CAAP Grounds Seair LET Fleet

On Passenger Safety Concerns

June 30, 2010

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has directed Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) to ground all of its LET410 flights due to safety concerns of the aircraft.

The LET410 is a twin engine short-range aircraft which has a seating capacity of 14 passengers and are capable of Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) in about 750 meters with full pay load.

The plane is manufactured by the Czechoslovakian aircraft manufacturer Let Kunovice and first flew in 1969. There were more than 1,100 frames produced and used worldwide. SEAIR's fleet of LET-410 UVPs were manufactured in the late 80's making them more than 20 years old.

SEAIR said flights will be temporarily discontinued beginning on Wednesday, June 30. The affected destinations are El Nido; San Fernando, La Union; Marinduque; Zamboanga; Tawi-Tawi; and Jolo.

"This is to comply with the instruction of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)" the company said in a statement. Also affected by the directive are four other operators which include Sky Pasada, an airline based in Baguio. There are at least 14 LET-410 registered in the country.

"The CAAP directive, which covers all LET410s operating throughout the Philippines, calls for 15 cabin and aircraft systems safety modifications, the most major and costly of which is the installation of two additional exit doors in each aircraft as shown on the illustration on the left under the wing. LET 410 operators were given three weeks to comply," a company statement said.

CAAP however denied giving them 3 weeks notice as they were informed of the deficiency two years ago.

" Its unfair for them to say that they were not informed because they were notified two years in advance" CAAP Official said in response to SEAIR claim.

SEAIR added that they have no choice but to retire the aircraft from passenger service because their Airworthiness Certificate and type ratings has been recalled.

SEAIR operates a fleet of six Let 410-UVP's and four Dornier 328-100's. One of the Dornier 328 plane was previously recalled from service because it was not certified by the manufacturer to carry passengers, while another one was declared unfit for civil aviation.

With the fleet recall, only two planes operate for SEAIR, the remaining Dornier 328 which fly to Caticlan; Batanes; Tablas, Romblon; Clark; and Cebu. SEAIR has daily flights to Caticlan and Batanes, with at least seven flights a day to Caticlan.

In response to the changes, SEAIR announced that "it will be bringing in additional Dornier 328s starting August 2010 to beef up operations in the growing markets of Batanes, Caticlan, and Romblon."

SEAIR said the acquisition of new planes is part of the SEAIR fleet expansion program. Two more 328's will fly in October, bringing the total fleet count to five by the end of the year.

PAL sees growth in Aussie routes

By Lenie lectura

June 28, 2010

BRISBANE, Australia—Philippine Airlines (PAL) expects traffic in its Australian destinations to grow by 10 percent and post as much as $60 million in revenues during its fiscal year that starts in March.

PAL flies five times weekly to Sydney and Melbourne and twice a week to Brisbane. It utilizes the Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 aircraft.

“Our destinations to Australia are making money. We should be able to make more money,” said PAL country manager Arnul Pan.

PAL’s Australia service represents 4 percent of the airline’s total revenue target, added Pan. “We are looking at increasing our traffic here by 10 percent because of our comeback in Brisbane, our new plane the Boeing 777, and the partnerships we have forged with travel agencies.”

The load factor or the number of seats occupied during a flight for Sydney and Melbourne currently stands at about 80 percent to 85 percent and about 70 percent for its Brisbane route, that reopened in March.

“It depends on the aircraft that we are using. If we deploy Airbus A-330 then our load factor is at 85 percent but for our Boeing 777 the load factor is 65 percent to 70 percent,” added Pan.

The Airbus A-330 can accommodate 300 passengers while the B-777 can seat 376 passengers.

“Of the total passengers, 70 percent are Filipinos,” added Pan.

The PAL official said that for now there are enough frequencies to service Australia. “Our flights are enough. We won’t ask yet for additional flights. We are now observing how the market is starting to build up as airlines have just recovered from the global recession,” said Pan.

The restoration of Brisbane to PAL’s network completes the airline’s comeback in Australia, following the return of Sydney and Melbourne in recent years.

