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India-UK sign landmark pact to open skies

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 12: India and the UK have signed a landmark air services agreement that would enable airlines of both the countries to launch a major expansion of passenger services and open up new routes.

Direct scheduled services between India and the UK are set to triple this year, making travel easier and cheaper, and boosting tourism and business links between the two countries. Next year could see a further doubling in passenger services. Cargo services are unlimited.

The agreement was signed during a successful recent visit of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to New Delhi. UK Minister for Trade and Industry Alan Johnson and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel signed the agreement. Commenting on the agreement, Tony Blair said, "The UK-India Air Services Treaty will underpin the connectivity which business needs between market."

The new agreement replaces one dating from 1951 when aviation was in its infancy. As well as formalising the new traffic rights, the new Treaty inter alia provides guarantees on fair competition, introduces strict new provisions on safety and security, and removes unnecessary restrictions on pricing and a range of other operational matters. The new agreement will benefit airlines from both countries, as well as passengers, businesses, and ultimately regional and national economies.

Panel to study DGCA restructuring

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: The Indian Government has appointed a committee on the restructuring of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). "It is a highly technical and complex issue. We need to keep the best international practices in mind," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said, adding the issue would be decided in a few months.

On Friday only, the Civil Aviation Ministry has invited suggestions and comments from airlines, non-scheduled operators, training establishments, employees, professional associations and concerned public regarding the role of functioning and organizational structure of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The Committee has been formed under the Chairmanship of M.K. Kaw, former Secretary Civil Aviation, to review the role, functions and organizational structure of the DGCA. The terms of reference of the Committee are to examine and review different aspects of the functioning of DGCA and make appropriate recommendations.

The Committee shall be looking into functions of DGCA as envisaged by ICAO; regulations authorizing DGCA to carry out its functions; comparison of regulations with international requirements; and organization of DGCA, its manpower and training requirements. It would also look into procedures adopted by DGCA for licensing of airlines; licensing of personnel i.e., pilots, flight engineers, navigators, engineers and flight dispatchers; examination system; and clearance of international scheduled and non-scheduled flights.

The Committee would also look into administrative and financial autonomy of DGCA for discharge of its functions; conduct audits as per ICAO Protocol in preparation for ICAO Audit; and to advise whether there is a need for converting DGCA into an independent statutory authority or corporation.

The Ministry has asked for the public comments on its website latest by September 14. Recognized bodies relevant and concerned with civil aviation can also meet the Committee members for presenting their views, the agenda of presentation and discussion in which case, will be limited to the terms and reference of the Committee. Request for meetings with the Committee can be e-mailed to it from the Ministry's website.

Air Deccan appoints Brady as new COO

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: Air Deccan has appointed Warwick Brady as its Chief Operating Officer who spent the past three years with Ryanair, one of the most successful low cost carriers based in Europe. Brady was deputy director for operations of Ryanair with overall responsibility of Stansted airport. He started his professional carrier with Britannia Airways as a pilot.

''Air Deccan has an exciting growth plan ahead, continuing to deliver rapid growth and further building upon its strong position in the rapidly expanding Indian low cost airline market,'' he said in a statement. ''I look forward to leading the Air Deccan team to deliver an efficient low cost operation which will continue to provide low fares coupled with excellent service.'' Brady is married with two children aged three and six who have moved with him to India.

4,000th Airbus aircraft delivered to Lufthansa

NEW DELHI: Airbus has reached a significant milestone when the 4,000th aircraft to come off the production line was delivered to its customers Lufthansa. The Frankfurt-based airline took delivery of the twin-aisle A330-300 at a special ceremony in Toulouse, France.

Commenting on this achievement, Gustav Humbert, Chief Executive Officer, stressed the significance of this historical day for Airbus. He said: "This is a clear reflection of the company's success with customers and operators and with the travelling public." Since its creation, Airbus has brought to the market a series of 13 different models covering all market segments from the smallest 107-seat A318 up to the large 555-seat A380 double-decker.

