Saturday, July 31, 2010

2009: Not a Bad Year For Phuket Aviation

The Phuket aviation activity in 2009 looked a lot better than previous years and there are promising signs for future growth and development.

The number of airlines servicing Phuket domestically and internationally either directly or through charters and code shares with other airlines was around 50 and has continued to grow.

A new airline, Happy Air, started up, which is unusual [ and risky ] but welcome. Owned by a Puget Thai family, Happy Air offers flights to HatYai and Langkawi, Malaysia on a 34 seat SAAB 340 Standard aircraft. A second SAAB could be introduced, depending on how the business grows.

Firefly Airlines of Malaysia started, then suspended, then started again flights between Phuket and Penang, in Malaysia. Firefly and Happy Air are not really budget airlines. Both offer limited "full" service.

They could be dubbed the " visa run " airlines because of the short runs to Malaysia, although it is yet to be determined if they pick up a lot of this traffic.

There were no fatal accidents at Phuket in 2009. The only major 'incident" in Thailand was a Bangkok Airways ATR-72 aircraft plowing into the Koh Samui control tower, causing extensive damage but no fatalities.

Air Asia's announcement of using Phuket as a second Thailand hub showed strong commitment to the island's tourism industry, and from China China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines started services, after some delay caused by the Songkran riots in Bangkok.

Thai Airways International, which accounts for around 50% of all passengers into Phuket, launched direct flights from Hong Kong, a smart move given the large number of Hong Kong people who now own property on Phuket.

The usual "suspects", Tiger Airways and Silk Air, Singapore and JetStar Airlines, Australia continued their growth paths with uninterrupted services to Phuket. In addition V-Australia, the Virgin long haul budget carrier, was to begin flights to Phuket from New Zealand with connections on Pacific Blue, the budget carrier servicing New Zealand.

From Europe large and growing airlines like Condor and Air Berlin are seen more frequently at the airport. And THAI will, next year, offer direct Frankfurt-Phuket flights, which will boost already high numbers of tourists from Germany.

The charter business this year also seems to be holding up, although latest statistics were not available at time of writing. Charter flight airlines operators include BaiAir, Swizterland; Britannia Airways, UK; Britannia Scandinavia, Scandinavia; FinnAir , Finland; Martin Air, Holland, NovAir and PremiAir, Sweden; UNI Airways, Khaoshung and Taipei.

And in a sign of the times, with airline consolidation taking place in Europe, TUI Travel, one of the biggest charter operators, took a 9.9% stake in Air Berlin, the Germany's second biggest carrier. Such deals can only be positive for Phuket, given the large German tourist traffic.

With the high season just beginning assessing whether tourist numbers will be up on last year is difficult, but given the upheaval caused by airport closures in Bangkok and Phuket, the year on year numbers are likely to be higher.

Here's hoping. At Phuket International Airport, despite the parking fee going up by 400% to 200THB per day, there have been some noticeable and welcome improvements, particularly in the international area. The Airports Authority of Thailand is spending a great deal of money to improve the airport, a tremendous investment in the future of the island.r

New lounges [ Happy Air ], restaurants, cafes and other facilities that travelers look for while waiting for planes have sprung up all over the place. There are more immigration booths and lines seem a bit shorter [ although depends on how much of an impatient person you are ].

The planned building of a VIP terminal for the glitterati to fly in and out of Phuket undisturbed was also a welcome announcement.

Overall aviation in Phuket this year had positive growth and signs for the future. This is vital as the island would simply shrivel up and die without those aircraft landing at our little airport every few minutes or so.

Wednesday, 28th July 2010 at 03:04am

By Alastair Carthew, a former aviation employee, newspaper and television journalist. He is a freelance writer and consultant living on Phuket. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cambodia's tourist arrivals surge past ministry forecast


Photo by: Julie Leafe
Cheery South Korean tourists jump for the camera in front of Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument. Tourist arrivals in the Kingdom have risen this year.

TOURIST arrivals in Cambodia increased by about 12 percent in the first six months of this year, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics released yesterday.

In the first half of 2010, Cambodia received a total of 1,221,156 foreign tourists, up from 1,086,518 tourists in the same period of 2009, a report said.

Tourists from Asia accounted for a large number of visitors, with arrivals from neighbouring Vietnam taking the top spot.

Vietnamese visitors reached 208,667 in the first half of this year, up a massive 46 percent on the first six months of last year.

South Korea stood at number two, with 136,498, up around 35 percent annually. Japan was third with 71,107 tourists, a modest rise of about 7 percent.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said yesterday that the growth in tourism was due in part to a gradual recovery of the global economy and an easing of vehicle restrictions at Cambodia’s border frontiers – which has led traffic at some checkpoints to soar by up to two-thirds.

“We hope the number will continue to grow in the second half of this year,” he said.

If growth continues at the pace of the first six months, it will surpass government estimates.

The Ministry of Tourism has forecast that tourist numbers for the whole of 2010 would rise around 10 percent.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said yesterday that visa-exception agreements and an increase in flights would be an important factor in attracting more tourists to the Kingdom in coming months.

He said that airlines such as Bangkok Airways and Air Asia would increase their flights from October to December, the high tourist season.

“I think that Cambodia could receive the growth in tourism that the ministry has forecast due to better infrastructure [being introduced] day to day,” he said.

The statistics showed that in the first six months, tourist arrivals by air rose an estimated 14 percent to 632,373, while arrivals by road and water rose around 13 percent to 522,634.

Thong Khon said that the ministry planned to arrange more direct flights to countries in the region to attract visitors.

Last week, national airline Cambodia Angkor Air announced plans to buy two new planes in order to open routes to Japan, China and South Korea.

According to a price list compiled by French manufacturer Airbus SAS, the aircraft that CAA planned to purchase cost about US$95.5 million each.

A B-29 'Frozen in Time' - An awesome video series!

B-29 Frozen in Time follows Darryl Greenamyer and his crew as they try to retrieve an almost intact B-29 from the Arctic Circle. The airplane crash-landed nearly 50 years earlier during a secret mission for the United States. The pilots survived the crash and were rescued, but the B-29 was left in the harsh and unforgiving climate 250 miles north of Thule, Greenland. Greenamyer, a former test pilot who set a low-altitude speed record in a jet he built from spare parts, believes that he can actually fly the plane after performing some maintenance and building a short runway. He flies in parts for the B-29 and a massive bulldozer to clear the runway, but every takeoff is dangerous in these conditions, and he and his crew have a short window for success due to the brief summer. Greenamyer also faces a limited budget and other difficult hurdles as they try to resurrect a piece of history and fly it home.

The A-10 'Warthog' - "I'm glad it's ours."

Never knew how large the weaponry unit was until I this presentation placed it beside a Volkswagen automobile.

Thought you’d enjoy the technical aspects of this email.

First there was this gun...


It was developed by General Electric, the "We bring good things to life" people.
It's one of the modern-day Gatling guns.
It shoots very big bullets. It shoots them very quickly.

