Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thailand's Phuket's Happy Air ready

New carrier Happy Air will launch its Phuket to Hat Yai route on Saturday, following on Sunday with flights to Langkawi in Malaysia.
Marketing manager Phatcharapon Sontipun said recently the service will be aboard the carrier's Swedish-built SAAB 340 A, a 34-seat, twin-engine turboprop.

The daily flights will depart Phuket at 8am, with the return trip leaving Hat Yai International Airport at 4pm.

Happy Air is wholly owned by a Phuket investor who has asked that his name not be released to the press, Phatcharapon said.

The Langkawi flights will depart Phuket at 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and return at noon the following day, local time.

The carrier will fly the aircraft on a "triangle route", with the average one-way price quoted at Phuket-Hat Yai-Phuket: Bt2,300, Phuket-Langkawi-Phuket Bt3,500 and Hat Yai-Langkawi-Hat Yai Bt2,100.

Panu Maswongsa, vice president for marketing at the Phuket Tourist Association, said the new Hat Yai service was good news for the Phuket tourism industry.

The service would make it easy for people in the northern parts of Malaysia to enjoy short holidays in Phuket.

Expat residents needing to go on "visa runs" to comply with immigration rules will also take advantage of the new services, he said.

Panu said he was told recently by Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijileveld that Thai AirAsia was considering offering a Phuket-Hat Yai service next year as part of its plans to establish Phuket as a second regional air hub in Thailand.

At the moment the PTA is focusing on increasing inbound tourism on a short-haul basis, which he defined as under five hours of flying time.

Developments such as the launch of several flights from Singapore to Hat Yai will also benefit Phuket, as passengers will be able to make connecting flights, he said.

Somchart Pimthanapoonporn, president of the Hat Yai Hotel Association, last week said several regional carriers plan to operate into Hat Yai in this year's peak tourism months.

Singapore's Tiger Airways would inaugurate its thrice weekly Singapore-Hat Yai service on Tuesday, using Airbus 320 and Airbus 319 aircraft, he said.

An airline from Indonesia is negotiating with Hat Yai authorities to fly the Hat Yai-Medan route.

Thailand's Pai Airport's runway to be extended

The Pai Airport in Mae Hong Son is winning a Bt28 million budget under the Thai Khemkhaeng stimulus package, which is enough to extend the runway by 200 metres.

Suthep Khemthong, director of the airport, said the budget will be used to buy a land plot to extend the runway from 710 metre at present. The longer runway will accommodate growing tourism in the district. At present, Siam Global Airlines (SGA) operates 3 daily flights between Chiang Mai and Pai.

From December 5, SGA will service the route with SAAB340 30-seat aircraft

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thai airports passenger traffic increases 18.1% in September

Passenger traffic through key Thai airports gained a robust 18.1% in September while combined flight movements increased by 8% from a year earlier.September was the second consecutive monthly gain as volume started to recover from contractions in the first seven months of the year.

Passengers passing through the six major airports including Suvarnabhumi totalled 4.1 million, compared to 3.48 million in the same period last year, according to figures compiled by Airports of Thailand Plc.

Total aircraft movements in September were 28,971, which was 2,139 more than in the same period last year.

Analysts said the September figures suggested the world economic recession had eased and travellers were resuming their traditional travel patterns upon the start of peak season.

An indicator is that international passengers increased for the first time this year with 10.9% growth in September to 2.47 million. International flight movements in September were static, contracting 0.50% from the same period last year to 15,931.

Contributing to the overall September passenger traffic growth was the continued surge in domestic travellers, as the month's numbers jumped 31% to 1.64 million, driven largely by cheap air fares and tourism marketing. Domestic flight movements increased 20.5% to 13,040.

However, for the first nine months of this year, total passenger traffic was still 10.1% lower year-on-year, at 38.64 million, while combined flight movements contracted 8.62% to 265,251.

January-September international passenger traffic was still down 13.9% to 23.46 million, with domestic volumes off 3.5% to 15.18 million.

Air India crew has full-blown inflight fight

From the cabin to the executive suite, India's national carrier is facing trouble on many fronts.

A full-blown fight broke out between pilots and crew members on a recent Air India flight from Sharjah to New Delhi as the plane with 106 passengers was over Pakistan. The cabin crew alleged the pilot and co-pilot had misbehaved with a 24-year-old air hostess.

The incident was in fact not terribly shocking for millions of Air India (AI) travellers, who over the years have become used to long waits at lounges, endless trips to inquiry counters, sudden announcements of flight cancellations or departure delays - sometimes due to rats on board.