Mr Humbert continued: "With our most modern production line, we reached half the market share over the past few years. I wish to thank all our customers for their confidence in our products. Our ambition for the future is to continue to develop, produce and deliver products that will respond to - and even anticipate - customers' needs. We want to ensure that they get the best in terms of quality and services."

Since its creation, Airbus has received orders for 5,570 aircraft including 544 A330s from 243 operators and 210 customers. This shows a healthy backlog of 1,570 aircraft. Lufthansa was one of the very early Airbus operators when it took delivery of its first A300 aircraft in 1976, the first wide body twin engine aircraft to be produced by any aircraftmaker. Lufthansa has been a loyal Airbus customer since the early days.

The airline was launch customer for the A310 back in 1978. Lufthansa was also one of the driving forces behind the launch of the A330/A340 programme back in 1987, and contributed significantly to the development of the A320. It became launch customer for the A321 in 1989, and is now, with more than 80 aircraft in service, one of the largest operators of the A320 family. Lufthansa was also a launch customer for the A380 of which it has ordered 15.

Anantha appointed HAL spokesman

BANGALORE, Aug 13: Anantha Krishnan, defence and aviation journalist, has been appointed as the Chief of Media Communications at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore. He will also be the spokesperson for the Company.

Prior to his appointment, Anantha Krishnan, a product of Osmania University, worked as a journalist with The Times of India, Bangalore and Deccan Chronical, Hyderabad.


Deccan offers 'Freedom at Midnight'; Delhi, Mumbai becomes Spicer

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 13: Despite the fact that oil prices crossing $ 66 a barrel, air ticket prices have been falling continuously in the country. More and more people are taking to travel thanks to this trend. To coincide with the Independence Day, Air Deccan has announced 500 tickets daily for a week priced at Rs 500. SpiceJet has announced amazing low fares ranging from Rs 599 to Rs 1,599 between Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Air Deccan, India's first low cost revolutionary airline, has announced a unique concept of "Freedom at Midnight" for booking tickets during the Independence week. To mark the occasion, Air Deccan has announced release of 500 tickets everyday priced at Rs 500 plus Rs 221 as taxes between 11 pm and midnight from August 15 to August 21 on all Airbus sectors. These fares will be applicable only for travel on the following day, says John Kuruvilla, Chief Revenue Officer, Air Deccan.

The airline presently has a 'Happy Hours' scheme running, where tickets are available between 9 pm and 11 pm at discounted fares termed as "Simplismile" fares for travel only on the next day. The 'Simplismile' fares are valid on a few select sectors which change everyday depending on availability of seats. This scheme is for Airbus routes only.

Since its inception in August 2003, Air Deccan has carried over 1.4 million passengers, covering 35 airports, have close to 120 flights a day, with a fleet size of five Airbus A 320's (180 seater) and 12 ATR 42's (48 seater).

The airline has ordered 62 brand new aircraft (32 Airbus A 320's and 30 ATR- 72- 500's) to be delivered over the next five years, which will take up its flights close to 600 per day by the end of five years. Air Deccan is a subsidiary of Deccan Aviation, India's Largest Charter Company in the private sector.

Beginning August 17, low-fare carrier SpiceJet is launching late night flights on Delhi-Ahmedabad- Mumbai route with very low fares. While the Delhi-Mumbai fare would be Rs 1,599, the fare between Delhi and Ahmedabad would be Rs 999 and that between Ahmedabad and Mumbai Rs 599, the airline said in a release.

The flights would initially operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays on Delhi-Ahmedabad-Mumbai route and on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays on Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Delhi route, according to a spokesman of the airline. From September 2, these flights would operate six days a week, barring Tuesdays for Delhi-Ahmedabad-Mumbai route and Wednesdays for Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Delhi route.

Malaysia Airlines ties up with ESPN

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 13: In the age of competitiveness, Malaysia Airlines is strengthening its brand in key Asia markets and expanding its visibility in more than 11 countries, including India, by tying up with a top sports broadcaster, ESPN Star Sports. The other countries include India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Malaysia.

