Saturday, August 31, 2013

Flight instructor: Panic to blame in most crashes

While air travel is a routine part of their personal or professional life for many, the recent plane crash that killed a local business owner — and nine other incidents involving aircraft over Amarillo in the last five years — bring attention to what factors contribute to their safety in the skies.

Shortly after takeoff on July 25, Ben Harned IV, 53, experienced trouble with one of the engines in his Piper PA-30, and attempted to return to Tradewind Airport.

“The pilot radioed that he was having problems with the airplane’s left engine and that he was going to return to the airport,” the report said. “The controller asked if he wanted to declare an emergency, and the pilot responded that he had the airport in sight and the left engine stopped. The controller followed the airplane on radar until it disappeared from the radar screen.”

Five minutes after take-off, the plane crashed nose-first in the 2100 block of South Mirror Street, clipping a mobile home on the way down and killing Harned, who owned Performance Motors of Amarillo, but lived in Tyler.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, three of the 10 incidents, including Harned’s crash, were fatal, while the remaining seven reports were a result of hard or forced landings or small mechanical problems.

Josh Collier, a flight instructor and owner of Coyote Flight Centers in Amarillo, said fatalities can be avoided in most cases “if a pilot just remembers to fly the plane.”

“If you look in the NTSB database, you will see that with the majority of accidents, the reports show that the pilot lost control of the airplane, Collier said.

“That simply means that the pilot allowed the situation and circumstances to dictate the outcome instead of controlling their actions and guiding the situation.”

Collier said he and his instructors stress safety to their students above anything else. Along with in-flight training, they offer courses in aeronautical decision making, airports and operational and flight safety.

“We teach our students at Coyote to pay attention. We want them to think ahead and in doing so, they never create situations they can’t get out of,” he said. “We drill certain ideas into their heads, like ‘just fly the airplane,’ because if you remember to do that, you have a three out of four chance of surviving a plane crash.”

But safety doesn’t end and begin with the pilot. Airports are essential in aiding pilots with air traffic, weather conditions and landing safety.

“There are standards that pilots are aware of when coming into our airport,” Tradewind Airport Manager Tom Spanel said. “Although pilots aren’t required to talk to our airport when landing, we are there to help in any way when an emergency arises. Once a pilot lets us know they need our help, we can clear air traffic and help guide them into a landing.”

In May, the Federal Aviation Administration published research findings from a study conducted on reducing general aviation accidents. The leading cause for fatal plane crashes was loss of control inflight.

“However, the general aviation fatal accident rate appears to have remained relatively static based on the FAA’s flight-hours estimates,” the report said.

The NTSB reported a total of 494 fatal aviation accidents in 2011 compared to 32,367 motor accidents in the same year. Statistically speaking, flying is safer then ground transportation.

Hayden Hutchens, a commercial pilot who received his license from Coyote, agreed. “I feel the aviation community is completely safe. You only hear about the big crashes, because they are so rare. I feel much more safe flying than I do driving, because of all the safety measures put into place.”

Journey to pilot's license lengthy: Coyote Flight Centers at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (KAMA), Amarillo, Texas

When obtaining a pilot’s license, learning to fly the plane might be the easiest part.

Federal training requirements include learning to fly the aircraft, maintenance upkeep and multiple hours of on-ground safety preparation, said Josh Collier, a flight instructor and owner of Coyote Flight Centers in Amarillo.

The journey starts with the procurement of a private pilot’s license. From there, students can gain instrument ratings, a commercial license or become an instructor. The cost of obtaining all these certifications can soar to an estimated $40,000.

A private license requires 40 hours of training within an aircraft, 20 with an instructor and 10 in solo flight.

Armed with this license, a pilot is permitted to fly anywhere in the United States and may carry passengers and cargo, but cannot fly for compensation or hire or fly in or near clouds.

An instrument-rated pilot has the same limitations, but is allowed to fly in the clouds.

Fifty hours of cross-country flying must be logged, along with 40 hours of simulated or actual instrument training and 15 hours of
instructor-supervised learning.

Only a commercial license allows a pilot to carry passengers for compensation. That license requires an additional written test and more than 300 hours more than initial training standards.

Coyote Flight Centers offers private and instrumental training. Collier said the firm hopes to acquire a complex aircraft for commercial and instructor ratings.

Original article:

Riverside, California: Air museum seeks volunteer docents

Joe Onesty flew 27 missions during World War II.

Seven decades later, the 88-year-old needs reinforcements.

Onesty is in charge of finding volunteer docents at the P-38 Museum next to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside. The museum houses the history of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a classic World War II military aircraft.

“The mission is needed badly,” Onesty said in an interview at the museum.

The Seal Beach resident has about a dozen docents he calls on for help.

But he said it’s hard getting volunteers to show up on a regular basis.

Onesty had two World War II vets who were docents. One is in his 90s. The other lives in Oceanside and doesn’t come anymore, Onesty said.

“I’m usually the only one here,” he said.

He said anyone can be a docent.

“They don’t need a military background. They can just like airplanes,” he said.

Onesty said it’s helpful if they have an interest in and knowledge of the P-38. But it’s not required.

He needs docents 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, when the museum is open.

Onesty said he’ll teach docents whatever they need to know.

“We want to educate the younger generation about the plane,” he said.

The museum has displays containing photos, antiques and memorabilia related to the P-38 and World War II. A full-sized P-38 replica greets visitors entering the hangar just south of the March Field Air Museum.

Onesty served in the 48th Fighter Squadron. He pointed to a helmet he contributed to the collection. It’s housed in a glass case along with a map of Italy he used in 1945.

He moved on to a display about fighter pilot Dick Bong, the “Ace of Aces,” who shot down a record 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II.

Ron Smith joined Onesty to talk about the P-38 National Association. The nonprofit is dedicated to preserving the memory of the P-38. Smith, past president of the association, said there are about 900 members nationwide.

“It’s amazing how many people come in and say, ‘This has been my favorite plane since I was a kid,’” said Smith, a 75-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident.

Jeremy Suh took a detour to visit the museum on the way from Barstow to his home in the San Fernando Valley.

“It’s well worth it,” said Suh, 42. “It’s educational. There’s a lot of history here as well.”

Information about becoming a docent at the P-38 Museum is available by calling Joe Onesty at 562-431-2901.

Story and Photos:

Will Sólyom Hungarian Airways become the new Malév or not?

The first two aircraft of Sólyom Hungarian Airways will return to Hungary by the end of this week, but the new carrier’s destinations remain confidential. CEO József Vágó has only revealed in an interview with local news portal on Friday that the routes of the country’s collapsed national airline Malév were found largely acceptable and that they were thinking destinations in the Balkans too. He also said the identity of the mysterious Middle Eastern investor behind Sólyom (Falcon) could be revealed already next month. What seems certain at this juncture, Vágó said, is that the airline could keep going on "laughing" for one or two years even with losses.

Where will the falcon fly?

The first leased aircraft of Sólyom Hungarian Airways - a Boeing B 737-500 type aircraft with code HA-SHA - arrived to Budapest on 18 August. A few hours later, though, it left again for Bournemouth (UK) for parts. The carrier leased six (23-year-old) aircraft of the above type from the Bournemouth-based European Aviation so far and plans to operate a fleet of 12 birds by the end of this year, Boeing and Airbus types too. Initially the planes will have 110 seats, but talks are in progress with Airbus on 180-seat aircaft too.

Although Vágó would not reveal their business plan, he did divulge that they have found the now defunct Malév’s routes and schedules largely appropriate for Sólyom too therefore their destinations and transit offers would be similar. Sólyom will fly to destinations that were not available before, which means Balkan States could be added to the offered routes again. Long-haul flights will be key in the business plan. Management expect 40% of the passengers to be generated by transit traffic which number could go up to70% by 2017 when long-haul flights kick in.
Let’s assume that these flights could be operated profitably. When Malév collapsed all the airlines - including low-cost/low-fare airlines - present in Budapest capitalized on the carrier’s demise and grabbed whatever routes they could. Hence the question: how come that those who have keeping a very close eye on the markets and are flexible enough to take up destinations just for the sake of trying whether it works or not had chosen to stay away from some of Malév’s former destinations. Also, in order to reach economies of scale at long-haul flights a carrier needs a large fleet, many routes and lots of passengers. It was exactly the lack of these that killed every effort by Malév to profit from long-haul flights.

