Monday, November 05, 2012

Private Jet Services Group and CEO Greg Raiff Featured in Wall Street Journal: Private aviation charter brokerage firm caters to professional sports teams

Seabrook, NH (PRWEB) November 05, 2012 

 A recent Wall Street Journal article offering a glimpse into the very lucrative world of professional sports air travel spotlights Private Jet Services Group, a company that lists half a dozen professional sports teams as clients, as well as 10 college programs.

The article quotes PJS Group President and CEO Greg Raiff as saying chartered flights, often with privately catered food, carefully selected flight attendants and in-flight massage therapy, are “a significant recruiting tool” for the teams.

To meet the highly specialized needs of each client, Private Jet Service Group’s Sports Transportation Division spends more than 10 hours planning for each hour teams spend in the air. This attention to detail includes in-flight entertainment, catering and custom amenities – such as headroom for a 7-foot-1 player.

“You can’t take athletes and stress them out on a flight and expect them to play at the most elite levels of professional sports,” Raiff says. “You have to take very good care of them.”

The PJS Group Sports Division also coordinates customs, immigration and baggage and ground handling for its clients, ensuring they can remain focused on the next game.

“It’s the little details,” Raiff says, “the things that make the difference between us and what else is out there.”

About Private Jet Services Group: The New Hampshire-based Private Jet Services Group sets the industry standard for individualized attention and customized service for each charter client. Private Jet Services Group prides itself on a client retention rate in excess of 90%. Private Jet Services staff bring the company’s two decades of charter industry experience to bear in working with sports teams, high-profile celebrities, Fortune 500 companies and government workers on lifesaving missions.

'The whole plane turned pink': Low-flying cargo aircraft hit by lightning over Herne Bay

Rumors of a major crash off the east Kent coast were sparked after a cargo plane flying low to Manston airport was struck by lightning.

Hundreds of people in Herne Bay heard the roar of the aircraft flying over before what was described as an "almighty bang".

But Kent Police and Kent International Airport officials have confirmed nobody was injured and the plane was undamaged by the strike, late yesterday morning.

The incident sparked a series of hoaxes on Facebook and Twitter, with many posting pictures of the Hudson River plane crash of early 2009.

Nick Evans, a communications manager for Pilgrims Hospices, said: "My wife Sue and I heard the roar of what sounded like a 747 going overhead. It was very low.

"After a moment there was an almighty bang. I didn't see it getting struck, but Sue said the whole plane turned pink."

Kent Police spokesman Jon Green said: "Someone called our control room to say they saw a low flying plane near Manston and then heard a bang - it could have been thunder - and then didn't see the plane again.

"We alerted Manston airport. Nothing more was heard."

Sian Errington, from Manston airport, said: "We were alerted by a member of the public to the incident.

"The pilot was aware his plane had been struck. No damage was caused however and he left according to schedule the next morning."

Did you take pictures of the plane hit by lightning? Send them to or tweet @Kent_Online.

Cessna 150F, N8375G: Fatal accident occurred November 04, 2012 in Gothenburg, Nebraska

NTSB Identification: CEN13FA045 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, November 04, 2012 in Gothenburg, NE
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/23/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 150F, registration: N8375G
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The student pilot was conducting a solo instructional flight in the airport traffic area at the time of the accident. A pilot entering the traffic pattern at the time that the accident pilot was conducting takeoffs and landings reported that, during the accident pilot’s third landing, the accident airplane was “extremely low,” not more than 200 feet above ground level (agl), on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern. He noted that the normal pattern altitude was 800 feet agl. He stated that the accident pilot subsequently landed and took off again and that he observed the accident airplane on initial climb after takeoff and beginning to turn to the crosswind leg, but that he did not observe the remainder of the accident pilot’s flight in the traffic pattern or the accident sequence. There were no other witnesses. The student pilot was approaching for a fourth landing when the accident occurred; the airplane came to rest inverted short of the runway threshold. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any evidence of a preimpact failure or malfunction that would have precluded normal operation. The damage to the nose of the airplane is consistent with a high-impact angle of about 45 degrees. The high-impact angle and lack of significant ground travel after impact is consistent with a loss of control precipitated by an inadvertent aerodynamic stall.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The student pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed on final approach, which resulted in an inadvertent aerodynamic stall and subsequent impact with terrain.

On November 4, 2012, about 1030 central standard time, a Cessna 150F, N8375G, impacted terrain on final approach to runway 32 (3,300 feet by 250 feet, turf) at Quinn Field Airport (GTE), Gothenburg, Nebraska. The student pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The aircraft was registered to and operated by private individuals under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from GTE about 1000.

The student pilot was conducting a solo instructional flight in the airport traffic pattern. He had conducted three landings without incident and was approaching for a fourth landing when the accident occurred. The pilot’s flight instructor reported that the initial three landings appeared routine; however, he did not witness the accident.

A pilot entering the traffic pattern reported that he observed the accident airplane land and stop within about 500 feet. The accident pilot then taxied back and took off again. He reported that on the next trip around the traffic pattern the accident airplane was “extremely low,” not more than 200 feet agl, on the downwind leg. He noted that the normal pattern altitude was 800 feet agl. The accident pilot subsequently landed and took off again. While on final approach, he observed the accident airplane on initial climb after takeoff and beginning to turn crosswind. He subsequently landed and taxied to his hangar. He did not observe the remainder of the accident pilot’s flight in the traffic pattern or the accident sequence.

