Sunday, January 31, 2010

Aviation chief: Air safety not a one-man job

MANILA, Philippines - The chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said he was not entirely to blame for the poor rating given to the country’s aviation sector by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Ruben Ciron, CAAP director general, was reacting to the CAAP-Employees Union’s pronouncement that he should take the blame for ICAO’s issuance of a significant safety concern or SSC rating on the country’s civil aviation network.

Ciron pointed out that ensuring aviation safety is not a one-man job and that it requires full cooperation of all CAAP personnel.

Ciron also lashed out at Cesar Lucero, vice president of the CAAP-EU, for pushing for his ouster.

“But with CAAP employees like Cesar Lucero - who, from day one, wanted me out of the job - the task of ensuring aviation safety in 80 CAAP-controlled airports all over the country has become doubly difficult,” he stressed.

He said he was not washing his hands of responsibility, but stressed that most of the problems plaguing CAAP - formerly the Air Transportation Office - were due to years of corruption and mismanagement.

“Ironically, these problems were accumulated during the time of previous ATO administrations which Lucero was part of,” Ciron said.

“I merely inherited the burden of repairing the damage when I was appointed director general after the CAAP law was passed in 2008. However, we encountered a lot of birth pains along the way, not to mention uncooperative staff like Lucero,” he said.

He also emphasized that ICAO does not give “pass” or “fail” marks but only “ratios” of compliance with certain protocols.

He said most of the “significant safety concerns” are being decisively addressed and properly communicated with concerned agencies. He said no less than Mohamed Elamiri, chief of the ICAO’s Safety and Security Audits Branch, acknowledged the corrective actions taken by the CAAP. Lucero earlier revealed that an electronic bulletin issued by the ICAO on Dec. 18 last year showed the Philippines among countries on the SSC list, along with Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Congo, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Rwanda, and Zambia.

General, 8 others die in Cotabato air crash

Plane goes down two minutes after takeoff ..

COTABATO CITY—“Power loss,” the pilot radioed the control tower moments before the Nomad plane nosedived, missed a chapel and slammed into two houses in a residential area in Cotabato City.

All eight people aboard—including Philippine Air Force Maj. Gen. Mario “Butch” Lacson of the 3rd Air Division based in Zamboanga City—and a civilian on the ground were killed in the fiery crash at 11:37 a.m. Thursday, PAF officials said.

Two other civilians were injured on the ground.

Officials said the military plane plunged barely two minutes after taking off from the Cotabato Airport—more popularly called Awang airport—in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The plane was decades old, having been acquired from Australia in 1975.

“As it took off, the plane suddenly nosedived and hit residential areas,” Mayor Muslimin Sema, quoting witnesses, told reporters. “It was flying in a zigzag mode.”

Engulfed in flames

The plane was piloted by Capt. Genaro Gaylord Ordonio, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 2000, and 1Lt. Angelica Valdez of the PMA Class 2006.

Eyewitness Edgar Campos said he noticed the plane was flying very low. “I thought it will swerve toward the chapel, but it tilted toward the urban poor area, hit the roof of a house and exploded,” Campos said, speaking in the vernacular.

The gray-colored plane was engulfed in flames, he said. The two houses it struck, located in a subdivision in Barangay Rosary Heights, caught fire.

The cause of the crash has not been determined but the military ruled out suggestions of any hostile ground fire.

Last report

Aside from Lacson, the other people listed in the manifest were the pilots Ordonio and Valdez and their five passengers, namely Maj. Prisco Tacuboy, Lt. Alexander Ian Lipait and Staff Sergeants Ronaldo Mejia, Ianne Christy Marose Llamera and Jeffrey Gozon, according to the PAF head in office in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Loud explosion

Lacson, a graduate of PMA Class 1977, was a former chief of the Western Command and was once considered a contender for the top PAF post. He took over the 3rd Air Division, based at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City, in June last year.

Moments before the crash, “the pilot made a call (to the Cotabato airport tower) and he said ‘power loss,’” according to Maj. Gen. Carlix Donila, commander of the Davao-based 5053rd Search and Squadron.

Sema said based on witnesses’ account, the plane appeared to be encountering “some trouble” and was trying to land again at the airport.

