Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines carrier plans to launch operations by June next year

ET Bureau Oct 26, 2013, 01.09AM IST
MUMBAI: The Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines carrier which got a nod from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board on Thursday aims to launch operations by May-June 2014, its chairman said on Friday. Also, Tata Group's chairman emeritus Ratan Tata said the company will look at Air India, if the government decides to put it up for privatisation. "We hope we will be able to launch by May-June 2014," said Prasad Menon, chairman of the airline venture.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chief Electoral Officer meets airport authorities

The Hindu
NEW DELHI, October 15, 2013
Staff Reporter

Flying into the Capital with more than Rs.10 lakh in cash and over a kilogram gold can lead to scrutiny by the Election Commission. With the model code of conduct in full force in the city, the Chief Electoral Officer met with various airport authorities on Monday, including the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Bureau of Civil Aviation, CISF and Delhi Police, to look into suspicious transactions through the air route. “Basically, the meeting was to ensure that all directions laid down by the Election Commission of India are adhered to and there is no flow of arms and ammunitions, contraband substances, more than Rs.10 lakh in cash or over one kg of gold into the city,” said Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev.

Info. on flights
“We have also requested regular information on chartered flights taken by politicians through which money and other goods may be brought through and have asked for flight plans,” he added. Similarly, the CISF have been given strict instructions to scrutinise packages.
The airport authorities and security agencies have been asked to seize and confiscate any suspicious item and immediately intimate the Electoral Office. “They have been told not to release information on anything seized without intimating us,” said Mr. Dev.
The CEO has also roped in the Income Tax Department and the Excise Department to keep a vigil at the airport.

DGCA probe after panel falls off Air India Dreamliner mid-air

The Hindu
NEW DELHI, October 15, 2013 PTI

A large panel in the belly of a Bangalore-bound Dreamliner of Air India fell off mid-air, putting about 150 passengers on board at a grave risk, but the aircraft landed safely.
The DGCA is probing the incident which occurred on Saturday when an 8X4 feet panel in the fuselage fell off while the plane was on its way to Bangalore from Delhi, leaving a gaping hole in the cargo hold, official sources said.
There were 148 persons, including the crew, on board flight AI-803 which landed safely at the Bangalore airport, the sources said, adding that the hole was noticed by the ground staff when they came to inspect the aircraft for its return journey.
A spare panel was flown to Bangalore and fitted on the Boeing 787, which was later declared fit to fly. But the return flight was delayed by over nine hours, they said.
Confirming the incident, airline officials said a panel had fallen off but was replaced and the aircraft was cleared for flights.
“Yes, there was a gaping hole. During the normal transit inspection, it was observed. Engineers immediately rectified it,” an AI official said requesting anonymity.
“It was not an emergency. There was no safety problem,” he added.
Besides long-haul international operations, Air India operates the Dreamliners on domestic routes like from Delhi to Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata.
The incident came in the wake of a series of problems faced by the new aircraft, starting with the battery fire incident that grounded all Dreamliners across the world for four months. In July again, a fire broke out in an empty aircraft that was parked at Heathrow.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Maharaja loses flab, AI to have just 5,000 employees

Mumbai Mirror
By Bipin Kumar Singh, Mumbai Mirror | Oct 14, 2013, 10.20 AM IST

Air India, the state-owned lumbering, loss-making behemoth with 26,000 staff, is to be transformed into a slender company of just 5,000 employees in just a few months' time, following a business restructuring exercise that is vigorously under way to turn the airline around.

The urgency on the part of the civil aviation ministry to revamp the airline into a lean and mean flying outfit is evident from its already having selected CEOs for the two wholly-owned subsidiaries of Air India that will absorb the rest of the staff. 

The two subsidiaries are Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) and Air India Engineering Services limited (AIESL). Formed in 2004 and 2005, respectively, they were mothballed away for various reasons, but are now going to be immediately operationalised. 

The first will be responsible for ground handling and will accommodate 12,000 of Air India's staff including airport, ramp-side and cargo workers; the second will function as a maintenance repair and overall (MRO) unit and absorb 9,000 engineers, mechanics and technicians from Air India. 

Sources said Air India, which will be left with just 5000 employees consisting of pilots, in-flight service crew, headquarter officials, and commercial (booking) staff, will exclusively focus on passenger growth. Fleet care and passenger acquisition and management will be Air India's baby. 

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh confirmed the current development and said it was part of Air India's turnaround plan. "The interviews are already over. With few formalities left, these companies will be operational soon," Singh told Mirror. 

He also confirmed that these two companies will have to sculpt their own business fortunes. The ministry is ambitious for all three companies - Air India (whose net loss was over Rs. 5000 crore in 2012-2013), AIATSL and AIESL - to be profit-making entities in their own right. 

While the ministry is hopeful that Air India will slowly move back into the black with its new-found agility, the two subsidiaries will not only handle Air India work but must also create business opportunities for themselves by seeking assignments from other clients (read other airlines). 