The new Brisbane service marks PAL’s return to the Queensland capital after a 12-year absence and underscores the airline’s commitment to its customers in Australia despite the global economic downturn.

With the addition of Brisbane, PAL will restructure its Australian operations. The current daily, same-plane operation to Sydney and Melbourne, which now share a triangulated routing to and from Manila, will be modified.

PAL first flew to Brisbane on June 5, 1985. In succeeding years, the city formed a key part, along with Sydney and Melbourne, of the airline’s multilegged operation to Australia.

But commercial and operational difficulties spawned by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 forced the flag carrier to shut down its Australian services on June 5, 1998.

PAL will also be looking to tap the huge Filipino migrant community in Queensland, as well as the leisure, business and cargo traffic out of the state. The airline sees an opportunity to provide Australian travelers, via PAL’s convenient connections in Manila, services between Brisbane and destinations in North Asia like Japan, China and Korea. Travelers, said the airline, can also expect to shave hours off current travel time to these points.

Clark Terminal 1 Opens

From Billions to Millions

June 27, 2010

San Fernando – President Gloria Arroyo, in what could be her swan song before she steps down from office, finally inaugurated the controversial and much delayed P308.8 million Phase 1 expansion of The Clark Airport Development Project which consist in the construction of modular passenger terminal at the airport named in honor of her late father, ex-President Diosdado Macapagal.

Terminal 1 has a project price tag of only 130 million pesos in 2007. By 2009, the terminal project cost ballooned 100% more costing the taxpayer 300 million pesos. At the time of completion, it cost the government 8 million more to finish a project riddled with inside dealings.

The new Terminal will have a 2.5 million capacity as it added floor spaces equivalent to 500,000 more passengers annually on top of two million it presently processes every year.

"The new terminal is expected to boost the operations of the airport as well as to attract more foreign and local airlines to relocate" says President Arroyo during the inaugural speech.

President Arroyo has designated DMIA as the next premier international gateway of the country. But major airlines shy away to operate from the airport because of logistics and connectivity problems.

Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano said they already remedied some of the airport deficiencies that were the concerns of other airlines as Terminal-1 now hosts two passenger boarding bridges; a wider lounges; flight information display system; closed circuit television; public television; background music public address system; x-ray machines; elevators and escalators.

Luciano added that with the bridge facility, airline passengers will now walk door to door without using the stairs to the convenience of the passengers particularly during hot and rainy weather.

Phase 1 of the terminal upgrading project was supposed to have been started in 2005 to be completed in 2008 pursuant to the $1.7 billion US dollars master development plan, but foreign lenders in Japan and Korea refused to fund the project saying that it was overly ambitious with very poor Rate of Returns (ROI).

A clause was later demanded requiring all Low Cost Airlines (LCC) operating out of NAIA to relocate to Clark to make it more viable, but angered LCC airlines threatening to sue CIAC all the way to the Supreme Court should the deal proceed. It was eventually dropped when an American company offered to fund the airport project which turned out to be financially incapable.

Another company from Kuwait offered to develop the airport complex but requires all LCC calling Manila to operate at Clark and demanding at the same time the closing of Subic airport for good. All deals apparently carry a sovereign guarantee in the payment of debts which was declared illegal and unlawful by the Philippine Supreme Court in the PIATCO case.

CIAC formally rejected the offer of Kuwait’s Al- Mal-Pride Consortium to develop DMIA $1.2 billion airport development project at the Clark Civil Aviation Complex.

With no takers, CIAC funded the project in 2009 with a P300 million price tag and was completed on March 31 by its contractor A.G. Araja Construction and Development Corp. Additional 3 months cost the government 4 million pesos more in taxpayers money citing problems with sub-contractors reportedly delaying the project.

In 2008, the original DMIA terminal, which was constructed by the Americans during their stay at the former US Air Force Base, was expanded to increase its passenger capacity from 500,000 to two million yearly. The expansion covered spaces for additional immigration counters, airline offices, concessionaires’ area, and five airline ticketing offices and baggage conveyors among others facilities.

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. in a meeting with Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) and Clark Development Corp. (CDC) officials reminded them last week that expansion and upgrading of the facilities of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here should be transparent, efficient and free from any form of graft and corruption to progress from where they are now.