The airplane impacted an open grass area south of the runway and came to rest inverted.

The pilot held a student pilot certificate and third class medical certificate issued on December 30, 2011. The certificate included a limitation for near vision corrective lenses and was limited in duration to 12 months; not valid for any class after December 31, 2012. A flight instructor endorsement for solo flight privileges, dated November 3, 2012, was present on the certificate.

According to the pilot’s flight instructor, this was the student pilot’s second solo flight. The pilot’s initial solo flight occurred the day before the accident; that flight consisted of one takeoff and landing. The student pilot had logged 13.7 hours total flight time, with 42 landings. The pilot’s prior solo flight was not included in the logbook.

The accident airplane was Cessna model 150F, serial number 15062475. It was a two-place, single-engine, high-wing airplane, with a fixed tricycle landing gear configuration. The airplane was powered by a 100-horsepower Continental Motors O-200-A engine, serial number 62233-5-A. The airplane was originally issued a utility category, standard airworthiness certificate in November 1965. The current owner purchased the airplane on August 18, 2012.

Maintenance records indicated that the most recent annual inspection was completed on December 10, 2011, at 3,248.1 hours total airframe time. The records noted that maintenance was completed on March 12, 2012, at 3,255.27 hours, which included repair of the airbox and timing of the magnetos, among other items. The most recent maintenance consisted of an engine oil change, completed on October 5, 2012, by the owner. The maintenance logs did not contain any subsequent entries.

The tachometer indicated 3,290.96 hours at the time of the postaccident examination.

The nearest weather reporting facility was located at the Jim Kelly Field Airport (LXN), about 19 miles southeast of GTE. At 1035, the LXN Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) recorded conditions as: wind from 270 degrees at 4 knots; 10 miles visibility; clear sky; temperature 9 degrees Celsius; dew point 3 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.07 inches of mercury.

The airplane impacted an open grass area about 50 feet south of the runway 32 arrival threshold. It came to rest inverted on an approximate heading of 160 degrees magnetic. Ground impact marks were located about 22 feet south of the airplane, with a second ground impact scar located about 7 feet south of the airplane. The initial ground impact marks included a lateral impression consistent with a propeller slash mark, and three depressions, centered on the slash mark, which were consistent with being formed by the landing gear.

The engine cowling was crushed upward and aft, relative to the airframe, at an approximate 45-degree angle. The wings, aft fuselage, and empennage were damaged consistent with impact forces. The flight control surfaces remained attached to the airframe, and continuity was confirmed from each control surface to the cockpit controls. The wing flaps remained attached to the airframe and were positioned about 30 degrees deflection at the time of the examination. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction.

An autopsy of the pilot was conducted at the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Science, Lincoln, Nebraska, on November 5, 2012. The pilot’s death was attributed to blunt force trauma injuries sustained in the accident.

The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute toxicology report was negative for all drugs in the screening profile. In addition, the report stated that no ethanol was detected in vitreous fluid, nor was any carbon monoxide detected in a blood sample.

NTSB Identification: CEN13FA045 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, November 04, 2012 in Gothenburg, NE
Aircraft: CESSNA 150F, registration: N8375G
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On November 4, 2012, about 1030 central standard time, a Cessna 150F, N8375G, impacted terrain on final approach to runway 32 (3,300 feet by 250 feet, turf) at Quinn Field Airport (GTE), Gothenburg, Nebraska. The student pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The aircraft was registered to and operated by private individuals under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from GTE about 1000.

The student pilot was conducting a solo instructional flight in the airport traffic. He had reportedly conducted three landings without incident and was approaching for a fourth landing when the accident occurred. The pilot’s flight instructor reported observing the initial three landings; however, there were no witnesses to the accident.

The airplane impacted an open grass area about 50 feet south of the runway 32 arrival threshold and came to rest inverted. A ground impact scar about 12 feet long by 3 feet wide was located 7 feet south of the airplane. The engine cowling was crushed upward at an approximate 45-degree angle. The forward fuselage, including the firewall, was deformed. The wings remained attached to the fuselage, with localized areas of damage to both wings. The fuselage was buckled aft of the rear cabin window. The upper/forward portion of the vertical stabilizer was crushed. The flight control surfaces remained attached to the airframe and continuity was confirmed to the cockpit controls. The engine remained attached to the airframe and the propeller remained attached to the engine. One propeller blade was bent forward about 90 degrees near the tip. The second propeller blade was bent aft about 20 degrees over the outboard three-quarters of the blade span. The nose landing gear separated from the airframe and was located near the ground impact scar.

According to the pilot’s flight instructor, this was the student pilot’s second solo flight. The pilot’s initial solo flight occurred the day before the accident; that flight consisted of one takeoff and landing. The student pilot had logged 13.7 hours total flight time, with 42 landings. The pilot’s solo flights were not included in the logbook.

The nearest weather reporting facility was located at the Jim Kelly Field Airport (LXN) located about 19 miles southeast of GTE. At 1035, the LXN Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) recorded conditions as: wind from 270 degrees at 4 knots; 10 miles visibility; clear sky; temperature 9 degrees Celsius; 3 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.07 inches of mercury.