"As the interviews for the post of CEOs are over, these two subsidiaries are all set to function as separate profit entities in the coming months," said a civil aviation ministry official. Officials also said future recruitments at Air India will be done on a contractual basis to improve work efficiency as well as to ensure that taxpayers' money is not wasted. "Air India lacks a work culture and is overstaffed as well. With these two subsidiaries the work culture will improve, as hiring will be done on contract," a civil aviation ministry official said. 

Cabinet approval for operationalising the two subsidiaries was obtained last year but the plan could not be pursued as Air India was making colossal losses (more than Rs. 7000 crore in 2011-2012). It was only when Air India managed to reduce its debt burden by a little that the plan was re-examined. The Justice Dharmadhikari Committee, which was appointed to study the wage-related issues of Air India, had also suggested the operationalising of the two subsidiaries. 

The CEO interviews for AIATSL and AIESL were conducted under the chairmanship of K N Srivastava who is also the civil aviation secretary. The ministry's hope is that Air India will now have a structure comparable with that of its more nimble-footed competitors. 

The newer airlines do not have the baggage of staff for ground handling and maintenance, which they have completely outsourced. The total number of employees in the aviation sector is 60,000, Air India alone accounting for 26,000. Airlines such as Indigo and Spicejet have roughly 5,000 employees each. 

Air India can also now concentrate on improving its international operations, said officials. Despite owning the biggest fleet in the country, of over 100 aircraft, Air India's presence in the international market is currently insignificant.

CBI probes ‘free ticket’ scam in DGCA

Times of India
, TNN | Oct 14, 2013, 01.59 AM IST

MUMBAI: In the largest investigation ever against the Indian civil aviation regulator, more than 200 DGCA officials are being questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation in Delhi for misuse of free air tickets. 

The preliminary enquiry (PE) was initiated by the CBI's anti-corruption bureau to look for cases of misuse of an aviation norm under which free airline tickets have to be issued by airlines and aviation companies to officials of theDirectorate General of Civil Aviation when they need to travel to carry out certain air safety inspections. "The norm has been widely misused over years. Not only have some officials asked airlines to issue them free tickets for their personal travel, but also sought tickets for their spouses and personal assistants,'' said the source. "As DGCA officials hold an influential position in the Indian aviation industry, it is evident that airlines and aviation companies would never turn down a demand for free tickets from them,'' said an airline source. 

CBI spokesperson confirmed that a PE is being carried out against DGCA officials for misuse of the said norm. "Upon the Central Vigilance Commission's reference, we will be examining the official travel receipts and free tickets availed by DGCA officers from 2010 to 2012,'' the spokesperson said. Based on the findings, either an FIR will be filed against the officials concerned or the case closed. The director-general of civil aviation, Arun Mishra, was not available for comment. 

The investigations began last Tuesday and are expected to continue in the coming weeks as DGCA officials and other aviation personnel who work for the regulator have been called in from across the country. 

The norm whose misuse is being investigated (called the Aeronautical Information Circular, AIC 02/1978) states that every operator or owner of an aircraft registered in India shall make available, free of charge, a seat on the aircraft to an officer of the civil aviation department authorized by the director general to undertake certain job functions. These include en route examination and inspection of the work of flight crew members, inspection of aircraft maintenance facilities en route or at terminal stations, inspection of the operations of an aircraft or of its equipment and such other examination as may be necessary for the purpose of securing safety of aircraft operations. 

What it means is that when a DGCA official needs to do undertake these inspections pertaining to safety and has to travel in the cockpit of an aircraft or to a facility to inspect maintenance infrastructure, he/she should be provided with a free seat by the airline/party concerned. The said norm was replaced with an amended version in 2012. While in the earlier norm only the director-general could authorize such a travel, the one issued in 2012 gave that right to other officers as well. "It was probably done in hindsight after the CVC started looking into the issue of free tickets misuse,'' said a source. Then again, several officials availed of free tickets to travel for work that had nothing to do with safety and so did not meet the criteria listed in the AIC, the source said.

Air Costa, India's newest airline, takes flight today

Business Today
K.R. Balasubramanyam    Bangalore   Last Updated: October 14, 2013  | 00:00 IST

Just when the airline sector is staring at runaway operational expenses worsened by a weak rupee, a little-known business group from the Andhra Pradesh town of Vijayawada has entered the money-guzzling business. 

Its regional airline - Air Costa, first to be set up under the government of India's regional airline policy in South India - takes to air with two Embraer jets on Monday.

The airline will be headquartered at Vijayawada, and have Chennai as its maintenance centre.

This start-up comes seven years after the launch of Paramount Airways, which too flew Embraer jets. Air Costa has plans to invest about Rs 610 crore over the next two years. The airline has taken delivery of two E-170 jets and, will add two more E-190 jets in November. In all, Air Costa plans to have 10 E-190 jets by end of 2014, and take the total fleet size to 25 by 2018 in phases.

