Sunday, September 22, 2013

Limited Resources Hindering Accident Investigation – Usman

In this interview with NKEM OSUAGWU, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Captain Muhtar Usman highlights some challenging and significant achievements in AIB since he came into office in December 2011.

Sir, what have been your major achievements and challenges in office?

As usual, when you come into a new office, you have to first assess the environment even though, I was an insider. So, I know some of the areas we needed to work on; the human capacity and equipment in particular. In the area of human resources, we intensified our trainings; we tried to improve a lot in terms of training because the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommends that a body like ours should be a body of professionals and the quality of the people that are to be employed as investigators should be of international standards. It is recommended that we should attract and retain qualified and experienced personnel in sufficient number and everybody knows that to attract and maintain aviation professionals is not cheap.

We tried as much as possible to attract and retain them by improving the welfare of the staff members and also give them the relevant training because training is a tool for them to be able to perform.

On equipment, when I came in, we did not have that in place even though the process had started acquiring what we call the black box decoder. This is a flight safety laboratory, which is used to download and analyze recordings from aircraft involved in accident. In terms of equipment, we have the flight safety laboratory in place now, which has the capability of downloading, analyzing flight recorders from aircraft whether involved in an accident or not. If it involves an accident, we use it to determine the cause of the accident and we can make recommendations to avoid future occurrences and we can use it proactively because the focus of AIB now is accident prevention.

In addition, the laboratory has the capability to animate those data that we collect, present them in a form of graphs to know what the aircraft was actually doing.

Furthermore, an approval has been given and the construction has already started for wreckage reconstruction hangar that is used to store, analyze wreckage from accidents. Our main focus now is to prevent an accident from happening and if it does happen, we should be able to know the cause and make safety recommendations to prevent other accidents from happening.

Parts of the challenges when we came into office was the absence of condition of service for our staff and we were able to get a temporary condition of service from the NCAA that was approved for us, which we have started implementing. We’ve been given the condition of service for two years pending the approval of the AIB’s own.

Why is AIB relocating to Abuja after the first attempt in 2008 failed?

First of all, I will like to say life is not static, two, as you noted, AIB was created in 2006 with the headquarters in Abuja. It was relocated to Lagos later and then there was a directive in 2008 for all the agencies in the sector to relocate their corporate headquarters to Abuja and the decisions were informed by so many things. There are several countries in the world which have their accident investigation department in their federal capitals. For instance, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in the United States, which is equivalent to AIB, its headquarters is located in Washington D.C, which is the capital of the US.

The location of accident investigation agencies is not necessarily in an area where we have so many activities because we deal with research and development.

There are two sides to accident investigations; the onside and off-side investigation. The onside is what you need to gather as soon as possible and once you have a regional office that is nearby, they can always respond to it, the off-side is the one that you do in your office : analysis, interviews that you need to conduct in your office or even go to the operator or even the regulators and so on.

So, it is not really about where the most commercial activities are taking place, but a place that it is conducive to actually work. If you look at the number of times you have to get to Abuja from wherever you are to get things done, quantify the time, also quantify the cost, you will find out that it is much cheaper for the corporate headquarters of organizations to be around Abuja.

Was that why your management relocated the agency’s laboratory from Lagos to Abuja?

I don’t like the word relocate; I prefer to use the word locate. The laboratory was never relocated, but located in Abuja by the management. The practice worldwide is that the laboratories are located in the headquarters and I can tell you that since 2008 when the directive was given, the location of the laboratory started. If people are saying that we are now relocating to Abuja, it is a process that started way back in 2008. The laboratory was never located in Lagos, it was meant to be located at the AIB headquarters and it is located at the headquarters in Abuja. It wasn’t dismantled from here and moved to Abuja.

What are the major challenges of AIB?

Funding is a major challenge. government has been doing very well as I said, but we need much more because resources sometimes limit to accident investigation. Like in the case of Dana Air, we had to send the two engines out; the cost of shipping, the cost of doing the tear down to establish, cost a lot of money. People had to travel to other countries.

