Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Velasco pointed out that the new appointees are expected to make up for the lack of real aviation experience among the current crop of top CAAP executives. “This is seen by industry experts as the major stumbling block to the country’s ability to move from Category 2 to Category 1,” he added.
The DoTC Secretary is pushing the CAAP to get back the Category 1 status, thus CAAP executives are now focused on accomplishing “every actionable item” in the identified hurdles toward getting once again the Category 1 status,” he said.
Reacting to a statement that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) wants a CAAP that is “professionalized,” Velasco countered that “these newly designated executives are precisely aviation professionals in the highest order and therefore meet the requirements of ICAO.
Current CAAP Director General Alfonso Cusi, who reportedly objected to the appointments of the new CAAP officials, had extensive experience in shipping, but not in aviation. Earlier, a Congressman during the hearing on DoTC’s budget, asked about Cusi’s aviation experience, adding that what the country’s aviation authority needs are “real aviation experts”.
Those who were recently appointed to key CAAP positions by the CAAP Board are: Ramon Gutierrez, deputy director general for administration; Napoleon Garcia, deputy director general for operations; Wilfredo Borja, assistant director general III (Air Traffic Services); Andrew Basallote, assistant director II (Air Navigation Services); Edgardo Costes, assistant director general II (Aerodrome Development and Management Services); Wilson Mirabona, assistant director general I (Aerodrome Development and Management Services); and Andres Lauriall, assistant director general I (Civil Aviation Training Center).
“Gone were the days when non-aviation people were appointed to critical posts in aviation: they have just been replaced by air sector experts,” the DoTC official said.
‘In gunning after Cusi, the Palace might be cutting off the nose to spite the face.’
SO-CALLED presidential "desire letters" used to apply only to nominations to the boards of government owned and controlled corporations. Hence it is rather odd for Malacañang to tell the Department of Transport and Communication that it is President Aquino’s "desire" that seven line positions in the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which are not vacant in the first place, be filled with his nominees.
We could dismiss the Palace action as just another example of its high-handed management style. What Noynoy wants, or probably more accurately what his buddies want, they get. And niceties, not to speak of legalities, be damned.
The Palace meddling is unwarranted. The CAAP charter provides that "the Director General shall be responsible for the exercise of all powers and the discharge of all duties of the authority and shall have control over all personnel and activities of the authority."
The background to this flap is that the Palace wants Cusi out. He, however, isn’t budging. Probably some bright guy in the Palace though that surrounding him with deputies not of his own confidence might just be the aggravation that would prompt him to throw in the towel.
There are two strikes going against Cusi. First is his alleged lack of qualifications for the job and the second is his being an appointee of former President Gloria Arroyo.
Critics of Cusi says he has no business handling aviation because his background is maritime (his previous posting was as administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority). They could be right, although some people involved in the aviation sector have been giving Cusi good marks since he came on board last March.
The more grievous sin of Cuisi, however, is his being identified with the last administration. But the apparent return of politics in the running CAAP (formerly the Air Transport Office) could mean the continued downgrade of Philippine aviation and what this means to the travel and tourism sector.
Under ATO, highly technical positions were given to people with political connections while the welfare of check pilots and air traffic controllers ended up in the bottom of official priorities. This was one of the reasons the US Federal Aviation Authority downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2 status.
In gunning after Cusi, the Palace might be cutting off the nose to spite the face.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The seven had been placed on floating status and would have to wait for their new designations, Transport Undersecretary Dante Velasco said.
“As career officials, they can choose to stay or leave the agency,” Velasco said in a phone interview.
He said the Transport Department was also planning to appoint a new director of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to replace Alfonso Cusi, “But we are still studying that from a legal standpoint.”
Cusi refused to comment on the new appointments, but said he had already written the Transport Department requesting it to follow the procedure for career positions that should have security of tenure.
The new officials of the Civil Aviation Authority who replaced the seven took their oath Wednesday last week, he said.
He confirmed the appointment of the following officials:
• Ramon Gutierrez as deputy director general for Administration
• Napoleon Garcia as deputy director general for Operations
• Wilfredo Borja as assistant director general II for Air Traffic Services
• Andrew Basallote as assistant director general II for Air Navigation Service
• Edgardo Costes as assistant director general II for Aerodrome Development and Management Service
• Wilson Mirabona as assistant director general I for Aerodrome Development and Management Service
• Andres Laurilla as assistant director general I for the Civil Aviation Training Center.
“We just got the right people. The new government needs the right people to get things done,” Velasco said, adding that with their oath-taking on Wednesday, the appointments were considered “final” and were approved by the majority of the Civil Aviation board.
Velasco said the seven aviation officials who were replaced were appointed by the Arroyo administration, but they lacked the skills to upgrade the aviation sector.
