Friday, December 31, 2010

Ryanair CEO says airline contemplating order for ‘up to 300 aircraft’

Ryanair is contemplating an order of up to 300 aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus, CEO Michael O’Leary told the Financial Times. The LCC late last year walked away from the negotiating table with Boeing after it was unable to agree on a follow-up order for 200 737s for delivery in 2013-16, and decided to use the freed-up cash to award shareholders with €500 million ($637.5 million) in dividends. The dividends, its first since going public in 1997, will be paid out next month.

“All other things being equal, if we’re still generating this amount of cash and we haven’t found any acquisition or aircraft acquisition for it, then we would certainly consider a second dividend by about the end of 2013,” O’Leary said. “But if I was a shareholder I wouldn’t be banking on that yet.”

He added that he saw no airline on the market worth buying, yet there is still the option of purchasing “200 to 300” aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus, he told FT. Ryanair had informed both manufacturers in early summer about the possible order if suitable prices and terms were offered, he noted, though there were no negotiations at present. According to Dow Jones, Airbus has refused to engage in talks with Ryanair concerning the order.

O'Leary also confirmed earlier statements to Bloomberg Businessweek that he is seeking permission from aviation authorities to use only one pilot on the shortest flights. “It would save the entire industry a fortune. In 25 years with [more than] about 10 million flights, we've had one pilot who suffered a heart attack in flight and he landed the plane,” he reasoned. “Really, you only need one pilot. Let's take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.”

Separately, Ryanair said the Commercial Court of Barcelona confirmed it is entitled under the Spanish Constitution to exclusively distribute its low fares through its own website, and thus will not accept tickets sold through the Spanish screenscraper website Atrapalo. The latter brought the case to court. “This Spanish court victory is yet another milestone win for Ryanair after similar court wins against other screenscrapers in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK,” it commented.

Source :

Friday, December 24, 2010

Roissy : 2000 travelers evacuated from terminal 2E

The decision was taken based on fears that the weight of snow over the roof of terminal 2E in Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport. Thousands of stranded travelers who couldn't get on their flights due to the bad weather will certainly spend Christmas Eve in the airport.

Terminal 2E had already collapsed just after its opening in 2004 under the weight of the snow. On friday 24/12/2010, 2000 people were evacuated smoothly and firefighters have started to work on removing the 60cm of snow accumulated on the roof.

This morning, 50% of every flight had been canceled and the DGAC (National Authority for civil aviation) advises airlines to cancel 35% of their flights. Of the 1,160 planned flights, 670 have already been canceled. 100,000 people have been affected by the chaos.

Apat from the cold temperatures, one of the problems is that the supply of Glycol, used as anti freeze on airplanes, is insufficiant and would only allow 200 more flights to depart. A french industry that produces Glycol is currently on strike and the chemical has to be imported from Germany and the USA.

Aéroports de Paris is giving beds 800 to allow the passengers to sleep and Air France has annouced that it "offers 3,500 hotel rooms" to accomodate its customers in need. Both companies are calling on volunteers to help with this crisis.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Travel Woes: The High Cost of Europe's Big Freeze Read more:,8599,2039296,00.html#ixzz18piq7JBV

Forget dreams of a white Christmas. On Tuesday, millions of stranded travelers in Europe faced another day of being trapped in a Noël nightmare, as severe weather continued to disrupt air, rail, and road transportation — and threatened to do so through the holiday weekend.
The chaos first broke out late last week, when heavy snowfall brought movement in many European cities to a crawl. By Dec. 21, the Continent was still in slow mode, as early morning flurries forced Frankfurt's airport to temporarily close. That had followed disturbances at Germany's busiest air hub on Monday, when 376 of its total 1,400 flights were canceled. Things were even worse Tuesday at London's Heathrow airport — Europe's air-traffic leader — which allowed just 30% of flights to leave, and warned travelers the situation wouldn't improve before Wednesday at the earliest. By contrast, some relief was expected Tuesday at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports that serve Paris. Warming weather and extended hours of operation at both platforms allowed airlines to begin absorbing the 30% of flights that had been canceled over the past four days. That respite may be short-lived, however, with new snowstorms forecast for France and much of Europe by Thursday.

Several days of icy conditions have created a growing mass of marooned and increasingly cheesed off voyagers turned foul-weather refugees. Thousands of people have been camped out at Heathrow since the weekend, in the hopes of being able to jump on one of the few departing planes. Despite the improving situation in Paris, meanwhile, 3,000 travelers were forced to spend Monday night at Charles de Gaulle, with another 400 bivouacked at Orly. And the turmoil doesn't stop there. Even fully-functioning airfields elsewhere in Europe are experiencing heavy delays, as they take on scores of diverted planes and their hoards of stranded passengers.
That knock-on affect was also felt on Europe's railway system — the option to which grounded air travelers have turned in vast numbers. On Monday at London's St. Pancras station, the line to buy Eurostar train tickets to the continent had snaked for over a kilometer; on Tuesday, it wasn't much shorter. Snow and ice had forced Eurostar to cancel 13 of its 52 trains on Monday alone, while locomotives on all its high-speed rail lines between Paris, Brussels, and London were operating at lower speeds than usual.

Europe's snowy situation will come with a heavy price tag. British Airways says the delays are costing it around $100 million daily, while Air France puts the loss by the current snow disruption and one earlier this month at between $31 million and $52 million. According to reports, stores in the U.K. are reporting a 20% to 25% decline in sales that they blame on shoppers preferring to stay home rather than hazard the icy conditions. Once hotels, resorts, tour operators, and restaurants calculate the revenue lost from tourists never turning up as expected, the total hit from The Big Chill 2010 will almost certainly exceed $1 billion.
With cities across Europe clearly being caught out by the snow, the big question is: Why weren't they better prepared? News reports are littered with everyone from infuriated travelers to political leaders expressing vexation and amazement that several inches of snow is enough to bring western Europe's major capitals to a halt — especially when cities like Moscow, Stockholm, and New York City regularly function fine under several feet of powder. And even if London and Paris aren't used to snow, some critics mocked, officials should have been able to come up with ways of dealing with it once it fell. "It can't be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snow-ploughs or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes to get the planes moving," London Mayor Boris Johnson told wire services Monday.

Perhaps, but experts say financial logic explains Western Europe's limited resources to respond to the unusual snowfalls — and the unwillingness to ask travelers and taxpayers to pay to improve them. The currently snow-blocked western European capitals don't experience enough of such weather to merit heavy investment in the kinds of expensive clearing equipment that cities habituated to lots of the white stuff use on a regular basis. That's especially true when most governments have embraced serious austerity plans that cut back on programs and services their citizens use every day.