This is how Sólyom could become profitable...

Vágó said Malév had been operating fundamentally well and its collapse had been brought about by financial reasons; more precisely by its massive debts and the huge interest burden on these loans, whereas operations and sales were profitable.
This is an interesting remark considering that Malév has not been profitable at an operating level for a long long time.

Vágó promises Sólyom’s cost level to be 64% below Malév’s bills, while giving higher salary to pilots than the former national carrier. The airline plans to achieve that goal by insourcing everything it possibly can, using book keeping and payroll services, for instance, as holding services which may be deducted from the tax and savings are also to be achieved on a minimal office staff.
Staff-related expenditures tend to have a small weight in the cost structure of airlines. Take a look at the rivals, Lufthansa for instance, whose staff-related costs were only 14% of total costs last year. So if this is the big plan to achieve lower costs than Malév, Sólyom’s management would need to think again and come up with a little more effective method. Material costs (which include fuel and the lease of aircraft) had a two-thirds weight at the German carrier in 2012. This is an area where Sólyom could aim to save bigger bucks. Vágó says it is possible despite the mixed fleet, citing the following factors.

The smaller aircraft help achieve better cost efficiency by having smaller regulatory fees and duties on them and a 110-seat plane could be operated profitably even at an 80-90% load factor. Vágó added that although the aircraft are indeed old but they have been refurbished and they are in a better shape than those flying out of Hungary currently. Not to mention that courtesy of the highly favourable lease deals they may be replaced.
An 80-90% load factor is definitely a good one and only the most successful discount airlines can show for such numbers. Malév had load factors of around 70% even in its best years. If the charter flights, however, are filled up by Sólyom’s partner travel agencies the situation could be different than at the carriers flying on scheduled routes.

Who is behind Sólyom?

Vágó noted about the mysterius Middle Eastern investor of Sólyom that one of them is a well-known bank in the United Arab Emirates and the other is a strategic investor based in Oman. Both will reveal their identity, he added. The financial background for a 50-strong fleet is already ensured and even if the airline has no revenues whatsoever for three months, keeping up operations for one or two years will still be a breeze, the CEO said.

Sólyom is receiving no subsidy from the state whatsoever, Vágó stressed, adding that the state is currently in a wait-and-see mode, as after Malév’s collapse it has no intention to get behind an airline that has any chance of going down. Vágó believes, however, that the level of confidence will slowly reach a point where Sólyom must be considered a priority national economy investment since it will create a HUF 20 billion annual market for local suppliers.
Last time we checked direct state subsidy was illegal in the European Union, so Vágó should not be expecting to receive state capital any time soon. That was exactly what closed the door on Malév last year when the European Commission ruled that the airline received unlawful state aid and there was no way the state could give the ailing carrier another capital injection. So some caution with regard to allowances and aid is warranted without a doubt.

Original Article:

Struggling People Express Airlines lays off Newport News employees

NEWPORT NEWS — People Express Airlines Inc. laid off six nonessential employees on Wednesday as the startup airline awaits funding, company leaders confirmed to the Daily Press on Friday.

“Making decisions that impact people’s lives is always difficult for senior leadership.  As much as I personally regret having to take this step, it is in our best interest as a company and will enable us to focus on the final stages of funding and developing our long-term objectives,” President Michael Morisi said in an emailed statement. “We expect it to be a very short-term matter.”

People Express, which has committed to flying out of Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, talked with employees about the layoffs in a group meeting where their questions could be answered in addition to handing them letters, Morisi said. A copy of a letter sent to the Daily Press indicated the company has been struggling to obtain funding and could not pay its employees. Five vice presidents also received the letter they couldn’t be paid, but plan to continue working toward the launch, Morisi added.

Denver-based investment bank Headwaters MB is expected to come through with the necessary funding for the airline’s launch within the coming weeks, Morisi said. In June, People Express acquired Idaho-based Xtra Airways, which is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct operations with Boeing 737 passenger jets. Morisi said he needed to make a difficult decision to be financially responsible and also maintain operations at Xtra Airways. People Express invested more than $1.5 million in Xtra while pumping a “couple million” into its Newport News launch, he said.

He said he expects to bring employees back when People Express closes on “significant funding.” The company furloughed employees last year in August and was able to bring back all staff who wished to come back when a new round of funding came in, Morisi said. Laid-off employee Bob Brown, director of security, has been with the company for two years and plans to come back for a second time, he said in a company email.

Morisi added that startups typically face difficulties, and that the move to furlough employees isn’t unlike actions taken by other businesses and the federal government.

The firm has indeed been struggling. People Express failed to pay $137,208 in federal taxes for two tax periods ending last year, according to notice of a lien filed in March by the Internal Revenue Service in Newport News Circuit Court. The Virginia Employment Commission also filed notice of a lien in February for $1,307 in taxes owed from last year. Additionally, American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc. filed a lawsuit in Newport News Circuit Court seeking $50,546 the company owes on two corporate credit cards. Morisi explained that problems arose when funding slowed but the company has worked out payment schedules for its debts.

The firm continues to seek individual investors while the investment bank plans to target institutional investment, Morisi said.

The company first announced plans to relaunch a 1980s-era discount carrier in February 2012. A regional airport committee in January this year gave People Express a $500,000 short-term refundable loan, which was paid back in March. It hasn’t used any other public money, Morisi said.

People Express plans to announce better news soon, including a “strategic partnership with a major airline” and opening of reservations, Morisi said. The company has identified 10 aircraft for its first year of operation and obtained landing slots to operate at Newark International Airport. The company also identified operations space at Pittsburgh International Airport, he said.

Lisa Schlichtman: Steamboat Springs Airport's Ted is one cool cat

Steamboat Springs — Ted's a cool cat. He's not a jazz musician or a rock star but a cat, who has become a bit of a legend, especially among pilots and guests who frequent Steamboat Springs Airport.

My husband, Mike, who is a private pilot, introduced me to Ted on one of his first flights into Steamboat with a simple text message: "You've got to meet Ted." The gray and white tabby, distinctively marked with a light brown goatee, is a mellow fellow but definitely an important part of the airport management team. His official role, and the way he earns his keep, is mouser, and he is very good at his job even after more than a decade of service.

Ted also is the official airport greeter. If Ted is outside, he will walk over to any plane that lands. He’s also been known to jump into those planes. Throughout the years, Ted has become famous for stowing away on airplanes. Unsuspecting pilots usually don’t discover Ted until after takeoff, and there are stories of pilots who have had to change their flight plans to include a return trip to Steamboat to drop Ted back home after he’s enjoyed an impromptu joyride.

Gerry Denofsky, a local pilot and airport regular, said Ted arrived at the airport in 2003 after being rescued from the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter. According to Denofsky, the young cat was given to Jim Szabo, the aircraft mechanic for Mountain Aircraft Maintenance. Szabo named the cat Ted in honor of a discount airline operation that United Airlines had launched at the time.

Legend has it that Ted had been shot in the Oak Creek area, patched up by the vet and then brought to the shelter in Steamboat before he went to live at the airport. Ted replaced two black cats — One-four and Three-two were named after Steamboat Springs’ runway identification numbers — who died of old age. When Szabo moved from the area, Ted found his permanent home at the airport.

“Ted’s been here longer than I’ve been here,” airport Manager Mel Baker said.

When Ted is not trying to jump into airplanes, he loves to ride around on the hoods or pickup beds of airport vehicles.

“He’s like Snoopy,” fixed-base operator Manager Don Heineman said. “He needs a leather helmet, goggles and a scarf.”

Ted has become such an airport icon that frequent fliers into Steamboat, especially children, usually begin their visit to town with the inquiry, “Where’s Ted?”

“Ted knows this airport, and people know Ted,” Baker said. “It’s been his life.”

