Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Art of Camouflage-Hiding Lockheed Burbank during WWII

Take a look at these pictures.
If the military-industrial complex could go to these lengths 65-70 years ago to hide HUGE industrial plants, how much is being hidden today? On just as massive a scale, or even larger?
Hiding Lockheed During WW2
Lockheed During W.W.II (unbelievable 1940s pictures).
This is a version of special effects during the 1940's. I have never seen these pictures or knew that we had gone this far to protect ourselves.
During World War II the Army Corps of Engineers needed to hide the Lockheed Burbank Aircraft Plant to protect it from a possible Japanese air attack.
They covered it with camouflage netting to make it look like a rural subdivision from the air. The next two photos are amazing...
And After...
The person I received this from said she got back an interesting story about someone's mother who worked at Lockheed, and she as a younger child, remembers all this.
And to this day, it is the first pictures of it she's seen. Another person who lived in the area talked about as being a boy, watching it all be set up like a movie studio production. They had fake houses, trees, etc. and moved parked cars around so it looked like a residential area from the skies overhead.
Go here for more photos...

Airline Livery of the Week: Thai Airways

By David Parker Brown, on January 30th, 2010 at 6:25 am

Thai Airways Boeing 747-4D7 HS-TGO in newer airline livery

Thai Airways is the national carrier (can you guess) of Thailand. It was founded in 1960. It is almost 54% owned by the Thai Government and has achieved profit over the last 40 consecutive years.

As of October 2009, Thai Airways had almost 100 aircraft. The largest being a Boeing 747-400 and smallest an ATR-72. The airline also owns a 39% stake in Nok Air.

Check out a video that shows a Boeing 747-400 landing with old livery, then one with new livery. You can also see two Boeing 777’s next to each other — one with the new and one with the old livery.

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Image: Thomas Becker

North Korean Arms Were Headed to Iran, Thailand Report Says

By Bill Varner and Viola Gienger

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- An airport in Iran’s capital of Tehran was the intended destination for a North Korean weapons shipment seized in Bangkok on Dec. 12, according to a confidential report to the United Nations Security Council by Thailand’s government.

A copy of the report, obtained from diplomats whose governments hold Security Council seats, said the 40-ton cargo’s destination was Airport Mahrabad in Tehran. It says the plane departed from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and that the shipper was the Korea Mechanical Industry Co.

Thai authorities seized the Russian-made Ilyushin II-76 cargo aircraft after receiving tips from several different intelligence agencies. The report says the cargo included 49 rockets, a rocket launcher, three crates of fuses and rocket- propelled grenades.

The plane was impounded under a UN resolution passed in June 2009 to punish Kim Jong Il’s regime for firing a Taepodong- 2 rocket over the Sea of Japan in April and testing a second nuclear bomb a month later. The measure authorizes inspections of North Korean air or sea cargo suspected of containing weapons and bars North Korea from exporting any arms.

Pornprom Petklai, spokeswoman for Thailand’s mission to the UN, said her government submitted the report last month. She declined to discuss its contents. Thailand doesn’t currently have a seat on the Security Council.

“We applaud the Thai authorities for their work in reporting information on this incident to the Security Council Sanctions Committee,” said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN. “We encourage other countries to remain vigilant in implementing UN Security Council resolutions.”

Security Council Assessment

The Security Council committee is assessing the Thai government’s report and drafting letters that will be sent to North Korea and other relevant governments requesting further information, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition they aren’t identified. Letters might go to Iran and Georgia, which is listed in the Thai report as the base of the flight operator, they said.

The committee is scheduled to report on the case to the Security Council on Feb. 11.

The seizure and subsequent investigations may shed light on North Korean arms deals, a key source of foreign-currency income for the reclusive state. North Korea earns about $1.5 billion annually from missile sales, mostly to Iran via airports in China, the U.S.-based Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis said in a report this year.

Other Arms Seizures

There have been three other seizures of arms allegedly going to or from Iran in the past year. Israel intercepted a ship it said was carrying arms to Syria from Iran in November. The United Arab Emirates in August seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran. Another shipment of Iranian arms, also allegedly bound for Syria, was detained by Cyprus last January.

Israel believes the arms were intended to go to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the Hamas Islamic movement in the Gaza Strip, both of which are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies contributed to Thailand’s seizure of the weapons, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Dec. 18. Blair said “teamwork among different agencies in the United States and partners abroad led to the interdiction.”