A North Platte man dies in a plane crash at the Gothenburg Municipal Airport. 

 55-year-old James Ross was a student pilot.

Emergency crews in Gothenburg responded to the airport just after 10:30 Sunday morning.

They found a two-seated plane upside down about 50 yards from the beginning of the grass runway.

Ross had died on scene.

He was the only occupant in the plane.

The Federal Aeronautics Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

An autopsy is scheduled.

Ross was the Director of Information Systems for the City of North Platte.

Mayor Marc Kaschke told KNOP-TV it is a sad moment for the city.

He says Ross was a won
derful employee and dedicated public servant who will be sorely missed.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony asks Air Force for early completion of inquiries on air crashes

New Delhi, Nov.5 (ANI): Defence Minister A.K. Antony today asked top brass of the Indian Air Force to complete all pending Court of Inquiry (CoI) proceedings into air accidents as early as possible and take appropriate remedial measures so that the possibility of future accidents are minimized.

Addressing a meeting of the consultative committee attached to his ministry here, he said even one accident is a matter of serious concern.

Antony said a joint committee comprising representatives of Ministry of Defence, Indian Air Force, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., DRDO and DG AQA has been constituted to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry specially for Category-I aircraft accidents. Category-I accidents are those in which the aircraft is destroyed or damaged beyond economical repair, or is missing or the cost of repair, excluding damage to aero-engines exceeds 50% of the total cost.

A Defence Ministry release further quoted Antony, as saying that a one-time inspection of all helicopter detachments was carried out in view of the fact that an unusually high number of accidents and incidents on helicopters occur, when they are operating away from their parent base. These inspections resulted in highlighting several shortcomings. Action is being taken on these shortcomings on a priority basis.

Another area of focus, he said, is the training standards of young fighter aircrew. The deficiencies in training are rectified by a review of training patterns, enhancement of availability of training aircraft and strengthening of training procedures. The basic flying training task was shifted from HPT-32 to Kiran aircraft.

To make up for the deficiencies of training resources, the availability of Kiran aircraft is being enhanced to strengthen the foundation training of ab-initio pilots.

Maximum availability of simulators is ensured during training. Procurement of 75 Basic Trainer Aircraft has been fast-tracked and the first training course on the new trainer aircraft 'Pilatus' will commence in July 2013.

Antony said plans to phase out equipment approaching redundancy are also in place and certain critical procurements have been fast-tracked. Non-upgraded MiG-27 and MiG-21 are being phased out progressively by March 2016 and March 2018 respectively.

Cutting across party lines, the Members of Parliament complimented Indian Air Force for progressively bringing down Cat-I accident rates over the past thirty years.

However, they cautioned IAF not to sit on laurels and take further measures in air safety to match the global standards.

Responding to a query on the shortage of spare parts for the aging aircraft fleet of Indian Air Force, Shri Antony said earlier the acquisition of aircraft and replenishment of spare parts used to be dealt with by separate contracts. He said in the new contracts we are taking corrective measures and product support is built into the process of acquisition of new aircraft.

Members of Parliament also urged the Government to accelerate the process of modernization of airports and air fields in various parts of the country because such a measure will not only improve air safety but will also spur economic growth of the regions.

Members of Parliament who attended the meeting included Naveen Jindal, Suresh Kalmadi, Harshvardhan, Kailkesh N. Singh Deo, Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya, Gopal Singh Shekhawat, Ram Chandra Khuntia, Veer Singh, H.K. Dua and Piyush Goyal.

Newly inducted Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh, Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, Secretary (Defence Production) R.K. Mathur, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri V.K. Saraswat, Secretary, Ex-Servicemen's Welfare, Vijay Chibber, Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal D.C. Kumria and other officials of the Ministry of Defence and Air Force also attended the meeting.(ANI)

Jet Age Museum building work gets 'green light'

The team behind the creation of a historic jet museum in Gloucestershire hope work will continue "at pace" now a further legal hurdle has been cleared.

After months of waiting, paperwork has been signed meaning building work on the Jet Age Museum can be completed.

The process ran into a hitch when it came to light that two local councils had to rubber stamp the deal.

Museum chairman, John Lewer, said they now have the official green light to finish the project.

It was announced in February that an agreement had been made paving the way for the museum to be built at Gloucestershire Airport in Staverton.

The agreement means the airport land will be leased by the museum for the next 45 years.

'In limbo'

It was thought that phase one of the building work would be completed over the summer, but the legal process was then delayed by paperwork.

Both Gloucester City Council and Cheltenham Borough Council, which own the land where the building will stand, had to rubber stamp the deal.

Mr Lewer said the delay had left the team "in limbo". 

"We began our preliminary work on site but the legal paperwork took far longer and will now cost more than we had ever expected," he added. 

It is now hoped the shell of the building will be complete by the end of the year and the museum will open in 2013.

Museum trustee and head of operations at the airport, Darren Lewington, said: "The museum build should continue now at pace.

"The thousands of people who turned out at Staverton a few weeks ago for the Vulcan flypast clearly indicates the local interest in historic aviation, which bodes well for the museum's future."

The new museum will house delicate aircraft, such as a 1925 Gloucester Gamecock, and contain archive photos and documents.