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ted, Sunday provides the perfect opportunity. It’s Day Two of the Wild West Air Fest at the Steamboat Springs Airport. Members of the public are invited to spend a portion of their Labor Day weekend enjoying a number of activities at the local airport between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. There are vintage aircraft displays, radio-controlled airplane shows, airplane rides and, of course, the chance to meet the legendary Ted.

Story and Photo of
Ted, the Steamboat Springs Airport cat:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Central Maine Airport of Norridgewock imperiled by radio-frequency jamming, police say

NORRIDGEWOCK — State police and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating reports of radio jamming near the airport that has made communication between pilots in the air impossible, according to police.

"When you have three planes that are trying to land at the same time and no one can talk to each other to say 'Hey, I'm coming in on this runway' or 'I'm trying to land here,' it's very dangerous," said Kris Wallace, operations manager of Central Maine Regional Airport in Norridgewock, on Tuesday.

She said someone with a handheld radio is tuning in to a frequency that serves an area from Auburn to Carrabassett Valley, then holds the channel's communication line open, preventing pilots from communicating with each other. The radio jamming could lead to injuries, crashes or death.

Trooper Blake Conrad of the Maine State Police said jamming radio frequencies is a federal crime.

"The person responsible needs to know that jamming can be traced and this illegal activity needs to stop," he said.

The problem began several weeks ago. Wallace said airport officials think the person responsible is purposely doing it to prevent pilots from communicating. She said the airport has received a few calls from pilots saying they almost had an accident because of the problem. It also has received reports that the radio channel is being used to turn runway lights on and off, an operation that can be controlled through a certain number of clicks on a radio button.

Dave Cota, town manager of Carrabassett Valley, said the Carrabassett Valley Regional Airport has been having similar problems, but he was unsure whether they were related.

Bill Gianetta, an aviation safety inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration in Portland, said the channel being disrupted is an advisory channel used by smaller airports in the state, including Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport and Pittsfield Municipal Airport, for pilots to communicate their position in the air and where they might be relative to the airport where they are landing.

The channel is not used by air traffic control for communication between controllers on the ground and pilots in the air, he said. It is not used by airports in Augusta, Bangor or Waterville or by the Portland jetport, he said.

It is used by LifeFlight of Maine, an emergency helicopter service, to broadcast an area weather forecast, a service to rural communities that LifeFlight also uses to ensure the safety of its own flights, said spokesperson Melissa Arndt. She said LifeFlight is investigating complaints related to the Norridgewock airport and the weather system.

Any radio operator can trigger a broadcast of the weather over LifeFlight's Automated Weather Operations System through a few clicks of a radio button, Wallace said. She said that initially the jamming at the Norridgewock airport involved someone triggering the forecast multiple times in a row, preventing other messages from going through. The weather system was disconnected and now the person jamming the radio frequency is preventing others from using it by leaving the communication line open, she said. Only one person at a time may broadcast on a radio frequency.

Arndt said LifeFlight also is working with the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the channel's operation. She said the disruption won't affect operations of LifeFlight helicopters.

Wallace said anyone with a transceiver radio, the type used in most aircraft, can interrupt a radio channel. The radios, which are also available in handheld versions, can be found online and purchased by anyone.

In 2012, the FCC investigated a report of what was believed to be intentional radio jamming of an emergency services channel in York County. The case never was solved, but it was believed to have impeded response times to several emergencies, including a Lebanon car crash in which 10 people were injured and one man died.

Gianetta said his administration has been notified about the problem at the Norridgewock airport and that it has forwarded the complaint to the FBI and Federal Communications Commission. Jamming of frequencies is traceable, but the FAA doesn't have the equipment or knowledge to do so, he said. The FCC is responsible for investigating and prosecuting radio jamming cases, Gianetta said.

Mark Wigfield, spokesman for the FCC, said Tuesday that he could not confirm or deny whether the FCC was investigating jamming at the Norridgewock airport. He said the issue is one that the commission is trying to bring to a broader public attention.

The penalties for radio jamming can include significant fines of up to $16,000 for each violation or each day of a continuing violation, government seizure of equipment and imprisonment, he said.

Wallace said the airport is trying to notify as many pilots as possible about the radio problem, including via the airport's Facebook page.

"We want them to know this is happening, to be careful and that it is under investigation right now," she said.

Story and Photos:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Man charged after allegedly renting a plane, stunt flying it over friend’s house: Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

A man has been charged with stunt flying an airplane over residential neighborhoods in Richmond Hill.

York police received a several calls regarding an aircraft flying erratically over neighborhoods and parks at about 5 p.m. Sunday.

A single engine Cessna 172 plane was reported to be flying very low and soaring higher into the sky before stalling and falling back to low altitudes, police said.

Officers and air traffic control were not able to establish radio contact with the pilot.

Police became concerned that the pilot was having mechanical problems and began clearing and closing down runways to give him space for an emergency landing.

The plane landed safely at Markham Airport, on Hwy. 48 north of Elgin Mills Rd.

The plane and pilot were located by police and an investigation revealed that the lone pilot allegedly took out the rented plane to stunt-fly it over a friend’s house in Richmond Hill, York police said.

Christian Nardoni, 26, of Richmond Hill is charged with dangerous operation of an aircraft. The crime falls under the motor vehicles section of the Criminal Code of Canada and has a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Police urged additional witnesses to come forward if they may have seen the aircraft flying on Sunday.


Story and Video:

Monday, August 26, 2013

German plane makes emergency landing in Croatia: Condor Boeing 757-300, D-ABOJ, Flight DE-1015

A German plane carrying over 200 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing in Croatia on Monday. The pilot of the aircraft took no chances when a burning smell was detected in the cabin.

The Condor-owned plane was destined for Frankfurt after departing the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada, but was forced to land in Dubrovnik over an hour before it was scheduled to land.

The smell of burning emanated from a kitchen in the rear of the plane, according to the German news agency DPA.

"A Boeing 757-300 belonging to the German company Condor made an emergency landing at the airport of Dubrovnik just before 16:00 [local time, 14:00 GMT]," Marina Haluzan, a spokeswoman for Croatian air traffic control, told AFP.

The passengers and crew were unhurt and able to leave the plane, with a replacement flight set to depart Dubrovnik just after midnight.

The plane was met by ambulances and fire engines, but none were used. The airline has sent a technical team to Croatia to investigate the incident.


Scare as LIAT airplane lands safely after wheel failure

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The regional airline, LIAT, Monday confirmed that one of its aircraft on a flight from Guyana to Barbados landed safely at the Grantley Adams International Airport here after experiencing a “main wheel failure during takeoff”.

It said the landing of flight LI 774 with 43 passengers on board was “uneventful” and the “aircraft is being examined by the company’s maintenance department and will undergo the various checks stipulated by the manufacturer before it is returned to service”.

Over the past few weeks, LIAT has been experiencing a number of problems with passengers complaining of being left stranded at airports across the region.

Over the weekend, 29 Dominicans who attend the 11th OECS Credit Union Summit in St Kitts, claimed that they were stranded at the airport awaiting a flight home on the regional airline.

Last week, LIAT, announced that its service is “expected to improve significantly with the return of a new plane to its network”.

The airline said that the service was boosted by the return one of its two newly acquired ATR aircraft which was grounded in Barbados for a week due to a technical issue that has now been resolved.

The ATR 72, a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional aircraft, is one of two such planes recently acquired by the company in its fleet modernization program.

Earlier this month,a prominent Dominican businessman accused LIAT of contributing to the damage of fragile economies in the Caribbean through its poor service.


Sólyom Airways to hock grocery items

The Sólyom Hungarian Airways will reportedly be flying the skies with full commercial-travel services this coming autumn, but before then the trademark falcon logo will be landing in Tesco, Reál and CBA shopping outlets, emblazoned on products bearing theNaturallebrand name.
At a press conference today, Sólyom Hungarian Airways Kft Managing Director János Lucsik and CEO József Vágó together with Sales One representatives previewed products from the incipient “premium Hungarian product line – bottled water, refined flour, sunflower oil and plum jam – developed by the latter. Sólyom was announced as a now-10% owner of the marketing company, which was established in November 2012.