Just three weeks ago, hundreds of domestic and international flights were cancelled as the national carrier's pilots went on strike to protest against management's decision to cut their perks. AI is now reconsidering its decision after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that temporary suspension of flights or a lock-out was not an option. However, the turbulence has fuelled intense public debate over the carrier's future.

Then there are questions about its aircraft lease policy. AI officially admits two aircraft were not safe to fly and it subsequently lost US$29 million to terminate the lease prematurely. It has confirmed that expensive lease deals favour the rental companies, not the airline.

"Everything about AI is spurious," says a federal cabinet minister with an important economic portfolio, "from champagne to carpets, to procedures of appointing air hostesses, to buying spare parts." So what's going on?

In 2006-07, the year before AI and Indian Airlines (IA) merged, they lost a combined 7.4 billion rupees. In the first year of combined operations (2007-08) the loss jumped to 22.67 billion rupees. The next year (2008-09), the losses rose to 50 billion. From April to August 2009, the combined airline has already lost 20 billion rupees.

In other words, the three years since integration have produced losses of 108 billion rupees - the equivalent of $2.5 billion.

The loss comes even as the airline is planning to add 43 Airbus aircraft into the former IA segment, at a cost roughly the same as the loss. But that money has already been lost. It is a familiar story of bureaucratic mismanagement in an Indian public-sector enterprise.

"The mess at AI is largely due to political interference, policy inaction and patronage of vested interests that have prevented the airline from being run on commercial considerations," says an executive director. "Putting an end to this requires strong political will."

AI, which has equity capital of 1.45 billion rupees, more than doubled its debt to 152 billion rupees as of June 30 after taking loans to pay for 49 of 111 planes ordered from Airbus and Boeing. The carrier has placed orders for 68 planes from Boeing and 43 with Airbus to add seat capacity, fly new routes and replace its ageing fleet.

Recently, AI announced it would cut the incentives of its 7,000 staff in a range from 25% to 50%. The decision was part of a broader effort to cut costs, something the carrier described as imperative given its financial difficulties. But the cuts triggered a furious reaction from 250 executive pilots and others, for whom the allowances are about half of their pay.

For five consecutive days, passengers experienced harrowing uncertainty and despair. The protest by AI pilots came nearly two weeks after about 500 Jet Airways pilots ended a five-day deadlock with management over four sacked pilots. The protests highlight growing discontent among workers on Indian carriers over steps taken to cut costs by reducing staff or lowering salaries.

The federal government plans to give 50 billion rupees to AI in stages. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said that the airline aims to save as much as 13 billion rupees in the six months to March including as much as 4 billion in labour costs.

"Still, the fundamental problem will not be resolved," said Kapil Kaul, CEO of the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation operations in the Indian subcontinent and west Asia. "The current cost structure of AI is untenable. I am not very sure what happens now. It will be very unfortunate if the management actually withdraws its cost-cutting."

Mr Kaul said that with 32,000 employees, AI had about twice as many employees as it needs to run its operations. Its employee-to-aircraft ratio is one of the highest in the world.

Global aviation still remains a tightly controlled business, subject to myriad foreign investment restrictions and complicated bilateral agreements - rules about who can fly where. Many countries have got over their fixation of owning an airline or a national flag carrier.

Many of the world's big airlines are now publicly listed companies with widely dispersed shareholdings. India too, say experts, needs to move in that direction because with the proliferation of private carriers, a government-owned airline is no longer a strategic imperative.

The bruising competition among India's airlines has also precluded the need for a large state-owned player to prevent private-sector collusion and profiteering. Most importantly, there are no obvious solutions for AI within the ambit of state ownership.

Manpower rationalisation, for instance, is the most pressing need. But it is unlikely that the government would have the courage to find ways to trim staff. And that prompts many experts to say that AI's integration with IA has been a failure.

With no clue about the ground reality, Mr Patel predicted that the merger would lead to cost savings, rationalisations and increased market shares for the airlines. Nothing of the sort happened.

Arvind Jadhav, the airline's chairman and managing director, said the annual wage bill totalled 33 billion rupees with productivity-linked incentives jumping to 15 billion.

"You can't have allowances as 260% of the salary. The company has lost immensely in the past two years. Fuel has become expensive. Yields have come down and efficiency has gone down, but incentives have gone up. This is a paradoxical situation."

Mr Jadhav said AI's yield (net profit per seat per flight) had dropped by as much as 40% in the past two years.