“We need to make up for lack of aviation experience and expertise of the people now leaving the CAAP and [for the Philippines] to get back the Category 1 status,” Velasco said.
He said officials of the European Union and the International Civil Aviation Organization had ordered the Philippines to professionalize the CAAP and appoint officials based on their technical expertise.
“We need to do that to get back the Category 1 status and lift the EU ban on our carriers,” Velasco said.
In 2007 the US Federal Aviation Administration placed the Philippines on a list of 21 countries on Category 2 from Category 1 “for failure to provide safety oversight of its air-carrier operators in accordance with the safety-oversight standards set by the International Civil Aviation Authority.”
The Philippines’ aviation facilities still failed in the second audit conducted bythe FAA last year, so those stayed under Category 2 in aviation safety standards.
“The [new officials] came from the private entities involved in aviation,” Velasco said.
“We are confident that with the new composition of the CAAP, we can pass the FAA audit.”
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The four trainer planes, part of 18 on order, will be formally accepted by PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena in formal ceremonies to be held at the PAF training school in Pampanga this morning. Witnessing the event will be Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin.
PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said this initial delivery is part of the 18 basic trainer aircraft which the Air Force is acquiring from Augusta of Italy with a total cost of P621,671,409.06.
The package includes the airplanes, spare parts, training and integrated logistical support.
Okol disclosed that the Pilot Training System of the Philippine Air Force currently uses both the T-41 and the SF-260 aircraft for primary and basic training respectively.
“The hand-over of T-41 aircraft from the Republic of South Korea in 2009 provided more primary trainer aircraft for the Philippine Air Force Flying School,” Okol said.
“These (SF-260) trainers will significantly increase the number of available basic trainer aircraft of the PAF for flight training,” Okol said.
According to the PAF spokesperson, the PAF is lacking in training aircraft, with at least 150 to 170 Air Force officers forced to wait in line for actual training to fly an aircraft. The arrival of the four SF-260 Marchetti planes will boost the training capability of the Air Force and ease the backlog of students required to undergo flying exercises.
Okol however clarified that even if the officers wait in line to get flying time, their time was not wasted as they are required to undergo training in other career fields related to intelligence, computers, logistics and maintenance.
The propeller-driven AF-260 is the world’s most successful screener and primary trainer.
Fully acrobatic by design, the SF-260 offers flight characteristics and performance levels that allow effective pilot candidates screening early in the program and minimizes the costs incurred when students wash out on jets or complex turboprops.
The SF-260, with Allison 250-B17D Turboprop engine, has a span of 8.35 meters, length of 7.40 meters, rate climb of 2,200 feet per minute and maximum level speed of 228 KTAS (knots true air speed). All SF-260 variants are available with either piston or turbine engines.
Some 900 SF-260 have been sold to 27 different military customers, civil professional flying schools and private operators worldwide. The Italian Air Force bought 30 brand new units.
The expected completion of delivery for the remaining 14 aircraft will be in the first quarter of next year.
In a statement on Wednesday, PAL president and CEO Jaime Bautista said they will abide by the recent decision of the labor department to enhance the separation benefits of the 2,600 employees who will be laid off.
Last week, labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz recognized PAL management's prerogative to outsource 3 non-core operations to be more cost-competitive in an industry where the players have increased and fares have raced to the bottom.
Bautista said the planned spin-off of the in-flight catering, airport services, and call center reservations was initially estimated to cost about P2 billion, based on the earlier decision by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that was contested by the union.
The modifications in the financial and non-cash benefits will cost an additional over P400 million, according to the PAL statement.
"This is a bitter pill we have to swallow," Bautista said. The airline has suffered financial losses due to the residual impact of the high oil prices and the limits in additional flights as a result of the regulatory decisions of the US and the European Union aviation bodies.
To finance the higher separation packages, Bautista said they are considering availing of additional loans from government banks, particularly the Development Bank of the Philippines or Land Bank of the Philippines. "If this is not possible, we will seek financing from other PAL creditors," he added.
"By not contesting the DOLE Secretary's decision, especially the grant of additional benefits, PAL hopes to finally implement a long delayed corporate restructuring," he stressed. "They will all receive their respective separation pay and benefits that are much more than what the Labor Code provides."
He then urged PALEA leaders to also respect the DOLE decision.
But PALEA president Gerry Rivera said they would exhaust all legal means to prevent the layoff.
PAL's position comes a day after the Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (PALEA), the ground crew union at PAL, staged a protest action at the historic Mendiola Plaza historic Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) near Malacañang despite PAL's threat of charging them with abandonment of work.
The labor department has averted a strike that could have paralyzed the operations of the local carrier. The Aquino government, which has initially intervened when the labor issues has worsened mid-year, had said they will abide by the decision of the labor department.
No jobs lost
Bautista added that the 2,600 PAL employees who will be laid off can seek employment again at the companies that will absorb the outsourced services.
