Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reported engine fire appears to be false alarm: Des Moines International Airport (KDSM), Iowa

A reported airplane engine fire at Des Moines' airport sent emergency crews to the scene Sunday afternoon, but no fire was seen.

The report came after an indicator light warned of a possible engine fire at approximately 3:15 p.m., said Ken McCoy, director of operations for Des Moines International Airport

The airport's fire department responded to the call, McCoy said, and no indication of a fire was found on the plane when they arrived. There were no injuries.

McCoy identified the plane as Allegiant Air flight 497, scheduled to depart for Las Vegas, Nev., at 1:45 p.m. according to the airport's website. The flight had 157 passengers and crew on board, McCoy said.

McCoy said the plane was on the taxiway at the time of the alarm, though he had no information on whether it was preparing to take off or was taxiing.

The airline and airport would run through their protocols to make sure the plane was safe for takeoff in the future, McCoy said.

There is currently no information available on plans for the passengers and whether they will be rerouted to their destination or another plane will fly to Des Moines to take them to Las Vegas, McCoy said.

McCoy was unable to comment on the frequency of alarms like this, as often problems with instruments are handled internally by the airlines themselves, he said.

Saskatchewan air ambulance ready to fly again

The Saskatchewan air ambulance that slid off the runway in Maple Creek in 2011 has been repaired.

The air ambulance that slid off the runway in Maple Creek in 2011 has been repaired and is once again ready to fly. 

 While the plane was being repaired, the Government of Saskatchewan lent one of their three executive aircrafts to the service. Now that the air ambulance is repaired, politicians can have their plane back.

However, going without one executive plane has saved the province money. Cabinet ministers took fewer flights in 2012, and the NDP are suggesting the government’s plane could remain in air ambulance service.

Across Saskatchewan, the demand for air ambulance service has increased sharply, even with the introduction of STARS. The number of government ambulance flights in southern Saskatchewan has actually increased by 15%.

The air ambulance slid off the runway in January 2011 after a wheel got caught in a ridge of snow while the plane was landing.

The plane was then shipped to Red Deer for repairs, which cost nearly $2 million and were covered by insurance.

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Ajit Singh to have final say on jet import

NEW DELHI: In yet another move to overrule the Prime Minister's office, the Ajit Singh-led aviation ministry has decided that the Jat leader will be the final approving authority for anyone wishing to import aircraft to India.

The aviation ministry used to have an empowered aircraft acquisition committee (AAC) headed by its additional secretary-cum-financial advisor that would clear requests from airlines, charter companies and private individuals to bring in aircraft. The empowered status of the AAC was withdrawn some months back and UPA's crucial alliance partner, Ajit Singh, was made the final approving authority. The PMO on October 30 had sent a letter to the aviation ministry, asking it to keep "in abeyance" its decision to give the Jat leader the final authority to clear the recommendations of the AAC. The letter stated that this structure could delay aircraft acquisition and bring in a license raj.

Sources close to Ajit Singh said he "did not even take cognizance" of the letter sent by a director of the PMO and aviation secretary K N Shrivastava took up the issue with the PMO. The ministry prevailed and issued an order — dated October 31 — that Singh will be the "approving authority" and AAC a "recommending authority" for aircraft acquisition requests by schedule airlines, regional airlines, charter companies and private individuals. The aviation secretary will be the approving authority for import requests by flying clubs; for extending initial import permissions and to replace aircraft when seating capacity of new planes is 10% more than the old ones.

This is the second time in six months when the aviation ministry has over-ruled the PMO. In July, it sacked director general of civil aviation Bharat Bhushan just after the PMO granted him an extension.

Aviation ministry officials say the decision to make the AAC empowered taken during the NDA rule was "bad in law". "The ministry clarified to the PMO that the final approval authority for importing aircraft is with the minister. Ajit Singh feels that low cost carriers which started in India were also meant to promote regional connectivity by connecting small towns to metros and have small planes to inter-connect small towns. In past few years, airlines have been allowed to import 100 plus aircraft and these airlines do not have small planes for regional connectivity. His aim to be the final approver was to ensure regional connectivity is not lost sight of while clearing airlines' request to bring in planes," a top official said.

Ajit Singh said: "Someone complained in the PMO that minister being final approving authority will mean delays. There is no question of that happening under me. Also, the decision to have the minister as approving authority was taken by my predecessor (Vayalar Ravi) in March 2011. There was no legal status for the AAC to be an empowered agency. I have spoken to the PM on this issue and it has been laid to rest."

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Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport (KIXA), Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina: Enjoys growth

Della Rose | The Daily Herald 
Andrew Roy, right, shares a conversation with Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport Manager Ralph Johnson and Aviation Safety Specialist Tom Freeman.

HALIFAX — Andrew Roy, manager of Pelican Packaging in Halifax, uses Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport at least a couple of times a week for business and pleasure, saying the airport helped make the decision to move the company from its Rocky Mount facility. 

“Our business was established,” Roy said.

He and his brothers live in Rocky Mount. When they needed to expand, they talked with several counties.

“But in talking with Halifax County, it was a no brainer where we should go,” he said.

Pelican Packaging has a single-engine four-seat Cyrrus. Roy’s personal aircraft is a Cessna 150. He said about 60 percent of his flying is personal, but from a business standpoint, time makes all the difference.

With the firm located less than five minutes from the airport, it saves him a lot of time doing business in other states.

“Doing business in Winchester, Va., takes five and a half hours to drive one way, but by plane, only 45 minutes,” he said. “So we can make a thing like that in less than a day.”

Roy said he can cover his customers’ concerns and still get in a half day of work in the Halifax facility. He also has customers come in to visit using the airport.

The increased use by Roy and other business people like him have helped the airport, which opened in 2009, reach new heights.


Airport Authority Chairman David King said the airport has shown steady growth in its use and ability to become self sustaining.

According to Airport Manager Ralph Johnson, the airport performed nearly 2,000 operations in 2012 — up from 1,726 in 2011, and sold more than 27,000 gallons of fuel — up from 23,000 in 2011. He said the airport is busy year round, with local and state training activities, group tours and an annual fly-in.

The Civil Air Patrol meets regularly at the airport, where they learn about aircraft and airports.

“We actually get them up and let them fly a plane,” Johnson said.

Johnson is proud to serve the airport, which he compares to an exit on the Interstate. He said having the airport makes the county more attractive for new business.

Eagle Home Medical owner Jeff Peedin uses the airport two to three times per month for business. He said frequently there is bad weather on his return flight and he has to use a manual approach to land.

“It is a vast improvement over the other facility we had,” he said, adding the improved instrument approach allows pilots to land in Halifax during bad weather where previously pilots would have made it for Rocky Mount. “An airport’s manual approach can make a huge difference in whether a pilot chooses to use an airport or goes on to the next. “This airport allows the pilot to get down to 400 feet. The better the approach, the more usable it is. There’s nothing bad I can say about the airport.”

