Friday, November 09, 2012

Nepal Airlines Corporation plans to exchange engines of three Twin Otters

KATHMANDU: Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) might announce a global tender under the engine exchange concept to recover the engines of its three grounded Twin Otter aircraft.

Nepal Airlines Corporation, at present, has sent the engines of the three Twin Otters to a French company.

However, to start the operation of the Twin Otters promptly it is planning to go ahead with the engine exchange concept.

“By adopting the engine exchange concept, we will be able to get a temporary engine to operate the Twin Otters and after the original engine has been repaired, it can be again exchanged with the temporary engine,” said Nepal Airlines Corporation spokesperson Saroj Kasaju.

“We are looking forward to an exchange concept so that we can work quickly and we will also have a few alternatives along with the existing company,” he said.

Among the seven Twin Otters, Nepal Airlines Corporation has given two for charter flights, and three have been grounded due to engine problems. It has only two Twin Otters for its domestic market.

“We are planning to increase our domestic flights and for this we will need to operate all the five Twin Otters soon, after the engines of the three Twin Otters are repaired,” said Kasaju.

According to him, with additional aircraft, the Nepal Airlines Corporation will also increase its flight frequency to 40 daily to Lukla, Pokhara, Jomsom, Jumla, Humla and most of the mountain region, which has very low air connectivity.

Currently, the flights stand at five flights in an average daily.

At present, Nepal Airlines Corporation with two old Twin Otters operates five domestic flights a day and has two aging Boeings for its international flight schedule.

United States, Guyana suspend Ezjet airline

Ezjet airline's operations have been suspended by the United States Department of Transportation (DoT) because the carrier owes huge sums to the aircraft lease company resulting in a number of flight cancellations, officials here said.

“We understand that the genesis of the action by the US Department of Transport resides with actions, requests made via their aircraft provider, Swift Air, with respect to being up-to-speed as it were with respect to payments,” Aviation Minister, Robeson Benn told a news conference.

Benn could not say how much money Ezjet owes Swift Air and over what period . He added that Guyanese authorities were seeking further details about the “unfolding” situation facing the carrier and passengers.

Well-placed aviation industry sources say that the airline has been suspending flights at short notice in recent weeks, with three cancellations alone for this week.

Benn said DoT suspended the airline's operations on Thursday and Guyanese authorities learnt of the move on Friday. Since then, according to Benn, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has suspended Ezjet's scheduled air services on the Georgetown-New York, Georgetown-Toronto and Georgetown routes.

He explained that the GCAA’s suspension of the license is “designed to protect as much as possible any action which would see further ticket sales happening which would impair or hurt people going forward.”

Benn said government was disappointed about Ezjet's misfortunes coming soon after the collapse of regional low-cost carrier, RedJet. "We are unhappy and disappointed that our efforts to bring low-cost aircraft operators into a more competitive environment in our international travel arrangements are for the moment not turning out in the way we expect," he told a news conference.

He said Commerce Minister, Irfaan Ali has been tasked with exploring “relief or assistance” to affected passengers.  Ezjet’s Acting CEO, Rosalinda Rasool is expected to provide Guyanese authorities with a precise number of affected passengers based on forward ticket-sales for promotions and passenger movements.

Ezjet, like other airlines, are required to make a US200,000 deposit that could be used to bail out passengers stranded here.

Whether Ezjet’s license would be cancelled, he said, would depend on whether the carrier can resolve its financial difficulties in the coming days.

The suspension of the carrier comes less than one month after its Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sonny Ramdeo was sued by a hospital chain for allegedly embezzling more than US$5 million into Ezjet.

Ramdeo has since stepped down as CEO of the airline and Rasool named as his acting successor.

Crediting Ezjet with a dramatic impact on the cost of travel, overall improvement in service and an increase in the number of visitors, Benn expected that market forces would impact on the service being provided by other international and regional airlines. “We will have to now work hard again to see to what extent the usual providers would be able to hold their current fares and also to see whether we are still attractive to low cost providers,” he said.

The Aviation Minister said the suspension of Ezjet’s operations “may be a blow to many persons who were hoping to come here for the season so we will reexamine the issue and see what response the market place could have for the peak season coming in.”

Busy 4pm for Dunedin International Airport, New Zealand

 Several flights rescheduled for the same time will cause a "4 o'clock swell" at Dunedin International Airport, so travellers are advised to check in early on summer afternoons.