DMIA hosts Tiger Airways of Singapore, Air Asia of Malaysia, Asiana Airlines of South Korea, and locals Cebu Pacific Air, Spirit of Manila Airlines and South East Asian Airlines (Seair). Other airlines calling at Clark are Jin Air of Korea and Pacific Flier of Palau.

Purchase of navigation equipment to push through

But RNAV will Stay

By Rudy Santos

June 24, 2010

MANILA - The purchase of a new Very High Frequency Omni Direction Radio Range (VOR) would push through even if the old busted navigational equipment had already been repaired and a new satellite-based navigational system will be activated in July by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Airport general manager Melvin Matibag said he had arranged for the purchase of the new equipment but the actual transaction would be done by the incoming administration to avoid any suspicion of wrongdoing in the bidding.

“Of course, we need a new VOR,” Matibag said, adding that the parts borrowed from the Subic VOR would be returned, while a new set of parts had been ordered from Europe and is about to arrive.

Matibag said that a competitive bidding would be announced by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for the new navigational aid, estimated to cost between P90 million to P120 million.

Based on a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the MIAA and the CAAP, the former would pay for the equipment, while the CAAP would operate and maintain it.

As this developed, CAAP director general Alfonso Cusi said he would propose a new arrangement so that the MIAA would buy and maintain the navigational aids at the country’s premier airport so that his office would be able to focus solely on regulation.

Cusi revealed that foreign technicians had been invited by the CAAP to come and bring the new parts for the damaged VOR, and also to assess and make a final recommendation on what to do with it.

Cusi announced in a press conference that come July 4, the CAAP would allow the use of the satellite-based Required Area Navigation (RNAV) system, the next generation navigation procedure that uses Ground Positioning System (GPS), whose signal comes from five satellites orbiting high above the earth.

The satellite is available for civilian use and there is no need for CAAP to buy new equipment.

Cusi said that FedEx, the cargo carrier company, had been using the RNAV for sometime now, following its launching and calibration by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The new standard would allow pilots to switch from VOR to RNAV in case any of the other navigational aids at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) fail.

Cusi said the GPS would be readily available for all airlines to use as instrument approach for MIAA runway 06/24.

GPS is a satellite technology that could phase out all other ground radio navigation aid, including the VOR .

Last Tuesday, Cebu Pacific lent their pilot and Airbus 319 to validate the accuracy of the RNAV approach procedure.

Cusi said that the VOR would remain on standby as additional redundancy to the other navigational aids at the NAIA, which include the Instrument Landing System (ILS) and other visual aids now in place.

These landing patterns are published and disseminated by the CAAP for use of all aircraft flying
into the Philippines and all of the 180-some members of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

He said the CAAP is leasing an Aerothai aircraft from Thailand to calibrate the VORs in Manila
, Clark, Subic, Mactan and the new RNAV departure and arrival procedures for the NAIA.

VOR Repair completed

MIAA explains reason for diversions

June 23, 2010

Repair of Manila airport's VOR facility was completed at 4 a.m today. A new NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) was issued at 6 a.m. advising airline operators on the restoration of VOR facility effective 9 a.m. today.

It was operating on test mode after it was fixed at 4 a.m. and finding no problems with the radio signal from incoming Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight from the United States, the test mode was shortened to 9 a.m. which is being circulated as the latest NOTAM.

Meanwhile, Airport Manager Melvin Matibag said that flight diversions to Clark airport yesterday, particularly 7 domestic flights of Cebu Pacific was the result of VIP flight of President Gloria Arroyo which arrived from Tacloban and not because of allegations of Airline Pilot Association of the Philippines (ALPAP) that it had non-functioning VOR.

"We had a busy airport yesterday because of the VIP flight. It was just unfortunate that bad weather compounded the situation prompting the flight diversions to Clark" says Matibag.

According to Matibag, aviation protocol dictates that no aircraft shall be permitted to land or depart within 60 minutes or until after the Presidents flight have left the airport or properly docked at its designated contact gate.