Of course, nearly any story featuring the would-be national airline includes future bigger plans, and Sólyom did not disappoint today. Lucsik stated that the Sólyom/Sales One premium brand aims to employ up to 2,500 by the end of 2017. Not only this, but Lucsik also hinted that the company together with Sales One might soon be sponsoring two unnamed sports clubs in Hungary.

No questions were taken by Vágó or the others on the airline, with the latest news that Sólyom’s first charter flights are to begin in September with standard scheduled flights beginning in “early October.”


South Florida emerging as a leading flight-training location

Monday, August 26, 2013

BY MIKE SEEMUTH,  Miami Herald

Call it Florida’s “Sim City.”

Clustered along Northwest 36th Street in the area along Miami International Airport’s northern border are the companies and schools that house most of South Florida’s 62 FAA-approved airline flight simulators. Private and commercial pilots, and many aviation professionals, learn and hone their craft on the devices, which re-create the experience of aircraft flight. Only Atlanta, with 64, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with 122, currently have more.

In South Florida, three companies dominate the pilot-training landscape. As of Aug. 1, Airbus and Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, and Pan Am International Flight Academy had a total of 53 simulators at their training centers on Northwest 36th Street. That number may rise — pushing the region’s prominence higher — as Boeing concentrates all its North American flight and maintenance training at its Virginia Gardens campus.

“I don’t think there’s any other place in the world that has that many “sims” in three-mile radius,” said Gregory Darrow, senior director of sales and marketing at Pan Am International Flight Academy, the third of the trio. The price of a full-motion flight simulator generally ranges from $20 million to $30 million. “We just brought in two new [Boeing] 777 sims and a 747-400 sim,” said Darrow.

As these and other companies with South Florida facilities grow, so does the region’s reputation as a leading flight-training location. And while the “Big Three” companies with facilities on Northwest 36th Street are the giants on the pilot-training landscape, there are also many other contenders — from small private schools to college campuses — throughout South Florida as well as near MIA..

Some industry experts, noting the strong job prospects for pilots in many parts of the globe, foresee more visitors at South Florida training sites. Area hotels and businesses would benefit, they add. They remark on the sophistication and variety of training opportunities; slightly more than half of South Florida flight simulators are “Level D” models, for instance — the kind that qualify pilots to land an aircraft without requiring an actual flight test.

Less optimistic, however, are observers who also look at the increasing costs and requirements of gaining a pilot’s license. For them, the training industry faces the prospect of a bumpy ride.


Boeing had considered consolidating its North American training in Atlanta or Seattle but picked the Miami area instead, said Bob Bellitto, global sales leader of Boeing Flight Services, the company’s training unit.

“We’re going to add more than $100 million worth of simulators and devices this year, which basically doubles our investment in the [Miami] campus. So it’s very significant,” Bellitto said. “Miami is a hub for commercial shipping traffic as well as commercial aviation traffic. It’s a natural location [for training]. It’s kind of the centerline of the Americas.”

Both tourism and transportation benefit: Bellitto and others say that visitors to the training centers who stay about eight nights will generate an estimated 38,000 room-nights a year at local hotels after Boeing fully consolidates its North American training in South Florida, scheduled for completion by the year’s end.

At the Boeing flight training center near Miami International Airport, as of Aug. 1, there were 15 flight simulators; the company expects to have a total of 17 simulators there by the end of the year. Boeing this year already has moved two full-motion flight simulators for its new 787 Dreamliner, among other models, from Seattle to its training center in Virginia Gardens.

Just east of Boeing’s 134,000-square-foot training center on Northwest 36th Street is the 110,000-square-foot flight and maintenance training center of its rival, Airbus.

The company’s growth is partly fueled by its increasing share of the commercial aircraft market in Latin America, said Joe Houghton, vice president of training and flight operations support in the Americas for Airbus.

“It’s just going gangbusters for us,” Houghton said. “There’s an expansion that needs to happen.”

At the Airbus training center in Miami, “we still have some room to grow.”

Northwest 36th Street in Miami also is the home of Pan Am International Flight Academy, the original training division of the old Pan American Airways.

Its flagship facilities in Miami currently feature full-motion flight simulators, 31 types of jet aircraft ranging from the Airbus A330, and the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 to the Boeing 747, 767 and 777. The school also has U.S. training centers for airline pilots in Denver, Las Vegas, Memphis and Minneapolis.

The presence of Airbus, Boeing and Pan Am International distinguish the pilot instruction ecosystem of Miami from smaller clusters of flight training schools and facilities in most U.S. cities.

When Boeing completes its consolidation of North American training in Miami, “this is going to be their largest flight training facility in the world,” said James Kohnstamm, vice president, economic development, at the Beacon Council, the economic development agency of Miami-Dade County.

The Airbus flight training center in Miami is the only one in the Americas and one of only five in the world, and “we hope to see some growth from them in the future” at the Northwest 36th Street location, Kohnstamm said. “They have some opportunities for growth on adjacent properties.”

Pan Am also could get busier soon. Tokyo-based ANA Group, parent company of All Nippon Airways, announced July 30 a definitive agreement to acquire the Miami-based flight training school from its owner, American Capital Ltd., for $139.5 million. The acquisition by ANA, which closed Thursday, means “we’ll be expanding dramatically in Asia,” Darrow said.


Some airline pilots who train in South Florida earned college degrees just up the road on I-95 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

“We train some of the best pilots in America. Twenty-five percent of all the professional pilots in the United States are trained at Embry-Riddle,” said John P. Johnson, president of the private university. Embry-Riddle students who earn four-year degrees in aeronautical science and become airline pilots learn much more than how to fly a plane. “We’re not a flight school. We’re not a flight training program,” Johnson said. “Six of our graduates are U.S. astronauts.”

Flight training schools found near South Florida’s airports are usually more down to earth. They provide instruction for the initial levels of pilot certification, and they usually offer more than just flying lessons. Typically they train students at general aviation airports on propeller-driven planes while operating such sideline businesses as aircraft rentals, sales of pilot supplies, air tours and aerial photography.

At Wayman Flight Training, for example, aircraft rentals supplement revenue from pilot instruction.

Wayman Eduardo Luy, general manager and part-owner of the flight training school, based at the Opa-locka Executive Airport, said that “the vast majority of our business is training ... We’re flying a fleet of 14 airplanes right now. We’re pretty busy. Miami is a huge flight training center.”

Many of his students are foreign nationals who work abroad as pilots after obtaining certification in Miami.

“We’re training them here and shipping them off to South America or Asia,” Luy said.

Foreign students must register with the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, which is one of the biggest changes at flight training schools since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

“Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen is required to register with the TSA for a background check to make sure you’re not a terrorist,” Luy said. “And of course, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you need a visa.”

The Federal Aviation Administration lists 75 FAA-approved pilot schools in Florida on its Website, including 24 in South Florida. Among them are Broward College and Miami-Dade College, which provide classroom training and farm out in-flight training to private schools. In addition, many so-called “non-approved” schools operate legally and effectively without meeting FAA standards for curricula, personnel, equipment and facilities. However, the FAA requires students of nonapproved schools to obtain 40 hours of in-flight training for a private pilot certification, compared with 35 hours at approved schools.

Helicopter training requires substantially more time in the air.

Helicopter Academy, based at the North Perry Airport in Hollywood, provides 300 hours of in-flight training, said manager Tom McDermott. Students of the FAA-approved school who have learned to fly a fixed-wing plane need more flight time to master a helicopter. “You’re basically going from a tricycle to a unicycle,” McDermott said, “from something that’s basically stable to something that’s basically unstable.”

Many more hours of in-flight training are required to become a co-pilot, or first officer, with a major commercial airline. The FAA recently increased the minimum to 1,500 hours from 1,000 hours, with certain exceptions for institutions that offer more than basic flying lessons. For example, the minimum remains 1,000 hours for graduates of aeronautical science programs like the one at Embry-Riddle. “If you earn a four-year college degree, then you only need 1,000 hours of flight time,” said Bob Rockmaker, president of the Allentown, Pa.-based Flight School Association of North America.

Pilots commonly work their way into airline jobs by working as instructors for flight training schools, collecting pay rather than paying to accumulate in-flight hours. But that career path has narrowed. Rockmaker said there are about 1,500 flight training schools in the United States, down from about 2,400 before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, perpetrated by a group of passenger-jet hijackers that included several foreign nationals who attended Florida flight schools.