The bottom line, experts say, is that for airports and airlines in more temperate climates to finance that kind of foul-weather infrastructure, passengers will have to pick up those costs in higher ticket prices. That price hike might be something that marooned voyagers say they're willing to accept now — but they might not be so hot on that extra cost once the snow melts.

Read more:,8599,2039296,00.html#ixzz18piWEMJX

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EU: Shorter shifts for pilots could reduce fatigue

The European Union wants to limit the number of hours that pilots can work daily in order to reduce fatigue that some scientist say is a cause in a fifth of all fatal air crashes worldwide.

The European air safety agency recommended Monday that pilots not work more than 14 hours during the day or 12 hours at night, including time spent at airports while waiting to get airbound.

The proposal was immediately criticized by Europe's umbrella pilot union, which said that the agency had buckled under the pressure from the commercial airlines. The European Cockpit Association, which represents some 39,000 European pilots, wants bigger reductions.

Supporters of shorter working days have been pressing for years for tighter regulation and enforcement of working hours and rest periods, driven by worldwide concerns about exhausted pilots working taxing schedules.

They say scientific research has identified fatigue as a factor in a fifth of all fatal crashes worldwide.

The new rules would standardize working hours for pilots across the continent. In Britain, for example, pilots are not allowed to be on duty for longer than nine hours a day. Elsewhere in Europe, especially in the east, that limit is much higher.

"The (document) requires all operators to ensure that the performance of crew members will not deteriorate to the extent that flight safety is endangered because of the effects of fatigue," the European Aviation Safety Agency said in a statement.

EASA spokesman Dominique Fouda said the proposal would be submitted for comments to the airlines, pilots unions and air safety groups before a final recommendation is handed to the European Union next year. The EU is expected to approve the new regulations by April, 2012.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration also has proposed new limits on the number of hours a pilots can fly in a day and the level of rest required between flights. Congress mandated the rules after a crash in 2009 near Buffalo, New York, which was attributed partly to pilot fatigue. Fifty people died.

The FAA proposal would bar pilots working more than 13 hours in a 24-hour period — a reduction of three hours from current levels. At night, the limit could be reduced to nine hours.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Spanish military takes over airspace following controller walkout

Spain’s military was forced to take control of the country’s national airspace Friday after a mass industrial action that left some 330,000 travellers stranded and was expected to cause a national emergency Saturday if continued.

Spain’s military took control of the nation’s airspace Friday night after air traffic controllers staged a massive sickout that stranded at least 330,000 travelers on the eve of a long holiday weekend, forcing the government to shut down Madrid’s big international hub and seven other airports.

About six hours after the nation descended into total travel chaos, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba announced that the Defense Ministry had “taken control of air traffic in all the national territory.” He said the army would make all decisions on air traffic control, organization, planning and supervision.

If enough controllers do not show up for work Saturday to restore normal flight operations, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero plans to declare a national emergency that would force them to do so, Rubalcaba said. No-show controllers will face unspecified criminal charges punishable by “serious prison time,” he said.

Spanish flagship carrier Iberia SA said all of its flights in and out of Madrid were suspended until at least 11 a.m. Saturday, but other airlines did not give guidance for when flights might resume.

The controllers abandoned their posts amid a lengthy dispute over working conditions and after Zapatero and his ministers on Friday approved a package of austerity measures  - including a move to partially privatize airports and hand over management of the Madrid and Barcelona airports to the private sector.

Angry passengers waited in huge lines for hours until giving up when it became clear their flights would not depart. Air traffic controllers meeting to plot strategy at a hotel near Madrid’s airport were heckled and filmed by stranded passengers as the controllers entered.

“To the unemployment line with you all!” one man yelled at the controllers, in footage shown by Spanish National Television.

Handfuls of passengers made it out of Madrid to destinations like Barcelona and Lisbon, Portugal, on buses provided by airlines. But the vast majority were forced to go home or to hotels with no information on when they might make their canceled flights. Some slept in the airports.

“It’s a disgrace, how can a group of people be so selfish as to wreck the plans of so many people?” said dentist Marcela Vega, 35, unable to travel from Madrid to Chile with her husband, 5-year-old son and baby boy.

Spain’s airport authority, known as Aena, said authorities were in contact with Europe’s air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, and the United State’s FAA about how best to deal with arriving international flights.

Aena chief Juan Ignacio Lema called the sickout “intolerable” and warned controllers to return to work, or face disciplinary action or criminal charges.

“We’re asking the controllers to stop blackmailing the Spanish people,” Lema said.

Spain’s air traffic controllers have been in bitter negotiations for a year with state-owned Aena over wages, working conditions and privileges. The dispute intensified in February after the government restricted overtime, cutting the average annual pay of controllers from about 350,000€ ($463,610) to around 200,000€ ($264,920).

The sickout also closed four airports in the Canary islands off Africa’s coast, a favorite winter destination for sun-seeking Europeans, and airports in prime Mediterranean tourism spots of Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca and Menorca.

Spanish Development Minister Jose Blanco convened an emergency meeting and his ministry announced that “controllers have begun to communicate their incapacity to continue offering their services, abandoning their places of work.” Blanco later told reporters that authorities were forced to close airspace around Madrid for safety reasons.

“We won’t permit this blackmail that they are using to turn citizens into hostages,” Blanco said

The controllers’ union has complained for weeks that many members have already worked their maximum hours for all of 2010, and that all 2,000 are overworked and understaffed. Friday’s sickout was not expected, but the union had warned it could mount one over the Christmas holiday. Spanish air traffic controllers are prohibited by law from going on strike.

Aena said most controllers had left their workstations or never showed up, and that only 10 controllers remained on duty in Madrid to handle emergencies.

Some controllers began to return to work late Friday, including about half of the normal staff in Barcelona, where several flights took off by early Saturday. But Rubalcaba said the number of returning controllers was spotty, and that some who showed up refused to perform their duties.

Madrid’s sprawling Barajas airport was empty after midnight. It had 1,300 flights scheduled for Friday, but it wasn’t clear how many had taken off and landed before the sickout.

More than 5,000 flights were scheduled for the nation Friday, and about 3,000 departed or landed before the sickout began in the late afternoon.

Monday is a national holiday marking the Day of the Spanish Constitution, and Wednesday is a religious holiday. Many Spaniards take advantage of them for a five-day weekend or a week of vacation, and about 4 million people had flights booked for the period in the nation of 46 million.

Many of Spain’s famed football players were forced to head on trains and buses with their teams so they could make it to weekend games.

Source :

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tracking Tardy Flights

The Transportation Department thinks they do, and it now requires carriers to disclose the information when customers search for fares online.

But in complying with the rule, the airlines have chosen very different ways of presenting the information, suggesting mixed feelings about revealing before the ticket is purchased that some flights consistently arrive late.

