse the captain allowed the only other passenger who wasn’t our producer to sit in the co-pilot's seat. Some seats remained folded down for the round trip.Two other flights between Baltimore and Hagerstown had just one other person on board and eight empty seats. A 19-seat plane from Cleveland to Dubois, Pennsylvania, about 180 miles east, had just one passenger as well.Tom Schatz, President of the Washington-based group Citizens Against Government Waste said the Essential Air Service is non-essential. 

“Members of Congress like to have airports, they like the subsidies, it's a chance to show that they are spending money on behalf of their constituents,” he added.There are more than 100 subsidized flight routes across the country. In 2010, Congress allocated $200 million for the Essential Air Service program.“It's an economic driver within those communities to have the ability to bring in outside business into rural areas of the country,” said Brian Sowa of the lobbying group Rural Air Service Alliance. Sowa said flights are crucial for the economic development of small town America.“It’s gotta stop. The taxpayers can't afford it,” said Congressman Mica.

Read more:

Cessna 206 eyed for aerial surveys

Negros Occidental Vice-Gov. Genaro Alvarez Jr. yesterday aired a proposal for the provincial government to buy a Cessna 206, to be used for aerial survey and cloud-seeding operations, among others.

Alvarez said his proposal, which he made almost two years ago, already had the concurrence of members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. However, he added, there are no funds available for it now, although Gov. Alfredo MaraƱon seemed to have approved it.

The proposal is to buy a second-hand 6-seater Cessna 206, worth P15 million, with 200 flying hours, he said.

A brand new Cessna 206 plane costs P20 million, Alvarez, a licensed pilot, said.

The Cessna 206, also known as Skywagon, Stationair and Super Skylane, is a single engine, general aviation aircraft with a fixed landing gear used in commercial air service and for personal use.

The Cessna 206 is being described as “the sport-utility vehicle of the air.” They are also used for aerial photography, skydiving and other utility purposes and can be equipped with floats, amphibious floats and skis.

The Negros Occidental provincial government usually requests for air assets of the Philippine Air Force for aerial survey and rescue operations, especially during natural calamities, and would hire a privately-owned plane for cloud-seeding operations, in the previous years.