“The whole flight training industry was pretty much shut down for a while” after the 9/11 attacks, Rockmaker said. “There were schools that never reopened, and there were many schools that were closed for 30, 60, 90 days because of all the challenges, the problems, the checking by the security folks that needed to check on them.”

Vocational credit availability has been a more recent challenge for flight training schools.

SLM Corp., better known as “Sallie Mae,” is a former government-sponsored provider of education loans that became a private company in 2004 and subsequently stopped lending to students of most flight schools. “Almost every flight school in the country lost their relationship with Sallie Mae,” Rockmaker said.

“The big driving force is the cost, and it can be pretty expensive, especially when you’re buying the flight time,” said Tom Jargiello, director of the Eig-Watson School of Aviation at Miami Dade College. “You’re looking at years and thousands of dollars before you can actually sit there and pilot a commercial plane.” MDC students who pursue a two-year associate egree in professional pilot technology can expect to pay more than $30,000 for flying lessons alone plus the cost of tuition, books and other expenses.

Yet despite the high cost of becoming an airline captain or first officer, job opportunities for pilots appear ample, especially abroad.

Boeing last year forecast worldwide demand for 460,000 additional commercial airline pilots by 2032, including 185,600 in China alone. Boeing will release an update of its annual forecast of global demand for pilots and aircraft mechanics during the public event Thursday at its Miami training center.

“There’s a huge pilot shortage right now. There’s an estimated 300,000 pilots that are needed across the world,” said Bellitto, the Boeing executive. “Countries like China and India need more and more pilots as they’re developing their industries,” and in the United States, “the baby boomers are retiring, and Vietnam-era pilots that were trained in the military are retiring.”

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The ‘Big Three’ pilot schools on 36th Street 


Address: 4355 NW 36th St.,

Miami Springs

Features: Seven full-motion jet flight simulators

Total space: 110,000 square feet

Trainees: 1,400 a year

Full-time employees: 100


Address: 6601 NW 36th St.,

Virginia Gardens

Features: 15* full-motion jet flight simulators

Total space: 134,000 square feet

Trainees: 4,500* a year

Full-time employees: 100

* 17 after Boeing completes its consolidation of North American flight training in Miami.


Address: 5000 NW 36th St., Miami

Features: 31 full-motion simulators for Airbus, Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas and other jet aircraft

Total space: 210,000 square feet

Trainees: 3,000 a year

Full-time employees: 60

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Public 'backs pilots' on work hours after it is revealed they could be awake for 22 hours

Air passengers are concerned about proposed changes to flying rules that could lead to an aircraft being flown by a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours.

Nine out of 10 people are worried about the changes being voted on by MEPs in October, according to a survey by British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa).

The new rules could lead to pilots operating long haul flights with two rather than three crew members and working up to seven early starts in a row.

The changes to pilots' duty times and rest requirements have been proposed by the EU’s European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA) and are aimed at ‘harmonising’ limits on pilots’ hours across the EU.

Under the new rules, pilots could be landing commercial jets after 22 hours awake - including 11 hours flying, plus stand-by time and travel to the airport.

Under the current UK rules, pilots work a maximum of three early starts in a row and a maximum of 95 hours in 14 days. EASA is proposing to change this to seven early starts in a row and a maximum of 110 hours in 14 days.

Three pilots are needed on many long-haul flights but EASA has proposed that only two pilots are needed on some of the longest flights. Balpa says this will mean that the pilots have no opportunity to rest in flight before the landing.

There are also currently many restrictions around pilots being called for duty on days off so that they can plan rest but, under the proposed changes, they can be called at any time on any day with no restrictions.

The number of hours pilots can be on home standby will increase from 12 hours to 16 hours, with flight duty starting to clock up after eight hours instead of six.

Jim McAuslan, Balpa's general secretary, said: "The British public are understandably concerned about their pilots being awake for 22 hours before landing a plane under new EU rules. Evidence shows this is similar to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.

"The time is running out for our ministers, MEPs, the UK regulator and MPs to take urgent action and reject these unsafe EU rules to ensure that the skies above Britain remain among the safest in the world."

The European Commission (EC) said safety was the only objective of its proposal to revise the current EU rules in relation to flight time limitations (FTL).

An EC spokesman said: "The Commission is determined to see stronger, safer rules applying across Europe in relation to FTL.

"This is the principle presiding the Commission's proposal to revise the current EU FTL rules.

"The Commission believes that the proposal presented to the Council and the Parliament in July will bring about major improvements across Europe for the safety of our citizens and flight crew.

"This proposal includes a number of clarifications and adjustments addressing issues identified by aircrew unions, by airlines, by the European Parliament, and by Member States.

"The proposal will not result in lowering the safety standards in any Member State."

A Commons’ Transport Select committee warned that 22 hours of wakefulness was ‘an extraordinary figure' - particularly for night flying - that raised levels of fatigue equivalent to being ‘drunk.’ UK pilots can currently go up to 18 hours without sleep.

The committee said it was concerned that "the new regulations are setting a standard that accepts a higher level of fatigue more generally and, if not managed properly, that could well lead to a situation where the accident risk will increase."

The Department for Transport insisted the EU blueprint would neither compromise safety nor increase the risk of pilot fatigue.

However, the Government did accept some of the MP’s findings - including a recommendation to investigate ‘the potential under-reporting of pilot fatigue’.

Ministers said they would also be seeking a strengthening of specific EU ‘fatigue’ rules surrounding flight duties and rest periods and ‘stricter limits’ on how frequently airlines could use discretion to exceed maximum levels.

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T. Rowe bans some American Airlines employees from fund trading

NEW YORK, Aug 26 (Reuters) – T. Rowe Price Group has permanently banned about 1,300 American Airlines employees from trading among its funds in their 401(k) retirement plans, a rare move to curb “collective” trading by subscribers to an investment newsletter.

About 800 additional employees have received warning letters about their trading patterns, according to sources at the airline and at JPMorgan Chase & Co, administrator of the retirement plan.

The ban, confirmed by the airline and the fund company in response to a Reuters inquiry, follows a period of several years in which T. Rowe Price imposed a series of temporary trading restrictions on some subscribers to the EZTracker LLC newsletter for American Airlines employees.

The newsletter suggests monthly mutual fund trades to more than 2,000 subscribers who invest in the company’s defined contribution plan known as $uper $aver 401(k). The plan has more than 80,000 participants.

Investment newsletter veterans said a permanent ban is highly unusual, and raises questions about why a giant like T. Rowe Price, which manages $614 billion, would single out activities of a small group of people. The controversy comes as workers’ anxiety about managing their own retirement investments grows while employers close company-paid and professionally managed pension plans.

“It’s like taking a chainsaw to an ingrown toenail,” said Dan Wiener, publisher of “Independent Advisor,” a newsletter for investors in Vanguard funds. Wiener said he knew of no similar cases.

T. Rowe Price spokesman Bill Benintende said collective trading can disrupt portfolio managers’ strategies and raise costs for long-term investors.

“In limited situations” the company’s funds restrict investors who significantly alter their holdings on the advice of a newsletter, he wrote in an emailed statement confirming the ban. He declined to name the newsletter or discuss other specifics.


The publishers of EZTracker’s newsletter for American Airlines employees said many of its subscribers were banned. They did not know if other airline employees were also affected.

An American Airlines spokesman said the company in its role as plan sponsor has acted appropriately. Despite the ban, all plan participants still can put new payroll deductions into T. Rowe Price’s funds or cash out of them, he emphasized. They cannot trade among the four T. Rowe Price funds in the plan, which has about 26 other investment choices.

Still, the restriction is rankling employees at a sensitive time.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Justice Department sued to block the merger of American Airlines’ bankrupt parent AMR Corp  with U.S. Airways Group.

Last month, American distributed about $3.5 billion to pilots from a company-funded and professionally managed pension plan it had shuttered.

To avoid tax penalties, most pilots are reinvesting the money in 401(k) plans and other retirement vehicles.