There are 72 publicly owned airports in North Carolina according to an Institute for Transportation Research and Education study released through North Carolina State University called Economic Contribution of North Carolina Airports.

According to the study, Halifax-Northampton Regional produced $10,190,000 total output dollars. While the facility employs three, it provides for 30 jobs in the area. The study said it impacts $990,000 in payroll and brings in $377,000 total state and local taxes.


The $14.5 million facility is state of the art, according to King, and is in its final phase of construction with the addition of the Precision Instrument Approach lighting system scheduled for completion this year.

“It allows airplanes to land with a 200-foot ceiling and half-mile visibility,” he said. “It’s the lowest minimums of any airport in the country. Our technology will rival any general aviation airport in the nation.”

The airport also boasts a 5,500 feet runway that can accommodate private and corporate aircraft.

The modern terminal facilities include a spacious lobby and vending area, visitor information center, operations room, offices, conference room, pilot lounge, quiet room and other amenities found at larger airports.

All of the 18 T-Hangars are currently leased. The self-service fuel farm operates 24 hours a day, and offers Jet A and 100 LL fuels, corporate hangar facilities, a parallel taxi way and Approach Lighting System.

An Automated Weather Observing System offers minute-to-minute weather updates by VHF radio at 119.975 radio, and off-site users can call in for data.

Halifax County Economic Development Director Cathy Scott said the economy is rebounding and there is more air travel for business and pleasure. Also, users of airports are finding out about the facility and make it a stop along their way. Finally she said, people that were using other airports in the area are using Halifax-Northampton.

“Ralph Johnson does a great job in managing the airport and accommodating pilots and guests,” Scott said. “(The airport) is extremely important in our business recruitment efforts. We have had several companies visit us in their site selection process that fly in to the airport. We meet in the airport conference room, then go visit sites and various community assets, and they get back on their plane.”

King said people are traveling to the East Coast and stopping off for fuel even though they are not staying in the Roanoke Valley.

“The airport, as with any business, is beholden to the ebbs and flows of the national economy,” he said. “As the economy picks up steam, our business will pick up proportionately. I’m hopeful — not only for the airport, but also the local economy.”

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Colombian Navy helicopter crash kills one, injures five

BOGOTA, Jan. 6  -- A Colombian navy helicopter crashed into the waters on Sunday, leaving one dead and five others injured in the country's southwestern Narino region bordering Ecuador, Navy authorities said.

The accident occurred early Sunday morning when the helicopter Bell 212 was on a medical mission where it reported an emergency at a place known as Bajito Vaqueria in a rural area nearby Tumaco city.

The helicopter plunged into the waters, where sadly perished the marine John Jairo Ocoro.  Coastguard and naval aviation crew evacuated, taking the injured to a hospital in Tumaco, where they are being treated," said the Navy report.

Authorities are investigating into the cause of the crash.

Group has high-flying hopes for Corsair, and the ancient hangar it will call home

Andrew King, executive director of the Connecticut Air & Space Center in Stratford, discusses the planned renovation of the historic Curtiss hangar on Thursday, December 13, 2012. 
Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Connecticut Post

STRATFORD -- The long-neglected Curtiss hangar at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, which has seen the likes of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, may yet have its best days ahead. 

The reason is the Corsair fighter plane that for three decades adorned the entrance to Sikorsky Memorial Airport might find the 84-year-old hangar as its next home.

The hopeful group of volunteers operating the Connecticut Air and Space Center, now busily restoring the Corsair and other aircraft, say that the Curtiss hangar, on the Main Street side of the airport, would make the perfect home for the center's planned aviation museum, which would include other displays on the state's contributions to powered flight.

The Curtiss hangar isn't much to look at. In fact, the city of Bridgeport, which owns the airport along with the old hangar, had expressed a desire to tear down the building several times over the years -- the wrecking ball stalled only by a failure to appropriate money for demolition.

But Andrew King, executive director of the center, says that the hangar only suffers from "gingerbread issues," and that aside from a new roof deck, the cracked brickwork and broken windows can be replaced without too much fuss.

"It's built on a steel frame, and an engineer told us that it's fine," King said, adding that the center will lease the hangar from the city for $1 per year.

The hangar, sometimes called Hangar No. 2, was the home of the Curtiss Flying School from 1929 until about 1935. After that, it was run by the Bridgeport Flight Service.

There were about 16 Curtiss Flying Schools around the nation, but only one other Curtiss hangar survives, in South Carolina, and King said it might be demolished soon.

"The hangar is part of the golden age of aviation," he said.

The hangar's restoration will become the centerpiece of a revival of the eastern end of the airport, neglected since the mid-1960s, supporters say.

"When people come and see the hangar here, they'll know that they'll be looking at a historic airport," King said. "Charles Lindbergh was here, Amelia Earhart was here. Igor Sikorsky. Howard Hughes."

Money is always a problem, he said. The entire project could run more than $1 million, although the building will be made weather tight for much less. Supporters are hoping for corporate and private donations to carry much of the load.

"The steel doors are really special," said Mark Corvino, the chief fabricator for the Corsair project. "They run on tracks, and the entire span can be opened up if need be."

The hangar took a beating from Superstorm Sandy, but Corvino said that it has actually worked to the group's advantage. The parts of the roof that blew off will actually save some money because there's less of it to strip off now.

The F4U Corsair is still across the street in the former Avco Lycoming Army Engine Plant. The wings, engine and a few other parts are in Building 53. The fuselage and the rest of the plane is in another building in the Avco complex that was used as a tool shed and storage.

During World War II, the plant was used by the Chance Vought Division of United Aircraft, and it was there that 3,250 Corsairs were built. Hundreds were churned out every month at the height of the war.

The Corsair has a special place in the state's aviation history because it was almost entirely produced here.

Named after the notorious sailing ships of the Barbary pirates, the F4U Corsair was the first U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph. Deliveries began in July 1942. Although designed as a carrier-based fighter, it usually was based on the tiny inlands of the Pacific Theater because it was a difficult plane to land on a carrier deck owing to poor forward visibility. For that reason, it was more commonly flown by Marine, as opposed to Navy pilots.

Despite this handicap, it quickly became the fighter most feared by the Japanese, with a claimed kill ratio of 11 to 1.

By the end of World War II, it was used also as a fighter-bomber, and was key to the victories at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Marshall Islands.

Nearly the entire plane was built in Connecticut -- the airframe, the massive Pratt & Whitney 18-cylinder R-2800 radial engine, even the propeller.

After World War II, the Corsair saw service in Korea, and the French used Corsairs extensively in the Indochina War. Production ceased in 1955.