Airport operations manager Richard Roberts said rescheduled international and domestic flights would put extra pressure on services and space in the airport at 4pm, which he referred to as "the 4 o'clock swell".

The airport terminal was designed to handle 320 people an hour, but from next Thursday more than 505 were expected at 4pm, he said.

The pressure would continue as an extra flight from Brisbane arrived and four domestic flights remained scheduled to arrive within 25 minutes of each other, he said.

The number of flights was the same as last year but the schedules had been aligned, he said.

The passenger swell would occur six days a week but the most pressure would be on Thursdays and Sundays, he said.

Airport chief executive John McCall said flight scheduling was a huge logistical exercise and flight schedules were difficult to change.

The airport terminal capacity of 320 people could be exceeded but then the service level would deteriorate, he said.

Terminal expansion was not economically feasible to meet the extra demand for just one hour a day , he said.

"It would cost millions of dollars ... it's a balancing act between putting in capital and getting productive use out."

However, some existing airport staff would be given extra hours of work to cope with demand, he said.

He recommended outbound passengers check in earlier than their airline recommended to ensure they got through security screening in time.

"You should not leave it to the last minute because there will be more people."

Airport cafes would be under more pressure but would cope, he said.

The extra pressure on car parking would be alleviated by the installation of automatic pay stations inside the terminal so people could pay for car parking before they left the terminal, he said.

More car park exits would make exiting easier, he said.

If the conference rooms were not in use during the busy period, passengers could sit there, he said.

Each airline had scheduled its flights to meet its own needs and the airport had to respond and deliver services to meet those needs, he said.

"With extra resources and with public awareness and understanding, the airport will effectively manage the ebb and flow of the 4 o'clock swell."

Asia Pacific aviation leaders urged to focus on airport, air traffic management infrastructure

KUALA LUMPUR: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged Asia-Pacific aviation leaders to focus on airport and air traffic management infrastructure as the region’s demand for connectivity continues to grow.

Its director general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said ensuring the timely development of sufficient and cost-efficient infrastructure was a priority for the continued successful growth of air transport in Asia Pacific.

He was speaking to delegates at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Assembly of presidents in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“I am not advocating for or against private participation.

“But there have been enough mistakes made when engaging the private sector in airport development.

“These should not be repeated.When governments work with private investors to develop infrastructure, they must establish an effective economic and service-level regulatory framework to ensure that national interest is well protected,” Tyler said.

IATA urged cross-border regional thinking for the development of Asia Pacific Air Traffic Management.

“The Seamless Asian Sky initiative is helping to define the way forward by harmonising procedures and interoperable technology between states, bearing in mind it needs to be cost-efficient at the same time,” he said. — Bernama

‘Amazing’ Gulf airlines

Gulf airlines, growing at an “amazing” pace, have been driving the Middle East’s traffic growth to double digits, according to the International Air Transport Association, or Iata.

The Middle East and North Africa region is a growing force in aviation; over the last decade, the Middle East’s share of global international traffic has risen from about five per cent to about 11.5 per cent, Iata director-general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said.

“The rise of the Gulf carriers is an amazing story. They are leading Middle East traffic growth that is still in the double digits. And even if we look at the less-headline-grabbing carriers in North Africa, we are seeing a healthy demand performance,” said Tyler, while addressing the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, or Aaco, Annual General Meeting in Algiers.

The Iata chief blasted the European Union for pursuing the “unilateral and extra-territorial inclusion” of international aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme.

“It is a roadblock instead of a stepping stone. States outside of Europe see this as a challenge to their sovereignty. This is dividing the world and recklessly risking a trade war,” Tyler said.

Outlining areas in which opportunities exist to further develop aviation in the Mena to benefit the region’s economies, Tyler said aviation should be a catalyst for growth.

“The Gulf area has prospered from big thinking on aviation. In the UAE, for example, a study by Oxford Economics recently concluded that aviation supports some 15 per cent of the gross domestic product, or GDP, and 14 per cent of total employment. Building on world-class infrastructure and business-friendly policies, the Gulf carriers are now extending their reach through alliances, equity stakes and innovative partnerships,” he said.

Tyler called for similar big thinking across North Africa to help spur economic development and GDP growth. “For example, why not move forward with developing a major North African hub?”