Someone said, "Let's put it in an airplane."

Someone else said, "Better still, and let’s build an airplane around it."

So they did. And "they" were the Fairchild-Republic airplane people.

And they had done such a good job with an airplane they developed back in WWII...


...called the P-47 Thunderbolt, they decided to call it the A10 Thunderbolt.


They made it so it was very good at flying low and slow and shooting things with that fabulous gun.

But since it did fly low and slow, they made it bulletproof, or almost so. A lot of bad guys have found you can shoot an A10 with anything from a pistol to a 23mm Soviet cannon and it just keeps on flying and shooting.

When they got through, it looked like this...


It's not sleek and sexy like an F18 or the stealthy Raptors and such, but I think it's such a great airplane because it does what it does better than any other plane in the world.

It kills tanks.

Not only tanks, as Sadam Hussein's boys found out to their horror, but armored personnel carriers, radar stations, locomotives, bunkers, fuel depots...just about anything the bad guys thought was bulletproof turned out to be easy pickings for this beast.


See those engines. One of them alone will fly this puppy. The pilot sits in a very thick titanium alloy "bathtub."

That's typical of the design.

They were smart enough to make every part the same whether mounted on the left side or right side of the plane, like landing gear, for instance.

Because the engines are mounted so high (away from ground debris) and the landing gear uses such low pressure tires, it can operate from a damaged airport, interstate highway, plowed field, or dirt road.

Everything is redundant. They have two of almost everything. Sometimes they have three of something. Like flight controls. There's triple redundancy of those, and even if there is a total failure of the double hydraulic system, there is a set of manual flying controls.


Capt. Kim Campbell sustained this damage over Bagdad and flew for another hour before returning to base.

But about that gun...

It's so hard to grasp just how powerful it is.


This is the closest I could find to showing you just what this cartridge is all about. What the guy is holding is NOT the 30mm round, but a "little" .50 Browing machinegun round and the 20mm cannon round which has been around for a long time.

The 30mm is MUCH bigger.


Down at the bottom are the .50 BMG and 20x102 Vulcan the fellow was holding. At the bottom right is the bad boy we're discussing.

Let's get some perspective here: The .223 Rem (M16 rifle round) is fast. It shoots a 55 or so grain bullet at about 3300 feet/sec, give or take. It's the fastest of all those rounds shown (except one). When you move up to the .30 caliber rounds, the bullets jump up in weight to 160-200 grains. Speeds run from about 2600 to 3000 fps or so.

The .338 Lapua is the king of the sniper rifles these days and shoots a 350 grain bullet at 2800 fps or so. They kill bad guys at over a mile with that one.

The .50 BMG is really big. Mike Beasley has one on his desk. Everyone who picks it up thinks it's some sort of fake, unless they know big ammo. It's really huge with a bullet that weighs 750 grains and goes as fast the Lapua.

I don't have data on the Vulcan, but hang on to your hat.

The bullet for the 30x173 Avenger has an aluminum jacket around a spent uranium core and weighs 6560 grains (yes, over 100 times as heavy as the M16 bullet, and flies through the air at 3500 fps (which is faster than the M16 as well).

The gun shoots at a rate of 4200 rounds per minute. Yes, four thousand. Pilots typically shoot either one- or two-second burst which set loose 70 to 150 rounds. The system is optimized for shooting at 4,000 feet.

OK, the best for last.

You've got a pretty good idea of how big that cartridge is, but I'll bet you're like me and you don't fully appreciate how big the GA GAU-8 Avenger really is.

Take a look...


Each of those seven barrels is 112" long. That's almost ten feet. The entire gun is 19-1/2 feet long.

Think how impressive it would look set up in your living room.

Oh, by the way, it doesn't eject the empty shells but runs them back into the storage drum. There's just so dang many flying out, they felt it might damage the aircraft.
Oh yeah, I forgot, they can hang those bomb and rocket things on ‘em too, just in case. After all, it is an “airplane”!

Like I said, this is a beautiful design.


I'm glad it's ours.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mekong Aviation First Commercial Flight Oct 2010

Mekong Aviation is completing hectic preparations for its first commercial flight, while Jetstar Pacific is trying to expand its market share.

LookAtVietnam - Mekong Aviation is completing hectic preparations for its first commercial flight, slated for October 2010, while Jetstar Pacific is trying to expand its market share.

According to Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper, Mekong Aviation, a private airline, has decided that it will take the first commercial flight on October 10, 2010. The information is good news for Vietnam’s aviation market.
Believing that it cannot confront airlines that have experience and a certain market share, Mekong Aviation has decided to exploit the ‘niche market’: the airline will fly domestic air routes with Bombardier CRJ 900 jets. Its air routes will be Hanoi-Phu Quoc island, HCM City-Phu Quoc island with four flights per week and also Hanoi-HCM City. At this moment, other airlines do not want to fly Hanoi-Phu Quoc, because Phu Quoc only has a small airport capable of receiving aircraft with less than 100 seats. Only Vietnam Airlines can meet the requirement because it has ATR and Forker aircraft.

As such, right when it joins the market, Mekong Aviation will have an advantage. Another advantage is in aircraft. Bombardier CRJ 900 has 95 seats that flies more smoothly and more quickly than propeller-driven planes.

Mekong Aviation is the first Vietnamese airline to use the Bombardier, chartering them from US SkyWest. SkyWest will also provide the maintenance service.

Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Vo Huy Cuong, Head of the Aviation Transport Department under the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV), as saying that SkyWest is preparing to buy 30 percent of stakes of Mekong Aviation.

If the purchase is accepted by the Ministry of Transport, this will be the third Vietnamese airline that has sold stakes to foreign partners, after Jetstar Pacific Airlines, and VietJet Air.

It is expected that in August, Mekong Aviation will receive its first aircraft. To date, the air carrier has fulfilled three out of the five steps needed to apply for AOC (air operator’s certificate).

The budget airline Jetstar Pacific is also planning to expand its market share after a long period of coping with the economic downturn. Under an agreement with foreign partner Qantas, by 2014, the airline will put 10 Airbus A320-A321s into operation to improve flight capacity. The first A320 will be delivered in October 2010.
The airline’s fleet now includes five Boeing 747s and one Airbus A321. Jetstar Pacific’s foreign partner cooperates in training pilots and technical teams and has committed to long-term investment in Vietnam.
According to Cuong from CAAV, while Indochina Airlines is facing license revocation, the fact that Mekong Aviation is preparing to take off and Jetstar Pacific is trying to increase its capacity will help the aviation market increase transport capacity.
With a growth rate of nearly 20 percent per annum, travel demand is very high, and the three currently operational airlines cannot meet the demand, especially at peak times.
In order to take-off in October, Mekong Aviation will have to open its ticket sale system by August at the latest. It is expected that airfares will be equal or lower than the average airfare of Vietnam Airlines on the same air routes.
Source: Nguoi lao dong, Tuoi tre

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Phuket Aviation History

Visitors to Phuket arriving on a Thai Airways International Boeing 747 on 9 February 2009 were part of aviation history.