Irene Tuga, a sidewalk vendor, said she thought the plane was just gliding near one of the residential villages in the city village. “We normally see Air Force planes fly over the city,” she said.

Tuga said the explosion was so loud “we even heard it here about three kilometers away.”

Other Nomad grounded

Village official Rafael Guaipal said that Belina Mondrano was killed on the ground when the plane struck the houses. Mondrano was visiting in one of the houses at the time.

It took a backhoe to dig Mondrano’s body, which was buried by the plane wreck, Guaipal said.

The only other flying Nomad on the PAF fleet is based in Palawan and has been grounded for inspection, in line with standard operating procedures, PAF information officer Lt. Col. Gerardo Zamudio said.

Two other non-flying Nomads are in a storage area at the Mactan Air Base in Cebu.

According to the Civilian Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the ill-fated Nomad’s pilot reported engine trouble shortly after taking off from Awang.

“It was about 8 km away from the airport that the pilot declared emergency. He requested to go back and was cleared to do so. But the pilot replied that communication was fading ... Then our tower lost contact,” CAAP deputy director Ed Kapunan said.


Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said: “The plane crashed two minutes after takeoff.”

The plane originally came from Davao City, where Lacson had attended a command conference of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command.


The plane stopped off in Awang to drop off Tactical Operations Group chief Col. Cris Tumanda. It was after taking off for its next flight—for Zamboanga City—that it went down.

Zamudio denied reports that the plane was allowed to take off from Awang despite experiencing supposedly technical problems. He said that the Nomad had a valid certificate of air-worthiness.

Zamudio said the plane served several purposes in the Visayas and Mindanao, including transporting senior officers and other personnel.

List of accidents

The Nomad, designed and built by the Government Aircraft Factories of Australia, is described as a twin-engine turboprop, high-winged, short-take-off-and-landing aircraft.

Between 1971 and 1984, 172 Nomad units were manufactured.

The Aviation Safety Network (—a website that keeps track of air accidents—has recorded 31 hull loss incidents involving Nomads, with a total of 87 fatalities.

Hull loss refers to an aviation accident where the damage to the aircraft is such that it must be written off, or in which the aircraft is totally destroyed.

Three such incidents were recorded in the Philippines in 1993, 2000 and 2002, all involving military-owned Nomads.

Full investigation

The AFP ruled out suggestions of hostile action against the crashed Nomad.

“What we are definite about is that there was no sabotage. There was no ground fire,” AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.

Brawner said the plane was “closely guarded” as it flew over the camp of the 6th Infantry Division before it hurtled down.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado ordered a full investigation.

Records showed that the crashed plane had been used by the Western Mindanao Command for transport, including to such areas as Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. “The military bought that plane in 1975 brand new,” Brawner said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clark airport expansion to force Subic airport closure

PAMPANGA, Philippines--The ongoing expansion of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark may prompt the conversion of the Subic Bay International Airport into a logistics and commercial area, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the agency was currently studying the possibility of permanently closing the airport and using it for other purposes.

However, no final decision had been made on this.

“We’re looking at the conversion of the airport (into a logistics and commercial area). With the developments at Clark, maintaining an airport at the Subic Freeport will not be feasible,” Arreza told reporters.

He explained that for an airport the size of SBIA to at least break even, it needed to have 12-15 flights a day.

“With the expansion of the Clark airport, it’s hard to imagine the Subic airport breaking even. It takes around P250 million a year to maintain the airport—P150 million for debt service and P80 million to P100 million for operational expenses,” he said.

“When FedEx was still there, we were breaking even. Without FedEx, we are now losing money.”

US delivery giant Federal Express used Subic as its Asian hub for 14 years. However, it closed the Subic operations and transferred to Guangzhou, China in February last year.

About 800 direct and indirect workers lost their jobs due to the closure of FedEx in Subic.

The SBMA also lost some P150 million in annual revenue from leased airport facilities and daily aircraft landing fees.

Arreza said that even if there was no final decision yet on what to do with the airport, a number of investors had already expressed interest in how the area could be developed.

“The goal really is to eventually make Clark the country’s main airport. Subic could still be a subsidiary airport, but we’re still thinking about what to do with the airport,” he said.

The total area of Clark’s DMIA, at some 2,300 hectares, is around three times the size of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila.

