Tuesday, December 27, 2011

DGCA & DRI investigating corporates for customs evasion while using foreign-registered aircraft

NEW DELHI: Flying around in private planes registered overseas may be convenient and perhaps even fashionable in India Inc, but the country's aviation regulator and premier tax investigating agency are determined to force a crash-landing to possible misuses in this growing corporate fad.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) are investigating whether corporate groups and tycoons regularly using such foreign-registered aircraft within the country have complied with Customs rules applicable on the use of such planes, both in letter and spirit.

These rules bar foreign-registered aircraft from being kept in the country for more than six months, lest they attract import duties.

But the authorities say many of these planes are predominantly used in India, flown out to neighbouring countries before the six-month period and brought back again for use in India, avoiding paying Customs duty in the process.

"The DGCA had raised this issue... The DRI looked into the matter and has now initiated an investigation," said an official with the aviation regulator. A Customs department official confirmed that the DRI had initiated a formal investigation.

The DRI recently issued a show-cause notice to Bharat Hotels, owners of Lalit hotels, as part of its investigation into the use of foreign-registered aircraft within the country, a move that culminated in the company choosing to settle with the Customs authorities by paying .`21 crore as duty in cash and bank guarantees.


The company did not respond to ET's queries despite numerous reminders. The agency, which started looking into the issue after the DGCA wrote to the finance and civil aviation ministries in April this year about possible abuse of laws in the use of such aircraft, is working with a list that contains around a dozen corporate names.

This list, prepared by the aviation regulator, also details the type of aircraft and their usage patterns. The DGCA had been keeping a close watch on flight schedules and movements of many such aircraft. Many of the industrial groups named in the list told ET that they were in full compliance with the rules.

JetLite engineer suspended for mid-air oil leakage

The Hindu - New Delhi,December 27, 2011 - PTI

A JetLite engineer has been suspended pending investigation after he allegedly left behind a tool in the engine cavity of a Ranchi-Mumbai flight which led to oil leakage and closure of one of the two engines mid-air.
However, there was no threat to the 130 passengers on board flight S2-722 on November 13, an airline spokesperson maintained.
But the Boeing 737 landed at Nagpur under emergency conditions.
On getting indications about fuel leakage, the crew shut down an engine as per standard operating procedure before making an “uneventful and safe” landing.
The airline's internal probe board found that the oil leak and low-oil pressure warning from one engine was caused by leakages from a hole in a drive pad. The hole was caused by the rubbing of an expander tool which was left in the cavity during maintenance of the engine the previous night.
Acknowledging that “an engineer did not follow the recommended procedure in accordance with the maintenance manual,” the spokesperson said “this oversight led to loss of engine oil during the flight.
“After rectification of the technical snag, the aircraft has been put back into service. The engineer concerned has been suspended pending investigation of the incident by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation,” the spokesperson said.
The DGCA is yet to finalise its probe report, sources said. — PTI

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Delegation meets Minister

The Hindu - MADURAI,December 22, 2011

A delegation comprising members from Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants' Association met the Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh at New Delhi, who took charge on Sunday last.
Submitting a memorandum led by its president S.P. Jeyapragasam and others, the members impressed on the minister to take up on top priority commencement of direct international flights to and from Madurai airport, which was given a facelift a year ago .
Bearing in mind the scope for bigger operations, the Airports Authority of India has provided huge infrastructure spending a little over Rs 100 crore. In the event of Madurai airport getting the international airport status, passengers from many southern districts from as far as Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli could benefit as presently, a majority of them depend on Tiruchi airport to reach destinations such as Sri Lanka, Gulf countries, Singapore and Malaysia.
The presence of Customs and additional CISF personnel should be sanctioned for the airport, the delegation said and urged the minister to get things moving at the earliest.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ajit Singh takes charge

The Hindu - NEW DELHI,December 20, 2011

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday introduced the newly inducted Minister, Ajit Singh, in Parliament.
The Prime Minister first introduced the Minister in Rajya Sabha and then in the Lok Sabha. Members of both the Houses greeted him with thumping of desks. Mr. Singh, chief of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, was sworn in as Cabinet Minister on Sunday and given Civil Aviation.
Earlier, after taking charge, Mr. Singh said that Civil Aviation was a “sensitive” portfolio.
He held a meeting with top officials of his Ministry at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

