Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Turkish Airlines makes Bangkok its regional hub

Turkish Airlines is moving to consolidate Bangkok as its regional hub as it aggressively expands in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

‘‘While we are hopefulwecan strike a deal with THAI later this year,wedo have alternatives to support our growth in this region,’’ says Adnan Aykac, general manager for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Istanbul-based carrier is counting on Thai Airways International (THAI) as its strategic partner to begin its foray into the Australia-New Zealand market.

The airline plans to extend its non-stop flight from Istanbul to Bangkok through to Ho Chi Minh City in October, while Kuala Lumpur and Manila are also on the radar screen for flight extension, possibly next year.

It hopes to increase its Istanbul-Bangkok flights from daily to twice daily later this year if its plan to extend services to Australia-New Zealand partnering with THAI materialises.

Adnan Aykac, general manager for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, said yesterday that negotiations with THAI to form a code-share partnership began about a year ago and had been slow.

Turkish Airlines would switch its passengers to THAI-operated flights to Australia under the plan, but THAI does not see any urgency to co-operate.

"While we are hopeful we can strike a deal with THAI later this year, we do have alternatives to support our growth in this region," he said.

The airline sees Australia as a lucrative market not adequately covered and wants to exploit THAI's extensive Australian routes, before entering the region itself.

Turkish Airlines transfers about 30,000 of its passengers a year to THAI's Australian network, and Turkish has had a sales office in Australia for 15 years.

He said a code-share deal with THAI would result in Turkish Airlines feeding some 40,000 passengers a year to THAI's Australian-bound flights.

The airline wishes to work with THAI on Australian operations although the Australian government signed its first air services agreement with Turkey this week allowing direct flights.

Turkish Airlines bucked the trend of slumping traffic through Bangkok last year, when domestic political unrest, the global downturn and H1N1 flu hurt the airline business. It claimed a 5% increase in traffic through Bangkok in 2009, raising its load factor by 6% from 2008 to an average of 80%.

The airline expects to increase these numbers as it strengthens brand awareness in the Thai market. It has budgeted 30 million baht for advertising and promotion this year, perhaps the largest sum for a foreign carrier in Thailand.

The airline allocated US$70 million for advertising worldwide this year, 50% more than 2009. "We hope 2010 will be way different (in growth figures) for us (in Thailand)," he said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Suvarnabhumi ranked 24th in poll



Suvarnabhumi ranked 24th in poll

Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) management are scratching their heads as to why Suvarnabhumi Airport failed to secure a top spot as one of the world’s best in the latest polling. It will seek external expert advice to determine what went wrong and vows to work even harder to ensure that Suvarnabhumi climbs the customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Genevabased Airports Council International (ACI). Suvarnabhumi ranked 24th in the 2009 ACI polling, up from 38th in 2008 and 48th in 2007, its first full year of operation.

Cambodia Angkor Air purchases first aircraft

FRIDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2010 15:02 MAY KUNMAKARA


National carrier buys ATR-72 without disclosing price or seller

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Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
An ATR-72 flown by Cambodia Angkor Air sits on the runway of Phnom Penh International Airport at the launch of the new airline in July.
NEW national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) has bought its first aircraft, which is now flying from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, aviation officials said Thursday.

CAA purchased the new ATR-72 aircraft, manufactured by a French-Italian company, and obtained its Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the government’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SCAA) last week.

“We brought a brand-new ATR-72 to get it registered for an AOC on February 12. It is currently being operated on the Phnom Penh-to-Siem Reap route,” said Soy Sokhan, under-secretary at the Secretariat of Civil Aviation, who oversees CAA matters.

CAA was launched in late July last year. It is a joint venture between the government – which owns 51 percent of the business – and Vietnam Airlines. It forms part of a 30-year agreement that drew an initial investment of $100 million.

Since its launch, it has hired two ATR-72 and an Airbus A-320 from its joint-venture partner. CAA runs five flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, three flights daily between Siem Reap and Saigon, and two flights from Phnom Penh to Saigon per day.

Soy Sokhan said that the new aircraft will eventually be used to replace the hired ones.

“This doesn’t mean we will immediately stop hiring the other aircraft, as we have already set our winter flight schedule,” he added.