“They have kept me from some of the better performing funds,” William Simons, an American Airlines pilot wrote to Reuters in an e-mail. “We thought we were doing everything legally, yet we were punished.”


T. Rowe Price covered itself by amending in 2010 the prospectuses of its funds in the American plan, according to some lawyers who declined to be named because they work with the firm. The new language permits each fund at its discretion to reject trades that “could dilute the value of the fund’s shares, including trading by shareholders acting collectively (e.g., following the advice of a newsletter).”

EZTracker’s co-publishers Paul Burger and former American Airlines captain Michael DiBerardino call the restrictions anti-competitive and vague. “We are being held to a standard that’s not being applied to other newsletters, publications or investment advisers,” Burger said.

The permanent ban was probably triggered by EZTracker’s April 1 suggestion that employees sell T. Rowe’s High Yield Fund, which it had suggested buying five months earlier, he said in an interview.

EZTracker has recommended exiting T. Rowe Price funds in American’s 401(k) plan six times since mid-2010 after a holding period of less than a year, Burger said.

The recommendations trigger a rush of buys and sells in the days following the end-of-month release of the newsletter, Burger acknowledges. He voiced doubts that those would be significant enough to affect the performance of such large funds. The other funds in the plan are T. Rowe’s Science & Technology, MidCap Growth and New Horizons funds.

Since 2010, T. Rowe Price sent a series of warning letters and outright one-year trading bans to several subscribers, some of whom complained to EZTracker. SEC COMPLAINT In May 2012, EZTracker filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that the then-temporary restrictions were “discriminatory and anti- competitive.” It said it had received complaints from hundreds of subscribers, claiming they were injured by the bans. SEC spokesman John Nester declined to comment on the status of the complaint. The T. Rowe Price letters were sent through JPMorgan, which also markets a managed account service called JPMorgan Personal Asset Manager to participants in many of the plans it administers. EZ Tracker charges $84.95 a year for its newsletter while JPMorgan charges an asset management fee that can result in charges of $945 for a $250,000 account. Unlike the newsletter, which simply advises subscribers who make their own trades, the JPMorgan program makes trades on behalf of participants. Burger said he suspected JPMorgan helped orchestrate the trading bans to further its own advisory services among highly compensated airline employees. The complaint to the SEC said the bank’s willingness to enforce the bans is “self-serving.”

“I’m sure they would like to manage the 401(k) plans of all our subscribers,” Burger wrote in an email.

The bank dismissed allegations of conflict.

“JPMorgan in its role as a plan service provider and financial intermediary for the funds has acted appropriately and as directed by the plan sponsor and the fund provider,” bank spokeswoman Kristen Chambers wrote in an email.

“All communication to participants is plan-sanctioned, including any mention of the managed account feature.”

Super-cheap airline may be ready for takeoff

A super-cheap airline may be launched as Indigo is reportedly seeking to buy Frontier Airlines to create a carrier with low fares and lots of fees

Get ready for the takeoff of another super-cheap airline offering ultra-low fares with loads of passenger fees.

Industry insiders say the new super discount airline may soon be launched with the help of Indigo Partners, the Phoenix private equity firm that invested in Spirit Airlines in 2006 and helped convince the Florida airline’s chief executive, Ben Baldanza, to adopt dirt-cheap fares and abundant fees.

Indigo is reportedly negotiating to buy Frontier Airlines from the Denver carrier’s parent company, Republic Airways Holdings Inc. Meanwhile, Indigo has started to divest itself from Spirit, with Indigo owner William Franke and Indigo principal John Wilson resigning from the Spirit board of directors Wednesday.

“They really are taking the Spirit Airlines playbook from Florida to Denver,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Hudson Crossing in New York.

Indigo officials did not respond to requests for comment, and Republic Airways representatives would only say that they expect to sell Frontier to a “third party purchaser” by September.

It would make sense for Indigo to transform Frontier from a typical low-cost carrier to an ultra-cheap airline because Spirit has been so profitable, said Fred Lowrance, vice president and senior research analyst at Avondale Partners in Nashville.

The airline reported a profit margin of 8.5% in the three-month period that ended June 30, more than twice the rate of many of its competitors, and shares of Spirit have nearly tripled in value since the company went public in 2011.

“That business model has proven successful,” Lowrance said.

92% increase in travel, tourism jobs analyzed

Hiring for travel and tourism jobs has surged so much in the last few years that the industry has recovered 92% of the positions lost during the recession while the rest of the economy has recovered only 77%.

But some economists dismiss the swell in hiring, arguing that many travel and tourism jobs are part-time or minimum-wage positions, such as waiters.

To address such disdain, the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the nation’s travel industry, has analyzed data to show that most of those travel and tourism jobs generate a middle-class income.

Of the 7.5-million jobs in travel and tourism in the U.S., about 3 million are in food service, such as waiters, with a median salary of about $22,000 a year, said David Huether, senior vice president for research for the U.S. Travel Assn.

The other 4.5-million jobs offer salaries that range from a median annual salary of $27,000 for sales positions, such as travel agents, to $80,000 a year for management positions in hotels and restaurants, he said.

“Jobs in travel and tourism run a huge gamut,” Huether said.

Alaska Airlines tests solar-powered passenger ramps

The green trend is taking hold in the airline industry.

United Airlines announced plans in June to buy 15 million gallons of lower-carbon, renewable jet fuel over a three-year period.

And Alaska Airlines is testing solar-powered passenger ramps.

The mobile ramps used to get passengers on and off planes are equipped with solar panels that power the batteries that drive the ramps’ electric motors. Traditional mobile ramps and passenger stairs are powered by gasoline or diesel engines.

Alaska has been testing the ramps at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the solar ramps can be plugged into an electrical outlet, said Michael Keith, sales manager for Keith Consolidated Industries in Oregon, which built the ramps.

“They are extremely efficient,” he said of the ramps. “There is a lot of savings, not just in fuel but in emissions as well.”

Fueling excitement: JetBlue at Worcester Regional Airport (KORH), Massachusetts

There’s an airline coming in for a landing soon, and it needs no introduction. The buzz over JetBlue’s decision to begin passenger service at Worcester Regional Airport in November is doing much of the marketing work for free.

But it would be foolish not to assist the airline’s debut with an ad campaign. It’s in the area’s interest to help reinforce the message that travelers to and from Florida will have a solid new option in Worcester starting Nov. 7.

MassPort has applied for $350,000 in federal grants to promote JetBlue’s daily flights between Worcester and Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The federal funds would be combined with $450,000 in state and local funds.

On top of the $800,000, JetBlue is receiving other bonuses for agreeing to do business here.

MassPort will waive airport fees for landing, parking and terminal rent from JetBlue, amounting to a savings of $349,000 for the airline.

It is tremendously important for JetBlue to launch well here. The company has indicated routes to New York City and San Juan could be added if the Florida destinations are popular.

The direct and ancillary benefits to Central Massachusetts residents, colleges and businesses of a trustworthy, well-liked airline operating flights to and from our city are enormous.

For those in and very close to the city, an ad campaign will convey excitement and provide handy, practical information. The ads should reach outside the immediate area as well, serving notice that Worcester’s airport is in the ring of competition with other airports in the region, particularly T.F. Green and Manchester.

JetBlue’s arrival is a big deal, and has a lot riding on it. With or without the federal assistance, it is appropriate and smart for the city and the state to pledge money for marketing.

Travelers will soon be promoting JetBlue’s success in Worcester by buying tickets. To that end, we expect quite an advertising blitz to soon be cleared for takeoff.

All Nippon Airways: Boeing Dreamliner flight experiences radar malfunction, turns back to Tokyo

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) and bound for Kumamoto had to make a u-turn and go back to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after a malfunction of the weather radar was detected. There was no major incident during the flight back, and all passengers and crew members were able to transfer to another plane that flew them to their destination.

Flight 641 took off from Tokyo at around 9AM and was bound for the southern city of Kumamoto with 234 passengers. But after a little more than an hour, the plane returned to Haneda at around 1020AM, due to “trouble with the weather radar”. They transferred to another Dreamliner and that plane safely reached Kumamoto early afternoon, without incident. According to ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura, the problem with the radar was not specific to the 787 and it “could happen in other models of airplane”.

