Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Singapore plane in airspace row returns

A Singapore aircraft with a flight instructor and two student pilots on board landed safely at Seletar Airport at 7.18pm last night, about 30 hours after it was intercepted by Indonesian fighter jets on Tuesday.

The C90GTi King Air plane owned by Singapore Technologies (ST) Aerospace and operated by its pilot training arm, Pacific Flight Services, left Pontianak in West Kalimantan at about 5.30pm Singapore time.

The plane, which was carrying a Singaporean pilot and two foreigners, believed to be Chinese nationals, was forced to land in Pontianak after being intercepted by two Indonesian Air Force Sukhoi 27/30 Flanker TNI AU jets.

It had been en route from Sibu, Sarawak to Singapore and allegedly flew in Indonesia's airspace without the necessary approval.

ST Aerospace has insisted that it followed protocol. A spokesman told The Straits Times last night: "The company had filed the original flight plans as it normally has done for similar flights."

The incident occurred during a return route familiarization training flight, as the flight instructor and pilot trainees were passing through a portion of Indonesian airspace, which was in the filed flight plan, she said.

ST Aerospace is seeking clarification with the authorities on this matter and will make changes to the flight plan filings as required, she said.

Industry experts say the norm is that aircraft operators file their flight plans through the civil aviation regulator of the country from which they depart.

The information is then conveyed to the authorities overseeing the skies along the path.

The flight plan was filed with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore before departure from Seletar and with the Malaysian authorities before the plane left Sibu.

The Indonesian Air Force has said that although the plane was overflying airspace managed by Singapore air traffic controllers, it was inside Indonesia's sovereign skies.

The flight thus needed approval from the Indonesian authorities, which was allegedly not obtained.

Tuesday's interception was the second such incident in a week.

On Oct 22, the Indonesian Air Force forced an Australian private jet flying from Darwin to Cebu in the Philippines to land in Manado, North Sulawesi, for an alleged similar offense.

Commenting on the ST Aerospace incident, commander of Indonesia's armed forces, General Moeldoko, who was in Singapore on a three-day visit which ended yesterday, said: "Interception is an SOP (standard operating procedure) we adopt when an aircraft enters our sovereign airspace (unannounced).

"I believe all countries have common procedures for this, as they do (for intrusions) on land or at sea. Such stern measures are accepted by all countries and this is our position."

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City fires airport director: Santa Fe Municipal (KSAF), New Mexico

The city abruptly fired the Santa Fe Municipal Airport manager Tuesday with no explanation.

City officials announced the termination of Frances “Francey” Jesson in a news release issued at 12:52 p.m.

Jesson, who had run the city airport since April 2013, did not return a message seeking comment, and city officials declined to discuss the firing, saying it was a personnel matter. But at 4:07 p.m., the city released a police report that shows Jesson was kicked out of a hotel in Ruidoso six weeks ago after police said she trashed the hotel’s gift shop while attending a conference on behalf of the city.

The report was released in response to a public records request filed by The New Mexican after the city announced Jesson’s firing. The request sought all communications between Jesson and city officials over the last two months.

Jesson’s attorney, Steven Farber, blasted the the city’s release of the document, saying it acted in “bad faith” by releasing “police incident records that did not lead to any charges or arrest.”

“Francey Jesson has been a valuable employee as the airport manager and she attempted to remedy gross mismanagement and financial irregularities that she discovered while working as the airport manager,” Farber said in an email to The New Mexican.

Jesson’s relationship with City Hall had been strained dating to the prior administration, when she pointed out that operators of the airport restaurant, a partnership that includes politically connected union boss Jon Hendry, were months behind in rent and had been miscalculating their rent payments since 2010. Then-Mayor David Coss told Jesson to go easy on them, Jesson told The New Mexican in a January story. Hendry has long and close political ties to both Coss and his successor, Mayor Javier Gonzales.

City Manager Brian Snyder gave Jesson the option to resign in lieu of termination, according to a memo provided by Farber. But the city announced her termination before Snyder’s 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline, Farber said.

“This conduct of the City of Santa Fe was clearly an act of bad faith and improperly motivated to harm Francey Jesson,” Farber, a former city councilor, said in an email.

But city spokesman Matt Ross offered a different version of events. He confirmed that Snyder gave Jesson the opportunity to resign but said Jesson rejected the offer.

“Therefore, her termination was effective immediately,” Ross said. “She was informed of that in the meeting, and she was walked through the termination procedure by the director of human resources and escorted from the building.”

Farber said Ross was being misleading.

“The City Manager’s letter speaks for itself,” he said in a separate email.

“Francey Jesson was in a state of shock when she was handed the letter from City Manager Brian Snyder,” Farber said. “It was only after that encounter that Francey Jesson had time to reflect upon that interaction and the contents of the letter from the City Manager which clearly gave her the option to resign up to 5:00 PM today and the letter specifically stated that she could send in a written letter of resignation by email. The City issued a press release announcing that Francey Jesson had been terminated at 12:52 PM and is attempting to cover up its mishandling of this employment matter by making up facts and releasing protected information.”

Farber called the police incident report “confidential and protected.”