The missions of Iran and North Korea didn’t respond to a request for comment on the report.

--Editors: Ann Hughey, Laurie Asseo.

Dogs of war or players in a political game?

If the pending decision to drop charges against the crew of a Russian cargo plane accused of smuggling weapons from North Korea has shocked observers, it comes as no surprise to many close to the mysterious case.

GROUNDED: From left, IIyas Issakov, 56, Alexandr Zrybnev, 53, both from Kazakhstan, Mikhail Petukhou, 54, from Belarus, Viktor Abdukkayev, 58, Vitaliy Shumkov, 54, both also from Kazakhstan. PHOTO: SAROT MEKSOPHAWANNAKUL

A three-week investigation by the Bangkok Post during which intelligence officers, senior Thai police and foreign diplomats were interviewed has revealed scepticism about the operation and the motives behind the seizure of the Ilyushin IL-76 plane at Don Mueang Airport in early December.

Questions were raised about why a plane carrying 35 tonnes of weapons allegedly from North Korea, in breach of UN sanctions, would stop to refuel in Bangkok when there are safer regional stopover destinations for arms smugglers such as Burma, Laos and Vietnam.

The circuitous 24,000km route, with the alleged final destination Iran, also did not make sense for several diplomats who said the weapons could be easily sourced from former Soviet countries.

During the course of the investigation, the Bangkok Post also learned that after the flight from Pyongyang the plane arrived a day earlier than originally reported by Thai authorities and that the five-man crew spent a night at a hotel near the airport accompanied by what appeared to be Thai security staff.

A senior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his department was informed by the US on Dec 9 that the Ilyushin would arrive at Don Mueang the next day to refuel.

Undercover police posing as airport staff searched the plane on Dec 10, and found nothing. It refuelled and departed for Pyongyang.

''At this stage, no other Thai security or law enforcement agency was told about the operation. This was known only by some of the most trusted people,'' the officer said, adding that the plane was tracked on radar in Thai air space to verify its movements.

BRIEFED: Mikhail Petukhou, 54, from Belarus, one of the suspects, with his lawyer. PHOTO: KOSOL NAKACHOL

Despite claims by Thai authorities that the plane returned to Bangkok on Saturday, Dec 12, to refuel and that the crew were detained then, the plane had in fact touched down at Don Mueang at midday the previous day, he said.

''It was boarded by the police, customs, immigration and air force personnel,'' he said. ''The crew of five men, four Kazakhs and a Belarusian, left the airport with officers and checked in at Ebina House, a three-star hotel located near the airport,'' he said.

The Bangkok Post visited Ebina House hotel and interviewed two staff who confirmed from photos that the five men had stayed there. ''They arrived here in late afternoon on Dec 11 accompanied by about 10 Thai men who appeared like their bodyguards,'' said one of the staff.

''One of them booked five suites, paying 3,500 baht for each, on the 9th floor. Most of the Thais remained in the lobby and around the hotel all night. They departed with the foreigners around 9am the following day. I saw the five five men on television and in newspapers later on.''

The crew members were detained on Dec 12, taken to Don Mueang police station and then sent to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) headquarters. Pilot Mikhail Petukhou, 54, from Belarus, Alexandr Zrybnev, 53, Viktor Abdullayev, 58, Vitaliy Shumkov, 54, and Ilyas Issakov, 53, all from Kazakhstan, faced court on five charges, including illegal arms possession.

An Associated Press investigation traced the Ilyushin IL-76 plane back to a small air freight company located in Kazakhstan operated by businessman Alexander Zykov. He denies any involvement with the arms shipment and says the crew members had taken leave shortly before the weapons were seized.

The Bangkok Post interviewed the flight navigator, Viktor Abdullayev, in Klong Prem prison who refused to answer basic questions about the operation, but insisted he was innocent and should be released. The crew have said they believed they were delivering oil drilling equipment loaded in Pyongyang. ''We should be handed to our country. We can't be charged and detained in Thailand,'' he said before the report on Thursday that charges would likely be dropped.

WATCHING EYE: Foreigners videotape the army taking away weapons from the plane. PHOTO: PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD

He did confirm that the flight path was from Kiev to Baku, Azerbaijan with a stop at Fujariam airport in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) before landing at Don Mueang airport on Dec 10. Abdullayev said they were supposed to continue to Colombo, Sri Lanka, the UAE and the finally to Kiev where the cargo was to be delivered.