On that day 40 years previously in 1969 the first Boeing 747-100 "Jumbo" jet made lifted off to mark a new era in air travel.

The aircraft, two and a half times larger than any airlines existing at the time, flew for only 85 minutes from Paine airfield near Seattle, USA where Boeing's main plant was, and still is, based.

Planning for the aircraft has begun as far back as 1963 when Boeing decided they needed a new generation of aircraft for the 1970s.

It was a miracle of modern technology that forever changed air travel. The B747, now acknowledged as the world's most recognizable aircraft, ranks for four other aircraft as, arguably, the top five commercial airliners ever produced.

They are the B747, the BAe/Aerospatiale Concorde, the supersonic, Anglo-French thoroughbred that stopped service for financial reasons in 2003; the McDonnell Douglas DC-3, which itself revolutionalised travel in the 1930s as a reliable, rugged and economic aircraft; the Airbus 380 [ more about that ] and the Boeing 707, which was the first aircraft produced in a new classical configuration that set the standard for years to come.

Now if those same visitors to Phuket looked forward to changes in the aviation industry over the next 40 years what would they see?

A great deal actually.

First, to set the scene. In the last 20 years air travel grew by an average 4.8 percent each year, despite two major world recessions, terrorist acts, the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the SARS outbreak in 2003 and two Gulf wars.

It is predicted that the average over the next 20 years will be 5.0 percent a year in passenger travel and 5.8 percent in cargo. These predictions, for 2008-2027, will need to be revised in light of the current world recession, but the point is that air travel is very robust despite everything nature-and man-can throw at it.

So looking ahead how will the airline industry sustain such growth? The answer is new technology. We are now just over a year into a new generation of aircraft that will take air travel to yet another level and also about to experience new technological advances inside the cabin that will also change the flying experience forever - for some people not for the best.

Firstly the new generation aircraft. The Airbus A380 has now been operating with Singapore Airlines, its first customer, for over a year. Qantas and Emirates have also entered service with A380 across a variety of routes with more airlines to follow..

One is Thai Airways International is due to take delivery of the six A380s from 2010 onwards.

The A380 is the equivalent of the B747 in that it represents a new generation of large, twin aidle, now double decker, aircraft. The B747, remarkably, is still in use by many airlines around the world [ the 1400th Jumbo was delivered on February, 2008 ] but the A380 has a a greater seat capacity of anything up to 600 seats, depending on the configuration, is quieter and has a full double deck, compared to the B747's limited upper deck.

The other major new generation aircraft is the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner." Now two years overdue for commercial service, the B787 is made of light, composite metal and is claimed to be 20 percent more fuel efficient. The 210-330 seat B787 is due to enter service 2010.

Japan and China are also due to introduce their own smaller regional jets. The Japanese Mitsubishi Regional Jet [MRJ-70 and MRJ-90] seat between 70 and 96 passengers, depending on the model, and will also, have composite materials.

The Chinese made ARJ21 regional jet [70-80 seats] is scheduled for its first flight this year. Already Chinese airlines have placed orders for it. The ARJ21 launches a new era for Chinese aviation.

And what about the passengers? On-board mobile phone and internet technology is not just around the corner, it is upon us.

Four Asian airlines AirAsia [ which services Phuket through Thai AirAsia] will become the first Asian carrier to introduce the on-board mobile phone service. Shenzhen Airlines, China; Kingfisher Airlines, India and Airblue of Pakistan are also due to receive the new on-board mobile phone technology this year.

Adoption of internet and email access on aircraft is also gathering pace, with over 50 percent of airlines surveyed in 2008 planning to adopt both technologies in the next two or three years. It's a similar story for text messaging, GPRS [Blackberry], laptop messaging and mobile phone calls.

So next time you arrive in Phuket by aircraft in future, think of the possibilities awaiting you of your ability to text, email or phone-heaven forbid-- your mother in law to say you are coming for the weekend.

We have come a long way since that epoch making B747 flight in 1969 but the possibilities for new innovation and technology in aviation appear endless.

Myanmar airline to operate a flight Yangon-Guangzhou

The Myanmar Airway International ( MAI) is planning to operate a new route between Yangon and Guangzhou by October this year in a bid to enhance the country’s tourism industry, sources with the aviation authority said on Thursday.

Better passenger facilities, efficiency will help Suvarnabhumi get to top: Incheon exec

Suvarnabhumi Airport can become of the world's best airports if it invests heavily on facilities and IT, an executive from Seoul's Incheon International Airport said.

Opened nine years ago, Incheon has been named one of the world's best airports for five consecutive years.

The airport's executive vice president, Younggeun Lee, said yesterday that this achievement was due to improved passenger amenities along with technology. He was in Bangkok to attend AOT's workshop "Stepping Forward to the Forefront through Sister Airport Agreement: Increasing Passenger Satisfaction".

He said Suvarnabhumi Airport could catch up by making passengers feel comfortable and all procedures convenient and easy. In addition, he said, the time spent at the immigration counter should be shortened and kept in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's recommendations.

Lee also advised AOT to invest more on passenger amenities such as free showers, free Internet, indoor garden, cable TV, rest area as well as shopping areas.

"Many European airports already offer these facilities," he said.

The Incheon International Airport Corporation has signed an agreement with AOT to help improve Suvarnabhumi's general services, operation, technical transfer, human resources and marketing to help it become one of the top airports.

"At Incheon, all 35,000 members of staff from 570 organisations work towards one goal - making our airport the best in the world," he said, adding that in order to do that, Suvarnabhumi needed feedback from both customers and staff.

"This will help us evaluate our service performance and maintain high levels," he explained.

AOT president, Serirat Prasutanond, said the company had announced its plan to enhance passenger satisfaction and service via airport development. This should make the airport competitive and also become a regional aviation hub, which will also help boost the country's economy.

Suvarnabhumi was ranked 10th in Skytrax's latest review of world airports.

According to Serirat, AOT aims to service 56 million to 57 million passengers at its six airports, namely Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket and Chiang Rai.

The company has also maintained its revenue at Bt24 billion this year despite the recent political unrest.

Currently, 108,000 passengers go through Suvarnabhumi Airport per month - a number that is very close to the normal level. AOT hopes that the aviation business will recover within the third quarter of this year as tourists start returning to the country.

Thailand's military goes on shopping spree

Govt eager to okay big-ticket items ahead of army chief's retirement, despite controversies,

  • Published: 24/07/2010 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: News

Several controversial major military procurements and projects have been endorsed or are awaiting approval ahead of the coming retirement of army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda.

They include a new infantry division in the North; a 5 billion baht procurement for 121 armoured personnel carriers; and a 350 million baht reconnaissance airship.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has approved the army chief's proposal to spend 10 billion baht on developing a new infantry division in Chiang Mai to secure the northern border with Burma and Laos, suppress drugs and cope with red shirt protesters, according to an army source.