Continental includes a link next to each flight in its search results saying, “See On-Time Performance,” while JetBlue tells customers in big text at the top of the page, “Did you know you can click on a flight number to see its on-time performance?”

But US Airways, Delta and United Airlines do not even hint that this information is available. Customers have to know to click on or hover over each flight number to make that flight’s on-time record appear. American and Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, provide links that are easy to overlook.

“There’s a huge disparity in how airlines choose to display this information,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Forrester Research. “Those that aren’t up front about it unfortunately end up looking like they’re trying to hide something, even if that’s not the case.”

Whether passengers care if a flight has an 87 percent or a 62 percent on-time record is a continuing debate. When the Transportation Department first proposed the rule, the Air Transport Association, the airline trade group, argued that travelers were not interested in the data, even calculating that it would take 10 extra seconds to look at it. The group argued that the extra burden would drive customers to book tickets at online travel agencies, like Travelocity and Expedia, instead.

Those online agencies are not required to publish on-time data for the flights they sell. Nor are smaller airlines like Spirit or Virgin America, because they are not obligated to collect performance data and submit it to the Transportation Department.

The department uses the data to track the industry’s overall on-time record, which was 84 percent in October — the latest results announced last week. But that number includes data from only 18 airlines, and does not include flights operated by many regional carriers, which are more prone to delays.

By requiring the airlines to publish the on-time record for each flight they sell, including flights operated by their regional partners, the government aimed to give travelers information about a specific flight before they booked a ticket. The government also requires the airlines to publish the percentage of arrivals that were more than 30 minutes late and how often the flight was canceled (if it was canceled at least 5 percent of the time). The new rules, which took effect last summer, were included in federal passenger protections adopted by the Transportation Department last spring.

Despite the wide variation in how this information is presented, Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the department, said the airlines were all complying with the regulation, since providing a link to the on-time data was allowed.

But Mr. Harteveldt suggested that some airlines might be adhering to the letter of the law rather than its spirit out of business concerns. “I think the airlines are afraid that people will book away from certain flights,” he said.

The data does show there can be a wide variation in delays. Among the 20 flights US Airways offered in a recent search for a trip from Philadelphia to La Guardia Airport in New York, all for the same price on the same day, the on-time record ranged from 24 to 88 percent. Eleven of the flights had an on-time performance below 55 percent.

Jim Olson, a spokesman for US Airways, said the airline consistently ranked high in the government’s on-time statistics (which do not include many of the regional flights on the Philadelphia-to-La Guardia route), and did not highlight the on-time data on its Web site more prominently because customers did not consider that information a priority.

“We have not received a single complaint about this topic from our customers,” he said.

Since the numbers are based on data collected two months earlier, the airlines have argued that the information is not necessarily an accurate predictor of whether that same flight will have a poor on-time record several months later.

“It’s difficult to understand how looking at historical data helps you make a decision going forward,” said David A. Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association. “The variables that affect flight performance change on a daily basis.”

And it may well be that having this on-time data does not affect booking decisions — although until more passengers know it exists, it is tough to gauge how travelers are using this information.

Michael Steiner, an executive vice president with Ovation Corporate Travel in Manhattan, said the agency provided on-time data for the flight options it offered to clients, but had found that most of its customers prioritized price and schedule instead.

“Do people want to know about on-time performance? Yes,” Mr. Steiner said. “Is it a factor when people are making connections? Absolutely. But I don’t know that it’s really changing behavior in a significant way.”

But Jean Covelli, president of the Travel Team, a travel agency in Buffalo, said her clients definitely cared about a flight’s on-time record and avoided flights that were regularly late.

“If you’re in a city where you have to connect, it’s way more relevant than if you’re in a big city with shuttle service,” she said. “You want to see on-time statistics at a minimum in the 70th percentile to feel like a flight is reliable.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Venezuela halted flight crew in 2008 over remark

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The captain and crew of an American Airlines flight were briefly detained in 2008 after a crew member advised passengers to set their watches to "local Chavez time" upon arrival in Caracas, according to a confidential U.S. report released by WikiLeaks.
President Hugo Chavez in 2007 created a new time zone for Venezuela, moving the clock back a half hour on a permanent basis.
The U.S. Embassy report, dated Oct. 1, 2008, and released Friday, said there appeared to be a misunderstanding over one crucial word in the crew member's announcement: "local" vs. "loco" — which means crazy in Spanish.
The embassy said one passenger, who was a friend of pro-Chavez lawmaker Carlos Echezuria Rodriguez, thought the crew member said "loco Chavez time."
American Airlines local manager Omar Nottaro reported to the embassy that the crew member announced to passengers: "Welcome to Venezuela. Local Chavez time is ..."
The memo, which was written a day after the incident, said the airline manager's account was contradicted by that of Venezuelan immigration authorities, who wrote in their report that the crew member had announced "the hour of the crazy Chavez and his women."
Chavez has long traded verbal barbs with U.S. officials. And the incident quickly escalated after the passenger told the lawmaker friend, who was waiting for him outside, "that the pilot had called President Chavez crazy," the document said.
It said the congressman promptly reported the incident to then Vice President Ramon Carrizalez, who called the head of the civil aviation authority into action. The embassy said Venezuela's DISIP domestic intelligence agency opened an investigation but deferred to immigration authorities since the crew had not passed through immigration.
The crew then was held in the airport while officials discussed what would be done, the embassy said.
The American Airlines manager told a U.S. diplomat that the lawmaker demanded to hear recordings of the announcements when Flight 903 touched down. But the airline manager was able to defuse the situation "by promising to put the crew back on the empty airplane as soon as it was refueled and get the captain and crew out of the country immediately," the memo said.
It said the plane left at 11:30 p.m., and the airline manager offered apologies to Venezuelan officials.
The embassy said in the classified report that it was the second incident involving an American flight crew at Simon Bolivar International Airport in a month. It didn't say what had occurred in the other incident.
Addressing the memo to agencies in Washington and Miami, the embassy said the incident showed "how heightened sensitivities are ... when a chance remark escalates within minutes to the level of the Venezuelan Vice Presidency."

Friday, December 10, 2010

787 may again be delayed

Boeing will not confirm or deny a French newspaper’s report that deliveries could be pushed to next summer.

Deliveries of the Boeing Co.’s 787 could start next summer — a delay of four to five months — according to a French newspaper.

The new delivery date is based on conversations between Boeing and Air France officials, reported the newspaper, Les Echos.

Boeing neither confirmed nor denied the report.

“While we work to resolve the issues associated with the flight test incident in Laredo, Texas, we are updating our overall program schedule,” wrote Yvonne Leach, Boeing spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “We expect to finalize a revised schedule in the coming weeks.”

