Thursday, November 08, 2012

Nigeria: Federal Government to install monitoring device in domestic aircraft

The Federal Government is set retrofit all aircraft flying in the nation’s airspace with a new device that will enable the authorities track abnormalities in their performances whenever they are flying, the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, has said.

The new equipment called, Automatic Flight Information Reporting System, will enable the NCAA record and monitor abnormalities encountered by airplanes during flights from a remote centre.

Demuren, who made the disclosure at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos on Thursday during the inaugural flight ceremony of a new domestic carrier, MedView Airlines, said the new device would serve as a backup in the event of loss of data contained in aircraft’s black boxes.

The plan came on the heels of the loss of data contained in the black box of the Dana Air plane that crashed in Iju area of Lagos on June 3, 2012, killing 163 people. The data loss has adversely affected investigation into the cause of the dual engine failure experienced by the ill-fated Dana flight.

According to the NCAA boss, the regulatory agency will make the installation of the new device in aircraft a compulsory requirement for all domestic airlines, adding that it would be included in carriers’ minimum equipment list.

He said, “The new device will record everything that happens to an aircraft during flight. If there is engine failure, it will record it; if there is excessive temperature, it will record it. If there is excessive vibration, it will record it.

“All airlines will be required to fix this on board their aircraft. The control centre will be at the NCAA, where we will be seeing everything. This is a good development in our airspace.”

Demuren said Medview was issued an Air Operators Certificate after demonstrating acceptable safety standards to the regulatory agency, and wished the management of the airline “zero accident and zero fatality.”

Speaking at the ceremony, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akinolu, said the coming of the new carrier into the scheduled domestic airline business could not have come at a better time.

He, however, called on the government to begin the process of offering soft loans to domestic airlines to enable them buy more airplanes and float formidable carriers.

The Managing Director, MedView, Mr. Muneer Bankole, said the carrier was committed to maintaining high safety standards in all its operations.

He said the airline would take delivery of more airplanes in the months ahead.

The event was witnessed by several dignitaries from within and outside the aviation sector.

Don't let Kingfisher Airlines fly, Directorate General of Civil Aviation asked

NEW DELHI: Grounded Kingfisher Airlines' (KFA) wings are getting increasingly clipped each passing day, raising doubts over its ability to fly again. Now, GVK-backed Mumbai International Airport(MIAL) asked DGCA not to allow KFA to fly again till its clears its dues of Rs 23 crore. MIAL has also sought de-recognition of KFA's seven planes parked in Mumbai.

This letter is bad news for KFA as aviation authorities are first going to speak to various agencies whom the airline owes money to seek their views of whether it can fly again. Unless the airline is able to substantially clear dues to all vendors, service providers and employees or convince them that it would do so with a plan, the DGCA is unlikely to revoke KFA licence suspension.

"Since last November, KFA has been flying in fits and starts. That can't be permitted. Unless they are able to maintain their schedule with full safety, there is no point letting it fly again," said sources.

The GMR-backed Delhi and Hyderabad airports have already taken KAF to court over dues. State-run AAI has done the same. "We have had enough of promises and plans. The airline management must cough up cash and securitize all dues. It should not expect other stakeholders to fund the airline's operations," said an airport operator.

Oba Akiolu Wants Federal Government To Grant Soft Loans To Airline Operators

Oba Rilwanu Akiolu I of Lagos, on Thursday appealed to the Federal Government to grant soft loans to airline operators, to enable them buy new aircraft.

Akiolu made the appeal at an event to commemorate the commencement of domestic commercial flights by Med-View Airline, at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja.

The event came as the airline also had its inaugural flight from Lagos to Abuja and Port-harcourt.

According to Akiolu, traveling by air is the safest and fastest mode of transportation the world over.

"Many people would want to patronize it when they know the airlines have new aircraft.’’

He urged the government to assist the airlines to make this a reality.

Dr Harold Demuren, the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), who also spoke at the event, added that the 'soft and low digit loans' being proposed for airline operators was for them to buy new aircraft.

"They are expected to pay the loans back to the banks through the automated revenue collection points.

"The banks would separate the deposit into aviation fuel money, parking and landing fees, and what would go to the aircraft manufacturers.

"Through that, both the operators and the country would be credit worthy,’’ he said.

Demuren commended the management of Med-View for their patience and professionalism  in the last 18 months.

"During the period, Med-View obtained its Air Operation Certificate (AOC) and attained the 50 hours demonstration flight period without carrying any passengers as required by international regulating rules,’’ he said.

Demuren charged the airline to adhere strictly to NCAA regulations before, during, and after each flight.

 He said that NCAA planned to certify more airlines as soon as they crossed the AOC hurdles.