Before now, we used to do flight recorder outside Nigeria to decode the analysis, but government has come to our aid in this regards. We are the only country in Africa that has this capability now. That will save us time because the idea behind it is to cut down on time. As I told you earlier, accident investigation is a public service, they don’t charge for it, but then, you have to queue up to get your time. But if you have your own facilities, then, automatically, yours becomes a priority. That is the benefit we have by having our own and we are also able to support other people by bringing in their own recorder, we are also going to learn a lot and apply it in Nigeria because if we are able to see any hazard based on the data that we have from another country’s accident, we are automatically a party to an investigation.

When are you releasing the final report on the Dana Air crash?

Our target is to finish as soon as possible. I talked of funding earlier but there are other things that are dependent may be not directly on funding. We don’t have all the facilities available to us and no country in the world has except may be a very few. For instance, we don’t have aircraft manufacturers here; there are things that sometimes you have to go back to the manufacturers to do. Also, we are still expecting a lot of tests and analyses which is dependent on either laboratories or other agencies we don’t have control over. That is why I cannot tell you the particular time the final report would come out.

Original article:

Expats to pilot domestic airlines for 3 more years

Expat pilots may continue to fly Indian aircraft despite the government’s repeated attempts to increase employment opportunities for local pilots.

On Friday, the civil aviation ministry permitted domestic carriers an additional three years to engage foreign pilots.

According to the circular issued by the DGCA, scheduled airlines could use expat commanders up to December 2016. Earlier, the safety regulator had given airlines time till the end of 2013 to phase out expat pilots.

Air safety experts blamed airlines’ failure to convert copilots into commanders for this extension. “It clearly indicates that, despite several warnings, airlines failed to produce enough commanders,” said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a member of the government-appointed Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC).

He added that the government should stop issuing circulars if it fails to implement them.

Till December 2012, India had 340 expat pilots, down from 526 in 2011. Jet Airways had the highest number of expat pilots (93).

The move will further narrow prospects of around 4,000 unemployed pilots in India. “There seems to be a nexus with expat pilot-placement agencies and airlines, and the government is turning a blind eye to this,” said an Airbus A320 commander, who is currently unemployed.

This is not the first time that the government has extended its deadline.

It first set July 2010 as the deadline to phase out expat pilots, revised it by a year, and later set 2013 as the deadline, said experts.

“It is sad that the government does not care about young pilots,” said a member of the Unemployed Pilots Welfare Association (WPWA), a Delhi-based body.

Original article:

BlackBerry Bought Corporate Jet in July: Smartphone Maker Acquired Used Plane as Losses, Job Cuts Loomed

WATERLOO, Ontario—Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd., which on Friday said it was set to post a loss of almost $1 billion for the quarter ended Aug. 31 and slash 40% of its workforce, only two months ago added a larger plane to its corporate-jet fleet.

The company purchased a 2006 Bombardier Global Express in July, according to Canadian aircraft-registry records. Although the price it paid for the jet couldn't be learned, similar planes are listed for sale for about $25 million to $29 million on a used-aircraft marketing website.

Less than a year ago, beset by slumping sales, BlackBerry sold one of its three corporate jets to cut costs. The sale left it with two Dassault Falcon jets that it had purchased several years earlier.

BlackBerry said Sunday that it acquired the used Global Express in July, but added that it now plans to sell its entire corporate-jet fleet due to its current financial straits.

"Earlier this year the company decided to sell both [Dassault] planes and replace them with one longer-range aircraft," company spokesman Adam Emery said in a statement. "The company considered several options and selected a used Bombardier aircraft, which was eventually delivered in July," he said.

Social-media posts indicate the older Dassault jets were spotted in Europe as recently as early this month, including on a flight to Marseille, France.

Mr. Emery said he wasn't sure when the two older jets were last used, but said he didn't "believe they have been flown since we took delivery of the newer used jet."

The new business jet, manufactured by Bombardier Inc. of Canada, is considerably larger than the jet BlackBerry sold last year, and can fly from New York to Tokyo without refueling.

"In light of the company's current business condition," Mr. Emery said, "the company has decided to sell that aircraft along with the two legacy aircraft and will no longer own any planes."

BlackBerry also said Friday that it would seek to cut operating costs by 50% after sales of its latest line of phones flopped. The company will write down nearly $1 billion in unsold phone inventory in the latest quarter.

A version of this article appeared September 22, 2013, on page B2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: BlackBerry Adds Company Jet— But Not for Long.