Only a third of the total area is being utilized. Its two working runways, left by the United States Air Force, are long and big enough to accommodate wide-body aircraft.

The first phase of its expansion involved the construction of a P150-million passenger terminal that boosted annual capacity from 500,000 to two million passengers.

Kuwaiti firm Almal Investment Co. had proposed to develop the DMIA for $1.2 billion

Thursday, January 21, 2010

PAL gets another new 777 jet

Philippine Airlines (PAL) will take delivery Thursday of its second 370-seater Boeing 777 jet as part of efforts to modernize its fleet to cope with an increasingly competitive market.

In a statement, PAL said it would launch a seat sale for select domestic and international routes to mark the event and drum up interest in its new flagship aircraft.

“PAL is offering deeply discounted, short-term promotional fares on flights to all its domestic jet destinations and most major international points as the flag carrier marks the arrival of its second Boeing 777-300ER aircraft,” the Lucio Tan-led carrier said in a statement.

Dubbed “Valentine Special,” the promo drops PAL fares to a flat rate of P777 for a one-way flight on Fiesta Class (economy) between Manila and any point in Luzon or Visayas, and between Cebu and Davao.

For one-way flights on Fiesta Class between Manila and any point in Mindanao, the promo fare is P1,777.

Covered by the promo are PAL-operated flights between Manila and Bacolod, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Legazpi, Ozamiz, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, Tacloban, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga, as well as between Cebu and Davao.

International tickets will also be cut, the airline said, but did not specify how big the discounts were going to be.

The fares are available for ticketing until Jan. 25 and are valid for travel from Feb. 1 to March 15.

The company said the new aircraft would be used for flights to Brisbane, Hong Kong and Tokyo, the same flights that the first 777 delivered last year is serving.

The deal to acquire a total of six Boeing 777s was sealed in 2006, with PAL originally planning to lease two aircraft to be delivered in 2009 and 2010.

Four brand-new 777s were scheduled to arrive from 2010 to 2012, but due to mounting losses, PAL had asked Boeing to push back the delivery to 2013 and 2014.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) noted that PAL might not be able to enjoy the benefits of the new and more efficient Boeing 777s, originally planned for use for its bread-and-butter routes from Manila to North America.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier downgraded the country’s safety standards to Category 2 from Category 1. The lower grade means local airlines will not be allowed to add more flights to the United States.

CEBU PAcific Airlines upgrades ISO 9001 certification

Cebu Pacific (CEB) gained an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008 Certificate, an upgrade of the airline’s ISO 9001:2000 Certificate obtained in February 2003 from Switzerland-based ISO.

The ISO certificate guarantees that CEB has consistent business procedures covering all key processes in the airline. This includes effective monitoring processes, adequate records for all transactions, and mechanisms for continuous improvement.

CEB earlier made history with its original ISO 9002 Certificate and Aviation Quality and Safety (AQS) 9000/121 Certificate in 1999, when it was given the distinction of being the first airline in the world with system-wide certifications from both ISO and AQS.

Other airlines are ISO-certified for certain divisions only, not as an entire organization.

“This new ISO Certificate underscores how meticulous Cebu Pacific is as an airline, and how our passengers can rest assured that we have world-class safety and quality management systems modeled on the latest best industry practices,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

She added that CEB’s rigid maintenance programs and comprehensive training programs for pilots, cabin crew, engineers and maintenance personnel have allowed the airline to pass the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ (CAAP) stringent audits every year, and every other audits conducted by other regulatory bodies.

“Going beyond the minimum safety and quality regulatory requirements is part of our commitment to the safety and quality.

We assure our passengers that CEB will continue improving for their further benefit, and for CEB’s success as a low-cost carrier brand,” Iyog said.

Gokongwei-owned CEB flies to 32 domestic and 14 international destinations using the youngest aircraft fleet in the Philippines. It has flown over 36 million passengers since its inception in 1996.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Philippines - Airport restrictions hurting Boracay tourism

FLYING TO THE WORLD-FAMOUS Boracay Island for a weekend getaway in one of its many resorts used to be a fast, convenient and affordable experience for hundreds of thousands of foreign and local tourists each year.

Up until the third quarter of last year, visitors could fly from Manila to nearby Caticlan airport in as little as 35 minutes, take a short ferry ride to the island’s white sand beaches, and check into a hotel room within an hour and a half of leaving the metropolis.

