Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Strategic applies to IASC for Thailand capacity

Strategic Airlines has applied to the International Air Services Commission (IASC) for an allocation of capacity to operate services between Australia and Thailand from February next year.

The airline said it was seeking an allocation of the equivalent of 4.2 x B747 aircraft each week on the Thailand route, which is based on six weekly frequencies with a two-class, 274-seat Airbus A330 aircraft.

The allocation will be fully utilized by 31 December 2011 and is requested for a five year period from the date of determination.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

UFOs eyed nukes, ex-Air Force personnel say

Full video link to Washington, DC press conference

and here.

Seven former U.S. Air Force personnel gathered in Washington Monday to recount UFO sightings over nuclear weapons facilities in decades past – accounts that a UFO researcher says show extraterrestrial beings are interested in the world’s nuclear arms race and may be sending humans a message.

At a news conference at the National Press Club, the six former officers and one ex-enlisted man recalled either personal sightings or reports from subordinates and others of UFOs hovering over nuclear missile silos or nuclear weapons storage areas in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

Three of the former Air Force officers – though they hadn’t seen the UFOs themselves - told reporters that UFOs hovering over silos around Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base in 1967 appeared to have temporarily deactivated some of the nuclear missiles.

Much of the testimony already has appeared in books, websites and elsewhere. But UFO researcher and author Robert Hastings, who organized the news conference, said the time has come for the U.S. government to acknowledge the UFO visits.

“I believe - these gentlemen believe - that this planet is being visited by beings from another world, who for whatever reason have taken an interest in the nuclear arms race which began at the end of World War II,” said Hastings, who added that more than 120 former military personnel have told him about UFOs visiting nuclear sites.

“Regarding the missile shutdown incidents, my opinion … is that whoever are aboard these craft are sending a signal to both Washington and Moscow, among others, that we are playing with fire – that the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons potentially threatens the human race and the integrity of the planetary environment,” he said.

Former Air Force Capt. Robert Salas – who has written a book about the Montana incidents – said he was underground when a UFO hovered over his missile silo in March 1967, and therefore couldn’t see it. He said one of his guards above ground told him a red, glowing object about 30 feet in diameter was hovering just above the front gate of the facility, in an isolated area far from Malmstrom.

“And just as I [called my commander], our missiles began going into what’s called a no-go condition, or unlaunchable. Essentially, they were disabled while this object was still hovering over out site,” Salas said.

Salas and others said the military urged them at the time not to talk about the incidents.

Retired Col. Charles Halt recalled seeing UFOs over the woods near Royal Air Force Stations Bentwaters and Woodbridge in eastern England in December 1980. He and security personnel were investigating reports of strange lights just outside one of the bases.

“All through the forest was a bright glowing object,” he said Monday. “The best way I can describe it, it looked like an eye – with bright red, with a dark center. It appeared to be winking. It was shedding something like molten metal, was dripping off it.

“It silently moved through the trees, avoiding any contact, it bobbed up and down, and at one point it actually approached us. We tried to get closer. It receded out into the field, beyond the forest, and silently exploded into five white objects – gone. So we went out into the field looking for any evidence, because something had been apparently falling off it – and we find nothing,” he said.

He recalled subsequently seeing other objects in the sky, including one that stopped about 3,000 feet overhead and “sent down a concentrated beam at our feet.” No one was harmed.

“The best way I can equate it is sort of a laser beam. We stood there in awe. Was this a warning? Was this an attempt to communicate? Was this a weapon? Or just a probe?” he said.

At about the same time, he was hearing radio reports from base personnel that beams from some of the objects were “falling into or near the weapons storage area.”

In a staff meeting later, a general decided “it happened off base, so it’s a British affair,” Halt recalled. “In other words, they were loathe to get involved.”

The Air Force investigated UFOs from 1948 to 1969 under a program eventually called Project Blue Book. The service, on its website, says the project concluded that “no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security.” It also says there has been "no evidence that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' are extraterrestrial vehicles."

Salas said the UFO phenomenon “is real, not imaginary.”

“There is current excessive secrecy in our government surrounding this phenomenon,” he said.

A reporter asked how many of the former military personnel subscribed to Hastings’ theory that the message of extraterrestrials is that humans should get rid of nuclear weapons, and how many of them believed that we should get rid of nukes. Of the seven, it appeared that only Salas raised his hand.

Committee to probe Thai airline proposal

A joint committee was set up yesterday to resolve whether the country's national carrier Thai Airways International should go ahead with setting up a low-cost airline ongoing questions about the deal.

The committee was set up after Ampon Kittiampon, secretary-general of the National Economics and Social Development Board (NESDB) and also chairman of THAI's board, in accordance with THAI chief executive Piyasvati Amranand and other officials, met with Supoj Sublom, permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry, to explain the reasons for establishing a new low-cost carrier.

Supoj said there were still many questions surrounding the proposal to establish Thai Tiger Airways as a joint venture with Singapore's Tiger Airways. Some had been cleared up but others needed further consideration. Therefore, a committee comprising representatives from three parties - the Transport Ministry, THAI and the Office of Traffic and Transport Planning and Policy (OTP) - was set up.

The committee is expected to hold its first meeting next week before sending a summarised report to the Transport Ministry next month.

"The committee will ponder the main issue: whether the establishment of a joint venture to operate a low-cost airline would be legal or have business disadvantages. The investment plan will be included," Supoj said.

The ministry was also unclear on why THAI could not buy more shares of the existing budget airline Nok Air, he said. However, the authority would invite the THAI CEO to give more details.

The Transport Ministry demanded explanation from THAI on seven facets of the proposal:

lWould establishment of the new low-cost airline impact Thais' travelling, and how?

lWould there be competition between the new venture Thai Tiger Airways and Nok Air, as they both are low-cost airlines? And how would this affect Nok Air's business?

lHow is THAI progressing in increasing its stake in Nok Air to 49 per cent?

lHas THAI explained to Nok Air its objective in setting up Thai Tiger Airways?

lHas THAI informed its employees? What is their reaction?

lWould the establishment of Thai Tiger Airways conform to rules and regulations?

lWhat are the details of the memorandum of understanding between THAI and Tiger Airways, compared with that between THAI and Nok Air?

THAI has responded to all of the above questions in writing since August 17. But there were still many points that needed clarification, which is why THAI was invited to give more information yesterday at the ministry, a source said.

Reinvention of flight: Unmanned plane becomes first jet in the world to fly without 'flaps'

By Niall Firth
Last updated at 12:39 PM on 27th September 2010

A British unmanned plane that uses jets of air to fly instead of conventional ‘flaps’ has made aviation history.

The experimental unmanned air vehicle (UAV), called DEMON, uses blown jets of air to control the plane’s movement in flight rather than conventional mechanical elevators and ailerons.

Experts say this will make it much easier to maintain as there are far fewer moving parts and gives the aircraft a more stealthy profile.

The DEMON UAV on its historic flight as it becomes the first to control its elevation using jets of air

The DEMON UAV on its historic flight as it becomes the first to control its elevation using jets of air

DEMON made its historic flight at Walney Island in Cumbria on Friday 17th September and was developed by Cranfield University with BAE Systems and nine other UK universities.

DEMON’s trial flights were the first ‘flapless flights’ ever to be authorised by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

All aeroplane wings have moveable sections called flaps. During takeoff and landing, the flaps are extended backwards and downwards from the trailing edge of the wings.

This alters the shape of the wing, forcing the air to take a longer journey over the top of the wing and pushing the wing up, creating lift.

The jets on the DEMON aircraft work in a different way. The plane works by manipulating the air that flows immediately next to its skin, rather than changing its shape.

Jets of air close to the trailing edge of the wing change whether the air moves away from or towards the wing. Sensors along the wing constantly monitor the airflow and can adjust the direction of the jets of air.