''I saw the crates on the plane but didn't open them as they were sealed with proper documents as oil drilling equipment. I didn't open the crates. Why should I? I am just a navigator?'' he said.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is also in Klong Prem Prison awaiting an appeal decision on extradition to the US to face charges of arms smuggling to Colombian rebels, denied media reports linking him to the Russian plane.

''How could anyone connect me to the weapons haul?'' Bout said in an interview at the prison.

''I have been in the prison for two years, with no telephone or ability to communicate with the outside world,'' said Bout.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Police Colonel Supisarn Bhaddinarinath, acting chief of the CSD, have both said there is no evidence to link Bout with the arms seizure.

Abdullayev said that he talked with Bout in the prison, but added he had never heard about him beforehand.

The senior police officer expressed outrage at the likely freeing of the crew, and said prior to the news that he didn't care ''who was behind everything'', adding that Thai law enforcement agencies had done everything according to the law.

One diplomat stationed in Bangkok familiar with military affairs said he believed the whole operation was a ''set-up'' which would require co-operation between ''several big and powerful countries''.

''Maybe someone intended to kill three mosquitoes in one hit,'' he said. ''North Korea, by proving they are violating a UN resolution; Iran, to show that they are doing business with North Korea, and maybe connecting it to their nuclear programme; and also to stir up the case with Viktor Bout.''

The diplomat said that even the claim that they were flying to North Korea to buy oil drilling equipment did not make sense as it was too far to travel. He added that if they were buying arms that the ''Ukraine has a surplus of weapons left by the Soviet Union. They are trying to sell it. Why would they buy more of the same from North Korea?''

A retired Russian intelligence officer also expressed doubts about the case: ''Whoever set it up tried to achieve several objectives at the same time: To discredit North Korea, Iran and maybe something to do with Mr Bout. The timing was right. It is also possible that the crews were told to get some information from him when they meet in jail.''

He said reports that the arms were headed for Iran were ''nonsense'' saying if it were true, cheaper and more reliable weapons could be bought from the former Soviet Union without the need to fly to North Korea and make all the stopovers.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cobra Gold Brings Multiple Nations Together for Training

Cobra Gold Brings Multiple Nations Together for Training

Exercise Cobra Gold (website), in its 29th year, begins Monday, with service members from Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the U.S. as guests of host Thailand.

Sponsored by PACOM and the Royal Thai Supreme Command, the three-week exercise includes a command post exercise, a series of medical and engineering civic action projects, and joint and combined field training.

Observer Nations

The Command Post exercise focuses on training a Thai, U.S., Singaporean, Indonesian, and Republic of Korean coalition task force. The exercise also includes Japan participating within a United Nations Force (UNF) staff. A team comprised of representatives from Brunei, Chile, China, Germany, Laos, Mongolia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Vietnam will observe the command post exercise at the invitation of Thailand.


Among Cobra Gold 10’s objectives is training PACOM’s rapid deployment of a joint task force and subsequent coordination with U.N. forces, with the aim of improving PACOM’s ability to conduct multinational operations and increasing interoperability with partner nations.

“Thailand is one of our closest friends and partners in Asia, as well as being our oldest ally in Asia,” said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander, U.S. Army, Pacific, (follow USARPAC on Twitter) who is leading the exercise for the U.S. “The Cobra Gold exercise is the largest multi-lateral joint military exercise in the world.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

Airports of Thailand-8 largest shareholders


The list of the 8 largest shareholders is as follows : As of 23 December 2009.

NameNo. of shares%
1.MINISTRY OF FINANCE1,000,000,00070.00
2.NORTRUST NOMINEES LTD.71,000,0004.97
4.CHASE NOMINEES LIMITED 138,873,3502.72
7.SOMERS (U.K.) LIMITED11,631,2000.81

Thailand to rehabilitate abandoned airports

The Ministry of Transport will next week call a meeting of representatives from Industry Ministry, airline operators, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Traffic Policy and Planning Office to discuss ways to utilize the abandoned airports in several provinces.

“The meeting will discuss how the state can maximize benefit from the existing resources. We will see in to the problems and then report a conclusion and recommendations to the Joint Public and Private Committee and the cabinet for consideration”, Transport Minister Sohpon Zarum said on Friday.

Mr Sophon had ordered the Traffic Policy and Planning Office to carry out a study on which provincial airports have the highest development potential. The Civil Aviation Department will be responsible for the development of the high potential airports for commercial uses to generate income for the government.