Gen Anupong, who will retire at the end of September, assigned the 3rd Army late last year to study the establishment of the 7th Infantry Division based in Chiang Mai. The new division will have 25,000 soldiers.

The establishment of the infantry division will cost about 10 billion baht. The spending will take five years and start next year.

At present, the North has only the 1st Cavalry Division in Phitsanulok and the 4th Infantry Division in Nakhon Sawan with 20,000 soldiers in total who must secure the border with Laos and Burma for a distance of nearly 1,000km from Tak to Phitsanulok. Some of the soldiers were deployed to secure the strongholds of red shirt protesters and the opposition Puea Thai Party in the North, the source said. The military helps the government confront protesters and is rewarded with opportunities to order weaponry.

Controversies over the wisdom of the purchases tends to be ignored, such is the government's eagerness to please.

An army committee yesterday accepted the cameras and downlink system of a 350 million baht reconnaissance airship even though many problems have emerged with the imported airship.

The airship was officially accepted on May 27. It was unable to reach the altitude of a kilometre needed to take it out of range of M16 rifles. It also leaks through its seams.

"Only one month of the original one-year warranty remains as the procurement contract of the airship was signed in August last year," the source said.

He said the acceptance of the communication system followed lobbying by the supplier, who promised to replace the problematic airship with a new one, or take it for an overhaul in the US.

If the supplier breaks his promise, the army will have to pay 55 million baht for repairs after the warranty expires.

Other controversies include the army's order for 96 BTR-3E1 wheeled armoured personnel carriers.

According to a source, Gen Anupong plans to ask the cabinet next week to approve in principle another order for 121 more BTR-3E1 APCs worth nearly 5 billion baht from the Ukraine.

The order is planned even though the army encountered problems with the first 96 BTR-3E1 armoured personnel carriers worth 3.9 billion baht from the same supplier.

The order was criticised for lacking transparency.

It was proposed to former defence minister Boonrawd Somtas of the Surayud Chulanont government but Gen Boonrawd did not sign for the procurement project.

Later Gen Anupong sought approval from former prime minister Samak Sundaravej who was concurrently the defence minister. He approved, to please the army.

However, since 2007 the Ukraine supplier, which is represented in Thailand by Datagate Thailand Co, has been unable to deliver the personnel carriers to the Thai army.

Originally the Ukraine company proposed the carriers be equipped with Deutz engines and transmission systems from Germany but the engine and transmission manufacturer refused to supply its products, citing concerns over the 2006 coup.

The Ukraine switched to offering MTU engines from Germany and Allison transmission systems from the United States.

Lt Gen Ekachai Watcharaprateep, the director-general of the army's Ordnance Department, who was a pre-cadet classmate of Gen Anupong, said the Ukraine will deliver two personnel carriers in September and will complete the rest of the delivery next year.

When red shirt protesters rallied last March, Gen Anupong sought cabinet approval to import six Mi-17 helicopters worth about 2 billion baht from Russia.

Last year the army chief ordered three Black Hawk helicopters worth 2 billion baht.

He has just sought 134 million baht to order 1,200 Mini Tavor rifles for special warfare soldiers and the 1st Army.

Soon the army will seek cabinet consent to import 16 Enstrom 480B light helicopters worth 1.2 billion baht from the US.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thai Gripens To Be Operational In 2011

By Robert Wall

The first of four Royal Thai Air Force Gripen pilots and technicians are undergoing training in Sweden to allow Squadron 701 of the 7th Wing to go operational next year.

Thailand is initially buying six Gripens, with a plan to grow that to 12 aircraft. Further purchases are possible, but will have to await the first operational experiences with the fighter in Thailand, says Wing Cdr. Jackkrit Thammavichai, who will be the first squadron commander. However, he says, “I foresee no problem” in making the case for more aircraft.

Four pilots are now in Sweden to undergo training as instructor pilots, with another six to come to Sweden in January for training as quick reaction alert pilots. The current batch so far has flown the A/B Gripens and will begin work with the C/Ds soon, with their training to end in December.

Thammavichai says the experience to transition former F-5 and F-16 pilots has been good, with the aircraft “easy to fly.” The flight control system is “very smooth,” and the human-machine interface “well designed.”

All six Gripens should be delivered to Thailand by March. The aircraft will initially be armed by AIM-9M Sidewinders and AIM-120 Amraams, although Thailand also is buying the IRIS-T dogfight missile for Gripen use.

As part of the so called Gripen Integrated Air Defense System, the RTAF also will field Erieye early warning aircaft. The entire network is to go operational next year, too, Thammavichai says.

Credit: Saab

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Changi passenger traffic up

Changi Airport's passenger traffic hit 3.62 million last month, a big 18.6 per cent jump over a year earlier and 8.1 per cent higher than total traffic in June 2008. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIIN

CHANGI Airport's passenger traffic hit 3.62 million last month, a big 18.6 per cent jump over a year earlier and 8.1 per cent higher than total traffic in June 2008.

The latest figures take to 20.2 million the total number of passengers handled in the first half of the year.

This is 17.0 per cent more than last year and 8.1 per cent higher than two years ago.

Last month's growth was led mainly by traffic to and from South-east Asia, North-east Asia, South Asia and North America, Changi Airport Group said on Thursday.

On the cargo front, 879,000 tonnes of airfreight were moved at Changi Airport from January to June 2010, a 16.5 per cent increase year-on-year.

In June, total cargo volume hit 50,000 tonnes, up 13.1 per cent.

Aircraft movements also continued to increase, by 10.4 per cent to 128,010 in the first six months of 2010.

In June, 21,800 flights were registered, an increase of 14.5 per cent.

Read the full story in Friday's edition of the Straits Times.

USAF Aircraft Identification Chart

Quote of the Day:

"I know other astronauts share my feelings... we know the government is sitting on hard evidence of UFOs."

~ Col. Gordon Cooper, Astronaut

The insider: chemtrails KC-10 sprayer air to air

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cambodia's Angkor Air set for big take-off

THE Kingdom’s national airline, Cambodia Angkor Air is set to buy two new planes in order to expand its flight network to South Korea, China and Japan.

The carrier, set up last July in a joint venture between the Cambodian government and Vietnam Airlines, plans to purchase two 168-seat Airbus 321s – which according to a price list compiled by the French maker cost about US$95.5 million each.

Soy Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, the organisation in charge of the Cambodian side of CAA, said yesterday that the purchases were planned for “late 2010 or early 2011”.

“The first destinations to fly to are South Korea, China and Japan, as soon as the new aircraft come,” he said.

The new aircraft will expand CAA’s fleet from three aircraft to five.