The DEMON has an eight-foot wingspan and weighs just 200lbs. DEMON can fly parts of its mission by itself but is not fully autonomous as it is still just an experimental vehicle.

The aircraft’s shape is known as a 'blended wing-body' configuration.

In Cumbria last Friday, DEMON successfully demonstrated flapless flight when, for a planned portion of a test-flight, the conventional flap control system was turned off and the aircraft flew and manoeuvred using the new technology.

The aircraft’s success builds on previous UAV work by BAE as part of the FLAVIIR programme.

A graphic that shows the inside of the DEMON - the first plane to use jets of air to fly

A graphic that shows the inside of the DEMON - the first plane to use jets of air to fly

Richard Williams, BAE Systems programme director for Future Capability, said: 'What the FLAVIIR Team have achieved in such a short time is nothing short of remarkable. I was in Cumbria to watch DEMON fly and I feel sure I have witnessed a significant moment in aviation history.'

He added: 'What makes it even more poignant is that this is the result of British brains collaborating to produce world-leading technology. It, and other initiatives like it, will help ensure we maintain both a level of sovereign capability and a competitive edge.'

The flapless system, developed around a concept called fluidic flight control was tested in wind tunnels and on models before the full-scale trials on DEMON took place.

Professor John Fielding, chief engineer and lead for the DEMON demonstrator team from Cranfield University, said: 'To make an aircraft fly and manoeuvre safely without the use of conventional control surfaces is an achievement in itself; to do that while at the same time bringing together new construction techniques and new control mechanisms could be said to be over-ambitious – but we have done it.

‘The DEMON UAV has been developed within a research programme but it is a representative, complex, high technology aircraft. Gaining approval from the CAA and flying it successfully has required great skill, dedication and patience by the team and they should be very proud of their achievement.”

While D|EMON itself is not expected to become a production aircraft, a number of the technologies it contains are expected to end up in future aircraft designs.

Read more:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some ex-CIA pilots left without a pension parachute

In the bars and dives of Southeast Asia one can still come across former flyers for Air America, the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine air arm, who never quite made it home after the end of the regional wars in the 1970s.

Many did, of course, and as they approach retirement age some are finding it hard or impossible to get civil service pensions.

Journalist John McBeth published a fascinating story last week about the plight of the former Air America combat pilots.

The pilots were recruited to fly attack missions against the Communist Pathet Lao rebels and the North Vietnamese Army forces in northeastern Laos in the mid 1960s.

To protect the Laotian and U.S. governments, both of which had guaranteed Laos’ neutrality, the pilots were asked to formally resign from Air America.

For four years they flew T-28 bombers out of Thailand with Laotian Air Force markings.

But when one of the pilots, John Wiren, applied for additional civil service retirement benefits based on flying those combat missions for the CIA, he was refused.

Wiren pursued the case to court, but lost because he was deemed to be a soldier of fortune working for the Laotian government.

McBeth writes that many of the dwindling band of Air America veterans and their widows are facing similar denial of pension benefits. This will only add to the CIA’s long record of abandoning its friends.

Read more:

USAF serviceman posthumously awarded Medal Of Honor for Laos bravery

Years later, bravery on a Laos mountain is honored

WASHINGTON — For decades, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. "Dick" Etchberger's courage under fire was kept as secret as the mission that placed him on a remote Laotian mountain, high above the clouds, in March 1968.

Now, his bravery that day can be written in stone.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday posthumously recognized Etchberger for service "beyond the call of duty" by giving him the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. Obama said those three words can now be etched into a granite monument to Etchberger's memory at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana.

"Even though it's been 42 years," Obama said at a ceremony with Etchberger's three sons, "it's never too late to do the right thing and it's never too late to pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans and their families."

Etchberger was part of a radar team that came under attack by North Vietnamese soldiers who had improbably scaled the heights to Lima Site 85, a radar installation helping to direct U.S. bombing of Hanoi. The mission was secret because the U.S. was not supposed to have troops in officially neutral Laos.

The 35-year-old radar technician from Hamburg, Pa., with no formal training in combat, acted on instinct. Using an M-16 and a radio to call in air strikes, he single-handedly held off the attackers until helicopters arrived at dawn.

He then braved enemy fire to help three wounded comrades into rescue slings.

After climbing into the chopper behind the others, Etchberger was fatally wounded when enemy fire struck the aircraft. The others in the helicopter made it to safety.

"Today," Obama told Etchberger's sons in the East Room ceremony, "your nation finally acknowledges and fully honors your father's bravery."

"We knew that he was that kind of person," Richard Etchberger, who shares his father's first name, said afterward. "He would be here just saying 'I was doing my job up there.' I think he'd be really humbled but proud of his achievement."

Etchberger was secretly honored by the Air Force months after his death and his wife, Catherine, knew the truth of his mission. But his children, and others, at first did not.

Two decades later, the government declassified Etchberger's mission and "that's when they learned the truth, that their father had given his life not in Vietnam but in neighboring Laos," Obama said. "That's when they began to learn the true measure of their father's heroism."

Obama said Etchberger lived the airman's creed — "to never leave an airman behind, to never falter, to never fail."

According to an Air Force account, the men at Lima Site 85 were temporarily discharged from military service and nominally hired by a defense contractor for the duration of the mission, to help conceal the U.S. military presence in Laos.

Nineteen Americans were on the mountain, several thousand North Vietnamese were below, and they launched a massive artillery assault on the U.S. installation the night of March 10.

After their shift at the station, Etchberger and the four men with him moved down to a small rocky ledge on a safer side of the mountain. But more than 30 North Vietnamese somehow made it to the summit during the night, despite nearly vertical rock walls on three sides and a heavily mined and fortified fourth side.

"The enemy lobbed down grenade after grenade, hour after hour," Obama said. "Dick and his men would grab those grenades and throw them back or kick them into the valley below, but the grenades kept coming.

"When the enemy started moving down the rocks, Dick fought them off. When it looked like the ledge would be overrun, he called for airstrikes within yards of his own position, shaking the mountain and clearing the way for a rescue. And in the morning light, an American helicopter came into view."

As the rescue helicopter hovered and lowered its sling, Etchberger loaded the surviving but wounded men one at a time, exposing himself to the enemy each time. He loaded another airman who had rushed forward after hiding from the enemy all night, then finally got in.

But as the helicopter began to peel away, gunfire erupted below and Etchberger was wounded.

He was dead by the time the helicopter landed at the nearest base.

Of those 19 Americans on the mountain that night, only seven made it out alive, Obama said. Three were saved by Etchberger.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thailand welcomes 8.77 million visitors in first seven months of 2010

Tourist arrivals up 13.79%

Published on September 24, 2010

During the first seven months of this year, Thailand welcomed 8.77 million tourists, a 13.79 per cent increase from 7.7 million from the same period in 2009, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand.

TAT said that arrivals in the first half of 2009 had been hit by the impact of the global financial and economic crisis prevailing at the time, making this year's rate of increase relatively high over a low base figure. It also reflects the fact that while arrivals to Bangkok were significantly affected, arrivals to Phuket remained relatively buoyant. The arrivals in June and July 2010 have picked up significantly, thanks to the launching of recovery programmes and a broad range of promotional packages. TAT officials are optimistic that it will still be possible to meet the year's total arrivals target of 14 million arrivals.

On each of the markets, the following performance analysis, based on the figures tabulated so far:

EAST ASIA: East Asian visitor arrivals to Thailand comprise the biggest market share of all visitors. Of the 8.7 million arrivals in January-July 2010, a total of 4.33 million were from the East Asia region. Malaysia topped the list with 1,086,247 arrivals, followed by China 561,634, Japan 546,947, and Korea 445,809.