Is Jet Airways shrinking to survive? Seems so

New Delhi:  From all available indications, Jet Airways has sacrificed market share in its quest for higher revenue yields. Chief Operating Officer Sudheer Raghavan said in a conference call with analysts this afternoon that market share is a function of capacity and that the airline has knowingly reduced capacity on domestic as well as international sectors by stopping flights on unprofitable routes.

During the September quarter, domestic capacity was down 0.4 percent and international by 2.1 percent.

He also made it clear that fresh capacity addition will now only happen from April 2013, when new aircraft are added to the fleet. By September end, the Jet group (Jet Airways and JetLite together) held just under 24 percent of the market, behind IndiGo’s 27.2 percent share. But JetLite bore the brunt of this capacity rationalisation since its standalone market share fell to just 6.5 percent in September quarter against 8.1 percent in the same quarter last year. This makes it the least popular low-cost carrier (LCC) in the market. By September, Jet Airways’ standalone share fell behind even Air India in domestic market share.

The market share sacrifice is helping yields and the current festive quarter ending December augers well for Jet Airways. Not only will the airline reap the benefit of the second fuel surcharge increase it unleashed on passengers in late September, but Jet has already seen almost 40 percent advance seat bookings for November, almost double the bookings it records in any other month.

So clubbing the increase Jet had announced in August, total fuel surcharge has gone up by Rs 400 per passenger.

Raghavan said the airline should see a further improvement in yields (revenue per passenger) and better profitability in the second half of this fiscal through a mix of capacity rationalisation, rising ancillary revenues, ‘swing’ capacity between Jet and Jet Konnect as also sale and leaseback of aircraft.

Does this mean the slowdown in the domestic airline business is finally reversing, not just for Jet but for the industry as a whole? Raghavan made it clear that most Indian carriers have realised the unviability of operating at low fares and have begun to correct themselves. “Market has reckoned that days of low yield travel cannot be sustained. There is strong will-power now to hold on to yields going forward”.

Jet’s own yields increased by a substantial 34.3 percent in the last quarter versus the September quarter of 2011 and by 1.1 percent versus the June quarter this year. Raghavan said typically the second half of any fiscal sees yields rising by about 8 percent compared to the first half.

The second largest airline group in the country has been on a cost rationalisation drive for the last several months and this has reaped rich rewards. Raghavan said the reduction in the number of expat pilots (who are paid much more than Indian pilots) was on course and the number had come down from 207 to 107 in the last six months before settling at 59 by March 2013. This alone has saved the airline $36 million.

Then, revenues from ancillary services increased 20 percent year-on-year – meaning money coming in from pre-bookings of meals on board, sale of merchandise on flights and through Jet’s website, etc. Now, the airline earns $8 per departing passenger in ancillary revenues. And despite an over 17 percent increase in fuel costs, cost per ASKM (available seat kilometre) went up by only 6 percent year on year.

In the current quarter, Jet plans to have more full service seats by converting a substantial number of Jet Konnect flights into full-service flights; it has also reconfigured the 777 long haul aircraft by adding 34 seats in each (10 abreast now against 9 earlier). Unprofitable routes such as Mumbai-Johannesburg and Brussels-JFK have been scrapped on the international leg and the 737 aircraft of these routes redeployed on starting second service between Kolkata-Bangalore, Mumabi-Kuwait and Mumbai-Abu Dhabi.

Jet Airways posted a net loss of Rs 166 crore ( Rs 100 crore for Jet Airways and Rs 66 crore for JetLite) for the second quarter that ended in September, narrowing down it losses from Rs 713 crore for the same quarter last year.

Pilar sacked from Cayman Airways board

(CNS): Despite the failure of any government official to officially inform Pilar Bush that she has been sacked from the Cayman Airways board, the chief officer in the tourism ministry confirmed Monday that Philip Rankine has been given the chairmanship of the airline’s board of directors. The former chair, who has also held the post of deputy chair, told CNS Monday that although she was well aware of her removal, she had received no correspondence from Premier McKeeva Bush or anyone in government informing her that she had not only been replaced as chair but completely ousted from the board.

“I have yet to receive any official communication from the premier, the ministry or Cabinet, but I was made aware of my replacement as chair and my former position of deputy chair last week,” Pilar Bush said. “On same day I advised the rest of the board and removed myself from any CAL related matters. This approach to managing boards is characteristic of Mr Bush and although it is disappointing it is not surprising and a consequence when people disagree with the premier.”

While Rankine is now chair of the national flag carrier’s board, sitting members George Hunter and Anthony Akiwumi have been appointed deputies and Rafael Elias, a local Chartered Accountant, has been appointed as a new Member of the Board.

“The Ministry congratulates the new and sitting Members of the Board and applauds their willingness to serve in their new respective capacities,” a release from the ministry’s Chief Officer Stran Bodden stated.

There were no thanks or comments regarding the removal of Bush, who has served for the past three years.

Although the reasons for Pilar Bush’s removal have not been confirmed, sources close to the issue stated that she had given advice to Cabinet regarding the MOU which the premier signed while in Manila with San Miguel, the company which owns a major share in Philippines Airlines.

Chinese pilots practice landing on aircraft carrier

Chinese fighter pilots are practicing landings on the country’s first aircraft carrier, the authorities have confirmed.

Military authorities confirmed Sunday that fighter jets have been conducting take-off and landing training on aircraft carrier Liaoning, reported Global Times.