Pakistan International Airlines tightens cockpit, cabin crew monitoring after Leeds incident

LAHORE - To assure fool-proof aviation safety in aircraft, PIA has tightened monitoring of its Pre-Flight Checks System for both cockpit and cabin crew with immediate effect. Director Flight Operations has been assigned the task to personally monitor the Pre Flight Check System on all flights with zero-tolerance. This was stated by PIA spokesperson.

PIA Management has deplored the Leeds-Bradford incident in which one of its pilots was found in violation of aviation safety regulations. Though, the Management has taken immediate action by grounding and suspending the pilot but to reassure its valued passengers a drive of strict monitoring is now in effect.

He said though, the Leeds-Bradford episode was an isolated incident but PIA is highly concerned about the strict monitoring of conduct of cockpit and cabin crew. It is to be assured that Aviation Safety Regulations which are already in place will be followed with high degree of certainty.

Director Flight Operations has instructed Chief Medical Officer to depute medical staff at all check-in points to ensure a fool-proof monitoring. He has issued instructions to all concerned reinvigorating the need to implement safety regulations. Management has vowed to immediately suspend/ ground the avoider of safety rules on the spot which may lead to his/ her termination from service, the spokesperson concluded.

Original article:

Only Tara Air has submitted additional flights plan

KATHMANDU, Sept 22: Major airline operators have flouted the government´s directions to submit their additional flights plan to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) had directed domestic airlines to provide details of their additional flight plans to the aviation sector regulator by Friday.

“However, only Tara Air submitted its additional flight plans to us within the given time-frame,” Subash Jha, manager of CAAN, said.

Officials of Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines said they cannot provide details to CAAN as till now they don´t have any plan of adding flights.

As per the details submitted by Tara Air, the airline is adding three flights on Kathmandu-Lamidanda sector on October 2 and 9 and a flight on Kathmandu-Rumjatar sector on October 8. Similarly, Tara Air has said a Twin Otter will be serving the western region from Nepalgunj as per the demand.

Rupesh Joshi, executive manager of Buddha Air, said the direction is only for airlines operating in the remote sector. “We don´t have to submit details as we operate on trunk sector,” he added.

According to Joshi, Buddha Air will operate additional one flight a day on Kathmandu-Bhadrapur on the seventh, eighth and ninth day of Dashain.  “We might add flights to Biratnagar if there is demand,” he added.

Organizing a meeting of airline operators on Tuesday, the MoCTCA had asked domestic airlines to forward their additional flights plan to CAAN by Friday.

“In the meeting, all the operators had agreed to submit their additional flights plan to CAAN,” Jha said.

Roshan Regmi, group marketing manager for Yeti Airlines and Tarai Air, said they have not decided about adding additional flights for Yeti Airlines. “We might add flights if there is good traffic,” he added.

To make certain that the passengers do not suffer during the festive season, MoCTCA has also directed managers of Biratnagar, Nepalgunj, Pokhara, Surkhet and Kathmandu airports to make sure airline companies operate flights that they have promised.

“I don´t think there is much load this year as trunk operators have not submitted their additional flights plan to us,” Jha said. “We will penalize airline companies if they add flights without informing us.” 

Original article:

Wagner family’s airport dream ready to take flight: Toowoomba Region, Queensland, Australia

WAGNERS managing director Denis Wagner is looking forward to the day next year when the first plane takes off from the Wellcamp Airport.

He is especially looking forward to seeing the look on the faces of those people who genuinely thought the project would never get off the ground.

Mr Wagner said the multi-million dollar project has been in the pipeline for more than a decade, but it was only in April last year the family decided to go full steam ahead with the project.

“There was an element of commercial risk associated with the project,” Mr Wagner said.

“We certainly did not make the decision to proceed lightly.

“I have no doubt the airport and business park will be a huge success.”

Mr Wagner said work on the project had ramped up even further to ensure the construction schedule is met.

“Construction started in April this year and we have more than 65 people working full-time on the project,” he said.

“The three-kilometre runway is starting to take shape and is due to be completed by February next year.

“Once completed, we would have used 10 million tonne of rock fill to construct the runway.
“On top of that there will be five layers of crushed gravel.

“It will be then covered in asphalt.

“Once finished it will sit about five metres above ground level.”

Mr Wagner said he wanted to dispel the numerous innuendos and rumors that were being spread about the airport.

“We are looking to develop a world-class business and airport precinct,” he said.