EUROPE: The January-July period saw a good growth rate of 13.79 per cent to 2.56 million. The United Kingdom is the largest source market out of Europe, with arrivals of 473,408, up 0.33 per cent. Germany is Thailand's second highest source market from Europe with a total of 353,188 arrivals, up 14.58 per cent over the January-July 2009.

Visitors from Russia to Thailand have been growing steadily over the past few years. In the early days, Russian visitors began flocking on charters to Pattaya to escape the harsh winters. Today, they have become mainstream travellers. In January - July 2010, Russian visitors to Thailand totalled 325,306, up 98.49 per cent over the same period of 2009.

THE AMERICAS: Arrivals in January-July 2010 saw an increase of 1.59 per cent to 492,509.

The main market, the US, showed a slight decrease by 0.07 per cent to 356,104. However, arrivals from both Brazil and Canada showed positive growth of 15.67 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively. Thailand's image of good value for money remains a powerful magnet that continues to attract tourists

SOUTH ASIA: Arrivals in January-July 2010 grew by a strong 16.91 per cent to 532,664 with all markets doing well. India has become a primary market with arrivals up by 19.88 per cent to 405,389, making it the region's fastest growing market. Thailand is enjoying huge popularity among Indian niche markets; such as, weddings and honeymooners.

OCEANIA: Arrivals in January-July 2010 grew by 10.52 per cent to 438,241 visitors. Australian visitors were up 11.65 per cent to 387,704 and New Zealand up 1.91 per cent to 49,139. This is largely due to the influx of low-cost airlines like Jetstar into Phuket.

MIDDLE EAST: Arrivals in January-July 2010 grew by a strong 24.37 per cent to 341,151 with all markets showing a positive growth. One of the most promising is Iran with an increase of 52.17 per cent.

AFRICA: Arrivals in January-July 2010 were up by 17.67 per cent to 66,802. South Africa is a major market and has showed significant growth of 30.71 per cent to 27,080. It is expected to perform strongly in the year ahead in the wake of relaunch of Thai Airways' flights to Johannesburg.

Friday, September 24, 2010

“Snowbird” claims record for sustained flight of a human-powered ornithopter

Ornithopters, aircraft that fly by flapping their wings, are a staple at birdman rallies the world over, inevitably resulting in the pilots of such craft plunging headlong into the drink. Now, more than 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485, a team from the University of Toronto have succeeded where so many before them have failed and made aviation history by achieving a world record for sustained flight in a human-powered aircraft with flapping wings. Read More

America's South Florida: An arms smuggler's paradise

The Miami Herald
Miami seems more and more like the Casablanca of movie legend.

This month, a Palestinian man and a Cuban migrant were charged in an FBI counter-terrorism probe with plotting to buy hundreds of stolen assault rifles, high-tech bombs and remote-control detonators to ship to the West Bank.

Shortly before that, Miami Beach arms wunderkind Efraim Diveroli -- already convicted of selling banned Chinese-made munitions to the Pentagon -- was arrested on new firearms charges in Brevard County after he allegedly tried to import rounds of ammunition from South Korea.

And two years ago, a ring of foreigners and businesses was charged with illegally supplying electronic parts to Iran via South Florida for explosives that could be used to target American soldiers in Iraq.

The disparate cases are among dozens of South Florida prosecutions alleging illegal arms trafficking, weapons exports, embargo violations, and shipments of ``dual-use'' military and commercial technology -- a sign of heightened federal enforcement in the post 9/11 era.

Known as an international marketplace for drugs and money laundering since the days of Miami Vice, the region has expanded into a viable gateway for arms smuggling -- not only to Latin America but also to the Middle East and Far East.

Federal agencies, accustomed for decades to battling shadowy drug cartels in South America, quickly adapted to weapons investigations. They've been deploying the same crime-fighting techniques -- government informants, undercover agents, tape recordings and Internet searches -- to make cases.

Three years ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement established a bunker in Fort Lauderdale for probing illegal arms trafficking, generating more prosecutions in South Florida.

``The investigations are not just focused on the smuggling of arms out of the Port of Miami, Port Everglades or Miami International Airport,'' said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Miami.

``We're focusing on these international arms brokers with laundry lists of weapons and explosives. These guys operate in the shadows, and it takes a lot to draw them out.''

In 2007, the Justice Department, recognizing the proliferation of illegal arms exports and related security threats, launched a plan to coordinate investigations, training and prosecutions. They also began pushing for more criminal cases throughout the country, beyond the traditional hot spots of large coastal cities such as Miami, Los Angeles and New York.

The goal: Stopping clandestine efforts by U.S.-designated terrorist countries and organizations from obtaining sensitive U.S. technology and parts for their rocket, military and nuclear systems.

According to the Justice Department, more than 390 people and companies have been charged nationwide over the past three years with violations of export, embargo and dual-use laws, mainly involving Iran, China and Mexico. But that is considered a conservative figure because it doesn't include all illegal firearms trafficking.

``The prosecutions have ramped up since we launched this initiative,'' Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.


But even before that policy shift, Miami was already on the map for firearms smuggling.

One unforgettable case: In August 2004, a couple of cardboard boxes of guns -- too heavy for the drop ceiling of a West Miami-Dade storage facility -- crashed onto a toilet, rupturing a water pipe. The leak caught the attention of law enforcement, leading to the indictment of six men on charges of illegal firearms sales and exports to Venezuela, where the weapons were to be sold to Colombian rebel and paramilitary groups.

In all, federal agents seized more than 700,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 200 weapons. ``They were essentially preparing to arm an army,'' then-U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez said.

Four years later, the U.S. attorney's office in Miami was at the center of a far more complex case -- involving a lot less luck -- linking South Florida to Iran and the Iraq war.


Eight foreigners and eight overseas businesses were charged with illegally exporting U.S.-made computer chips and other electronic components -- some supplied by a Broward company -- to Iranian-controlled corporations, prosecutors said.

The programming devices -- some shipped through Miami-Dade freight forwarders -- played an integral role in triggering roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq, according to authorities. Investigators found a California-made computer circuit in an unexploded roadside bomb in Iraq.

The U.S.-based technology suppliers were ``tricked'' into selling their products to companies that were fronts for Iran, prosecutors said. The corporations were based in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Singapore, England and Germany.

The Commerce Department and ICE Homeland Security Investigations dug deep into Internet, e-mail and other computer searches to expose the global network selling U.S.-made dual-use technology to Iran.


Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Damian Visconti, who prosecuted that and other illegal arms export cases in South Florida over the past decade, said the IED case typifies the dangerous role of international arms brokers who are only interested in selling to the highest bidder -- regardless of whether they're dealing with rogue states.

``In the Middle East, they all use Google and Yahoo,'' she said. ``It doesn't matter that they're over there. They can buy the arms and explosives from a middleman.''

Commerce Department and ICE investigators have joined forces on more recent probes.

In June, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and a former Israeli aviation executive were charged in Fort Lauderdale federal court with conspiring to export 2,000 AK-47s to Somalia -- after the Israeli allegedly wired $116,000 to a Wells Fargo branch in Broward County. The indictment charged Joseph O'Toole, 79, of California, and Chanoch Miller, 53, an Israeli citizen living in Tel Aviv, with scheming to obtain and transport the AK-47s from Bosnia to Somalia, an embargoed country. Miller was arrested in Miami after traveling here to close the deal.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, whose main mission for decades has been investigating the illegal gun trade, has increasingly helped other federal agencies as they probe more international smuggling cases.

Among ATF's roles: Tracing the serial numbers on more than 350,000 firearms recovered yearly in the United States and 60 foreign countries. The ATF also keeps track of some 200,000 large sales of handguns and other weapons at licensed dealers nationwide.