A defence ministry report said that jets have practiced "touch-and-go" landings, a maneuver that involves landing on the flight deck of the carrier and taking off again without coming to a stop.

It is the first time Chinese authorities have acknowledged that jet pilots have been training on the Liaoning, said the media report.

Online photos have shown the Shenyang J-15 carrier-based fighter making at least several fly-bys above the carrier and military experts have long speculated that "touch-and-go" landings are being practiced by pilots.

Lan Yun, editor of Modern Ships magazine, said "touch-and-go" landings are the last step in primary training for carrier-based fighter pilots.

"In real operations, if pilots judge they cannot complete a landing, they must immediately open full afterburner and takeoff from the flight deck again," Lan was quoted as saying.
"The touch-and-go landings enable the pilots to experience the feeling of a carrier landing and takeoff, and train them to properly handle failed landings," he added.

Monday's announcement came a day after photos of a two-seat land/sea attack variant of the J-15 carrier-based fighter were uploaded to the Internet.

Web users claimed the two-seat fighter made its maiden flight at Shenyang Saturday, two days after the maiden flight of SAC's first stealth fighter, the "J-31".

Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo had told the China Central Television that the Chinese navy will focus on the development of aircraft carriers and carrier-based fighters, new destroyers and frigates, submarines and land-based strike fighters.

Carolina Aeronautical Adds Courses: Simpsonville aviation maintenance school beefs up its course catalog

Simpsonville's Carolina Aeronautical aviation maintenance school has added more courses to its catalog, the school announced. By increasing the range of available options, the school said it hopes to provide increasing learning flexibility to students that wish to advance their knowledge within key areas of the aviation field.

One of the latest programs to be added to the company's course catalogue is the school's Intro to Basic Avionics course. This new course will teach students everything they need to know about the complex dynamics of aircraft systems. Students will learn from industry-qualified instructors and gain an in-depth understanding that will help them to transition their skills from the classroom to the work environment.

Examples of the content covered in this new course include radio systems and navigation systems. Students will learn how the components within these systems work and how to specific problems related to radar technology and air data systems and sensors.

One of the benefits of taking this course ahead of others available within the industry, according to the school, is that it will provide students with a clear understanding on the both how components work within a system and component maintenance. This means that students will leave the Carolina Aeronautical school with a clear advantage over other students entering the field.

To learn more about the course options available through Carolina Aeronautical, visit for more information.

Is It Time For The Caribbean To Have An Airline Of Its Own?

by Gary Leopold

The region’s continued cry for more airlift calls for an innovative approach

For what seems like the millionth time, Caribbean tourism officials are bemoaning the lack of airlift to the region and yet again convening a task force to explore the problem.

Where is David Neeleman when you need him? Too busy creating his latest aviation success story, Azul in Brazil, I guess.

Or Richard Branson? Sure, his Virgin Atlantic brings in seats to the region, but he seems more focused on bringing innovation to space travel than to Caribbean aviation.

There must be other smart, entrepreneurial types out there with the vision to figure out this conundrum that never seems to find a good solution.

Everyone knows it’s hard to fill hotels and drive tourism-fueled economies when you can’t get enough capacity coming to your destination. And if you can’t get those seats to be attractively priced, tourists will readily find destinations that can be accessed more affordably.

The current approach seems focused on continuing to subsidize and provide guarantees to the legacy carriers, a “solution” that is now estimated to tally in excess of $45 million annually across the region. But the legacy airlines will always shift their capacity to wherever they can make the most money, and their motives are rightly around generating profits, not necessarily bettering the region.

So what is the Caribbean to do?

Read more:

Aviation review creates ‘unacceptable uncertainty’ for London residents

The body that lobbies on behalf of London’s borough councils has criticized the review set up to examine the future of the UK’s aviation industry. 

The Airport Commission, which has been tasked with finding ways to improve and increase the country’s airport capacity amid fierce opposition to a possible third runway at Heathrow Airport.

But London Councils today said it was “disappointing that there is no community representation” on the commission.

Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies outlined his plans and unveiled his team on Friday. He will publish an interim report by the end of the year.

Cllr Catherine West said: “A decision about airports serving London will have a huge impact on the communities which boroughs serve and councils could have provided a voice for residents and businesses as well as highlighted planning and transport implications of aviation expansion.”

She also agreed with London Mayor Boris Johnson’s view that it should make its recommendations quicker than the three year timetable set by the Government.

Cllr West added: “A decision on options for airport expansion should be made much sooner than summer 2015.

This is too late and brings unacceptable uncertainty to communities living close to affected airports and could have a negative impact on London’s economy.”

Philippines bid to raise aviation standards gains support

THE Philippines’s bid to raise its standard of aviation safety to conform with requirements set by aviation regulatory bodies got a big boost from Norway, Switzerland, the European Council and the European Commission, Malacañang said yesterday.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., reporting from Vientiane, Lao-PDR, said the European countries expressed their support during separate bilateral meetings President Aquino had with his counterparts at the sidelines of the Ninth Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem9) being held here on November 5 and 6.

The efforts to improve airline safety are in line with the government’s advocacy to bring in more tourists and spur economic growth.

“We said we have a stake in raising the standards of aviation considering that we want to intensify the level of aviation activity from and into the Philippines, and this is in consonance with our efforts to increase the number of tourists that will be visiting our country,” Coloma said.