The delivery schedule for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner has been in question for a month, since an electrical fire broke out on a 787 test plane Nov. 9. 

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Texas. Boeing halted test flights on all six test airplanes after the incident.

On Nov. 24, after an investigation into the fire, Boeing announced that it had determined the fire’s cause and was working on minor design changes to a power panel inside the 787 and to the jet’s software. Boeing said then it expected to release a new delivery schedule in the next few weeks.

Before the fire, Boeing had planned to deliver the first 787 in February to Japan’s All Nippon Airways. The Dreamliner program already had fallen nearly three years behind schedule. 

Boeing’s 787 not only contains new materials and technologies but also is made differently than previous jet programs. 

The Les Echos report, of a delay of four to five months, is in line with the expectations of several aerospace analysts. 

However, some analysts have predicted delays of up to a year on the 787 program.

Source :

Laser incidents worry aviation officials

Federal Aviation Administration officials are worried about a substantial increase in the number of people pointing lasers at aircraft cockpits, saying the intense light can distract and temporarily blind pilots and has caused some to relinquish control to their co-pilots or abort landings.
This year, there have been more than 2,200 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, up from fewer than 300 in 2005. California, Texas and Florida have recorded the most, but the problem is widespread across the country.

There hasn't been an air crash so far, but the incidents have aviation officials concerned.

"It sounds silly, but this is a serious problem," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt wrote Wednesday in a post on a Transportation Department blog.
"We know that laser pointers are an important tool for astronomers and casual stargazers," Babbitt wrote. "But we just can't stress enough the importance of being careful when you are shining them into the night sky."

The rise in incidents has coincided with a growing hobbyist market for handheld lasers that are far more powerful — and potentially dangerous — than the typical laser pointer. At the same time prices have dropped. Lasers that once cost more than $1,000 can now be bought online for a few hundred dollars or less.

Some lasers are marketed with holsters that can be clipped onto a belt, creating a gunslinger-like appearance. Earlier this year, Lucasfilm threatened legal action against Wicked Lasers, a Hong Kong-based company whose lasers have aluminum handles that resemble the lightsabers of the "Star Wars" movies. Lucasfilm later dropped the threat.

"Wicked Lasers defeats dark forces of George Lucas," the laser company's website brags.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a statement in September warning parents that new, powerful laser devices can easily cause eye damage and blindness. The academy pointed to the case of a 15-year-old boy who suffered severe eye damage while playing with a laser in front of a mirror. Lasers don't have to be pointed at someone's eyes to cause harm; reflected light can cause damage as well.

A laser pointer like those used by lecturers typically generates about 5 milliwatts of power. Wicked Laser's website offers a 1,000-milliwatt handheld laser.

The laser company didn't respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Dozens of people in the United States and around the world have been arrested for pointing lasers at aircraft cockpits, most often near airports during takeoffs and landings. Those are the most critical phases of flight, when pilots need to be their most alert. Interference with air navigation is a federal crime.

Last year, an Orange, Calif., man was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for aiming a handheld laser at two Boeing jets as the passenger planes were about to land at John Wayne Airport.

In August, a Baltimore police helicopter pilot was temporarily "flash blinded" by a laser, preventing him from helping fellow officers chasing a suspect. The pilot recovered, circled around and spotlighted the house where the beam had come from as officers on the ground rushed in to arrest the culprit.

The same month, green lasers were pointed at the cockpits of two medical helicopters transporting patients in Pittsburgh, including a 5-year-old boy injured in a bicycle accident.

There are red, blue and violet lasers as well, but the green is the most visible against a night sky. The green lasers are also 35 times brighter than equivalently powered red lasers because humans are much more sensitive to green light, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In July, a Maryland state police helicopter pilot was briefly blinded by several green lasers while trying to land in Ocean City to pick up a trauma patient, but no one was injured. Two Coast Guard helicopters made precautionary landings this summer after the pilots were flashed with lasers while patrolling Los Angeles beaches and ports.

Last year, pilots of dozens of planes taking off and landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport reported being flashed with green lasers.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Underprivileged kids get flight to the 'North Pole'

Eighty underprivileged kids got a special Christmas surprise Saturday: an airplane ride that took them from one gate at the Boise Airport, up in the sky, and then back down to a gate made to look like the North Pole. This unique event is called Operation Santa's Sleigh.

This was the 5th year United Airlines did the event in Boise, but Saturday was the the first time it's taken place since 9/11. The kids who went on this special trip are special themselves. School counselors picked the kids they thought needed a Christmas surprise the most.

United Airlines employees dressed like elves, leading the kids through security and the boarding process. The airplane was temporarily renamed "Santa One" for the flight.

Many of the kids had never been on an airplane before.

"I'm hoping we might fly for a couple of minutes or so because I've really wanted to fly, but I've never gotten the chance because we don't have enough money," Elija Edwards said before the flight.

On board, the kids met their pilots and flight attendants-turned-elves. The kids sang Christmas carols and got a box of snacks from a decorated rolling cart.

"I think it's pretty cool because you get all the snacks you want!" student Cody Fitzpatrick said.

When they landed, Santa Claus was waving at the airplane from the jet bridge. A gate had been transformed into the North Pole, and there the kids found the toys and clothes they'd asked Santa for weeks ago in letters.

"It means a lot for him because his dad's in jail, his mom's kind of struggling right now so it kind of means a lot for the guy to come to something like this and have everything be so happy for him," Charles Allen said of one student.

As the kids ripped wrapping paper off their personalized gifts, many of them shrieked with happiness.

"It's just these kids don't have anything, and to be able to give a little bit of Christmas to them and a little bit of happiness to them, where they don't have to worry about anything, that's our goal," United employee and "Head Elf" Teresa Slagel said.

"You look at every single one of these kids and the smiles that are on their faces especially when they came off the plane and opened up their presents, you couldn't give to someone better," Allen said.

Behind the scenes, a lot of volunteers worked on this. 

United employees and retirees bought all of the toys and clothes. Meridian businesses helped by contributing money for the jet fuel. Many other businesses and organizations contributed to gift bags, like the Idaho Potato Commission, which gave each child a Spuddy Buddy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Weather conditions delay flights in Europe and Northeast of the USA

As of 5 p.m. ET. flights at many of busiest airports in the Northeast were being affected by delays, though some of the worst delays begin to subside.

The longest delays of the day were encountered by passengers at the three airports in the great New York City area.

Average delays had exceed four hours this afternoon at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

LaGuardia was especially hard hit, with average delays approaching 5 hours, 22 minutes around 2:3o p.m. ET today, according to the FAA.

The delay averages eased somewhat by dinnertime, however, dropping to 2 hours, 30 minutes at LaGuardia and and 3 hours, 12 minutes at Newark. As of 5 p.m. ET, average delays at JFK were just shy of 4 hours.