That leads many to say that instead of wasting effort and throwing more money into the airline, the government would do well to privatise it. This may not get much for the overstaffed, loss-making and financially stretched carrier, but the airline would at least have a fighting chance under private management.

But given the global outlook and AI's ageing fleet, number of employees and pending liabilities, the government may not get the right price. Not now at least.

Phuket's Happy Air ready for takeoff



Service between Phuket and Haad Yai aboard this 34-seat Saab aircraft starts October 31.
Service between Phuket and Haad Yai aboard this 34-seat Saab aircraft starts on October 31.

PHUKET CITY: New carrier Happy Air will launch its Phuket to Haad Yai route on October 31, following on November 1 with flights to Langkawi in Malaysia.

Happy Air Marketing Manager Phatcharapon Sontipun said the service will be aboard the carrier’s Swedish-built SAAB 340 A, a 34-seat twin-engine turboprop.

The aircraft is expected to arrive in Phuket on Monday.

The daily flights will depart Phuket at 8am, with the return trip leaving Hat Yai International Airport at 4pm.

Happy Air is wholly-owned by a Phuket investor who has asked that his name not be released to the press, Mr Phatcharapon said.

The Langkawi flights will depart Phuket at 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and return at noon the following day, local time.

Panu Maswongsa, Vice President for Marketing at the Phuket Tourist Association, said the new Haad Yai service was good news for the Phuket tourism industry.

The service would make it easy for people in the northern parts of Malaysia to enjoy short holidays in Phuket.

Expat residents needing to go on ‘visa runs’ to comply with immigration rules will also take advantage of the new services, he said.

Mr Panu said he was told recently by Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijileveld that Thai AirAsia was considering offering Phuket-Haad Yai service next year as part of its plans to establish Phuket as a second regional air hub in Thailand.

At the moment the PTA is focusing on increasing inbound tourism on a short-haul basis, which he defined as under five hours of flying time.

Developments such as the launch of several new flights from Singapore to Haad Yai will also benefit Phuket, as passengers will be able to make connecting flights, he said.

Somchart Pimthanapoonporn, president of the Haad Yai Hotel Association, on Thursday said several regional carriers planned to operate into Haad Yai in this year’s peak tourism months.

Singapore’s Tiger Airways would inaugurate its thrice weekly Singapore-Haad Yai service on November 3, using Airbus 320 and Airbus 319 aircraft, he said.

An airline from Indonesia is negotiating with Haad Yai authorities to fly the Haad Yai-Medan route.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Embraer sells new ERJ 135 jet to Thailand

BANGKOK, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Embraer has signed a deal with the Royal Thai Navy for its second ERJ 135 jet.

The sale marks the fourth aircraft purchase by the Thai government in under two years. The latest acquisition is included in Embraer's firm order backlog for the third quarter of 2009.

"We are honored by the choice of the Royal Thai Navy to acquire a second ERJ 135 jet, confirming the suitability of this aircraft model to the needs of Thailand's armed forces, showing also the confidence that they have in Embraer's products in the official transportation segment," said Acir Padilha, Embraer vice president, marketing and sales-defense market.

"As a result, we are gradually increasing and consolidating our presence in Thailand."

The first deal signed between Embraer and the Thai government came in November 2007 with the purchase of two aircraft -- one for the Royal Thai Navy, the other, for the Thai army.

The Thai government took delivery of the aircraft in 2008, months before placing a fresh order for a second ERJ 135 jet.

"As in the previous contracts, this new contract with the Navy includes a logistical package and provisions for a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) installation kit," Newswire today reported.

Thailand is the first military operator in Southeast Asia to use the ERJ135 jet for civilian and military official transportation and MEDEVAC missions.

A largely civilian aircraft, the ERJ135 has been modified for the military. It can handle a broad variety of missions and has a high degree of commonality with the ERJ145.

"In the defense segment, this platform has efficiently performed government transportation and medical evacuation missions for Belgium, Brazil, Greece, India and Nigeria," Embraer said in a news release.

"The ERJ 135 jet offers military customers a combination of modern equipment, advanced systems redundancy, and low maintenance cost, as well as a high level of readiness," it added.

Embraer is the world's largest maker of commercial jets of up to 120 seats. Founded in 1969, the Brazil-based company also sells aircraft for executive aviation, and defense segments.

Grounded Siem Reap Airway says it should be freed to fly

TUESDAY, 20 OCTOBER 2009 15:01 NATHAN GREEN

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Siem Reap Airways manager says that if the company were subject to the same rules as CAA, it could resume flights soon

091020_07
Photo by: NATHAN GREEN
A Bangkok Airways plane waits on the runway at Phnom Penh International Airport. The airline is due to cease flying domestic routes on Sunday but has passengers booked beyond that date.