Approved Manila-Singapore flights still unallocated to RP carriers

By Lenie Lectura

June 22, 2010

IT’S been a month since Singapore gave the Philippines additional flight entitlements, but the government has yet to allocate these to Philippine carriers.

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said the CAB was still studying how to distribute fairly the entitlements to Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Zest Air and Air Philippines.

“The number of entitlements being sought by the carriers exceeds the actual number granted [by Singapore], so we are holding hearings for the allocation,” Arcilla said in an interview.

He said the deliberations will determine which among the carriers would get as many entitlements as they sought in their applications. “We have to determine which carrier is better qualified, and which really needs as many entitlements as it asked for,” Arcilla said.

The amended air services (ASA) agreement with Singapore was sealed last month and produced 2,647 weekly seats for Philippine carriers.

Cebu Pacific, according to vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog, was asking for an additional 2,520 seats for its Manila-Singapore flights to enable it to add a twice-daily flight on top of its 25 weekly flights. “We have used up all our entitlements, while Air Philippines and Zest Air still have rights they have not used,” she said in a text message.

Zest Air, formerly Asian Spirit, has a pending application for two more daily flights to Singapore. “Our existing entitlements allow us to fly to Singapore five times a week. We applied for an additional two more so we can operate daily flights,” said the airline’s vice president for communications Butch Rodriguez.

Zest Air was supposed to start flights to Singapore early in the year but a delay in the delivery of their aircraft aborted the plan. Zest Air will use an Airbus A320 in its Manila-Singapore route. Rodriguez said Zest Air hopes that one of its aircraft delivered next month and another in October. “We intend to launch our Singapore flights by early November. We have 90 days to market the new destination,” Rodriguez said last week.

PAL said it will use its fair share to add more seats to its current four daily flights to Singapore.

The amended ASA between the two countries resulted in more than 13,000 seats a week between Manila and Singapore. For the Clark-Singapore route, a total of 20,000 seats are now available.

“There is really a demand for the Singapore route because the place is not only a tourist destination but also meant for business transactions or activities, and we also have overseas Filipino workers there,” Arcilla said.

The CAB is part of the Philippine air panel which negotiates for traffic rights with other countries. The other panel members include the Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry, and representatives from the airline companies.

Since the start of the year, the Philippine air panel has forged air pacts with Bahrain and Turkey. Up next are China, Indonesia and Hong Kong. “There is no firm schedule yet but tentatively the next air talks will start in August,” Arcilla said.

Zest Airways to receive two A320's

Has July and November as delivery dates

June 22, 2010

Manila - Philippine low cost carrier Zest Airways will take delivery of two new Airbus A320 this year to be powered by International Aero Engine (IAE) V2500.

The ordered aircraft which will be the fourth and the fifth A320 for the airline will join the fleet in July and October respectively. The aircraft was originally scheduled for delivery in November last year but its holding company Asiawide Airways decided to defer its acceptance this year due to funding concerns.

Zest Air currently operates a fleet of six brand new aircraft, with three Airbus 320 and three Xian MA60.

Zest Air vice president for communications Butch Rodriguez said the new aircraft will be used primarily for domestic expansion. The second one will have its international debut in November when it flies to Singapore and Shanghai. Meanwhile, it will start flying from Cebu to Seoul in July 22. It already flies regularly to Seoul from Kalibo.

“Currently we are promoting Cebu to Seoul. Hopefully, we are going to launch our Singapore flights on a winter schedule,” Rodriguez said.

“We already have traffic rights to Shanghai but our launch was delayed because of non-availability of aircraft,” he said.

The carrier recently stopped its Clark-Hong Kong service two months after it was launched in November 2009 because of poor loads.

PALEA to Contest Labor Dept. Ruling

Files reconsideration to decision

June 21, 2010

The Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (PALEA) is not about to give up the fight against its employer Philippine Airlines and now the government as the labor union of the country's flag carrier intends to alleviate its case to the court seeking a reversal of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) ruling that allowed management to outsource some of its present services, resulting to the mass layoff of some 3,000 employees.

Acting Labor Secretary Romeo Lagman upheld the planned PAL spinoff as a valid exercise of management prerogative.