Boston flights were being delayed by about 65 minutes.

In Philadelphia, the FAA's website showed storm-related delays had disapated after averaging about 90 minutes earlier in the day. Earlier delays at Washington Dulles and at Washington-Baltimore had also eased since this morning, according to the FAA.

Still, travelers catching flights today across the USA were at risk of being affected by the delays, even if they were scheduled to fly in parts of the country experiencing good weather.

An afternoon flight from Phoenix to San Francisco, for example, could have become delayed or canceled if the aircraft scheduled to operate that flight got bogged down this morning in New York.

At least two airlines moved to accommodate customers affected by the poor weather.

Continental, which operates a major hub at Newark, waived change restrictions for most customers scheduled to fly to, from or through that airport today or Thursday.

Continental's waiver also covered passengers scheduled to fly through Baltimore, Boston, New York JFK, New York LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Washington National and Washington Dulles.

United, which merged with Continental this year, issued a waiver policy with the same details. One of United's largest hubs is at Washington Dulles.

With some conditions, the rule waiver allowed customers booked on tickets to fly through those airports today or Thursday to make one change without being charge the standard change-of-ticket penalty.

But the U.S. Northeast wasn't the only region experiencing weather delays today. Conditions were even worse in Europe, where an unusually winter storm was creating travel problems across large parts of the continent.

The Associated Press writes "Gatwick, London's second largest airport, and Geneva, a major hub for low-cost carrier Easyjet, were forced to shut down Wednesday as staff struggled to clear runways of snow. Edinburgh airport in Scotland, Leeds airport in northern England, and Chambery and Grenoble in southeastern France also were closed. Eurocontrol, the central air control agency, reported severe flight delays in Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Prague and Paris Orly."

Problems appeared likely to continue into Thursday.

France's civil aviation authority asked airlines there to reduce Thursday's flight schedules in anticipation of heavy snow. Bloomberg News reports that "the authority has requested carriers cancel 25% of flights in and out of the Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport and 10% of flights at Orly airport, it said in an e-mailed statement."

One U.S. carrier -- US Airways -- said it would waive change fees for customers schedule to fly to or from the United Kingdom today through Friday.

Source :

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lufthansa to become first airline to use biofuel on a passenger flight

Lufthansa is launching the world’s first scheduled commercial passenger flights using biofuel in the first half of 2011, with an IAE-V2500-powered Airbus A321.

In April 2011, LH will begin a six-month trial with an A321 on scheduled commercial flights on the Hamburg-Frankfurt-Hamburg route. Pending certification, one of the aircraft’s engines will use a 50-50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene. The primary purpose of the project is to conduct a long-term trial to study the effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and engine life.

The daily flights are part of the ‘burnFair’ project to study the long-term impact of sustainable biofuels on aircraft performance. Airbus’ role is to provide technical assistance and to monitor the fuel properties. The biofuel will be supplied by Finland-based Neste Oil, a fuel refining and marketing company that has cooperated with Lufthansa for many years, LH said. Certification of its biofuel is expected in March 2011.

LH Chairman and CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber said that during the six months trial, LH will save around 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. "Lufthansa will be the world’s first airline to utilize bio-fuel in flight operations within the framework of a long-term trial. This is a further consistent step in a proven sustainability strategy, which Lufthansa has for many years successfully pursued and implemented," he said. The project will cost LH an estimated €6.6 million ($8.74 million).

Friday, November 26, 2010

ICAO Takes Clean Sheet Approach To Checkpoints

Security officials convening in Montreal Nov. 30-Dec. 1 will adopt a “clean sheet” approach to designing a checkpoint of the future. Their goal: Make substantial gains in screening technology to frustrate terrorist attackers while making the ritual of passing through airport security more tolerable for travelers.

About 50 specialists from government and industry will look at developments in the pipeline or in theory in the three major components of a security program—intelligence, behavior analysis and technology. They hope to “combine the different ingredients to produce a better system,” says Steve Berti, chief of aviation security and facilitation policy for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International (ACI) requested the brainstorming session from ICAO’s Aviation Security Panel, the chief adviser to the ICAO Council, the legislative body that sets technical standards and practices. “All approaches to security have disadvantages and advantages,” Berti says, “depending on your interest, whether it is privacy on one hand or the necessity to prevent terrorism. It is a difficult balancing act.”

Experts say advances in technology, procedures and intelligence will enable the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other security agencies to drop the one-size-fits-all approach that commits every traveler to the same security treatment. How soon the new approach may be adopted depends on the pace of research and development, approvals by the TSA and the cooperation of governments on standards and information exchanges.

Though it may be years away, tomorrow’s checkpoint will continue to rely on body scanners, the one clear trend in technology, says Berti. But experts say the next advance will be less intrusive and less revealing of body features than the somewhat graphic images produced by the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners. Both manufacturers--L-3 Communications and Rapiscan Systems are testing units that produce a stick figure, and home in on anomalies—that could be a set of keys or a pack of chewing gum—but that in worst-case scenario could be an explosive. It’s a process called automated target recognition under TSA study. An X-ray unit deployed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Technology adopts the automated target recognition capability.

“What we have now is not sustainable if we get to the FAA’s prediction of 1 billion passengers a year,” says Christopher Bidwell, VP-security and facilitation with ACI-North America. He is pushing for more research and development of screening technology and for mutually recognized standards for technology.

The lack of harmonized standards between the European Union and the U.S., for example, is why transatlantic travelers undergo the practice of duplicate screenings, one at their point of origination in Europe, and again on arrival if they are taking a domestic U.S. flight. In any case, common standards will make it easier for manufacturers to produce an effective and less-expensive scanner for processing passengers and baggage and eliminate the need for a second screening, Bidwell says.

Advances in millimeter wave wand technology may make pat downs more of a long-shot alternative deployed strictly as a follow-on procedure as passengers proceed through the security process. That process will involve using improved screening techniques that identify people, observe their behavior, clear them and their baggage and single out those who raise doubts.

Security consultant Rodger Dickey who works with BAS Strategic Solutions of Gainesville, Va., predicts a future of “dynamic screening and a risk-informed system” to defeat security threats. A former FAA and TSA official, Dickey says the future checkpoint will be more capable of utilizing multiple technologies, with workable policy and procedures in place. TSA is moving toward this goal, says Dickey. It is maturing as an agency and is supported by a core of key people who have been part of the organization since the start nine years ago and are dedicated to defeating terrorists, he adds.

Dickey expects that screening technologies will be integrated, so that “an individual screener has better situational awareness of the threat of a given person.” The screening process will be streamlined, “less of a gauntlet” that now requires removal of shoes and jackets, says Dickey.

