Saturday, November 23, 2013

INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Emirates chief Tim Clark

Sitting somewhere in the desk of Emirates president Tim Clark is the airline's first ever statement of intent, writes Mark Summers.

These days when the Dubai carrier wants to set out its goals for the future - say like its recent announcement that it plans to fly 70 million passengers a year by 2020 - its media team can flash a statement around the globe.

But prior to the airline’s launch in 1985, things were a bit more modest. Clark was one of the “team of ten” tasked with starting up the new Dubai airline. Things weren’t easy in the beginning.

“The Gulf states wouldn’t allow us to fly to their points - Gulf Air was the dominant carrier and there was no love lost, quite a lot of blood-letting in those days,” he tells 7DAYS. With Dubai being “starved” as the number of flights in and out of the emirate was slashed, Emirates prepared to take to the skies.

Clark, then in charge of planning the fledgling carrier’s routes, was forced to identify promising routes outside the Gulf - and when the first Emirates flight took to the skies it headed for Karachi in Pakistan. At the outset of the airline’s journey, Clark sat down to sketch out its goals.

“I’ve still got the piece of paper. Hand-written. The business model. It is sitting turning sepia in my bottom drawer. We haven’t deviated from it to this day. The only thing that tickles me is that I put at the bottom ‘We must be respected, even though we will always be a small Arab carrier…’”

Fast-forward 28 years to the 2013 Dubai Airshow and Clark is speaking to 7DAYS three days after Emirates announced orders for 50 Airbus A380 superjumbos and 150 of Boeing’s ultra long-haul Boeing 777X aircraft. At just shy of $100 billion at list prices, the airline is describing the deal as “the biggest in civil aviation history.” It’s quite a story. And so is that of Clark himself.

“I make no secret of it - I am an anorak of this business,” he says. Having expected a place on a graduate training scheme run by BOAC - the forerunner to British Airways - he found “they’d canned it, because even then, in those days, times were tough for the airline industry”.

“So I said, ‘I’ll just go and get a check-in desk job’ and I absolutely loved it - walking the ramp, walking around the airplane, smelling the high-octane fuel - oh, it was wonderful,” he laughs. The early years at Emirates were heady times too, he says, creating a strong camaraderie among the airline’s early staff as the carrier added routes and was consistently profitable.

Clark claims that persists to this day.

“We never lose pilots,” he says simply. Today the Emirates brand can be found attached to some of the famous sporting franchises in the world - and Clark says marketing was an early priority.

“We spent a fortune on it,” he says. “And people used to say ‘how many aircraft have you got - 300? And we would say ‘no, we’ve got four…’” Not any more - by 2020 Emirates anticipates having a fleet of 250 wide-body aircraft. But having reached the summit of the industry - those 70 million annual passengers the Dubai carrier is targeting by the end of the decade would make it the biggest airline in the world for international flyers - don’t make the mistake of thinking things are any easier for Clark and his team.

“Things are getting difficult out there, the competitors are starting to ratchet up - finally after 28 years they have kind of woken up to the fact that ‘maybe we ought to do something about these people’,” he says. This year alone the carrier has inaugurated a complex partnership with Australia’s Qantas and shaken up transatlantic travel by starting an eye-catching new route between Milan and New York - its first not to stop in Dubai.

Ask if he can see the airline adding further routes without a Dubai connection and Clark says it’s not really part of the business model he wrote out all those years ago.

“Flying to the US from London, Frankfurt or Paris? That’s not in our plans,” he says. Following the announcement of the Milan-New York route, Clark says, “all hell let loose - everyone was suing us”. You get the impression that he still quite enjoys such clashes, having thrived in the early acrimony that followed the airline’s launch. But he really should get that early business plan out of his desk drawer and into a frame...

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Diamond DA42, N181CW: Accident occurred October 15, 2019 in Singapore

NTSB Identification: WPR20WA011
14 CFR Unknown
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 15, 2019 in Singapore, Singapore
Aircraft: Diamond DA42, registration: N181CW
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On October 15, 2019, about 0753 local Singapore time, a Diamond DA-42, N181CW, experienced a separation of the left-hand passenger door, during the takeoff roll from Seletar Airport, Singapore. The pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The flight was destined for Kuching, Malaysia.