Twenty-seven European countries have banned the entry of Philippine carriers into their airspace after the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) cited the government’s alleged failure to comply with minimum international aviation safety standards.

Aside from Icao, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also ranked the Philippines as a “Category 2” market because of safety considerations. This FAA grade bans local airlines from expanding operations in the United States.

“Definitely, the present restrictions on our Philippine carriers would not promote the increase of tourist traffic between Europe and the Philippines and so we would like to see an early resolution of the concerns of the Icao and similar bodies like the US FAA, which was emphasized by the President of the European Commission Juan Miguel Barroso that these are technical issues involving safety standards and not political issues,” Coloma added.

He said the aviation sector has taken note of this and was now in the process of “addressing these technical issues and we are moving positively at addressing and resolving all of these concerns.”

He said that pending the results of the assessment that were conducted in October, “we were assured that there would be every measure of support in getting the Philippines up to speed in relation to meeting the safety standards of Icao.”

The President also addressed a gathering of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Vientiane, the capital of Lao-PDR, apprising them of what the government has so far done under his tuwid na daan administration.

Speaking in Filipino, he said 85 percent of all the country’s citizens are now covered by health insurance, which was previously at only 62 percent.

Previously, he said four of every 10 Filipinos died without seeing a health professional.

Today, he said, an additional 23.31 million Filipinos now have access to doctors, midwives or nurses.

He added that 5.2 million more households, under the National Household Targeting System, could now also avail themselves of free PhilHealth services.

Mr. Aquino said that under this system, the poor could now be treated of ailments such as asthma, pneumonia, dengue and “catastrophic diseases” such as acute leukemia, prostate cancer and breast cancer without spending a single centavo.

The President also said that previously, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) used to be symbol of distrust because of its substandard work and overpriced projects and because it was the milking cow for those in power.

He mentioned the P111-billion bridge projects that were carried out by at least three previous administrations.

Dubbed by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III as “Bridge to Nowhere,” Aquino said about P30 billion had been set aside for these bridges to connect the various islands of the country.

He said that while the “intention was good” those behind the projects did not know where to put the bridges that they bought “prefabricated” from foreign companies. He said the projects were a headache that was passed on to his administration.

The President said he has put a stop to these irregularities although they were still being investigated. He said that under incumbent Public Works Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson, the previous nest of corruption is now a font of prosperity.

The President cited a new underpass built on Araneta Avenue and Quezon Boulevard. The project, started before his administration, was estimated to cost P694 million, but upon completion 100 days ahead of schedule, it cost only P430 million.

The President said the savings of more than P260 million and the P11.3-billion savings of the DPWH could now be used to fund other projects.

The President said that he inherited a big headache when he was told that the country would experience a lack of rice to the tune of 1.3 million metric tons every year.

He said that to remedy the situation, the previous administration had to import 2.5 million metric tons of the staple, which eventually rotted in some of the warehouses.

Today, Aquino said that because of the efficiency attained in the agriculture sector, the country had to import only 500,000 metric tons.

According to the President, “if we are lucky and our harvest is not damaged by typhoons,” we might be a net exporter of rice in 2013.

The President also mentioned the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he believes that the longed-for peace in Mindanao would be achieved and would become the firm foundation of progress that would eventually spread to “our Muslim brothers in the Southern Philippines.”

Nigeria: Aviation Minister Working Against Kano - Peoples Democratic Party

Kano — Kano State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused Aviation Minister Stella Oduah of deliberately working against the economic development of the state by refusing to grant permit to four airlines to operate in Kano.

The party also called on President Goodluck Jonathan to be wary of the minister's action, which it said was capable of hindering economic development of the whole region.

In a press release issued by Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso's spokesman, Halilu Dantiye, Kano State PDP chairman, Adamu Aliyu Sumaila was quoted as saying that the refusal to grant permits to the four airlines to be flying into Kano runs contrary to Jonathan's transformation agenda.

Aliyu, who was addressing newsmen at the end of the party's quarterly caucus meeting noted that "Turkish Airline, Ethiopian Airline, Emirates Airline and Sky Line have all signified readiness to start operating at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport but have been denied permission by the Minister," the statement said.

"The interest of these airlines in Kano signifies the peaceful nature of the state and its emerging economy," it added.

According to statement, while recalling that Malam Aminu Kano International Airport was the first airport in Nigeria, having been built in 1903, Aliyu appealed to the president to intervene so as to open up this part of the country for vibrant economic activities.

Oduah had in reaction to a story by this paper in August denied reports that she prevented Emirates, Etihad and Turkish Airlines from operating from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.

The minister's spokesman Joe Obi in a statement said, "There is no truth whatsoever in that publication as the minister did not at any time prevent the said airlines from flying to Abuja and Kano.

"On the contrary, the minister has been an advocate of allowing all international airports in the country to operate direct flights. Emirates Airline has never applied for permit to operate into either Abuja or Kano international airports."

From the Sky: Sandy's wrath along New Jersey shore

Pilot Lt. Rebecca Waddington checks the GPS during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flight to document coastal changes after Superstorm Sandy, Thursday, November 1, 2012.
 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It's noisy aboard the King Air turboprop There's a din from the small plane's engines, and wind is whipping through a hole in the floor where a camera is positioned, taking high-resolution photos from the sky of Superstorm Sandy's work. 