He observed that safety is a top priority and global standards such as the Iata Operational Safety Audit, or Iosa, are critical to achieving industry-levels of safety across Mena. “In the first ten months of 2012 there has not been a single Western-built jet hull loss in the Mena region. This is a great achievement,” said Tyler.

“However, if we look at all accidents the picture is different. The accident rate for non-Iosa carriers is trending at about three-and-a-half times worse than those on the registry. This is clear evidence that Iosa improves safety,” said Tyler.

He maintained that rowing traffic in the region must be matched with sufficient airspace capacity. “Mena must avoid the inefficiencies that we see in Europe. There is no room for complacency. In the Gulf, ATM delays are already nearing crisis levels,” he pointed out.

Evolving East-West traffic patterns are creating new challenges across the region, including North Africa, he said. Successfully handling this will require cooperation among states, he added.

Tyler pointed out that sustainability is a key priority for the global aviation industry. Aviation contributes about two per cent to global carbon emissions. He reiterated the industry’s commitments to manage and reduce its carbon emissions.

“No other industry has made tougher commitments to emissions reductions than aviation. We are making good progress toward our targets to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent annually to 2020, cap net emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth, and cut net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005,” he said.


IIT-Kanpur buys Cessna aircraft from United States

KANPUR: Seeking to encourage research and development among students of Aerospace Engineering Department, IIT Kanpur has bought a Cessna aircraft from US worth Rs 2.5 crore.

"To encourage research, and facilitate them in their work this plane has been bought," said R K Sachan, acting Registrar, IIT Kanpur.

The aerospace department has two small planes in their flight lab but these were not enough for the students, he said.

"Cessna has a single engine and it can remain air-borne for around seven hours after fueling," said Sachan.

He was confident that by next month Cessna will be brought to the institute.

Female passenger on Emirates A380 flight from Dubai to Amsterdam dies at Prague Airport

PRAGUE - An official says a female passenger flying from Dubai to Amsterdam collapsed during the flight and died after the plane made an emergency landing at Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport.

Airport spokeswoman Eva Krejci says pilots of the Emirates Airbus A380 asked to land in Prague before noon on Friday.

Krejci says the woman who was not identified died despite the efforts of a rescue team.

She said the plane continued to Amsterdam Friday. No more details were available.

Iran confirms firing at United States drone over Persian Gulf

TEHRAN – Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Friday that an unidentified aircraft entered the airspace over Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf region and was forced to escape after Iranian armed forces took “smart and firm” action.    

Vahidi made the remarks in response to the Pentagon which has said that Iranian fighters have fired at a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf.

The Pentagon claimed on Thursday that Iranian warplanes fired at an unarmed U.S. drone in international airspace last week but did not hit the aircraft, according to Reuters.

According to the timeline provided by the Pentagon, two Iranian Sukhoi SU-25 aircraft intercepted the American drone on November 1 at about 4:50 a.m. EST (0850 GMT) as it conducted a routine, but classified, surveillance mission over Persian Gulf waters about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the aircraft fired multiple rounds at the Predator drone and followed it for at least several miles as it moved farther away from Iranian airspace.

International airspace begins after 12 nautical miles and Little claimed the drone at no point entered Iranian airspace.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri also said on Friday that Iranian armed forces will deal with any aircraft that enters the country’s airspace.

Jazayeri said, “The defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran will give a firm response to any act of aggression from air, land, and sea.”

Dirgantara, Airbus Military to make new aircraft in Bandung, Indonesia

State-owned aircraft maker PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) has signed a deal with Spain-based Airbus Military to revise its proposed C212-400 aircraft to include more seats and new equipment.

The aircraft, to be renamed the NC212, will be offered to both military and civilian customers and come equipped with new avionics and autopilot systems. The NC212 will have 28 passenger seats, up from the current 25.

“We will work together to manufacture and market the NC212 aircraft worldwide, offering modern, very competitive light military and civil aircraft that will result in strengthening the position of PT DI as a leading player in the Southeast Asia region,” PT DI president director Budi Santoso said on the sidelines of the signing ceremony on Thursday during the Indo Defence 2012 Expo & Forum at the JIExpo in Kemayoran, Jakarta.

“The aircraft will be manufactured in our facility in Bandung [West Java]. We are going to spend US$15 million to upgrade the facility to be able to create the new aircraft.”

The companies have had in place joint working teams at PT DI’s facilities in Bandung, including Airbus Military personnel deployed on-site, since October 2011.