"With the coming of Med-View, the traveling public will have more airlines to travel with-- alongside Arik, Aero and IRS,’’ he said.                            

Demuren told the gathering that NCAA was also planning to instal Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) on board all aircraft in Nigeria, as obtained all over the world.

"With that facility, it would be easy to detect any snag on any aircraft, in case of accident or incident during flight or on ground, and would improve service being provided by airlines,’’ he said.

Kenya: 'Less qualified’ pilots used to fly VIPs

 The Commission of Inquiry probing the copter crash heard that “less qualified” police pilots were used for VIP transport.

Executive Director of the Kenya Association of Air Operators, Colonel Karumba Waithaka, said an audit report by a committee of experts on the Police Airwing showed pilots without the required qualifications undertook VIP flights.

Col Waithaka was the chairperson of the experts that handed over the report to the late minister in November last year. The report has not been made public.

“We found out pilots holding private license were assigned to fly VIPs, which is rather unusual in aviation practice. That license is the lowest in the field,” he said.

He explained that flying has categories of licenses beginning with the Private Pilot’s License, followed by the Commercial Pilot’s License, which is the second highest. The highest is the Airline Pilot Transport License.

The expert said less qualified pilots were also used in flying on remote and dangerous missions.

In response to questions from lawyer Fredrick Ngatia, for the late Prof George Saitoti’s family, the expert said the Airwing should develop a clear policy on transporting VIPs by assigning the most qualified pilots.

Grounded aircraft


Waithaka added safety systems at the Airwing as well as maintenance procedures needed to be improved urgently.

The Airwing has many grounded aircraft, thanks to long procurement procedures within the Government to get spares. The report recommended the police be exempted from the official procurement regulations to enable them get spares directly from manufacturers.

“All their aircraft were uninsured and that was a major concern to us. We recommended that they be insured immediately,” he said.

“If the report is made public and implemented fully, it would make the Kenya Police Airwing a viable and safe entity,” he said.

The report finalized in April last year has since remained under wraps.  Airwing Commandant Col Rodgers Mbithi lamented he has never received the report.

Waithaka also called on the Government to release all aircraft accident reports rather than sitting on them or releasing them after editing.

“The reports would help air operators trace how mistakes happened and prevent recurrence of the same. The move would boost aviation safety. It is not a matter of passing blame,” he said.

The report finalised in April last year has since remained under wraps.  Airwing Commandant Col Rodgers Mbithi lamented he has never received the report.

Waithaka also called on the Government to release all aircraft accident reports rather than sitting on them or releasing them after editing.

“The reports would help air operators trace how mistakes happened and prevent recurrence of the same. The move would boost aviation safety. It is not a matter of passing blame,” he said.

Airports Company of SA blamed for 1time demise

Johannesburg - The Airports Company of SA (Acsa) was blamed on Thursday for low-cost airline 1time's demise.

1time was put under provisional liquidation by the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday after a failed attempt to rescue the business.

Business rescue allows companies in financial distress to be rehabilitated under supervision and subject to a court order.

"Acsa was only interested in recovering all its debts without considering the ripple effect this might have on the airline's operations," said 1Time's business rescue practitioner Gerhard Holtzhauzen.

Acsa was the airline's largest creditor, claiming R147m, and had an "overall negative attitude".

The company forced 1time to pay for current services in cash the day after service was rendered, and in advance over weekends and public holidays.

"The aforementioned payment terms constrained 1time's cash flow," Holtzhauzen said.

"To make matters worse the reconciliation done by Acsa set off payments received to historic debts, despite the historic claims being ring-fenced."

As a result, shareholders were reluctant to take up a rights issue in 1time Holdings, which would have boosted the struggling airline by about R80m.

A major international airline company had expressed interest in acquiring the airline. But the timing and transfer of the business, as well as its short term cash requirements, had caused it to back out.

In addition, 1time's old aircraft were not nearly as fuel efficient as more recent models.

With fuel costs constantly rising, this put additional strain on the business's profitability.

"In the early stages of the business rescue process, ticket sales were on an acceptable level to sustain the airline's daily operations," he said.

Later, ticket sales decreased, contributing to the loss of profitability and higher cost to keep the aircraft in the air.

Last Friday, 1time had an operating cash shortfall, which would have increased the following week.

"The impact decision to ground all aircraft and suspend the service with immediate effect was taken to ensure that 1time's safety would not be compromised," Holtzhauzen said.

As a result, minimal warning was given, and operations were shut at 15:00.

Provisional liquidators Hannes Muller and Aviwe Ndyamara, from Tshwane Trustess, would now take over from Holtzhauzen.

Provisional liquidators can recommend to the court the liquidation order be lifted and the company resuscitated, or that the airline be placed in final liquidation.