FDI in aviation may not find takers, warns IATA chief

The Hindu - Geneva,December 18, 2011 - PTI

A top aviation industry representative has expressed doubts whether allowing foreign airlines to invest in Indian carriers would attract them enough to put in money now, when the domestic industry was in a financial mess.
However, he strongly supported the need for further liberalisation of India’s FDI policy in aviation as well as slashing of high taxes on jet fuel.
“In today’s difficult environment, generally speaking, many airlines are trying to keep their balance-sheets strong rather than investing in other airlines. .... Investing in loss-making business is obviously not a winning strategy,” IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler told PTI in an interview here. Almost all Indian carriers have suffered losses in the past two years.
But Mr Tyler made it clear that if investment by foreign airlines was allowed, “then investments from different kind of sources will arrive. ... Certainly, Indian laws are very restrictive on foreign investments in airlines.”
If FDI policy was liberalised, “you will see foreign money coming into the aviation market, because it is a rapidly growing market. Therefore, aviation-friendly policies are required, particularly lifting the dead weight of taxation,” Mr Tyler said when asked about the proposal to allow foreign airlines to pick up equity in Indian carriers.
Describing India as a big aviation market, he said getting across the country by air was the best way. “We need good domestic air transport infrastructure to facilitate foreign investment.” To questions on high taxes in India on jet fuel, Mr Tyler said “globally, even in the bad days, fuel costs do not account for more than 30 per cent of the total costs of airlines (the world over). But in India, it is 45 per cent.”
Terming high fuel prices in India as the “main problem” which was having “a significant drag” on Indian carriers, the IATA chief said “it handicaps the whole industry. It pushes costs up. So fares have to be increased to break even. Then you will have less traffic and less revenue. It is a horrible spiral of cost. It is penalising the industry.”
He asked the government to set India’s aviation industry free by expeditiously reducing taxes, especially those on jet fuel, instead of “micro-managing” the cash-strapped sector.
Mr Tyler said the service tax on tickets and high taxes on jet fuel “should be reduced or eliminated“.
“We urge the Indian government to set the aviation industry free (from policy interventions like checking airfares). Concentrate on building infrastructure and the air navigation system. There is a lot the Indian government can do,” he said.
In India, Mr Tyler said the aviation industry contributed five per cent of the GDP, around Rs 291 crore in tax revenue, provided four million jobs and another seven million jobs through tourism and related activities.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MRO facility lifts off

The Hindu - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM,December 17, 2011

A Rs.110-crore Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) unit of Air India set up near the Thiruvananthapuram international airport was commissioned on Friday.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation Vayalar Ravi inaugurated the unit set up on 6.07 hectares given by the State free of cost at Chakka to the national carrier.
Minister for Ports and Excise K. Babu, Shashi Tharoor, MP, Director of Engineering, Air India, K.M. Unni, Chief Operating Officer of the Kochi-based Air India Express S. Chandrakumar, and Chief Engineer, AIE, H. R. Jagannath were present.
With the commissioning of the state-of-the-art MRO unit, the national carrier will be able to take care of all the engineering requirements in-house initially of Boeing 737-800 aircraft of Air India Express, the no-frills airline of the national carrier.
All engineering checks from transits to ‘C' can be undertaken at the unit that has 5,000 sq.m of workshop, warehouse, and office space. It is expected to put the State capital on the list of global off-shoring MRO destinations.
Later, addressing the gathering, Mr.Ravi said the operational efficiency of Air India Express and Air India could improve with the opening of the facility.
He said the repair and maintenance of aircraft would be carried out here instead of waiting for engineers from Mumbai or sending the aircraft to the MRO unit in Mumbai.
Mr. Ravi said the unit would create job opportunities for many and instructions had been given to those managing the facility to recruit local people.
Pointing out that Air India was passing through a crisis, Mr. Ravi said the daily income of the carrier had doubled due to the overwhelming support of the staff and the crew.
Mr. Ravi said steps had been initiated to commence full-fledged functioning of the Air India headquarters in Kochi.
Dr. Tharoor, who presided over the function, said the unit would emerge as a money-spinner for the national carrier once third party business was obtained. He hoped Air India would set up more back offices at the unit .
Mr. Babu, who was the guest of honour, said making available more land for the MRO unit and the airport was a challenge as the local people were opposing land acquisition.
Aid for the displaced
“The government is ready for coming out with a package for those losing land for the development of the airport,” he added. The controversies over the inaugural function of the MRO should have been avoided and the Civil Aviation Ministry was not to be blamed, he added.
Mr. Jagannath said an aircraft was expected to enter the hangar by next week for phase checks as the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had already given the clearance.
“The unit is to get the clearance from the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services. The second hangar of the unit will be ready for receiving aircraft by January middle,” he added.
Around 150 personnel will be taking care of the activities at the unit. Of them, 30 will be aircraft maintenance engineers (skilled) and 50 would be mechanics (semi-skilled).
The cleaning and other jobs would be outsourced and the local people would get priority in the recruitment, he added.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Comtel Air Amritsar to Birmingham passengers to be helped