All this changed when aviation authorities imposed flight restrictions on Caticlan airport after a string of aircraft accidents and “near misses.” That left only high-end niche carrier Southeast Asian Airline as the sole operator to the gateway of Boracay.

More affordable flights operated by PAL Express, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air—all of which charged cheaper fare—had to be diverted to Kalibo Airport which is a two-hour land trip away from Caticlan.

“The effects of this flight diversions really hit the local tourism industry badly,” said Ike Guanio, who is the chief operating officer of Boracay’s sprawling Fairways and Bluewater Resort Golf and Country Club.

“At one point, [reservation] cancellations [for local resort hotels] reached as high as 70 percent,” he added. “We were all affected.”

In an interview with the Inquirer, Guanio explained that a large number of tourists who visit Boracay Island do so during weekends, flying in on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings, and returning to Manila or Cebu on Sunday afternoons.

The limited operations of Caticlan airport—which forced most airlines to fly tourists in via Kalibo—had turned off many potential travelers, putting a dampener on the island’s multimillion-peso tourism industry.

“Time is precious for weekend tourists,” Guanio said. “They don’t want to spend half of Saturday getting to Boracay and half of Sunday getting out of Boracay.”

“Right now, it has become really inconvenient for people to come to Boracay, especially if they fly in via Kalibo,” he said, pointing to the approaching peak summer travel season. “We need Caticlan to resume operations to restore, or even improve, tourist traffic.”

Over the long term, what is needed is for Caticlan airport’s 900-meter runway to be extended to at least 1,800 meters for it to be able to accommodate the Airbus A320 aircraft.

For the short term, a 50-meter-high hill on one end of the runway has to be reduced in size. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap), the hill prevents larger turboprop aircraft from flying in and out of the airport.

The challenge was taken up by the the Caticlan International Airport Development Corp. (CIADC), a consortium majority-owned by businessman George Yang, more famously known for bringing the McDonald’s fastfood chain to the country.

With a P2.5-billion bid, CIADC secured a 25-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) deal to extend the runway and build a new terminal for the airport.

Recently, however, the deal has come under intense attack from critics who claim that the airport expansion will adversely affect the environment on Boracay Island, which is separated form Caticlan by a deep channel.

In particular, critics of the deal have presented to the media one environment official who claimed that the development plan would eventually cause Boracay’s white sand beaches to be eroded.

In several interviews made with local stakeholders, however, another motive has emerged for the opponents of the Caticlan airport expansion: property speculation.

“There’s another group that’s pushing for the development of an international airport on Carabao Island,” said Aklan lawmaker Florencio Miraflores. “It’s just a proposal [at this point], but it’s being aggressively marketed as an alternative project.”

Along with other local officials, Miraflores believes that business—and not the environment—is the root of the opposition to the Caticlan airport expansion

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Aviation Training avaiable at Singapore

AIRLINES have welcomed a new programme at Temasek Polytechnic that gives students the chance to learn to fly.

Carriers like Singapore Airlines (SIA), Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia, which say there is a demand for pilots given the growing aviation industry, feel that the course will give more students the option to consider flying as a career.

Starting from this intake, students in Temasek Polytechnic's Diploma in Aviation Management and Services (AMS) course - which was launched in 2007 - can learn to fly a plane.

About 30 students - who must pass medical checks, interviews and psychometric tests - accepted into the three-year AMS course can be part of a year-long flying programme in their final year and earn a private pilot licence.

Mr Paul Yap, the course's director, said: 'They will study theories and learn how to fly a plane. They will also take advanced modules in air navigation, flight planning and meteorological science.'

More than 100 students are expected in this year's intake for the AMS course, which currently has 270 students.

Philippine Aviation project cost shoots up

A JAPANESE-funded project to modernize the communication, navigation and surveillance system of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CCAP) has incurred cost overruns because of foreign exchange fluctuations and change in scope, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

Documents from NEDA showed that the cost of the Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) System Project increased by P2.4 billion to P13.27 billion from an earlier approved cost of P10.87 billion.

Of the total P2.4 billion, the NEDA said 33.3 percent was because of the proposed changes in scope in the construction/procurement of various equipment; 37.1 percent, customs duties and taxes excluded in the previous Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC) review; 24 percent, contingency; and 5.6 percent, consulting services.