"We are ready to elevate the case up to the Supreme Court. We maintain that contracting out is illegal," Gerry Rivera, PALEA president said Monday.

Rivera said they will first file a motion for reconsideration on or before June 28 as they are required to exhaust all administrative remedies before the court can entertain their case.

"DoLE's decision is not yet final and executory," said Rivera.

PALEA is also planning to file a restraining order in court of the company's decision to retrench should the labor department uphold its ruling.

Philippine Airlines announced the spin-off of its in-flight catering services; airport services, including ground handling, cargo terminal/cargo handling and ramp handling; and call center reservations starting June 1 to implement the next phase of its restructuring program, but the company was prevented by DOLE from implementing its decision pending results of compulsory arbitration.

PAL President Jaime Bautista said restructuring these operations are crucial to the company's survival amid increasing competition particularly from low cost airlines.

Rivera argued that Lagman's June 15 order is faulty on both substantial and procedural grounds.

"It failed to consider the PAL-PALEA collective bargaining agreement's provision, prohibiting the outsourcing of jobs that are being performed by regular employees."

He said that the case has not been submitted for resolution, "and the order came only four working days after PALEA filed a motion for the production of certain documents, such as PAL's latest financial statement and its outsourcing contracts with service providers."

Manila VOR Fails

Cause Flight Delays and Cancellations

June 20, 2010

The Doppler VHF omnidirectional radio range(VOR) system of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) conked out Saturday morning causing massive delays and cancellations of some domestic and international flights with night arrivals.

Air Navigation Service (ANS) technicians have been trying to fix the navigational equipment since it stopped functioning at 7:30 a.m.

VOR is a navigational aid which helps pilots determine the correct approach to airports runway which are using the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and is particularly useful at night and during bad weather where visibility is poor.

Manila International Airport (MIA) General Manager Melvin Matibag said that heavy downpour could have possibly caused a short circuit in the 14-year-old equipment. The VOR was supposedly due for replacement this year but budget for its procurement was made until after next year. The equipment has an operational life of 15 years but requires constant checks and replacement of some parts. Replacement of defective part will already cost the agency some P90 million pesos at the current U.S. dollar exchange rates.

Meanwhile, Alfonso Cusi, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said that airlines can still use the airport even without the VOR but they have to follow published visual approach procedures.

The problem however comes in during night time and bad weather until after temporary replacements are made.

“Our radar and the distance measuring equipment are operational, our traffic controller can guide them until they reach the 5 miles and 1,500-feet aircraft altitude from the runway. If the weather permits and the approaching aircraft can see the runway, then they can land. If not, they have to divert,’’ says Cusi.

CAAP's Air Navigation Service (ANS) disclosed that “the power supply of the antenna tuning unit of the VOR went off, but we are still looking further into the source of the problem but stressed that the radar system is on normal operations”.

“We are now coordinating with Subic Bay Administrator Armand Arreza and they are more than willing to help us. They will give us their VOR since they are not using it anyway."

“Our technical team is now doing the repair work. For backup and to fix the equipment, we borrowed the power supply and antenna of Subic airport,” Cusi said.

The Subic airport VOR power unit arrived in Manila only around 3 a.m. Sunday. The installation of the power supply took a couple of hours and by dawn, technicians from the ANS started to power-up the navigation system.

CAAP technical assistant Lito Casaul explained that the power supply came from a similar but different navigation system, both in model and type and requires recalibration and testing before it can be installed on the VOR.

Limited night arrivals

While CAAP opted not to suspend NAIA's night operations contending that other navigational facilities such as radar and the distance measuring equipment (DME) were still working, airlines were not about to gamble their own safety as they rescheduled flights the following day affecting close to 20,000 passengers.

“On the occasion of heavy downpour, we have to suspend the night operations in the airport and advice airlines to cancel their flights,” Cusi said.

The thunderstorm and heavy rainfall over the airport at about 4 p.m. caused visibility to be reduced to zero, forcing pilots to land temporarily at the Clark International Airport while a Dragon Air flight from China canceled its arrival in Manila.