The accident is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport, Transportation Safety Investigation Bureau. Any further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Transport Safety Investigation Bureau
Changi Airport Post Office
P.O. Box 1005
Singapore 918155
Tel.: (65) 6541-2796 / 3042 / 6541
(65) 9826-2359 (Mobile)
E-mail: (notifications)
Fax: (65) 6542-2394

WNWO News, Toledo, Ohio: Plane carrying Jim Blue makes emergency landing in Manila

The pilot shows a charred piece of the plane's engine that forced the emergency landing. / Jim Blue

MANILA, PHILIPPINES -- A plane carrying WNWO’s Jim Blue and a Toledo pediatrician home from a relief mission to the Philippines made an emergency landing in Manila after part of the engine burst into flames.

About 15 minutes after takeoff, the Delta 747 departing Manila experienced catastrophic engine failure. Blue witnessed the engine erupting in flames outside his window. The pilot was able to safely return and land the plane.

The pilot later said the engine failure was caused by a broken turbine inlet vane. There were no injuries in the incident. 

Blue was returning to Toledo from a relief mission to New Washington in the typhoon damage zone. Blue and Toledo pediatrician Gary Gladieux were the only members of the mission on the plane. All other members of the mission were scheduled on a later flight.

They are currently waiting for a new flight.

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Zvartnots airport confirms reports on dead passenger on board

YEREVAN. – An Air Arabia plane, en route from the United Arab Emirates to Ukraine, made an emergency landing at Zvartnots.

Airport’s spokesperson Gevorg Abrahamyan confirmed for Armeian reports about death of a passenger.

He said the cause for the forced landing was the fact that a passenger aboard felt bad and went unconscious.

“The plane landed. We called ambulance and police, but the passenger died,” Gevorgyan said.

According to recent reports, the passenger was a 37-year-old citizen of Ukraine.

Air Arabia company refused to provide details. 


Boeing asks 15 sites to submit bids for 777X jet; North Charleston ‘being considered’

Boeing has asked 15 sites across the United States through formal request for proposals to submit bids to build the company’s new 777X long-haul jet, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.

“We are being considered,” said Paul Campbell, executive director of Charleston County Aviation Authority.

Campbell said he had not been formally notified, but, “based on the success Boeing has had here, I’m confident we will be on the list.”

“Boeing loves South Carolina and our ability to turn and burn,” Campbell said. “I really do think we have a shot, but you are competing with some pretty good other areas.”

The Seattle newspaper reported Washington state, Long Beach, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, are also on the list.

The report did not say specifically that North Charleston made the cut, only that it’s “likely” to be on the list, along with Huntsville, Ala., and San Antonio, Texas.

Other sites include existing locations where Boeing does business and new “greenfield” sites, according to the newspaper.

Several high-ranking politicians in South Carolina, including Gov. Nikki Haley, said they had been in touch with Boeing officials about building the new airplane or some part of it in North Charleston.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder told the Times the formal requests for proposals were sent out late Friday.

Alder said the sites were selected “based on conversations that those sites or locations asked to be included and met the qualifications we were looking for,” according to The Seattle Times.

Boeing wants all bids back by mid-December and will make a decision early next year.

The bids can include work for final assembly of the new twin-engine passenger plane and for construction of the new composite wings, which tips that fold up.

The work could occur at the same place or separately, Alder told The Times.

Boeing made good on its pledge to look outside Washington state for competitive bids to build the new airplane after the International Association of Machinists rejected an eight-year contract extension through 2024 that would have ensured labor peace but meant union members would have to make concessions on pensions and other benefits.

The Boeing spokesman said the company does not plan to re-enter talks with union members on a contract. The current union contract expires in 2016.

Boeing assembles and makes parts for the 787 Dreamliner at its North Charleston campus at Charleston International Airport.

The Chicago-based aerospace giant is also buying 267 acres along International Boulevard across from its sprawling 787 factory for undisclosed uses. A new paint facility for the 787 is likely to be on a small part of the property. Boeing now flies its completed 787s from North Charleston to Texas to be painted.

The airplane manufacturer also recently announced that some of the detailed design work for the 777X will be performed in North Charleston, as well as other locations across the U.S., including Huntville, Ala.; Long Beach, Calif.; Philadelphia and St. Louis. A design center in Moscow will also play a part.

The company also broke ground earlier this month on a new 225,000-square-foot factory in Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston to build engine components for its 737 MAX airplane. The 48-acre site can accommodate future expansion up to 600,000 square feet.

Boeing is expected to start production on the 777X by 2017 or 2018 with the first flight by the end of the decade.

Earlier this week, the company picked up more than 200 orders for the new jet during the Dubai Air Show in the Middle East. Most of the orders came from Middle East airlines.