The company, set up with an initial investment of US$100 million under a 30-year agreement, now operates two ATR-72 aircraft and an Airbus 321 in 16 daily flights serving Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

Soy Sokhan said the planes would be brought to Cambodia from Europe. He declined to reveal financing details, saying this was confidential.

Officials and analysts alike said the move could provide a boost to Cambodia’s economy and tourism sector.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said: “We are really eager to see our national carrier fly to those countries.” He added that there were no direct flights operating between the Kingdom and Japan, and that South Korea and China are the leading countries in terms of both visitor arrivals and investment in the Kingdom.

“It’s very good if the direct flight with Japan comes online,” Thong Khon said.

However, both the minister and the private sector had words of advice for CAA as it expands. Thong Khon said the company should consider launching regular flights to Sihanoukville as soon as possible in a bid to attract tourists to Cambodia’s coast.

President of World Express Tours and Travel Ho Vandy, who is also co-chairman of the government-private sector forum on tourism, emphasised that CAA must be competitive.

“On behalf of the tourism private sector, we’d like to suggest that the CAA should set competitive prices to encourage more passengers to use it,” he said. “We also see that service and hospitality on board is still limited. There should be an improvement, and flight attendants’ uniforms should reflect Khmer national identification.”

But CAA remains confident of its market appeal, despite modest initial profits.

Soy Sokhan said: “CAA’s popularity is increasing day by day. For high season, which starts in October, we expect that more tourists will fly with CAA.”

He said CAA had turned a profit since it began operations last year, but that it remained “little”.

AIRSHOW-UPDATE 1-Sukhoi gets Superjet order from Thailand

Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:57am EDT

* Announces new order for 12 planes from Thai Orient

* Has a firm backlog of 131 orders for the Superjet 100

* Reiterates latest target of year-end delivery

(Adds detail of new order)

FARNBOROUGH/MOSCOW July 20 (Reuters) - Sukhoi (UNAC.RTS) said it had won an order for 12 Superjet 100 planes, while its chief executive said the Russian planemaker was on track to deliver its first jet to customers by the end of this year.

The Superjet 100 will be the first passenger plane built by Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, and will attempt to challenge market leaders Airbus (EAD.PA) and Boeing (BA.N) in the regional carrier sector.

Sukhoi, which is making the planes with Italian group Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI), said on its web site on Tuesday it would sell 12 of the regional planes to privately owned Orient Thai Airlines with an option for 12 more.

It did not give detail on price, but on Monday the company announced a 30-plane deal with Indonesian group Kartika for $951 million. [ID:nLDE66I071]

Sukhoi chief executive Mikhail Pogosyan told reporters at the Farnborough Airshow the company had a firm backlog of 131 domestic and international orders for the Superjet 100 and that 70 percent of testing was complete.

He reiterated an earlier target to make first deliveries to customers by the end of 2010. The project has been hit by a string of delays since the plane's maiden flight in 2008.

Sukhoi is the part of state-controlled United Aviation Corp (UAC) (UNAC.RTS), more famous for military aircraft, but Pogosyan said the Superjet programme was of similar importance to the construction of fighter jets.

Sukhoi said the order with Orient Thai Airlines, which has 15 planes, would be delivered from 2011-14. (Reporting by Ben Berkowitz and John Bowker; Editing by Dmitry Sergeyev and Dan Lalor)

Monday, July 19, 2010

QinetiQ’s Zephyr solar powered unmanned aircraft demonstrates perpetual flight

Zephyr, QinetiQ’s solar-powered, high-altitude long-endurance (HALE), Unmanned Air System (UAS) is currently in the air and setting a landmark unmanned flight duration record by demonstrating what is essentially perpetual flight. The official world record for the longest unmanned flight is 30 hours 24 minutes set by Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A Global Hawk in 2001. A previous smaller relative of the current Zephyr holds the unofficial record of 82 hours but this time QinetiQ has FIA officials on hand and has been flying the new 22.5m wingspan plane for the past week, and is closing on the 200 hour mark with another week (168 hours) planned. It needs to land safely to claim the record, but the feat has already demonstrated that the era of low-cost, persistent aerial surveillance has begun.

Zephyr is currently flying high above the clouds over the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, on the way to becoming the world's first truly eternal plane.

The benefits of such capability are many, with the most obvious being persistent surveillance over months rather than days. Some other logical applications include earth observation and communications relay in support of a range of defence, security and commercial requirements.

The current Zephyr aircraft is a genuine breakthrough design, drawing on the latest technology and represents a massive leap forward in engineering excellence incorporating an entirely new wing design.

“The team has worked tirelessly over the past few years, making truly significant leaps forward in overall design and construction - and to see it successfully soar into the sky was fantastic,” explained Jon Saltmarsh, Zephyr Programme Director. “By being able to remain over a location for weeks or months at a time, it can usefully deliver a host of practical and more affordable solutions to both civil and military customers.”

Launched by hand, the aircraft flies by day on solar power delivered by amorphous silicon solar arrays no thicker than sheets of paper that cover the aircraft's wings. These are also used to recharge the lithium-sulphur batteries, supplied by Sion Power Inc, which are used to power the aircraft by night. Together they provide an extremely high power to weight ratio on a continuous day/night cycle, thereby delivering persistent on-station capabilities.

Around 50% larger than the previous Zephyr, technical changes now mean it has a 22.5m wingspan to accommodate more batteries that are combined with a totally new integrated power management system. The entirely new aerodynamic shape and high “T” tail also contribute to reduce drag and improve performance. The payload capacity will meet a number of key surveillance and communication requirements already demonstrated by Zephyr over the past three years. Zephyr’s ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre design also means it weighs in at just over 50Kg.

Unlike conventional manned or unmanned aircraft now being operated, Zephyr does not need to return to base at regular intervals for re-fuelling or servicing which also helps minimise the logistical supply chain and extend its operational capability.

The QinetiQ Zephyr will be show-cased at the Farnborough International Airshow.

By Mike Hanlon

18:22 July 16, 2010

Zephyr will extend the official world record by  at least one order of magnitude

Zephyr will extend the official world record by at least one order of magnitude

Image Gallery (2 images)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thai Aviation Services needs Helicopter Student Pilot / Commercial Helicopter Pilot

Thai Aviation Services Ltd.

Thai Aviation Services Ltd. (TAS), a helicopter (Air Operator License) Company, has been servicing Offshore Oil & Gas Operations in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea since 1974.

Our operational bases are at Royal Thai Naval Airport, Songkhla Province, at the Utapao International Airport, Rayong Province. TAS will establish a new operation base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat in the 3rd quarter of 2010.


  • Male/Female between the ages of 25-35 years in good physical health with no medical related conditions including excellent eyesight and hearing. (Applicants will be subject to a thorough medical exam)
  • University graduate with a major in Physics, Engineering or equivalent subject would be advantageous.
  • Good problem solving and mechanical aptitude along with strong leadership and team building skills.
  • Strong ability to operate independently or as part of a team.
  • Fluent in English language skills, written and spoken. (with TOEIC score minimum 700 or equivalent English Testing)
  • Willing to commit to a 10 years-Service Agreement.
  • Willing to work anywhere in Thailand and/or overseas, if required.