“We see the project as a good long-term asset not only for our family, but also for the region.
“We expect it will generate a lot of business opportunity for this region.”

Mr Wagner said discussions were under way with several carriers who were keen to service the airport once it was completed.

“We are in discussions with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar,” he said.

“They are all extremely interested in the project.

“The airlines see Toowoomba as a fantastic market, one which they have not been able to tap into before.”

Mr Wagner said possible routes were starting to take shape, but nothing had been finalized.

“The studies we have conducted reveal the most likely routes at first will be Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Adelaide and Townsville,” he said.

“As well as regional centres such as Roma and Emerald.

“We conducted a survey and 94% of respondents said they would use our airport over Brisbane.

“Our project is very attractive in the fact that out catchment is home to more than 350,000 people.”

Mr Wagner revealed for the first time details about possible flight paths for aircraft using the airport.

“There will be approaches at each end of the runway,” he said.

“Our air corridor is about five miles wide.

“Depending on the size of the aircraft, they will join that corridor at different heights.

“Based on 500,000 passenger movements we expect about 24 planes per day.

“Of that, only three will be large jets.”

Mr Wagner said the finer airspace details will be released in the coming months.

“We are working through the final airspace design with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other parties.

“Once they are finalized we will make them public.”

Mr Wagner said once the airport was completed it would open Toowoomba up to the rest of world.
“There is the opportunity for a number of different industries,” he said.

“We would like to think that once the airport is up-and-running we could tap into the live cattle market and flower trade to Japan.

“It is something we are aware of, but no discussions or agreements have been entered into at this stage.

“By building the airport it will bring people to the region, and it will also boost tourism, renew industries and create industries that we have not even thought of yet.”

Mr Wagner said he was fed up with all the unfounded innuendos and rumors circulating from south of the border in relation to the airport.

“We have followed every procedure and process in relation to this project to the full letter of the law,” he said.

“For anyone to say otherwise is just rubbish.”

Story, Photos and Comments/Reaction:

Dati: Illegal Private Jet Operators are Sabotaging Nigeria’s Economy

By Chinedu Eze

The Coordinating General Manager, Corporate Communications of Aviation Agencies, Mr. Yakubu Dati, has said Nigeria loses over N10 billion annually to private jet operators that engage in illegal charter services, especially with foreign-registered aircraft.

Dati also alleged that many of the private jet owners give them out for illegal charter services while they are still documented as privately-owned aircraft for personal use on the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) records.

He said by doing that these illegal operators rip off the country of well-deserved revenue and also deny businesses to legally registered commercial charter operators that abide by the regulations as enunciated by NCAA.

Dati was reacting to criticism in response to a recent circular issued by NCAA which directed non-scheduled aircraft services to pay certain fees at take-off, stating that foreign registered aircraft should pay $4,000 (N640,000) for every take off, except round trips; while locally registered aircraft shall pay $3,000 (N480,000); a directive that many operators described as stringent and impracticable.

Dati explained that it was to stop the exploitation of the country and also to grow the business of registered charter operators that NCAA slammed the fees to check the excesses of operators who use their aircraft to carry out illegal services, disclosing that Nigerians who own foreign registered private jets siphon over N10 billion annually from the country to pay foreign cockpit crew, charges and taxes overseas.

These operators, he said, also abstain from paying import duties, five per cent VAT charges and also five per cent charges to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

He said the total amount of money that Nigeria loses to these operators is estimated to be over N15 billion annually, not including charges paid by aircraft used for charter services, which most of them illegally deploy the aircraft when in use in the country.

He said out of 139 private jets operating in Nigeria, 87 are registered overseas while 52 are registered locally and further explained that when aircraft is registered overseas it is assumed that it is visiting Nigeria as it usually registered under a foreign operator and the implication of this is that it will not pay import duty when coming into Nigeria.

“The aircraft pilots and engineers must be foreigners whose licenses are registered in that country the aircraft is registered and this means that no Nigerian is operating any of these 87 aircraft as pilot; no Nigerian engineer can be employed to maintain the aircraft. Then every year the owner of the aircraft must pay charges to continue to maintain the aircraft under the foreign operator in which the aircraft was registered,” Dati also explained.