Budi said that the firm would like to capture about 30 percent of the total potential market for the medium transport aircraft of 400 to 450 units over the next decade.

“We expect to start production of the new aircraft in the next 18 months, because we need to upgrade our facilities first. We plan to produce five to six aircraft a year,” he added.

Budi said that he was optimistic about grabbing a 30 percent market share since the company had received assistance from the Defense Ministry to promote its products to ASEAN member nations and could also take advantage of Airbus Military’s worldwide networks.

Also at the expo, Ignacio Alonso, Airbus Military’s senior vice president for commercial, strategy and industrial relations for Asia, said the collaboration would yield growth for both companies and that Airbus Military was committed to long-term cooperation with PT DI.

“This is the further proof of our increased cooperation with Indonesia. With the continued support of the Indonesian government, PT DI and Airbus Military will be able to achieve many great things together,” he said.

While the companies have yet to receive external NC212 orders, Alonso said that many customers have shown interest in the aircraft.

“That is why we launched it. We do not have a contract to sign but we have signed a Letter of Intent with different nations,” he added.

PT DI has secured a domestic contract worth Rp 8.2 trillion ($862.64 million) for the purchase of 40 airplanes and helicopters for the Indonesian Military (TNI) this year.

The contract, its largest-ever domestically, calls for nine CN-295 twin-turboprop tactical military transport aircraft and six EC-725 long-range tactical transport helicopters for the Air Force as well as 25 Bell-412EP utility helicopters for the Army.

Last year, PT DI delivered three Bell-412EPs to the Navy, four to the Army and two Eurocopter AS-332 Super Puma four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-size utility helicopters to the Air Force.

New Zealand: Airport fees worry Nelson air services

Air service providers in Nelson are concerned about hikes to landing fees at Wellington International Airport, introduced in April, which could put people's commuting lifestyles at risk.

The airport's landing and terminal charges are up more than 12 percent in the September half-year to more than $30 million, compared with the same period last year.

Earlier this month the Commerce Commission published a report into landing charges, concluding that the current light-touch regulations were allowing Wellington Airport to "extract excessive profits".

The commission said the airport's profit targets between 2013 and 2017 amounted to overcharging of at least $21m, and up to $39m, after the airport opted not to use the commission's formula for calculating charges.

In financial results for the September half-year, out today, the airport's total revenues were up 8.1 per cent to $51.4m.

Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford told Radio NZ the changes would force his company's costs to go up 169 percent over the next five years.

A "peak charge" aimed at busy times, primarily driven by people commuting, was of particular concern.

"They're trying to get rid of small aircraft in the peak times, but we don't want to change our schedule. A lot of the passengers want to fly at that time," he said.

Golden Bay Air chief executive Richard Molloy said current landing fees were at a fixed charge of about $3.80 per passenger, which would ramp up to about $30 per passenger by 2016.

Mr Molloy said if Golden Bay Air added those charges on to its ticket prices, then it would "become unpalatable to our passengers" and put the service - and people's commuting lifestyles - at risk.

The airport said strong growth in the international market saw passenger numbers up 4.2 percent.

Nigeria: Before Another Plane Crash…

By Leke Alder

A few weeks ago, one of the better-known airlines in the country turned back its passenger plane to take-off point because of a technical glitch in midair. It was travelling from Lagos to Abuja. The week before that incident, the same airline disembarked passengers after a 30minute delay on the tarmac. The engines failed. Yet this is one of the most professionally managed airlines in the country.

We all know that all is not well with our aviation industry. The pain from the last air crash lingers on cancerously in our collective memories. There have been 26 crashes in Nigeria’s aviation history. The total number of souls lost, minus ground casualties, is 1,438 with 661 casualties recorded in the last twelve years alone. The first air disaster was the Nigeria Airways BAC VC10 crash on November 20, 1969. It killed 87 people. The last recorded commercial crash was the June 3, 2012 Dana Airlines Flight 9J 992. It killed 153 people. We have a 43 year history with death in our aviation industry.

Perhaps the most traumatic crash was the demise of an entire generation of school children in the Sosoliso Airlines crash of October 29, 2006. Some parents past childbearing age lost all their kids. When death prematurely visits a home, it leaves indelible prints in the hearts of the bereaved.
But the nation also suffers patriotic bereavement when the circumstances of a crash are preventable. The citizens lose faith in government ability.