Last year, a Honduran woman was convicted of conspiring with her two fugitive brothers to purchase more than 100 assault rifles, pistols and sidearms from Miami-Dade gun dealers.

ATF agents found seven of the firearms hidden inside a sofa being shipped by a Miami cargo company. They contacted Honduran authorities, who seized three additional firearms from a television shipped through the same company.

This spring, ATF agents busted up a Miami-based arms network after they arrested four men who bought more than 370 firearms including assault rifles from Miami Police Supply, a retail business, and tried to ship them as ``automobile parts'' for resale in Bolivia.

``Guns are smuggled in all kinds of ways,'' said Joe Anarumo, assistant special agent in charge of ATF's Miami office. ``The exporters don't care if the label says `auto parts.'

``The smugglers are only limited by their imagination in how they get these firearms out of the country.''

Read more:

Air Mandalay Buys New Plane

Air Mandalay, a private airline in Burma, has bought a new aircraft from England after it ceased operating scheduled flights in July.

“We are trying to register the new plane in Burma,” Air Mandalay's managing director told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, saying the plane, an ATR-72 (212 series) with 66 seats, has been in Rangoon since August 28.

According to news reports in August, Burmese private airlines had failed to pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Department due to operational losses.

An Air Mandalay ATR-72 (212series)
However, Air Mandalay's Marketing Manager, Ko Ko Gyi, said the airline hopes to resume regular operations after major repairs to its two existing ATR-72 (212 series) with 70 seats each.

“Major repairs have been completed in Bangkok and painting is underway in Malaysia. We hope to resume normal flights next week,” he said.

According to Ko Ko Gyi, the airline will resume domestic services to Bagan, Mandalay, Heho, Sittwe and Thandwe.

Founded in 1994, Air Mandalay was the first private airline to begin operations in Burma, but later it had to compete with Air Bagan and Air Kanbawza, which are respectively owned by businessmen Tay Za and Aung Ko Win who are close to the military regime, said the owner of a travel agency in Rangoon.

“Air Mandalay and Yangon Airways are run by shareholders, and when Air Bagan and Air Kanbawza entered the market, they become the main competitors,” he said.

Ko Ko Gyi said the competition between airlines had been fair, however.

Currently, there are four private airlines in Burma: Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways, Air Bagan and Air Kanbawza.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thailand's no-frills airlines to answer accusations of high charges

The Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) is summoning lowcost airlines to respond to complaints of unfair charges.

The OCPB has issued letters to all lowcost airlines operating in Thailand - Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and OneTwoGo by Orient Thai - demanding that they meet with officials by tomorrow to discuss the complaints.

Last week, an MP from the South raised the issue, saying nofrill operators were charging passengers higher prices than usual. Some passengers paid airfares at a similar level to premium airlines such as Thai Airways International, the MP alleged.

Santisuk Klongchaiya, director of commercial operations at Thai AirAsia, said the airline would meet with the OCPB this week. He insisted that the company's average airfares were 1020 percent lower than THAI's. However some walkin passengers might be subject to a higher price because of a dynamic price reservation system.

"I'm confident that more than 80 per cent of our consumers are enjoying cheap prices," he said.

He added that premium airlines sometimes cut their rates to a similar level as lowcost carriers, which might cause public misunderstanding.

Overseas, consumers know how to get the lowest price by making reservations far in advance, but in Thailand few are familiar with the procedure.

This year, Thai AirAsia projects serving 6.2 million passengers, reaping Bt12 billion in revenue for Bt1.2 billion profit. The airline has serviced 4.8 million travellers since January.

Next year, the company plans to operate direct flights between Chiang Mai and Hat Yai and between Chiang Mai and Singapore, using two brandnew Airbus A320s. It will also increase the frequency between Bangkok and Chiang Mai from six flights per day to seven.

By the end of this year, it is scheduled to operate BangkokNew Dehli and BangkokKolkata routes in India and service between Phuket and Bali in Indonesia.

Thai AirAsia and Krungthai Panich Insurance Co yesterday launched a new travel protection product called AirAsia Insure.

Passengers will be able to buy travel insurance starting at Bt74.9 per oneway domestic flight and Bt90 per sector on international flights.

Only 15 per cent of a total of 300,000400,000 passengers per month buy insurance, but the two firms expect that figure to increase to 40 per cent after introduction of the offer.

'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout Will Never Be Extradited to U.S., Expert Says

EXCLUSIVE: When an appeals court in Thailand ruled late last month that Viktor Bout, the alleged illegal arms dealer dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” could be extradited to the United States to face charges, American diplomats and intelligence officers popped open the champagne.

They hadn’t expected to win the last great spy battle of the Cold War, which pitted Russians looking to keep Bout’s secrets away from the Americans against the Americans who are seeking to shut down the vast illegal arms network he allegedly created and force him to reveal some of the Kremlin’s darkest secrets.

But the celebration was premature, says Robert Amsterdam, an attorney deeply involved in both Russian and Thai politics. The extradition, he says, simply “isn’t going to happen.”

Bout is accused by the Department of Justice of conspiring to provide material support or resources to a terrorist organization, conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill U.S. officers or employees and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missiles, as well as other charges. He'll have his day in an American court -- if the U.S. finally succeeds in getting him there.

But Amsterdam says two elements virtually guarantee that the two-year battle to bring Bout to America will fail.

One is Bout’s close connection to Igor Sechin, the Russian deputy prime minister who is widely regarded as the third most powerful man in the Kremlin, and who is a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, The other is the corruption that is rampant in Thailand.

“The stakes are too big to have him extradited,” Amsterdam says.

The U.S. and Russia have been angling to control Bout's fate since an American "sting" operation led to his arrest two years ago in Thailand's capital, Bangkok. In tapes made during a meeting with Drug Enforcement Agents posing as members of members of FARC, a Colombian guerrilla group, Bout allegedly promised to supply them with advanced surface-to-air missiles.

The fact that Bout could get his hands on those missiles convinced American intelligence officials that the deal was sanctioned by the Russian government, that Bout worked for Russian intelligence operations and that the deal was payback for America's sale of Stinger missiles to Afghanistan that forced their withdrawal in 1989. As the Moscow Times pointed out, those weapons are so devastating that it took only 200 Stingers to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Since then, the stakes have been huge. Russia has made Bout’s release a keystone of its foreign policy -- Vladimir Kozin of the Russian Foreign Ministry has warned American officials that the “reset’ of Russian-American relations won’t happen if Bout is sent to America.

The Russians also have tied the outcome of the case to their promises to send cheap oil and fighter jets to Thailand. In Russia, Bout has become a regular topic on TV, where he is depicted as a modern folk hero unjustly held by Russia’s old Cold War enemy.And tomorrow Bout's wife will hold a press conference in Moscow claiming her husband is innocent and asking the Russian government to intervene directly in the case.

The U.S., meanwhile, has played a similar game, matching Russia's arms offers and pressuring the Thai government to make sure Bout's extradition is approved.

According to California Rep. Ed Royce, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Bout has funneled weapons to wars on three continents -- but it was the discovery of one of his planes delivering weapons to Al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked terror group in Somalia, that makes his capture and prosecution critically important. Al-Shabab is seen as one the most dangerous terror groups in the world.

“His operation is still running, and if we can learn its details and shut it down it will eliminate an important source of weapons for terrorists,” Royce said.

The Russians won the first round in their tug of war with the U.S. for Bout in August 2009, when a Thai lower court ordered Bout's extradition halted. But as the deadline neared for a decision from Thailand’s Court of Appeals, American and Canadian diplomats mounted a broad effort to corner Thai diplomats around the world and impress upon them just what was at stake. According to American defense analysts, the Thai ambassador was called in for a special meeting in Washington that had only one topic -- Bout -- and the final sale of helicopters to the Thai military was hastily approved.