New York Air National Guard Suspends Search for MQ-9 Debris Along Lake Ontario Shore Line

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- The 174th Attack Wing has suspended the ground search for MQ-9 reaper drone debris, after the aircraft crashed into Lake Ontario on Nov. 12 during a routine training mission.

U.S. Navy experts arrived at the Oswego Coast Guard Station on Wednesday, Nov. 20 to prepare for search and recovery efforts that may use Navy salvage divers to retrieve the MQ-9 wreckage.

The Air Force Accident Investigation Board continues to investigate the incident.

The MQ-9 aircraft debris does not contain hazardous materials but officials say any material found should be handled with caution.

The 174th Attack Wing is asking that if people find any aircraft debris that they call the wing's Emergency Operations Center at 315-233-2257 or 2258.


Directorate General of Civil Aviation taking measures to avoid US Federal Aviation Administration downgrade

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India's aviation safety and operations regulator, is rushing to plug the loopholes ahead of a second audit by the US' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December.

A senior DGCA official told ET that about 20 ex-commanders are being hired on a one-year contract as Senior Flight Operations Inspectors and Flight Operations Inspectors. Further, the safety and flight operations manuals are being updated as the regulator prepares for a December audit by the FAA. FAA officials are set to arrive in India by the second week of December.

The American aviation regulator had previously conducted a safety audit of the DGCA in September. The audit had thrown up 33 deficiencies in India which included a lack of adequate manpower, absence of key safety manuals, among others.

The audit had particularly hauled up the DGCA on the lack of adequate flight operations inspectors as the officers being hired in that position were from deputation from existing airlines resulting in a conflict of interest. "We had invited ex-commanders and pilots to apply for the post of Senior Flight Operations Inspectors and Flight Operations Inspectors," said a senior official of the DGCA.

"The response has been very good and we are hiring 10 ex-commanders for each of the two posts." FAA's September audit had also raised concerns on key vacancies in the DGCA. Lack of manpower is an issue that India's aviation regulator has been trying to address for some time now.

The DGCA has been hiring consultants on a contractual basis since the beginning of the year to fill up the vacant posts. "There are still some vacancies but we are much better than we were at the beginning of the year," the official quoted above said, without being able to give a number on the current staff strength.

Till July 2013, the DGCA only had 421 people in the organization against a sanctioned staff strength 574 officials.

The government also cleared a bill to create a financially autonomous and more powerful Civil Aviation Authority which would replace the DGCA. The formation of the CAA would make India's aviation regulator similar to global regulators. However, the bill needs be cleared by Parliament.

"Apart from our hiring activities, we are in continuous consultations with the FAA and are updating and providing safety and operations manuals as per internationally acceptable levels," the official quoted above said.

With the second audit from the FAA being held in a span of less than three months, a threat of a downgrade looms over the DGCA.

DGCA hopes that the corrective measures will be enough to avoid a downgrade of its safety ratings by the FAA. "Whatever corrective measures can be taken in this short time frame are being taken and we don't expect a downgrade after the December audit," said the official quoted above. "All options are being considered to make sure there is no downgrade. But we hope that the corrective measures ensure that the audit goes amicably."

Recent media reports suggested that India might stop taking deliveries for the Dreamliner for Air India, if the FAA downgrades the DGCA. Officials at the DGCA did not comment on the matter. An e-mail query sent to the FAA did not elicit a response by the time of going to print.

Apart from the FAA, the DGCA was also audited by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in September. India managed to escape a downgrade by the ICAO.

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Air Force crash that killed Scott AFB pilot highlights training shortcuts, results in training overhaul: Beechcraft MC-12W Liberty - King Air 350

On April 27 a crash killed Air Force Capt. Brandon Cyr and three others aboard an MC-12W spy plane that Cyr commanded in Afghanistan. It was the first crash to occur since the Air Force launched the highly successful MC-12W program more than four years ago.

But shortcomings in aircrew training, especially in how to avoid and recover from an orbital stall, had led to four previous near-stalls, according to an Air Force report on the crash.

The fatal crash and four near-stalls stemmed, in large part, from the Air Force's sense of urgency to get the highly valued spy planes into the skies over Afghanistan.

The Air Force's haste with regard to MC-12W crew training "led to several aspects of the program not being normalized, which created increased risk, particularly aircrew inexperience and lack of instructors in the combat zone," wrote Brig. Gen. Donald J. Bacon, the investigation board president.

This problem was most acute regarding the relative lack of aircrew training regarding stalls, which occur when the aircraft wing is no longer creating enough lift to support the aircraft's weight, causing the nose to pitch down.