Flights are being arranged on BMI to help passengers return home from India after the collapse of a UK-based travel agency.
Austrian airline Comtel Air cancelled all its flights between Amritsar and Birmingham on Thursday when Skyjet in Essex said it had filed for bankruptcy.
The flight cancellations have left about 180 people stranded in India.
Passengers are being offered special rates on BMI. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has agreed to refund them.
Plane grounded
Nick Stevenson from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: "What we are doing with those people now is organising special fares on BMI flights back to England that they will be able to take and then claim money back from the Civil Aviation Authority to repay for that."
One of the passengers filmed the moment the airline asked for £23,000 to complete the journey
A Comtel Air flight travelling from Raja Sansi International Airport in Amritsar to Birmingham Airport was grounded on Tuesday when the plane stopped in Vienna to refuel.
Passengers said in order to continue their journey they were asked to raise up to £23,000 between them to help pay for the plane's fuel costs.
Lal Dadrah, who used his mobile phone to film the moment the crew asked for the money, said passengers had been "held to ransom".
He said: "It was surreal. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. It was something that would happen in a film, not in reality... forced to pay for the petrol for the aeroplane."
Comtel Air said it was owed money by Skyjet UK, one of its travel agents, and had not been able to pay its carrier for two weeks as a result.
Atol protection
The Spanish carrier Mint Lineas Aereas said on Thursday it was stopping services for Comtel Air due to "unresolved financial questions".
It emerged later on Thursday that Astonbury Ltd, trading as Skyjet UK, announced it had ceased trading.
The Essex-based company was registered with the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol), which the CAA runs.
Sandwell Council's Trading Standards team has announced it is advising people concerned about cancelled flights to Amritsar.
The council's cabinet member for neighbourhoods, Councillor Derek Rowley, said trading standards officers would be helping to put people in touch with the CAA and giving advice on consumer rights.
He said: "It's a difficult situation. Trading Standards are receiving calls from people who are worried - either about friends or family who haven't been able to get back from India, or because they have flights booked on a Comtel flight to Amritsar in the future.
"We are putting them in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority who are now organising flights to get people home from India."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Supporting the Transportation of Relic of Don Bosco

Aerotech FMS has rendered its support in the transportation of the Relic of Don Bosco from Chennai to Colombo. The flight was oeprated by Expo Aviation Pvt Ltd. of Sri Lanka and utmost care was taken on ground in Chennai to ensure that schedule is maintained and all Government and Civil Aviation formalities are duly completed in time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chennai Province bids farewell to the Relic of DB

By Fr. Paul Raj Amal on http://urn.donboscoindia.com

Chennai, Nov. 18. The entire Salesian Family in Chennai came together to bid adieu to the relic of Don Bosco at the Provincial House on 17 November, the penultimate day of the relic`s presence in the Province of Chennai. Archbishop Chinnappa of Madras-Mylapore and two State Ministers specially deputed by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu were also present on the occasion at the Provincial House.

After a solemn Mass at Lourdes Shrine, Perambur, the relic reached the Provincial House at 9.00 p.m. on Thursday. The Salesians, the sisters, co-operators, VDBs, past-pupils and other members of the Family welcomed the casket with overwhelming joy and devotion. The casket was placed in Hall of SIGA for veneration and whole night vigil. The Provincial welcomed and thanked Mr. Chella Pandiyan, Minister of Labour, Mrs. Gokula Indira, Minister for Tourism and Mr. Prabhakaran the M.L.A. for their gracious presence.In his welcome address he threw light on the significance of the relic pilgrimage and the relevance of Don Bosco and his style of holiness for today`s world. He also said that the last 22 days during which the relic criss-crossed the province, visiting numerous places were also days of grace and blessings for the province.

Speaking to the Salesian Family, Archbishop Chinnappa SDB said today we need not only Don Bosco`s hand, but also his heart - the heart that overflowed with so much love for the young and the poor. The casket was kept open for veneration for the members of the ``Salesian Family, while Fr. Anthonyraj, the Vice Provincial, animated the prayer service.
During the night vigil, the young Salesians of the province and a good number of Sisters from the Salesian Family sat around the casket praying and praising. The vigil service concluded with a Solemn Eucharistic celebration at 5.00 a.m. this morning, presided over by Fr. Jayapalan, the provincial.
Today, the relic`s final day in Chennai and India, it is scheduled to visit the Shrine at Little Mount, where St Thomas the Apostle lived, and from there to the Sacred heart Seminary, Poonamallee, and then to St Thomas Mount, the place where St Thomas was martyred, before it leaves to the airport on its way to Sri Lanka.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zest Airways makes and emergency landing at Nagpur

Nagpur Nov 17, 2011: Zest Airways ferry flight enroute from Dublin to Manila with tech stops in Larnaca, Ahmedabad & Ho Chi Minh City had to make an emergency landing at Nagpur due to a problem with the Pressurisation systems on board. Aerotech FMS offered complete suppoort for the flights during its scheduled stop in Ahmedabad and the emergency landing at Nagpur.