The airports with no commercial potential will be handed over to the air force for military uses which will be better than abandoning them.

Of the 28 provincial airports under the supervision of the Civila Aviation Department, only 13 are being used regularly for commercial flights by airlines. They include Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen, Surat Thani and Krabi. Six of them provide services for some commercial flights from time to time, and the remaining 9 were not used by any airlines.

“Some of them have become dry-crop planting or grazing areas”, the minister said.

Thailand to release crew of North Korean weapons plane

Prosecutors have decided to drop charges against five suspects found last month with 35 tonnes of weapons on a plane from North Korea, a source close to the case has revealed.

The source did not elaborate yesterday on the reasons leading to the prosecutors' decision, which will be announced today.

Pilot Mikhail Petukhou, 54, from Belarus, Alexandr Zrybnev, 53, Viktor Abdullayev, 58, Vitaliy Shumkov, 54, and Ilyas Issakov, 53, all from Kazakhstan, faced court on five charges, including illegal arms possession.

Their Russian-made plane refuelled at Don Mueang airport on Dec 11 en route from North Korea to Ukraine, via Sri Lanka. Authorities searched the plane and found the weapons the next day.

The men were arrested and charged with carrying weapons without permission, illegally bringing them to Thailand and failing to inform officials of the items.

Denying any involvement in transporting weapons, the five claimed their employer told them they were carrying oil-drilling equipment.

Crime Suppression Division police, which handled the case, asked prosecutors to indict the suspects on Jan 14.

Chief prosecutor for foreign affairs Sirisak Tiyaphan yesterday refused to predict the prosecution's decision today but said one element prosecutors would use as a basis was whether the offences were committed in Thailand. The men only stopped at the airport for refuelling.


But Kayasit Pissawanprakan, chief of the Criminal Litigation Office, said the attorney-general also had to endorse the decision made by prosecutors.

"If the Criminal Litigation Office decides not to indict, and the attorney-general agrees to it on the same day, the suspects will be freed," he said.

The source said the five were likely to be released from detention today. The five were detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Security authorities and arms experts suspect the weapons on the plane were destined for Iran, but the Teheran government denies this.

The shipment breached the UN Security Council resolution which bans North Korea from exporting arms and weapons-related materiel.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thailand's air traffic suffers worst year in 2009

Full-year 2009 demand statistics for international scheduled air traffic showed the industry ending 2009 with the largest ever post-war decline, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported.

Passenger demand for the full year was down 3.5 per cent with an average load factor of 75.6 per cent. Freight showed a full-year decline of 10.1 per cent with an average load factor of 49.1 per cent.

"In terms of demand, 2009 goes into the history books as the worst year the industry has ever seen. We have permanently lost 2.5 years of growth in passenger markets and 3.5 years of growth in the freight business," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

International passenger capacity fell 0.7 per cent in December 2009 while freight capacity grew 0.6 per cent above December 2008 levels. Yields have started to improve with tighter supply-demand conditions in recent months, but they remained 5-10 per cent down on 2008 levels. "Revenue improvements will be at a much slower pace than the demand growth that we are starting to see. Profitability will be even slower to recover and airlines will lose an expected US$5.6 billion in 2010," said Bisignani.

Seasonally adjusted demand figures for December compared to November 2009 indicate a 1.6 per cent rise in passenger traffic while freight remained basically flat with a 0.2 per cent decline.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vietnam adds four new airline routes to cut travel time

Vietnam Airlines has received Government approval to open four new routes from Vietnam to Europe, Cambodia, Laos and other pats of Asia, which are expected to shorten flight times and reduce annual fuel usage by up to 2,000 tons.

The new routes include Na San-Ladon-Aksag, Nam Ha-Vilao-Pakse, Cam Ranh-Mesox and Phu Cat-Bunta.

The first Na San-Ladon-Aksag route will shorten flight times by 3-4 minutes from Hanoi to France, Germany, and Russia.

The Nam Ha-Vilao-Pakse route will decrease flight times from Hanoi and Danang to Siem Reap and Pnom Penh. It is expected that the time for flights from Hanoi to Siem Reap will be 25 minutes shorter than before and the route will also serve as a backup for north-south flights in the case of poor weather over the East Sea.

The Cam Ranh- Mesox route will cut 3-4 minutes of flights from Japan and Korea to Ho Chi Minh City and the Phu Cat-Bunta route will reduce flight times by 4-6 minutes for flights from HCMC to Hong Kong and other parts of Asia.