"Sec. Baldoz, no less, assured PALEA there will be no jobs lost in the spin off. Aside from receiving their benefits, all affected workers have the option of applying for positions in the third party service providers if they so choose," he said.
e-Ventus, the call center arm of telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), will absorb the reservations and phone customer service operations, while Sky Kitchen and Sky Logistics, both owned by Cebu-based businessman Manny Osmena, will soon provide the outsourced catering and airport services, respectively.
"At the end of the day, PAL wants to be remembered not for the 2,600 jobs it lost, but the more than 4,000 it saved," Bautista ended.
Syndicates make use of mobile phones in communicating with their cohorts and victims.
In a press release, Immigration Officer-In-Charge Ronaldo Ledesma said the necessary equipments are now in place at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
There are currently 4 jammers and a server at the immigration zone there, costing around P400,000.
The equipments were bought during the previous administration. The BI had to stop using them due to protests from airline companies and other airport stakeholders.
A permit is needed from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for their re-activation. BI property section chief John Tugade said he has already applied for a permit with the NTC.
Ledesma said similar jammers will be installed in other international airports in the country once the bureau gets the necessary budget.
“These cellphone jammers will definitely go a long way in bolstering our fight against human traffickers,” Ledesma said.
Reactivating the jammers is one of several measures that the BI and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) have adopted in its fight against human trafficking.
Ledesma also announced 3 weeks ago the adoption of the so-called “S-line” queuing system for all arriving and departing passengers at the NAIA and other airports to prevent collusion among human traffickers and rogue immigration personnel.
The “S-line” aims to prevent international passengers from choosing which immigration counter to line up to process their travel documents.
The move was prompted by a Court of Appeals ruling favoring international carriers, through the Board of Airline Representatives, that they are not bound to shoulder the overtime pay of Customs agents.
The ruling in effect passes on to passengers the responsibility of assuming this financial obligation.
Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said an additional cost of $1 to $2 may be imposed to finance the allowances and overtime pay of Customs agents.
“The additional $1 to $2 would either be incorporated in the terminal fee or would be paid as a separate account in the airport,” he said.
He said that Customs personnel have not received such monetary benefits since July last year.
This non-payment of overtime pay had Customs agents refusing to render work beyond the prescribed eight-hour period.
The CA ruling also obliged the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that the passengers at the airport such as the OFWs, for instance, would have to shoulder the cost.
However, representatives of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and the Bureau of Customs, Immigration and Quarantine, among others, have yet to approved the agreement.
For the meantime, Alvarez said the agency has secured airlines' commitment to pay at least five months’ worth of overtime pay and allowances in exchange for the services of Customs employees until the yearend.
The proposed MoU came after the Customs agents threatened to refuse working beyond the working hours last week.
The BoC is looking at implementing the measure amid the government's limited room to take on additional cost. The Aquino administration is aiming to contain its budget deficit within the P325-billion ceiling.
Passengers departing for other countries are each charged a terminal fee of P750 as well as travel tax of P1,650.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
"The termination is in accordance with the finding that management’s prerogative to close and outsource services in the three departments was done in good faith and was in accordance both with the CBA and the Labor Code," said Baldoz.
"The CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) affirmed the management prerogative of PAL to organize, plan, direct and control operations, as well as the prerogative to reorganize its corporate structure for the viability of its operations," she said. She said that based on the CBA and Article 283 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, PAL’s closure of three departments, namely in-flight catering, airport services (cargo handling), and call center reservations operations, was reasonable and lawful as it was a measure to address PAL’s accumulated net losses and deficits.
Among the causes of the losses cited by PAL were the surge in fuel prices in 2008, the ban on PAL from the air space of 27 European Union member states and IATA’s suspension of PAL remittance facilities.
PAL said the lay-off is needed for it to survive in a highly competitive airline industry.
Baldoz said these conditions ultimately addresses the need to meet one of the two criteria in making a "valid termination" under the CBA, which is whether the exercise of the management prerogative was done in a just, reasonable, humane, and lawful manner.
The DOLE head said PAL was also able to meet the other criteria, which was the observance of the 45-day consultation period, required in the CBA, before implementing the reorganization.
"PAL more than complied with the 45-day consultation requirement under the CBA, considering the consultations and preventive mediation conferences between the PAL and the PALEA (PAL Employees Association) before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board as far back as September 2009," said Baldoz.
Aside from noting that the layoff was done above board, Baldoz also emphasized the "upgraded" benefits allocated for the affected employees.
The benefits include a separation pay equivalent to 1.25 percent per year of service; additional gratuity of P50,000 per affected employee; vacation leave balance that is 100 percent commutable to cash regardless of years of service; sick leave balance that is 100 percent commutable to cash regardless of years of service; extension of one year of the medical and hospitalization package; and trip pass benefits depending on the number of years of service.