While the error was not uncommon for other planes, this incident is just another one in the long line of problems operators have had with the Boeing high-tech plane. Earlier this year, there was a four-month world-wide fleet grounding of all Dreamliners after problems with the batteries caused problems with ANA and Japan Airlines, two of the biggest operators of the 787s. The resumption of the flights last June has been followed by a series of smaller mishaps, including wiring defects and problems with the emergency beacon. Boeing and the two Japanese carriers took out ads in major Japanese dailies to promote the safety of the 787s before they resumed their flights.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Benin Airport stowaway: Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria tongue lashes Arik Air • Describes airline’s claim as irresponsible

The stowaway teenage boy found in the wheel well of Arik Air Lagos bound plane which took off from Benin has started causing ripples with Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) accusing the airline of being economical with truth.

Speaking on behalf of FAAN on Saturday, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, Yakubu Dati took a swipe at the Arik Airline management, over their statement which he described as irresponsible.

Arik Air management had on Saturday expressed shock over the incident wondering how the teenager beat the Aviation Security personnel at the Benin Airport to get to the runway.

The airline’s Managing Director Mr. Chris Ndulue had said: “We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports. We are appealing to the management of FAAN to immediately address the problem.”

But in a statement rolled out to aviation journalists, FAAN through Dati declared:”The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria read with great dismay the statement released by Arik Airlines about the stowaway found on board Arik’s flight 544 from Benin to Lagos on Saturday 24 August, 2013, in which FAAN was unfairly indicted while the airline took no responsibility whatsoever for such a serious security breach.

“The facts of the matter as FAAN’s investigation has revealed, are completely different to the Arik account. The facts of the stowaway incident are as follows:

“On Saturday August 24th, 2013 at about 0905hrs, ARIK flight 544 departed Benin Airport for Lagos. The normal Runway inspections were conducted by FAAN Security at 0730hrs and 0850hrs. These runway inspections are conducted routinely all day, everyday, by a FAAN Security patrol team and are aimed at preventing animal and human incursions unto the aircraft maneuvering areas of the airfield.

“Our investigations reveal that a passenger on board the flight called the attention of the cabin crew while the aircraft was waiting to take off at the threshold of the runway, to the effect that they had seen a young boy walk under the aircraft and had not seen him reappear either side.

“The cabin crew in turn informed the pilots in the cockpit about this. The pilots called the control tower and asked them to request FAAN to do a sweep of the area after their departure, opting to carry on with their flight despite the report.

“Immediately upon the departure of the aircraft, FAAN’s security did another sweep of the area and found nothing unusual. Upon the arrival of the aircraft in Lagos, we were informed that there had been a stowaway found alive alighting from the wheel well of the aircraft.

“While FAAN takes this security breach extremely seriously, we deem Arik’s attempt at indicting and smearing FAAN as irresponsible. Safety and security breaches occur when all the checks in the system are beaten. Given that security is a responsibility for all players in this industry, a critical last opportunity to detect and prevent this stowaway was offered and had the airline taken the information by passengers as seriously as they should have, this incident would have been avoided.”

While accusing Arik Air of having penchant for being unprofessional in its utterances, FAAN further stated: “In the Air Transport Industry, the ethos is not to cast blame but to learn from such events, by seeking to find out why they occurred so that all concerned can do everything possible to prevent future occurrences.

“Unfortunately, this airline has chosen to adopt a different ethos and always rushes to cast blame on everybody else except itself!

“FAAN is dealing with a number of legacy problems stemming from neglect over the years. One of these is the perimeter fencing of airports across the country, which either did not exist before or have deteriorated significantly. A decision was made by this administration to prioritize the perimeter fencing of every FAAN airport. This is a major undertaking and we are following an aggressive program to achieve this at all 22 airports.

Meanwhile, to prevent a recurrence of the Benin Airport incidence, FAAN said it has adopted risk amelioration processes to safeguard flight operations.

In view of this, the authority said it has further “tightened our risk amelioration procedure to ensure that a similar incident does not occur.”

KenAir: Jury convicts airline owner after passenger tries to bring alcohol into dry village

Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2013 12:00 am 
Updated: 12:29 pm, Sunday Aug 25, 2013.

Correction. This article has been changed to reflect the following correction:

Saturday’s article “Jury convicts airline owner after passenger tries to bring alcohol into dry village” gives the wrong name and age of alcohol importation co-defendant Helen Nicholia.

FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks man faces jail time and as much as a $1 million fine after a jury found him and his charter airline criminally liable for beer a passenger was attempting to bring to a dry village last April.

A six-member jury returned a guilty verdict for both Ken Jouppi, 70, and his business, KenAir, for misdemeanor alcohol importation Friday. Jouppi faces jail time for an offense that’s the legal equivalent of a driving under the influence conviction. In addition to the fine and jail time, Jouppi’s small company has lost an airplane because of the case. The company faces a fine of between $200,000 and $1 million because the Alaska Legislature recently increased penalties for corporations convicted of crimes, according to prosecutor Gustaf Olson with the Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.

Sentencing is scheduled for October.

The misdemeanor trial was an offshoot of a larger bootlegging investigation against KenAir. The trial dealt with the circumstances of April 3, 2012, when prosecutors executed a search warrant on Jouppi’s Cessna 206.

During two days of testimony, the six jurors heard testimony from Alaska State Troopers, Jouppi and Helen Nicholia, 61, a KenAir client who was carrying cans of Budweiser and Bud Light, about 7 gallons in all, to the dry community of Beaver, where alcohol is illegal.

Nicholia previously pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor alcohol charge and was given a three-day sentence.

Prosecutors said Jouppi’s actions amount to willful ignorance of the community of Beaver’s alcohol ban. Some of the beer was in a bag and it should have been obvious to Jouppi that it contained beer, according to the state’s case.

Defense attorneys Nelson Traverso and Robert John asked jurors to question how visible the beer really was. They argued the beer was secured in a box and only visible in photos presented to the jury after the boxes were opened. They asked prosecutors why troopers didn’t save the boxes and bags as evidence to show the jury how the beer was wrapped up.

Asked after the verdict if they plan to appeal, Jouppi’s wife and KenAir co-owner Mary Ames said “We have plans in place to make sure that justice is done,”

“This isn’t any more just about Ken, this is about the liability about any pilot,” she said.

KenAir remains in operation but is doing less than 10 percent of the business because of the loss of the Cessna 206 and business from the Tanana Chiefs Conference that has disappeared since the charges were filed.

Ames accuses troopers of “policing for profit” and investigating KenAir because they wanted to confiscate and use the company’s Cessna. She said she’s heard that troopers have been flying the Cessna.

Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said it’s not true that troopers are flying the Cessna. Troopers did seize Jouppi’s plane because of a court order, but it’s in storage in Anchorage, she said. It will be for the court to decide if Jouppi has an opportunity to get it back.

The misdemeanor charge was an offshoot of a bootlegging investigation that goes back to 2010 that led prosecutors to file a felony bootlegging charge against Jouppi and KenAir in January. The more-serious felony charge was dropped after prosecutors failed to respond to a brief from Traverso that said prosecutors misled a grand jury about what it means to be an accomplice to alcohol importing.

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Pilots seeks judicial review over CAL's employment practices

Two local airline pilots have filed an application for leave in the High Court to apply for judicial review against the decision of Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) to hire and employ foreign nationals.

The claimants, Captains Anthony Hamilton and Roger Bridgeman, filed the application at the Hall of Justice on August 19. According to a press release issued yesterday by one of the claimant’s attorney, Peter Taylor, it stated that the pilots were against the decision by CAL to hire and employ foreign national.

The foreign pilots aboard its aircraft were identified as Captains Andrew Campbell, Sean Carrington Patrick de Levante, Stephen Fontinelle, Kevin Lazarus and Heather Mc Kay.

The attorney added that co-pilots Marc Coley, Neil Crooks, Peter Henry, Gina Lazarus, Chesare Paul and Stephen Plimmer were aboard CAL’s TT registered aircraft without valid work permits. This he charged was in contravention of section 10 (2) of the Immigration Regulations made under the Immigration Act Chapter 18:01 of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

All of the pilots and co-pilots are Jamaican citizens with the exception of Fontinelle, who is St Lucian.