The problem was quickly resolved at Nagpur by the onboard engineers and the aircraft departed directly for Manila the same day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Phase I of Navi Mumbai airport to be operational by 2015: CIDCO

Kingfisher crisis: Govt to consider FDI in aviation

Friday, November 11, 2011


Monday, November 7, 2011


The tourist visa on arrival is now being offered to nationals of 11 countries :

1.Finland 2.Japan 3.Luxembourg
4.New Zealand 5.Singapore 6. Combodia
7. Vietnam 8. Philippines 9. Laos
10.Myanmar 11.Indonesia

More information on the regulations and conditions can be found at http://www.immigrationindia.nic.in/visa_on_arrival2.htm

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Plane from U.S. lands on belly in Poland, none hurt

The Hindu : AP

A Boeing airliner from the U.S. carrying 231 people was forced to land on its belly in Warsaw after its landing gear failed to open, triggering sparks and small fires. No one was hurt, but some passengers sobbed as they prayed for a safe landing.

Capt. Tadeusz Wrona, who handled the descent on Tuesday so smoothly that many on board thought the Boeing 767 had landed on its wheels, was instantly hailed as a hero in Poland and online, where within hours he was the focus of several Facebook fan pages.
The successful landing of the Polish LOT airlines flight, which was travelling from Newark, New Jersey, also was a huge relief for a country that has suffered multiple aviation disasters in recent years, including the April 2010 crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.
“I was praying for the pilot not to lose control because we started to make circles over the airport. It was terrible,” passenger Teresa Kowalik told reporters at the airport. “We owe everything to the pilot. He really did a great job.”
LOT said the plane suffered “a central hydraulic system failure,” indicating that the hydraulics used to extend the landing gear, or undercarriage, failed. The failure of an entire undercarriage was unprecedented for a Boeing 767 and highly unusual overall, according to aviation data and experts.
The pilots discovered there was a problem about half an hour after leaving Newark, said LOT president Marcin Pirog. They circled the plane above the airport for about one hour before descending, partly to keep trying to release the landing gear, and partly to use up fuel to lessen the risk of a blaze.
The pilot told passengers four hours into the flight that the plane faced technical problems, said a passenger who gave only her first name, Malgorzata.
“The pilot addressed us a number of times and said we should follow instructions. Later, a flight attendant said there might be a fire, and at that point people began to get nervous and uncertain,” she said.
“I started to cry, and the men around me were also crying,” said another passenger, Krystyna Dabrowska, 62. “I thought that was the end of me.”
By the time the plane landed, escorted by two Polish F-16 fighter jets, its fuel tanks were nearly empty, LOT spokesman Leszek Chorzewski said.
A fire brigade laid out special flame retardant foam for the plane to land on. On landing, sparks flew from the engine and small fires erupted under the plane but were immediately put out by firefighters.
The landing itself was so smooth that “We all thought we had landed on wheels,” said Andrzej Pinno, a 68-year-old passenger.
Passengers even applauded, but then grew alarmed when sparks and black smoke rose from the plane. “This is the moment where we realized this was not a normal landing,” added Pinno.
Passengers were then evacuated using emergency slides. They were taken to a medical centre where they were kept several hours before being released to anxious relatives gathered at the airport.
“We were waiting for a crash, and we waited and waited and waited and thank God it never happened,” said Greg Cohen, a passenger from Livingston, New Jersey. “It was a very lucky flight, a very, very great pilot. We are very fortunate.”
Echoing the passengers, Polish officials and national media declared the pilots and rest of the crew heroes. LOT said there were 11 crew and 220 passengers on Flight LO 016.
LOT airlines president, Pirog, told reporters that Wrona and co-pilot Jerzy Szwartz carried out a “perfect emergency landing,” which prevented anyone from being injured. “Unfortunately it rarely ends this way,” Pirog said.
Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski congratulated and thanked the crew and emergency workers for ensuring no one was hurt. He said he planned to decorate the crew members with state honours.
“I thank everyone with my whole heart in the name of Poland,” said Komorowski, who spoke briefly by phone with the pilot.
Within hours, at least six Facebook fan pages devoted to Capt. Wrona had appeared. On Twitter, admiration was profuse. One Tweeter insisted, “Give that pilot a medal!” Others drew comparisons to Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who became a national hero in the U.S. when he landed a crippled U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River and saved 155 lives.
LOT, Poland’s national flag carrier, said that Wrona was one of its most experienced pilots and had been flying Boeings for 20 years. He is also experienced in flying gliders, and some media reports suggested that may have helped him make such a successful emergency landing.
Andrzej Majchrzak, head of Wrona’s glider club in the southwestern city of Leszno, said that glider pilots are specially trained to make delicate landings.
“The pilot’s skills are of enormous importance ... It takes a very delicate approach to make a careful touchdown and avoid damaging the glider, which is a very delicate machine,” Majchrzak said.
He said Wrona, a club member since 2001, is a “responsible pilot, not one who would take risks that could end in tragedy.”
Officials said Warsaw’s Frederic Chopin International Airport would remain closed until Thursday. Flights which had been scheduled to land in Warsaw have been diverted to Lodz, Gdansk and Krakow. The airport has two intersecting runways. The plane landed at the intersection, leaving both unusable temporarily.
The undercarriage of the Boeing 767 is made up of three parts, one under the nose and one below each of two wings. According to data from the Aviation Safety Network, there has never been such an incident involving the failure of the entire undercarriage on a Boeing 767.
Patrick Smith, a Boston-based pilot who flies the Boeing 767 for a major U.S. airline, said something “very mysterious” must have occurred.
“Something pretty high up in the architecture of the landing system must have happened for all three gears not to come down,” Smith said. “Something that was obviously common to all three gears.”
He said, however, that he did not expect the incident to have any lasting impact on Boeing, or on LOT.
“It’s a plane with a long, proven track record and an excellent safety record. And the same applies to LOT.”
The landing occurred on All Saints’ Day, a major holiday in largely Roman Catholic Poland when people visit the graveyards of departed loved ones and national heroes. Many Poles on Tuesday also paid homage to the 96 people who were killed in the plane crash in Russia last year, including the then president, Kaczynski , and dozens of other state officials.

