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.

Story and Comments/Reaction:

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.

Story and Comments/Reaction:

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.

Fire breaks out on Shenzhen plane in China; 12 injured in evacuation

SHENZHEN, China, Aug. 25 (UPI) — Twelve passengers were injured after a fire broke out Sunday on a Shenzhen Airline plane in China, the company said.

The fire occurred before the plane was set to take off from the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport, which serves China’s first special economic zone, Xinhua reported.

The passengers suffered minor injuries while being evacuated, company sources said.

The fire occurred at 6:10 p.m., and an investigation in the cause is under way, Xinhua reported.

The incident did not disrupt the flight schedules of the airport, which is the hub for Shenzhen Airlines.