The Air and Space Center also is restoring about a dozen other aircraft. Its latest undertaking is a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter. It's an early variant, powered by a pair of P&W Twin Wasps, a newer version of the Corsair's power plant.

When the F4U was taken off its pedestal in 2008, those involved in the project said that they were eager to get the Corsair restored and back up on its concrete perch. But months of loving disassembly and restoration have made them question whether returning it to that spot, out in the salt air of the airport, would be wise. Hence, the need to restore the old hangar.

Today the Corsair is in pieces -- wings in one place, fuselage in another, engine in a third. It's covered in yellow primer. Soon it will be painted Navy blue, and it will eventually look like it did when Corsairs rolled out of the Chance Vought plant in the 1940s.

The group has had its setbacks, though. Bill Digney, of Fairfield, one of the older fabricators working on the Corsair, died on Nov. 18. And former state Sen. George "Doc" Gunther, a major supporter of the project, died in August.

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Kingfisher Airlines may lose international rights, slots

NEW DELHI: Kingfisher may theoretically have two years to restart operations but top aviation ministry sources say that unless the airline does so in the next month or two, it could well be the end of the road for it. For the airline's international flying rights—which remain in demand even when domestic traffic is dipping sharply—are going to be given to other Indian carriers, along with its airport slots, in the coming summer schedule if KFA shows no sign of life soon.

And then Kingfisher, which in its eagerness to start flying abroad before completing five years had bought Air Deccan to do so on its permit, will have to wait endlessly for foreign rights. "After that an airline will be able to get more foreign routes only when India and other countries enhance their bilateral flying. If Kingfisher has to start flying , it must do so in the coming weeks. Both state-run Airports Authority of India and private metro airports are also not going to reserve its slots, both domestic and international , forever," said a senior official.

Aviation authorities handling the Kingfisher crisis say they do not see any urgency among promoters to raise funds to restart flying. While the airline's license was expiring in the New Year, the management simply submitted an 'unsatisfactory' revival plan. Director general of civil aviation Arun Mishra had called the airline's VP Hitesh Patel on December 29 (a Saturday) to point out the various loopholes in the plan. The idea: the airline must have a working day (December 31, a Monday) to resubmit if it had anything concrete to offer.

"The airline management just gave an unsatisfactory plan and did not even bother to find out what our response to that was. We really wonder if they can raise funds and have any concrete plans to do so because of the dire condition the airline is in with a collective debt-cum-loss of over Rs 15,000 crore," said an official.

Sources indicate that the promoters wanted to somehow make the airline fly again so that they can sell it off. "Who is going to put in money in a grounded airline? Without putting funds, the management wanted us to give the nod to fly again and then get an investor. We have very clearly told them that get funds first either through an investor or through internal group funding, pay off employees and others and then fly," said an official.


Aviation authorities, which are handling the Kingfisher crisis, say they do not see any urgency in the promoters to raise funds. While the airline's licence was expiring in New Year, the management submitted an 'unsatisfactory' revival plan. Kingfisher, which in its eagerness to start flying abroad before completing five years had bought Air Deccan to do so on its permit, will have to wait endlessly for foreign rights. "Both state-run Airports Authority of India and private metro airports are also not going to reserve its slots, both domestic and international, forever," said a senior official.

Oklahoma insurance commissioner logging lots of time in state-owned planes

OKLAHOMA CITY - Insurance Commissioner John Doak has crisscrossed the state in state-owned aircraft on his mission to educate the public and reach out to constituents.

Doak is the top statewide elected official using state-owned aircraft, behind Gov. Mary Fallin. The costs billed to his agency are $3,462.

His predecessor, Kim Holland, did not use state-owned aircraft to travel, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Doak said he is the only insurance commissioner to visit each of the state's 77 counties each year.

He said the voices of people in Grove, Antlers and Woodward are just as important as those in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Doak are the only statewide elected officials to use state-owned aircraft.

Lamb used the aircraft on June 5 to travel to western Oklahoma. The cost was $2,264, according to DPS.

"The criteria for usage of state aircraft by the lieutenant governor include the availability of state aircraft, while maximizing his time on behalf of Oklahoma and striking the balance of safety, security and time efficiency," said Ashley Kehl, a Lamb spokesman.

Doak, who has been in office two years, said his use of state-owned aircraft is infrequent. He said he only uses the plane when it is available and when he travels to multiple counties.

Doak used state-owned aircraft in April to view damage caused by a tornado.

He said he didn't travel with Fallin because they were not on the same schedule.

Other trips included speaking engagements and meetings with chambers of commerce, local leaders, insurance agents and consumers.

Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, criticized Doak after the insurance commissioner purchased shotguns, body armor and police cars for his anti-fraud unit. Two Chevrolet Tahoe four-wheel-drive vehicles and five Dodge Chargers - all equipped with a "police equipment package" - cost a total of $170,960. The equipment was bought with money from the department's anti-fraud revolving fund, which comes from fines, settlements, fees and penalties.

Coates, a pilot, said Doak is trying to promote himself rather than serve as a regulator.

Doak disagreed with Coates' characterization.

"I am a statewide elected official, which is a job I take very seriously," Doak said. "I will continue to serve the people of Oklahoma and meet with them around the state."

Coates said there needs to be legislation specifying when statewide elected officials can use state aircraft.

Lt. George Brown, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said the state has seven Cessna-type planes, one King Air reserved for the governor and her staff, and two helicopters.

He said his agency does permit travel for statewide elected officials and agency heads.

He said the aircraft are used to promote the agency's mission to protect the public.

"At this point, it hasn't compromised the mission, but we don't want to get to that point," Brown said.

He said the agency has turned down one request by Doak because a pilot was not available.

Brown said Doak's office inquired about using the King Air but was told it was reserved for Fallin and her staff.

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Plane charters flying high for Elite Jets

Chartering a private plane may once have been an option available only to the affluent not too long ago, but rising disposable income and corporate profits are helping to boost demand for air charters as local charter operators and brokers look forward to a growing industry.

Captain Hani Salman Ahmad, better known in the aviation industry as Captain Salman, chief executive officer of local charter broker Elite Jets Sdn Bhd, said more people are looking at chartering flights for their convenience and to suit their own schedules.

He notes that business for Elite Jets has been growing rapidly since he founded the company three years ago.

Air charters were initially designed as an alternative to the high cost and continuing expenses of aircraft ownership. Chartering a private jet offers the same convenience, flexibility and luxury as owning a jet, but without the cost of owning and maintaining it.

The ownership of private planes was booming back in the 1990s and early 2000s. But in the aftermath of the global economic downturn, the industry suffered contraction and deliveries of private aircraft dropped by some 30% as companies cut their fleets and individual owners sold their jets.