Fighter jet crashes in Myanmar

YANGON - A CHINESE-MADE fighter jet crashed and caught fire during a training flight in army-ruled Myanmar on Friday, killing the pilot, witnesses said.

The crash was one of at least 10 fatal accidents involving military aircraft in Myanmar since 1999.

The single-seat F-7 supersonic jet crashed at the Mingaladon Airbase in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, after the landing gear failed and the pilot was unable to eject, an official at the nearby international airport told Reuters.

Little is known about the size of the secretive country's air force, but it is widely believed to have several squadrons of ageing Chinese fighter jets, most following designs based on Russian-made MiGs.

A Moscow newspaper reported in December that Myanmar had agreed to buy 20 MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia for US$572.2 million (S$803 million). Military officials in both Russia and Myanmar declined to comment on the report.

A military

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CATS forecasts revenues of $30m

CAMBODIA Air Traffic Services owner, Samart Corporation, on Monday forecast revenues of US$30.4 million in 2010 from operations in the Kingdom.

Kanokwan Chanswangpuvana, vice president of corporate communications at Thai company Samart, told the Post that the business, which owns Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), predicted 1 billion baht ($30.4 million) in revenues.

Earlier this month, the Cambodian government officially returned operation of CATS to Samart.

It had taken away control after Siwarak Chutipong, who worked as an engineer at CATS, was arrested in Cambodia in November and convicted of stealing classified information about flights made by Thai ex-premier Thakshin Sinawatra. He was pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni last month.

While talking to the Post from Bangkok, Kanokwan did not disclose Samart revenues from Cambodia for 2009. She said that the annual financial report had not yet been approved by the board of directors and, due to the company's being listed on the stock market, she could not release information early.

“The revenue report will be revealed in February,” she added.

The vice president of corporate communications explained that Samart has no concern over its business in the Kingdom.

“I think we have a lot of confidence in the Cambodian government, so we do not see any problems with doing business in Cambodia.

“We also have confidence that we will increase our investment if other opportunities arise,” she said.

The government’s decision to allow CATS to continue operations pushed up Samart shares on the Thai Stock Exchange last week. The stock rose 4.3 percent, closing Friday at $0.184.

Cambodia Angkor increases services

Cambodia Angkor Airline recently added another flight on its Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route, increasing frequently from four to five times daily.

The new flight departs Phnom Penh at 0650 and arrives in Siem Reap at 0740. It returns 0815 and arrives in the Cambodian capital at 0905.

Apart from this route, Cambodia’s national airline serves Ho Chi Minh City from Siem Reap, with three daily flights and Phnom Penh, twice daily.

The airline was established last year and officially took over routes that had been served by Siem Reap Airways.

Graphic identity to boost image

Suvarnabhumi Airport, now in its third year of operation, will soon have a new graphic identity aimed at boosting its image and supporting its goal of becoming one of the world's top-10 airports.

The chosen emblem, picked from 635 entries in a public contest organised by the Airports of Thailand Plc last year, shows three curved blue runways and two stylised yellow aircraft wings.

The logo by Taotai Suksirithada was selected by a seven-person panel of university lecturers, AoT executives and an advertising company's creative director.

AoT president Serirat Prasutanond said the logo symbolises the take-off of the aviation industry and AoT's striving to become a leader in air transport. Mr Taotai will receives a 100,000-baht cash reward.

Keep this article i

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thailand's PB Air ceases operations

The owners of PB Air have decided against trying to revive the Thai regional carrier.

PB Air shuttered is operations late last year when it returned an ATR 72 that it leased from Bangkok Airways.

It was planning to resume operations again using Saab 340s leased from US leasing company AeroCentury, but PB Air CEO Pornsartid Naruenartwanich and business development director Heribert Gaksch say that the carrier officially ended as a business on 21 December.

The company license was surrendered to Thailand's department of commerce. says Wuthichai Singhamanee, director-general of the country's department of civil aviation. The air operator's certificate will be surrendered soon, he adds.

Gaksch says there are several reasons why "the owners of the airline decided to throw on the towel".

They include the delay in negotiations with AeroCentury, and the fact that PB Air was unable to secure Thai Airways International's two ATR 72-200s, he adds.

PB Air wanted to use the Saabs on short-haul routes and lease ATRs for longer-haul routes, he adds.

If it had re-launched operations, it would have faced competition from SGA Airlines which has secured two Saab 340s and will be operating Thai Airways' two ATR 72-200s.