Hawaiian airlines flight from Honolulu has been diverted to Clark while three Philippine Airlines flights has also been diverted to Cebu and Clark airports. They were PR 425 from Fukuoka, Japan, was diverted to the Clark International Airport while the two domestic flights from Tacloban and Cagayan de Oro were diverted to Mactan.

The plane was supposed to land in Manila around 5:15, 7:40, 8:30 and 8:40 p.m respectively.

The weather cleared after 9 p.m. and the airport was re-opened for arrival of international flights to Manila.

"all airlines have already adjusted their incoming and outgoing flights in anticipation of unfavorable weather conditions" says Cusi.

There are 74 incoming flights last night until Sunday morning but there are 155 international and domestic flights that will be affected until Monday the next day if the VOR is still inoperable says Cusi.

"Philippine Airlines flights coming from the United States and the Middle East have been delayed. Foreign carriers like Emirates and Ethihad are also delayed until Sunday morning. Some domestic flights of PAL, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air have also been canceled" said Cusi.

Cathay Pacific flights from Hong Kong, Qantas Airlines from Melbourne, Australia and Saudia Airlines landed safely at the airport after some delays. Shenzen Airlines of china also manages to land from Canton.

Philippine Airlines also announced that all of its inbound and outbound daylight flights operating out of Manila will remain normal but expects some delay.

“PAL is closely coordinating with the airport's traffic control to be able to operate PAL's night flights scheduled to depart/arrive after sunset,” a PAL advisory reads.

“Flights coming from the US scheduled to arrive early tomorrow morning are being rescheduled to arrive after sunrise, which is set at 5:28 a.m.

These flights are the following: PR105 San Francisco-Manila (ETA 5:40 a.m.), PR103 Los Angeles-Manila (ETA 6:00 a.m.), and PR117 Vancouver-Manila (ETA 5:50 a.m.). All other early morning arrivals are also delayed until sunrise.

On the other hand, Cebu Pacific announced that 28 of its domestic and international flights have already been canceled. Its international flights due to arrive on early Sunday has also been delayed until after sunrise.

“Thirty domestic flights were canceled on Saturday after the communications system of the Naia encountered technical problems,” said Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific’s marketing head.

The VOR is scheduled to be fixed by 8 a.m. Sunday.

Recalibration and Testing

“The technicians cannot just power up the system and go. They have to slowly power up each of the system’s component to check if everything is working properly. If and when the system proves to be ok, they can then begin to reconfigure the unit,” Casaul said.

He said they have extended the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) they issued Saturday morning to last until 8 a.m. Monday (June 21).

“We extended the NOTAM until Monday to give our technicians enough time to get the system up and running.”

“Hopefully, we can have the system up before sundown so we can resume with normal operations at the two runways,” Casaul said.

With the VOR inoperable, pilots have to rely on Visual Flight Rules (VFR) to land – meaning pilots would have to rely on the radar and other visual aids such as the runway lights in order to see the where to land.

The pilots could have done easily even without VOR and rely on the airport’s Instrument Landing System (ILS) for guidance but unfortunately, the ILS at the NAIA is currently being replaced.

Matibag, in a press conference, admitted that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) had been out of commission for weeks and the replacement for the $2.4-million equipment was delayed because the eruption of the Iceland volcano canceled the flights to Europe, where the parts are to be acquired.

He explained that maintenance of the ILS and the DVOR belong to CAAP, but it was MIAA that provided the fund for its replacement.

Installation of the ILS, originally set on May 29, has been reset to July.

The ILS equipment which  beams radio signals at the end of runway 24, provides accurate information to alert the pilot whether his aircraft is within a narrow band of horizontal and vertical clearance that would eventually bring him to the end of the runway.

With the advent of Habagat season, wind blows from west to east forcing airlines to land against the wind and requires the use of runway 24 for its approach.

In the absence of the ILS, radar controllers bring the aircraft to the end of the runway, near enough for the runway to be visible; and at night, when the runway lights are clearly in sight.

With both the VOR and ILS navigational systems down, the CAAP was forced to implement stricter rules on night landing and made the separations between airplanes much longer apart.