Though this sponsorship pact MAS would reach 190 million households. It is also an extension of the airline's involvement in community development programmes through sports not only in Malaysia but also in countries that it operates into. The agreement will give the national carrier increased visibility during the 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 seasons of the popular English Premier League (EPL).

This integrated campaign that includes on-air and online entitlements around all 'live' matches and repeats on ESPN STAR Sports. It will also include other must-see football properties -- the FA Cup, FA Community Shield and all Senior and Under-21 England Team home matches. One of the ESPN STAR Sports popular magazine programmes dedicated to the EPL called the Malaysia Airlines Football Extra will be aired on Sunday mornings, featuring highlights from the previous day's EPL action as well as phone-ins and email reactions from Asian supporters.

Dato' Dr. Munir Abdul Majid, Chairman Malaysia Airlines said, "This move signals our inaugural involvement with Asia's most watched TV sport through ESPN STAR Sports. We are able to deliver the Malaysia Airlines brand experience in fresh and exciting ways through Asia's most favourite sport."

"Reaching out to 190 million households through ESPN STAR Sports, it is in true Malaysia Airlines spirit that we bring the 'best of the world' to the 'rest of the world'. With this association we bring not one, but 20 world- class football clubs in action in 760 matches over two sizzling seasons right up till 2007."

Apart from on-air 'football fever', the Malaysia Airlines EPL Campaign, themed 'Taking You There', has been launched to bring the English Premier League and football closer to society.

ESPN STAR Sports' coverage of the EPL has scored its own goals by becoming Asia's most watched sports programming, with viewers being served more football than in England itself. As with the last season, football fans will be able to look forward to ten matches each competition week, most of them live.

The rest will be on a quick turnaround and will be accompanied by a line-up of programming which covers predictions, highlights, news and information as well as pre and post-game analysis. Fans can expect up to 380 matches this season, complemented by programmes that will engage and involve viewer participation. During the 2004/05 seasons, at least 80 per cent of cable viewers in Asia tuned in each week to experience the drama and excitement of the League with another 60 per cent more enjoying the action out of home.

Passengers relieved as BA staff suspend strike

LONDON, Aug 13: Staff at British Airways on Friday began to return to work after an unofficial strike that left thousands of passengers stranded for hours at Heathrow and other airports in the world including in India.

BA had to cancel all in and outbound flights to Heathrow airport including those operating from New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai following an "unofficial" strike by some 1,000 ground staff in sympathy with 600 workers sacked by BA's in-flight meals supplier Gate Gourmet. Some of the staff, who include baggage handlers, started returning to work at Heathrow on Friday night.

Talks are due at conciliation service 'Acas,' but passengers are still waiting to hear when flights will resume. Acas said talks were to start "shortly" between union bosses and the catering firm Gate Gourmet. BA had to cancel all flights in and out of Heathrow airport last night after talks broke down with the wild cat strike.

BA usually runs about 550 flights a day from Heathrow in the busy holiday season. About 70,000 passengers are thought to have been caught up in the chaos on Friday, both at Heathrow and airports around the world. Talks on Thursday aimed at reinstating 600 sacked staff from Gate Gourmet, which supplies BA's in-flight meals, had collapsed.

In a statement, Acas said the parties involved had "agreed to open discussions, without prejudice via the use of Acas, in order to resolve the major difficulties they face." Flights by Qantas, Sri Lankan, Finnair, GB and British Mediterranean Airways, also serviced by BA ground staff, have also been affected by the strike.

All 309 survive Toronto jetliner crash

TORONTO, Aug 3: A jetliner carrying 309 people skidded off a runway while landing in a thunderstorm Tuesday, sliding into a ravine and breaking into pieces, but remarkably everyone aboard survived by jumping to safety in the moments before the plane burst into flames.

As many as 43 people suffered minor injuries in the 4:03 p.m. crash landing of Air France Flight 358 from Paris - the first time an Airbus A340 had crashed in its 13 years of commercial service. The plane, carrying 297 passengers and 12 crew, overran the runway by 200 yards at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, said Steve Shaw, a vice president of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority.

"The plane touched ground and we felt it was going off road and hitting a ravine and that's when we thought that was really the end of it," said Olivier Dubois, a passenger who was sitting in the rear of the aircraft. "It was really, really scary. Everyone was panicking." The aircraft skidded down a slope into a wooded area next to one of Canada's busiest highways, and some survivors said that passengers scrambled up to the road to catch rides with passing cars.

While Shaw said there were 43 injured passengers, Air France said in a statement that 22 passengers were treated for minor injuries. Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht said the A340 has never crashed before in its 13 years of commercial service.

Chris Yates, an aviation specialist with Jane's Transport magazine, said the A340 is a very popular "workhorse" among carriers serving Asian and trans-Atlantic routes, with a very good safety record. Although it was too early to draw any conclusions about the accident, Yates said, "we're probably talking about a weather-related issue here."

Environment Canada had issued a severe weather alert earlier in the day, saying its radar showed a rapidly developing thunderstorm with winds up to about 60 mph. Shaw said the airport had been under a "red alert" since noon, which indicates the potential for lightning, but does not prevent planes from landing or taking off.

Although modern airliners are safer than ever, Yates said, extreme conditions can still be dangerous, especially during takeoff and landing. "A thunderstorm can happen anywhere - it comes down to the judgment of the air traffic controller and the skill of the pilot to determine whether it's appropriate to land or to divert elsewhere," Yates said.

Tuesday's airplane crash in Toronto came exactly 20 years after an American disaster that focused renewed attention to wind shear, a natural phenomenon that can make airplanes drop out of the sky. While the cause of the Toronto crash has not yet been determined, the fact that it happened during a thunderstorm raises the possibility of wind shear.

The 1985 airline crash at Dallas-Forth Worth airport, which killed more than 137 people, made dealing with wind shear "a national imperative" for the U.S. federal government, said Larry Cornman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Since then, he said Tuesday, systems to detect wind shear have been installed at almost all major airports in the United States. Cornman said the Canadian government investigated installing such systems during the 1990s, but added he did not know how many have been installed.

Wind shear is a sudden change in wind speed or direction. The most dangerous kind, called a microburst, is caused by air descending from a thunderstorm. The last major jet crash in North America was on Nov. 12, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 lost part of its tail and plummeted into a New York City neighborhood, killing 265 people. Safety investigators concluded that the crash was caused by the pilot moving the rudder too aggressively.

The A340 is part of the A330/A340 family of six related aircraft, all sharing the same frame, manufactured by Airbus. The craft owned and flown by Air France is the A340-300.

Azerbaijan linked to New Delhi

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 26: The latest entrant to the Indian skies is Azerbaijan Airlines when it launched twice weekly flights from New Delhi to Baku. With this the airline unleashed a fare war to Europe with London ticket priced at Rs 19,500. A few days earlier, Qatar Airways had announced similar package to London.

Azerbaijan Airlines' Country Manager, Mr Khanlar Karimov, said the airline would add two more flights from winter schedule though it has permission to operate seven flights a week to India. From September, the airline would also launch schedule cargo service to New Delhi with IL 76 aircraft. He said the airline was negotiating with domestic airlines, including Jet, Kingfisher, Indian Airlines and Spice, to provide countrywide connectivity.

Besides good connections to London, Mr Karimov said the airline also has convenient to Moscow and Istanbul. These connections from Baku are within two hours, a much better proposition than some other airlines are offering. The flights from Delhi are on Boeing B-757 offering 22 business class seats and 158 economy seats. From winter schedule, it would offer onward connections to Paris, Ankara, Tel Aviv, Tbilsi and Kiev. "We also plan to connect Baku to Mumbai and Amritsar," he added.

Mr Karimov informed that the flight from Delhi to Baku takes only four and half-hours with onward flight to London takes five and half hours. Azerbaijan also has special agreement with Air France to fly its passengers from Paris to rest of the European destinations. Similarly, it has code share agreement with Austrian Airlines. He informed that the airline would soon connect Baku to Frankfurt. "We also have plans to fly to destinations in the US and Canada."

Azerbaijan Airline has a fleet of 30 passenger planes comprising of Boeing B757s, Airbus A319s and A320s besides IL76 for cargo operations. It fleet includes three B727, four B757, one Airbus A 320, six Tupolov 154 and five Tupolov 134. For its cargo operations, the airline has eight IL 76, four Antonov 32 and two Antonov 12 aircraft. On its passenger aircraft, the airline has a capacity to carry 13 tonne of cargo from New Delhi on each flight.

Baku the capital city of Azerbaijan Republic is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. It is famous for its cultural and educational centers, beautiful tourist places and above all for its petroleum and chemical industries.

Welcoming the direct flights between two countries, the Azerbaijan Ambassador, Dr Tamerlan Karayev, spoke about good opportunity to improve relations between our two countries. He said the direct flights would help in improving trade and economic ties between India and Azerbaijan.

Dr Karayev said "lots of Indians are already based in Azerbaijan and are associated with the various trade and development works of Republic of Azerbaijan. This direct flight service will definitely boost the socio-economic tie-ups between the two counties," said the Ambassador.

Prior to start of this Schedule Passenger Flight Service, Azerbaijan Airlines had been operating non-schedule flights to India.

Revealing the airline's USP (unique selling point), Mr Karimov said "for us every passenger is a VIP - be it Business class or Economy class. We pay special attention to our passengers. We make sure they are comfortable during the flight. On the flight we offer not only continental but also Indian food that two of various kinds to take care of the Indian palate."

He said the airline takes special care of transit passengers for hassle free movement. Hindi as well as Punjabi speaking attendants have been deputed by the airline at Baku airport to look after the transit passengers.

Along with this schedule flight operation, Azerbaijan Airlines also plans to commence from September schedule cargo freighter service to New Delhi with IL 76 aircraft. With this service, Azerbaijan Airlines will project Baku as a cargo hub for Europe and India bound cargo. At present there is around 16 tons of cargo space available per week ex-Delhi on the network of Azerbaijan Airlines.

Along with Baku, Azerbaijan Airlines will also book cargo for London, Paris, Moscow, Tbilisi, Kiev, Tel-Aviv and Ankara from India. Using its extensive network from Baku, Azerbaijan Airlines will cover all these destinations with a minimal transit time, added Mr Karimov.

Nigel joins Kingfisher

NEW DELHI, July 25: To strengthen the Executive Management, Kingfisher Airlines has appointed Mr Nigel Harwood as Chief Operating Officer with effect from August 1, 2005. Mr Harwood will be based in Mumbai, where he will be responsible for all Ground, Technical and Flight Operations on the Kingfisher route network.

"The addition of Nigel Harwood to our team underscores our commitment to achieve leadership in the Indian Market," said Dr Vijaya Mallya, Chairman and Managing Director of Kingfisher Airlines. "Nigel is a great acquisition and complements our first class team."

Prior to joining KFA, Nigel Harwood, 40, served in several senior positions with Rolls Royce, living in Asia and the Middle East. He gained significant experience working in conjunction with several of the world's major airlines and start up operators in Oman, Taiwan and Vietnam.

As Head of Rolls Royce, Toulouse, Nigel's role covered a broad range of responsibilities including Manpower planning, marketing, scheduling, operations control and financial management. As an engineer, Nigel has extensive aircraft and engine knowledge, first hand experience of start up operations with the A320 and the IAE V2500 Engine and has worked alongside Indian Airlines in the 1990's, having lived in Delhi for three years. Most recently, Mr Harwood was Head of Sales for India & Asia with Airbus, concluding several high profile deals.

Setting aside media speculation in recent weeks, Kingfisher Airlines also announced that Mr Alex Wilcox would continue as President and a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Kingfisher Airlines Limited. However, Mr. Wilcox will be based in the USA due to family considerations but spend considerable time in India with Kingfisher Airlines. He will also be primarily responsible for Kingfisher's International Operations planning in preparation for deliveries of new Airbus A-330, A-380 and A-350 Aircraft.


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