Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Drunk' Flybe pilot removed from plane and arrested moments before take-off, after concerned crew member called police

A pilot was removed from an airplane and arrested on suspicion of drink-driving, just moments before the he was scheduled to take off.

The aircraft was due to fly from Newquay Airport to London Gatwick yesterday morning, but was cancelled causing passengers delays and in some cases missed connections.

A concerned crew member alerted the police, who removed the pilot from the plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop, and breath-tested him.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: 'A 48-year-old man from Crediton, Devon, was arrested on suspicion of being over the drink-drive limit.

'He was taken to Newquay police station. He has been released on police bail until December 8.'

The pilot was named locally as Julian Lowden, who describes himself in an online profile as a pilot and former consultant stress engineer.

A woman who came to the door of his detached, five-bed £400,000 home in Copplestone, Devon, refused to discuss the arrest.

A neighbor said: 'To be honest she knows as much as you. She understands how serious this is.'

Flybe said it is unable to name the pilot in light of the police investigation.

The arrest led to the flight being cancelled and some passengers facing delays of up to five hours.

One traveller missed a connection flight to Mexico from Gatwick because of the delay.

Passengers were told the pilot was 'unwell'.

A Flybe spokesman said: 'Flybe can confirm that one of its pilots volunteered to help the police with their inquiries at Newquay Airport yesterday.

'The airline is not able to comment further while the police investigation is taking place.'

The arrest came the same day as it was announced the low-cost airline would be operating the Newquay to Gatwick route for the next three years.

Retired commercial pilot Andy Wilkins said he'd never heard of a pilot being arrested before a flight. 'It's very rare,' he said.

'I've never heard of my colleagues being tested - I wasn't. But the rules are very strict.

'Pilots are allowed a quarter of the limit for drivers.

'We always followed the adage, 'eight hours from bottle to throttle' - stop drinking at least eight hours before flying. But pilots are human and everyone is different.'

Mr Wilkins added: 'Alcohol stays in the system for different times with different people. There's no regulation testing of pilots that I know of. They're generally very professional.

'But I guess it's down to their colleagues to raise the alert if they have concerns.'

This is not the first instance of a pilot suspected of being under the influence.

Last year, a Pakistani International Airlines pilot was jailed for nine months in Britain for being drunk before he was due to fly a plane with 156 people on board.

Irfan Faiz, 55, was found to have three times the legal amount of alcohol in his blood, prosecutors told Leeds Crown Court.

The father-of-two was asked to leave the cockpit during checks for the flight from Leeds Bradford airport to Islamabad on September 18 because he smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet.

In the US, 48 year-old American Eagle pilot, Kolbjorn Jarle Kristiansen, was removed from the cockpit after airline employees detected alcohol on his breath on him at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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Civil Air Patrol to base rebuilt airplane at Middle Georgia Regional Airport (KMCN) in Macon, Georgia

Macon’s newest Civil Air Patrol plane is a bit of a veteran.

The Cessna 172 arrived late Thursday afternoon. It was first built in 1986, but it’s been completely refurbished with modern displays, a new engine and a new interior, said James Marquardt, who said he was among a small crowd gawking at the airplane after it arrived at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon.

“It’s a very awesome little aircraft,” said Marquardt, commander of Middle Georgia Senior Squadron 033. “It’s spectacular.”

The airplane will be based in Macon but is available to help out anywhere. The Civil Air Patrol, a kind of civilian counterpart to the U.S. Air Force, runs search-and-rescue missions for downed flyers, among other kinds of missions. Another Macon-based Cessna 172 has run 217 hours of missions so far this year alone, Marquardt said.

From Macon, the new airplane should be able to reach almost anywhere in the state within about an hour and a half. Another Macon-based Civil Air Patrol plane recently helped in a search-and-rescue mission in Alabama, taking about 40 minutes to reach the border.

“We always hope for the best. We’re always out there trying to find the people. If they’re hurt, we want to get help to them as soon as we can,” he said.

The newest airplane’s old-style round gauges are replaced with a single modern digital display, while another display allows pilots to view a map, weather and other important information, Marquardt said.

Other improvements include rear windows that can be opened, allowing better aerial photos. It can also be set up to retransmit radio signals in the air.

“It’s not going to look like a 1986 airplane. It’s going to look like a 2014 airplane,” Marquardt said. “That’s what’s neat about it.”

The national Civil Air Patrol headquarters paid to refurbish the plane, and the commander of the Georgia Wing decided to station it at Macon.

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ViaAir offers daily flights to Charlotte and back: Raleigh County Memorial Airport (KBKW), Beckley, West Virginia

Congressman Nick Rahall, left, gives the thumbs up to Ami Viser, chairmen ViaAir aftert the announcement of Raleigh County Memorial  Airport new airline ViaAir. The new airline will be bringing its 30-passenger Embraer 120 jets into Raleigh County beginning in early December.

While the new carrier for the Raleigh County Memorial Airport was up in the air, manager Tom Cochran searched for the company he believed would be the perfect fit.

Cochran thinks he found it with the Orlando, Fla.-based ViaAir, which will begin passenger service to Charlotte, N.C., in December.

"Their interest, their passion for service and the first-class equipment they have, not just to fly people out of Beckley, but to bring the world to us" made ViaAir the right choice, Cochran said. "They are totally committed to give us service not only to Charlotte, but also chartering opportunities (in the future.)"