This shifted the attention of executives from ownership to chartering. Nonetheless, the air charter business did not get much of a boost from this change as the industry was also badly hit by the economic crisis and has only recently shown smalls signs of recovery.

Various reports note that the private-jet industry is inching its way up and chartered flights should be able to enjoy steady, albeit slow, growth over the next five years.

A report by market researcher IBISWorld says that the charter-flights market in the US, one of the largest in the world, had been growing 0.7% annually to about US$15bil last year.

According to Salman, Malaysia is also riding the growth of the private-charter business.

Salman has been in the aviation industry for over 20 years as a private pilot. He started Elite Jets after receiving numerous queries from friends and acquaintances on how and where to charter planes.

Elite Jets is a charter broker, which means the company does not own any aircraft or lease any planes. Charter companies do not necessarily own planes as the cost of owning and maintaining planes is high. Most companies lease planes from aircraft owners.

“We don’t own any aircraft and we don’t usually fly the planes either. At this point in time, we are mainly doing brokerage whereby we help clients charter planes from the aircraft owners for a margin of about 7% to 15%,” Salman said.

Gaining altitude

With the economy picking up and growth still taking place in emerging-market caountries, Salman expects demand for air charters to continue growing this year.

In fact, he calls the corporate jet business an untapped gold mine.

“Year on year, we see good growth in the number of requests we get for air charters. Now, we get an average of 17 requests a day from around the region,” he said.

Elite Jets saw a total of 183 aircraft movements in 2011 which grew to 186 by December last year.

While the bulk of its business comes from overseas clients, Salman notes that domestic demand is also picking up fast. Currently, about 30% to 35% of its turnover comes from vibrant air charter markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore and about 15% from Indonesia.

According to Salman, a plane can clock a minimum of 400 hours of flight a year. At an average price of US$8,000 (RM24,100) per hour, an aircraft can generate a minimum annual income of US$3.2mil.

Currently, Elite Jets has about 30 aircraft at its disposal.

Reports note that private jets in the US average about 30 to 50 hours of flying time a month, which works out to about 360 to 600 hours a year, while an Indonesian charter firm claims to do 75 hours a month.

Aircraft chartering in Asia is clearly a growing business. According to CNBC, although still a relatively small private-jet market compared to the rest of the world, Asia is expected to account for 16% or US$40bil of total orders over the next 10 years.

In Malaysia, Elite Jets is one of the main players in charter brokerage.

Salman says the company’s advantage lies in its ability to provide a quick quotation for clients thanks to its established network with other charter providers.

Most of its business is derived from business and executive travel, but Salman adds that Elite Jets also caters a lot to VIP and leisure flights.

In short supply

As business takes off for plane charters and brokers, Salman notes that the main obstacle for growth is the lack of local-based aircraft that are available for charter services.

“While the prospects for plane charters and brokering are extremely good, there are not enough planes based in Subang that can be legally chartered out.

“Thus, we have to pay a ‘mobilizing fee’ to bring in aircraft from overseas for charter if the clients want to take the planes from here. And this means higher cost for clients and a longer waiting time for the aircraft to be brought in for use. This is the main issue we face in trying to meet the growing demand,” Salman said.

Although there are quite a number of planes parked in Skypark, Subang, he explained that most of them are privately owned aircraft and licensed exclusively for the use of the owner.

There are generally two categories of plane ownership: private ownership where the aircraft can only be used by the owner and cannot be chartered out; and public planes where the aircraft is purchased to be legally chartered out.

Despite the bright prospects of the air charter business, Salman laments that not many see the opportunities as business owners who can afford to purchase or lease planes are not tapping into the available demand. Elite Jets hopes to someday have its own fleet of aircraft to ensure availability of aircraft at the snap of a finger.

However, Salman said funding an aircraft is no easy task as reports note that some short-range planes can still cost about US$8mil to US$10mil, which is slightly more than half the prices they were going for at the pre-crisis peak.

“Being a pure broker on the other hand, we don’t need to carry the cost of plane ownership on our balance sheet. So we need to weigh it out and see if it is really a viable option for us to own aircraft,” Salman said.

Additionally, a report by US-based private jet charter brokerage, DukeJets, noted that the price of a private jet is only a small fraction of the operational costs of keeping and maintaining a private jet. There is also the cost of hiring and training pilots, hanger fees, fuel costs, ramp fees and so on, noting that the purchase “can be a money pitf like you never anticipated”.

For now, Salman is satisfied with growing Elite Jets’ brokerage business which is turning in impressive annual growth of more than 25%.

“We are growing and this is only the beginning. Things are going well for us. We definitely look forward to more business this year,” he said.

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Far East banks fly into aircraft leasing market as cost for airlines rises

Airlines and aircraft leasing companies will have to pay more to buy their planes in the year ahead, according to a report published today.

Orders for airplanes have hit record highs, but cash-strapped European banks are pulling out of the aircraft leasing market, a study by accountancy firm PwC said.

Lenders from China, Japan and the United States are filling the gaps in the market, but the financing costs for airlines and companies that lease aircraft are taking off, the report concluded.

Neil Hampson, PwC’s global head of aerospace and defence, said: “The industry is experiencing unprecedented levels of orders for aircraft that are more fuel efficient. Our research ­highlights that, whilst financing will be available, it will be at a higher price.

“As competition to secure financing intensifies, the question remains as to who will be picking up the cost.”

PwC financial services partner Shamshad Ali added: “There are a number of headwinds in the aircraft finance market that may make these orders more difficult to finance and more expensive.

“With the cloud of economic uncertainty still hovering around Europe, we are seeing banks there retreating from the market, and interest from Asian investors is increasing.

“We are already seeing banks from China and Japan snapping up aviation assets and we think this trend will only accelerate.”


Beechcraft H35 Bonanza, N375B: Accident occurred January 04, 2013 in Palm Coast, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA13FA105 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 04, 2013 in Palm Coast, FL
Aircraft: BEECH H35, registration: N375B
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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

On January 4, 2013 at 1419 eastern standard time, a Beechcraft H35, N375B, was destroyed when it impacted a house during a forced landing in Palm Coast, Florida. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Saint Lucie County International Airport (FPR), Fort Pierce, Florida, and was destined for Knoxville Downtown Island Airport (DKX), Knoxville, Tennessee. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to preliminary air traffic control voice communication information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot contacted Daytona Approach control, and reported vibrations in the propeller and engine. The FAA Daytona Approach controller advised the pilot that the airports in the area were instrument flight rules with cloud ceilings of 900 to 1000 feet above ground level. The pilot received radar vectors for an airport surveillance radar (ASR) approach to guide him to runway 29 at Flagler County Airport (XFL), Palm Coast, Florida. The ASR was not a published approach, however the pilot did hold an instrument rating. Several minutes later, the pilot reported that the engine oil pressure was zero with "cool cylinders." Radar vectors from Daytona Approach continued and the pilot was cleared to land. At 2 miles from runway 29, no further transmissions from the airplane were received.