As the Russians and the Americans squared off, Thai politicians also intervened. A Thai newspaper reported that a high ranking Thai official visited Bout days before the court's decision and promised the case would go his way if he accused Thailand's former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, of arms smuggling. The official admitted he met with Bout in prison, but he denied trying to make a deal. The government is locked in a struggle with Shinawatra, whose supporters staged protests in the streets in March that left 88 dead.

No one is sure what influenced the appeals court's decision to allow the extradition, but the success of the U.S. effort — the ruling cannot be challenged further -- was met with a dire and surprising warning from Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov. He quickly announced that Russia would do “everything necessary to push for Bout’s return to the homeland,” and he charged that the case was “political and unlawful.”

“The decision won’t stop the Russian efforts to get him back,’ said Jeff Abramson, deputy director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that studies arms proliferation around the world. “They will find a way to continue to let him go.”

Beyond the scope of Bolt's operations, American intelligence is eager to know just how available surface to air missiles are; the involvement of Bulgaria, an European Union member, in illicit arms sales; and the techniques Bolt used to circumvent restrictions of arms sales, says Matt Schroeder, a senior analyst with the Federation of American Scientists.

But Amsterdam and intelligence sources say it is Bout’s connection to Sechin that ensures that the case is far from over -- and that Bout ultimately may never be sent to the United States. Sechin, they say, has quietly led the old guard Kremlin faction whose base was the military and security services that was overshadowed by President Demitri Medvedev’s faction in the energy sector during the economic boom years. Now, they say, the man once called the “Richelieu of the Kremlin” is emerging from the shadows, challenging Medvedev's influence and becoming a likely contender to become Putin's heir. He is not about to show weakness or let Bout, his friend, down.

According to a recent report by Stratfor, a private American intelligence analysis company, both Bout and Sechin have a long history together. Both studied Portuguese early in their careers, served as intelligence officers in Angola and Mozambique during the civil wars there in the 1980s, and it is widely believed that Sechin protected Bout’s operations and allowed him access to stockpiled Russian weapons.

“He is not about to let the man who knows his secrets fall into American hands,” Amsterdam said.

Thai airways will start flights to Phuket-Melbourne

THAI Airways International will begin regular flights to Melbourne in April, the airline’s Australian general manager said yesterday.

Korakot Chatasingha said that the Boeing 777 service would complement the Bangkok-Sydney service, where more flights would be added in January. Forty flights a week now cover the route.

News of the boost for Phuket direct flights came as the latest Phuket road show rolled on, with 102 agents attending a gathering at Sydney’s Imax building.Some Phuket brands go one better than joining the road show by having their own representatives in Australia.

Phuket International Hospital and the Chava Resort joined the group. Phuket seems to be extremely popular, with some agents coming from Perth, three hours’ flight away, for the gathering.

Some Phuket hoteliers are so conscious of the island’s competitiveness that they start selling a resort before it is constructed. That’s the case with the Rawai Palm Beach Resort, which will have its soft opening in October next year.

Sumonrat Takuathuang, of the already-established sister Kata Palm Resort, said the new resort will be Thai-style and have 198 rooms.

”Amazing numbers of Aussies come to our resort,” she told Phuketwan ”We looked around and thought that Patong was quite crowded. Rawai and Nai Harn are quieter and being well looked-after these days, with vendors being removed from the beach.”

The 400-million baht four-star Rawai resort will highlight handmade bathrooms.

Piyawan Chirayus, director of sales for the Patong Merlin (448 rooms, four star) and the Merlin Beach (414 rooms, four and a half stars) said the Australian market rated number one.

”The Aussies were the first group to return after the 2004 tsunami and they love Phuket,” Khun Piyawan said. ”They are easy-going and understand Asia.”

Royal Phuket Yacht Club assistant director of sales, Anchayaporn Thongsom, said Australians and Europeans were key customers at the 110-room five star at Nai Harn, which has 250 staff. Ever with ownership changes, the resort retained an excellent customer base and many guests keep on returning.

Middle-Eastern Arrivals Continue to Grow for Thailand

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Thailand continues to see a steady increase in visitor arrivals from the Middle East, the kingdom welcoming a total of 261,657 visitors, representing 22.20 per cent growth, in the first six months of 2010. This comes in spite of the country’s political situation during April/May.

Thailand, the 22nd of September 2010: The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Dubai has been meeting with local travel trade partners on a regular basis to strengthen relations and restore confidence in travel to the kingdom, according to officials.

Numbers have been boosted on the back of TAT Dubai’s TV commercial initiatives promoting “Destination Thailand” on Al Jazeera and Cable TV Showtime Orbit, which cover the entire Middle Eastern region.

The TAT office also launched a “Thailand Summer Special Offer” joint promotion with Etihad Airways, which runs from June through September 2010. The promotion is supported by an online advertising campaign, radio spots and special in-store promotions at various department stores and shopping malls.

In addition, TAT Dubai aims to achieve extensive media coverage in an effort to restore confidence among individual travellers and encourage them to travel to Thailand and is actively generating news and promoting activities via online as well as print media.

The UAE decision to lift the ban on travel to Thailand just in time for the onset of the outbound travel season for the Middle East is expected to boost the flow of tourists into the Kingdom with analyst speculating unprecedented figures for Middle Eastern visitors in 2010.

In conclusion, Qatar Airways has also announced the introduction of additional Doha-Bangkok flights as well as a Doha-Phuket direct flight.

Commencing 1 November 2010, Qatar Airways will be operating an additional flight on its Doha-Bangkok route, raising the total number of flights from two to three per week. The airline has also announced the launch of a daily Doha-Phuket direct flight scheduled to commence on 11 October 2010.

Phuket's budget airlines under fire; Phuket surf; Gas leak

Phuket NEWS Hound– A daily digest of news about Thailand from around the world, compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket's international community.

Phuket's budget airlines facing heat
PHUKET: The Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) is summoning low-cost airlines to respond to complaints of unfair charges.

The OCPB has issued letters to all low-cost airlines operating in Thailand – Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and OneTwoGo by Orient Thai, all of which operate in Phuket – demanding that they meet with officials by tomorrow to discuss the complaints.

The Nation reports this morning that last week an MP from the South raised the issue, saying no frill operators were charging passengers higher prices than usual. Some passengers paid airfares at a level similar to ordinary airlines such as THAI Airways, the MP alleged.

Santisuk Klongchaiya, director of commercial operations at Thai Air Asia, said the airline would meet with the OCPB this week. He insisted that the company's average airfares were less than 10% of THAI's.

However, some walk-in passengers might be subject to a higher price because of the airline's 'dynamic price' reservation system, he said.

"I'm confident that more than 80 per cent of our consumers are enjoying cheap prices," he said.

The three airlines are popular in Phuket, where complaints about their pricing are rarely heard in local media or encountered in the Phuket Gazette's online forum.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cathay Pacific corroborates order for six Boeing 777-300s

Cathay Pacific confirmed Tuesday that it has signed a contract to buy six Boeing 777-300 aircraft worth 1.61 billion US dollars, after the Hong Kong carrier snapped up 30 new planes from Airbus.

Cathay said the purchase would take to 36 the number of extended-range Boeing 777s in its fleet with delivery predictable in 2013 and 2014.

Eighteen of the planes are by now in operation -- essentially on long-haul routes to Europe and North America -- with another dozen scheduled for delivery from next year until early 2013, Cathay said.

The carrier said in August it intended to buy the six additional Boeing aircraft.

On Thursday, Cathay confirmed it had signed a contract with Airbus for 30 long-range A350 aircraft with a book price of 7.82 billion US dollars -- Cathay's biggest single aircraft purchase

Washington Turf Wars

Washington’s bureaucratic turf wars are a dismal reality of politics in Beltwayistan, but are now threatening national policy, as competing agendas threaten policies extending far beyond the continental U.S.