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., made the announcement Thursday at the airport.

"Enhancing our connections to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport with regular flights keeps our region connected in very short order to the world," Rahall said.

The congressman said the Essential Air Program, which helps fund airports for small- and mid-sized communities, is necessary for those airports to survive.

Rahall noted that large airports depend on smaller facilities to deliver passengers "to and from the first and last miles."

ViaAir chairman Ami Vizer said he and his wife, Irit, the company's president and CEO, don't just like but "love" the Beckley area.

Vizer said he believes once the outside world sees the region and sees what he sees here, the New River Gorge area will "be the center of adventure and many other attractions."

"I see nature," he said. "A lot of what you might see as undeveloped land, I see as open horizons."

Vizer wants to expand the tourism industry's horizons by offering an Adventure Package in conjunction with both the whitewater rafting companies in the New River and with Winterplace Ski Resort.

"Beckley is the closest ski resort (to Charlotte), only 45 minutes away using ViaAir," he said.

One thing Vizer didn't look at when he chose Beckley  — not only for ViaAir's aviation business, but a 44,000-square-foot maintenance facility — was the state's perpetual 50th ranking in many areas.

"By referring to yourself as No. 50, you (have to) look up instead of looking at the true value of your community and say 'this is what we have to offer,'" Vizer said. "The advantage we bring to the table is we see it through very fresh eyes with no pre-conceptions."

According to a media release, ViaAir expects to increase travelers to Beckley from 14,000 to 15,000 next year as part of the Adventure Package program.

New River Gorge Regional Development Authority executive director Chad Wykle said there's reason to be excited about air service to Charlotte since so many West Virginia natives now live and work in North Carolina.

"It's a business city, it's a business airport; you can connect globally to anywhere," Wykle said. "It's another way we can bring (West Virginia natives) home more often, and then permanently."

Cochran said air service with ViaAir will begin Dec. 1, and the online reservation center will be available Monday.

"People can make bookings for future flights," Cochran said. "The more people we can put on the airplane, the more we can work with the fares to make them attractive."

Cochran said he is equally excited about the tourism enhancement ViaAir brings to Raleigh County. ViaAir customers in Charlotte will be able to buy lift tickets for Winterplace.

"They're already marketing ideas with people in Charlotte," he said. "They're working to bring people here."

Cochran said having reliable service is important to the airport's future. The Federal Aviation Administration rewards airports with more than 10,000 boardings a year, he said. That number of enplanements would bring Raleigh Memorial $1 million from the FAA, Cochran said.

The money would be used for future projects at the airport and to keep the facility updated, Cochran said.

"We want to be what we've said that we were, a servant to the community," Cochran said. "We feel like now we have something to serve it with."

Municipal airports are increasingly seen as key components of economic development for communities since they are an attractive selling point in recruiting new business to a region.

The presence of a local airport is regarded by many businesses — particularly those in the high-tech sector — as crucial to servicing clients around the world. And many of these firms are looking for smaller airports over international airports, due to ease of access and quick departures that aren't possible at large airports.

ViaAir is based on Orlando, Fla., with maintenance and operations bases all over the United States, including Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles and Charlotte.

The company will fly four Embraer EMB-120 aircraft, billed as the "fastest, lightest and most economical in its class," for up to 30 passengers. ViaAir will have a total of four flights a day, leaving Beckley at 6:55 a.m. and 10:20 a.m., and leaving Charlotte at 8:40 a.m. 4:29 p.m.

During its first three weeks of service, the cost of a ticket each way will be $59, plus taxes and fees.

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Nigerian Airlines Still Battling with Safety Challenges

It has been acknowledged that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has improved in the regulatory oversight of the airlines, but THISDAY has learnt that some of the domestic airlines are still grappling with safety challenges because of poor and incompetent technical management.

The NCAA regularly examines airlines’ approved maintenance program, and their technical and administrative profiles. The Authority has the responsibility to recommend removal of an airline official who is incompetent.

THISDAY learnt that some airlines cannot afford the cost of hiring very competent and experienced hands to handle their aircraft because they are presently in financial mess. The situation, it was gathered, is affecting the output of their workers.

An inside NCAA source said, in terms of technical manuals of these airlines, they are up to date with their maintenance schedule, simulator training for their pilots and also the cockpit crew have met the criteria to operate; but lack motivation due to non-payment of their salaries.

However, industry operators have accused the regulatory body of being responsible for the failure of airlines to have enough operational funds because, over the years, it failed in economic regulation of the airlines.
A source said if a major accident occurs, it is not because the aircraft has technical limitation or was not airworthy, but because the pilot lacked motivation.

“Aviation sector is a very sensitive sector where you don’t compromise on meeting the needs of your cockpit crew and your engineers. You must have money to competently run your operation. But it is not so with many of the Nigerian airlines. Some of the domestic airlines are okay, but some are hanging precariously. Some might have met the expected safety procedure but their cockpit crew may be thinking of the welfare of their children and therefore may not concentrate on their jobs.”

“As a sensitive industry, it is expected that NCAA should also take drastic action when necessary to ground airlines that fail to meet their financial obligation to their staff, especially the technical staff.  Many of our airlines have financial issues; some have not paid salary for upward of six months. Then there is poor technical management of some of the airlines, but the rating of the airlines is not bad”, the source said.