The relative lack of stall training for MC-12W crews is significant because "a typical mission sortie includes substantially more time in orbit than in any other phase of flight, and the orbit is flown relatively close to stall speed," according to the report.

What's more, "Four previous MC-12W orbit stalls that resulted in significant, near-catastrophic altitude loss highlight this limited training," according to the report.

The official cause of the crash of Independence 08, the call sign of the MC-12W Liberty under Cyr's command, was a stall caused by low airspeed.

The report called Cyr, the mission commander, the pilot, Capt. Reid Nishizuka, and the sensor operators, staff sergeants Richard Dickson and Daniel Fannin, "highly respected airmen and combat veterans with 4,845 combat flying hours and 836 combat sorties between them."

The report noted that Cyr had logged 1,749 flight hours in the KC-135 air tanker, and was on temporary duty from Scott Air Force Base with the MC-12W. Nishizuka had logged 2,434 hours in the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, a C-130 Hercules transport plane modified to carry an arsenal of electronic gear to disrupt enemy communications.

While Nishizuka had deep experience as an EC-130H pilot, he had relatively little experience flying the much smaller MC-12W -- only 41.7 flying hours, according to the report.

In addition, at the time of the crash, Nishizuka had not flown into combat in a MC-12W before, and it was his first sortie of any kind in 45 days, Bacon wrote.

Nishizuka's lack of familiarity with the MC-12W's controls affected "his visual scan and instrument crosscheck proficiency..." Bacon wrote. "This delayed detection of the pitch, the decreasing airspeed, and the imminent stall."

Nishizuka's inexperience also delayed his ability to respond effectively to the spin the MC-12W went into and delayed the prompt reduction of power, Bacon wrote.

Finally, it was also Cyr's "first flight as a newly qualified certifier who was just completing his second month of his first MC-12W deployment," Bacon wrote. "This explains his delayed intervention in both preventing the stall and recovering the MA (mishap aircraft)."

Bacon noted that 20 percent of MC-12W pilots rotate into and out of Afghanistan each month, making it "not uncommon for pilots to fly together for the first time on a combat sortie, such as happened in this mishap."

Unfamiliarity hampers crew coordination, and "the result of this program risk is inexperienced MC-12W pilots deployed in combat, and inexperience substantially contributed to this mishap."

In response to questions from the News-Democrat, the U.S. Air Force announced a list of changes to MC-12W air crew flight training. A special emphasis will be placed on ensuring that aircrews learn how to detect and recover as quickly as possible from flight stalls, said Col. Phillip Stewart, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., which oversee MC-12W training.

"We're trying to give our students more robust stall awareness and recovery training," Stewart said. "So we're tryng to give them better training on how to recognize an impending stall."

The changes call for the Air Force to:

* Provide more flight hours and additional sorties for aircrew "spin-up" training, prior to deployment.

* Provide more stall training in all three phases of training: initial qualification on simulators at Beale AFB; mission qualification during actual flights at Beale; and continuation training after the end of Beale training.

* Deploy more instructor pilots to and training teams to Afghanistan.

* Teach pilots in Afghanistan to increase minimum orbit speeds to at least 140 knots per hour, to provide a larger margin above the stall speed.

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Viewpoint: Partnerships are key to expanding service at Greater Binghamton Airport (KBGM), New York


Written by John Fitzsimmons 

 In an ever-expanding global marketplace, air connectivity is an integral component for companies to remain competitive. While business needs to move quickly to compete, developing new lines of air service is a slow and deliberative process. The need for a strong public-private partnership supporting our local airport is more important than ever before. As airlines consolidate and look to operate leaner and more efficiently, there is an increased imperative to “travel global, fly local.”

To this end, the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM) have forged an important partnership to support air travel out of the region. Why? Because BGM has a significant footprint in the local economy.

Did you know that BGM generates more than $52 million annually to the local economy and creates nearly 500 jobs related to the air service industry? BGM does this while relying on relatively few local tax dollars. The relationship between the local airport and our community is a vitally important component of our economic well-being. If you take a moment to think about the time and expense to travel elsewhere, you will recognize that all of what you’re looking for is right here in our own backyard.

Currently, air service out of BGM is operated by three of the largest carriers in the world: Delta, United and US Airways. These airlines provide direct service to three international airports: Detroit Metro, Washington Dulles and Philadelphia International, respectively. What does this give the local traveler? Strong connectivity to business and leisure destinations throughout the world. In fact, many of our regional employers, such as Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, fly the majority of the time out of BGM to meet with customers or colleagues across the globe.