Mao Havannall, secretary of state at the SSCA, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

However, Long Chheng, cabinet chief of SSCA, confirmed: “The new ATR is to replace the existing one that CAA hired from their partner.”

He said that if a business buys a plane, it is automatically insured by the source company.

Soy Sokhan declined to tell the Post the source company or price.

The moves within the country’s aviation industry come despite its chequered history. In November 2008, the Kingdom failed an audit by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA). SCAA sources told the Post that the secretariat found 107 breaches of international standards, which led to Siem Reap Airways being blacklisted by the European Commission. The detailed result of ICAA’s latest audit, carried out late last year, is not yet known but shortly afterwards aviation officials said there were still failures in certain areas.

Nevertheless, Soy Sokhan said that CAA plans to buy more aircraft this year.

“We plan to buy one more ATR – this is scheduled for sometime in March – and we also hope to buy some [A-320] Airbuses to replace the hired one later this year,” he said.

Although he did not specify the exact date of importing the Airbuses, CAA hopes they will be used for long-range flights in the future.

“We don’t have the market demand to use them yet. But we plan to start regular flights to Japan, South Korea and China this year.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

18 of the World’s Strangest Airports


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Kansai International Airport – Osaka, Japan

Engineers tasked with building an airport are faced with countless challenges: The ideal location needs ample space, endless flat ground, favorable winds and great visibility. But spots in the real world are rarely ideal, and engineers are forced to work with what they have, making sure that the end product is the safest possible structure for pilots. A survey of airports around the world turns up a mixed bag, ranging from dangerous and rugged landing strips to mega-size facilities that operate like small cities. Here, PM explores the world’s most remarkable airports and why they stand out. (Pics)

1. Kansai International Airport – Osaka, Japan (pictured above)

Land is a scarce resource in Japan, so engineers headed roughly 3 miles offshore into Osaka Bay to build this colossal structure. Work on the manmade island started in 1987, and by 1994 jumbo jets were touching down. Travelers can get from the airport to the main island of Honshu via car, railroad or even a high-speed ferry.

Why It’s Unique: Kansai’s artificial island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide—so large that it’s visible from space. Earthquakes, dangerous cyclones, an unstable seabed, and sabotage attempts from protestors are just some of the variables engineers were forced to account for. As impressive as the airport is, Stewart Schreckengast, a professor of aviation technology at Purdue University and a former aviation consultant with MITRE, cautions that climate change and rising sea levels pose a very real threat to the airport’s existence. “When this was built, [engineers] probably didn’t account for global warming,” he says. “In 50 years or so, this might be underwater.”

2. Gibraltar Airport – Gibraltar

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Between Morocco and Spain sits the tiny British territory of Gibraltar. Construction of the airportdates back to World War II, and it continues to serve as a base for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, though commercial flights land on a daily basis.

Why It’s Unique: Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar’s busiest road, cuts directly across the runway. Railroad-style crossing gates hold cars back every time a plane lands or departs. “There’s essentially a mountain on one side of the island and a town on the other,” Schreckengast says. “The runway goes from side to side on the island because it’s the only flat space there, so it’s the best they can do. It’s a fairly safe operation as far as keeping people away,” he says, “It just happens to be the best place to land, so sometimes it’s a road and sometimes it’s a runway.”

3. Madeira International Airport – Madiera, Portugal

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Madeira is a small island far off the coast of Portugal, which makes an airport that is capable of landing commercial-size aircraft vital to its development. This airport’s original runway was only about 5000 feet long, posing a huge risk to even the most experienced pilots and limiting imports and tourism.

Why It’s Unique: Engineers extended the runway to more than 9000 feet by building a massive girder bridge atop about 200 pillars. The bridge, which itself is over 3000 feet long and 590 feet wide, is strong enough to handle the weight of 747s and similar jets. In 2004, the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering selected the expansion project for its Outstanding Structure Award, noting that the design and construction was both “sensitive to environmental and aesthetic considerations.”

4. Don Mueang International Airport – Bangkok, Thailand

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From a distance Don Mueang International looks like any other midsize airport. However, smack-dab in the middle of the two runways is an 18-hole golf course.