THISDAY also learnt that some airlines cannot engage competent and highly skilled personnel because of the high cost of their remuneration and this affects the operational competences of the airlines.

This was confirmed by a pilot, who said some expatriates who seek for jobs as pilots and engineers may show their certificates and are quickly employed by some airlines without thorough verification of their claims.

“Some air crashes in Nigeria could be attributed to this problem, people claiming to have the competences, which they actually don’t have. That may be the reason why a captain in command in one of the recent tragic accidents in Nigeria could not take a good decision to save the lives in his aircraft. It is under emergency that you know the competence of a pilot, but most often tragedies don’t give opportunity for the pilot to re-examine the action he had taken. We are in a capital market, so what you pay for is what you get,” the source added.

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Labor union partners with airline contractor to improve worker safety at Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX), California

A labor union trying to organize airport ramp and cargo workers announced it is partnering with Menzies Aviation to help the airline contractor improve health and safety conditions for its Los Angeles International Airport employees.

Menzies Aviation’s partnership with Service Employees International Union, United Service Workers West, or SEIU-USWW, was formed two months after the company was hit with a $77,250 Cal-OSHA fine for three accident-related workplace safety violations found during an investigation prompted by the Feb. 21 death of a 51-year-old baggage cart tug driver who fell off the vehicle.

According to a coroner’s report, Cesar Valenzuela died of blunt trauma. Hypertrophic heart disease was listed as a contributing factor, but the report said it was not directly related to his death. The tug had a non-functioning seatbelt.

SEIU-USWW has been working to organize Menzies employees since 2012, and the company’s non-management employees are not currently unionized, but the company reached out to the union because they have taken the lead in pursuing safety issues at LAX, according to union research director Andrew Gross Gaitan.

“We’ve been pounding on the issue of heath and safety at LAX, so to have the company that has the longest-running and most serious problems to want to come forward and partner with us to try to turn the situation around — I think that’s a very positive development for the future of worker health and safety at LAX,” Gaitan said.

The workplace violation citations and a new licensing policy at LAX requiring contractors to have clean health and safety records may have prompted Menzies to reach out to the union to develop a new health and safety program, Gaitan said.

Los Angeles World Airport officials who oversee LAX and other city-owned airports were “seriously considering terminating (Menzie’s) license” to operate at LAX, he said.

Menzies spokeswoman Maya Pogoda said they have entered into a “unique partnership with the SEIU to explore new and innovative ways to provide the safest, most efficient and professional services possible at LAX.

“The company is pleased to have resolved its differences with the SEIU and looks forward to a bright future at LAX,” she said.

Under the health and safety program, a committee will be formed that comprise SEIU-USWW and Menzies representatives, employees, and health and safety advocates.

Industry experts will also help develop worker health and safety training programs, inspection programs will be created for vehicle and heavy equipment, and Menzies employees will have a process for communicating their concerns to management.

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Macon County (1A5), Franklin, North Carolina: Airport Authority October 2014 Meeting

Published on October  29, 2014

 Regular October 2014 meeting of the Macon County Airport Authority that took place on October 28, 2014 at the Macon County Airport (1A5).

Coast Guard puts off Oregon search and rescue base closing; Charleston still a question

 The U.S. Coast Guard might be close to budging on plans to remove a search and rescue helicopter and shutter a base on the Stono River. A similar base in Newport, Ore., just won a reprieve.

The legislative delegation from that state announced Thursday that the Coast Guard commandant agreed to delay closing that base until Dec. 15, to "allow for a more extensive and thorough discussion of the risks to recreational fishing, commercial fishing and other activities" along the coast near the busy Columbia River delta, according to a delegation news release.

The agreement came after delegation members held a press conference with fishing and emergency response personnel calling for the service to reverse the closing decision, the release said.

Whatever is or isn't happening with South Carolina delegation members is being kept low key and largely under wraps.

Sen. Tim Scott's office had no comment to add to an earlier statement saying the senator "continues to work closely with the South Carolina and Oregon delegations to explore options, including possible legislative remedies or remedies the Coast Guard can immediately implement themselves," said spokesman Sean Conner.

A statement from Sen. Lindsey Graham was not provided by deadline.

The Dec. 15 date is significant because it is after the election and three days after the scheduled expiration of a Congressional continuing resolution that funds the military at current levels.

The Coast Guard has scheduled Air Facility Charleston to close Nov. 30. The Johns Island facility closing is a cost-cutting move, the service's pointed response to a federal budget sequestration compromise that calls for mandatory spending cuts each year.

The cost savings is $6 million, a tiny fraction of the service's nearly $15 billion budget.

The maritime community in the Lowcountry was stunned to hear that a port where tens of thousands of pleasure and commercial craft travel each year would be left without a vital search-and-rescue helicopter.

"We are very concerned that our safety and that of other mariners has become an expendable line item. As pilots, we board ships 15 miles offshore 4,500 times a year," said Julia Bennett, Charleston Branch Pilots' Association corporate affairs manager.

"Losing a helicopter that's only 15 minutes away, and instead relying on a helicopter 80 miles away that's now covering twice the coastline, is a major degradation to the Coast Guard's lifesaving mission here," she said.

