Oman Air Flies Daily August 1

Ethiopian Flies July 9

7 July 2015

Oman Air is flying daily services beginning August 1 from Muscat to Manila. The airline is currently calling at Terminal 1 thrice a week using Airbus A330-300 arriving at 10:30PM and leaving the following day at 5:55AM. It is the only Middle East-based airline that stays overnight in Manila.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines will begin thrice a week services from Addis Ababa to Manila on July 9 initially via Bangkok using Boeing 767-300ER every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday arriving NAIA Terminal 1 at 6:45PM and leaves at 10:00PM. It will be the first and only Africa-based airline to operate the route and the second to operate via Bangkok without fifth freedom rights. It will have extensive connections to Africa by arriving Addis Ababa Airport at 6:30AM the following day.

A109 Helicopter Crashes

Juky 5, 2015

An Augusta 109E helicopter (RP-C2726) carrying seven (7) passengers crashed yesterday noon at Barangay Pinagkaisan, Cuenca, Batangas killing its pilot and another passenger while heading back to Manila Domestic Airport from Puerto Galera in Mindoro Oriental, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said.

Initial crah investigation reports from survivors disclosed the helicopter encountering strong winds and zero visibility in Batangas.

All the passengers except one survived the accident.

CAAP said the helicopter which stayed overnight in Puerto Galera was not cleared to fly to Manila before the accident took place because its pilot did not file a flight plan.

The helicopter operated by Malate Tourist Development Corporation was piloted Capt. Felicisimo Taborlupa who died on the spot while another passenger, Archimedes "Archie" King of Victoria Hotel chains died afterwards after being treated at Martin Marasigan Memorial Hospital in Cuenca, Batangas.

Helicopter passengers include Ling Ling, the wife of King, spouses Ricco and Tina Ocampo, Anton San Diego, Christopher and Patricia Chilip.

Secret Islands

3 July 2015

By Seth Doane

PAG-ASA -- CBS News correspondent Seth Doane began his journey to the South China Sea in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. There are no commercial flights to the island of Pag-Asa, where they were headed, so they hired a small plane to get there.

From the air, they started to appreciate how scattered the territorial claims are. Below, different features, including shoals, reefs and atolls, are claimed by different countries ranging from the Philippines and China, to Malaysia and Vietnam.

They landed on Pag-Asa, an island inhabited by Filipinos defiantly staking claim to the territory that China insists it owns.

Seth met Eugenio Bito-Onon Junior, the mayor of Pag-Asa. Not many mayors of 100 or so people are on the front lines of an international dispute like this.

"We are local- a municipality, but the concerns are international," Mayor Bito-Onon told CBS News.

He called living on the island an "exercise in sovereignty," and said each home, each citizen, each birth or marriage on Pag-Asa helps his country stake its claim on the land.

Pag-Asa is just 13 miles from one of the islands the Chinese have been expanding.

"Before, tension was not so heightened," said Bito-Onon, "but just lately in the past three years it has become more heightened." He said the Chinese have escalated their "bullying" and "harassment" of the islanders.

The mayor told Doane stories of Chinese warships passing not far from their shores.

The CBS News team wanted to get out onto the water to investigate for themselves, but bad weather and high seas kept them on land much longer than expected. Finally, five days later, the weather cleared.

Doane and his team hired local fishermen to ferry them out to the reef on their boat. It wasn't easy to convince the fishermen to take them toward Subi Reef -- the Chinese island. They worried about being detained by the Chinese.

Doane and his team were also worried about the sea-worthiness of the fishing boats --which generally ferry more grouper or squid than foreign journalists.

They headed out through the rough waters until they saw the Chinese island emerge on the horizon. Subi Reef has been inhabited by the Chinese since 1988, but in July 2014 it started undergoing a massive expansion.

As their boat drew closer, a warning signal appeared in the distance - beacon lights. Their captain started to get nervous as several more warning signals were flashed at them and decided it was time to get out of there. The team took what pictures they could through the haze, and turned back to safer shores.

Later, boat captain Romulo Barcoma told Doane he thought getting close to the Chinese island was dangerous. He said he was worried about his passengers' safety as well as his own, and wanted to get back to Pag-Asa.

From the shores of Pag-Asa at night, the dark horizon turns brighter, as neighboring Subi Reef grows bigger.