At 10:00 a.m., dozens of members of the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (Palea), the ground crew union at PAL, held a symbolic protest at the main office of the Department of Labor and Employement (DoLE) in Intramuros, Manila.The PAL employees brought a mock coffin with the label “RIP PAL workers” and also an effigy of Labor Secretary Baldoz in the image of the fictional “Kamatayan.”
The protesters carried posters with messages such as “Job Security ng PAL Workers, Inilibing ni Baldoz,” “Baldoz Halloween Order and Lagman Midnight Decision, Parehong Anti-Labor,” “Baldoz, Mumultuhin ka ng Halloween Order Laban sa PAL Workers,” and “Kung Di Mo Kaya si Lucio Tan, Baldoz Resign.”Gerry Rivera, Palea president and also vice chairman of the militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), said that “The DoLE’s version of Oplan Kaluluwa is releasing an order on the eve of the Halloween holidays that revives the half dead proposal to permit contractualization at PAL. Contractualization means not just the death of job security at PAL but also killing the oldest union in the country.” “Nobody will allow themselves to be murdered without putting up a fight. This is a fight for decent jobs and protection for our families,” Rivera added.
Palea said the protests will continue tomorrow with a march from the DoLE main office to Mendiola by several hundred PAL employees together with supporters from PM and other labor groups.Rivera lambasted PAL’s argument that it will close down if the layoff and outsourcing move is not allowed.
“This is simply blackmail and black propaganda meant to intimidate workers into accepting the unacceptable. Revenue-generating departments such as airport services and catering will be outsourced to service providers which are partly-owned by Lucio Tan. PAL may be losing but the second wealthiest Filipino keeps on getting richer,” he argued.He called on PAL workers to reject the termination notices that will come in the wake of the DoLE decision affirming the mass layoff plan.
“Palea calls on its members not to accept any termination paper and not to sign any employment contract with service providers. All for one and one for all in the fight for job security and union security,” he said.Rivera recalled that when the mass retrenchment was initially implemented last April, employees were asked to sign termination papers in one room and then to transfer to another room to sign employment contracts with service providers.
“Let us not be tricked into swallowing the bitter pill of retrenchment now that it has been artificially sweetened with a slightly higher separation pay,” he insisted.
Fuel is an item that is very important for the proper operation of our aircraft. Even though the world is full of “fuel experts,” it is still a bit of a mystery.
I recently received three questions that are actually interrelated. The first has to do with water in a plane’s fuel tank. The person changed out the fuel cap and gasket, stored the aircraft in an unheated hangar, and still found water in the fuel sump. Why? Any hydrocarbon fuel, such as 100LL, will absorb a small amount of water from the air. The amount of water suspended will depend on the temperature of the fuel. During the day, the fuel will absorb water from the air, then when it cools down at night some of the water can drop out and become free water. Because of surface area, the next day the fuel will absorb more water from the air and not the free water that had previously dropped out. The bottom line is that free water will always be present and all FBO tanks and aircraft tanks must be sumped daily or before every flight.
The second question deals with how long 100LL can be stored before being sold at an FBO. Although not specified in the ASTM D-910 spec for 100LL, the limits for the oxidation tests are designed to ensure that the fuel will be suitable for service after a year in proper storage.
There are two major concerns here. One is that not all storage is under ideal conditions. The other is turnover. At an FBO, the tanks are not usually emptied completely prior to the addition of fresh fuel, which means a part of the old fuel is left in the tank. When you consider that the fuel can sit awhile at the refinery, then at the distributor, then at the FBO, and finally in the fuel tank on an airplane, you can understand that, over time, especially if the storage is not up to par, there can be some problems with the fuel. This older fuel can allow gum formation and other problems, so it is very important that all parties who handle the fuel follow proper handling procedures and practice good inventory control.
The third question came from Bent Esbensen, who stated that the Danish government is demanding that all mogas contain at least 5% ethanol. He was wondering if this fuel would be OK to use in his plane. I understand that avgas cost $11.50 a gallon and mogas cost only $6.50 there, but the answer is still NO.
This answer is based on many factors, but the biggest is that ethanol is a polar solvent, which means that it will absorb water — and the answer to the first question tells us where the water comes from. Add the effect of aging from the second question and you have a real problem. In addition, even 5% ethanol blends will attack rubber and metal fuel system components and can cause premature failures.
So remember: Water is present in the fuel system no matter what; FBOs and other fuel systems should practice inventory and proper quality controls to ensure that avgas is sold within a year; and that ethanol is a no-no, even at the 5% level.
You can contact Ben at Visser@GeneralAviationNews.com.
Posted by Ben Visser · October 31, 2010
Ben Visser is an aviation fuels and lubricants expert who spent 33 years with Shell Oil. He has been a private pilot since 1985.