100 AI pilots want out, 10 overseas flights hit

HINDUSTAN TIMES : Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan TimesNew Delhi, October 31, 2011

In a move that could dent national carrier Air India's operations, more than 100 of its pilots have threatened to quit, charging the management with "cheating" and taking "discriminatory decisions".

These pilots belonged to the erstwhile Air India (AI) before the merger with Indian Airlines (IA) in August 2007. The trigger for the resignation threat is the management's decision to allot half of the 64 slots for training on Boeing 787 Dreamliners to erstwhile IA pilots. This was first reported by HT last Friday.

The pilots, affiliated to the 450-member Indian Pilots Guild, said in a letter to AI chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan, "We are deeply pained by this discriminatory attitude that the management has adopted towards us vis-à-vis pilots of erstwhile IA. We are compelled to seek a no-objection certificate so that we may consider seeking employment elsewhere."
"We feel cheated by management's unfair and discriminatory decisions leading to a complete stall of our career progression," the letter said.
An AI spokesperson said talks were on with the pilots.

Oil companies hike jet fuel prices

The Economic Times :
NEW DELHI: After a one-off reduction, state-owned oil companies today hiked jet fuel prices by a steep 3.8 per cent in line.

The price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF), or jet fuel, at Delhi's T3 airport was raised by Rs 2,845 per kilolitre (kl), or 3.8 per cent, to Rs 61,115 per kl with effect from midnight tonight, an official of Indian Oil Corp (IOC), said.

The hike comes on back of a marginally 0.5 per cent cut in rates to Rs 58,271 per kl effected from October 16.

Prior to that, the nation's largest fuel retailer, IOC, and other state retailers, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum, had on October 1 and September 16 and raised jet fuel prices by 2.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively, mainly because imports had become costlier due to fall in rupee against the US dollar.

ATF in Mumbai, home to the nation's busiest airport, will cost Rs 2,950 per kl more at Rs 61,984 per kl from tomorrow as against the old price of Rs 59,021 per kl.

Jet fuel makes up for 40 per cent of an airlines' operating cost and the steep hike in prices will raise burden on the cash-strapped airlines. No immediate comment was available from airlines on the impact of the price hike on passenger fares.

ATF prices vary from airport to airport, depending on the local sales tax or VAT.

The three fuel retailers revise jet fuel prices on the 1st and 16th of every month, based on the average international price in the preceding fortnight.