With the base closing, the helicopter stationed on Johns Island would return temporarily to Savannah but eventually be reassigned elsewhere. That station would be cut back to three helicopters for rescue missions from mid-Florida to the North Carolina line - a move that piles critical minutes onto response times to emergency calls.

The U.S. Marine Corps also has protested the move, which is taking place as the Beaufort air station begins training Marine pilots to fly the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighters. The Beaufort air station closed its search and rescue unit in 2004, turning over the job to the Coast Guard.

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Diamond DA40: Aspen aeronautics program offers higher learning • Aircraft obtained will be used by schools for student lessons

Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News 
Greg Roark, director of the aeronautics program in the Aspen School District, explains the instrument panel on the 2010 Diamond DA40 aircraft. Students in the program and the public will able to use the plane, which belongs to a not-for-profit corporation, for flight lessons. 

Looking around Greg Roark’s classroom in Aspen Middle School, with its immersive flight simulator, three flat screen TVs, noise-attenuating headsets, a private pilot syllabus and federal test standards, it’s easy to believe him when he says the school district’s aeronautics program is “not playing around.”

That’s additionally backed up by the Oct. 4 arrival of the program’s newest addition: a 2010 Diamond DA40 single-engine light aircraft that will be devoted to flying lessons for students of all ages. Roark, a certified pilot and director of the program, landed the plane at Sardy Field after flying it from Canada.

The plane does not belong to the school; it was purchased through private donations made to the Aspen Aerospace Alliance and the Aspen Higher Learning Flight Academy, both not-for-profit corporations affiliated with Roark’s program.

While that plane is a huge boost to those attending Aspen schools — which haven’t had to pay anything toward the aeronautics program, as all the money has been privately raised — Roark said it also will be available to the general public at subsidized rates for lessons. He declined to say the price, citing the private nature of the donation that funded the purchase. But such planes tend to be in the $350,000 range.

Hunter Bryant, a junior at Aspen High, got his first experience in the Diamond DA40 recently. He is devoted to learning the myriad aspects of what it takes to be a pilot, a path that started for him last year.

When Roark introduced the program, Bryant said he joined it with a few friends and that there were about 20 people in the ground-school class initially. Ground school gives students the basics of aeronautical knowledge.

“Some kids thought it was hard … and so we ended up with six kids in the class,” Bryant said. “It’s just a lot of content to learn.”

Roark said that is the point of the program.

“As a pilot, you’re managing so many different things, so many different systems,” he said. “You’re in airspace, you have atmospheric conditions, you have the mathematics that you have to be able to do in your head, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, the communications piece.”

But Bryant has endured and starts pilot lessons next week (the Federal Aviation Administration requires a licensed pilot to be at least 16 years old, though a person can begin training at any age).

“Hopefully by next year I can have my private pilot license,” he said.

Sky-high plans

The aircraft is but one part of what Roark and the not-for-profit corporations have in mind to jump-start applied math, engineering and physics lessons for Roaring Fork Valley students, while also offering the public a way to learn to fly without having to go to Rifle or Grand Junction.

Roark and board members of the corporations also envision students building an unmanned aerial vehicle with two cameras mounted on it and a small supply cache that could be dropped via parachute to someone stranded on a mountain.

“We ultimately would like to be able to team with Mountain Rescue Aspen to be able to get out there and use these,” Roark said. “This can be the first responder.”

And the groups are hoping to buy a five-seat experimental aircraft that the students would build themselves, except for the engine and fuselage.

All of this, and the aeronautics program is only in its second full year. Roark, who speaks with evangelical zeal about the need for students interested in engineering, math and aeronautics, said the airline industry will need 544,000 new pilots in the next 28 years. Without them, “it will be a very rude awakening for a lot of people who just look at air traffic as this ubiquitous thing,” he said.

The Aspen schools’ program he is spearheading hopes to address that through applied math and science, and college and career readiness.

Starting the program required figuring out how to “implement that into the existing curricular architecture in such a way that it makes sense for the vision the superintendent has for the school,” Roark said.

Superintendent John Maloy said one aspect that captured his attention when Roark made his pitch was that students would be “participating in a high-energy, technology-based learning environment.

“Students really get engaged if it is more of a lab setting, more of a roll-up-your-sleeves” endeavor, he said. “They can see the relevancy between what they are studying and what they’re applying in the short term and long term.”

Maloy also noted that Colorado ranks second in the nation for private aerospace employment. The industry will be needing highly qualified employees, and local students, if interested, could return to their home state for careers near their families.

The program offers two potential career pathways — FAA pilot certification and aeronautical engineering. It starts in the elementary school with assembling static models. In middle school, students build what Roark called dynamic models — on a recent morning middle schoolers were in the early stages of constructing radio-controlled (RC) planes. The process involves “true problem-solving,” he said.

Building an RC aircraft allows the students to understand what makes a plane tick as students work their way up to the real deal.

The new plane already has offered its first lesson. Student lessons are offered at the operational cost of the plane: $125 an hour. Scholarships, similar to those available to students for sports and the district’s experiential education programs, will be obtainable.

The general public will pay $185 an hour, which Roark called a fair price, considering the solidity of the Diamond DA40. He compared it to a flight center in Grand Junction that offers a rental price for a Cessna of $175 an hour, which doesn’t include the instructor and fuel costs.