Given this, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and CCAP have sought approval for an adjustment in the cost of the project.

DOTC and CCAP also asked for a 39-month extension of the loan validity period because of the lack of a government counterpart and the 15-month delay in finalizing the project scope and tender documents.

Because of the delays, the DOTC-CAAP is asking for a loan extension of up to May 21, 2013.

The project, which aims to achieve greatest operational flexibility, airspace capacity and system efficiency, was originally scheduled for implementation over a six-year period starting 2002, with loan effectivity from February 21, 2003 to February 21, 2010.

Endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to all its member-countries, the project is aimed at upgrading the traditional communications, navigation and surveillance system to form the basis for air traffic management system in the 21st century.

The project has seven major components such as the construction of the air traffic management automation, communications, navigation, surveillance, meteorological system, consulting services and land acquisition.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has sanctioned the Philippines’ flag carrier after the American regulatory office downgraded Manila’s aviation security services to Category 2 for failure to fully comply with the international aviation safety standards. Because of this, Philippine Airlines failed to expand its operations in the US.

ICAO conducted its audit in October last year, giving the Philippines until mid-next year to correct some deficiencies found in the country’s air aviation safety standards.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Zest Air starts service Jan 29 to Singapore

A PHILIPPINE-BASED airline said on Tuesday it will this month become the latest low-fare carrier to launch services between Manila and Singapore, adding to the competition in the struggling sector.

Zest Air will start the service from Jan 29 using a brand new Airbus A320 aircraft, it said in a statement.

Unlike other low-fare carriers, Zest Air said it will offer free inflight meals and snacks and a baggage allowance of 30kg per passenger.

A one-way ticket for the new route will carry an introductory price of US$72 (S$100), it said.

The airline, which lists prominent Filipino businessmen on its board of directors, currently flies from Manila to 19 domestic destinations in the Philippines.

Apart from the premium airlines, the Singapore-Manila route is served by budget carriers such as Singapore-based Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia as well as Cebu Pacific of the Philippines

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vietnam arrests ex-airline CEO and investigates others

If you are thinking of setting up an Aviation Business in Vietnam, read this ...

Authorities in Vietnam have arrested the former chief executive officer of Jetstar Pacific Airlines and are preventing two airline executives from leaving the country, Vietnamese and Australian officials said.

The former chief executive, Luong Hoai Nam, faces prosecution for "lack of responsibility causing serious consequences," said a spokeswoman for the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, Nguyen Phuong Nga.

Vietnamese authorities are investigating the airline's chief operating officer, Daniela Marsilli, and its financial officer, Tristan Freeman, Jetstar Pacific said. They are not allowing Marsilli and Freeman to leave Vietnam, the airline said.

Jetstar Pacific is partly owned by Qantas Airlines of Australia.

The Australian Embassy in Hanoi is seeking details about why the employees are being prevented from leaving Vietnam, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The airline suffered heavy financial losses, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, and investigators are trying to determine the responsibility of members of the airline's executive board and managing board.

Marsilli and Freeman are members of the airline's managing board and must "make themselves present in Vietnam to respond to the requests from Vietnam's legal authorities in a timely manner," the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Philippines' Clark holds talks with Middle Eastern carriers

Clark International Airport in the Philippines has held talks with several Middle Eastern carriers, as it seeks to expand international services.

"We have had several meetings with them, and they have indicated interest to start flying from Clark," says the airport's president and CEO Victor Jose Luciano.

Among the carriers that Clark has met are Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, and Bahrain's Gulf Air, adds Luciano.

Over two million Filipinos work in the Middle East, and more than 40% of them come from hometowns within Clark's catchment area, adds Luciano.

But to persuade Middle Eastern airlines to start services from Clark, the airport needs to be upgraded, he says.

"They want things like departure lounges, but we do not have that currently," he adds.

The airport has started a two-phase expansion of the existing passenger terminal, which will be completed by May.

A second storey will be added to the terminal building. The renovations will add departure lounges, more duty-free shops and three aerobridges.

The number of check-in counters will double to 30 and baggage conveyor belts will double to four, says the airport's corporate planning manager Darwin Lacson Cunanan.