"We are adopting an operational strategy wherein we would be focussing mostly on under-served andlesser-competitive routes," Air Costa Chairman Lingamaneni Ramesh said ahead of the launch.

Air Costa will have unconventional city-pairs connecting tier-II and tier-III cities, looking at routes not served by the established carriers. The start-up will operate services to Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Jaipur and Ahmedabad and later to Visakhapatnam, Goa, Madurai, Thriuvananthapuram and Mysore.

Two Embraer jets have already arrived from the ECC Leasing Company, and the third one is expected from the GECAS soon.

The privately-held Lingamaneni group, founded in 1983 by the first generation entrepreneur L.P. Bhaskar Rao, has tasted success in real estate and construction business. The group has completed many real estate projects in Vijayawada, and is currently building a satellite township project in an area of 32 million square feet with an investment of close to a billion dollars, according to media reports. The group's website says it also has a presence in renewable energy, health care, education and hospitality.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Soon, visa on arrival for 40 more nations, senior tourists

Times of India
Himanshi Dhawan & Mahendra Singh, TNN Oct 8, 2013, 01.38AM IST
NEW DELHI: India is set to roll out the red carpet for foreign tourists. The government on Monday cleared a slew of measures including extending visa on arrival (VoA) to 40 countries, establishing an online application system for visas and facilitating visa on arrival for pensioners and those attending conferences.

The decision means foreign tourists will be able to apply for an Indian visa from the comfort of their homes while citizens from 40 countries including the US, the UK, Germany, France, Brazil, Russia and China among others will avail visa on arrival when they land on Indian shores. The government has also agreed to extend visa on arrival to foreign travelers above 60 years of age from all countries and cut down the time taken to give visas to groups that are keen to attend conventions.
"There has to be a change in mindset towards the way we treat foreign tourists. All representatives of government agreed on extending visa on arrival to 40 countries and initiating an online system as soon as possible," planning minister Rajeev Shukla said.
The ministries of tourism and home affairs have been tasked with preparing a roadmap since initiating the visa on arrival scheme will require a large amount of infrastructure and manpower. So far, citizens of around 11 countries including Japan, New Zealand and Vietnamcan avail visa on arrival.
The government is closely reviewing the online application systems adopted by Sri Lanka where only electronic visas are issued for tourists on short visits.
A consensus was reached on these issues during a high level meeting convened here on Monday by the Planning Commission.
"We want to develop a world class visa regime. I am going to write to the home minister with the outcomes of the meeting aimed at liberalizing the visa regime," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told TOI.
The meeting included the national security advisor, Ahluwalia, representatives from the PMO,Intelligence Bureau, and ministries of external affairs, home and tourism.
"There was broad consensus on simplifying online visa system, relaxing visa regime for all types of conferences and senior citizen foreign tourist or foreign pensioners," Shukla said.
According to the minister, there are many senior citizens, including pensioners, who want to visit India. The government has decided to relax visa norms for a group of four such foreign tourists. But that decision has not been implemented so far. The home ministry was of the view that visa on arrival could be expanded to include more countries, but there is shortage of staff.
"Tourism ministry was willing to share its budget with the home ministry so that more officers can be posted on immigration counters that could facilitate visa on arrival," Ahluwalia said.
Another suggestion was to bring down the number of categories of visas from the existing 16 to just three -- employment, business and visitor.

Friday, August 16, 2013



Tourist Visa-on-Arrival facility was earlier available at 04 International airports viz Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. to nationals of 11 countries viz. New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Finland, Luxem Bourg,  Phillippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar.  It has now been decided to extend the
facility of Tourist Visa-on-Arrival at four additional airports viz. Trivandrum, Bangalore, Hyderabad & Kochi. w.e.f 15.08.2013.  The grant of a Tourist Visa-onArrival shall be regulated as per the guidelines prescribed in Chapter 3.10 of the Visa Manual. These instructions shall come into force with effect from 15.08.2013.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

SEYCHELLES: Air Force takes delivery of first Do-228 Patrol aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics.


The African Aviation Tribune, April 28, 2013

The Seychelles Air Force has taken delivery of a Dornier 228 patrol aircraft following a donation from the government of India as agreed to under an agreement signed between the two nations in 2011 in which India would provide a once-off grant of USD28.79 million for the supply of the maritime aircraft.  A further aircraft is due in 2014.

The SAF Do228 in Bangalore (FGWalt)
The Seychelles Air Force (SAF) Commander, Major Michael Pouponneau, has said the Dornier's arrival is a major boost to the Indian Ocean island's maritime patrol and anti-piracy drive as the aircraft is equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, loud-hailers, radar equipment and night-vision cameras.

As part of the deal, four Seychellois pilots have already been to Hindustan Aeronautics' main headquarters in Kanpur, where the Dornier are made under licence, for flight crew training.

The Seychelles Nation says that since February 2011, the Indian government has helped Seychelles with the use of a similar aircraft, based in Seychelles, along with a 30-man Indian Navy detachment, to help patrol the Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for anti-piracy efforts at the request of President James Michel.