Roark and principals of the affiliated corporations want to take the program to other schools as well. The FAA pilot course he teaches for high school students and the general public, for instance, are to be broadcast live, allowing for distance learning at schools in Basalt and Carbondale. That aspect is expected to be available starting in January.

“There are not a lot of schools out there that do what we do,” he said. “It’s pretty rare. But I don’t think it has to be that rare. … We don’t think we have to limit the experience here.”

Asked about the funding aspect of the program, which is considerable, he likened it to sports.

“You want to teach a kid how to play hockey, well, you have to have ice, build a rink. You have to pump millions of dollars into it,” Roark said. “In looking at what we do, it’s no different.”

The school has not devoted a “single penny” to the program, providing only Roark’s classroom space.

He said he spent three years knocking on doors for donations and that the Aspen Education Foundation has been a “tremendous supporter” of fundraising efforts.

One of the students diligently working on an RC model on a recent morning was eighth-grader Ethan Linn. He said the RC projects haven’t been as hard as the piloting he learns through one of the room’s smaller simulators, though he is getting better at that. Linn said he sits down at a simulator “every single day at lunch.” He remembered when Roark brought an RC helicopter and another model plane to his regular classroom.

“I said, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’” Linn said.

Wait until he’s in the Diamond DA40.

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Fog delays 125 flights at Mexico City International Airport

A total of 125 flights, including both arrivals and departures, were delayed Thursday morning by fog at the Mexico City international airport, which was closed for a time, aviation officials said.

The airport was closed for nearly two hours, delaying inbound and outbound flights, and forcing some planes to be rerouted to the western city of Guadalajara and the Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

The fog reduced visibility to nearly zero at the airport, which was closed from 6:19 a.m. to 8:12 a.m.

Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport, which was built in 1929, is nearly at full capacity, handling 32 million passengers annually. 

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Air traffic control key to tourism growth

Senior Minister of State in the Office of the President, Simon Khaya-Moyo, has reiterated calls to improve conditions of service for air traffic controllers, saying they play a key role in the growth of the country’s tourism sector. Air traffic control is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground through controlled airspace and can provide advisory services to aircraft to non-controlled space.

The primary purpose of air traffic control worldwide is to prevent collisions, organize and expedite the flow of air traffic. “All efforts to bring economic success and grow tourism contributions hinge on the excellent safety record and professionalism that our air traffic controllers have produced over the years,” said Khaya-Moyo.

He was speaking in Kariba recently during commemorations of the International Day of the Air Traffic Controller, organized by the Air Traffic Controllers Association of Zimbabwe (ATCAZ). On October 20 every year, the world celebrates the role played by air traffic controllers in recognition of the founding of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA).

ATCAZ is a professional organization of air traffic controllers employed the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) and is a member of IFATCA which represents more than 50 000 air traffic controllers from over 135 countries worldwide.
This year’s commemorations ran under the theme, “A Proud and Professional Air Traffic Control Family: Active in the Community.”

Khaya-Moyo said air traffic controllers remained busy in 2014. “Over the past years we have witnessed a positive growth in air traffic volumes,” he said.

“New airlines among them Fast Jet and Fly Africa started flying in Zimbabwe this year and the volumes of over fliers increased. The successful hosting of the Routes Africa 2014 and the SADC (Southern African Development Community) summit are some of the major highlights that kept the air traffic controllers busy for 2014.”

The increase in volumes has said necessitated the splitting of the upper airspace into two, said ATCAZ. Khaya-Moyo, a former minister of transport and ATCAZ patron, said the safety record of the national flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe, was attributable to the sterling efforts of air traffic controllers.

“It must be remembered that the air traffic controllers are the nerve center of air travel and therefore must be afforded appropriate remuneration and utmost respect,” said Khaya-Moyo.

“They (air traffic controllers) also partner our security forces in safeguarding our skies and facilitating the smooth and safe movement of VVIP and VIP flights.”

He said there was a need to ensure the upgrading of the air traffic control tools of trade to ensure all requisite infrastructure and facilities were in an excellent condition and high quality. “I am proud to note that the Zimbabwean air traffic controllers even with the substantial increase in air flight volumes continue to prove their capacity to work under pressure by producing accident free airspace management for CAAZ and the country as a whole,” said Khaya-Moyo.

ATCAZ president, Evans Makuku bemoaned that their profession remained one of the more obscure jobs with many people still ignorant about it.  “Ours is a job that requires us to maintain high levels of good health so that we pass the regular medical examinations regardless of age,” he explained.

“The profession of air traffic control requires intelligence, diligence, dedication and a host of other skills. Controllers have the critical role to maintain a safe, orderly and movement of air traffic.” He added that as part of their efforts to sensitize the public on their job they always sought the involvement and participation of the public in their program.

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Lufthansa Lowers 2015 Earnings Outlook • German Airline Drawing Up Plans in Case Economic Prospects Deteriorate Further

The Wall Street Journal
By Natalia Drozdiak

Updated Oct. 30, 2014 10:07 a.m. ET

FRANKFURT— Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Thursday scaled back its earnings targets for next year and said it was drawing up contingency plans should economic conditions further deteriorate.