The expanded terminal will be able to handle passenger loads from Airbus A380 aircraft after May, says Luciano.

"Many Middle Eastern carriers have ordered the A380 and while our runway can handle it, our terminal is too small," he adds.

Emirates operates six A380s and has orders for 52 more. Etihad and Qatar Airways have orders for 10 and five A380s respectively, according to FlightGlobal's ACAS database.

A plan to construct a second terminal is also in the pipeline, and Clark is evaluating joint venture proposals from potential partners.

The airport had previously announced that the second terminal will be ready by February, but the project has been delayed.

"This is partly because of the financial crisis, and also because of many factors involved in the joint venture process in the Philippines," says Cunanan.

Six airlines now operate international services out of Clark: Asiana Airlines, AirAsia, Tiger Airways, Cebu Pacific, ZestAir and Spirit of Manila.

Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia and Jetstar will commence flights from Clark in the first quarter of this year, says Luciano.

KAL's Jin Air launching services to the Philippines

Korean Air's (KAL) low-cost carrier Jin Air is planning to launch services from Seoul Incheon to Clark in the Philippines, potentially making it Jin Air's second international destination for scheduled services.

Jin Air will be operating seven Seoul Incheon-Clark charter flights from 14 January to early February and sometime in February it hopes to turn it into a scheduled service, says a Jin Air spokesman.

He was unable to say what the frequency will be because this development is in the early stages of planning, he adds.

Jin Air has a fleet of four Boeing 737-800s and in March plans to get a fifth 737-800, he says.

It has capacity to launch services to Clark because it recently stopped operating charter flights from Seoul Incheon to Tokyo Haneda.

The spokesman attributed the suspension of Tokyo Haneda services to the passenger loads and too few landing slots at Haneda airport.

Clark is an airport on the outskirts of Manila and Koreans are the largest group of foreign tourists to the Philippines. Bangkok is Jin Air's other international destination for scheduled services.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Filipino Lawmaker Welcomes Airline's Apology For Alleged Discrimination

Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines (AHN) - Sen. Pia Cayetano on Thursday welcomed the apology from a top Philippine airline that tried to remove a mother and her special needs child from a flight to Manila two days before Christmas. The mother plans to sue the airline for discrimination.

"The incident exemplifies how various forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities (PWDs) persist in our society and how much work needs to be done to rectify these," Cayetano, author of a bill seeking to create a disabilities affairs office in local government units, said in a statement.

"The apology issued by Cebu Pacific should be welcomed, as this creates awareness on the need for all airlines and transport facilities to review their respective policies on conveying PWDs," she added.

Cebu Pacific the same day issued a statement saying its cabin crew had misinterpreted aviation safety rules, and that it had taken steps to avoid similar incidents.

The airline had asked a passenger, Maritess Alcantara, about to depart Hong Kong on Dec. 23 to leave the aircraft together with her son. It reportedly cited a company policy that prohibited two mentally ill people aboard the same flight.

Alcantara's son has Global Development Delay, a condition that affects a child's motor skills and speech. Someone with Down's syndrome was said to be on the same flight.

Alcantara refused to leave the plane, which was delayed for over an hour. She took the alleged maltreatment to the press, saying she will sue the airline for discriminating against her son.

The incident has attracted national attention, with a number of blogs pointing out the irony of Cebu Pacific's tag line, "It's time everyone flies."

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila De Lima expressed "dismay" over the incident, saying that she too is a mother of a special child.

"The law provides very clear and simple parameters to prevent discrimination against the special children and the Disabled in general," De Lima said. "Transport providers, specifically, are identified by statute to ensure that the Disabled are not discriminated against."

De Lima urged mandatory human rights training for employees of common carriers such as Cebu Pacific, which offers lower fares than the national carrier, Philippine Airlines.

Cayetano in her statement said the airline "should be guided by Sec.34 of Republic Act 7277, the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, which considers it a form of discrimination for any franchisees, operators or personnel of sea, land and air transportation facilities to refuse to convey a passenger by reason of his or her disability."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cebu Pacific-SIA Engineering MRO venture's first 'D-check' in June

Cebu Pacific and SIA Engineering's maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) joint venture in the Philippines will perform its first 'D-check' in June.