 With his laptop in front of him, sensor operator Andrew Halbach helps direct the computer-controlled camera that shoots hundreds and hundreds of photos of New Jersey's devastated shoreline.

The flight is a regular tour for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which charts the coastal changes storms like Sandy cause. The pictures help emergency responders know where they need to go, help coastal managers plan for the future and let homeowners who can't get back yet find out what's left of them.

Thursday's mission, led by pilot Lt. Cmdr. Scott Price, was to chart Sandy's path over New Jersey's decimated southern coast.

Price and pilot Lt. Rebecca Waddington checked cockpit displays for their preplanned flight and took off from Wilmington, Del., using GPS navigation that has the pinpoint accuracy far more precise than found in the average car.

From above, bird's-eye views of the devastation appear through two huge bubble-like windows.

Where the island once separated the bay and the ocean, it's clear from the air that it's all water along Route 35. What used to be roads between the houses are covered in sand.

The Star Jet roller coaster sits in pieces, the boardwalk wiped out.

The images captured are detailed enough that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, instead of going door-to-door to assess damage after tornadoes destroyed areas of Alabama in 2011, often rely on what was shot from the air.

The pictures also help insurance adjusters, scientists and homeowners themselves who may not yet be able to get to their damaged homes.

Price, 35, has been flying the coastal missions after hurricanes and wind events for NOAA for about four years after nine years as a Navy pilot. He also flies hurricane hunters that track the path and intensity of growing storms.

"I get to see both sides, and unfortunately collect imagery on the back side," said Price.

Once back on the ground about four hours later, the crew carefully checks the plane, covers the intakes to keep the clean.

A new mission awaits on Friday: The crew will head to New York's Long Island to see what Sandy left there.

Story and photos:

United States Air Force handout image of operations in response to Hurricane Sandy

Pilots of the Georgia Army National Guard prepare their CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter for a flight carrying the Maryland Urban Search and Rescue Task Force from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey to Staten Island, New York, to conduct house-to-house searches following Hurricane Sandy, November 3, 2012.   Picture taken November 3, 2012.

REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres/Handout (UNITED STATES) 





Shaky finances rattle Nigeria's airline safety

(Reuters) - Passengers arriving at Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a refugee camp.

In a big white tent a throng of people struggle with luggage in the sapping heat and humidity. In front of makeshift service counters they form something that might be a queue but looks more like a scrum.

The only clue that this is one of the most important domestic air terminals serving Africa's second-biggest economy and top oil producer is that many wear business suits.

Terminal Two, where Arik Air has operated out of a tent for a year while repair work goes on, is not the only evidence that Nigerian aviation is in chaos.

In the last four months, Nigeria has seen a plane crash kill 163 people, the collapse of one of its main international airlines and a central bank order banning lenders from giving its main carriers more cash until they repay burgeoning debts.

Documents obtained by Reuters from now defunct Air Nigeria suggest financial mismanagement was largely to blame for its collapse last month, though its owner Jimoh Ibrahim disagrees.

Insiders say other airlines are also in dire financial straits, which could soon have grave consequences for air safety in a country that already has one of the world's worst records.

'Last flight to Abuja', a film about a plane crash caused by mechanical failure, is the longest running box office smash in 'Nollywood', Africa's answer to Hollywood and the world's third biggest film industry.

That film was eerily ready for release just days before a Dana Air flight from Abuja smashed into an apartment block in Lagos in June, killing 153 people on board and 10 more on the ground in the worst airline disaster in Nigeria for two decades, and the first major one for six years.

An investigation into the causes has yet to be completed, though a preliminary report blamed dual engine failure. For some it simply added to the litany of misery in a country already reeling from Islamist insurgency in the north, massive oil theft and multi-billion-dollar corruption scandals.

"I don't fly these days unless I really have to," said Dayosola Odunsi, 56, a businessman, after watching the film. "It raised important air-safety issues. But will anyone listen?"


Nigeria's government has long cherished ambitions of making Lagos a regional transport hub. When British billionaire Richard Branson set up domestic and international carrier Virgin Nigeria in 2000, that dream seemed within reach.

Branson pulled out in 2010 in frustration at what he said was interference by corrupt politicians and regulators.

Yet the economics that lured Virgin to Nigeria still look promising on paper; it has Africa's biggest population, economic growth of around 7 percent year after year, a growing middle class and a small but hugely wealthy elite.

Lagos, the commercial hub, is about 330 miles (530 kilometres) from the political capital Abuja, and both are hundreds of miles from oil-producing regions in the southeast. Roads connecting them are poor. Many Nigerians, as well as foreign oil workers, bankers and other business people have little choice but to fly.

Even with two major airlines suspended in the past four months, nearly 200 domestic flights a day cross Nigeria's skies.

International carriers such as British Airways (ICAG.L) and Virgin Atlantic are making huge profits out of Nigeria.

Yet two years after Branson's exit, the airline he created, rebranded Air Nigeria, closed last month. Ibrahim told Reuters he shut it down because of "unreliable staff".

But former finance director John Nnorom says the company collapsed under about 35 billion naira of debt and could not even pay its staff. He thinks such financial woes are widespread and a real danger to air safety.