Helicopters in Mumbai fly half the recommended altitude

The Economic Times :
Helicopters in Mumbai fly too close to the surface for comfort. Against a recommended altitude of 1,000 ft above the tallest building in an area (obstruction level), they fly at 500-700 ft from obstruction level and sometimes come as low as the height of the buildings.

The risk of flying low, say pilots, is that when there is total engine failure, a helicopter cannot be manoeuvred to open spots and risks crashing on populated areas. The 1,000-ft altitude, a recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization ( ICAO), is for allowing helicopters a better chance of being manoeuvred to open spaces like parks or even the sea to minimise casualties on the ground.

Pilots say flying altitudes are determined by air-traffic control (ATC), which follows rules set by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). AAI officials say the 1,000-ft altitude cannot be permitted for helicopters because they will then come in the flight path of aeroplanes ascending from or descending to the airport.

How then is the ICAO's recommendation followed in cities like New York and London? "There, all flight operations are under radar monitoring . But in Mumbai, non-scheduled flights (for example, helicopters) are not covered by radar. This makes it impossible to coordinate the movement of helicopters and aeroplanes at the same altitude," said an AAI official.

"In India, the ATC radar cannot track helicopter movements. Countries like the US, Australia and the UK extend radar coverage to both scheduled and non-scheduled flights. ATCs there assign flight levels to both aircraft and helicopters, depending on air traffic. It's high time that Indian aviation monitored small aircraft and helicopters both for internal security and air safety."

ICAO's 1,000-ft recommendation "was made keeping emergency situations in mind" , said a pilot. "Just because it is only a recommendation and not a mandatory rule does not mean that we ignore it. The recommendation is followed in countries around the world."

A pilot said risk was an integral part of flying a helicopter in the Mumbai of present. In the last 10 years, many buildings in the city have come up which are more than 500 ft tall, examples being Antilia (568 ft) and the Imperial "Twin" Towers (833 ft) in Tardeo. Because of this, and particularly when visibility is low, safety solely depends on the pilot's skill and knowledge of terrain. "In times of low visibility, a helicopter pilot can only guess the presence of a building or a hill. Since ATC cannot trace the helicopter on its radar, it cannot warn the pilot about the presence of an obstruction in the path," an AAI official said.

"It was not dangerous to fly so low in the city 10-15 years ago, when there were few tall buildings," said a pilot. "But now that the height limit for buildings has been relaxed to 300 metres (beyond a radius of 9 km from the airport), the obstacles are far too many.

Friday, October 28, 2011

China conducts trials of first biofuel passenger plane

The Economic Times :
BEIJING: Air China conducted the first trial flight of a passenger plane powered by a mix of biofuel and traditional aviation fuel.

The Boeing 747 landed safely at Beijing Capital International Airport at 9.30 a.m. after it burned more than 10 tonnes of biofuel, reported Xinhua.

Analysts believe the successful trial indicates that biofuel will become an alternative energy option for commercial passenger flights in the near future.

After the test, Zhang Hongying, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, proclaimed that biofuel was now ready to be used for commercial flights.

Sun Li, general manager of the China National Aviation Fuel Group Corporation, a large state-owned supplier of aviation fuel, said the fuel used was a 50-50 mix.

Air China vice president He Li said the composition and the burning efficiency of the fuel had been tested as well as its impact on the engines.

The biofuel used in the trial flight was produced from the seeds of tung trees.

Shen Diancheng, a vice president of PetroChina Company Ltd., said it had taken the company 10 years to overcome the technical barriers of converting the oil extracted from the seeds to fuel that could power airplanes.

He said the trees that the seeds were harvested from were not planted on arable land but were grown on hills and wasteland.

According to him, tung trees can be grown on 800 million mu (58.3 million hectares) of barren hills in China. He said PetroChina had so far planted more than 1.2 million mu of the trees mainly in the Yunnan, Sichuan, and Jiangxi provinces.

The company is expected to supply 60,000 tonnes of aviation fuel produced from tung oil annually by 2014, according to Shen.

Biofuel is the only available alternative energy for commercial aviation, as electric, solar and nuclear power were not suitable for this purpose, Sun Li said.

Sun said that the large-scale use of biofuel might save the country's aviation industry from the shortage of crude oil.

Aviation ministry to relax eligibility criteria for DGCA

The Economic Times :
NEW DELHI: The civil aviation ministry will relax the eligibility criteria for the top post at the aviation regulator after its attempts to find a suitable candidate drew a blank for the second time this year.