The islands sprouting up around him are "bigger than what God has made in this place naturally," quipped Mayor Bito-Onon.

Satellite images appear to show enough space on Subi Reef for an airstrip, and it is believed that ultimately the island will have one on it.

© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CEBGO To connect Islands

1 July 2015

Cebu Pacific will be setting up more regional hubs for its inter-island flights in the Philippines through subsidiary Cebgo Airlines which will now operate all the ATR 72-500 turboprop fleet.

"Our plan is to set up a lot of additional hubs outside Metro Manila. We're gonna station a lot of ATRs in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Caticlan so that we can fly direct and connect cities together without necessarily going to hubs like Manila or Cebu," says Lance Gokongwei, president of Cebu Air Inc (CEB).

"I think the big market is really connecting these communities or secondary cities directly with the turboprop aircraft, which is a prudent aircraft," he said.

Cebu Pacific operates in 30 of the Philippines more than 90 operational airports.

Gokongwei said that most of the island airports will soon be connected with these aircraft which will be hubbed in major airports in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The Philippines’ largest budget airline is acquiring 26 turboprop jets at a cost of $673 million, including 16 firm orders of ATR 72-600s and options to acquire another 10.

The new orders will replace eight of Cebu Pacific’s ATR 72-500 aircraft.

Flying Not So High

Brand new Bell 412EP helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Ptoto courtesy Allan Firmeza.
30 June 2015

By Ramon Farolan

I would have wanted to use another title, “Flying high,” for this article but the truth is we are still some distance away from the days when the Philippine Air Force was one of the best among Southeast Asia’s air organizations. The photo in the newspaper, showing a PAF Nomad parked alongside a P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft of Japan during recent joint naval exercises carried out by the two countries, tells us how far we have lagged behind in the development of our air assets.

On Wednesday, the Philippine Air Force celebrates its 68th founding anniversary, marking its elevation to major service command status in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is the youngest and also the smallest in the family of our defense forces. Once its potential is fully realized, it will become the spearhead of our nation’s deterrence against foreign aggression.

This year, the Air Force expects delivery of additional medium-lift and surveillance aircraft along with a number of combat utility helicopters that will boost internal security requirements. Unfortunately, the programmed acquisition of 21 refurbished helicopters hit a snag with corruption charges flying all over the defense department, bringing the project to a complete halt. It is difficult to pinpoint who the real culprits are, although one cannot imagine Defense Secretary Voltz Gazmin getting involved in any shady deal. Sen. TG Guingona, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, has his work cut out. Until this is cleared up, it is likely that acquisitions of defense equipment may be subjected to microscopic scrutiny by government watchdogs. This translates into further delays over matters of great urgency.

By the end of the year, two F-50 lead-in fighter jets acquired from South Korea are due to arrive. PAF pilots and crew members are now in Seoul for training and will most likely fly the planes back home. A very modest beginning, but considering our other defense requirements, it represents a step forward.

Today, as part of its pre-anniversary activities, the Air Force will honor its retirees with a parade and review at Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga. Heading the long line of airmen who have served their country in the uniform of the PAF is Lt. Gen. William K. Hotchkiss III,its former commanding general and currently director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Willy Hotchkiss has done a yeoman’s job in getting Philippine aviation back to a position of respectability in the eyes of international aviation organizations.

Just to refresh our memories.

Seven years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2, after determining that the country “does not comply with the international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.” This meant there would be no increase allowed in the number of flights to the United States and there would also be no expansion of existing air routes. The actions of the FAA were also imposed on Philippine air carriers by the European Union.

In March 2013, less than a year after Hotchkiss was appointed director general of the CAAP, the Philippines, specifically Philippine Airlines (PAL), was put back to Category 1 status and removed from the blacklist.

Last week, the EU lifted the ban on all Philippine air carriers registered with the CAAP, giving them permission to operate in European air space. EU ChargĂ© d’Affaires Lubomir Frebort announced: “It was the first time all airlines registered in one country were removed from the ban. In other countries, a couple of airlines are removed but the majority of others remain on the blacklist.”

A word about Willy Hotchkiss.