According to witnesses, the airplane was visually observed on final approach at an unusually low altitude. About 1 mile from the approach end of runway 29, the witnesses lost sight of the airplane behind tall pine trees.

The accident site was located about 4,200 feet southeast of XFL. The initial impact point (IIP) was identified as a tree with broken limbs, with various components of wreckage extending from that point on a heading of 288 degrees magnetic for 50 feet. Following the IIP, the majority of the airplane impacted the roof of a detached single family home and a large fire ensued, which destroyed most of the airplane and dwelling.

The airplane wreckage was moved to a nearby storage facility for examination. An engine examination will be conducted at the manufacturer’s facility at a later date.

Dozens of neighbors gathered and sang songs and shared prayers at the vigil.

Neighbors surrounding the site of a plane crash organized a vigil to remember the three people killed Friday.

A woman, inside the home at the time, escaped by climbing out a window to safety.

A neighbor reflected on just how close his own home came to disaster.

He lives right behind the home that was damaged and said if the plane would have nosedived a few hundred feet that way, the plane would have crashed into his house.

The vigil was planned by those neighbors.

It was held outside the crash site around 6 p.m.

Organizers said they will be remembering the three victims:

  • 57-year-old Michael Anders, from Kentucky
  • 59-year-old Duane Shaw, from Kentucky
  • 42-year-old Charissee Peoples, from Indiana
Dozens gathered to sing songs and share prayers. Neighbors are glad the woman who lives in the home, Susan Crockett, made it out safely without a scratch.

“My wife and neighbors and everything are just shaking our heads and blessed that it wasn’t us. I feel for the people who lost their lives in the plane crash. I just don’t know what to say,” said neighbor Tom Arnold.

Investigators said a preliminary report about why the plane crashed will be released later this month.
Earlier Sunday, Crockett's church came together to help her. It was there, at Mt Calvary Baptist Church, friends said her survival was a miracle.

They also pulled out their checkbooks to help.

The plane crash set her house on fire, gutting everything inside.

A 911 call shows she was on the phone with her daughter during the moment of impact.

911 Operator: What's going on over there?

Daughter: I was on the phone with my mom and she says a plane crashed into her house.

911 Operator: Into her house?

Daughter: Yeah. I was on the phone with and the phone got really fuzzy. And she said call 911, a plane crashed into the house.

Crockett was rushed to the hospital, but was treated and released.

At church, Crockett felt healthy enough to join her fellow choir members.

“Say what you want, but this is a miracle. She may not want our praise, but we will. Thank you Jesus,” said Pastor Edwin Coffie. Crockett, a Sunday school teacher, lost everything from clothes, appliances, to food and a bed to sleep on.

Right now, she is staying in a hotel.

The congregation was called upon to help and they acted with pen in hand.

“So here's what we're going to do today for her, show her our benevolence for sister Susan, we're going pull out our checkbooks,” said Pastor Coffie.

The response was so overwhelming it brought Crockett to tears.

Pastor Coffie announced the church will also set up a bank account so people outside the church can donate.

One church worker printed out a gift card suggestion list to help in the meantime:

  • Stores:
    • Publix
    • Walmart
    • Walgreens
    • Ross
  • Food/Restaurants
    • Subway
    • Firehouse subs
    • Outback Steakhouse
    • Red Lobster
    • Ruby Tuesday
    • Longhorn Steakhouse
  Regis#: 375B        Make/Model: BE35      Description: 35 Bonanza
  Date: 01/04/2013     Time: 1930

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Fatal     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Destroyed

  City: BUNNELL   State: FL   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   3
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   1     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   2     Fat:   2     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: ORLANDO, FL  (SO15)                   Entry date: 01/07/2013 

Flight carrying former finance minister diverted to Kolkata

KOLKATA: An Air India flight carrying 166 passengers, including former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, from Delhi to Ranchi was diverted to Kolkata on Sunday evening following thick fog cover over the Jharkhand capital.

The flight hovered over Ranchi and then travelled to Kolkata when the weather showed no signs of improvement. It landed at the NSCBI Airport at 4.30pm. While 38 passengers chose to return to Delhi in a flight that left Kolkata at 6.30pm, the rest, including Sinha, decided to travel by road. While Air India arranged two Volvo coaches for the journey, state police deputed two armed security guards in each bus on Sinha's request.

The buses had to journey through Jangalmahal area in West Bengal and Jharkhand where Maoist rebels, though depleted, are still active.

Recently, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's flight to Patna had similarly been diverted to Kolkata due to bad weather and he had then taken a train to the Bihar capital.

Seaplane connection to Munnar faces obstacles

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The seaplane project might have to drop one location from its priority circuit as an 11kV power line runs across the Mattupetty dam in Munnar. The Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited has requested power distributor M/s Tata Tea Ltd to decommission the line and locate it elsewhere.

"We received communication from the government asking if we could relocate the power line as it is a hindrance to the landing and take-off of the seaplane. It crosses a side of the dam near the Echo Point.

Electrical lines are usually drawn from the shortest distance. So the economics of the new location need to be studied. We have asked our engineers to work on the request. However, we have only received a letter, no official from the local KSEB office has visited us yet. The power lines supply electricity to Kerala Livestock Development Board, so it needs proper study," said C Sreekumar, PRO, Tata Tea.

Munnar's climate is also a matter of concern, "Operators are likely to opt for a single engine aircraft. They have to take a call on operating in Munnar's foggy climate," said a source from the tourism department.

The project is on track at the other five locations, such as Astamudi, Punnamada, Kumarakon, Bolgatty and Bekal. According to sources, five seaplane operators have shown interest to avail the early bird incentive which ends on January 31.

The KTIL is going ahead with the fabrication of the floating boat jetty at five locations. However, the one at Bolgatty is likely to be located around 24 nautical mile north of KTDC's Bolgatty Palace so as to avoid the Cochin Port Trust's shipping channel. Also, it has been decided that the passengers would be transferred via speed boat (owned or rented by seaplane/hotel operators) to a houseboat which will be berthed alongside the floating jetty, which will act as a holding and final frisking area. The seaplane operators are likely to be invited to conduct test flights before mid-2013.


Father and son team learning to fly

Flight instructor Chris Jones, left, is helping student Chris and Mike Cincio earn their wings.

PELHAM - More than a decade ago, Chris Cincio brought his young children to Niagara Central Airport for a ride in Bruce MacRitchie's vintage T-28 Trojan fighter plane. 

Chris, a Niagara Regional Police officer and Welland resident, said he's always wanted to learn to fly.

And the chance to fly in the restored 1950s plane was an experience he never forgot.