Why It’s Unique: Schreckengast, who has worked on consulting projects at this airport, says one of the major problems is that the only taxiways were located at the end of the runways. “We recommended that they build an additional taxiway in the middle, from side to side, and they said ‘absolutely not, that will take out a green and one fairway.’” The airport and the course were originally an all-military operation, but have since opened up to commercial traffic. Security threats, however, have limited the public’s access to the greens.

5. Ice Runway – Antarctica

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The Ice Runway is one of three major airstrips used to haul supplies and researchers to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. As its name implies, there are no paved runways here—just long stretches of ice and snow that are meticulously groomed.

Why It’s Unique: There is no shortage of space on the Ice Runway, so super-size aircraft like the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III can land with relative ease. The real challenge is making sure that the weight of the aircraft and cargo doesn’t bust the ice or get the plane stuck in soft snow. As the ice of the runway begins to break up, planes are redirected to Pegasus Field or Williams Field, the two other airstrips servicing the continent.

6. Congonhas Airport – Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Most major cities have an airport, but rarely are they built just 5 miles from the city center, especially in metropolises like Sao Paulo. Congonhas’ close proximity to downtown can be attributed in part to the fact that it was completed in 1936, with the city experiencing rapid development in the following decades.

Why It’s Unique: While having an airport only 5 miles from the city center may be a convenience for commuters, it places a strain on both pilots and air traffic control crews. “It becomes a challenge in terms of safety to just get the plane in there,” Schreckengast says. “Then you throw on noise restrictions and these terribly awkward arrival and departure routes that are needed to minimize your noise-print and it becomes quite challenging for pilots.” Fortunately, Sao Paulo’s many high-rise buildings are far enough away from the airport that they aren’t an immediate obstacle for pilots landing or taking off.

7. Courchevel International Airport – Courchevel, France

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Getting to the iconic ski resort of Courchevel requires navigating the formidable French Alpsbefore making a hair-raising landing at Courchevel International Airport. The runway is about 1700 feet long, but the real surprise is the large hill toward the middle of the strip.

Why It’s Unique: “You take off downhill and you land going uphill,” Schreckengast says. He adds that the hill, which has an 18.5 percent grade, is so steep that small planes could probably gain enough momentum rolling down it with no engines to safely glide off the edge. Landing atCourchevel is obviously no easy task, so pilots are required to obtain certification before attempting to conquer the dangerous runway.

8. Princess Juliana International Airport – Simpson Bay, Saint Maarten

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Nothing says fun in the sun like roaring engines and the smell of jet exhaust. Landing on this Caribbean island forces pilots to fly over a small strip of beach, clear a decent-size fence and pass over a road just before hitting the runway.

Why It’s Unique: Not many airports are flanked by oceanfront property filled with tourists standing under incoming aircraft. While the tourists are not really in harm’s way—with the exception of their hearing—Schreckengast says that trucks driving on the small road between the beach and the runway could be at risk. “The challenge is to make sure there’s not a big semi truck coming through when the plane is landing. It becomes a vertical obstacle, and, if the truck is light, the jet blast could blow it over.”

9. Svalbard Airport – Svalbard, Norway

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Svalbard is a cluster of Norwegian islands sitting in the Arctic Ocean. While there are three airports within the archipelago, two of which are used mainly to transport miners, Svalbard Airport is open to commercial travel, making it the world’s northernmost airport that tourists can book tickets to.

Why It’s Unique: Engineers used the region’s brutally cold climate to their favor during construction and built the runway on a layer of permafrost. The airport was completed in 1975, but slight seasonal changes caused sections of the runway to become uneven, forcing the need to repave the runway on several occasions. A project was launched in 1989 aimed at insulating troublesome sections of the runway from the ground, which proved relatively successful. However, a 2002 study indicates that rising temperatures in the area may increase the need and frequency of maintenance efforts and repaving.

10. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – Saba, Netherlands Antilles

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Background: Getting to this paradise-like island can be a bit distressing thanks to a 1300-foot-long runway, slightly longer than most aircraft carrier runways.
Why It’s Unique: Large planes aren’t landing here, but the small runway is difficult even for Cessnas and similar aircraft. “The little X means don’t land there,” says Schreckengast, a former Navy pilot who is no stranger to landing on less than lengthy runways. “It’s challenging, but if you don’t have something like that, the people here don’t get things they routinely need, like mail.” Given the limited amount of land and rolling topography of the island, not many other options exist.