But airline operators said the new regulation is sweeping and does not categorize the illegal and legal operators, saying that the new circular was obnoxious and unrealistic, adding that it is despotic if NCAA arbitrarily make laws without involving the operators and other stakeholders. They also insisted that there must be checks and balances to avoid the abuse of the system, even by the regulatory authority.

“Is the payment meant for navigational charges or safety oversight or for what? We pay N5,000 for safety oversight. We are strongly objecting to this directive because all charges must be either aeronautical charges or for safety oversight, which is five per cent of the cost of charter service. So why put blanket punitive measures on everybody?” an operator queried.

Dati, defending the new directive, calculated that the average cost of every charter is $7,000 per hour and conservatively every aircraft operates three hours charter per day and when multiplied with 69 aircraft, which is the estimated number of foreign registered aircraft that operate illegal charter, it amounts to 207 hours per day.

“So these aircraft earn $1,449,000 million per day and the five per cent VAT tax and five per cent NCAA charges which they do not pay, if deducted from the above earning would amount to $144, 900 per day. In a year this would amount to $51, 584, 400 or N8. 2 billion and this is a fragment of the import duties which is estimated to be in billions of dollars which these aircraft owners did not pay before they were brought into the country, he added.

But operators said that NCAA is incompetent, remarking that it explained why the agency could not make laws that would specifically punish those who infringe on the regulations guiding air operations in the country; rather, it introduced obnoxious regulation that is sweeping and impracticable.

Original article:

Air-Traffic Wish List Targets Busiest Skies: WSJ

September 22, 2013, 12:08 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

Facing potentially deep budget cuts for modernizing air-traffic control, aviation-industry leaders have mobilized to protect funding for a handful of top-priority initiatives that target congestion around busy airports.

The recommendations, released by an influential U.S. Federal Aviation Administration advisory group last week, represent the industry's most detailed wish list so far of projects that should be placed on a fast track, even under the federal government's across-the-board spending reductions called sequestration.

Approved by representatives of airlines, manufacturers and labor, the recommendations are included in a report requested by FAA chief Michael Huerta. The focus is on new navigation and runway procedures that don't entail sweeping changes in current traffic management, or require major airline investments in new cockpit equipment.

Instead, the conclusions put the onus on the FAA to push ahead and even accelerate shorter-term enhancements aimed at increasing airport capacity and achieving clear-cut fuel savings before the middle of the decade.

The handful of projects at the top of the list include expanding satellite-based approach and departure procedures that already are being tested at various hub airports.

Aircraft can fly shorter, more direct routes using such procedures.

They also can increase airport capacity through more-precise and gradual descents, and by following other planes more closely to parallel or converging runways.

Other high-priority items include efforts to keep better track of planes or vehicles moving on tarmacs and revised wake-turbulence standards to reduce separation between landing aircraft.

Some efforts, however, have faltered as a result of overall agency inertia, lack of training for controllers and the FAA's slow progress in redesigning certain airspace. In April the Department of Transportation's inspector general criticized the agency for failing to develop "an integrated master schedule to help advance and prioritize" key projects.

At an industry gathering Friday, Mr. Huerta said that the agency will review the recommendations to determine its next steps. The same advisory committee also gave Mr. Huerta a report calling for stepped-up efforts to share fuel-use data among airlines in order to substantiate savings.

After ranking some three dozen planned initiatives, industry officials reached consensus on the top six. Some were included in previous recommendations. But this time, the committee explicitly ranked projects at the top that were "deemed to be high benefit and high readiness," stressing that "budget cuts should not affect these capabilities."

Missing from the top of the industry list were ambitious concepts to use digital data communications to replace radio transmissions between pilots and controllers, practices that would allow pilots to unilaterally change routes while airborne and plans to permit landings in extremely-low-visibility conditions that currently aren't possible.

The industry move comes amid escalating controversy over the direction of NextGen, the more than $40 billion proposed restructuring of the nation's air-traffic-control system.Fearing potential negative impact from sequestration, airlines and equipment manufacturers are stepping up pressure on the FAA to focus immediate attention on a handful of the most promising upgrades. The Aerospace Industries Association, which represents aerospace contractors, plans a public roundtable at the end of the month to buttress those arguments.Airlines, meanwhile, generally remain resistant to making expensive equipment purchases essential to realize the ultimate benefits of NextGen.