Prior to final selection, applicants will be sent to Vancouver, Canada for a series of interviews, aptitude test and medical exam.

Qualified persons are invited to send your application letter together with an updated resume, one-inch 1 photo and a copy of the following documents;

  • Identification card
  • Housing registration certificate
  • Certificate of exemption from military service (Must)
  • Educational documents & Transcript
  • TOEIC score report
  • Training Certificates
  • Pilot’s License (For Commercial Helicopter Pilot)
  • Pilot’s Log Book (For Commercial Helicopter Pilot)
  • Medical certification (For Commercial Helicopter Pilot)
  • Flying school certificate and transcript that indicate duration of the course, (For Commercial Helicopter Pilot)
  • Summary of flying experience. (For Commercial Helicopter Pilot)

Interested persons, please send resume in English only in MS-Word or PDF format with a recent photo and expected salary to:

Human Resources Division

Thai Aviation Services Limited

18 SCB Park Plaza West, Building 2, 8/F,

Rachadapisek Road, Chatuchak,

Bangkok 10900

Tel. 0-2937-5595-8 # 141


Only short-listed candidates will be contacted and provided further detail. For Remuneration will be negotiated depending on ability and experience.

Two senior THAI execs transferred

Thai Airways International (THAI) yesterday transferred Pruet Boobhakam, executive vice president of its commercial department, as a special adviser to the office of the president following investigations into the alleged unscrupulous leasing of two cargo aircraft.

Pruet signed the lease with American airline Southern Air while he oversaw the cargo department, without seeking approval from the board of directors, THAI president Piyasvasti Amranand said.

The contract, said to be struck at an extraordinarily high rice, was signed 14 days before Piyasvasti officially took the helm.

The disciplinary investigation has been completed, the president said after a board meeting yesterday.

Along with Pruet, the board also moved Charatpong Burutratanaphan, vice president for general administration, as another special adviser.

Teerapol Chotichannapibal, managing director of the catering department, was appointed acting executive vice president and replaces Pruet. Griangsak Sakruangngam, deputy vice president for the general administration department, was appointed acting vice president for general administration.

The board yesterday revealed that THAI's cabin factor, averaged 65.50 per cent in June, dropping 15.58 per cent from May even though tourism authorities insisted that the number of tourists to Thailand had recovered from the sharp fall in May following the political turmoil.

In the statement issued after the board meeting, THAI said the available seat per kilometre (ASK) in the second quarter was 2.62 per cent higher than the same period last year, while revenue passenger kilometre (RPK), a measure of the volume of revenue passengers carried, was 0.19 per cent higher. The cabin factor averaged 64.63 per cent, which was 2.36 per cent lower than the same period last year.

In June alone, ASK was 7.58 per cent higher than in June 2009, and 4.08 per cent lower than in May 2010, while RPK was 8.30 per cent higher than in June 2009, and 10.87 per cent higher than in May 2010. The cabin factor averaged 65.50 per cent, which was 0.67 per cent higher than in June 2009.

For the first half of July, RPK was 8.90 per cent higher than the same period in 2009. The cabin factor averaged 73.50 per cent, pointing to a return to normal of air traffic and air travel of passengers. THAI also said that it is witnessing excellent advance bookings.

The cargo business in June showed a 58.23percent increase on month. Load factor averaged 65.27 per cent, which was 26 per cent higher than the same period last year.

The board also approved German firm Recaro Aircraft Seating to suppy economyclass seats, replacing Kioto Industries, for six Airbus 380 8000 aircraft. Recaro Aircraft Seating met the technical requirements and their proposal offered the most benefit, the airline said.

The Airspace is Alive with UAVs

July 16, 2010 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors

E-mail Melanie Martella

Or at least, that's the impression I got from reading the news when Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and the U.K.'s ministry of defense all showed off new and impressive unmanned aerial vehicles. Love them or hate them, UAVs are here to stay; and considering their utility for both military and civilian purposes, that's not exactly a surprise. What is surprising, however, is the increasing variety.

In the summary for Visiongain's "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Market", appears the following tidbit: "Based on Visiongain's research, global spending in 2009 on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) reached $5.1bn. Over the forecast period of 2010-2020, the cumulative UAV market will total nearly $71bn." This figure encompasses a variety of types of unmanned aerial vehicle-from the small to the life-sized-as well as the different uses to which they are suited, be it reconnaissance, combat support, border security, and data gathering for fighting wildfires, to name but four.

Helicopters are such versatile and useful aircraft that it was inevitable that unmanned versions would be developed. Although the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter had its first flight in 2002, a later version is prepping for U.S. Navy field tests later this year (I'll add that, if the Wikipedia entry on the Fire Scout is accurate, there's been a fair amount of on-again, off-again from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army as far as ordering goes.) and just last month a team from Carnegie Mellon and Piasecki Aircraft Corp. demonstrated a fully autonomous, full-sized helicopter. So, the technology exists and is improving all the time but hasn't (as far as I can tell) been used particularly widely.

Earlier this week Boeing unveiled its Phantom Eye, a hydrogen-powered unmanned vehicle designed to stay up at 65,000 ft. for up to 4 days, and intended for data collection and communications. It's slated for its first flight some time in 2011 and considering its abilities and its green credentials, it should be an interesting project to watch.

And, finally, there's the Taranis, from the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense. The concept design for a long-range unmanned strike plane is intended to show off the technology and capabilities. The aircraft should undergo flight testing next year. In the BBC News article, "MoD lifts lid on unmanned combat plane prototype", there's a lovely quote from Peter Felstead, editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, discussing the parallels between the development of UAVs and the development of manned aircraft during World War I: "First they were used for reconnaissance, then they were armed for bombing and ground attack missions and they eventually became air-to-air combat craft."

Maybe while we rejoice in the technological advancements we can also spend some time thinking long and hard about the issues surrounding their use.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Phantom Eye: Boeing's new unmanned hydrogen-powered spy plane

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:24 AM on 14th July 2010

With its short, squat body and massive wingspan this is an unmanned jet with a difference - it's powered by hydrogen.

Boeing's Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system will be able to stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days.

Phantom Eye is designed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions while remaining at high altitude. It will produce only water as a by-product.

Boeing unveils its PhantomEye spy plane today

Boeing unveils its PhantomEye spy plane today which is designed to fly at 65,00 feet and will be powered by hydrogen alone

Boeing also is developing a larger unmanned plane that will stay aloft for more than 10 days and 'Phantom Ray,' a fighter-sized UAV that will be a test bed for more advanced technologies.

'Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications,' Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said today at the unveiling ceremony in St. Louis.

'It is a perfect example of turning an idea into a reality. It defines our rapid prototyping efforts and will demonstrate the art-of-the-possible when it comes to persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

'The capabilities inherent in Phantom Eye's design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers.'