The German airline now sees its 2015 operating profit “significantly above the result of 2014,” compared with its previous €2 billion ($2.52 billion) target, while confirming its 2014 operating profit target of €1 billion. The airline blamed the weaker global economic backdrop as well as overcapacity in key markets. In response to the weakness, it said it would curtail capacity growth next year to 3% from 5% to help combat pressure on yields.

“We can see that the economic slowdown and the continuing declines in our passenger yields in the face of such fierce competition will affect our operating scope in the year ahead,” said Chief Financial Officer Simone Menne. She said earnings would also be hit by a sharp rise in pension costs.

The airline also warned that its 2014 dividend payment could be cut because of a change in interest rates and the sale of its IT unit.

Ms. Menne said the carrier’s dividend policy was “under review” and would be discussed when the supervisory board meets in early December. Lufthansa said earlier this month that it would sell its IT infrastructure division to International Business Machines Corp. , a move that will reduce costs in the long run but result in a €240 million charge this year.

Lufthansa also said its 2014 earnings targets remained vulnerable to further labor union strikes this year. It said strikes aren’t factored into the 2015 outlook, so it too could be further impacted if more labor unrest takes place. Labor union strikes have already shaved off €170 million in operating profit this year, Lufthansa said.

“To have conviction in the investment case we need to regain confidence in the stabilization of forecasts, which is difficult at this stage given the challenged operating environment,” Jefferies analyst Mark Irvine-Fortescue said.

Lufthansa’s shares dropped 7% to €11.47 around 1300 GMT.

The airline said the pressure on yields from overcapacity in the industry stemmed from outside Europe and mainly from North America. Lufthansa said it sees stable versus rising yields in 2015 and that capacity growth in North America will likely surpass 3% in 2015.

Like other European airlines, Lufthansa is struggling to compete with discount carriers, which have undermined short-haul operations in Europe, while rapidly growing Middle Eastern carriers are also threatening their long-haul businesses.

Lufthansa said it might have to make more capacity cuts and shrink the size of its fleet if demand declines further. Still, the carrier is so far “satisfied” with next year’s bookings, Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said.

“We are disappointed that management is giving up again on its originally agreed financial target for 2015 without taking further action to preserve the 2015 target,” Citi group analyst Andrew Light said.

The company said its fuel hedging policy was so far unaffected by the low jetfuel costs, adding that its fuel for next year is partly already hedged at 65% for 2015.

The altered 2015 outlook came even as it reported that third-quarter net profit rose 24% to €561 million from €451 million last year. Analysts had expected the airline to post a third-quarter net profit of around €491 million. Sales for the quarter advanced 1.9% to €8.46 billion from €8.3 billion, Lufthansa said.

Lufthansa said it would hold off on a specific 2015 forecast until next year, saying “strong volatility” in issues such as exchange rates and fuel costs made it too difficult to be more precise for now.

The airline said lower restructuring costs and a new aircraft depreciation policy helped offset the cost of the strikes. Its third-quarter operating profit rose 25% to €735 million, compared with €589 million the year before and against analyst estimates of €662 million.

Lufthansa said the cost cuts are outpacing their 2015 Score restructuring target to slash operating costs by €1.5 billion and doesn’t see any other restructuring expenses next year. The airline plans to make the cost reductions and earnings improvements a permanent fixture once the program ends.

Chief Executive Spohr said the airline could cut more administrative staff and implement a hiring freeze in airline operations departments.

Earlier this year, the airline said it is extending the depreciation period for its aircraft from 12 to 20 years, and reducing their residual book value from 15% to 5% of purchase price. Lufthansa said the new policy has already boosted operating results by €260 million in the first nine months of the year.

The airline had already downgraded its outlook in June on weak sales growth and labor unrest, when it was subsequently hit by a number of pilot strikes. Lufthansa and its pilots are at odds over a push by the carrier to raise the early retirement age and the airline’s plans to shift some flying to lower-cost operations.

Mr. Spohr, earlier this year announced a plan to boost the shift of short-haul operations to a discount unit while also moving some long-haul flights to a lower-cost business model. The airline also wants to revamp some Airbus Group NV A340-300 long-haul jets to offer discount flights to leisure travelers. It will brief its board about the lower-cost “Wings” concept in December, Lufthansa said.

European rival Air France-KLM SA in October also announced its second profit warning this year. The unprofitable Franco-Dutch carrier said a two-week-long pilots strike cost the airline about €416 million in lost sales.

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WOW Air launches $99 fares across Atlantic

WOW Air, the roughly three-year-old discount air carrier, is going where few other ultra-low-cost airlines have gone: across the Atlantic. And if all goes according to plan, it's going to do it much cheaper than anyone else.

The budget airline, which is based in Iceland, announced last week that it will begin flying passengers nonstop from both Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik, Iceland, for as little as $99 each way. The airline will also offer one-stop flights from the two U.S. cities to London and Copenhagen, starting at $228 for a round-trip. The airline will begin offering the flights next March.

"Paying even $200 for a one-way flight to, say, London, is unheard of," said Tom Parson, the chief executive of, which tracks airline pricing. "It just doesn't exist."

By comparison, the average price of a round-trip plane ticket between Boston and Reykjavik in March of 2015 is just under $600, by Parson's estimate. A single-stop round-trip ticket between Boston and London runs about $770, while a nonstop ticket costs roughly $800.