During normal operations, flight separation between aircraft are less than one minute. However, with the limited operations Saturday night, airplanes had to be separated by a minimum of five minutes to assure their safety.

CAAP also said that airline companies have discretion if they would allow their pilots to proceed to land at the airport even with the limited navigational aids. Matibag however said that should bad weather come into play, the Manila Control Tower will be forced to deny pilots permission to land and instead instruct them to divert at nearby Clark.

Manila airport is expected to be back to normal operations Monday morning. New VOR facility is valued at P120 million.

Dole upholds PAL spin-off

June 19, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor (DOLE) has upheld the legality of the spin-off/outsourcing plan of flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) that would transfer three of the airline’s non-core units to third party service providers.

In a 32-page decision penned by Acting Labor Secretary Romeo C. Lagman, DOLE ruled that PAL’s planned outsourcing/spin-off “are based on lawful ground and all in a valid exercise of managerial prerogative and as such is valid and lawful in all respects.”

The June 15 DOLE order will directly affect over 2,600 PAL workers belonging to the airlines’ Call Center Reservations, In-Flight Catering and Airport Services units.

In dismissing the PAL union’s claim of unfair labor practice, the Labor department said the continuing losses suffered by PAL point to no other conclusion than the intended spin-off/outsourcing “is reasonably necessary.”

In a statement, PAL said it welcomes the DOLE decision insofar as it recognizes PAL’s financial troubles and the need to spin-off non-core services as part of its survival strategy.

“With the DOLE decision, PAL must now focus on the tough challenge of surviving the crisis and competing amidst a difficult operating environment. To do this, PAL must implement various revenue enhancement and cost control initiatives that includes outsourcing,” the airline said.

The DOLE decision also confirmed PAL’s offer to grant separation pay equivalent to one month salary for every year of service to all affected PAL workers.

“We are glad that the Company [PAL] has prevailed upon the service providers to initially hire the workers who would be separated by the closure of In-Flight Catering Operations, the Airport Service Operations and the Call Center Reservations Operations. However, the hiring of these workers shall be subject to the qualification, terms, and conditions laid down respectively by the service providers for admission to employment,” DOLE stressed.

The labor department also upheld PAL’s position that reorganization, as a cost saving device is acknowledged by jurisprudence. “An employer is not precluded from adopting a new policy conducive to more economical and effective management, and the law does not require that the employer should be suffering financial losses before he can terminate the services of an employee on the ground of redundancy,” DOLE said, citing a previous Supreme Court decision.

To assure customers of continuing service, PAL said that airline operations remain normal.

CX move to T3 by June deferred

Business Lounge not Ready

June 16, 2010

Manila - Cathay Pacific announced Tuesday that it is not moving to Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 at least for the month of June following delays in planning permissions to construct its own business lounges at Manila airports' newest Terminal.

The Philippines largest foreign carrier by passenger traffic, said that there June transfer is deferred for another month because the construction of its own lounge is still in progress.

Two other foreign airlines which planned to transfer at Terminal 3 by June also suffered the same fate as regulatory delays put a brake on their time frame as they also require construction of exclusive lounges which are still under construction and cannot be finished by June 30.

Atty. Melvin Matibag, General Manager of Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said they would try to convince the other two airlines to moved to Terminal 3 by June 30 even without the exclusive lounges in a bid to credit accomplishment to administration of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“They can actually move to Terminal 3. The facilities at the terminal like baggage handling, passenger check-in, and air bridges are all ready,” said Matibag.

“Cathay insists that they wants to build a lounge first before they move. That’s going to take some time,” he said.

“It doesn’t look like they can move by the end of the month. But were hoping to persuade the other two to relocate by June 30 hopefully” Matibag adds.

The airport manager declined to name the other two airlines except that one is a regional airline from Asia Pacific and the other from the Middle East. A lounge however is being built at terminal 3 with Singapore Airlines as its tenant.

MIAA will meet with the relocating airlines this week about the progress of the construction work as well as talk with other international airlines to consider using Terminal 3.

Terminal 3 has a design capacity of 13 million passengers and currently handles more than 7 million passengers in 2009. It is occupied by low cost carriers Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines Express.