Getting to this paradise-like island can be a bit distressing thanks to a 1300-foot-long runway, slightly longer than most aircraft carrier runways.

Why It’s Unique: Large planes aren’t landing here, but the small runway is difficult even for Cessnas and similar aircraft. “The little X means don’t land there,” says Schreckengast, a former Navy pilot who is no stranger to landing on less than lengthy runways. “It’s challenging, but if you don’t have something like that, the people here don’t get things they routinely need, like mail.” Given the limited amount of land and rolling topography of the island, not many other options exist.

11. Barra Airport – Barra, Scotland

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Planes bound for the island of Barra, located off Scotland’s west coast, have used the beach as a makeshift runway since the 1930s. Despite the lack of paved runways on the island, the airport still boasts a modern control tower that’s responsible for handling more than 1000 incoming and departing flights per year.

Why It’s Unique: When the tide comes in at Barra, the runway disappears, forcing flights to be scheduled around the movement of the ocean. Landing on the beach, while novel, has drawbacks. “The little pieces of sand and salt really eat up the bearings and can jam moving parts of the airplane,” Schreckengast says. “In a lot of places where they have unsurfaced runways like this, special maintenance procedures are required.”

12. Hong Kong International Airport - Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong

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Hong Kong’s original airport, Kai Tak, was surrounded by high-rise buildings and residential areas, with a runway that jutted into the water. Officials knew they needed a replacement, especially to facilitate the enormous amount of cargo passing through the region, so they built this 3.2-sqaure-mile island. Construction started in 1991, and involved merging two smaller islands together with reclaimed land.

Why It’s Unique: What makes Hong Kong International Airport stand out from other island-based airports is the fact that there is a luxury golf course and massive expo center within walking distance from the runway. The airport consistently ranks as one of the busiest cargo hubs in the world—3.35 million metric tons of cargo passed through it in 2009—so amenities like the Sky City Nine Eagles Golf Course cater to the constant stream of professionals passing through. A quick round of nine holes at night costs about $60.

13. Toncontin International Airport – Tegucigalpa, Honduras

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Background:Near the center of Honduras’ capital city, Tegucigalpa, is the notorious Toncontin International Airport, which has been the subject of scrutiny following several accidents, including a 2008 crash that killed five. The airport opened in 1934, an era when planes were less powerful and didn’t require such lengthy runways.

Why It’s Unique: Toncontin’s runway is just over 7000 feet long and situated in a valley surrounded by mountains. Despite the stubby runway, planes as large as Boeing’s 757 routinely land at the airport. Schreckengast tells PM that “Seven thousand feet is awfully short for 747s,” let alone anything larger, and says that planes are forced to land and take off in the same direction because they won’t be able to clear the mountains otherwise. “There’s one way in and one way out,” he says. Honduran officials have launched an initiative to reroute commercial traffic to the safer Soto Cano Air Base.

14. Qamdo Bangda Airport – Qamdo, Tibet

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This is the world’s highest airport, perched more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Even more impressive than the airport’s altitude, perhaps, is the nearly 3.5-mile-long runway. However, as reported by The Guardian in January, 2010, China is slated to start construction next year on a new airport in Tibet, which will be a measly 2 meters higher than Bangda.

Why It’s Unique: Having a runway that’s the length of 61 football fields may seem a tad excessive, but Schreckengast says that long runways are crucial to making safe landings at higher altitudes. “When you go up to these higher-elevation airports, then your approach speed, landing speed and takeoff speeds will need a higher ground speed,” he says. “At sea level, where your approach speed is 150 mph, it may take 5000 feet of runway to stop. At 14,000 feet your approach speed is still 150, but maybe it takes 10,000 feet to stop.”

15. Dammam King Fahd International Airport – Dammam, Saudi Arabia

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King Fahd International is the largest airport in the world in terms of landmass, sprawling over 300 square miles of desert. The airport is so enormous that it is actually about 11 square miles larger than Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, Bahrain.