The joint venture's first hangar at Manila's Clark airport will perform the heavy check on a Cebu PacificAirbus A320 aircraft, says the low-cost airline's president and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei.

Eight 'C-checks' have been performed on Cebu Pacific aircraft since the hangar for narrowbody jets started operations in August 2009, he adds.

The checks were carried out on A319s and A320s.

Twelve 'C-checks' and two 'D-checks' for Cebu Pacific aircraft are planned this year, says an SIA Engineering spokesman.

The two partners have agreed to construct three hangars under the joint venture, although there is space at Clark for more in the future.

Clark airport's president and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano has said that a second hangar will be constructed in mid-2010.

However, SIA Engineering's spokesman says there is no firm timeline yet for the construction of the second hangar.

The next two hangars will cater to widebody aircraft like the Boeing 747, he adds.

Qantas, AirAsia Form Alliance

SYDNEY—Qantas Airways Ltd.'s cut-price unit Jetstar and Malaysian discount carrier AirAsia Bhd. said Wednesday they have formed an alliance aimed at cutting costs and pooling expertise, putting pressure on Singapore Airlines Ltd.-backed rival Tiger Airways as it begins briefing investors on its listing planned for later this month.

The non-equity alliance between Asia-Pacific's two largest discount carriers by revenue, which already cooperate in some operational areas, comes after more than a year of talks. It will potentially be expanded to incorporate aircraft procurement and revenue sharing deals, the two airlines said.

The agreement is an "important first step," said Jetstar Chief Executive Bruce Buchanan, and could result in costs savings "in the hundreds of millions of dollars" that would be "phased in over many years."

The airlines plan to cooperate on passenger and ground handling in Australia and Asia at airports they both serve, to pool their inventories of aircraft components and spare parts, and to work toward joint procurement of engineering and maintenance supplies and services.

They also aim to use their combined scale to help influence the design of the next generation of narrow-body aircraft from both Boeing Co. and European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.'s Airbus unit, and secure more purchasing power via joint procurement orders.

With the initial focus on cost reductions, Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said that no major regulatory approvals were expected to be required. If it was expanded to include revenue measures such as codeshares and joint ventures on flights it would be subject to more rigorous regulatory scrutiny, he said.

"The aviation market in Asia is a growth market and has proven resilient over the past 12 months, despite the tough operating environment, with significant growth in passenger numbers forecast in the region," Mr. Joyce said.

"This partnership will ensure that both airlines can capitalize on these growth opportunities," giving them a "natural advantage," to keep their fares lower than their main competitors, he said.

Through its domestic and international discount networks, and its stakes in Singapore-based Jetstar Asia and Vietnam-based Jetstar Pacific airlines, Jetstar operates around 1,900 weekly flights to more than 50 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and Asia-Pacific.

Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia is the Asia Pacific region's largest low-cost carrier with more than 400 daily flights to over 60 Malaysian and international destinations. It also has hubs in Thailand and Indonesia.

Its affiliate long-haul carrier AirAsiaX serves destinations more than four hours flight away, including cities in Australia, the U.K. and China.

Both Jetstar and AirAsia operate almost exclusively Airbus A320 aircraft that carry around 180 passengers on short-haul flights, while using the nearly twice as large A330 aircraft on long-haul flights.

News of the agreement comes as Tiger Airways, 49%-owned by Singapore Airlines, began an investor roadshow to gauge demand for its planned Singapore listing on Jan. 22.

Tiger is hoping to raise up to S$273 million (US$195.4 million). It has priced its initial public offering between S$1.35 and S$1.65 a share.

The airline plans to use proceeds to help fund quadrupling of its fleet of 17 Airbus A320 aircraft by December 2015 and to potentially establish a new airline or fourth operating base. Tiger operates flights to 33 destinations across 11 countries and also operates domestic routes in Australia out of bases in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Qantas shares ended down one Australian cent at A$2.95 (US$2.69) after an earlier rise to A$3.01 on news of the alliance.

IG Markets analyst Ben Potter said the tie-up shows both management teams are "thinking outside the box" to ensure they remain leaders in the region.

"The Asia Pacific region is one of the biggest growth markets in aviation, so any ways to further reduce costs and offer more competitive fares will benefit both shareholders and customers," he said.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Far does one go .... Comment your TSA Experiences here ...

