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.