The incredibly low ticket prices from Wow Air are real, but don't expect them to last forever. "Those are definitely opening, introductory fares," said Skuli Mogensen, Wow Air's chief executive. "On an occasional basis we hope to be able to introduce similar fares, but those are very aggressive. We wouldn't be talking if I had introduced prices more commonly seen in the market, would we?"

But the airline's commitment is to offer the cheapest ticket for every route the airline flies, including transatlantic routes, Mogensen said. The prices Wow Air offers will vary by season and will depend on a number of other factors, including fuel prices and flight vacancies.

How does Wow Air expect to pull this off? For one, by operating like all other ultra-discount carriers. A ticket on Wow Air will come with little more than a seat, mini-tray table, and an 11-pound carry-on. Everything else will cost extra. Any carry-on in excess of 11 pounds will cost an extra $29 when booked online, or an additional $48 when done so at the airport. Checked luggage will set one back a bit more - an extra $48 online or $67 at check-in. And extra leg room, pre-assigned seats, and, of course, food will rack up the bill, too.

But unlike Spirit Airlines, which is famous for squeezing passengers' knees, Wow Air won't skimp quite as much on leg room. The seat pitch, the distance between two seats, is between 30 and 36 inches on the Airbus A320 aircrafts flown by the airline, said Svanhvít Fridriksdóttir, Wow Air's director of communications. Most pitch sizes are about 31 inches, and many discount carrier pitch sizes are less than 30 inches. Spirit Airlines', for instance, is 28 inches.

Wow Air also expects to save money by operating as efficiently as possible. The company relies heavily on online sales and marketing, for instance, which allows it to skip the cost of middlemen. It also operates few airplanes - only four currently - but maximizes their utility. "We have extremely good aircraft utilization," said Mogensen. "Within one 24-hour cycle, a single airplane will fly from Iceland to Boston, back to Iceland, and continue to London, and then back to Iceland, each time full of passengers."

And Wow Air expects to fill all of its planes, a feat few if any airlines operating transatlantic routes have managed. "Our assumption is that we will fill every plane, and we price accordingly," said Mogensen.

But Wow Air's biggest advantage might be its headquarters. Iceland is ideal, because it gives airplanes a midpoint where they can stop to refuel. That allows the airline to fly passengers to and from Europe in smaller planes, which it can more consistently fill with passengers. It also helps the airline save money on fuel. "About 40 percent of the fuel airplanes carry is used to ferry the fuel to the final destination," said Bob Mann, an aviation industry analyst at R.W. Mann and Co. Consulting. "As you go shorter and shorter distances, you can ferry less fuel, and save money."

Convincing customers to travel with a stop-over might be difficult, but if it means hundreds in savings it's hard to believe it won't be possible.

Still, the small Icelandic airline faces what some industry experts believe is a steep uphill battle. Wow Air isn't, after all, the first airline to try operating cheap transatlantic flights. Low-cost air travel pioneer Freddie Laker tried unsuccessfully to do it in the late 1970s with Laker Airways; the airline closed in the early 1980s after it couldn't stay afloat. More recently,, a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, began offering affordable transatlantic flights this summer. The pitch was London-New York flights for $241. But the flights haven't been as cheap as advertised, and the routes have been stricken with delays, according to Mann. "Norwegian has had huge difficulties," he said. "All across the summer it has been running relays for its transatlantic flights to and from New York."

The biggest obstacle to discount long distance air travel might simply be that long trips could strip an airline like Wow Air of the efficiency on which it so heavily relies. Despite Wow Air's advantage of being able to stop in Iceland, the nearly 5.5-hour flight between Boston and Reykjavik is still long by budget airline standards.

A comparatively small fleet becomes a competitive disadvantage as soon as there's a delay. "Once it starts to get off-schedule, they'll never get it back on schedule unless they start cancelling flights," said Mann. Likely for that very reason, low-cost carriers have soared domestically, but shied away from routes between North America and Europe. Discount airlines currently control nearly a third of the airline market in North America, and more than third of it in Europe, but only about 1 percent of the market for transatlantic travel.

Ryanair, which operates more than 100 aircrafts in Europe has been contemplating transatlantic flights for years, but has yet to jump the gun. "If anybody was going to do it, and anybody had the greatest potential to succeed, it would be them," Mann said. "And yet they've decided it's not in the cards. That's a cautionary tale, I'd say."

Wow Air, for its part, is optimistic about its ability to offer the cheapest form of transatlantic travel. "The long-haul low-cost model hasn't really been implemented because it's hard to achieve the utilization needed," said Mogensen. "That is, unless you have a hub in the middle. And Iceland is perfectly suited," said Mogensen.

And despite the added fees from Wow, consumers may still think they're getting a bargain. "If you think you can make it Europe with an 11-pound bag, Wow Air offers a fantastic deal," said Parson. "Even with their extras, you would still end up flying for a lot cheaper than with other carriers."

The airline plans to expand at least four more destination in North America by 2016, and fly two extra jets next year and a total of 10 airplanes by 2016.

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NATO Tracks Large-Scale Russia Air Activity in Europe • NATO Says Russian Air Activity Poses Potential Risk to Civilian Flights

The Wall Street Journal
By Stephen Fidler
Updated Oct. 29, 2014 7:33 p.m. ET

BRUSSELS—Russian military aircraft conducted aerial maneuvers around Europe this week on a scale seldom seen since the end of the Cold War, prompting NATO jets to scramble in another sign of how raw East-West relations have grown.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said that more than two dozen Russian aircraft in four groups were intercepted and tracked on Tuesday and Wednesday, an unusually high level of activity that the alliance said could have endangered passing civilian flights.