We could be operating well before the peak tourist season.

SIEM Reap Airways could be airborne “well before the peak tourist season” if an apparent double standard in the licensing of Cambodia’s two domestic carriers was removed, General Manager Terry Alton said Monday.

The European Commission (EC) told the Post late last week that Cambodia Angkor Air, the government’s joint venture with Vietnam Airlines, was flying without an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by using aircraft hired on a wet-lease basis from its Vietnamese owner.

Meanwhile, the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) has not allowed Siem Reap Airways to do the same, Alton said.

“Taking into account the reports in the newspapers, I was a little surprised to read that the EC believe that Cambodian Angkor Air simply operates wet-leased aircraft,” he said by email Monday from Bangkok.

“My energies concerning Siem Reap Airways have been in search of an aircraft that the owner will allow to be registered in Cambodia, and that has not proved to be an easy task.”

The airline had found no shortage of owners willing to lease an aircraft on a wet-lease basis, he added, as CAA had done in launching at the end of July.

In a wet lease arrangement, one airline provides aircraft, crew and insurance to another, which pays by hours operated.

“If we were authorised to operate with a wet-leased aircraft, I would anticipate that we could be operating well before the peak tourist season with obvious benefits to the number of tourist arrivals into Cambodia over the coming months,” he said.

If the SSCA levelled the playing field overnight, Alton said, he could possibly launch by Sunday – the same day parent company Bangkok Airways ceases flying between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – though he acknowledged that “realistically it would be tight”.

The airline stopped operations in November when it was put on an EC blacklist due to concerns over SSCA oversight. The SSCA subsequently removed the airline’s Air Operator Certificate in December, according to EC documents seen by the Post.

The EC revelation came after the government told the airline that it will not be granted a licence to resume domestic flights until it registers an aircraft in Cambodia as required under Cambodian law.

However, that law allows foreign-registered airlines to fly domestic routes with a special government permit such as the one Bangkok Airways uses to run services between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Cambodia Angkor Air appears to be operating under a similar permit, though this could not be confirmed Monday because SSCA Secretary of State Mao Havannal could not be reached for comment.

Bangkok Airways’ permit will expire on Sunday, and the government has said it will not be renewed. Siem Reap Airways is hoping to be airborne by that date to handle passengers already booked on its parent. Those passengers, who number in the hundreds, will need to be transferred to Cambodia Angkor Air if the deadline cannot be met, Bangkok Airways spokesman Ekkaphon Nanta O’Sot said last week.

When the SSCA announced it would not renew the operating permit in September, senior officials said the decision was taken to give a boost to the fledgling domestic carrier Cambodia Angkor Air, which made its maiden flight on July 28 this year under a “proudly the national flag carrier” banner.

The SSCA has since softened its stance, saying the permit was always designed to be temporary and expire at the end of the summer flight schedule.

Cambodia's Sihanouk International Airport on track for opening

Air traffic to Cambodia’s recently revamped Preah Sihanouk International Airport is on track to start from November, officials said last week.

“I went to check all the technical equipment last Friday” State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Secretary of State Mao Havannal told the Phnom Penh Post on Tuesday.

“Everything is in place and complies with international standards” he said referring to the refurbishments completed by Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports (SCA).

Mao Havannal said the launch of the airport would be presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen and top officials from France including French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy.

The launch will see national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air offer chartered services to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap from Sihanoukville.

Soy Sokhan, SSCA undersecretary of state in charge of CAA, said the airline was still considering the feasibility of establishing regular flights on those routes.

“Firstly, we need to complete a market survey looking at the number of tourists, and contact with travel agents who book passengers on cruises to get an idea of potential demand,” he said.

According to Mao Havannal, Siem Reap Airways may be unable to fly from the airport as it has not registered any planes in Cambodia, a requirement for domestic operators to receive an Air Operator Certificate (AOC).

“I don’t know for sure if Siem Reap Airways will be able to fly or not” said Mao Havannal.

“It depends on the airline because we have already confirmed with them that if they want to resume their operations, they need to register an airplane [in Cambodia].

“It already completely complies with SSCA requirements and has satisfied concerns over its operations.”

SCA will announce its flight schedule for Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanouk international airport on October 21.