In two of the most notable recent examples, the Kazakh “Giffengate” corruption case and attempts to extradite notorious “Lord of War” Viktor Bout to the United States, eager federal officials in both cases are running up against other government elements content to let both cases lie fallow, notably the CIA and Pentagon.

The controversies, schizophrenic as they are, shed a bright light into the darker corners of federal realpolitic, pitting the pragmatists against a younger generation of Elliot Nesses. In the end, the eventual casualty is Washington’s relentlessly self-proclaimed image abroad as a “nation of laws.” Giffen has already essentially walked, and many are betting that similarly, Bout will likely not face American justice.

The two cases provide a microcosm of Washington’s contradictory agendas, where one federal agency trods upon the toes of another. While little is certain, as the country observes the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon and CIA in the name of national security have more clout than ever before, and eager beaver Department of Justice attorneys and Drug Enforcement Agency agents are about to have their wings clipped due to CIA and Pentagon modesty about their achievements.


A not inconsiderable aspect of “Kazakhgate” is the fact that that the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, the most prestigious federal prosecutor’s job outside Washington, has proven a notable launch pad for subsequent political careers. In 1983, Rudolph W. Giuliani was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he prosecuted drug dealers, organized and white-collar crime and government corruption.

As his biography on notes admiringly, “Few U.S. Attorneys in history can match his record of 4,152 convictions with only 25 reversals.” On 30 January 2009, a New York Times article labeled the office, “A Steppingstone for Law’s Best and Brightest.”

Other notable alumni of the Southern District of New York include Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York and Republican presidential candidate in 1944 and 1948 and more recently, former United States Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and former FBI director Louis Freeh.

Giffen was arrested in 2003 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while attempting to board a plane to Paris and subsequently charged by the U.S. Attorney office for the Southern District of New York with violating the 1974 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. Charges included creating Swiss bank accounts and transferring $20 million, covering tuition at exclusive boarding schools for Kazakh officials’ family members along with purchasing millions of dollars in jewelry.

For the U.S. Attorney office for the Southern District of New York legal eagles, the case seemed a slam dunk, with Giffen’s pelt a glittering trophy on the way to future political greatness.

Enter Giffen’s background and legal team. Inside the Beltway, word was that if Giffen was not a long-time CIA employee, then he was certainly a long-time agency asset, whose career of interacting with the Soviet and post-Soviet officials extended back to Gorbachev. Kazakhstan officially maintained that the charges had nothing to do with their country as they concerned a U.S. citizen.

Playing hardball, Giffen's lawyers asserted that Giffen was acting with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. government, whom he kept apprised of all his actions, providing a valuable window into the Eurasian post-Soviet space. When his lawyers requested “discovery” access to classified information from the CIA to back up his claims for his trial, alarm bells rang throughout Langley. For Giffen, the stakes were immense, as he faced up to 88 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.

Adding to the CIA’s nervousness, Giffen could spill beans well beyond post-Soviet incipient Caspian hydrocarbon deals and border U.S. foreign policy initiatives.

According to a February 1991 top secret report by Vadim Zagladin, a high-ranking Soviet official and close advisor to USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and recently released by the Gorbachev Foundation Archive, “On 14 February, I met with Jim Giffen… Giffen informed me, in strict confidence, that he has just finished one of his regular trips to Iran. He goes there on instructions from Bush and Scowcroft, trying to improve U.S.-Iranian relations.”

On 6 August Giffen pled guilty to a misdemeanor tax violation and a minor bribery count against his company, Mercator, and now faces a maximum of six months in prison and a fine when Judge William Pauley sentences him on 19 November.

Insiders believe that Giffen strolled because of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), enacted in 1980, as CIPA’s procedural protections prevent the unnecessary disclosure of classified information. According to Abbe Lowell, head of the white collar crime practice at Washington’s McDermott Will law firm, CIPA’s terms mean that “embarrassing” cases canbe made to vanish.

In a masterpiece of lawyerly understatement Lowell noted, “Today, under CIPA, there is still the inherent pressure on the intelligence community to decide if any prosecution that may result in the disclosure of classified information is worth the leak or offence it wants to prosecute.”


If the federal case against Giffen collapsed like a soufflé, then the Bout case threatens to cover zealous DEA and DOJ Washington apparatchiks with more egg on their faces than an Iowa battery chicken farm salmonella recall.

The arrest of 41 year-old Viktor Anatol’evich Bout in Bangkok on 6 March 2008 as a result of a DEA sting has the potential for creating many Maalox moments - for the Pentagon - which freely used his services in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite Bout’s initial incarceration period of two weeks, which could supposedly be extended a maximum of seven times, he has languished in Bangkok’s notorious Klong Prem prison ever since his arrest.

According to the U.S. indictment, Bout allegedly offered to supply weapons to people he thought were representatives of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels. Bout’s arrest was truly a multinational effort, involving not only the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the Royal Thai Police, but elements from the Romanian Border Police, the Romanian Prosecutor's Office Attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the Korps Politie Curacao of the Netherlands Antilles and the Danish National Police Security Services.

The day after his detention, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Bout with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill U.S. officers or employees and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.

Adding to Washington’s sense of imminent victory in the extradition case, federal agents scored a coup when on 10 March in Manhattan district court federal agents arraigned Bout's associate, Andrei (Andrew) Smulian, who was arrested along with Bout in Thailand, but agreed to extradition. Smulian was charged with conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

During his career Bout was an equal opportunity purveyor of carnage, reportedly supplying former Eastern bloc weaponry to 17 African countries, al-Qaida, Afghanistan's Northern Alliance and subsequently the Taliban, Hezbollah, Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi and the Philippines' Abu Sayyaf militant group, among others.

But it was Africa that proved his most lucrative field, where his client list eventually included factions in Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Uganda.

The scale of Bout's various enterprises was startling; one Russian media source reported that in the aftermath of the post-Soviet economic chaos in the Ukraine, Bout and his associates purloined a third of Ukraine's Soviet-era arsenal and sold it on the global market for $49 million.
Additional U.S. charges against Bout were filed in February, including illegal purchase of aircraft, wire fraud and money laundering.

The only fly in the ointment of this roseate picture of U.S. determination to bring Bout to justice is that the Pentagon freely used his services in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Beginning in 2003, Bout's 60 aircraft and 300 pilots and personnel provided Pentagon officials with "plausible deniability" in case one is downed, causing far less of a PR ruckus than if insurgents downed U.S. military aircraft. Bout’s airline, British Gulf, flew massive amounts of material into Baghdad International airport for the U.S. occupation forces.

Quoted in Stars & Stripes in July 2004, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, Air Force General John Handy noted, "As we fly around, we are repeatedly shot at, with manpads (man-portable air defense systems), small arms, and triple-A (anti-aircraft artillery)."
Bout's U.S. air operations included establishing Air Cess Inc. in Miami in September 1997 until the company was dissolved in September 2001. His agent, Richard Ammar Chichakli said that after 9/11 Bout organized three flights transporting U.S. military personnel to Afghanistan, but gave no further details.

In 2004, as Bout’s flights into Iraq continued, the Bush administration began to press for Bout to be left off planned U.N. sanctions, in spite of French efforts at the U.N. in March 2004 to freeze his assets and act upon an outstanding Interpol warrant for his arrest.

By late 2004 however, Bout's activities had also become a liability for the Pentagon. During a 15 December 2004 Special Defense Department Briefing on Iraq Reconstruction Update a journalist asked Charlie Hess, director of the Project and Contracting Office in Iraq, about Bout.