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Cabinet agrees to sell 10% stake in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd

New Delhi: The cabinet agreed to sell a 10% stake in state-owned aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), a senior minister said on Thursday.

Science and technology minister, Jaipal Reddy, did not clarify on the timeline of the divestment or on the price the government expects to receive on the stake sale.

Government plans to sell stakes in 15 state-run firms by March 2013 and looks to raise Rs.30,000 crore from the sales to help plug a yawning gap in the fiscal budget.

Sudan rebels say downed Antonov plane in oil state

(Reuters) - Rebels in Sudan's main oil state said on Thursday they had shot down a government Antonov military aircraft after it had bombed targets in the territory's Nuba mountains area.

Sudan's armed forces spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Insurgents from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) said in an emailed statement they had downed the aircraft around 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Wednesday in South Kordofan state's Jau area, near the border with South Sudan.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claim. Sudan restricts journalists' access to South Kordofan, where fighting between rebels and government forces broke out shortly before South Sudan seceded last year.

"Before it was downed, it (the Antonov) carried out air strikes on various areas in the Nuba mountains," the SPLM-N statement said.

Rebels in South Kordofan fought alongside southern insurgents during decades of civil war fuelled by oil, ethnicity and religion. Their state was left inside Sudan when South Sudan declared independence under the 2005 peace deal that ended that conflict.

They say they are now fighting to protect their ethnic minority from persecution by Sudan's government. Khartoum accuses them of trying to sow chaos at South Sudan's behest.

Fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, another state bordering South Sudan, has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since last year. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the region as food stocks dwindle.

The violence has also complicated talks between Sudan and South Sudan over oil, border security, debt and other issues left over from partition.

The rebels said they had also killed 10 government soldiers and destroyed four gun-mounted Landcruisers in an ambush on Wednesday morning between the villages of Hajar-Jawad and Angarko in the northern part of the state.

The SPLM-N said one of its fighters was killed and another two wounded in the assault.

Sudan's 1983-2005 civil war killed an estimated 2 million people and devastated much of the country's south.

Norwegian Air to launch long-haul business

OSLO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle will launch long-haul operations next year with flights to Bangkok and New York, taking on battered Nordic carrier SAS on yet another front.

Norwegian will start the new services from its bases in Oslo and Stockholm in the second quarter when it receives the first of eight Boeing 787 Dreamliners. One-way tickets to New York will start at 999 Norwegian crowns ($170).

It will also establish a base in Bangkok where it can operate at a much lower cost, the company said on Thursday.

Norwegian has been a rare success story in an industry struggling with high costs, expensive fuel and crippling legacy costs. It placed the biggest-ever aircraft order by a European airline this year with a deal for 222 planes worth $21.5 billion at list prices.

While Norwegian thrives - its fleet will grow 18 percent next year - rival SAS has been trying to come up with a restructuring plan to keep its creditors on board.

SAS, which has not made a full-year profit since 2007, aims to sell assets totaling around 3 billion Swedish crowns ($447 million).

Dana Air to acquire new aircraft, assures on safety

Dana Airlines has begin talks with aircraft manufacturers to renew its fleet of aircraft, but declined to state which aircraft type it would acquire.

The airline also assured Nigerians of safety, saying foreign auditors and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, had subjected its existing aircraft to serious airworthiness scrutiny, preparatory to start of operations.

Dropping the hint yesterday, Head Commercial of Dana Airlines, Mr. Obi Mbanuzuo, who led a delegation of the airline on a courtesy visit to Vanguard, said the measure was to further boost public confidence in the airline, especially against the backdrop of public hysteria for old aircraft.

He said: “Our airplanes have been flying under the inspection of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, to check that everything is operationally ready and the aircraft are air worthy.

“We also have a lot of auditing by NCAA to look at our airplane. We also got foreign auditors involved to come and audit our airplanes, just to instill confidence.

“Very soon, our Air Operators Certificate, AOC, would be received, which will enable Dana Airlines commence operation.

“We are also looking at renewing our fleet with more modern and newer aircraft for operational reasons and not because our current fleet of aircraft are not safe for operations.”

Scare at Indira Gandhi International Airport, 4 aircraft in mix-up

New Delhi  -  An alert Air Traffic Control (ATC) averted a major accident involving four aircraft at the Indira Gandhi International Airport late on Monday evening.

Officials said the pilot of a small aircraft misread the instructions of the ATC and moved towards Runway 28-10 around 7 pm.

At the time, a Jet Airways (Boeing 737) was on the runway awaiting instructions for take-off, another Jet Airways plane was in the air preparing for landing and a private aircraft was moving towards the taxi-way after landing.