"The aircraft we have in Nigeria are flying coffins," he told Reuters. "Many are too old. The ones that aren't are often poorly maintained," he continued, adding that he had tried to petition the aviation ministry after quitting Air Nigeria.

"I told them, if nothing is done ... there will be a plane crash imminently. Days after my mail, Dana's plane crashed."

John Obi, a spokesman for Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, admitted the Dana crash was a "wake-up call" but said safety standards now were more stringent than ever.

"Safety is a process," he said. "We are working day and night to try and ensure Nigerian skies are safe. The Dana crash was tragic, but it was a reminder we still have work to do."


Airlines the world over are suffering from high fuel costs and the weakness of the global economy, but small national flag carriers and private rivals in Africa also have to compete with global giants controlling 70 percent of traffic.

A central bank document shows Nigeria's only other two major domestic carriers are deep in the red. The biggest, Arik, owes 85 billion naira to state-backed "bad bank" AMCON, set up in 2010 to stem a financial crisis.

The other, Aero Contractors, owes AMCON 32.5 billion naira.

Arik's director did not respond to a request to speak to Reuters, and other officials were not available to comment.

All three airlines have one thing in common: ownership by powerful oligarchs, usually with core interests in other things. Ibrahim's Nicon investments is in everything from oil to hotels to insurance. Arik owner Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide has lucrative interests in oil and engineering. The super-rich Ibru family own Aero Contractors but also banks, deluxe hotels and newspapers.

Nnorom accuses Ibrahim of running Air Nigeria like a personal slush fund, even diverting Air Nigeria's share of a 35 billion naira central bank emergency fund set up in 2010.

Ibrahim denies this. He told Reuters Nnorom was a disgruntled employee whom he sacked for embezzling $100,000. Nnorom said it was a spurious, politically motivated accusation and the charges had been dropped.

Nnorom showed Reuters a Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority letter explaining its decision to suspend Air Nigeria in June.

The letter quotes a senior employee as saying "we owe virtually all outstation hotel bills, fuel money, handling charges, facility bills. We do not pay ... for fuel even at the hub here in Lagos. We never depart on time due to finance".

It adds that the company struggles to pay night-stop allowances to staff and that key "service providers are withdrawing their services because we are not paying".

"We sent aircraft for checks, but they came back due (to lack of) funds," the staff member adds.

The authority concludes that such evidence plus Air Nigeria's "cash-and-carry mode of refuelling your aircraft were considered by the Authority as indicative of a situation of dire financial distress, which endangers safe operation".

Ibrahim denies Air Nigeria's debt was his fault. He says it had $370 million of debt when he took it off Virgin and that there had been no impact on safety. He told Reuters he suspected the civil aviation authority suspension was political.


Nnorom thinks airlines routinely lack money to pay for spare parts, maintenance, hangars or handling agents. Air Nigeria had 11 aircraft, 10 of which should not have been flying, he said.

"We could not afford repairs or the changing of engines."

A letter dated September 2010 sent by Air Nigeria to the managing director of United Bank for Africa in Lagos, provided by Nnorum, shows a request to transfer $27 million from the airline's account into the accounts of companies owned by Ibrahim's Nicon Group in Nigeria and Ghana.

Nnorom listed another 6 billion naira worth of transfers he had recorded going from Air Nigeria into Nicon in 2010 and 2011.

"He was taking money out of a company of which he owns only 50 percent and spending it like it was his money," Nnorom said.

When shown the transfers, Ibrahim told Reuters it was above board and he only made them to Nicon to pay it back capital it had sunk into Air Nigeria, on which it had made a huge loss.

Analysts say Nigeria's poorly run airlines reveal a failure by the private sector to make something of deregulation.

"The systematic failure of Nigerian carriers to generate money in a conventional way, as successful companies, highlights something: airlines there have always been treated as a kind of vanity project," said Antony Goldman, head of PM Consulting.

"The companies operating international flights to Nigeria on a commercial basis ... are making huge amounts of money."

Aviation minister Oduah has also been criticized for her handling of the sector's various crises.

Carriers like Ibrahim say her inexperience in the sector - she was in the haulage industry before President Goodluck Jonathan hired her - has led her to focus on the wrong things, like a slow, state-run renovation of the airport, instead of improving finance and tightening up safety standards.

Two months after the Dana crash, she led a delegation to the United States, China and Canada on a "road show" to drum up foreign investment into aviation. Critics called it insensitive and a waste of money. Some officials refused to join her.

Oduah's spokesman John Obi said critics were wrong to blame the sector's woes, especially safety, on her lack of experience.

"When we had those with more technical experience, we had more crashes, so that argument doesn't hold any water," he said.

He added that she was working with the central bank to try to extend cheap finance to the capital-intensive industry and import tax waivers that would help ease the airlines' distress.

If, as industry officials say, the clock is ticking to the next disaster, she has no time to lose. 


Cessna 182RG makes "perfect" belly landing at City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (KCOS), Colorado

A single-engine Cessna 182RG made a belly landing at the Colorado Springs Airport Saturday afternoon. 

Airport Director Mark Earle says the incident happened on the airport's west runway at about 2:45 p.m. Earle says the pilot simply neglected to deploy his landing gear and made a "perfect" belly landing in the middle of the runway. 

The pilot was the only person on board and was not injured.

There is some minor damage to the plane.

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