However, survival in an extremely competitive airline industry means always striving to do better. We must follow the mantra “travel global, fly local” to maintain the high quality of air service offered out of BGM. Over the last year, the chamber, BGM and local companies have met with major airlines to encourage new service out of BGM. We have identified specific travel destinations that we are confident will better serve businesses as well as the increasing volume of leisure travel — with the convenience of staying in Greater Binghamton.

We have made significant upgrades to the airport infrastructure to make travel out of BGM even more attractive, including a runway extension and terminal building upgrades. A project is being developed to upgrade utilities along the airport corridor, and just recently, BGM announced an innovative new partnership with Binghamton University and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to use cutting-edge geothermal technology to remove snow and ice from the airline parking ramp in a more environmentally friendly manner and to reduce BGM’s air conditioning-related energy consumption in the summertime

We need your help. The chamber will continue this important partnership with BGM to maintain and enhance the high-quality air service that also helps to support the local economy. You can support our efforts by choosing your local airport. Fly local. Fly BGM.

Fitzsimmons is the chairman of Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce’s air service development committee.


Safe landing by top-dressing plane after hitting cow - Feilding, New Zealand

A pilot has been forced to make a hasty landing after colliding with a cow at a rural airstrip this morning.

Police said emergency services were put on standby at an airfield in Feilding, after a top-dressing plane had hit a cow during take-off from an airstrip in Pahiatua - about 40 minutes away by road.

"It either damaged or lost one of the wheels."

Police central communications acting shift commander Bruce Mackay said when the pilot realized the collision had damaged his plane, he was instructed to land in Feilding.

Police, Ambulance and the Fire Service were all called to the landing, at about 6.30am, Mr Mackay said.

"It touched down without any real issue," Mr Mackay said.

While the pilot was uninjured, it is understood the cow has died, he said.

It was unclear why the cow had been on the runway, and the matter had been passed on to the Civil Aviation Authority, police said.


Flying blind: Weather radars fail, pilots look out for clouds

CHENNAI: Cruising at more than 30,000 feet at a speed of more than 700kmph in the middle of night a fortnight ago, the captain and first officer of an Air India's A320 aircraft took turns to look out for patches of clouds on the flight path as the plane's weather radar had conked off. And then, the captain spotted a white patch reflecting moonlight. They diverted the flight just in time to avoid a possible turbulence.

This scenario has been repeating in cockpits of a few Air India flights at night, as weather radars of almost 17 aircraft have been erratic for the last two months. Under pressure to maintain schedules, flight engineers run a test on the ground and clear the aircraft for service.

An Air India official said, "There were problems with weather radars on a few aircraft. Antennas were changed as and when pilots complained. The snag may also be due to change in weather radar technology. The equipment may not be compatible. Several of our old planes have been phased out. Air India will soon get 19 new A320 on dry lease." Director general of civil aviation Arun Mishra told TOI that the matter had not come to his notice.

The weather radar, located inside the nose cone of a plane, sends out microwave pulses to detect rainfall, wet hail, wet turbulence, ice crystals, dry ice and snow. Rain clouds and turbulent areas are displayed on the navigational display unit inside cockpit. Inputs from the radar are used by pilots along with weather reports from meteorological department to navigate.

An adverse weather operations note issued by Airbus says that "any return (of microwaves) at cruise altitude should be considered turbulent. In cruise, any cells (on navigational display in cockpit) with green or stronger return should be avoided by 20 nautical miles."

Experts said the weather radar is a crucial equipment for flights while flying at night to avoid areas of turbulence. Pilots can fly without the radar during the day, but it will be difficult to fly at night without one. "On most days, the sky is cloudy over the Bay of Bengal over which planes on the East Asian routes fly. Similar is the western side of the peninsula which affects flights to Mumbai and Middle East. Flying without a weather radar is tough," a pilot said.

Pilots have filed defect reports pointing out the faulty weather radar, and the airline carried out a few repairs, but the problem recurs. Most of these planes are based in Chennai and Kolkata, and are used on domestic and international routes. "These need to be phased out immediately. The flight engineer cannot run a test on the weather radar on the ground and declare it fit. We have found that equipment go blank on and off while airborne," said the pilot.

One such aircraft was grounded several times by a flight engineer of Singapore Airlines hired by Air India to certify aircraft in Changi airport. In spite of his warnings, Air India has repeatedly used the same plane on the India-Singapore route.