On July 30 last summer, he was riding through the countryside aboard his Harley Davidson motorcycle with his now 14-year-old son Mike when they once again found themselves at that same airport.

He asked Mike if he'd like to go for an introductory flight lesson, and Mike eagerly nodded his head.

They haven't looked back – or down – since.

“As soon as you get up there it's like a whole different world,” Chris said.

They've been learning to fly with Chris Jones, an instructor at the Welland Aero Center at the Niagara Central Airport.

Despite losing his contract to operate his flight school in the main airport building at the end of October, unable to negotiate a new agreement with the airport commission, MacRitchie, the Welland Aero Center owner, has continued to honor his commitment to his students including Chris and Mike, working from within his personal hanger at the airport.

MacRitchie said he's always believed that by teaching people to fly, he's helping to make their dreams come true.

“Frankly, if it wasn't for the fact that we hung in there, that dream wouldn't be coming true for this young man,” he added. “He's totally committed to it.”

In his six years of teaching prospective pilots, Jones said Chris and Mike are the first father and son team he's taught together.

“These guys are both great students,” Jones said.

Jones said there's a bit of friendly rivalry between his two students.

If that's the case, Chris said his son is winning.

He flew his first solo flight on Dec. 23, something he has yet to do.

Although Jones has had 14 year old students before, Mike is his first student of that age to fly solo.

Although prospective pilots can begin flight training at 14, Mike said he has to wait until he's 16 to get his recreational pilot's license and 17 for his full private pilot's licence.

But being at the controls of an airplane, and then returning to the life of a normal 14 year old has been a little challenging for the Grade 9 Notre Dame student.

Chris recalled driving home in his car after a day spent in the air a few months ago.

“It was really turbulent upstairs and we were tossed around all over the place,” he said. “After flying the aircraft, driving (the car) was nice and steady,” Chris recalled. “I turned to Mike and said, 'It's kind of different driving nice and smooth like this. He turned to me and said, 'I wouldn't know. They don't let me drive a car.'”

But it's probably better to wait a few years before he starts driving cars, anyway.

“As Bruce MacRitchie says, It's safer flying because there's not as many crazy people flying out there,” Chris said.

Learning to fly may also be helping Mike academically, his father speculated.

“He's learning about physics and chemistry. He's learning about biology and the effects on a pilot while flying,” he said.

“That's priming him up, and the more he works here in ground school and the tests he's writing, his marks in school have gone up.”

Story, photo, reaction/comments:

Big Bear City (L35), California: Airport district sets board meeting

The Big Bear Airport District board of directors meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Big Bear City Airport terminal.

Items on the agenda include a reorganization of committees, discussion and possible amendment of board meeting time, discussion and possibly recommendation of a date for the next Big Bear Airport Air Fair, and reportable action on real property negotiations for Units 1, 2 and 4 of the terminal building.

The Big Bear City Airport is at 501 Valley Blvd., Big Bear City.


Police: Teen arrested at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (KCLT) claims to be Ron Paul's grandson

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A teenager who says he is the son of a U.S. Senator, and grandson of a former Presidential candidate, was arrested Saturday night at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

William Hilton Paul, 19, was then transported and booked into the Mecklenburg County Jail.

Sources at the Mecklenburg Co. Sheriff's Office say he identified himself as the son of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.  Senator Paul's father is former Presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Paul was also charged with Disorderly Conduct and being Intoxicated and Disruptive.

WBTV placed calls to Sen. Paul's offices in Washington and Bowling Green, Kentucky, however they have not responded.

Questions still remain as to where Paul got the alcohol and who if anybody served him while he was at the airport.

William Paul is due back in court on January 8th.

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Rolls-Royce accused of bribing a Chinese airline executive

Blogger alleges that airline executive accepted payments as intermediary in deal to supply aircraft engines valued at £1.25bn 

Rolls-Royce is facing allegations that it paid bribes to an executive involved with two Chinese airlines, in the latest claims attached to a corruption probe at the aircraft engine maker.

The latest allegations are contained in postings by a blogger operating under the pseudonym of "soaringdragon" and related to deals worth a total of $2bn (£1.25bn) with Air China in 2005 and China Eastern in 2010. They claim an executive who worked at both airlines, Chen Qin, accepted payments as an intermediary in those deals.

Rolls-Royce revealed last month that the Serious Fraud Office had approached the company over allegations of malpractice in Indonesia and China, prompting the Derby-based manufacturer to conduct its own investigation through a law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton. In a statement last month Rolls-Royce said the probe had found "matters of concern" in Indonesia and China and other unspecified markets, relating to "concerns about bribery and corruption involving intermediaries in overseas markets."

Rolls-Royce, which is aware of the Soaringdragon postings, declined to comment on whether the blogger's allegations were included in the dossier passed to the SFO. However, the Sunday Times published a statement from China Eastern which appeared to confirm the blogger's claim that Chen Qin had been arrested by the Chinese authorities in 2011. It said: "Neither China Eastern nor Air China has any right to talk about Chen's case; only prosecutorial organs know the real background."

The deals at the centre of the allegations boosted Rolls-Royce's presence in the rapidly growing Asian aviation market. In 2005 Rolls-Royce said it had received an order from Air China for Trent 700 engines, to power the Airbus A330, worth $800m. Then in 2010 Rolls-Royce said it had won an order from China Eastern worth $1.2bn for Trent 700 engines to power 16 A330 aircraft. The China Eastern deal was signed in the presence of David Cameron, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, during an official trade mission to China.

Rolls-Royce faces the threat of a multimillion-pound fine on both sides of the Atlantic if the allegations escalate into official investigations by authorities, although the SFO and the US Department of Justice have yet to announce whether they will proceed with formal probes. The Soaringdragon postings are the second set of allegations implicating Rolls-Royce in corruption to be posted on the internet. Dick Taylor, a former Rolls-Royce employee in Indonesia, had alleged via a series of online postings that Tommy Suharto, the son of the former Indonesian president, was paid $20m (£12m) by Rolls-Royce and given a Rolls-Royce car to persuade the Garuda airline to buy Trent 700 engines in 1990. Taylor has said he felt "cheated" by his experience at Rolls-Royce, the world's second largest aircraft engine maker, after he was warned that he risked redundancy when he raised concerns over a colleague's expenses claims. Taylor subsequently took early retirement in 2004 but claims that Rolls-Royce was still making payments to intermediaries in Indonesia in 2010.

The Asia-Pacific region is a vital market for western aerospace companies targeting new customers amid stagnating demand at home. According to Airbus, the region will account for 35% of aircraft deliveries over the next 20 years, with China overtaking the US as the world's largest domestic airline market from 2031 onwards. As well as bringing opportunities for aircraft makers such as Airbus and Boeing, new jet sales also boost orders for engines. The front-runners for those orders are the likes of Rolls-Royce and its US rivals, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

Speaking in December, Rolls-Royce's chief executive, John Rishton, said the company would not tolerate "improper business conduct of any sort."