Cambodia's CAA not approved operator

MONDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2009 15:03 NATHAN GREEN

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New national carrier not approved as airline according to domestic law, says European Commission, while civil aviation remains blacklisted in Brussels

091019_09
Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
An aviation worker looks on while a Cambodia Angkor Air plane is refuelled at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Cambodia Angkor Air ... only hires services from a Vietnamese operator.

CAMBODIA’S new flag carrier remains little more than a booking agent for its partner, Vietnam Airlines, according to the European Commission.

Information from the European Commission (EC) concerning the status of Siem Reap Airways, which Cambodian aviation authorities said last week had been cleared to fly after being grounded in December 2008, reveals that Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) has not been approved as an operator according to Cambodian law. CAA is 51 percent owned by the Cambodian government, with Vietnam Airlines controlling the rest.

“According to the last information communicated by the competent authorities of Cambodia, Cambodia Angkor Air is not currently approved as an operator and only hires [wet leases] services from a Vietnamese operator,” EC transport spokesman Fabio Pirotta said by email from Brussels late Thursday.

As such, the airline has not come under the scrutiny of the EC, which late last year blacklisted Siem Reap Airways due to concerns about the oversight provided by the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) in Cambodia. Siem Reap Airways ceased operations on commercial grounds in November after the EC decision, according to current General Manager Terry Alton, on the grounds that the blacklisting prevented European travel operators from booking customers.

The SSCA removed the airline’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in December, according to EC documents seen by the Post. The documents also reveal that a fact-finding mission by the EC in March 2009 found that Bangkok Airways had “the actual control” of Siem Reap Airways’ operations, and that the Thai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) was conducting “adequate oversight activities” on the carrier.

However, because the operator was registered in Cambodia, it was the oversight of the Cambodian authorities that mattered, Pirotta said.
The EC’s decision to blacklist the airline followed an audit of airline standards and oversight in Cambodia under the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.

“It was done solely on the basis of deficiencies reported by the ICAO, including significant safety concerns communicated to all states party to the Chicago convention, and after due consultations with the competent authorities of Cambodia,” Pirotta said.

The ICAO findings were not released publicly, nor to Siem Reap Airlines, but a source within SSCA previously told the Post that the audit found Cambodia in breach of 107 international standards.

Problems still unresolved
Pirotta said the SSCA had still not adequately addressed the ICAO’s concerns, citing that failure as a reason for the continued blacklisting of Siem Reap Airways. “If Siem Reap completes the certification process and gets an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), and if Cambodia can demonstrate they have effectively addressed ICAO findings pertaining to the oversight of operators, then the case could be in a good position for reconsideration,” he said.

This rebuts recent statements to the Post by SSCA officials that the government had approved a new two-year licence for the airline, and that it had been cleared for takeoff. SSCA Secretary of State Mao Havannal told the Post last week that the airline needed only to register a plane in Cambodia to receive an AOC.

Under Cambodian law, an airline must have at least one plane registered locally for every category of aircraft flown to receive an AOC to fly domestic routes. The airline may then lease aircraft registered in another territory in the same category.

Mao Havannal said last week that he had informed the European Union on October 12 that Siem Reap Airways had satisfied all local and EU “requirements and concerns”, adding that he had told the EU that an AOC would not be issued until the airline registered a plane locally, according to Cambodian law.

“If we granted an AOC to Siem Reap Airways now, it would be a mistake because the airline has not had an airplane locally registered,” he said. “If they do that, we will officially submit a formal letter to the EU.”

Alton said the airline was negotiating with financiers to lease a plane for local registration.

When asked whether the EC delegation to Cambodia had been contacted regarding Siem Reap Airways’ approval to fly, a spokesman for Phnom Penh-based Ambassador David Lipman said the statement from Brussels was “the European Commission’s position on the issue”.

Mao Havannal refused requests for comment on CAA’s status Friday. He referred questions to another person, who also refused to comment.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thailand's Air Transport Statistics


YearTotal Air TrafficTotal LCCs Traffic
2009 (September) 438 Kb 35 Kb
2008 442 Kb 36 Kb
2007 432 Kb
2006 575 Kb
2005 1,326 Kb
2004 1,337 Kb
2003 562 Kb

Cambodia's Sihanoukville Airport due to open in November: govt

WEDNESDAY, 14 OCTOBER 2009 15:03 MAY KUNMAKARA AND NATHAN GREEN

New national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air weighs possibility of charter flights to refurbished airport, aviation officials say

091014_07
Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
A Cambodia Angkor Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at Phnom Penh International Airport. The new airline is assessing its options over possible routes through Preah Sihanouk International Airport.
CAMBODIA’S PREAH Sihanouk International Airport is now expected to open to air traffic from November, with Cambodia’s national carrier slated to begin offering chartered services to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap from some time next month.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Secretary of State Mao Havannal said Tuesday that long-awaited upgrades to the coastal resort’s sole airport had been completed by Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports (SCA), which also operates airports in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. “I went to check all the technical equipment last Friday,” he said. “Everything is in place and complies with international standards.”