"It is also costing the airline in terms of money and delays because pilots tend to divert the plane on a circuitous route in order to be extra cautious to avoiding clouds. Once a plane had to be diverted way too far from its original route and had to be flown close to Port Blair en route to Kuala Lumpur. More than 15 minutes is lost due to such deviations. This affects turnaround time and may affect schedules," said a source.

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Hagerstown Regional Airport (KHGR), Maryland: Commissioners approve vehicle grant

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 on Tuesday to accept a state grant offer that will pay 75 percent of the cost for a new vehicle to be used at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The Maryland Aviation Administration grant, worth $37,497, requires a 25-percent share in the cost by the county, or $12,498. It will be used to purchase and equip a 2013 three-quarter-ton pickup truck at a cost of $49,995, airport Director Phil Ridenour told the commissioners.

Ridenour said the multipurpose vehicle will be used for airport operations, wildlife-hazard management, snow removal, and towing the airport’s extrication and mass-casualty trailer that is being built.

The vehicle replaces a 1992 GMC Yukon, which has exceeded its useful life and has more than 130,000 “hard miles” on it, Ridenour said. The old vehicle will be auctioned off, under county policy.


‘No embargo on 787 deliveries’

Director-General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra said on Saturday there is no question of the country placing a year’s embargo on the delivery of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, especially since the aircraft was essential to the profitability of Air India. Mishra was responding to reports of India’s retaliation to the threat of a downgrade by the Federal Aviation Administration of the country’s air safety rankings.

“That’s absurd. There is no question of that. It is a contract between Air India and Boeing; how can the government intervene? In any case, the
Federal Aviation Administration is an independent authority of the US government and this is a technical evaluation, it has nothing to do with commercial or diplomatic relations,” he said. Mishra added, “Practically speaking, the sales of Air India hang on the Dreamliner. All their plans for revival are on the Dreamliner. There is no question of cancellations.”

Though the FAA raised 33 points after its safety audit, the DGCA said FAA’s main requirement is expected to be met by December 11 with the hiring of 20 new flight operations inspectors on market salaries, taking the total to 65.


Lawsuits fly as Evergreen International Airlines fights for survival (digital timeline)

The Marriott Anchorage Downtown claims Evergreen International Airlines Inc. owes it more than $77,000 in unpaid room charges.

A United Arab Emirates company is suing Evergreen for $5.4 million, claiming the McMinnville-based airline never paid it for air cargo missions in Afghanistan.

A Florida freight forwarder is suing for $2.1 million, seeking a refund for cargo flights Evergreen allegedly canceled. Hellmann Worldwide Logistics Inc. accuses the airline of fraud, saying it’s now evident from parent company chief executive Delford M. Smith’s statements that the freight carrier is in financial danger and managers knew they couldn’t provide the promised flights.

Together, these and other suits filed against Evergreen reveal an airline in a tailspin, scrambling for cash and often failing to show up in court to defend itself as its 83-year-old leader fights to regain control. Smith has averted disaster many times in more than five decades of management, but people close to Evergreen believe that this time his privately held corporate group is crashing.

“I think it’s not going to work this time,” said Harold D. “Don” New, a former Evergreen vice president of marketing and sales and longtime Smith confidant. “He’s leveraged that company ever since it started, and cash flow always took care of it. But there isn’t any cash flow and they’re caving in on him.”

Closure of the airline would end a half century of intrigue surrounding a company that earned $557 million in revenue and $35 million in profits as recently as 2007. In its heyday, Evergreen fielded a fleet of Boeing 747 freighters that continuously circled the globe, delivering both military and civilian cargo.

Evergreen’s shadowy CIA ties and its secretive foreign missions gave the company based in Oregon’s wine country an aura of mystery that its gruff, hard-charging founder did little to dispel. Smith made a fortune trading planes and building his business empire, then plowed millions into quirky tourist attractions such as a waterpark topped by a 747 jet and an aircraft museum anchored by Howard Hughes’ legendary Spruce Goose.

But the proliferating lawsuits and the loss of the airline’s crown-jewel helicopter unit are clipping its wings. One group of creditors tried to repossess a Gulf Stream jet from Evergreen. Another got a court to order immediate return of a Bell 206B helicopter and payment of back rent at $8,380 a month. Others made the company pay more than $270,000 for aircraft repairs. 

Creditors may be rushing to file claims before Evergreen files Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a move that would block suits and put a trustee in place for an orderly liquidation. Evergreen’s human resources manager told state officials Nov. 7 the company would terminate all operations at the end of this month.