Airlines support expansion of the trusted traveler concept that differentiates passengers to ease pressures on the checkpoints and advocates more use of risk management techniques. As many as half of the daily flow of passengers could qualify for trusted status and reduce the workload at airport checkpoints, says Kenneth Dunlap, IATA’s global director of security and travel facilitation. Dickey says a trusted traveler program will be another key to speeding up the process. “The more you know about a person and the more they are identified biometrically, their background, they will be subjected to less scrutiny in the screening process against one that you know little or nothing about.”

The checkpoint of the future also may be staffed by screeners from private security companies, if Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) has his way. Mica is expected to serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has suggested that airports should consider private security and allow the TSA role to convert from hands-on screening to oversight.

“We would expand if it’s made possible,” says Gerald Berry, president of Covenant Aviation Security of Winter Springs, Fla., the screening contractor at San Francisco International Airport. “TSA can’t provide and regulate at the same time.” He suggests that the shift to industry would bring new ideas to produce a checkpoint more secure and tolerable.

Korea to boost aviation industry

In a bid to develop the domestic aviation industry, the government laid out a specific plan yesterday based on a blueprint it had announced earlier this year to help it become one of the world’s top seven aircraft industry leaders by 2020. According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the government will focus on securing key technologies and promoting research and development.

“We have selected 10 key aviation-industry-related technologies that the country should develop and acquire to be recognized as advanced in the field,” Cho Seok, deputy minister for new growth engines, said during a briefing yesterday at the government complex building in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi.

He noted that the ministry had made its selections by gathering opinions from industry leaders, universities and institutions. The selected technologies include aircraft design, passenger-seat comfort, flight safety, next-generation materials, and a highly efficient, eco-friendly promotion system.

As for R&D, several government bodies - including the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs, and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration - will be responsible for conducting studies to help Korea develop aviation products using domestic components. Projects will be done in different regions.

“Aviation manufacturing will be promoted in South Gyeongsang, while the maintenance, repair and overhaul sectors will be in Busan because that is where Korean Air has its main maintenance center,” Cho said.

The government had said in January that it would create $10 billion in aviation-related exports by 2020. Unlike the electronics, semiconductor and automobile industries, Korea’s aviation industry has been lagging behind that of other developed nations.

Korea currently ranks 16th in terms of global aviation industry sales, behind other Asian countries such as Singapore, China and Japan. Industry leaders include the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, according to the Korea Aerospace Industries Association.

“The aviation industry is expected to thrive in the future, as demand for aircraft is increasing around the world. It has the potential to become a source of profit for Korea should it be prepared with key technologies and manufacturing skills,” said Lee Ok-hyeong, senior deputy director at the ministry’s growth-engine policy division.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Experts Zero In on Jet-Ice Risk

International aviation-safety experts are targeting an emerging flight hazard: tiny, high-altitude ice crystals that can clog airspeed sensors on jetliners and, in extreme cases, even cause planes to lose lift and stop flying.

Boeing Co. and Air France-KLM SA have been leading a broad study delving into this previously little-understood icing phenomenon, according to industry officials briefed on the preliminary findings.

The conclusions are likely to prompt a major push for changes in the way regulators, airplane makers and parts suppliers confront such dangers.

The companies are advocating adoption of tougher industrywide testing requirements for the sensors, the officials said, along with new procedures and more-precise checklists to help pilots maintain control of commercial jets if their airspeed indicators suddenly malfunction or fail.

The crystals—typically suspended above intense storms and found circulating on top of towering clouds where they are invisible to both pilots and weather radar—are small enough to penetrate heated speed sensors, or pitot tubes, mounted outside the fuselage.

The crystals quickly melt but under extremely cold conditions may refreeze, according to the study and independent safety experts, sending incorrect or wildly fluctuating speed indications to the cockpit. Pitot tubes use external air temperature and pressure to calculate changes in speed.

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Boeing and Air France-KLM are leading a study on an icing phenomenon.

The result can be that autopilots shut off, pilots lose altitude readings and receive false warnings about exceeding allowable speeds. The combination of factors can prompt crews to reduce thrust, momentarily lose control or even inadvertently stall the aircraft.

The study was prompted partly by the June 2009 crash of an Air France Airbus A330 as it flew through a particularly violent storm system on the way to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. All 228 people aboard Flight 447 perished after at least two of its three speed sensors apparently malfunctioned, resulting in a cascade of failures affecting flight-management computers, automated flight controls and other vital systems.

An international team of investigators hasn't been able to determine exactly why the widebody jet went down, partly because its flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders haven't been recovered from the ocean. Airbus officials are gearing up for a fourth attempt, probably early next year, to have rescue crews try to locate the "black boxes," industry officials said.

The high-profile crash—followed by revelations that both Airbus and Air France for years had been aware of chronic pitot tube problems on certain families of jets—sparked a broader review of the relevant science and technology. U.S. and European regulators ordered swift replacement of suspect tubes on hundreds of Airbus planes, and began work to draft more-stringent testing standards for next-generation devices.

The Boeing-Air France effort goes further by striving to thoroughly understand the reasons behind the formation and behavior of the tiny crystals.

According to industry officials, the companies also have teamed up to look at what happens to pitot tubes at substantially higher altitudes and colder temperatures than previously considered. Many of today's sensors are certified to operate at up to 40,000 feet and minus 40 degrees Celsius, while many experts want details about reliability in conditions around minus 65 degrees Celsius.

A senior Air France official declined to comment on the conclusions so far, referring questions to aircraft and hardware manufacturers.

A Boeing spokeswoman said it was premature to comment.

Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., has been informed about the study, but officials declined to comment.

Concern about ice building up on wings, coating speed sensors and disrupting airflow through engines is hardly a new concept. Going back to the 1940s, when commercial air travel was in its infancy, pilots recognized the dangers of flying through freezing rain. As technology advanced, pitot tubes became better heated and ice formations could be readily detected by onboard weather radar.

Until recently though, air-safety experts didn't fully recognize the heightened dangers posed by the smallest crystals. They also are grappling with the intricacies of how crystals refreeze and distort speed readings.

Safety experts are also increasingly turning their attention to training and emergency techniques aimed at helping pilots maintain steady speed and level flight—particularly at night or in turbulence—despite unreliable speed indications.

An FAA spokeswoman said the agency is working with manufacturers, industry groups and foreign regulators "to expand the icing environment," or the range of icing conditions, used to certify new sensor designs.

The anti-icing drive could go public early next year as Boeing and other companies solicit additional support and strive for consensus on how pilots should respond to airspeed emergencies. Air France already has made some adjustments in its pilot training. Many industry experts, however, believe a common approach should be adopted by all airlines, regardless of whether they fly Boeing or Airbus models.