SCA had confirmed it was on track for the launch, which was originally planned to coincide with the maiden flight of Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) on July 27, but had not set a precise date, Mao Havannal said.

The airport operator had also confirmed the launch would be presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen and top officials from France. The delayed launch was attributed to the wishes of SCA to have French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy in attendance.

Soy Sokhan, SSCA undersecretary of state in charge of CAA, said the airline would initially launch chartered flights only from Sihanoukville, though it was examining the feasibility of establishing regular routes between the town and both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

“Firstly, we need to complete a market survey looking at the number of tourists, and contact with travel agents who book passengers on cruises to get an idea of potential demand,” he said.

SCA is due to announce its flight schedule for Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanouk international airports on October 21, according to a statement issued Tuesday.

Mao Havannal said Siem Reap Airways, which has been cleared by the government to take over domestic routes from its parent Bangkok Airways on October 25, had not been considered for a permit to fly from the airport as the firm has not registered any planes in Cambodia, a requirement for domestic operators to receive an Air Operator Certificate (AOC).

He also cast doubt on whether the airline would be ready to take over any routes from its parent on October 25.

“I don’t know for sure if Siem Reap Airways will be able to fly or not,” he said. “It depends on the airline because we have already confirmed with them that if they want to resume their operations, they need to register an airplane [in Cambodia]. It already completely complies with SSCA requirements and has satisfied concerns over its operations.”

The government decided last month not to renew a special permit issued to Bangkok Airways when Siem Reap Airways was grounded in controversial circumstances at the end of last year following an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit of civil aviation standards in Cambodia. A full reason for the grounding has never been publicly released.

Siem Reap Airways General Manager Terry Alton said Tuesday the airline was in discussions with financiers about leasing a plane to fly the Siem Reap-Phnom Penh route and was hopeful of concluding an agreement.

“It could happen tomorrow, it could happen in a week, it could happen in a month,” he said.

No airplanes available
Alton added that Bangkok Airways did not have a spare plane to loan for registration in Cambodia, as required by Cambodian law.
Siem Reap Airlines has already put in its request for flight slots to SCA ahead of next week’s announcement, but it had not asked for routes through Sihanoukville, he said.

Bangkok Airways Deputy Manager of International Media Relations Ekkaphon Nanta O’Sot said that passengers booked on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route through Bangkok Airways will need to be transferred to CAA if Siem Reap Airways is not back in operation on that date.

Thailand's Don Mueang old airport plan revived

The Council of Economic Ministers yesterday revived the proposal to turn Don Mueang into Bangkok's second commercial airport, in a move that could lead to Suvarnabhumi Airport delaying new investment.

The Transport Ministry and Airports of Thailand (AOT) were assigned to report on two options: whether Don Mueang Airport should be reopened to accommodate 10 million passengers a year, in order to delay new investment at Suvarnabhumi Airport; or whether Suvarnabhumi should proceed fully with the investment plan to raise its capacity to 65 million passengers a year.

PM's Office Vice Minister Puttipong Punnakan said the Transport Ministry had resubmitted the proposal to turn Don Mueang into the capital's second commercial airport.

The ministers said air traffic and the country's capacity for additional investment would be the keys to determining whether Bangkok should operate two commercial airports.

They acknowledged that Don Mueang could accommodate some of the predicted increase in air traffic, which would enable Suvarnabhumi to delay new investment. AOT plans to expand Suvarnabhumi's capacity with an investment of more than Bt70 billion for new facilities, including a third runway.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

USAF Thunderbirds dazzle crowd in Thailand



(NECN/APTV) - A team of US Air Force pilots dazzled crowds with a stunning aerobatic display at Thailand's Don Mueang airport on Saturday.
The F-16 unit known as the Thunderbirds, lived up their name, with a rip- roaring show, featuring dives, barrel rolls, "bomb bursts" and near misses.
Beginning with an elaborate pre-flight performance, the six planes took to the air for a scintillating 35-minute performance, showcasing the full range of their aeronautical skills.
Consisting of a rotating group of eight, pilots are assigned to the squadron for two to four years at a time.
They undergo six months of training before participating, engaging in countless rolls and passing within metres (yards) of each other at speeds of over 1700 kilometers (1056 miles) an hour.
The free exhibition, underscores the ongoing military relationship between the United States and Thailand most evident during the Vietnam War, when Thailand, as one of the main US allies in the region, provided air bases and military support.