The ministry, which aims to overhaul sector watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) within a year, plans to kick off the exercise by raising the age limit from 56 to 58 years and reducing the work experience to attract candidates from varied backgrounds.

A senior ministry official said the relaxation in eligibility, as suggested by the UPSC, is necessary because the robust growth in aviation will entail more responsibilities for the revamped DGCA, expected to become operational by December next year. To be called the Civil Aviation Authority, the government plans to transform the DGCA into a more powerful and passengerfriendly regulator with full financial and administrative autonomy.

EK Bharat Bhushan, additional secretary and financial advisor to the ministry, currently holds additional charge of the DGCA. His tenure has been extended for a second time this year.

According a ministry's advertisement, a candidate for the post of DGCA chief is required to have 12 years of experience in aviation, including a minimum of five years in administration and finance disciplines at the senior management level. It also invited Air-Marshalllevel air force officers, but said they shouldn't be older than 56 years.

However, the aviation ministry could not find candidates meeting the requirements both in March as well as September. There is almost no government official who has been in the aviation sector for 12 years, the official said, adding that Air Marshall-level officers who are 56 years old haven't shown any interest. "They'd rather become Air Chief Marshalls."

The official said even for SNA Zaidi, the civil aviation secretary and previous DGCA chief, the eligibility criteria were reversed to five years of experience in the aviation sector and 12 years of administration skills.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Virgin Galactic Selects First Commercial Astronaut Pilot From Competition

 Fifty years ago, an historic competition for the first pilots to fly into space yielded the Mercury Seven astronauts.

Today, from an intense selection process with more than 500 applicants including some of the best pilots in the world, Virgin Galactic has selected former USAF test pilot Keith Colmer as the first astronaut pilot to join the commercial spaceline’s flight team. Colmer will join Chief Pilot David Mackay to begin flight training and testing, leading to operational missions to space with Virgin Galactic’s revolutionary vehicles, WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. Additional selections will be made as the company nears commercial operations.
Colmer brings 12 years of operational, developmental and experimental aircraft test flight experience plus more than 10 years of combined military experience in USAF spacecraft operations and flying. He has logged over 5000 hours in over 90 different types of aircraft. He will report to Mackay and Vice President of Operations, Mike Moses, as Virgin Galactic prepares to undertake powered test flights, leading soon thereafter to commercial operations.

“Keith brings the kind of tremendous multi-dimensional talent and skill set that we are looking for in our astronaut pilots,” said president and CEO George Whitesides. “But equally important to us are his impeccable character and his outstanding record of high caliber performance in highly demanding environments. He sets the bar very high for others to come.”

Following completion of USAF pilot training, he served as a combat F-16 pilot in the Colorado Air National Guard, with two combat tours to Iraq. Colmer was then selected as an operational test pilot, managing various sensor and electronic warfare flight test programs for the F-16, at the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) in Tucson, Arizona.

He then became the first Air National Guard pilot ever selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He served as Operations Officer for the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, where he led F-16, F-15 and T-38C flight test operations, specializing in high angle of attack flight test and training on the F-16. Keith then completed two classified assignments, finishing his active duty tour as a Combined Test Force Director and Squadron Commander for a classified program.

Colmer is the recipient of the Order of Daedalians Orville Wright Achievement Award, as the outstanding pilot training graduate in 1989, the Aaron C. George Award from the USAF Test Pilot School, the Lieutenant General Bobby Bond Memorial Aviator Award and the Lieutenant General Howard Leaf “Test Team of the Year Award” for the United States Air Force.

Colmer, whose aviator call sign is “Coma,” joins an elite team in Mojave, CA, where Scaled Composite’s test pilots and Mackay have been putting WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo through an exhaustive series of test flights to fully explore and quantify the performance profiles of the two revolutionary vehicles.

“This team in Mojave is second to none,” said Mackay about Scaled Composite’s test pilots. “Keith and I are indeed fortunate to have their expertise and body of work to build on as we enter the final phases of the test program and prepare to open space to all.”

“I am extremely honored to have been the first astronaut pilot selected through competition to join the team,” said Colmer. “Virgin Galactic is truly revolutionizing the way we go to space, and I am looking forward to being a part of that.”

Colmer has a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has both a Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Masters degree in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is a graduate of the USAF Undergraduate Space Training program, the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program and USAF Test Pilot School, Class 02A.

It makes sense to allow foreign airlines to invest in Indian ones

The Economic Times :

The government's reported plans to allow foreign airlines to invest in local airlines are wholly welcome . The cash-strapped domestic aviation industry should have access to risk capital that has knowledge of the vagaries of the airline business. The policy on foreign investment in aviation is restrictive now. No foreign airline can pick up equity - directly or indirectly - in a domestic carrier, except in cargo airlines. Financial investors such as private equity funds and non-airline companies that have no connection with a foreign carrier are allowed to invest in a local airline.