To be sure, we NEED airlines in the country for pragmatic, economic, political and sociological reasons.  Airlines facilitate the national vision. They aid the development and connectedness of communities. They open the disenfranchised to the marvels of the modern world and engender generational attainment. We need airlines because of the sheer impracticality of total reliance on road transport systems. Our airline industry must not collapse. It will be a tragedy of monumental proportions.

At this juncture, let me commend the efforts of the Ministry of Aviation in revamping the look and feel of some of our airports. Whatever our level of cynicism, it is a step in the right direction. We tend to underestimate the role of ambient aesthetics in our perspective on patriotism. How the average Emirati must feel about Dubai Airport! And surely the glowing, golden, scarlet and palm frond motifs on the tails of the forests of planes belonging to Emirates Airlines must inspire national pride. We need a national carrier, even if just for patriotic sentiments. The value of patriotism is unquantifiable.

Several suggestions have been put forward on how to improve the health of our aviation sector. I do not have a comprehensive grasp of all that has been suggested but one or two are clearly not feasible. A forced merger of airlines will not work. The idea of a forced merger is oft paralleled along the lines of the restructuring of the banking industry, but forced mergers have their problems. What you don’t want in an airline corporation are boardroom wrangles. When there is no corporate cohesion on the board of a bank money is lost, but in an airline lives will be lost. When capitalized egos clash in the boardroom, Nigerians will suffer.

The factors afflicting our aviation industry are myriad. They include lack of access to inexpensive capital, poor corporate structures, poor management systems, weak board oversight, poor local infrastructure, sky-high cost of fleet maintenance, poor IT infrastructure, dollarization of maintenance costs against local currency earnings, a dearth of highly skilled professionals across the service spectrum, high cost of aviation fuel, poor regulatory oversight, corruption, lack of standards, insensitive customer service culture, poor market accountability, limited competitiveness, pygmy national will, the missing national aviation vision, poor disaster response systems and our negative attitudinal disposition to maintenance culture. Regulatory oversight alone will not solve the problems of the aviation sector. Neither will the throwing of money at our airlines. Poor management will fritter such resources away. We need a more strategic approach. Policy makers must sit down with regulatory experts, finance professionals, airline infrastructure consultants, business consultants of different hues, IT professionals, security experts, civil society and consumer advocacy groups. Without an aggregation of brains and expertise we will never have an end-to-end solution. A holistic and all-encompassing blueprint must be developed and an execution framework mapped out. Aviation works for the good of a nation when the framework is end-to-end: from policy to infrastructure to financing to management to security to consumer experience.

A minimum level of capitalization must be required of airline corporations. The threshold must be high enough to prevent ego-driven charlatans, whilst the structure must prevent over-leveraged corporate promoters.

Ideas have been flown about the financing of younger fleet for our airlines.  Paying leasing corporations directly instead of giving cash directly to the airlines to purchase aircraft will address the issue of corporate malfeasance; it will not solve the problem of cost of capital. And we need to sort out the maths. Net taxes, operating costs, landing fees, personnel cost, cost of capital, maintenance, cost of fuel, do our airlines have enough income to operate? Can their cash flow profiles support loans for the acquisition of younger fleet? Our pricing regime convolutes issues.

Since it’s not market driven we have to be mindful of the consequences of such populism. One, our airlines can only be successful when they have a very significant number of planes. They must have economies of scale to succeed. Two, the market must be large enough to sustain such economies of scale. Three, all our airlines are effectively budget airlines. Four, the cost of operations must become lower and taxes reduced to create more margins.

The reality of our operating environment is that the benefit to the consumer can only be sustained through market forces. There must be a sizable number of serious players to create competition, or else we’re going to end up with an oligopoly. Because of the high cost of entry into the aviation market it’s going to be difficult to get that many players who are well resourced. As it is, only the Federal Government has the wherewithal to set up an airline with 70 planes or more. Therefore, we need a national carrier to create aviation markets, foster competiveness, close gaps of development, develop local economies and bring succor to the millions who are forced to use the road transport network with its over-burdensomeness and attendant carnage.

The primary purpose of a national carrier is not profitability (though it must be run efficiently and profitably). It serves strategic intents. But a national carrier will not succeed in Nigeria without a concrete wall of partition between management and government. Political interference kills business ventures.