Friday, October 9, 2009

AirAsia boss blasts AoT fees as excessive


The lack of policies to attract budget tourists and to promote no-frills carriers is hampering the growth of Thailand's tourism, says Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia Group, Asia's largest low-cost carrier (LCC).
Fernandes: High fees damage Thai tourism
Thai tourism has lost out to Asean neighbours Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines as a result, he added.
"Thailand's tourism is the best in Asean, without a doubt, but don't think you can always get the tourists without working hard," he told the Bangkok Post.
Mr Fernandes said negative factors such as political infighting did not necessarily drive foreign tourists away.
Air Asia, he said, gave Thailand's tourism a shot in the arm after the blockade of Bangkok's two airports toward the end of last year by carrying many passengers to Thailand. "People will fly if the price is right. People are not so scared of bombs," he added.
The Malaysian executive singled out what he termed an excessive passenger service charge (PSC), or airport tax, by Airports of Thailand (AoT) as a major hindrance to tourism.
"The 700-baht airport tax is just too high. That's almost half the airfare we charge in a lot of cases," he said. "It's a shame that AoT is holding back the growth of Thai tourism."
AoT's charge is among the highest in Asia, he said. He advocated slashing it for budget carriers to 250 baht, the price in Malaysia, to reduce costs for travellers.
Malaysian airports increased overall passenger traffic to 26 million a year from 16 million after introducing an LCC strategy including a terminal dedicated to budget carriers, and reduced PSCs.
He wants the same measures in Thailand, especially because the fee is paid by passengers, not airlines.
"They (AoT) said their earnings are going to be affected a lot. I don't think they are looking at the long term, from the country's perspective or their own bottom line," he said. "It is a simple volume game. Do you want 1 million tourists by charging them 700 baht each, or do you want 10 million with a 250-baht charge? Similarly, AirAsia could charge 8,000 baht for a flight to Bangkok and have two flights a day. But why when we've got eight flights a day? We lowered the fares."
AoT's argument that it reduced landing and parking fees for all airlines including LCCs contributes very little to the overall travel cost structure from the passengers' point of view, he said.
With a low-cost government strategy, its Thai sister airline, Thai AirAsia, should be able to boost annual passenger volume to 25 million in the next seven years from 4-5 million expected this year.
By then, Thai AirAsia should also have as many as 100 Airbus A320 jets in its fleet, up from 10 at the moment.

LIVE: WorldView-2 launched via Delta II out of VAFB



October 8th, 2009 by William Graham
DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite has been launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket on Thursday morning. The launch, which took place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA at 11:51 (local) – slightly delayed from the scheduled T-0 due to a battery issue on the vehicle’s second stage.
Launch Preview:

The WorldView-2 spacecraft is an optical imaging satellite, which will be operated by Colorado-based DigitalGlobe. It was constructed by Ball Aerospace, and is based on the BCP-5000 satellite bus. It has a mass of 2,800 kilograms, and an anticipated operational lifespan of seven and a quarter years.