Making expertise in a business a disqualification makes for little sense. Private domestic carriers needs capital, more important, informed capital that understands the dynamics of the airline business. Fears in the past of a foreign takeover of the Indian skies look entirely misplaced now. Also, differences among private domestic carriers over allowing foreign airlines have narrowed down after the financial crisis that hurt their profitability, already hit by surging fuel costs and fierce competition. Opening up the sector would help capital inflows and technology collaborations .

Foreign carriers could also be more patient with losses. For them, growth prospects are promising in India with domestic passenger traffic growing by 15% each year. Lifting the ban is in order. However, a cap of 24% or less will keep foreign carriers away. The government should be open to taking the FDI limit in domestic aviation beyond the current 49%. The estimated losses of domestic private carriers stood at . 3,500 crore in the first half of this fiscal year.

The government's plan, if implemented, will help carriers such as Kingfisher Airlines that desperately needs capital to repay debt, besides SpiceJet and Jet Airways. Budget airline Indigo is the only one to make profits among the big carriers. State-owned Air India has the highest losses and is seeking massive capital infusion. As we have argued earlier, the government must come up with a timebound sale plan for Air India. A potential suitor could well be a local airline partnering with a foreign airline, with cash and expertise to spare.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Air India to cut Dreamliner order by half

The Economic Times : Binoy Prabhakar, ET Bureau Oct 26, 2011, 04.33am IST

New Delhi: The Air India board has recommended that the ailing state-run carrier purchase only 12 Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes compared with the original order of 27 aircraft placed in 2005, said a senior civil aviation ministry official familiar with the matter.

The board has proposed to the aviation ministry that the planes must be bought in phases over three years, said the official who didn't want to be named. The first plane is due for delivery in December.
A group of ministers led by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet on Thursday to decide on the aircraft purchase order from US aircraft maker Boeing Co. The group is also expected to decide on additional equity infusion into Air India and approve a plan to turn around the carrier. Civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi had told reporters in September that the airline, long reeling under losses, was incapable of buying all the 27 aircraft worth nearly 20,000 crore.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DGCA asks foreign airlines not to charge for second bag

Hindustan Times : Press Trust Of India New Delhi, October 25, 2011

Aviation regulator DGCA has asked foreign airlines, particularly those from the US and Europe, not to impose hefty charges on passengers for checking in a second bag and revert to the earlier practice of allowing two bags within a weight limit for free.

The matter has been taken up by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) with the foreign carriers which have been imposing very high fee on the second checked-in bag.
"Passengers face a terrible time when they reach the airport and find that they have to pay as high as $300 (almost Rs 14,000) extra for additional check-in baggages.
"We have written to the Airline Operators Committee (AOC) asking foreign airlines to stop this practice. The matter is being taken up under the existing air service agreements India has with other countries (whose airlines have started levying the fee)," DGCA chief E K Bharat Bhushan told PTI here.
The foreign carriers have been asked to revert to the earlier practice of allowing two bags within a weight limit for free and respond to the letter within a week.
American carriers had last year started charging hefty amounts from passengers for checking in an additional bag, which was soon adopted by some European airlines as well.
Indian carriers do not charge anything for two checked-in baggages with a limit of 23 kg for economy class passengers.
A return trip with two check-in bags hence costs double the amount, which is close to price of the ticket itself.
While foreign airlines say this charge for an additional checked-in baggage was imposed during the 2008 economic crisis, official sources said there was no reason why it should continue three years later.
In another passenger-friendly move, DGCA has issued a circular asking all domestic carriers, including the no-frill ones, to provide drinking water to all passengers on flight, Bhushan said.
The move came in the wake of complaints that some Indian carriers were charging money for a bottle of water

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Panalpina upgrades to latest gen B747-8F

PAYLOAD ASIA 16 September 2011

Panalpina and Atlas Air have signed a new multi-year aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) contract for two Boeing 747-8F. The aircraft will enter service in the first half of 2012 and operate in Panalpina’s unique own controlled air freight network, replacing the two current Boeing 747-400F. Compared to the 747-400F, the industry’s newest freighter has 16 per cent additional cargo volume but is expected to have the lowest carbon dioxide emissions in its class. With the new aircraft, Panalpina said it is optimally set up to meet industry specific requirements and the increasing demand for large-freighter capacity, especially in the Healthcare, Hi-Tech, Automotive and Oil and Gas industries.