An artist's impression of the high-altitude spy plane

An artist's impression of the high-altitude spy plane

Later this summer, Phantom Eye will be shipped to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California to begin a series of ground and taxi tests in preparation for its first flight in early 2011.

That debut flight is expected to last between four and eight hours.

'The program is moving quickly, and it’s exciting to be part of such a unique aircraft,' said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager for Boeing.

'The hydrogen propulsion system will be the key to Phantom Eye's success. It is very efficient and offers great fuel economy, and its only byproduct is water, so it's also a 'green' aircraft.'

Phantom Eye is powered by two 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engines that provide 150 horsepower each. It has a 150-foot wingspan, will cruise at approximately 150 knots and can carry up to a 450-pound payload.

Pilot of DC 9 in 5.5 ton cocaine bust seems to get around

Pilot of DC9 in 5.5 ton cocaine bust "escaped" custody in three different countries

July 15, 2010
by Daniel Hopsicker
email the author

"The New American Drug Lords"

The identity of the pilot of the American-registered DC-9 (N900SA) from St. Petersburg FL caught carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine in Mexico's Yucatan several years ago, long a mystery, finally saw the light of day recently in Mexico.

Carmelo Vasquez Guerra, a Venezuelan, was the DC9’s pilot who was said to have “escaped” from the airport while his airplane was being seized, and four other members of his crew were arrested.

He was later taken into custody by Mexican authorities, and charged with flying an airplane packed with 128 identical suitcases filled with cocaine.

Getting caught with 5.5 tons of cocaine would seem to call for some serious jail time. Reporters in Mexico assumed he’d been sent to prison for, like... forever.

So imagine reporter Francisco Gomez of Mexico City's El Universal surprise when he made a startling discovery: Carmelo Vasquez Guerra—amazingly and inexplicably—had been released from prison less than two years after being arrested.

The shocking news was delivered via an international headline stating that a pilot named Carmelo Vasquez Guerra had been arrested in the West African nation of Guinea Bissau on a twin-engine Gulfstream II carrying... what else? 550 kilos—a half-ton— of cocaine.

An inexhaustible supply of get out of jail free cards

The date of Vasquez's West African arrest was July 13, 2008.

Mexican authorities had nabbed Carmelo Vasquez Guerra, Gomez learned, not long after authorities discovered him missing from the DC9.

How was it he was out of jail, less than two years later, Reporter Francisco Gomez asked.

Authorities in Mexico refused to discuss Vasquez Guerra's release with reporter Gomez.

But news about Carmelo kept coming, and kept getting worse. Gomez discovered that Mexico was not the only country to arrest Vasquez Guerra for the presumably major offense of flying box-car sized loads of cocaine, only to let him go.

It's happened in three. Caught and released under mysterious and unexplained circumstances. in Mexico, in Guinea Bissau, and in Mali, home of Timbuktu.

Drug pilot Carmelo Vasquez Guerra—or , more likely, the global drug trafficking network to which he belongs, which has, it must be said, a strong and enduring presence in St Petersburg FL, the shuffleboard capital of the world-- has an apparent inexhaustible supply of “get out of jail free” cards.

Bloomberg Magazine reporter Michael Smith story last week, "Wachovia’s Drug Habit,” about the bank’s sordid history of laundering drug money for Mexican drug cartels, can be seen in an entirely new light.

Wachovia's nasty habit of moving money around for Mexican drug smugglers, the story reported, provided the clean cash necessary for the purchase of a still-undisclosed number of American planes, including the DC-9, which cumulatively flew at least 22 tons of cocaine, which put the massive drug bust aboard the DC9 back in the news.

The DC-9 from St Petersburg FL is on one end of an equation, with Wachovia, which laundered the money that bought it, on the other.

Why is there nothing but silence?”

When the story first broke of the massive DC9 drug bust inCiudad del Carmen, one of the ten largest in history at that point, some observers—well, us, at least—noted how embarrassingly thin it appeared in certain crucial details.

There were claims of credit for the bust by the DEA, even though early news reports said the but occured almost by accident, and credited te discovery of the cocaine to one alert Mexican sergeant, who had remained on duty at the airport after its normal 6 pm closing time.

The sergeant wasn't identified, for obvious reasons. We call him Sergeant Garcia. Garcia noticed that airliner was carrying a lot of luggage, especially given that it was carrying no passengers.

Despite the blandishments of airport personnel and a sizeable number of officers from Mexico’s Federal Preventive Police (PFP), a 7-year old FBI-trained federal police force whose main mission, ironically, is enforcing Mexico’s laws against drug trafficking, brave Sergeant Garcia demanded to search the plane.

Soon reinforcements arrived. Mexican troops ringed the airport, and surrounded the plane. The co-pilot and other crew members were quickly taken into custody. But the slippery but unnamed chief pilot managed to somehow slither through a crack in the tight security, and slip away undetected.

Worse still, the crafy fellow had also had the presence of mind to take his name with him when he fled. And while it still mattered, he was successful at keeping it out of the newspapers.

Many weeks later, his identity had still not been disclosed. We grew suspicious. And we weren't alone...

“Where are the results of the investigations of the airplane seized with cocaine?” plaintively asked Mexico’s City’s Expreso newspaer two months later.“How is it possible that this confiscation, as important as it is, has not been explained?"

"When will there be information about this?

"Why is there nothing but silence?”

"Rhetorical questions for $500, please Alex"

The silence was broken the day Carmelo Vasquez Guerra landed an American-registered Gulfstream II (N351SE) at Guinea Bissau's Osvaldo Vieira International Airport. The plane had mechanical problems.

In our experience, which is admittedly not hands-on, when things go awry, that is usually the reason.

Soon international headlines were reporting the arrest with some excitement.

Even just a few years ago, South American cocaine being shipped to Europe through West Africa was still seen as something of a novelty.

So Carmelo's arrest was more widely publicized than would otherwise have been the case.

Mexico's drug policy: "Catch and release?"

Even with all the publicity, Francisco Gomez' entreaties fell on deaf ears. Neither Mexico’s Attorney General nor the Federal Police would offer any explanation.

Either no one knew how Carmelo Guerra Vasquez had managed to escape, or they did know, but weren’t talking.

Then Gomez learned an interesting thing: Guerra Vasquez was not the only prominent drug trafficker who simply "disappeared" after being busted in Mexico.

Gomez counted six. With each arrest authorities held a triumphant press conference to celebrate the latest victory in the war on… whatever.

With certain favored drug traffickers, was Mexico's policy catch and release?

Real courage, real journalists

After the DC9 bust, the Mexican press was filled with reports tha a sizeable number of officers in the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), a 7-year old FBI-trained federal police force whose main mission, ironically, is enforcing laws against drug trafficking. had been somehow involved.

Despite the very real threats faced by all Mexican journalists, renowned Mexican journalist Ricardo Ravelo went looking for answers.