In the wake of the 2009 A330 crash, French investigators identified what they described as more than a dozen "significant" events in which airspeed sensors malfunctioned. Barely three weeks after that accident, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board was looking at a pair of international flights, including a Northwest Airlines A330 airliner, which suffered a series of equipment and computer malfunctions similar to those encountered by Air France Flight 447.

The Northwest A330 was cruising at 39,000 feet on autopilot near Kagoshima, Japan, when it encountered intense rain and both the captain's and co-pilot's airspeed indicators immediately showed a huge rollback in the plane's forward velocity. With autopilot and automatic-throttle controls disengaged, the cockpit was filled with beeps and bright warning signals indicating various system problems.

The Northwest crew said the event lasted more than three minutes, but they maintained airspeed, manually flew the most direct route out of the storm and nobody was hurt.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

EasyJet Chases Business Market With Flexible Tickets

EasyJet Plc Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall said Europe’s second-largest discount airline will offer flexible tickets to lure business flyers, increasing competition with network carriers including British Airways Plc.

McCall, who has been conducting a strategy review since taking over in July, said today that Luton, England-based EasyJet will seek to lift profit margins by sharpening the focus on corporate customers, who account for 18 percent of its sales.

The switch will boost average fares and help differentiate EasyJet from Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, which is adding business-friendly routes at city-center airports but which offers no flexibility. At the same time the move brings its model closer to those of BA and low-cost rival Air Berlin Plc, and could also increase administrative costs.

“This would create a ‘low-cost plus’ carrier, sticking to discount principles but incorporating less traditional fare elements,” said Gert Zonneveld, an analyst at Panmure Gordon in London with a “buy” rating on the stock. “EasyJet has the network and frequencies to make a business offering feasible, but added complexity can have cost implications.”

EasyJet fell 4.8 percent to 448 pence as of the close in London, the biggest drop since July 28 and the worst performance on the eight-member Bloomberg EMEA Airlines Index, which declined 3.8 percent. The stock has gained 27 percent this year for a market value of 1.93 billion pounds ($3.1 billion).

First Dividend

McCall, 49, who joined from Guardian Media Group Plc with no experience of the aviation industry, said today that EasyJet plans to make dividend payments for the first time in its 15- year history after net income jumped 70 percent to 121.3 million pounds in the 12 months ended Sept. 30. The carrier reported a pretax profit of 154 million pounds after saying on Oct. 6 that the figure would beat a 150 million-pound target.

Revenue per seat will probably be flat in the first half of the current fiscal year, EasyJet said. That guidance is “disappointing” and suggests a revenue bounce enjoyed by the industry since the end of the recession is coming to an end, said George Humphreys, an analyst at NCB Group in London.

The International Air Transport Association said on Sept. 21 that airline earnings will probably peak at $8.9 billion this year before falling to $5.3 billion in 2011. While European carriers have generally raised guidance as demand recovers, EasyJet’s fiscal year begins later than at peers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Ryanair.

Stelios Pressure

EasyJet is paying a dividend and modifying its strategy following pressure from founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who had lobbied McCall to return cash to investors and adopt a less- seasonal and tourist-dependent model. The entrepreneur said today that the CEO’s announcements were “positive moves.”

The first shareholder payment will be made in 2012 for the current fiscal year, conditional on a dividend cover of five times, EasyJet said in a statement.

Ryanair paid a one-time dividend of 500 million euros last month, its first such award, after CEO Michael O’Leary opted to limit fleet growth, citing a maturing discount-travel market. It’s also looking at routes to all European airports, other than London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

While EasyJet’s business plan is “sound,” the strategy review showed it could capture a bigger share of European short- haul travel and lure more corporate flyers, McCall said.

To target that market EasyJet will introduce flexible fares allowing customers to change flights until two hours before departure. Passengers will be able to make unlimited changes one week before and up to three weeks after the booked date, and the fare will include speedy boarding and one checked luggage item.

Fleet Plan

“We want to target more business customers,” McCall said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s Countdown with Maryam Nemazee. “It will be an investment, but one that will return itself quite comfortably.”

EasyJet will add 24 aircraft by September 2013, giving it a 220-strong fleet, equal to a 7 percent capacity increase. Growth will thereafter be in the region of 4 and 8 percent a year, the CEO said. Seating rose by an average 15 percent in 2005-2008.

“This looks like a sensible strategic plan,” said Wyn Ellis, an analyst at Numis Securities in London with a “hold” rating on EasyJet stock.

Stelios, who prefers to be known by his first name, said McCall should “carefully assess the financial viability” of any expansion, while also aspiring to a dividend payout ratio of 50 percent “over time.”

Brand Agreement

McCall has also sought to ease tensions with EasyJet’s founder and top investor by resolving a brand-licensing dispute.

The Oct. 11 deal allows the carrier to use the “Easy” identity to boost revenue through marketing deals with other companies for up to 50 years, in exchange for paying its founder a royalty of 0.25 percent of revenue, fixed at 3.9 million pounds and 4.95 million pounds in the first and second years.

“People had assumed that the brand-licensing deal marked the end of public debate about strategy with the largest shareholder, but this that may not now be the case,” said Douglas McNeill, an analyst at Charles Stanley Securities in London with a “sell” recommendation on the stock.

McCall has also faced crew shortages that caused delays across over the busy summer months. The CEO said today that revised assumptions for staff numbers, flexible rosters and improved management and communications should address the issue.

Analysts had anticipated full-year earnings of 114 million pounds. Net income was equal to 28 pence a share, up from 71.2 million pounds, or 16.6 pence, a year earlier, while sales rose 11 percent to 2.97 billion pounds.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Knife found on Delta flight to Japan

Japanese police say they are investigating a Delta Air Lines flight from South Korea to Japan following the discovery of a small knife under passenger seats.

A police official at Japan's Narita airport said Tuesday a flight from the Atlanta-based airline with 86 passengers and eight crew members arrived at Narita from Pusan, South Korea.

Following the arrival, cleaners found a folding knife with a blade about 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long.

The police official declined to be named as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

A Delta spokeswoman in Tokyo could not be reached for comment.

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Volcanic ash spewing from Indonesia's Mount Merapi has forced some airlines to cancel flights out of Jakarta's international airport, airport officials said Wednesday.

Cathay Pacific Airways and Qantas Airways had canceled flights at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, airport spokesman Andang Santoso said. Singapore Airlines said it was continuing to fly.

Large clouds of gas and dust from Merapi's recent eruptions also have forced some flight cancellations into and out of the Yogyakarta airport.

Travelers were asked to check with their airlines for schedule changes.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama shortened his visit to the Indonesian capital because of concerns that volcanic ash could ground Air Force One in Jakarta, according to administration officials.