“One can only hope that in the future the city will be so speedy and forthcoming in responding to record requests made by citizens and the media,” Farber said.

According to the police report, Ruidoso police were dispatched to The Lodge at Sierra Blanca just after midnight Sept. 12 following a report of trouble with a female guest.

When the officer arrived, the officer found clothing and other items “strewn around the floor near the front desk,” the report states.

The front desk clerk told the officer that a female guest later identified as Jesson was “upset” and “started grabbing merchandise off the display shelves in the hotel gift shop and throwing them on the floor.”

The clerk said he wanted the woman removed from the hotel.

The officer encountered Jesson in a hallway and asked if she was the one who threw items on the floor in the hotel gift shop. Jesson accepted blame, the report states.

“Jesson appeared to be intoxicated. She was verbally abusive and loud,” the report states.

Jesson, who was on city business in Ruidoso attending a conference, told the officer that she had gone to the front desk to report that her iPad was missing from her room, the report states.

“Jesson said that no one was manning the front desk when she went there, and no one was responding to her calls for service,” the report states. “Jesson related that after no one came to the front desk, she got upset and decided to start ‘stealing …’ to get their attention.”

When the officer told Jesson that the hotel wanted her to leave, police said she went to her room and gathered her belongings reluctantly.

“She was verbally abusive, saying things like, ‘Shut the hell up!’ ” the report states.

Police checked the room to look for Jesson’s iPad and other belongings she later discovered were missing, but they didn’t find the items.

One of the officers discovered that the patio door of her hotel room had been left unlocked.

“Jesson related that she did leave the patio door unlocked,” the report states. “The suspect(s) may have used this as their entry and exit point.”

Jesson’s room was on the first floor, police said.

“The suspect(s) could have climbed over the wall with little effort,” the report states.

Jesson came to Santa Fe with more than 20 years of airport operations and maintenance experience.

In addition to serving as director of operations and maintenance for the Roanoke Regional Airport in Virginia, she previously worked in airport management positions at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport in Aspen, Colo., McAllen Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas; American Airports Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif.; and in airport operations for San Francisco International Airport, and at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

The Santa Fe Municipal Airport is home to nearly 200 general aviation aircraft and 11 military planes and helicopters, according to the city’s website. The airport also is served by scheduled regional airline flights. Last month, Jesson predicted the airport would have a record 142,000 passengers in 2014 after dropping to a low of 685 passengers in 2008.

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Qantas plane flies too low south-west of Canberra: safety report

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found a Qantas plane flew too low over land 35 kilometres south-west of Canberra on a flight from Adelaide on October 17, 2012.

The report, issued on Wednesday found the plane, a Boeing 737-838 with the registration VH-VXB, inadvertently flew outside controlled airspace at just 2000 feet above the land below, at an altitude of 6600 feet above sea level.

The report found the flight crew "overlooked" the altitude clearance limit of 7000 feet and "initiated changes in the aircraft's auto-flight system vertical mode", a setting that did not alert the crew when it steered the plane too low.

The crew had to be alerted by air traffic control of the breach, and then responded by moving the plane back to 7000 feet before continuing their approach to Canberra.

A spokeswoman for Qantas said that while the aircraft briefly descended below the limit, this was quickly corrected.

The report also blamed some of Qantas's procedures for the incident, saying these allowed the crew to turn off the mode  that sets the plane's altitude, and forced the crew to rely on constant monitoring to make sure the flight was on track.

The bureau said this was not sufficient as it "removed the last automated safety system available to them to prevent descent at a height below what was allowed.

Since the incident, the bureau said Qantas had changed these procedures. Now altitude could be changed on the control panel only once the plane was within 4 kilometres of commencing its approach to an airport.

"As the ATSB report states, we have made a change to our procedures which means this type of incident cannot happen again," a Qantas spokeswoman said.

The report also warned of the dangers the auto-flight mode posed to pilots.

"Increased automation has enhanced situation awareness in some ways ... [but] it has undercut it in other ways by moving pilots from direct, continuous control to a role of managing and monitoring, to which humans are poorly suited," the report said.

Staff workloads were an issue in the accident, according to the bureau, which said the incident highlighted "the adverse effect of workload and task focus on flight crew performance".

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The incident happened south west of Canberra. 
Photo: Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Council OKs improvements to Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR) water system

KEARNEY — The city will proceed with plans to improve the water system at Kearney Regional Airport.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the council voted 4-0 to apply for a $365,000 state revolving loan from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to fund the improvements. Mayor Stan Clouse was absent.

The improvements will include installing 6- and 8-inch water mains to replace problem areas and reduce pressure to older mains, said Chris Miller of Miller and Associates in Kearney.

“There’s a couple water mains that need to be replaced,” Miller said. “This is part of a long-term plan we’ve been working on. We’ve had some issues with some older water mains, and we’re replacing them.”

Specifically, the airport water system improvements include installing a pressure-reducing valve in Piper Avenue; replacing a broken water main under Airport Road south of Delux Manufacturing; replacing a poor-quality water main east of Airport Road from the Kearney Volunteer Fire Department building; and replacing a poor-quality water main east of Airport Road from the Kearney Aviation Center.

If the loan is approved, it should cover the entire cost of the project, Miller said.

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