"In a difficult budget environment, it is important to prioritize and move forward with programs" that use existing equipment "to provide immediate benefits to the flying public and reduce fuel burn," a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the leading trade association representing U.S. passenger and cargo airlines, said over the weekend. The association reiterated that satellite-based routes around busy airports should be a top priority.

Overall, the recommendations underscore industry's determination that before airlines agree to wholesale installation of additional equipment, the FAA should do more to ensure more-effective use of the sophisticated navigation and automated flight-control capabilities that already are available on many airliners.

Last week's report comes three months after the FAA, as part of its annual NextGen implementation update, highlighted enhanced weather detection and forecasting capabilities that didn't make the industry's top-level options. The FAA plan also noted that the agency will be able to implement fuel-saving airspace redesigns—plus associated navigation and procedural changes—at only about half of the 21 specific airports initially slated for those enhancements by 2016.

Last week's advisory report put so-called metroplex enhancements in the top tier of pending initiatives, noting the "aviation community has been actively involved and supportive" of the work. But based on the same objective criteria applied to other projects, according to the advisory committee, the airspace-redesign plans should have been relegated to a lower-priority category "deemed to be of medium benefit." 


Rapid City Regional Airport (KRAP) Board Looking To Fill Vacancy


The City announces a vacancy on the Rapid City Regional Airport Board of Directors, to fill an unexpired term through May 1, 2015. Interested citizens are encouraged to submit a Citizens Interest Application online. Special consideration will be given to those with general aviation experience and/or experience in Customs or Foreign Trade Zones.

The Board meets every second and forth Tuesday of the month. Comprised of five members, each person serves three year terms and serves no more than two consecutive terms.

The Rapid City Regional Airport Board is an executive board as well as a policy making board and is a semi-autonomous entity responsible for the general oversight of the airport. The Board signs contracts and can authorize the expenditure of funds need to operate the airport.

The deadline for applicants is Friday, September 27 at 5:00 p.m.

Those interested should complete an application at

Original article:

EDITORIAL: A welcome reprieve on Braden Airpark (N43) sale

Thanks to Northampton County Executive John Stoffa, some breathing room and common sense have been injected into a standoff over the proposed sale of Braden Airpark. 

Until Thursday — when Stoffa announced that he and members of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority had agreed to a six-month negotiating period — a disagreement over the future of the small airport in Forks Township was headed to land in court.

The airport authority has been looking to liquidate the 80-acre property to help pay off $16 million in court-ordered debt, the result of a lawsuit over condemnation of land around Lehigh Valley International Airport for an expansion that never occurred and is no longer needed.

We can’t fault authority members and Executive Director Charles Everett for considering drastic measures, but selling off Braden Airpark isn’t much of a relief valve. Estimates of its value range from $2 million to the authority’s reported asking price of $3.5 million. That would shave a slice off the $16 million liability, but if the authority’s deep financial woes end up requiring new subsidies from Lehigh and Northampton counties, why sacrifice a small, locally valued airport — and add to development, traffic and school enrollment pressures in Forks Township?

Preserving Braden as a general aviation facility makes sense. The authority purchased the family-owned airport in 1999 to relieve pressure on commercial traffic at LVIA. It also owns and operates Queen City Airport in Allentown.

A group of pilots who use Braden Airpark has been working on a plan to retain it — through a sale, a public-private partnership, lease or other arrangement. The group has asked Northampton County officials to consider spending $5,000 a month to keep it going until a more permanent solution can be found. County council has been cool to that idea, and even frostier to a suggestion that the county buy the airport and set up an authority to run it.

Still, county council has taken a firm stand against selling the airport for any use other than aviation. On Thursday, the council approved a resolution authorizing the executive to go to court to prevent such a sale. Council Solicitor Philip Lauer said he believes the authority’s bylaws require approval from the Lehigh County Commissioners and Northampton County Council for a sale of any airport. Everett and authority counsel believe the authority, whose members are appointed by the counties, has unilateral power to sell any of its assets.

Northampton County officials also fear that the authority might simply shut down Braden and once deactivated, put the land on the market. There’s no question the airport requires continued investment to keep it going — an annual $160,000 mortgage payment plus some capital improvements. 

Stoffa’s intervention is well-timed. The agreement to hold off until March allows the parties to work out a deal to keep Braden flying while avoiding an intergovernmental lawsuit.

“I don’t want to sue the authority. They can’t afford it. We can’t afford it. We’re in court too much already,” Stoffa told county council.