To a question about whether the DoD had ever used Bout's services Hess replied, "I have not heard anything about that. But if you had some details, we can certainly check into it." The next month, in a January 2005 letter to Congress, then-assistant defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted the Defense Department "did conduct business with companies that, in turn, subcontracted work to second-tier providers who leased aircraft owned by companies associated with Mr. Bout," ABC news reported.

Nor are only U.S. authorities nervous about what Bout might reveal – in an Oct. 2008 interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant Bout stated, “We made more than 150 flights from the French base in Istriz to Zaire - from there they would proceed to Rwanda. We also moved the Belgian troops to Somalia and for 1.5 year we provided all transportation for the Belgian military personnel from Somalia to Belgium.”
Bout also flew cargoes for the British Ministry of Defense. Bout had UK connections dating back to at least 1999, when British gunrunner Christopher Barrett-Jolley leased Bout's aircraft to run armaments to Sudan, the DRC and other African hotspots.

In 2000, Peter Hain, Minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, used MI6 reports and his parliamentary immunity publicly to name Bout as one of Angola's sanction busters.

In March 2005, according to official Civil Aviation Authority records, in one instance Britain's Ministry of Defense hired Bout's Trans Avia and Jet Line International to transport armored vehicles and a small number of British troops from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and RAF Lyneham to Kosovo, according to the Evening Standard.

The Russian government has strongly protested Bout’s innocence. One can only speculate on the media circus if the DEA and DOJ manage to extradite Bout that will occur in a the Southern District of New York, as his defense lawyers subpoena Pentagon, British, Belgian, French, Iraqi, Afghan, Eastern European and African military officials and politicians to testify under oath about their relations with Bout and his transit companies.

Michael Bagley, operations director for the Washington DC-based
Global Intelligence Report (, observed, “If the Bout extradition proceeds and he stands trial in the U.S., the implications are enormous. While Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency officials are eager to proceed, for the U.S. the international implications involved in prosecuting Bout have the potential to disrupt relations not only with the Russian Federation, but EU allies embedded in Afghanistan as well, not to mention a number of African nations, where the Pentagon is attempting to improve relations in order to establish its AFRICOM military presence."

Interestingly, prior to his bust, Bout had never been involved in Latin American gunrunning, concentrating instead on Africa and Eurasia. Even more interestingly, despite his purported contacts with the Philippines' Abu Sayyaf Group, Bout was never apparently involved with Muslim insurgents in Thailand’s southern Satun, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat provinces for the last decade.

Bout apparently also stayed away from dealings with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, southern Asia’s most successful insurgency until their defeat by the Sri Lankan military in May 2009. Given that the LTTE fielded not only ground forces, but had a navy and miniscule air force as well, the question arises as to why Bout would become involved in a new enterprise in the Western hemisphere for a paltry reported $5 million while overlooking much more lucrative opportunities closer to home.

As the Pentagon scrabbles to keep its NATO coalition afloat while disengaging from Iraq, it seems most unlikely that the publicity surrounding Bout’s prosecution will most certainly not be to their liking, however much the DOJ and DEA want a “win.” Oh, and don’t forget pressing the “reset” button with Russia, and the Northern Distribution Network railway link that snakes across its territory, now supplying one-third of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Bout in a federal courtroom? About as likely as Giffen serving 88 years. Just two more innocents slipping through the cracks of Beltwayistan’s interminable turf wars.


By. John C.K. Daly for who focus on Energy, Finance and Geopolitical news. also has a geopolitics" target="new">geopolitics newsletter that is delivered twice a week for free.

Changi's traffic soars 15.9%

Changi airport saw 3.47 million passengers in August, an increase of 9.6 per cent over a year ago. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

CHANGI Airport handled 3.47 million passengers in August, an increase of 9.6 per cent over a year ago.

Total traffic for the first eight months now stands at 27.38 million, a year-on-year jump of 15.9 per cent.

Changi Airport Group, which released its monthly data on Wednesday, said that traffic to and from North-east Asia and South-east Asia led the growth in passenger traffic last month, with double-digit growth was recorded for both regions.

Tiger Airways, Lion Air and Cathay Pacific were among airlines that increased frequencies with more flights to cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. The long National Day weekend also contributed to the traffic growth, the airport said.

On the cargo front, airfreight movements grew 9.7 per cent with 155,000 tonnes of freight. For the first eight months of 2010, a total of 1.19 million tonnes of cargo were handled, up 15 per cent compared to 2009.

There were 22,368 aircraft movements in August, an increase of 9.1 per cent. This brings the January to August total to 172,971 movements, up 10.4 per cent from the same period last year.

Thai Aviation Services Ltd. seeks Finance Director

Thai Aviation Services Ltd. operated an aircraft rental business which was the first pioneer in offshore aviation operations in Thailand. The company is a leading helicopter services air operator and a direct contractor of a petroleum concessionaire in Thailand which provides transportation of Thai and foreign passengers, engineering experts, and top executives, transer of critical patents and delivery of parcels and essential equipment.

The company realizes that one of the most important factors to accomplishing our mission is high quality and efficient human resources. Therefore, the company has highly valued its employees and effective recruitment policies for selecting high quality employees to work with the company. The company has continually contributed to the development of employee capacity and skill and has worked to ensure a good quality of life and a good working environment by such means as offering impartial benefits and remunerations equivalent to oter font line companies. In addition, the company has also encorage a good working atmoshpere and culture with the idea of working as a team in order to bring about confidence to the company and ists objectives to all employees.

Any candidate who is interested inworking with TAS can submit updated resume with current and expected salay through by selecting the "Work with us" menu. Should you have any other inquiry or need more information, please kindly contacted Human Resorces Division at: (66) 2617 7911 extension 2420

Finance Director report to DMD-BD and Finance and accountable for financial reporting, financial control administration, compliance and business analysis of TAS business. Likewise, accountable for the development and implementation of operational management information and key performance indicators (“KPI’s”).

Key responsibilities are as below;

  • Works with all operational management to define and provide understandable and timely access to the key information required for decision-making.
  • Works with the finance department to ensure statutory financial reporting and KPI reporting, financial control administration (policies, internal controls, risk management etc.) and tax compliance responsibilities of the appropriate jurisdictions is achieved.
  • Coordinates plans, forecasts, budgets and other financial analysis with operations managers.
  • Assists operational management in identifying areas of concern related to activity or cost efficiencies.
  • Spearheads the annual budget process and has active involvement in the company’s long term business plan preparation.
  • Maintains the company’s financial policy and operating manuals up to date and in line with Management and statutory requirements.
  • Coordinates other resources (e.g. IT) in order achieve the information requirements of the business.
  • Undertakes special projects and fulfils other duties as may reasonably be required by the Company (including KPI development), in line with the incumbent's skills, knowledge, abilities and personal development opportunities.
  • Holds financial authority as detailed in accordance with the Company’s policies. Responsible for ensuring that the financial authority levels are set for this position and others throughout the organization. Responsible for development and administration of the Company’s policies and procedures including those related to financial controls and administration.

Financial Accountability

  • Holds financial authority as detailed in the Financial Authorization Signature (FAS) or any document published for the same purpose by the Finance department
  • Responsible for ensuring that the financial authority levels set for this and any subordinate position are not exceeded.
Career Level Top
Yr(s) of Exp 10 years
Qualification Master
Industry Others
Job Function Accounting > Audit
Accounting > Credit Control
Banking / Finance > Investment
Banking / Finance > Corporate Finance
Banking / Finance > Fund Management
Location Jatuchak
Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand Enlarge Map
Salary Not Specified / Negotiable
Employment Type Full Time
  • Dental insurance
  • Five-day work week
  • Life insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • Performance bonus
  • Transportation allowance

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Robot warfare: campaigners call for tighter controls of deadly drones

Conferences will raise concerns over unpiloted aircraft and ground machines that choose their own targets

Reaper A Reaper UAV takes off from Creech Air Force base in Nevada. Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. RAF pilots operate armed drones from the base. Illustration: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The rapid proliferation of military drone planes and armed robots should be subject to international legal controls, conferences in London and Berlin will argue this month.