It will be the second BCP-5000 satellite to be launched, following the earlier WorldView-1 satellite in 2007. DigitalGlobe advertise the satellite as having the “highest resolution available commercially” – via a camera with an aperture of 110 centimetres, and is capable of producing images in eight spectral bands; red, green, blue, yellow, near-infrared, “red edge”, “coastal”, and “near-infrared 2″.
WorldView-2 is the fifth satellite to be launched for DigitalGlobe, which was founded in 1993 as the WorldView Imaging Corporation. In 1995 it merged with the remote sensing division of Ball Aerospace to form EarthWatch Incorporated. Its first satellite, EarlyBird-1, was launched in December 1997, however its power system failed four days after launch and the satellite was declared a total loss.
A second satellite, QuickBird-1, was lost in a launch failure in November 2000, followed by Quickbird-2 – which was successfully launched in October 2001. In 2002 EarthWatch was renamed DigitalGlobe, and in September 2007 WorldView-1 was launched on a Delta II.
Thursday’s flight will use Delta 345, the three hundred and forty fifth Delta family rocket to be launched. It will fly in the Delta II 7920-10C configuration, which consists of an Extra-Extended Long Tank Thor first stage, augmented at liftoff by six GEM 40 solid rocket motors, with a further three GEM 40 motors igniting later in the flight.
The first stage is fuelled by RP-1, with liquid oxygen being used as an oxidiser. The second stage will be a Delta-K, which will complete the ascent, placing the satellite into orbit. It burns Aerozine-50 propellent in dinitrogen tetroxide oxidiser. A 3-metre (10-foot) diameter composite payload faring will encapsulate the spacecraft during its ascent through the atmosphere.
The first stage is powered by an RS-27A main engine, with two vernier engines for roll control, all of which will ignite around two seconds before liftoff. At liftoff, the six ground-lit GEM 40 motors will also ignite, and Delta 345 will be released to begin its climb to orbit. Just under thirty three seconds after launch, the rocket will pass through Mach 1, the speed of sound, and about forty eight seconds after launch it will be subjected to maximum dynamic pressure, or max-Q.
Sixty four seconds into the flight, the six solid motors which ignited at launch will burn out, with the three air lit motors igniting one and a half seconds later. The spent motors will remain attached for a further 20.5 seconds in order to avoid debris hitting an oil rig, before separating in two groups of three, one second apart. Ninety seconds into the flight, Delta 345 will yaw to begin a dog-leg manoeuvre in order to adjust the orbital inclination of its destination. The manoeuvre will last fifty two seconds.
Around two minutes and ten seconds into the launch, the air-lit motors will burn out, and about two seconds later they will separate. The first stage will then power Delta 345’s ascent until its fuel is depleted. This is scheduled to occur four minutes and thirty one seconds into the flight, at which time the first stage main engine will shut down, an event known as MECO. The two verniers will follow suit shortly afterwards, at an event which is known as VECO.
Eight seconds after MECO, the first and second stages will separate, with the second stage’s AJ-10-118K engine igniting five and a half seconds after staging. Four second stage burns are planned for Delta 345, with two occurring prior to spacecraft separation, and the remaining two occurring afterwards.
Around four seconds after the second stage ignites, the payload fairing will separate. This event is scheduled to occur at a point when the rate of free molecular heating on the vehicle falls below 1,135 watts per square metre, or 0.1 British thermal units per square foot per second. The first burn of the second stage will conclude with cutoff, or SECO-1, ten minutes and fifty two seconds after launch. Delta 345 and its payload will be in an orbit of 195 by 805 kilometres (106 by 435 nautical miles), inclined at 98.6 degrees.
Following SECO-1, Delta 345 will manoeuvre to its coast attitude, and a thermal conditioning, or “barbecue” roll will be initiated, with the upper stage rotating at a rate of two degrees per second. Midway through the coast phase, the direction of the roll will be reversed. Shortly before the second burn is initiated, the roll manoeuvre will be terminated, and the rocket will realign to the necessary attitude for the burn. Ignition will occur fifty three minutes and twenty four seconds into the flight.
The second burn will last twenty two seconds, ending with SECO-2. This will leave Delta 345 in a parking orbit of 764 by 776 kilometres (413 by 419 nautical miles). The burn will not affect inclination. Following SECO-2, the vehicle will reorient for spacecraft separation, and then begin a spin-up roll manoeuvre, to a rate of nine degrees per second. Sixty one minutes and forty seconds after liftoff, WorldView-2 will separate from the carrier rocket.
After the spacecraft has separated, the second stage will perform a series of evasive manoeuvres and burns. Ten minutes after separation, the rocket will perform a twenty-five second cold gas evasive manoeuvre. Just under eighteen minutes later, the second stage will make its third burn, which is scheduled to last five seconds. Eight minutes and fifteen seconds after SECO-3, the fourth burn will begin. This will be the depletion burn, and is scheduled to last around fifty two seconds.
Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 2W will be used for today’s launch. The pad, which was originally designated 75-1-2, was built for use by Thor missiles attached to the 75th Strategic Missile Squadron of the United States Air Force. The first launch from the pad occured on 17 September 1959, and was conducted by the British Royal Air Force.
In 1962, the first orbital launch from the complex occurred, when a Thor-Agena placed a KH-4 reconnaissance satellite into orbit. The first launch of a Delta from SLC-2W occurred in 1969, and in 1995 the Delta II began using the complex. It is currently designated as the launch site for all but one of the remaining Delta II launches.
Today’s launch is the 146th flight of the Delta II. The next Delta II launch is scheduled to occur on 7 December, with the WISE satellite for NASA. Before that, a Delta IV is scheduled to launch on 19 November, with the WGS-3 military communications satellite. The next launch for United Launch Alliance is currently planned to be an Atlas V with a DMSP military weather satellite, on 18 October.