Amen to that. However, a new county executive and council will be seated when the negotiating period expires next year. If there’s no agreement by then, they should be willing to invoke the current council’s resolution to protect Braden from unwanted development.

Original article:

Six Pakistan International Airlines officials in Dubai sacked

LAHORE: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has terminated services of six employees working in the Dubai office without any prior notice without any significant severance package.

Services of six employees working for PIA in the Dubai office were terminated without any prior notice. The employees included five permanent employees - Secretary to Station Manager Dubai Sanday Pecho, Traffic Assistant Saeed Gul, Traffic Assistant Altaf Ahmed, Traffic Assistant Ahmed Saeed and Guard Omrani. A contract employee working as the Protocol Officer Paiman Ali was also fired.

On September 19, these employees received their termination letters stating “Due to financial situation and considerable reduction in the corporation business, the corporation has decided to dispense with your services with immediate effect”.

According to sources, it was strange that only Dubai had been right-sized right away, despite its flight operation and political significance, while not a single employee had been fired from Abu Dhabi.

On the other hand, sources said, PIA was sending a deputy station manager from Karachi to the Dubai Office, the amount for whose visa fee and documents vetting would take close to AED 8000, which equals the salary of two of the fired employees.

When contacted, PIA General Manager Public Relation Mashhood Tajwer said that according to Dubai laws, the age of super-attenuation is 60 and Secretary to Station Manager Dubai Sanday Pecho was over that age and was on an extension contract, therefore there was no legal need to remove him through a golden handshake as either one-month notice or one-month salary is needed for termination orders.

Regarding other permanent employees, vis-à-vis Traffic Assistants who had not reached super-attenuation, Tajwar did not mention as to why they were not offered a golden handshake and only said all legal obligation were fulfilled before termination of these employees’ services.

He said that PIA’s Dubai flight operations had been cut to 25, half its former traffic of 50 flights which necessitated this action. He did not comment on the fairness of the downsizing policy.

Responding to the accusation of the terminated employees that they were being victimized for political reasons, he said that these employees were considered to have been close to a figure in the previous government and some of them slacked off their duties for the same reason also. 

Original article:

No cash falling from sky fo Gary/Chicago International Airport (KGYY), Indiana

Any notion of someone arriving at Gary/Chicago International Airport soon with a suitcase stuffed with cash to invest are dispelled by the two finalist bids to privatize its operations and development.

The written proposals submitted by GCIA Group and Aviation Facilities Company Inc., also known as AFCO, on Aug. 26 contain no upfront payment for the city or airport and outline only modest rates of development for the airport in the next several years.

The lack of any upfront payment doesn't surprise Robert Poole, a national expert on privatizations who consulted on the blockbuster $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

"I would have been pretty astonished if anyone would take the risk of offering a significant upfront payment," Poole said. "The city was being optimistic about that."

Poole said usually when an upfront payment is sought in a privatization deal, the facility being leased already has a robust revenue flow. By contrast, the Gary airport operates at a deficit and could remain taxpayer-subsidized for some time.

In addition, the airport's request for proposals issued July 22 included a requirement that bidders show a plan for investing or attracting $100 million in projects over a period of years.

It may seem that amount of investment would rapidly accelerate growth at the airport, but a survey of development there over the last decade shows it has moved at a similar pace.

In 2009, the Indiana National Guard completed the building of a $28 million armory and flight readiness center at the airport. The year before, the Gary Jet Center opened a new $5 million hangar and followed that by opening another $5 million hangar four years later.

In its proposal, AFCO states it has a goal of attracting at least $2.5 million in on-airport development in the first three years of its contract. Overall, it wants to attract at least $5 million in development at the airport and its vicinity during the first 10 years. It states $100 million is the goal over 30 years.

The GCIA Group's proposal lays out an investment table that relies mainly on the airport's current capital projects revenue until 2016, when it hopes to have bonds issued that would be paid back by the users or owners of new projects.

City officials remain hopeful they might still see an upfront payment when a deal is closed.

Mayoral aide Bo Kemp, who sits on the committee that selected the two finalists, said negotiations for a final deal are ongoing and and the upfront payment remains a topic.

"What an ultimate deal may look like is not what you have in front of you right now," Kemp said.