But in a statement on the company Web site Nov. 8, Smith said rumors that the company would close were false. He has not returned multiple calls from The Oregonian.

Tim Wahlberg, who stepped down in February as president and chairman of Evergreen International Aviation, said he was surprised by the closure announcement, having thought that sale of the helicopter unit would address the debt problems. He believes Smith will fight hard to save the company.

“I was with him for 43-and-a-half years,” Wahlberg said. “He’s a go-getter, he’s a tiger. If he thinks there’s a way, he’s certainly going to do what he can to make it work.” 

The airline’s fate largely depends on the military, said Wahlberg, noting financial pressures from sequestration and cost-cutting. “If the military decides they’re going to make a change in how they’re going to move equipment and people, it’s really going to have an effect on all the carriers that provide those services.”

The military air cargo sector has essentially dried up with the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said airline analyst Mike Boyd, president of Boyd Group International in Evergreen, Colo. North American Airlines and Ryan International Airlines both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“That whole sector of air transportation has basically dried up,” Boyd said. “And there’s nothing on the horizon to see it coming back.” 

Yet Evergreen still pursues military work. Last month the company won a $142 million military contract for international airlift services along with four other airlines.

Evergreen International Aviation, listed by city officials as having 463 workers in McMinnville, has been one of the community’s largest employers. But layoffs, furloughs and the helicopter division sale may already have drastically reduced the workforce. 

Recently Evergreen sold off more assets, ranging from a sprawling Arizona aircraft maintenance center to McMinnville-area farmland. But the bleeding continues.

The airline is losing the ability to generate sales. It no longer operates from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, for example, which until a few weeks ago had been an important hub.

Larry Wood, the executive director of the company’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum says the nonprofit business – including the water park and an IMAX theater – will survive. But others say that’s an open question, considering Smith’s heavy personal financial support over the years and an ongoing investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice into allegations that Evergreen’s commercial and nonprofit ventures comingled funds.

A giant Boeing 747-212B Evergreen cargo jet sits out front of the museum, perhaps to be incorporated somehow into a planned hotel with a delayed construction date. The nonprofits employ about 65 and attract about 275,000 visitors a year.

Suits filed against the company seek damages ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. They originate everywhere from Oregon to far-flung countries, opening windows into the operations of a company that rakes in money but spends millions of dollars a month on loan payments, aircraft leases and repairs.

In New York, Wells Fargo Bank sued Evergreen in August saying it agreed to lease the company two aircraft engines for $60,000 a month each. Evergreen stopped paying the monthly rent for the first engine in January 2012, Wells Fargo contends.

Evergreen installed the engine on a plane that went to a repair shop in Xiamen, China, according to the suit. Evergreen didn’t pay for the repair work, so the shop didn’t release the aircraft, which has been held in China since at least December 2012, Wells Fargo said.

Evergreen lawyers never answered Wells Fargo’s complaint, so the U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York issued a default judgment Oct. 29 ordering the airline to pay more than $4.3 million to the bank.

In Florida, a company called High Standard Aviation had a contract with Evergreen to repair and overhaul Boeing 747 cargo jets operated by the airline. Ametek HSA Inc., which acquired High Standard’s assets, sued Evergreen International Airlines in federal court last year, seeking more than $159,000 plus interest for services rendered.

By Feb. 26, Evergreen had failed to plead, defend or otherwise appear, and the time for doing so had expired, according to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman.

Mosman ordered Evergreen to pay up. The company did so by June 18, court filings show.

Likewise, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown made Evergreen pay more than $113,000 to Genesis Aviation Inc., a North Carolina company that performed repairs. And the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York ordered Evergreen to pay $3.9 million to Israel Aircraft Industries for aircraft repair and maintenance.

Evergreen lawyers also failed to defend the company this year in a suit brought by Air Partner, a company based in Gatwick, England. Evergreen must pay the company more than $204,000 for aviation fuel, according to a Nov. 4 default judgment.

One reason Evergreen didn’t defend itself in suits may have been the firing of its chief counsel in July 2011. Monique DeSpain then sued Evergreen International Aviation and its then president, Wahlberg, accusing them of sex discrimination and other offenses. The case, which dragged on until August, was settled out of court on undisclosed terms, Wahlberg said.

Evergreen did mount a defense last year after Aviall Services Inc., a Chicago-based company, sued for more than $599,000 in unpaid charges for parts and supplies. But U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, in Dallas, Texas, ordered Evergreen to pay in full, plus attorneys’ fees and interest.