SGA Airlines, which is rebranding itself Nok-Mini, has a close business partnership with low-cost carrier Nok Air, an associate of Thai Airways. SGA will be using the ATR 72s that Thai is transferring to Nok Air.

US Marine unit to join Cobra Gold in Thailand

Story by Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard

Eight AV-8B Harriers and approximately 150 Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 311 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 departed last week for a seven-month deployment supporting the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Japan.

The Harriers flew to Japan Jan. 6, 2009, stopping at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and then Wake Island. A contracted commercial passenger airplane transported the majority of Marines, sailors and the squadron's gear to Japan Saturday.

While the 31st MEU, the Tomcats plan to participate in multinational exercises, such as Cobra Gold in Thailand and Talisman Saber in Australia.

Cobra Gold is designed to improve U.S. relations with Thailand and provide unique training opportunities.

Talisman Saber is conducted twice a year in Australia between U.S. and Australian forces. The exercise focuses on operational warfighting in advanced scenarios that encompass ground, air and sea environments.

The squadron will be assigned to the USS Essex and may be tasked with humanitarian support and disaster relief in the Pacific if necessary.

The remainder of VMA-311 is also scheduled to deploy, joining the 15th MEU aboard the USS Peleliu, setting sail from San Diego in May.

The squadron previously returned from separate six-month deployments to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq in October 2008 and aboard the Peleliu in November 2008.

Vietnam Air profits plunge


A security guard watches over two Vietnam Airlines aircraft at Hanoi airport. Vietnam’s national carrier - a stakeholder in Cambodia Angkor Air - says it is looking to become the hub for travel to the Kingdom. AFP
Vietnam looks to become Cambodia hub
THE director of Vietnam Airlines’ representative office in Japan, Nguyen Quoc Tuan, has said that Vietnam hopes to establish itself as a hub for onward travel to Cambodia. Speaking at the inauguration Tuesday of the airline’s new route between Hanoi and Osaka in Japan’s second-largest city, Nguyen added that Vietnam also hoped to serve a similar role for Laos, according to a Vietnam News Agency report Wednesday. Thailand has traditionally served as the main gateway to the Kingdom, but political protests closed Bangkok’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi, at the end of 2008, an event that prevented some passengers from travelling on to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Vietnam overtook South Korea
to become the main source of arrivals to Cambodia last year, but many of these were via overland routes rather than flights, according to official government statistics. Overall air arrivals fell 2.84 percent for the first 11 months of 2009. On Wednesday, Van Ha, section manager for Vietnam Airlines in Cambodia, declined to offer a breakdown of how the decline in air travel had hit the carrier’s operations in the Kingdom during 2009, adding that the airline would release results next week. Cambodia Angkor Air – the Kingdom’s new national carrier, which is part-owned by Vietnam Airlines – said last month it had already turned profitable following its launch at the end of July. STEVE FINCH
HANOI – Vietnam Airlines profits tumbled 42 percent year-on-year as the state-owned flag carrier was hit by the effects of the global recession and swine flu outbreak.

The airline’s pre-tax profit fell to US$8.1 million last year, down from $14 million a year earlier, it said late Tuesday.

The carrier also cited “epidemic outbreaks” for its profit fall, an apparent reference to the global A (H1N1) swine flu pandemic.

But the airline noted it had still posted profits as other international airlines suffered losses in 2009, one of the worst years on record for airlines following the global economic crisis.

“Vietnam Airlines still earned profits” while increasing its fleet and opening new domestic routes, it said.

VNA’s revenue for the year reached $1.3 billion, against $1.56 billion reported a year earlier. The 2009 figure was four percent higher than the target, it said.

The airline said it transported 9.3 million passengers – up from 8.8 million the previous year. One third of the passengers were foreigners, it said.
Vietnam Airlines is targeting 11 million passengers this year.

The International Air Transport Association, an industry group, has said global passenger demand is expected to grow this year after a fall during a difficult 2009 for the industry.

Shares of Asia’s largest carrier, Japan Airlines (JAL), have plunged this week on fears the carrier is preparing for a court-backed bankruptcy filing.

Vietnam Airlines said it was due Wednesday to begin direct flights to Osaka five times a week to replace previous cooperative flights with JAL.

Vietnam Airlines expects to triple its fleet of 50 aircraft by 2020, and officials have said it is seeking to become one of the region’s leading carriers.