"This is a company with exceptional prospects and I will not accept any behaviour that undermines its future success". The company also announced that it will appoint an "independent senior figure" to review its compliance process and report to the board's ethics committee. Rolls-Royce is one of Britain's blue-chip exporters and thus a key manufacturer in George Osborne's "march of the makers", posting revenues of £11.3bn last year and a pre-tax profit of £1.2bn, with its strong future prospects underlined by an order book worth £62.2bn.

Rolls-Royce has admitted that the disclosures could result in the "prosecution of individuals and the company." Legal experts have warned that Rolls-Royce's co-operation so far will not spare the business from a prosecution by the SFO. The organisation's new boss, David Green, has signalled that the SFO will eschew settlements in favour of prosecutions, tackling a perception that it had been keener in recent years to deal with cases outside the courtroom.


Skydiver, 56, dies after parachute fails to open during jump at Scottish airfield

David Ball died after taking off from Strathallan Airfield near Auchterarder

  • Victim named as experienced skydiver David Ball from Edinburgh
  • Cause unknown but 'too low' theory being probed
  • Site has had a number of incidents in recent years
  • Fatal accident at Strathallan airfield in Perthshire yesterday

A skydiver who died after his parachute failed to open during a jump has been named as 56-year-old David Ball. 

Mr Ball, from Edinburgh, Scotland, was killed instantly when he hit the ground at Strathallan Airfield near the town of Auchterarder in Perthshire yesterday. 

The highly experienced skydiver, who had carried out up to 100 previous jumps, got into trouble when his first parachute malfunctioned during the 3,000ft jump and he failed to deploy his reserve in time to prevent him plummeting to his death. 

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Friends create own airstrip near Blenheim for $2000: No reservation required

Owners of the new airstrip Reginald Aberhart and Ron Long

A group of five aircraft enthusiasts from Marlborough have developed their own airstrip near Blenheim who say it could be used by small commercial operators flying to and from the North Island. 

 The new Sky Harbour Airfield at Marshlands, near Spring Creek, has been a nine-month "labor of love" for the five friends - including a former commercial pilot, a former airfield owner, an aircraft engineer tutor, a small aircraft builder and someone with a field big enough to land a plane.

The men, aged from their 50s to their 70s, built the airstrip themselves, putting up an electric fence to keep the cows out and flattening the ground for the runway with a 12-tonne roller.

Former US commercial pilot Ron Long said they marked out the 950-metre landing strip with old white car tires . . . "as everybody does".

All it needed was a wind sock, Mr Long said.

The men wanted their own airstrip, and somewhere to keep their planes, but hoped to develop the site into a fully operational airfield, particularly as a safe place for microlights to operate without the danger of them having to make a forced landing in vineyards in the unlikely event of having an engine failure on takeoff.

There are very few areas left in the Wairau Valley where this is possible, they say. Anthony Chaytor's property, where the airstrip is situated, is ideal, with extended landing areas in both directions. Mr Chaytor has been a microlight enthusiast and has owned many aircraft over the years, and he was keen to see the airstrip on his farm become active again.

The men have been in consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority and the air traffic controllers at Woodbourne.

"We look forward to the airstrip growing," Mr Long said.

"We will try to develop it for aviation-related businesses, like a maintenance facility or paint shop, and ultra-light flight instruction. If small commercial operators, like Sounds Air or air2there wanted to operate out of there, they would be 100 per cent welcome but we haven't talked to them."

The Sky Harbour Airfield could be used by small commercial aircraft in emergency situations or bad weather, Mr Long said.

Eight kilometres from Marlborough Airport and four kilometres from Picton Airport, it was the closest airfield to the North Island, he said.

All people using the strip needed was clearance from Woodbourne air traffic control and a transponder.

The transponder would make an aircraft show up on air traffic control's radar, Mr Long said.

"The field is open for anyone to use and you don't have to call for a reservation," he said. "We think it will be a good asset for the region and an additional airstrip in case of emergencies."

The Sky Harbour Airfield cost only $2000 to develop, with the men sourcing second-hand materials, such as fence posts and fencing, from Blenheim businesses.

There was no charge to land at the runway, although there would likely be a $15 overnight parking fee.

The group was also looking at putting in an access road, Mr Long said.

"It's a beautiful, remote area to fly in and out of with very few obstructions, which makes it nice and safe."

For information on the airfield call Ron Long on 022 137 3344.

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Kingfisher Airlines’ lenders to meet on January 18

New Delhi, Jan. 6:   The 17-bank consortium that had funded the grounded Kingfisher Airlines Ltd will meet at Mumbai on January 18. Bankers are expected to take a final call on initiating recovery proceedings against the beleaguered private airline, which has a liability of close to Rs 7,500 crore. The airlne’s license to fly had expired on December 31. This may, however, be renewed until December 2014.

The promoter, UB Group, had pledged various assets including the Kingfisher Airlines brand, a villa in Goa and Kingfisher house in Mumbai as collateral for securing the loans. It is not clear whether the banks would be able to recover the entire exposure given that the airline is grounded and the brand may not hold the same value.

Meanwhile, a core group of six banks met at Bangalore on Friday to discuss the viability of a restart plan presented by the airline. They were however not enthused by the proposed plan as it did not have any firm commitment from the promoters on fund infusion in the airline, it is learnt.

National airline envisions aviation hub: THAI gearing up for expansion of services

TOULOUSE : Thai Airways International (THAI) envisions turning the country into a hub for air travel, aircraft maintenance and aviation training.

THAI president Sorajak Kasemsuvan said the ambition, if realized, would keep the national airline competitive in the regional, commercial aviation industry.

Stiff competition from rivals spurred the national airline to pursue the developments, he said.

The country can offer a good location for an aviation maintenance center, and the country's airports could be expanded to cope with air traffic growth, he said.

Actions should also be taken to turn Thailand into the region's leader in pilot and aviation crew training, Mr Sorajak added.

Montree Jumrieng, executive vice-president of THAI's technical department, earlier said the airline is due to sign an agreement with Airbus in mid-February to build a corporate training center at its compound in Laksi.

THAI will also invest 30 million baht to upgrade its computerised system, which is needed for aviation maintenance work.

Mr Montree said THAI trains aviation crews from low-cost airlines and crews of airlines based in neighboring countries.

The carrier has the human resources required to train pilots and the partnership with Airbus will enable Thailand to increase its training capabilities, he said.

Mr Sorajak said airlines are battling fiercely to expand their market shares.

He said the introduction of the super-jumbo Airbus A380-800 to THAI's fleet has enabled the airline to improve passenger's flight comfort and experience.