Neither finalist has offered to pay the up to $800,000 in bills the airport has run up for advisers on the privatization deal. The joint city/airport committee has made it known it wants the winning bidder to pay that tab.

The AFCO proposal leaves the subject of the $800,000 tab to further negotiations. The GCIA Group proposal does not even mention that payment and a group representative expressed doubt any bidder would be willing to pay it.

Airport jobs

Here are the number of jobs, payroll and economic impact of Gary/Chicago International Airport as reported by the Indiana Airports Economic Impact Study 2012, prepared by the Aviation Association of Indiana. Only 16 of the jobs at the Gary airport are provided by the Airport Authority. The other 223 jobs are provided by private employers such as Boeing Corp., Gary Jet Center and others.

Gary/Chicago International Airport

Jobs: 239

Payroll: $16.1 million

Economic impact: $48.1 million

Original Article:

New hangar tenant sees potential for growth at Hutchinson Municipal Airport-Butler Field (KHCD), Minnesota

The loss this summer of the Life Link III helicopter ambulance service as a major tenant at Hutchinson’s municipal airport meant a loss of some prestige in the aviation family.

But Life Link’s decision to shift operations to Willmar’s to extend its reach farther into western Minnesota has opened the door to a different tenant for the hangar with potential to grow.

ASI Jet, a 30-year-old company based at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, has opened a maintenance base at Ken Butler Field, the city-owned airport along State Highway 15 on the south end of Hutchinson. The company is performing maintenance on a fleet of agricultural aerial applicators, better known as crop-dusters, of its ag division, while also servicing planes for others.

The company is using the former Life Link hangar. With the pending retirement of Tom Parker, the airport’s fixed-base operator, or FBO, ASI Jet is leasing the space in the main terminal hangar formerly used by Parker.

Tim Ashenfelter, founder and president of the company, has more than 30 years experience in aviation. While almost all of their aerial application business is with members of three or four farm co-ops in southern Minnesota, Hutchinson’s airport is a perfect spot for their maintenance operations, he said.

One thing they’ve happily found is a qualified work force of mechanics. Their local staff includes Tim Miller and Tim Fischbach, both Hutchinson residents, as full-time aircraft mechanics. In addition, there are qualified local people they’ve accessed on a part-time basis.

“We’ve been able to find everything here we’ve needed as far as qualifications,” Tom Ashenfelter, Tim’s son, said. He works with the aircraft sales part of ASI Jet. “And the facilities are near new.”

“They are fantastic facilities,” Tim said of Ken Butler Field. “It was obvious to us that the city was really progressive in its support for the airport. We still have a sales office at Flying Cloud, but we are getting the word out about having a maintenance facility in Hutchinson.”

Learned of Hutch by accident

The Ashenfelters learned of the Hutchinson airport somewhat by accident about a year ago while attending the annual Aerial Applicators Association national convention. There they first met Miller, who was completing the restoration of a 1966 Cessna crop-duster at about that time. Miller, a pilot himself, was a mechanic for Life Link.

Miller told them about Hutchinson. The Ashenfelters had been looking at airports for potential FBO work.

“We have a lot of experience in FBO,” Tim said. “I started one in 1983 in the Twin Cities, selling fuel, doing maintenance, offering flying lessons and charters. And Tom has been involved since he was 16. Between us we have more than 50 years of experience.”

While their sales operation is based at Flying Cloud, they see synergies in having a maintenance facility 50 miles away and close to their home in Mound. It is easier for them and their customers to fly into Hutchinson for service.

The company is one of only two Thrush aircraft dealers authorized to sell in North America. That means they have sold planes to all corners of the continent. It has sold Thrush, a line of turbo-prop jets for four years, but has been dealing in planes since 1983.

“Aircraft sales has always been a big part of our business,” Tim said. “It is a benefit to service what you sell.”

“It helps the sales process if maintenance is done by people they trust,” added Tom.

ASI Jet services more than Thrush aircraft, working on just about any type of craft in general aviation. Its experience has resulted in some larger-than-usual planes calling on Hutchinson this summer. Those include Cessna Caravans and Beechcraft Barons as ASI moves to expand the operations here. There are savings in flying into a smaller airport such as Hutchinson’s versus flying into the Twin Cities’ large international airport.

“We just see a lot of potential for growth with the FBO here,” Tim said.

Story and Photo: