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India, UK to enhance flights

NEW DELHI, July 22: Recognising the need for further expanding and strengthening bilateral ties and keeping in view the traffic potential and passenger demand for more international air services, the Indian and the British Governments have agreed in principle to enhance the number of flights and increase the frequencies, between the two countries. This was agreed to during the talks held between the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel and his British counterpart Mr. Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Transport, at London, yesterday.

During the meeting it was also agreed that the bilateral talks between the two countries would be expedited and be held either in August or latest by the first week of September 2004. Earlier the talks were scheduled to be held in March 2004 but had got indefinitely postponed due the announcement of elections in India.

The meeting which lasted for about 45 minutes was also attended by the British Aviation Minister Mr. Tony McNutty, the Indian Secretary for Civil Aviation Mr Ajay Prasad and the High Commissioner of India in UK, Mr S.S Paul. Mr Patel has termed the talks successful and progressive and has added that that it was a move in the positive direction.

At present, British Airways is operating 19 flights to India weekly, while Air India operates 12 flights to UK in a week. The India-UK sector is one of the most important markets for both the countries and there is ample scope for introducing more flights. The Ministerial level dialogue will now soon be followed by official level bilateral discussions to workout and finalise the details.

Minister lauds Pawan Hans role

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, June 29: The Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel, has appreciated Pawan Hans for making all out efforts for providing connectivity to vital installations and remote inaccessible areas of the country under hostile conditions. The new Minister said this while visiting the Pawan Hans premises. The Pawan Hans CMD, Mr Nagar V Sridhar, gave a presentation on the operations and activities of the public sector company.

The Minister took keen interest in understanding the role being played by Pawan Hans. Mr Praful Patel mentioned that the direction set by Pawan Hans was right and wished the company to fly even highter. Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL) is one of India's leading helicopter company and is known for its reliable helicopter operations. The company was incorporated in 1985 with the objective of providing helicopter services to the petroleum sector, linking inaccessible areas of the country and operating charters for promotion of tourism.

IndianOil rules the skies too

By Deepak Arora

IndianOil Aviation Service is not only the largest aviation fuel marketer in the country but also the most preferred supplier of jet fuel for customers in India and abroad. With over 94 Aviation Fuel Stations spread across the Indian sub continent, IndianOil Aviation Service serves over 71 international airlines besides the domestic airlines in India.
IndianOil continued to rule the skies in aviation fuel supply business with a market share of 67 per cent.

From Thiruvananthapuram in the South to Leh in the North and from Porbandar in the West to Ziro in the East, IndianOil Aviation Service covers India like no one else. In fact, every 1.6 minutes IndianOil Aviation Service somewhere in the country is refueling an aircraft.

Dr. N G Kannan, Director (Marketing), IndianOil says, " The IndianOil Aviation Service is an operational service that just never sleeps. Refueling continue round the clock despite bandhs, strikes and natural calamities. Our Aviation Service stations are not only windows to IndianOil but also the crucial supply link that the aviation sector can simply take for granted".

Presently, Dr Kannan said IndianOil Aviation Service has over 68 per cent of the aviation fuel market in the country. It also caters to over 90 per cent demand of the Indian Defence services, besides the sensitive requirements of VVIP flights at all the airports and at remote heli-pads/ heli-bases across the Indian subcontinent.

IndianOil Aviation Service not only maintains world-class standards in operations and safety but also conforms to the stringent global quality requirements of Aviation Fuel storage and handling. It uses the latest technology and equipment to offer high quality service to all its customers. In India, IndianOil was the first in the oil industry to receive the ISO-9002 certification for its Aviation Service.

Presently, IndianOil has earned this accreditation for thirteen major aviation fuel stations including all international airports. Eleven of the fourteen quality control laboratories have also earned this accreditation.
IndianOil is also the first in India to have adopted a Quality Control Index System based on a quality audit. Fourteen DGCA approved IndianOil laboratories spread across the country carry out full specification tests for Aviation Fuels.

IndianOil's policy of equal opportunity is well displayed by the gender equality at the work place. At Juhu airport, Mumbai, its Aviation Fuel facility catering for supplies to aircraft operating on high sea operation of oil exploration, is entirely serviced by women officers, said Dr Kannan.

Annually, IndianOil organizes an International Aviation conference at select cities. Over 100 delegates from over 35 countries representing leading international and all domestic airlines, allied industries, statutory aviation authorities and government agencies including representatives from the Indian Defence Services regularly attend the two-day conference. This prestigious conference has been organized annually by IndianOil for the last 12 years and delves on the significant changes in the aviation sector worldwide, as well as track the growth trends in the Indian aviation industry.

In the past, the conference has deliberated on issues like air safety, conservation of air fuels, upgradation of fuel quality, aviation fuel specifications, airport infrastructure, futuristic engine design, air navigation systems and Aviation infrastructure. The observers from the aviation industry tracking the latest developments and happenings in the sector keenly watch the presentations at the conference. The International Aviation Conferences have been held in the past at Kathmandu, Bangalore, Khajuraho, Goa, Agra and Jaipur. During 2003, Kochi hosted this prestigious conference.

IndianOil had the privilege to be the chosen one to refuel the flights operated by the US Air Force, flying into and out of India during the visit of the then US President Bill Clinton. IndianOil Aviation Service ensured that US Pilots experienced in India the same standards of service that they expect in the USA.

IndianOil Aviation Service recently launched an interactive website www.ioclebiz.com that helps customers to log on and do business from anywhere in the world. The website caters to a wide range of services and information like aviation fuel characteristics; latest quality/ safety measures; aviation fuel station network and location details; and placement of orders and availability of fuel and aviation lubricants at locations.

The site also provides a historical background of the development of aviation fuels, DGCA fuel specifications, test methods, QC and safety procedures. Users accessing the site can register providing the relevant information through pull down menus. Other than regular contracted customers, casual customer planning to operate flights can key in their requests and quotations.

AI, IA set to regain past glory under Praful

By Deepak Arora

Bringing back the past glory of Air India and Indian Airlines, modernization of airports and a comprehensive civil aviation policy are some of urgent tasks the new Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel, has set out for his innings at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan.

Though Mr Patel has been a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Civil Aviation for the past 14 years and has a fair idea of the problems and issues before the Ministry, he wants to hear all views before he announces major policy decisions.

Ruling out the privatization of Indian Airlines and Air India, the young and dynamic Minister said he would strengthen the two public sector airlines to help them regain past glory. "They are the pride of India and I am committed to ensuring that they regain the past glory."

Mr Patel said "selling everything is not the answer. I will provide full support to the state-owned airlines. For more than a decade, neither of the two carriers has been allowed to purchase new aircraft. The two flag carriers will be allowed to purchase new aircraft to augment the fleet which is necessary for the growth of an airline."

The Minister's words have come as music to the management, staff and supporters of the national flag carriers. It is a known fact that both Air India and Indian Airlines have all the qualities, skills, expertise, capabilities and necessary infrastructure to become the top-notch carriers of the world. What is required is to give the airlines necessary autonomy in management to take the flag carriers to newer heights. Mr Patel realizes this and, therefore, is keen to give them a fair chance.

It may be mentioned that fleet acquisition plans of Air India and Indian Airlines have been pending with the previous governments for the past several years. Though all the three Civil Aviation Ministers of the last NDA Government promised to take a "quick" decision on this issue, but they dithered over it.

Last November, Air India Board had given a nod to acquire 28 aircraft worth Rs 10,000 crore. The airline would acquire 10 long-range and 18 short-range aircraft. The long-range aircraft are Airbus 340 while the short-haul are Boeing 737-800.

The new planes will allow Air India to reach more destinations in Europe and the US, while touching more bases in India. Medium-capacity long-range planes can seat more than 250 people and would be used on the sectors in the US, Europe and the Far East. Small capacity, short-range planes can carry 160 and would fly to the Gulf and destinations in Southeast Asia.

In March 2002, Boeing lost Rs 10,000 crore deal of Indian Airlines to its European rival. Though the Board of state-run Indian Airlines' board chose to buy a mix of 43 Airbus A319s, A320s and A321 planes, the Government is yet to give its approval.

Although Air India and Indian Airlines have in the past few years increased capacity by leasing aircraft. However, the core fleet of any airline worldwide is its own aircraft. Only a small size is taken as lease to take care of market fluctuations and is, therefore, considered as a short-term solution. Lease can never replace aircraft purchase option.

The fleet constraints have hurt the market share of Air India and Indian Airlines over the years. On the other hand, private carriers, Jet Airways and Air Sahara, are expanding their fleet at regular intervals and have been making dent in the market. The private carriers are able to easily expand their fleet, as they have no governmental controls.

Besides strengthening the two flag carriers, Mr Patel assured of a healthy competition between the public and private sector airlines. On the issue of allowing private airlines, now operating to SAARC countries, to fly to other foreign destinations, he said, "the first preference would be give to Air India and Indian Airlines. If the public sector airlines are not able to meet the commitments then we can think about allowing private airlines to fly to those sectors."

Mr Patel assured that a comprehensive civil aviation policy would be announced in the next three months. "Each Minister of the NDA government had his own draft of the policy. Towards the fag end of its life, the Vajpayee government had set up Naresh Chandra Committee to give inputs for the aviation policy." Mr Patel said he would like to go through all these reports and get views from all before he finalises the new policy.

Mr Patel also assured of bringing efficiency, transparency and delivery to the Ministry. Keeping the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the Minister said "the process of restructuring of Mumbai and Delhi airports is on. But it should not be confused with privatization."

Need to make India as cargo hub

By Deepak Arora

The AAI Chairman, Mr K Ramalingam, is keen to promote cargo trade activities. In this direction, he plans to bring more automation, provide state-of-the-art facilities, expand and restructure present cargo services and set up new cargo terminals to bring India at par with international standards. Mr Ramalingam, who took over as Chairman on March 11 this year, said further automation would come in the form of Elevated Transfer Vehicles (ETVs) and other mechanical handling equipment and introduction of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and bar code systems.

The Chairman stated that cargo revenue is one of the major sources of non-traffic revenue for AAI and comprises 20 to 30 per cent of its total revenue. Cargo revenue has increased at an average of 18 per cent annually over the past 20 years (1982-83 to 2002-03). In the year 1997-98, there was 0.47-percentage growth in cargo traffic and 10.63 per cent growth in cargo revenue at the four international airports - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkatta. In the same financial year, the cargo export was 293146 million tonnes and import was 141176 million tones and the total cargo handling was 434322 million tones.

However, in 1998-99 there was negative growth of 4.14 per cent in cargo traffic that jumped to 12.88 per cent in 1999-2000. In the year 2000-01 there was a growth of 4.63 per cent. In the following year it declined to minus 0.68 per cent but there was a positive growth of 13.72 per cent in 2002-03. There was a big jump of 78.24 per cent in cargo revenue in 1998-99. But it continued to slide down in the next three financial years. However, the cargo revenue increased by 8.21 per cent in 2002-03.

In the year 2003-04, the expected cargo traffic would be 1044000 million tonnes that would results in growth of 6.7 per cent. The projected cargo traffic in 2008-09 would be 1444000 million tonnes at a growth rate of 6.7 per cent. Mr Ramalingam stated that there was a need to make India as a cargo hub. He said that at present both Delhi and Mumbai were annually handling 300,000 million tonnes of cargo each. In comparison, the bigger airports like Memphis and Hong Kong were handling 25 to 35 lakh million tonnes annually. "There is a need to for doing cargo trade promotion activity that will naturally bring a boom to this industry," he added.

The Chairman said the geographical location of India between East and West makes Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata as possible hubs. He said our cargo terminals have recorded negligible cases of theft and pilferage and the customer satisfaction idex has gone up from 61 per cent to 76 per cent. He informed that the Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata airports have received ISO 9000 certification.

Presently, he said AAI is providing cargo handling and processing facilities within the periphery of cargo terminals. AAI is considering providing other related services like transportation of cargo from cargo terminal to aircraft and vice versa and loading and unloading of cargo in the aircraft.

The Chairman said AAI is contemplating to set up a subsidiary company for ground handling services as planned by the government. It is also contemplating ramp-handling services for all cargo aircraft on the concept of a single agency. This has been done in other international airports of the world like Frankfurt, SATS at Singapore, HACTL at Hong Kong, and Dnata at Dubai.

On the future plans, Mr Ramalingam said an integrated cargo terminal is under process of construction along with creation of center of perishable cargo for processing of perishable cargo at Kolkata airport at a cost of Rs 49 crore. At Mumbai, he said relocation of FACT warehouse and establishment of courier terminal is under process. At Chennai, intergrated cargo terminal (Phase II) is at planning stage.

On the future plans at domestic airports, he said construction of air cargo complex at Amrtisar airport is nearing completion and Jammu is awaiting customs clearance. A joint venture with Bihar State Export Corporation Ltd has been formed for setting up a perishable cargo complex at Patna.

Mr Ramalingam said a cargo complex was set up at Coimbatore in 2001 by modifying the existing facilities. However, it has shown encouraging trends in volume of traffic and now the AAI plans to set a new integrated cargo terminal at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore. He said the Government has taken several steps to improve the security at the cargo terminals. Keeping in view the 9/11 incident, positioning of CISF at all the airports including perimeter security of cargo terminals is in progress.

In order to safeguard the airport, aircraft and passengers, 100 per cent X-ray cargo, courier and baggage is being implemented from January 1, 2004. For this purpose, AAI has procured adequate number of state-of-the-art colour X-ray machines to install these at the airports.As part of internal security of cargo terminals, Close circuit televisions (CCTVs), Palm readers, public announce systems as well as frisking of personnel's have been re-strengthened.

On the EDI, he said Electronic Data Interchange under the first phase between Customs and AAI to facilitate Import and Export transactions electronically has been established at the four metro airports.
Implementation of EDI under the second phase between AAI and other trade partners ie airlines, banks and agencies are in advance stage and is likely to be implemented shortly.

The system of Bar Code would be implemented in the third phase for automatic data capturing. Target date of implementation is August this year. The Bar Codes is part of the overall Integrated Cargo Management Systems (ICMS). Bar code system would help locate and retrieve information on moving cargo products at the click of a button.

In the past few years, he said the AAI has taken several steps to augment and improve cargo infrastructure. In October last year at Delhi airport, the space has been allotted to DHL and EICI to operate the dedicated Courier Terminal for its own use and for the common use of small operators. At Chennai airport, an integrated cargo terminal (Phase I) for processing of export cargo with a built up area of 10,000 sq mtrs has been established in September 2002.

Similarly, he said AAI has been operating parallel cargo terminal at Mumbai airport from November, 2002. In November 2001, a built up area of 14,000 sq mtrs has been added for storage and processing of import at Delhi airport cargo terminal. Mr Ramalingam said state of art center for perishable cargo centers have been established at Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai airports in 1998, 1999 and 2003 respectively.

Mr Ramalingam, who took over as the Chairman on March 11, is a Master degree holder in Electronic Engineering from IIT Chennai and MBA from AIMA, Delhi. He started his career with the Civil Aviation Department, Government of India, in June 1972. Later with the formation of National Airports Authority in June 1986, he was absorbed and posted as Deputy Director (Communications) at the Headquarters.

Since then, Mr Ramalingam has not looked back. His sincerity, intelligence and hard work have made him climb ladders of success at regular intervals. He has held various senior level positions including the Regional Director, Souther Region; Regional Executive Director, Northern Region and Regional Executive Director, North Eastern Region.

An acknowledged expert in the field of Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS), Mr Ramalingam is on the panel of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) of ICAO for preparation of standards and recommended practices. He is also a member of Project Management Council for implementation of Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) in India named Gagan as a joint venture project of ISRO and AAI.

Bangalore shows the way for greenfield airport

By Deepak Arora

In a historic step, the Government of India has signed a concession agreement with Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) for setting up the first-ever greenfield airport in the country. Greenfield airports have been conceptualized to bridge the huge resource gap and to increase the management and efficiency levels to world-class standards.

The airport would be constructed through private-public partnership, with the joint venture company comprising Karnataka State Investment and Industries Development Corporation (KSIDC) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) as well as a consortium of Siemens (Germany), Unique Zurich (Switzerland) and Larsen and Toubro (India). The new airport would come up at Devanahalli in Karnataka in three years time.

While KSIIDC and AAI would hold 26 per cent equity in the joint venture firm BIAL, the private consortium would hold the remaining 74 per cent. The total project cost of building the plush airport is estimated to be Rs 1,300 crore.

Civil Aviation Secretary Ajay Prasad, BIAL chief W Bischoff and Karnataka's additional chief secretary S Krishnakumar signed the concession agreement in New Delhi on July 5 in the presence of Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh and his Deputy Siddaramaiah.

The new Bangalore airport would be constructed on a build, own, operate and transfer basis. The old Bangalore airport, operated by the Indian Air Force and the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), would be closed down to civilian traffic after completion of the new airport, as per a recent decision of the Union Cabinet. The airport would accommodate a minimum of 20 aircraft of different types and have an ultimate capacity of catering to 40 million passengers, with the initial phase planned for a capacity of five million.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Praful Patel said that the Aviation sector should not be restricted only to flying planes but also to developing the infrastructure facilities including airports of world class standard. He said that the Bangalore International Airport would usher in a new era in the field of Civil Aviation.

Mr Patel said another greenfield airport would shortly come up at Hyderabad and give "tough competition" to the proposed airport at Devanahalli. "Such a competition will usher in a new era in airport development as also the civil aviation sector in the country."

The Minister lamented that in a country like India with more than a billion people, there were just 150 planes in all. In the US, he said, one can find so many planes at a small airport. Time has now come, he said, when the civil aviation sector should act as the catalyst for growth by increasing the number of aircrafts, the number of people who fly and developing infrastructure of international standards.

Observing that it was "not a happy sight" for foreign travellers to land at Indian airports, Mr Patel said the modernistion and restructuring of Delhi and Mumbai airports would be given the "highest priority" as also the development of infrastructure at other airports in the country.

He urged all States in the country to reduce sales tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF), which eats into the revenues of the airlines. "The high cost of ATF is largely due to the state sales tax. I urge all state governments to loosen a little bit on the sales tax in order to gain a high volume of air traffic and income. More revenue could be earned from areas like trade, commerce and tourism if the aviation sector flourished," he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh said with the signing of the agreement, over 10 years of efforts by the state government had fructified. "It marks a new development in India's infrastructure by combining private sector expertise and state capacity." The Karnataka government has provided Rs 350 crore soft loan to BIAL and would provide budgetary support of Rs 400 crore.

The concession agreement is a complex document, which has been finalised after numerous meetings between the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Law & Justice, Finance, Law, Government of Karnataka and the BIAL. The agreement provides for Rights and Obligations of Government of India (GOI) and BIAL. The agreement provides for Rights and Obligations of GOI and BIAL, Operation and Maintenance Standards including monitoring thereof Airport Charges, Provision of Reserved Activities like Customs, Immigration, Security, Liabilities and Indemnities and Resolution Mechanism for Disputes, if any.

The Central Government has agreed to grant concession to BIAL to design, develop, finance, construct, commission, maintain, operate and manage the airport. Karnataka is providing 4300 acres of land for this purpose.

The proposed airport at Bangalore will have a runway designed to accept Boeing - 747 type of aircraft, having a length of 4000m and PCN 80. The Apron will be adequate enough to accommodate a mix of minimum 20 aircraft. The terminal building with an air-conditioned built up area of 55850 sq meter shall provide all modern facilities. All the facilities have been so designed that the modular expansion shall be possible to meet the growing demand without compromising on the quality of service.

Meanwhile, following international trends, Air-India wants to be a part of the modernisation and privatisation of the Mumbai and Delhi airports. That is, it wants to own at least one terminal in each airport. "We want to own at least one terminal in the Mumbai and Delhi airports. We want do this by becoming a part of the modernisation project," according to Mr V Thulsidas, chairman and managing director, Air-India.

The move by the national carrier follows the government's decision to free Delhi and Mumbai airports -- the two largest airports in the country -- from the complete control of the Airports Authority of India and allow the private sector, public sector undertakings and domestic airlines to be part owners of the airports.

Under the present policy, private companies can hold 74 per cent equity in the two airports with a 49 per cent cap on foreign direct investment, while government-owned companies, including Air-India and Indian Airlines, can hold the remaining 26 per cent. Of the 25 per cent private Indian holding, Indian domestic carriers are allowed to hold up to 10 per cent equity.

Air-India wants to be a part of the government entities that will be selected to hold equity in the venture. It is also open to being part owners of the government holding in the venture. However, Air-India is yet to make a formal proposal. "We are evaluating the situation and will take a decision in consultation with the government," said Mr Thulsidas said.

Air India thinks owning a terminal in the two busiest airports in the country will help it manage its operations better. Besides, excess capacity in the terminals can be given out to other airlines to generate additional revenue.
The CMD said "this is the practice in most parts of the world. National carriers operate and own terminals in most of the airports. We also want to do it in India." Once the airline owns the terminal, it will be undertaking functions like ground-handling and other services in that terminal.

Coimbatore - fastest growing cargo airport in India

By Deepak Arora

Coimbatore is one of the fastest growing cargo airports in the country. Airports Authority of India (AAI) had set up here an interim air cargo complex in 2001 by converting an aircraft hanger. The results were very encouraging as the traffic grew by leaps and bounds. The AAI is now planning to set up a new integrated cargo complex with cargo apron at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore and extend the runway from 7500 to 9000 ft, according to Mr K Ramalingam, AAI Chairman.

Mr Ramalingam said that the cargo traffic at Coimbatore airport was 1,073 MT in 2002-03 which almost doubled to 2.013 MT in the year 2003-04. He said the commodities that are being exported out of Coimbatore are textile, readymade garments, engineering goods, jewellery and spares and the commodities that are being imported are gold bars, textile accessories, electronic components and baggage.

The Chairman said Indian Airlines and Jet Airways are operating carriers from Coimbatore. "All cargo moved by available Jet and Indian Airline flights through gateway airports and by bonded trucking via Kochi by Emirates and Kuwait Airways. Only Sharjah bound cargo is lifted directly."

For record, Indian Airlines has five domestic and three weekly flights to Sharjah, Jet has five domestic and Air Sahara has seven domestic and one weekly flight to Colombo. The passenger traffic that moved out of the airport in 2002-03 was 2.48 lakhs domestic and 10,000 international.

Mr Ramalingam informed that the airport has two parking bays for A320 type of aircraft and two for B737s. "The runway extension project is in the process of acquisition of land and only after the State Government hands over the land to AAI, civil work can be started," he said.

The Chairman said the AAI had already requested the State Government for acquisition of land to extend the runway. He said the extension of runway to 9,000 ft would allow the wide-bodied aircraft to operate that would result into increase in cargo.

He said the total area of the present cargo complex is 9,445 sq ft. In the export area the space available for examination is 70 sq metres and for storage it is 115 sq metres. In the import area the space available for examination is 100 sq metres and for storage is 190 sq metres. The space for strong room is 30 sq metres and the total covered area is 500 sq metres.

The available infrastructure includes vehicle parking area, off-loading area, examination area, bonded area, strong room and two-wheeler shed. The cargo handling services offered are export cargo admittance, processing, storage till upliftment, import cargo receiving, processing, delivery, providing of X-ray scanning, packing and repacking activity and valuable cargo handling.

Mr Ramalingam stated that APEDA has provided cold storage unit, which is under installation at Coimbatore airport. The AI has also procured and installed latest X-ray machines.

The AAI has been holding interaction sessions with airlines and cargo trade that include Freight Forwarders, IATA agents, Customs House agents and other users of the cargo terminal to improve cargo at the Coimbatore airport. Trade has been appreciative of the AAI efforts for establishing the cargo terminal here.

The Cargo Facilitation Committee (CAFAC) that associates all user agencies plans to hold meetings every month to sort out operational and local issues to boost the cargo movement in the region.

Singapore sets new non-stop flight distance record

By Sushma Arora

Singapore Airlines has flown into the commercial flight distance record books for the second time this year, with an A340-500 successfully inaugurating the carrier's latest non-stop round trip commercial air service between Singapore and New York (Newark). The A340-500 departed at 12.25 Singapore local time on June 28 and completed the 16,600 km /9,000 nm sector to New York in 18 hours 18 minutes.

The airline beat its own previous record distance for a non-stop round trip commercial service, when it introduced the A340-500 on the service between Singapore and Los Angeles on February 3, 2004. On that occasion, the A340-500 completed the 14,093 km / 7,609 nm sector to Los Angeles in 14 hours 42 minutes.

Singapore Airlines' fleet of five A340-500s is all configured with 64 enhanced Raffles Business Class and 117 Executive Economy Class seats. The cabins for both classes' feature special areas and amenities for passengers to stretch their legs, socialise and relax on ultra long haul services.

With four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines for the best economy on ultra long haul flights, the A340-500 enjoys unmatched operational flexibility on non-stop flights over remote areas - such as oceans, mountain ranges and Polar Regions.

"I am delighted to congratulate Singapore Airlines on successfully completing its latest A340-500 record breaking non stop flight between South East Asia and North America. Airbus is very proud to be sharing in Singapore Airlines' aim of making the world a smaller place," said Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Noel Forgeard.
The Airbus A330/A340 family is the market leader in its class, with almost 850 orders from 64 customers worldwide. It is the aircraft family that passengers prefer to travel on for long haul flights, consistently emerging top in independent passenger surveys.

Singapore Airlines placed its original A340-500 order for five firm and five option aircraft in 1999. The airline is also a launch customer for the A380 Double Decker with 10 firm orders and 15 options. Singapore Airlines will be the first airline to put the A380 into service in spring 2006.

Know before you go-tips for visitors to the USA

By Deepak Arora

Indians are becoming one of the largest travel groups in the world. Over Five million of us travel every year to foreign jaunts for sheer pleasure holidays, visiting relatives or business. Some of the favourite haunts for Indians are the US, the UK, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai.

Though the US is one of the popular visiting places, Indians also find it difficult in getting an entry especially after 9/11 terror acts. However, to mitigate any hardships for smooth entry, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has advised the foreign visitors to carrying proper documents and be aware of regulations concerning prohibited items.

Launching a travel awareness campaign to educate millions of visitors who travel to the US, the CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner said "the agency's goal is protecting the nation from terrorists while, at the same time, assisting and supporting the movement of vacationers and trade."

Commissioner Bonner said "the United States always has the welcome mat out to visitors. While CBP has stepped up security at the land, sea, and airports across our country, we are committed to treat the entry of every legitimate traveler as professionally and fast as possible. By knowing the regulations and what to expect, all international visitors can facilitate their entry and have a safe, secure, and enjoyable visit to the United States."

The tips suggest that when you are on your way to the United States you may be given a Customs and Border Protection declaration form. Fill it out entirely and sign the bottom. You may also be given a form I-94 (white) or a form I-94W (green). This will ask you for basic identification information and the full address where you will be staying in the United States.

When you arrive at a port of entry in the United States you will be inspected by an officer of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Be prepared to tell the officer the purpose of your trip and how long you wish to stay.
Most travelers will have a digital photo and two fingerprints scans taken by the officer. This will only add a few seconds to the interview. Be sure to follow the instructions of the CBP officer.

Make sure you have a valid nonimmigrant visa and a passport valid for six months beyond your initial stay in the United States. There are some exceptions to this requirement. If you are a temporary visitor for business or pleasure, and wish to stay for up to six months, you must apply for a B1/B2 visa at the US Consulate in your country, unless you are exempt the visa requirement altogether.

If you are planning to travel for another purpose, example student, temporary worker, crewperson and journalist you must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category through the Department of State at an American Embassy or Consulate abroad.

If you are a citizen of a visa waiver country, you may apply for entry without a visa if you are seeking entry for 90 days or less for business or pleasure. Check to make sure your intended purpose of travel falls within the guidelines.

If you stayed beyond the 90 days allowed under the Visa Waiver Program on your last visit to the US you are required to get a visa (at a US Consulate in your country) for your next visit to the United States.
Remember, even though certain individuals may be exempt from visa and/or passport requirements, the burden of poof is on the applicant to establish eligibility to enter the United States. Carrying proof of citizenship will help determine this.

Some items may be prohibited from entry, have to meet certain requirements, or require a license or permit. If you would like to bring in any of the following, make sure you find out the rules and regulations concerning them. These include Absinthe; Biological materials; Endangered species and their products; Wildlife; Meat, poultry, eggs and their products; Fruits, vegetables and plants; Hazardous materials; and Weapons.

There is no limit on the amount of money (U.S. or foreign) you may bring into or take out of the United States. If you have more than 10,000 dollars or foreign equivalent, however, you must report this to the Customs and Border Protection officer upon entry and/or departure.

Medicine containing habit-forming drugs must be clearly identified. Carry only the amount you normally need. Also bring a prescription or statement from your physician explaining that the medicine is necessary for your well-being. US Customs and Border Protection is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the protection of our nation's borders. CBP unified Customs, Immigration, and Agriculture Inspectors and the Border Patrol into one border agency for the United States.

Jet Chairman on IATA Board

Jet Airways Chairman, Mr Naresh Goyal, has been elected to the Board of Governors of the airline industry's apex global body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at its 60th Annual General Meeting that concluded in Singapore recently.

This is the first time that a Chairman of a private airline from India has been elected to IATA's prestigious Board of Governors. The Board, also described as "IATA's Government", plays a prominent role in representing the Association's interests worldwide. As a Member of the 31-member Board, Mr. Goyal will serve a two-year term until the close of IATA's 62nd AGM in June 2006. Jet Airways has been the recipient of several international and national awards and honours.

IATA brings together approximately 270 airlines from around the globe. Flights operated by these airlines comprise more than 98 per cent of all international scheduled air traffic.



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