The claimants together with another pilot, Captain Ann Marie Lewis, are former pilots with the now defunct BWIA and have a combined experience of some 85 years. They are contending that they have been unfairly overlooked for employment while Caribbean Airlines insists on hiring foreign nationals in contravention of the law.

Taylor stated: “The Claimants in their joint affidavit contend among other things that having pilots employed without valid work permits puts Caribbean Airlines at risk when entering the airspace of the USA and/or of being downgraded as an airline in breach of FAA and EASA (European Aviation Safety Regulations).”

High Court judge Justice David Harris heard the application, but deemed that it was not sufficiently urgent to be heard during the court vacation period.

Taylor, who is representing the claimants, is instructing attorney Farid Scoon.

Bill would require a second cockpit door on commercial aircraft

Airlines are balking over the possible, unfunded, requirement for a second cockpit barrier. Law enforcement supports the idea.

A bill awaiting congressional approval is reviving the ghosts of Sept. 11.

Commercial airlines would be required to install a secondary barrier to protect the cockpit under legislation introduced by Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and supported by Ellen Saracini, the widow of Victor Saracini, one of the pilots killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

After the deadly attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration required commercial airlines to install one locking door between the cabin and the cockpit.

The new bill suggests that planes are momentarily vulnerable when a pilot unlocks the door to use the restroom in the main cabin. Fitzpatrick's bill was referred to a congressional subcommittee in April, with no hearing date scheduled.

The debate over the barriers has grown heated, with federal law enforcement groups supporting the bill and the airline industry criticizing it for costing millions of dollars.

"We believe individual carriers should be able to make the determination," said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the country's airlines.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress set aside $100 million to help air carriers pay the estimated $12,000 to $17,000 cost of installing each cockpit door. Fitzpatrick's bill does not offer government funding for the second barrier.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Assn., which includes federal air marshals, endorsed the legislation.

"The best security is a layered approach, and the more layers, the better," said Don Mihalek, a spokesman for the law enforcement group.

He dismissed the airline's complaint that the doors are mandated without funding.

"The only mandate the airlines should be primarily concerned with is the terrorists', which is to kill as many Americans as they can, no matter the cost," Mihalek said.

• For hotels, the more reviews the better

If you see a hotel with only a handful of online reviews, you might not be getting the full picture.

A study by Spanish professors published by Cornell University found that initial online hotel reviews tend to be more negative and that the overall evaluations improve as the number of opinions increases.

Online reviews are crucial for hotels because research shows they are usually more effective than traditional marketing such as print, radio and television ads.

The study, based on sample reviews of 16,680 hotels, found that when a hotel has only 11 to 20 reviews, an average of 23% of them rate the hotel as terrible or poor. But when a hotel has more than 101 reviews, only about 13% of them rate the hotel terrible or poor, the study showed.

Kelsey Blodget, editorial director at the hotel review site, said there are two probable reasons for the trend.

"If the earliest reviews are posted when the hotel is brand new, it could just be because new hotels usually have some kinks to work out before they get things running smoothly," she said. "It could also be that those with negative things to say are the most eager to voice their opinions and are more likely to be 'first responders.'"

• Spare change at Ryanair

Ryanair, the ultra-low-fare carrier based in Ireland, wants you to know it is cheap but not so cheap as to stiff you on your pocket change.

The airline famous for squeezing fees from passengers took some heat recently from British tabloids that suggested Ryanair's flight attendants were not returning change to passengers after onboard sales.

The tabloids hinted that the penny-pinching airline was keeping the change to increase airline revenue.

"Nonsense," responded Robin Kiely, a spokesman for Ryanair. "Utter nonsense."

The stories, he said, were based on a training manual that instructed Ryanair flight attendants who are selling onboard food and drinks what to do when they run out of change. The manual tells flight attendants to suggest that passengers buy extra items to eliminate the need for change, Kiely said.

But the manual, produced by a third party, has been revised.

"Our policy is to give change right back," he said.

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Nigeria’s anti-drug agency may sanction foreign airlines

Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) may sanction 14 foreign airlines said to be used by drug traffickers through the country’s main gateway Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, between January and June.

The local media on Sunday quoted NDLEA Spokesman Mitchell Ofoyeju as saying in a statement that the airlines included Qatar, Emirates and South African Airways, said to be on top of the list.

Others are Etihad, British Airways, Arik, Asky, Turkish, Kenyan, KLM, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Ethiopian and Alitalia airlines.

The statement quoted the NDLEA Chairman Ahmadu Giade as saying, “Any airline found to be involved in drug trafficking will be sanctioned.’

According to the NDLEA, the half-year report of the agency showed that a total of 43 cases of drug seizures were made at the Lagos airport on the 14 airlines.

“Qatar had nine cases; Emirates, eight; South African, six; and Etihad, three, while seven others, British Airways, Arik, Asky, Turkish, Kenyan, KLM and Air France, had two cases each. Virgin Atlantic, Ethiopian and Alitalia airlines recorded one case each,” the statement said.

The agency also identified South Africa, China, Malaysia and the United Kingdom as the top destinations of drug traffickers within the period, while incoming drug seizures came from Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Panama and Bolivia.

Business jets can’t fly overseas without evaluation, says Directorate General of Civil Aviation

New Delhi: The operators of business jets and chartered aircraft can no longer fly to international destinations, India’s aviation regulator said after a global audit found in December last year that they were inadequately prepared for long-distance flights.

Nearly 125 Indian aviation firms that have business jets and charter aircraft cannot fly till they come back with a readiness plan, according to Arun Mishra, director general of civil aviation (DGCA). At least 44 of these operators fly overseas.

“Whenever they are prepared, they will come to us. We will do a structured evaluation,” Mishra said. “Only then we will clear it, after a check of all their operations ground up.”

The regulator, in a circular on Wednesday, made the deficiency public when it said, “It has now been decided that henceforth, no non-scheduled air operator permit (NSOP) holder shall be permitted to undertake international operations, unless the operator meets the aforesaid requirements for undertaking such operations, besides the requirements existing in” the rules prescribed by the directorate general of civil aviation.

India has the second largest business jet fleet of about 150 in the Asia-Pacific region, after China’s 200.

The total number of business jets and charter aircraft are about 800.

The accident record of charter aircraft in India has been worse than that of commercial airlines.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu was killed with four others after a Eurocopter helicopter operated by Pawan Hans crashed in bad weather in May 2011.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy died when his state government-owned Bell 430 helicopter crashed in a dense forest while flying to a village in Chittoor district in September 2009.

As many as 158 people died in India’s worst air crash in a decade in Mangalore in 2010 when an Air India Express flight IX-812 overshot a hilltop runway.
A business jet pilot, who declined to be named, said he has faced problems at several southeast Asian airports that refused landing to aircraft he was flying after the global audit findings of December.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), of which India is a member, completed an audit of the DGCA in December and found it wanting in its ability to oversee safety issues.

Icao, in its report, had identified a “significant safety concern with respect to the ability of this state (India) to properly oversee areas” under airworthiness and operations.

This issue needed a detailed investigation, which includes officers of the DGCA who dealt with the matter between 2006 and now, according to Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation analyst and a member of the government-appointed civil aviation safety advisory council.

“Then, try and find out how many of these operated these flights on behalf of politicians, actors, businessmen, etc., to Dubai and other tax havens. This will expose the nexus between DGCA and business jets and charters,” he said.

“With the downgrade sword hanging over his head, the DGCA issues an order banning international flights by NSOPs as they were not even licensed for such operations. This was raised by Icao in December 2012, and it was also raised during the audit in 2006. Does it require a threat of blacklist and downgrade for a guardian of flight safety to act? This order clearly shows it was a firefighting action to soften the Icao team, which found serious deficiencies.”
Officials from the UN aviation watchdog, which had clubbed India among 13 nations with the worst record for air safety oversight, were in India this month for a compliance audit of the Indian aviation regulator.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had given Icao a corrective action plan that it intended to implement by June.