The airline currently operates three of the super jumbos and another three will be delivered this year.

He said the aircraft has proven popular, especially on long-haul routes, because the cabins are spacious and quiet.

"THAI is gearing up," Mr Sorajak said. "We want [customers] to feel they should fly on our A380 [jets] at least once in their lifetime."

The national carrier is expecting the delivery of 17 new planes this year, including the additional super jumbos, with new routes planned for destinations around Asia.

The frequency of flights on some existing domestic and international routes will also be increased, he said.

Mr Sorajak said the airline is expanding its reach to cater to the expanding tourism and business markets.

John Blanchfield, Airbus's Director of Technical Marketing, said global air passenger traffic is expected to grow at an average of 4.7% per year in the next 20 years.

Asia-Pacific will remain the region with the highest demand for commercial aircraft, he said.

Fuel efficiency in modern aircraft of all types and sizes is improving, Mr Blanchfield said.

He said Airbus has received 12,000 orders for its planes.

About 7,500 of those orders have been delivered so far, he said.


New budget airline to link Fujairah with Indian and United States destinations

US-based Captain Rajan Nair,CEO of N-Air International, who is planning to start a budget airline linking Fujairah with Indian and US destinations.

As discussions on the Air Kerala project is getting delayed due to lack of investor’s interest, a new budget airline is planned from Fujairah to various Indian cities by a US-based aviation company that currently operates chartered and cargo flights from the USA to various destinations, especially the Caribbean.

Captain Rajan Nair, Chief Executive Officer of N-Air International, said his company is planning to launch a budget carrier from Fujairah in the UAE, with an initial plan to have flights five days a week to South Indian destinations, especially Kochi.

US based Captain Nair, who hails from an Indian expatriate family in Abu Dhabi, said the proposed budget carrier will start with an Airbus A 320 aircraft and will gradually expand to add more flights and destinations.

As Emirates 24|7 reported earlier, the fate of the Air Kerala project, the proposed airline partly owned by the Kerala government is in doubt, as big investors from the Middle East have allegedly backtracked after India’s central government in New Delhi refused to permit it to fly abroad before completing certain period of domestic operations.

An earlier proposal to start a budget carrier from the Middle East was allegedly torpedoed by influential NRIs. Captain Nair is starting afresh to launch the first budget carrier from Fujairah. While Air Kerala wants 20 aircraft to start operations, N-Air is confident of launching the service with just one or two aircraft.

Captain Nair claims he will be able to run the five-days-a-week schedule smoothly and more flights will be added later. As private carriers like Kingfisher have wound up operations due to financial problems, aviation analysts are keenly watching to see if Captain Nair’s aviation project will have a smooth operation.

“N-Air International LLC, a US company based in Florida, is a public charter company that operates passenger flights from cities in the USA to various destinations in the Caribbean. We are also in the process of starting passenger flights with an Airbus A-320 aircraft from UAE (Fujairah) to the southern cities in India,” Captain Nair told Emirates 24|7.

In a telephone interview from the US, he added: “The Indian operation is expected to begin in the month of June/July 2013. We have already got the aircraft and crew standing by and we are waiting for approval from the Director General of Civil Aviation. Fujairah Airport authorities have already told us that they would welcome us.”

Captain Nair is also the man behind a sea plane service project in Kerala, which is currently being discussed with the Kerala government. “By operating through Fujairah, N-Air will be able to serve tourists and business passengers from the USA to the Middle East. Our ultimate objective is to bring international tourists to Fujairah and from there take them further to South Indian destinations which are quite popular on the global tourism map,” he said.

Fujiarah is emerging as a global hub for oil trade, thanks to the oil pipeline circumventing the Strait of Hormuz.

 “The Indian cities on which we will primarily focus on at the outset are Kochi, Kozhikode, Vishakhapatnam and Madurai, with flights to and from Fujairah. We plan to market these flights to the expat population from these cities which flies home frequently and also carry huge amounts of excess baggage,” he said.

Captain Nair claimed that the budget carrier will be offering cheaper air fares and give additional baggage allowance to cost-conscious expatriate passengers from the UAE to India. N-Air officials have already discussed the project with the Fujairah Airport authorities and, according to him, they are keen to encourage a new budget airline that will cater to the Indian expatriate community in the northern emirates.

Captain Nair, who had left the UAE at an early age to pursue his civil aviation career, is thrilled to return to start a new budget carrier for Indian expatriate passengers. “My father used to be an active member and office bearer of the Kerala Social Centre in Abu Dhabi. I still have good memories of the UAE,” he said, adding that he will be interested in joining hands with the right investors for the budget carrier project.

Currently with CEN-Air International LLC, he was earlier working as CEO of Chalks International. The US FAAA-certified pilot with 18,000 hours of flying experience, 17,000 of them as pilot in command, is keen that the proposed airline will be an alternative to the Air Kerala project, which has not yet taken off due to lack of investor interest, especially from big NRI groups.

“I was personally assigned to fly many VIP passengers, including two US presidents, numerous US senators, the prime minister of the Bahamas, the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, and many other international dignitaries. But it is my pleasure to start a new airline for the Indian expatriate community,” adds Captain Nair.

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Air India crew resist cost-cutting

While the aviation ministry appears keen to turnaround debt-laden Air India with the government injecting thousands of crores of taxpayer's money, abrupt flight cancellations, perpetual delays and acute staff shortage at southern bases could put a spanner in its works.

The ailing airline's crew seems to have no intention of fulfilling the ministry's mandate to cut losses and turnaround.

Aviation minister Ajit Singh, worried by the projected net shortfall of Rs. 404 crore per month in AI, appointed a committee headed by an IIM Ahmedabad professor last week to suggest cost-cutting measures and cut down wasteful expenditure.

Cost cutting, it seems, is the last thing senior AI officials are bothered about.

"Stewardesses who used to operate the Chennai-Dubai-Chennai flight on a quick return basis without halting at Dubai are now operating the Chennai-Colombo-Chennai flight prior to operating the Chennai-Dubai flight, and as a result are forced to take a break at Dubai, whereby the company incurs expenditure by way of hotel accommodation and forex allowances for cabin crew," said an official on the condition of anonymity.

Pilots trained on the new Dreamliners continue to commute to Delhi and Mumbai from southern bases, incurring more expenditure in terms of hotel accommodation and travel allowance, besides occupying revenue seats when flights are overbooked.

"Old style of manipulation continues in AI," said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert.

"The Trivandrum and Calicut bases function with only two commanders and even a major base like Chennai does not have a sufficient number of commanders," stated another official.

A single pilot reporting sick for a flight will then have to be replaced by another pilot who is rostered for a later flight and the chain reaction it sets off is enough to disrupt the entire roster for the remaining days.