Willy is the grandson of William Hotchkiss, an American public school teacher from New York. Looking for adventure, Hotchkiss took a boat trip to the Philippines at the turn of the century, fell in love with a Surigao lass named Hermenegilda Azarcon, and stayed on. Willy graduated from the PAF Flying School Class of 1964, and served as commanding general of the PAF in 1997, when the Air Force celebrated its golden anniversary. With his name, his blue eyes and light complexion, one could easily mistake him for an American, but his heart is completely Filipino.

EU Lifts PH Blacklist

Clears All PH-Based Airlines

26 June 2015

The European Union has lifted the ban on all airlines from the Philippines effective yesterday, and are therefore allowed to operate in the European airspace according to the european Commission.

"After 5 years of hard work we are finally able to clear the airlines certified in the Philippines from the European Air Safety List,"says Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport.

Accordording to the EU commissioner, the Philippines is an important country with a sizeable and rapidly growing aviation sector.

"Today's result can serve as an example for other countries which have difficulty to match their safety oversight capabilities with the growth of their industry." she adds.

The European Union has been working in close cooperation with the Philippines to raise safety standards and improve airline compliance with essential and internationally recognised safety levels.

The European Commission – in close consultation with ICAO – decided to ban all airlines in the Philippines from operating in European airspace in 2010 because they are found to be unsafe and/or they are not sufficiently overseen by their authorities. However, recent inspection conducted in April of this year showed that they are already effectively monitored by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

The positive review given by the five-man safety assessment team headed by Capt. Richard Miller, together with Per-Erik Oberg, Vincent Lambotte, Sebastian Zacharias and Mureil Belzunce all from the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) from their oversight review conducted on April 16 to 24 opened the door for all Philippine commercial airlines to operate in European skies again should they wished to fly Europe.

The oversight review has led to the suspension of AOC of Seair International ang Skyjet which has already been restored following compliance with Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCAR). -

More Like Gripen For The PAF

Gov't Sees Possible Lease Option as viable alternative

25 June 2015

Saab has disclosed last week that they are currently in talks with the Philippines for its Multi Role Fighter requirements slated for delivery in 2018.

Ulf Nilsson, Head of the Aeronautics division, said at the Paris Air Show that Saab is offering its JAS-39 Gripen C/D combat aircraft to the Philippines which it marketed as future proof jet fighter under its continuous upgrade programme to keep it at the forefront of military capabilities through to at least 2035.

The C/D aircraft which has an estimated price tag of US$61 million can be converted to the more advanced E/F models, according to a senior company representative.

"C/D frames is still, and will continue to be, a very capable aircraft which will be in continuous development. It really doesn't matter if the Philippines operates the C/D or with the new generation E/F, there will always be a way for us to grow its capability through incremental upgrades," he said.

London-based IHS Jane’s has compiled an independent report in March 2012 on a cost per flight hour of selected aircraft, which includes Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F-18 E / F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Saab Gripen, Dassault Rafale and EuroFighter Typhoon, and the report concluded that the Saab Gripen was the least expensive of the aircraft under study in terms of cost per flight hour.

The aircraft is also the only jet fighter capable of landing in Philippine controlled Rancudo airstrip in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Saab Gripen reported that a possible government-to-government negotiations between Sweden and the Philippines is under way after it has submitted proposals to the Philippine government which include training and lease options of Gripen fighters, hinting the Philippines interest on a similar deal offered to Hungary and the Czech Republic and to recent offers made to Malaysia. The terms of the offer however remains confidential up to this date.

A senior Defence official of the Philippines has confirmed yesterday that they are currently in talks with Sweden for the country's first Multi Role Fighters. Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin however refused to comment on the deal.

But sources inside Malacanang Palace disclosed that President Benigno Aquino has plans to visit Sweden before his term ends in 2016 and the date of his visit is set tentatively suggesting that finer details are currently being ironed out prior to formal announcement like the ones they entered with South Korea and Japan. President Aquino went to Korea and Japan to announced major defence related acquisitions.

Saab has sold 75 Gripen C and 25 Gripen D aircraft mostly to Sweden, many of which were re-manufactured from the 105 Gripen A and 13 Gripen B aircraft already in service. Another 17 C and 9 D aircraft were sold to South Africa, another 8 C and 4 D to Thailand, and has leased 12 C and 2 D to Hungary, 12 C and 2 D to the Czech Republic.