Everyone is conscious of air safety and the risk terrorism poses. Those of us who travel extensively around asia know the possibilities in remote airports that are covered by minimal or very lax security arrangements, but we also know that it is important to keep up the effort. Given the security lapses that led to the Detroit Incident just before Xmas, the story below is quite funny, except for the poor sod who was caught up as an innocent party, just transporting honey from his relatives. 

The TSA in the good ole US of A is a focus for a lot of horror stories regarding abuse of power and the ability and training of those employed by the TSA as the first line of screening defense ..

If you have a good TSA Story, feel free to share it here as a comment, perhaps you can add to the mystery that surrounds the TSA and its decision making ...

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- The substance that spurred an evacuation at a California airport Tuesday was simply honey, the Kern County Sheriff's Department said.

The security scare happened afterTransportation Security Administrationagents found what they believed to be a potentially hazardous substance inside a passenger's luggage.

"None of the items inside the bag contained explosive or hazardous material, and the liquid inside the five bottles was identified as honey," the sheriff's department said in a statement.

The Meadows Field Airport had been evacuated and shut down for several hours Tuesday morning after authorities found what they called a hazardous substance.

The man whose bag was flagged, told authorities that he had honey packaged in five bottles, Deputy Michael Whorf, spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Department told CNN.

The 31-year-old man cooperated with authorities and was released with no charges against him, Whorf said.

The trouble started when two TSA agents were doing a routine swab of the man's bag, which tested positive for a hazardous substance, Whorf said.

The agents who discovered the substance opened the bag and both became nauseated, Whorf said. They were transported to the hospital and later released.

The preliminary tests using the swabs indicated the presence of the explosives TNT and triacetone triperoxide, known as TATP, Whorf said.

The man told authorities that he was on a flight from Bakersfield, California, where he had visited relatives, back to his home in Milwaukee, and was carrying the bottles of honey back with him.

Flights in and out of Meadow Fields resumed Tuesday afternoon

Navigational aids in RP airports 'unreliable'

MANILA, Philippines – Due to lack of maintenance, vital navigational and visual aid (navaids) facilities in various international and domestic airports in the country have become unreliable, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines-Employees Union (CAAP-EU) said yesterday.

The group accused the CAAP officials of failing to maintain the navaid facilities, saying this omission has posed a risk to civil aviation safety.

Cesar Lucero, CAAP-EU vice president, said of the 191 navaid facilities in airports, 175 are unreliable “because they have not been checked and calibrated.”

The navaid equipment and facilities, Lucero said, include the Doppler VHF (very high frequency) Omnidirectional Range (DVOR) stations, distance measuring equipment (DME), precision approach path indicator (PAPI) systems, non-directional beacons (NDBs), glide slope, and localizers.

“These are vital navigational aid facilities and their inspection and calibration should be given top priority by the CAAP,” Lucero said.

He alleged that the CAAP has failed to ensure the calibration of the navaid facilities at the country’s two premier international gateways – the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga.

“The navaid facilities at the NAIA and the Clark airport should have been checked and calibrated last October but up to now, wala pa rin (there is still none),” Lucero said.

Lucero said the CAAP’s air traffic controllers reportedly have received numerous complaints from pilots regarding the “wrong signals” or seemingly “unreliable signals” they get from these navaid

Harris to Modernize ATC Coms in Philippines

Air traffic control and radio communications technology from Harris will provide critical air-to-ground and ground-to-ground digital communications services for a new Manila Area Control Center in the Philippines - connecting it with remote sites throughout the 7,000-island nation.

The Harris Liberty-STARVoice Communication and Control System (VCCS) will improve communications between the Area Control Center controllers and aircraft en route and on the ground. Also, the Harris Integrated Radio Equipment and Network Adapter (IRENA), which can emulate virtually any radio link, will enable communications to isolated areas - where digital services are sparse and reliance on legacy links and older analog technology is required. The contract marks the first international sale of the IRENA system.

"The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines will realize significant flexibility and cost savings, since it won't have to replace the entire communications infrastructure as network standards evolve," said John O'Sullivan, vice president of Mission Critical Networks for Harris Corporation. "Operators can continue to communicate using their legacy radio equipment and upgrade when they choose to do so. This contract reflects our continued success in modernizing global air traffic control operations."