Recent eruptions of Merapi, which started on October 26, have killed at least 156 people, officials at Sardjito hospital have said. The eruptions also have displaced an estimated 200,000 people.

The 3,000-meter (9,800-foot) Merapi, in Central Java, is famously unpredictable. About 1,300 people died when Merapi erupted in 1930.

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U.S. Flight Cancelations Soar as Delays Fall

New rules that prohibit airlines from keeping passengers on the tarmac for more than three hours has cut long delays, but also boosted flight cancellations in the U.S., according to a U.S. Transportation Department report released Tuesday.

U.S. flight cancellations jumped about 50% in September from the same month last year, with about 0.9% of domestic flights canceled compared to 0.6% a year earlier, according to the report, which reviews data from 18 of the largest carriers. But the September cancellation rate was actually down slightly from the previous month.

Meanwhile, only four tarmac delays lasted longer than three hours in September, down from six a year ago, the Transportation Department says. And no wonder: Airlines face fines of thousands of dollars per passenger after the prohibition on keeping passengers cooped up during lengthy delays took effect in April.

Carriers also improved their on-time arrivals and baggage handling from a year earlier. About 85% of domestic flights arrived on time in September, up from 82% a year earlier, while carriers mishandled 2.89 bags per 1,000 passengers, an improvement from 3.06 bags per 1,000 passengers a year earlier, according to the report.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Boards flight as old white man, comes out as a young Chinese!

Toronto, Nov 6 (IANS) In a story that reads like a spy thriller, a young Chinese fooled customs and security at Hong Kong airport last week to board an Air Canada flight faking as an elderly white man and land in Vancouver to seek asylum.

But his mask was blown off halfway through the journey when he went into a toilet as an elderly, wrinkled man and came out as a young Asian man Oct 29. He was taken into custody on landing in Vancouver and is now under custody even as he has filed for refugee status in Canada.

Reports say the man managed to hoodwink airport security and immigration authorities in Hong Kong by wearing a prosthetic mask to make him look like a 55-year-old US citizen, who actually acted as his accomplice.

The older American passed on a boarding pass to the young masked man after he had cleared the initial security check-up. Clearing the final gate security check was no difficult as the masked man had the boarding pass from his accomplice white man. For his ID, he used an Air Canada Aeroplan card which doesn't need photo or date of birth.

According to a report in the Globe and Mail, the man's disguise consisted of a silicone mask that covered his head, neck and part of his chest. He topped it off with a brown cardigan and apple cap and a pair of spectacles.

Before he was exposed, the flight crew was also baffled that this elderly white man had rather young hands.

'The passenger in question was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young looking hands,'' the paper quoted the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) as saying in its secret memo on the case.

But after his mid-air bathroom change-over when he came out as a young Asian, the Air Canada crew staff quickly alerted Canadian security agencies at Vancouver airport who took him in custody when he landed there.

The man admitted that he disguised as an elderly white man and mimicked his slow movement to fool multi-layered security in Hong Kong.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the investigation is 'ongoing and the facts are not established.'

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Qantas jumbo makes emergency landing in Singapore

SINGAPORE – Qantas grounded all six of its Airbus A380 superjumbos after one of them blew out an engine Thursday, shooting flames and debris that forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Singapore with 459 people aboard.

The carrier said the double-decker Airbus A380 plane landed safely with no injuries.
It was most serious midair incident involving the A380, the world's largest jetliner, since it debuted in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines flying it to Sydney — the same route that Qantas flight QF34 was flying when it was stricken Thursday.

Qantas said there had been no explosion, but witnesses aboard the plane and on the ground reported blasts.
After the plane touched down in Singapore, the engine closest to the fuselage on the left wing had visible burn marks and was missing a section of plate that would have been painted with the red kangaroo logo of the airline. The upper part of the left wing also appeared damaged.

One passenger, Rosemary Hegardy, 60, of Sydney, told The Associated Press that she heard two bangs and saw yellow flames from her window.

"There was flames — yellow flames came out, and debris came off. ... You could see black things shooting through the smoke, like bits of debris," she said.

In another seat, Tyler Wooster watched as part of the skin of the wing peeled off, exposing foam and broken wires.

"My whole body just went to jelly and I didn't know what was going to happen as we were going down, if we were going to be OK," Wooster told Australia's Nine Network news.

Hegardy said the pilot informed passengers of the engine trouble and that the plane would have to dump fuel before it could land.

Witnesses on the western Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore, reported hearing a large blast and seeing debris — including panels painted white and red — falling onto houses and a nearby shopping mall.
The airline had no immediate comment on whether the engine trouble was related to eruptions of Indonesia's Mount Merapi over the past 10 days. Given the timing of the malfunction, 15 minutes after takeoff from Singapore at 9:56 a.m. and before the flight had time to approach the mountain, there appeared to be no connection.

The plane landed after one hour and 50 minutes.

The flight is a regular service that flies between Sydney, Singapore and London. Qantas' A380s can carry up to 525 people, but flight QF34 was carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, all of whom were evacuated by a step ladder in an operation that lasted two hours.

Qantas spokeswoman Emma Kearns in Sydney said there were no reports of injuries or an explosion on board. The airline described the problem as an "engine issue" without elaborating.

"We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told a news conference in Sydney.

Aviation expert Tom Ballantyne told The Associated Press that it was Thursday's troubles were "certainly the most serious incident that the A380 has experienced since it entered operations."

He said while the engine shutdown couldn't have caused a crash. The planes are designed to fly on just two engines, and the pilots are trained to handle engine failures, he said.

He also pointed out that the problem appeared to be with the engine, made by Rolls-Royce.

"It's not like the aircraft is going to drop out of the sky," Ballantyne, Sydney-based chief correspondent at Orient Aviation Magazine, said by telephone from Brunei.

Still, the incident is likely to raise safety questions about one of the most modern aircraft, which has suffered a series of minor incidents.

In September 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 turned around in midflight and returned to Paris after one of its four engines failed. On March 31, a Qantas A380 with 244 people on board burst two tires on landing in Sydney after a flight from Singapore.

The other issues with the A380s have all been relatively minor, such as electrical problems, Ballantyne said.
Ballantyne said airlines love the A380.

"They describe it as a passenger magnet. Passengers actually ask to fly on it," he said.

Qantas' safety record is enviable among major airlines, with no fatal crashes since it introduced jet-powered planes in the late 1950s.

But a run of scares have happened in recent years across a range of plane types. The most serious — when a faulty oxygen tank caused an explosion that blew a 5-foot hole in the fuselage of a Boeing 747-400 over the Philippines — prompted aviation officials to order Qantas to upgrade maintenance procedures.

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