In the case of the Anchorage Marriott, hotel owner Columbia Properties Anchorage sued Evergreen this week in U.S. District Court in Portland, claiming the company failed to make payments after March on its outstanding balance.

The owner added 20 anonymous defendants to the suit – referring to them as “Does,” as in John Doe – saying the true names and capacities of the hotel guests could not be determined. Columbia, which routinely held 15 rooms a night for Evergreen at $84 each plus tax, seeks $77,726.88 plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Mike Hines, Evergreen International Aviation chairman, has not returned phone calls to speak for the company regarding allegations raised in the suits.

The number of lawsuits filed against Evergreen for nonpayment has jumped during the past two years. But some of the suits are the kind that would arise in the normal course of business.

A British insurance company, for example, is suing Evergreen, claiming the airline flew 5,568 cases of cigarettes that arrived in Japan sopping wet.

Evergreen did respond to that suit, arguing the case should be dismissed.

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No more banner planes at the Jersey Shore? Businesses fear their future at Monmouth Executive Airport (KBLM) - New Jersey

 David Dempsey and his son, Nate, pose in one of the banner planes used by Dempsey's company, High Exposure Inc. 

John Wells of United Aerial Advertising prepares a banner for towing.

WALL — Kicking the banner airplane businesses out of Monmouth Executive Airport, as the new owners plan to do, would be a kick in the gut to the Jersey Shore, said one banner tower.

“Aerial advertising has been a staple of the Jersey Shore for more than 80 years,” said John Wells, co-owner of United Aerial Advertising. “This is huge. It would be as bad as closing down the Stone Pony.”

Wells said his company, and the other banner plane business at Monmouth, High Exposure Aerial Advertising, account for about 50 percent of the banner business at the Shore.

Another company operates out of Lakewood Airport, Aerial Sign North, and another in South Jersey, Paramount Air Service. Aside from one other national company, the rest of the banner business is taken up by solo pilots, Wells said.

Wells, a former Alaska bush pilot who now flies Boeing 767s internationally for American Airlines, has co-owned United Aerial for six years with another American Airlines pilot, Eric Kowalski. 

Limited options

Wells says his options are limited. There isn’t enough space at Lakewood Airport for another operator, Wells and another company owner said.

Neither Wells nor David Dempsey, owner of High Exposure, have received formal notice evicting them, they said. A representative for the new owner said Thursday that negotiations to find another place to operate for both the banner plane companies and Skydive Jersey Shore will begin shortly.

Both men said a local farmer’s field might work for picking up and dropping off banners. The banners, about 150 feet long and 40 to 50 feet high, are picked up by a hook hanging from the plane’s tail as the plane flies 20 feet off the ground. Most of the planes used in the business are called tail draggers, Wells said.

The companies still might be able to fly in and out of the airport, using another field to pick up their banners, but even that is uncertain, Dempsey said.

High Exposure, in business for 18 years, runs 10 aircraft along the Jersey Shore and the beaches of New York. Dempsey’s company is based in Woodbine. It flies one to five airplanes out of Monmouth during the summer.

United, in business for 40 years, 20 out of Monmouth, flies five planes out of the airport. The company began operations in 1973 out of the now defunct Asbury Park airport, on Route 66 opposite the current Asbury Park Press building. 

Beaches and football

Aside from the summer work, both companies fly banners for companies during Jets, Giants and Rutgers football games and personal ads for people at various times.

Both recently flew marriage proposals along beaches in Monmouth County.

“You never know how they turn out,” Dempsey said.

Wells performed a volunteer mission two Sundays ago when he flew a banner over New York with a tip line for information regarding a missing 14-year old autistic boy from Queens.

The evictions could drive United out of business, Wells said.

“It will be much more difficult to provide service to the Jersey Shore,” Wells said.

The ready access to Monmouth County keeps down the rates for those businesses.

If he finds another place to operate out of, it would still likely drive up costs for local businesses, he said.

For beach runs, High Exposure charges as low as $180 a flight or $2,600 a day, according to the company’s website.

Calls left at Skydive Jersey Shore were not returned.

Richard A. Asper, chairman of Aviation Professionals Group, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which led the negotiations for the airport’s sale, said the stock purchase agreement between Wall Aviation and Wall Herald Corporation, owned by the family of the late Ed Brown, took place several months ago. Details are still being worked out.

Asper said he could not disclose the price, citing confidentiality agreements that were part of the sale.
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