Public awareness of attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as Reapers and Predators, in Afghanistan and Pakistan has grown but less is known of the evolution of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).

Two conferences – Drone Wars in London on 18 September and a three-day workshop organised by the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) in Berlin on 20-22 September – will hear calls for bans and for tighter regulation under international arms treaties.

British academics and policy experts, Red Cross representatives, peace activists, military advisers, human rights lawyers and those opposed to the arms trade are participating in the German meeting.

Prominent among them is Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at Sheffield University and a judge on the BBC series Robot Wars, who is speaking at both gatherings.

The development of what is known as "autonomous targeting" – where unmanned planes and military ground vehicles are engineered to lock automatically on to what their onboard computers assume is the enemy – has heightened concern.

Research is under way at enabling UAVs and UGVs to work in collaborative swarms, ensuring each machine selects a different target. This has reinforced fears that UAV strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in the Horn of Africa – or wherever future wars are fought – will increase death tolls.

RAF pilots already operate armed drones from Creech US air force base in the Nevada desert. Eight thousand miles away from the frontline they control the release of Hellfire missiles and Paveway bombs against Taliban targets.

Through a freedom of information request submitted to the Ministry of Defence, the Oxford-based Fellowship of Reconciliation – the group organising the Drone Wars conference – found that as of April this year RAF-controlled Reapers had opened fire on 84 occasions so far this year.

Defence equipment manufacturers insist that there is always "a man in the [control] loop" to authorise operations and that they are far less indiscriminate than the high level air force saturation bombing that occurred in the second world war. Since there is no onboard pilot at risk, so the argument goes, they do not always have to fire first.

Critics highlight the number of civilian casualties in supposedly "surgical strike" raids, allege that reliance on remote screens may induce a dehumanising electronic games mentality in operators, and fear that such clandestine missions could lower the threshold for war – for example in Yemen and Somalia where the US is not involved in any formal conflict.

Philip Alston, a UN human rights special rapporteur, warned last autumn that US use of drones to kill militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan may violate international law. He called on the US to explain the legal basis for killing individuals with its drones.

"More than 40 countries have robotic programmes now," said Sharkey. "Even Iran has launched a UAV bomber with a range of several hundred miles.

"These [robotic] systems are difficult to develop but easy to copy. In the states a large proportion of robot making is being moved to Michigan to compensate for the decline in the car industry.

"Increasingly [the manufacturers] are talking about the 'man on the loop', where one person can control a swarm of robots. Our biggest concern for the future is autonomous systems that [select] targets themselves."

For many scientists the future potential is most alarming. David Webb, a professor of engineering at Leeds Metropolitan University, vice-chair of CND and an expert on the militarisation of space, will address the Drone Wars conference in London. "We are only just starting to become aware of the wider issues," he said. "Robots are [being developed] to make some decisions for themselves. If they kill somebody by mistake do you put the robot on trial? The idea of having networked UAVs that work in swarms and could be armed has all sorts of implications."

Dr Steve Wright, a reader in applied global ethics also at Leeds Metropolitan University who will speak at an ICRAC workshop on the dangers of terrorists obtaining drones, said: "We need a new treaty to limit proliferation. All the arms fairs now are selling UAVs. It's naive to think they will remain in the hands of governments."

The Ministry of Defence has defended the use of RAF-controlled UAVs in Afghanistan. An MOD spokesperson said: "The rules of engagement used for Reaper weapon releases are the same as those used for manned combat aircraft: the weapons are all precision guided and every effort is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties is minimised. This may include deciding not to release a weapon."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Air Bagan plans Yangon-Phuket route

Yangon - Air Bagan will launch twice-a-week flights between Yangon and Thailand's Phuket beach resort in December as part of its expansion plans, media reports said Sunday.

Air Bagan, owned by Myanmar tycoon and alleged military crony Tay Za, already operates a flight between Yangon and Chiang Mai, Thailand's main northern tourist attraction.

The privately run airline also plans to open new routes to Bangkok; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Kunming, China; Kuala Lumpur and Singapore 'in the near future,' the Myanmar Times reported, citing airline officials.

'We are planning to begin the Phuket route in the first week of December,' Sao Thanda Noi, Air Bagan's sales and marketing manager, told the paper. 'There will be scheduled flights twice a week, every Monday and Friday.'

The route will use a Fokker aircraft with a capacity for 100 passengers.

Air Bagan also announced that it would increase the frequency from two to three flights a week on its Yangon-Chiang Mai route beginning in November.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Boeing Forecasts Asia Will Lead Pilot Additions Over 20 Years

By Chan Sue Ling

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. said airlines will need to add 466,650 pilots within two decades, double the size of the current global workforce, to support fleet expansion as travel demand recovers.

The commercial aviation industry will need an average of 23,300 new pilots and 30,000 maintenance personnel annually from 2010 to 2029, Boeing Training & Flight Services, a unit of the world’s second-biggest commercial-jet builder, said today. The pilot additions include new hires and replacements, it said.

Boeing forecast the Asia-Pacific region, led by China, will account for the biggest growth in airline personnel during the period. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Emirates Airline are among carriers increasing their fleet as air travel demand rebounds from the worst decline since World War II last year.

“Our challenge is adapting our training to engage the future generation of people who will fly and maintain the more than 30,000 airplanes that will be delivered by 2029,” Roei Ganzarski, chief customer officer for Boeing’s training and flight operations unit, said in a statement distributed at a briefing in Singapore.

Ganzarski said there are 233,000 pilots and about 100,000 mechanics worldwide at present. Among Asia-Pacific countries, China will need 70,600 new pilots and Southeast Asia 42,200 in the 20-year period, he said.

Boeing predicted in July that airlines will buy 30,900 aircraft valued at $3.6 trillion between 2010 and 2029, 6.6 percent more than its previous estimate. The airplane maker expects the Asia-Pacific region to be the biggest buyers of twin-aisle planes.

Carriers ordered 588 commercial jets with more than 100 seats this year, according to Ascend Worldwide Ltd., a London- based aviation forecaster and data provider.

Airbus SAS, based in Toulouse, France, is the world’s biggest maker of commercial aircraft.

--Editors: Lena Lee, Dave McCombs.

1 million jobs in aviation Pilots and maintenance crew needed in next 20 years

By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent

By 2029, the global aircraft fleet is expected to nearly double from 18,890 last year to 36,300 as demand for air travel grows by an average of 5.3 per cent a year. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

THE aviation industry is set to be a major player in the job market in the next two decades, with more than a million vacancies to be created for pilots and aircraft maintenance crew.

About four in 10 of the positions will be based in the Asia-Pacific, said aircraft-maker Boeing, which released its 20-year manpower forecast for the industry.

At a briefing in Singapore yesterday, the chief customer officer of Boeing Training and Flight Services, Mr Roei Ganzarski, said that the big demand for cockpit and ground crew is to support a fast-growing industry.

By 2029, the global aircraft fleet is expected to nearly double from 18,890 last year to 36,300 as demand for air travel grows by an average of 5.3 per cent a year.

But while the industry has been ramping up training programmes for pilots and maintenance crew, recruitment may still be tough, said Mr Ganzarski, because of a lack of facilities.

There is also the risk that quality may be compromised as airlines, aircraft maintenance companies and other players race to meet the projected needs of 466,650 pilots, twice the number now, and 596,500 maintenance crew, which is about six times more than the number of workers today, over the next 20 years.

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