Why It’s Unique: Among the many features that make this airport stand out is a mosque large enough to take in thousands of people. Also notable, though not entirely uncommon in Saudi Arabia, is the Royal Terminal, which is designed to service the Royal Family and is outfitted with an elegant reception hall and a pressroom. One of the major obstacles during the construction of the airport, Schreckengast says, was the lack of fresh water to mix concrete.

16. Denver International Airport – Denver, Colorado

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Denver International’s 53 square miles of land makes it the largest airport in North America. Opened in 1995, the facility is loaded with modern features, including a 16,000-foot-long runway capable of handling Airbus A380s.

Why It’s Unique:” There’s not many ways to make money off the excess land,” Schreckengast says, “unless you can become self-sufficient.” The designers of this airport were hoping to do just that, launching major green initiatives such as a 9200-panel solar farm. The airport says the solar farm produces 3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, or about half the energy required to power the terminal for a year. Additionally, at the end of 2009, the airport built another photovoltaic system that is responsible for powering the fuel-storage and distribution facility.

17. Macau International Airport – Macau

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Macau, a former colony of Portugal off the coast of China, lacked accommodations for large aircraft until this airport opened in 1995. The strip of reclaimed land is large enough for 747s to land safely on.

Why It’s Unique: Like Kansai and Hong Kong, engineers had to rely on reclaimed land to build an airport in this densely populated area. “In the Asia Pacific region you have a lot of mountains and then shoreline where the people live. There are not many options of where you can build an airport, so in a lot of cases you’re either building an island or extending an existing one,” Schreckengast says. A set of highways links the runway with the small island of Taipa, where the air traffic control tower and main terminal are located.

18. Copalis State Airport – Grays Harbor County, Washington

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One way to get to Washington’s Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is to land on this 4500-foot-long strip of beach. The runway is located between the mouth of the Copalis River and a barrier of rocks, with orange reflective markers at both ends to help guide pilots to a safe landing.

Why It’s Unique: The Washington State Department of Transportation urges incoming pilots to do a fly-over before landing to make sure the runway is free of debris. The Department of Transportation also notes that pilots should aim for dark, wet sand, which is more stable to land on than light-colored, soft sand. As with other beach-based landing areas, Copalis State Airport is submerged every time the tide rolls in. Pilots considering spending some time on the beach should make sure to park their aircraft above the high tide mark in order to ensure that their planes aren’t taken out to sea.

Via Popular Mechanics

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New charges against the "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout





Alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout faces new charges in the US, which could complicate US-Russian relations.

New charges have been filed against suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout in US court. The new indictment alleges that Bout and an American colleague, Richard Chichakli, conspired to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by attempting to purchase two aircraft from companies located in the United States. The IEEPA is an effort to prevent the flow of weapons and other supplies to rebel groups in Africa.

US files new charges against Thai held arms dealer suspect

By DEVLIN BARRETT (AP) –

WASHINGTON — U.S. prosecutors filed new charges Wednesday in their global pursuit of a suspected arms dealer, hoping to convince reluctant officials in Thailand to extradite him over objections from Russia.

An updated indictment charges that Viktor Bout and his former business associate, Richard Chichakli, conspired to violate United Nations sanctions aimed at stopping bloody fighting in Africa.

The new charges appear aimed at helping U.S. authorities overcome a Thai court's objections to extraditing Bout, a wealthy Russian businessman whose case has become a diplomatic tug of war between the U.S. and Russia since his arrest in Bangkok in 2008.

A Thai judge had turned down a U.S. extradition request for Bout, citing concerns that Bout's arrest was based on American evidence that he was aiding a South American militant organization that is not considered a terrorist group by Thailand.

Russia has fought U.S. attempts to take Bout into custody. Chichakli is a Syrian-born American last reported to be living in Moscow.

Bout is a former Soviet air officer who was dubbed the "Merchant of Death" because of his 1990s-era notoriety for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa. A high-ranking minister at Britain's Foreign Office first used the nickname to single out Bout for his arms role in Africa.

After years of eluding international sanctions, Bout was arrested in 2008 at a Bangkok hotel, setting off a long legal and diplomatic battle between the U.S. and Russia.

Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the updated indictment displays "the extraordinary breadth of Bout's deadly criminal enterprise."

Michael Braun, who once hunted Bout as a former top DEA official, said the additional charges are not surprising given the complexity of the case. Bout allegedly used a series of shell companies around the world to hide what he was doing.

"I think it is going to be far more difficult for the Thai government to release this guy to Russian authorities and more likely that he will be extradited to the United States," said Braun.

Specifically, federal prosecutors in New York charge Bout and Chichakli used a series of front companies to try to purchase two planes from U.S. companies in 2007, in violation of U.S. and United Nations sanctions. At the time, U.S. officials intervened to block the sale.

The 43-year-old Bout was arrested in March 2008 after U.S. agents posed as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which Washington classifies as a terrorist organization.

After his arrest, Bout was indicted in the U.S. on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to FARC, including more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles.

The Thai court rejected the U.S. extradition request, saying Thailand considers the FARC a political movement and not a terrorist group, and that extradition could not be granted for a political offense.

Now, though, Bout faces charges related to armed conflicts in Liberia and the Congo, and the Thai court's reasoning may no longer apply. The U.S. is already appealing the decision not to extradite Bout.

Bout has repeatedly denied the accusations. He has been linked to some of the world's most notorious conflicts, allegedly supplying arms to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Experts say Bout has been useful for Russia's intelligence apparatus, and Russia does not want him going on trial in the United States.

Both Bout and Chichakli were targeted with financial sanctions by the U.S Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control in 2004 for their involvement with Taylor's regime.

Federal agents seized Chichakli's assets during a raid at his suburban Dallas office and banned any financial dealings with several of his firms. Chichakli fled the U.S. soon afterwards and turned up in Moscow, waging a long-distance campaign to overturn the Treasury sanctions. A U.S. court has kept the sanctions in place.

Chichakli, a Syrian-born emigre to the U.S. who spent several years in the U.S. Army before becoming a Texas-based accountant, has worked off and on with Bout since the early 1990s. At the time, Chichakli headed a duty-free zone in the emirate of Sharjah and Bout based a large fleet of cargo planes at the nearby airport.

Chichakli has cited his business and personal relationship with Bout on a Web site he has maintained and in numerous interviews. Treasury officials also cited a 2000 Chichakli resume in which he identified himself as controller and chief financial officer of several air cargo firms that have been long associated with Bout's business empire.

Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.

'Merchant of death' Victor Bout indicted for trying to buy US planes to ferry arms around world

The merchant of death whose exploits were the inspiration for the movie "Lord of War" was indicted Wednesday for trying to buy airplanes from U.S. companies to ferry illegal arms to hot-spots around the globe, prosecutors charged.

Victor Bout was accused of trying to buy a Boeing 727 and a Boeing 737 from two Florida aviations companies in 2007, according to an indictment announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

"Viktor Bout allegedly made a career of arming bloody conflicts and supporting rogue regimes across multiple continents, even using the U.S. banking system to secretly finance a fleet of aircraft," Bharara said.

Bout and American-born pal Richard Chichakli were accused of creating a new business, Samar Airlines, which they thought was clean of any connection to their own bloody dealings.

Starting in the summer of 2007, Samar Airlines started making deals for airplanes and crews to ferry contraband between the United States and Tajikistan, the indictment said.

The Russian-born Bout is accused of wiring $1.7 million from bank accounts in Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Russia through banks in New York City and Salt Lake City to finance the scheme.

Besides prison time - up to 20 years for each of the nine-count indictment - prosecutors are going after his cash and his accounts at Wachovia, the International Bank of Commerce, Deutsche Bank and the Israel Discount Bank of New York, the indictment stated.

Bout, who is accused of supplying weapons to real war lords, from Charles Taylor in Liberia to the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been under arrest in Thailand since 2008, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lured him to a sting that itself could be a movie plot.

DEA agents posed as Colombian guerrillas and got Bout on tape promising to sell the crew 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, enough ammo for a small war, cargo planes, even how-to classes to use the weapons.

Actor Nicholas Cage played Bout's on-screen alter-ego in the 2005 film "Lord of War" about an international arms dealer and death merchant.