The point being made is that we need to go further to develop our aviation industry. It’s not just the newness of fleet that will prevent disaster though it will certainly help, the quantity of planes and the quantity of effective competitors matter. So does the size of the market.

We are underinvested in aviation as a nation. We need maintenance hangars for at least mid-level servicing needs. The cost of maintenance is killing our airlines. Our training facilities tend to be focused on pilot and airspace management training. We need more than these though we need an upgrade of existing pilot training facilities. We also need a comprehensive School of Aviation Management.

As against throwing money at airlines why don’t we set up an Aviation Leasing Corporation to reduce the cost of capital for our airlines and serve as middleman between international finance and the airline industry? If we want to fix our aviation industry we must think about institutions and take a long term view.  Bulk buying of planes drives down unit cost. The cost of operations of this corporation must initially be guaranteed by the federal government in order to rescue our local airlines. As the corporation grows however the profit from its international operations can then be used to subsidize our local airline industry. The aviation leasing company can also cushion the attendant higher cost of accessing international finance occasioned by Nigeria’s image problem. This leasing company must be international in scope and professionally managed.

There is also the need to tackle corruption at various levels of our aviation industry but our biggest challenge remains the need to articulate an aeronautical vision that feeds into, and delivers on the national vision. It is not exactly clear what we want to be as a nation, or what interests our airlines should serve. Aviation is not an orphan industry. Neither is it ever just about transportation. We know what the airline industry means to the Kingdom of England.

Think BA. We see what role it plays in the overall economic and political strategy of the UAE. We see the Singaporean model. Airlines are inextricably linked to national vision. What do we want to be as a nation? What is the strategic hub of our economic vision? How can our aviation industry serve this vision? Without this I am afraid, we shall continue to lust after palliatives and resort to short-term measures.

Leke Alder is a brand strategy consultant. He served on the board of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

‘Manpower Development, Key To Improved Aviation’

Managing Director of Mish Aviation, Ibrahim Mshelia has said that manpower development in the aviation sector was one of the key factors to improving aviation in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

Mshelia made this known in his presentation/career talk,’ The Exciting World of Aviation’ to children of Olashore International School, Iloko, Osun state

According to the aviator who has had three decades in the industry, 63 per cent of captains flying today would be retired in the next five years, so massive training of core aviation manpower was needed in the country.

He said that for now, government was concentrating on upgrading the airports and other infrastructure and was doing extremely well and asked state governments to also take the bull by the horn and train at least 20 students from each state as it will go a long way to ameliorate the problem.

He explained that in Nigeria, the plum jobs of piloting and engineering was fast becoming the one for expatriates alone and said that the trend could be changed if children become more interested in aviation to want to delve into the field.

He further said the civil aviation involved manufacturing of aircraft and airline operations but in Africa there was no aircraft production which limits the field to airline operations, which he said was also lucrative.
Mshelia told the students that the professional fields they could enter in aviation included piloting, engineering, air traffic controlling and even becoming cabin executives.

These fields, he explained, opened a wide variation of opportunities to enthusiasts who want to go into the field.

Bosnia to reinvestigate late Macedonian president's plane crash

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia will reinvestigate a plane crash that killed Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in 2004 because of new evidence in the case, a government official said on Friday, after Macedonian media said there were suspicions he had been assassinated.

Trajkovski and eight others were killed in the crash, which happened on the approach to an airport near the Bosnian town of Mostar. At the time, Bosnian investigators said pilot error was to blame.

Trajkovski is remembered as the man who brought peace to Macedonia when it was on the brink of an ethnic war in 2001. He and his entourage had been flying to Mostar for an economic conference.

Some local media had quoted a lawyer for Trajkovski's family as saying the plane had been brought down by a missile, an allegation for which the family had not previously been able to provide evidence.

Other reports questioned the role of SFOR, the NATO peacekeeping force which was in control of Mostar airport at the time, saying it had concealed evidence.

Omer Kulic, an official at Bosnia's Transport Ministry, said the ministry has decided to form an investigative commission by the end of the year to study new evidence that had been unearthed by Macedonian investigators.

"They have come to some new findings and facts that shed new light on the accident and we want to clarify them," Kulic told Reuters. "We have concluded that there are enough elements to start a new investigation."

He declined to speculate on the nature of the new evidence.

Experts from the United States, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia would join the new investigative team, Kulic said.