Military jets from eight nations were scrambled to meet the Russian aircraft, which a NATO spokesman said remained in international airspace and didn’t violate NATO territory.

However, NATO officials said such flights heighten the risks of military miscalculations. They also come at a time when U.S. officials have been voicing concern about Moscow’s actions in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, where thousands have been killed in months of fighting between the government and Russia-backed separatists.

“There is a troubling trend of out-of-area events being increasingly used by Russia along its periphery for political saber-rattling, with probing incursions by air and sea by the Russian military becoming more commonplace and flagrant,” a senior Obama administration official said. “The United States has repeatedly called upon Russia to respect international law and the sovereign territory of its neighbors.”

There was no immediate comment from Moscow, which has denied in the past that such flights were provocations.

NATO said it has conducted over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft so far this year, about three times as many as were conducted in 2013.

This month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel characterized Russia as “revisionist,” noting Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s apparent intentions to restore Soviet Union-like borders.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that Russia has continued provocative behavior in Europe.

“We have been keeping track of incidents and have noticed an increase in Russian flights close to NATO airspace since the start of the Ukraine crisis,” said Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “We don’t think those flights help de-escalate the current situation at all.”

Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army’s Chief of Staff, called the flights “Russian aggression” in an interview on CNN. “I think they are trying to reassert themselves,” he said. “I think we have to watch it very carefully. We have to reassure our allies.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s new secretary-general, said more “transparency and predictability” was needed between NATO and Russia “to avoid that the crisis spirals into something worse [and] that misunderstandings create even bigger conflicts.”

Russian leaders have long portrayed NATO as a major threat to Russia, despite denials from Brussels. Mr. Putin explained his annexation of Crimea last spring—over Kiev’s objections—in part by saying he wanted to deny NATO access to Crimea’s naval bases should Ukraine ever join the alliance.

Russia’s recent aggressiveness has been particularly alarming for NATO’s new members from the former Soviet bloc, whose accession Moscow had vehemently opposed.

In September, Estonia said one of its intelligence officers had been seized by Russian security agents on Estonian territory and taken to Russia—just two days after a visit to Estonia by President Barack Obama. Russia has said the man, who remains in prison, was detained on Russian territory as part of a counterespionage operation.

This month, Sweden dispatched its navy to hunt for a possible Russian submarine plying the seas near Stockholm. Moscow denied it had sent any subs to Sweden, which although not a NATO member is a staunch Western ally.

NATO said this week’s flights were detected over the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, Baltic and Black seas. The Russian aircraft included fighters, bombers and tanker aircraft, it said.

Such flights pose a risk to civilian flights, according to NATO, because the Russians often don't file flight plans or use onboard transponders, which mean civilian air-traffic control can’t detect them.

The spokesman at NATO military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, said he didn’t know whether Russia had notified NATO of any military exercises.

In a sign of heightened nervousness, U.K. Royal Air Force planes escorted a Russian-built plane into Stansted airport on Wednesday, but it was a civilian plane from Latvia unconnected with the Russian activity, the Ministry of Defense in London said.

Russia has been increasing its long-distance air patrols for the past several years, ostensibly for training and readiness purposes.

In the interview, Mr. Stoltenberg said there are five times as many NATO planes in the air on air-policing missions now than a year ago.

NATO leaders, at a summit in Wales in September, agreed to what Mr. Stoltenberg called “the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War,” largely to reassure its eastern flank. NATO leaders also vowed to lift their military spending over the next 10 years to 2% of economic output; currently only a few members meet or exceed that level.

NATO said eight Russian aircraft were intercepted over the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. Norway scrambled F-16 aircraft to intercept and identify the aircraft, which comprised four Tu-95 strategic bombers and four Il-78 tanker aircraft.

After the formation flew from mainland Russia over the Norwegian Sea, six aircraft turned back and two of the bombers headed southwest, parallel to the Norwegian coast, prompting Typhoon fighters from the U.K. to scramble.

The two aircraft then flew to the Atlantic, where Portuguese F-16s scrambled, before heading north to the west of the U.K. The bombers were still airborne, 13 hours after they were first detected.

NATO said two Tu-95 bombers and two Su-27 fighters were detected flying over the Black Sea on Wednesday afternoon. Turkish fighters intercepted them.

NATO radars also detected seven Russian aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace, comprising two MiG-31s, two Su-34s, one Su-27 and two Su-24. Portuguese F-16 fighters assigned to the beefed-up NATO air-policing mission over the Baltic members—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—were scrambled in response, and the Russian aircraft returned to Russian airspace.

On Tuesday, seven Russian combat planes were also detected over the Baltic Sea. The Russian aircraft were intercepted over the Gulf of Finland by German Typhoon fighter jets from the Baltic air patrols.

Danish fighters, as well as aircraft from non-NATO Finland and Sweden, also scrambled and the aircraft continued toward the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. These planes did file flight plans and used transponders, but didn’t maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control, NATO said.

—Philip Shishkin and Felicia Schwartz in Washington contributed to this article.

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