After noticing the movement of private unscheduled aircraft, ATC alerted pilots of both Jet Airways aircraft — one was told to abort take-off and the other was asked to “go around as the runway was occupied”.

Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra said it was a “minor incident”. “The situation was handled well, no inquiry has been set up in this regard,” Mishra told Newsline.

According to airport sources, the pilot of the private unscheduled aircraft with call sign VT-LTA entered Runway 28 by misreading an ATC instruction, which was meant for another plane with call-sign VT-CLA. ATC officials said the confusion was because of “similar sounding” call signs.

“When VT-CLA, a Cessna 560 of AR Airways, was asked to vacate runway on landing, the pilot of VT-LTA (a Hawker Beechcraft 900XP of L&T Aviation Services), which was crossing over to Terminal 1-D from Terminal-3, misread the instruction and got on the runway,” an ATC official said.

The Jet Airways Boeing 737 was ready for take-off to Doha, and another aircraft of the same airline was approaching from Chennai to land in Delhi, ATC sources said.

A senior ATC official said it as a case of runway incursion, a common phenomenon that is routinely handled by the ATC.

Outspoken Ryanair chief claims 'useless' seat belts on planes won't save lives and calls for standing room only on flights

Seat belts on airplanes are pointless and will not save passengers in a crash, the chief executive of Ryanair has claimed.

Michael O'Leary claims legislation forcing passengers to wear seat belts is unnecessary and wants to introduce 'standing room only' sections on flights.

'Seat belts don't matter,' O'Leary said.

'You don't need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don't need a seatbelt on trains which are traveling at 120mph and if they crash you're all dead,' he added.

He told the Telegraph that the argument that seatbelts can stop injuries during turbulence doesn't apply as Europe doesn't have areas of excessive turbulence.

According to the newspaper, O'Leary's remarks came as he attempts to make low-cost 'standing room only' cabins a reality. He says he is being obstructed by aviation authorities, who he branded 'plonkers'.

He has suggested removing the back ten rows of seats in aircraft, allowing groups of less discerning travelers to commute to their destination on their feet for as little as £1.

He added: 'The problem with aviation is that for 50 years it's been populated by people who think it's a wondrous sexual experience... when it's really just a bus with wings.'

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Airline SAS says made progress in survival plan

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Airline SAS has made progress in talks with banks and on cutting costs and selling assets, the company said on Thursday about efforts aimed at ensuring its survival.

While negotiations are being finalized, the company said it would delay reporting its full third quarter results, which had been due on Thursday. A new announcement, including the results, would come no later than Nov. 12, it said.

"SAS has materially advanced these negotiations and the plan, and both are expected to be finalized within a few days," the Scandinavian airline said in a statement.

SAS has already published preliminary figures showing it made a pretax profit of 568 million crowns in the third quarter.

But SAS has not made a full-year profit since 2007 and has said its turn-around plan is expected yield approximately 3 billion crowns ($447.5 million) in earnings before tax. It also aims to sell assets totaling around 3 billion crowns.

A source told Reuters last week SAS is looking to sell its Ground Handling unit. Media have also reported the airline's frequent flyer scheme, Eurobonus, is up for sale.

Pilots at SAS's Norwegian unit Wideroe have said they would like to buy that airline if SAS is willing.

SAS announced at the end of last month it was in negotiations with creditors to extend financing and that it was planning sweeping changes to cut costs.

Other airlines are also in trouble, with Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa planning to shed jobs. British Airways and Iberia parent IAG are expected to set a new restructuring plan for Iberia.

But SAS also faces a hit from pension accounting changes, meaning a pension shortfall could effectively wipe out its shareholder equity when new rules come in November 2013.

Analysts believe the airline might have to raise more capital after share issues in both 2009 and 2010.

On Wednesday, sources told Reuters the Danish government was not discussing more cash for SAS. ($1 = 6.7040 Swedish crowns)

Mandela’s medical crew not in crash

Eastern Cape - The South African National Defence Force has denied a report that the aircraft that crashed at the Mthatha airport, in the Eastern Cape, was transporting former president Nelson Mandela's medical personnel.

“This activity had no connection to the medical support that is normally rendered to the former president… The plane was not transporting medicine or his (Mandela's) doctors,” Brig-Gen Xolani Mabanga said on Thursday.

He said it was not yet clear how many people were on the plane when it crash-landed at the airport on Wednesday morning.

On Thursday, the DispatchOnline reported that 16 people, including pilots and doctors, were taken to hospital for medical check-ups after the SANDF military aircraft crash-landed.

Eastern Cape police said it was not clear what caused the crash, and that the aircraft had sustained some damage.

“The engine was damaged, as well as the right wing and propeller,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela.

He said an investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of the incident. - Sapa