Ravelo, the author of a recent book on drug cartels in Mexico, went to the airport in Ciudad del Carmen, where he ‘committed journalism,' interviewing people who work there.

Several days before the DC9 landed, they told him, intrigue had already begun swirling at the airport.

“On the evening before the DC9 arrived, Ramon (a PFP officer) appeared at the airport with Gonz├ílez Virgen, who said he was in the intelligence division of the PFP,” one civilian worker at the airport told him.

“He said they were installing new procedures for registering landings. He would need to speak with all the civil employees of the terminal. And what he wanted to talk about was an ‘economic adjustment’ that would allow the plane loaded with 5.5 tons of cocaine to land the next day.”

Ravelo discovered that as many as a dozen Federal PFP officers had been working to ensure the success of the drug move, including five in Ciudad del Carmen, who had unsuccessfully attempted to keep airport personnel from calling in the Mexican military.

Other officers visited Mexican airports where the DC9 was scheduled to land, in Toluca and Monterrey, presumably to drop off part of the load.

It all began to sound, to us, like very other case of officially-sanctioned drug smuggling we'd ever heard about.

State-sponsored organized crime.

A classic case of what sociologists call "elite deviance."

Easy lessons on fueling a conspiracy theory

Our suspicion about the Dc9’s pilot’s escape and the subsequent lack of information about him gave a few reporters from the mainstream media the sanction they needed to characterize me as a-- gulp-conspiract theorist.

“The DC-9's pilot escaped," Flight International magazine noted dryly, "fuelling conspiracy theories."

According to the St. Petersburg Times, it was all just a ghastly comedy of errors...

Even as they suffered unfortunate business reverses, innocent local businessmen were being unfairly subjected to public derision.

A brief but fair sampling from the paper’s most extensive story on the massive drug operation conducted in their hometown, headlined “Plane with a Past Disappears,” conveys the tone of bored certainty the paper had somehow arrogated to itself.

“(Brent) Kovar is in bankruptcy court,” the paper reported, referring to one of the two last listed owners of the DC-9.

“And (Frederic) Geffon, who would not say how much money he lost in the deal, spent weeks in news and internet reports linked to an international drug deal.”

"I lost too much money in the deal, " Geffon said.

The rusted-out DC-9 wasn't fit to fly, but the aircraft broker from California called anyway. The man known as Jorge Corrales wanted the plane, tail number N900SA.

"Once again, it's called "committing journalism."

Since the DC9 is now back in the news, we feel moved to offer a few corrections to the folks at the St Peterburg Times, in a good faith effort to help them catch up on the story.

One example: Jorge Corrales is not, and never was, an aircraft broker.

  • A visit to the three major online venues used to sell airplanes revealed no sign indicating that Jorge “George” Corrales is an aircraft broker.

  • A LEXIS-NEXIS newspaper database search yields no mention of Corrales and Associates.

  • A Google search fails to find an aircraft broker named George or Jorge Corrales, or a Corrales and Associates.

  • A search for aircraft brokers and dealers in California at Trade-A-Plane reveals no listing for Corrales & Associates. And it’s a free listing.

  • A search for broker/dealers selling McDonnell Douglas DC9’s in California at The Controller revealed just three DC9’s for sale, from just two dealers.

  • OK Aviation was the listing broker for two of the three DC9’s currently for sale in California.

  • OK Aviation's owner, Jack Kendall, told us he knew every DC9 aircraft broker dealer in the state.

  • And he has never heard of Jorge Corrales.

Complete this sentence: Frederic Geffon & Brent Kovar should be...

The FAA stamp on Frederic Geffon'd transfer of ownership documents to the FAA clearly show that, alas

Alas for Geffon, they were received on April 11th... one full day after the Dc9, registered in Frederic Geffon's name, went down carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine.

Geffon's transfer of ownership paperwork hadn't been lost in the mail, either. The papers were faxed.

Whoops! Let's see...

If Mexico's policy towards preferred drug traffickers is "catch and release."

Maybe the U.S. policy can be said to generously offer "mulligans" to its favored transportation contractors.


"Hometown paper of the drug trafficking organization (DTO) in question."

“A conspiracy theorist who runs a popular Web site continues to link both (Frederic) Geffon and (Brent) Kovar to the Mexico bust,” sneered St. Petersburg Times reporter Aaron Scharockman.

“The blogger calls the plane "Cocaine One" because of its presidential-looking paint job.”

Apparently, that’s me to whom he's referring

The St. Petersburg Times' incredibly obtuse coverage of the scandal may owe something to it's status as the hometown newspaper of the drug trafficking operation in question.

Still, the paper's coverage illustrates one essential point about drug trafficking.

Everything operates on a sliding scale, depending on who you are, where you are, whom you know, whom you ask, and who you’re ‘with.’

The most important thing is, apparently, to be ‘with’ somebody.

The truth that really hurts is having a press that's less free than Mexico's.

It's humiliating. And while certain elements of the American elite may profit from it...

Once again, the rest of us get stuck with the bill.

"Troubling and unanswered questions"

The story of the willing participation in laundering drug money by what was then America’s 4th largest bank puts a welcome spotlight back on a case with a number of troubling and so-far unanswered questions about two American planes from St Petersburg busted in Mexico carrying 5.5 and 4 tons of cocaine... with no repercussions to their American owners.

The first, an American DC-9 (N900SA) whose livery convinced even savvy planespotters that it belonged to the Dept of Homeland Security (and perhaps it did), was carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine neatly packaged inside 128 identical black leather suitcases, each of which bore a stamp on the side reading “Privado.”

The second, a Gulfstream II (N987SA), had used by the CIA, when it wasn’t running drugs, in Colombia, and to fly extraordinary renditions, making several trips to Guantanamo documented by the EU Commission which was instrumental in charges being brought against a half-dozen CIA agents in Italy.

The Bloomberg story on Wachovia proved that the bank operated as what federal prosecutors usually call “a continuing criminal enterprise,” except, apparently, when large national banks are involved.

U.S. officials have gone after Mexican cartels transporting drugs into the U.S., and even slapped the wrist (lightly) of the huge and dirty bank whose money laundering made it possible.

But they have maintained a conspicuous silence about the American criminal conspiracy which sold planes to the Sinaloa Cartel, despite evidence and testimony and even official DEA documents introduced in extradition hearings in Mexico, freely admitting that the Americans who sold a fleet of luxury jets to their cartel counterparts south of the border were anything but innocent victims of wily drug traffickers.

Perhaps its not too late to put a few of the New American Drug Lords feet to the fire over owning airplanes caught carrying tons of cocaine.

Maybe we're wrong. Its happened before. Hey, s--- happens.

Maybe there's an innocent explanation our abnormally feverish brain, the mark of every true "conspiracy theorist," has refused to consider.

Maybe Carmelo Vasquez Guerra didn't escape each time he got busted.

Maybe he just "released himself on his own recognizance."