Decongesting NAIA

A Solomonic Solution

Written by Recto L. Mercene

June 12, 2010

Aviation as a major engine of growth of any developed or developing country has long been accepted as fact. Those countries that consider their aviation sectors as jewels in their economic crown boast of healthy airline revenues, boosted by tourism and related business activities.

We need not look further than our Asian neighbors who have prioritized their airport development and seen the effects on tourist traffic; Hong Kong with 17 million; Bangkok, 14.5 million; Kuala Lumpur, 17 million; Singapore, 9.7 million; Vietnam, 5 million; while Taiwan has 4.4 million, although tourism is not its main strength.

The Philippines has registered a paltry 3.5 million tourists for 2009, according to Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) general manager Melvin Matibag.

The Problem

For the last 10 years, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) has grappled with a seemingly insoluble problem: How to increase the volume of air traffic in the presence of so-called General Aviation (GenAv) in their midst.

All of the first-class airports that we know of handle only purely commercial traffic or scheduled airlines. Their GenAv, which is composed of privately operated aircraft, charter, air taxi and flying schools, have been relocated away from their main airports, according to Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) director general Alfonso Cusi.

An analogy of mixing GenAv planes with purely commercial jet operations in an airport would be like having a Formula One racing circuit, with cars speeding at 200 kph, and throwing in a jeepney on the same track and allowing it to putt-putt at a leisurely 80 kph to wreck the whole show.

“It is almost embarrassing that this [Naia] is a national airport of the Philippines, and it looks like a provincial airport. It does not look like Singapore, Thailand or Hong Kong,” says Gary Kingshott, a senior adviser of Cebu Pacific.

Kingshsott has been in aviation since 1990 and has worked for various airlines in Australia, India, and now the Philippines. His expertise has always been on the commercial side of the airline, not the operational side.

Looking at the Naia and studying the aircraft movement per hour, he came to the conclusion that the volume of traffic will remain the same, at about 35 aircraft per hour, for as long as GenAv traffic remains mixed with commercial traffic.

“It takes just as long to launch a small aircraft as [it is] to launch a large aircraft,” he said, and seeing the current Naia operations, he concluded that the country is not taking full advantage of its investments in infrastructure.

“In a large Asian country such as the Philippines, you have to think of an airport that can serve the economic need of that country. General aviation is taking up something like 20 percent to 25 percent of all the takeoff and landing slots,” he said.

Actually, the figure is 25 percent to 30 percent, according to Cusi.

Director Willy Borja, chief of Air Traffic Services, said the Naia currently handles 65 percent of all landings and takeoff, while the domestic airport deals with the remaining 35 percent.

For an average total of 553 aircraft movement daily, that translates into 450 aircraft on Naia’s Runway 06-24, and 103 aircraft at the Manila Domestic Airport’s Runway 13-31, home to GenAv operations.

There are 1,800 registered GenAv aircraft in the Philippines as of January 2009, according to Capt. Nestor Pasano, the chief of the Flight Operations Safety Inspections. These include twin-engine executive jets, single-engine trainers, twin-engine prewar planes like the C-45, helicopters and airplanes operated by flying schools.

In 2009 GenAv generated gross revenues of P52 million, according to Matibag. This is a miniscule sum compared with that contributed by commercial airlines. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific alone pay billions of pesos in yearly taxes to the Naia. We have to include some 20 members of the Airline Operators Council (AOC), each contributing an average of P1-million revenue to the Naia’s coffers.

The alternative

Ten years ago, because of the traffic congestion at the Naia, the AOC had proposed moving Gen-Av to a further location, such as Santa Rosa, Laguna. The idea was abandoned. As a result, the most feasible and logical airport to relocate Gen-Av is Sangley Point in Cavite. This was the site of a former American fleet of submarine hunters, the P3 Orion airplanes, up until the American bases were still allowed in the country until 1991. Sangley Airport is where the 15th Strike Wing of the Air Force, comprising of OV-10 “Bronco” and MG-520 attack helicopters, is currently based.

Kingshott contends that with GenAV out of the way, it would be easy to increase traffic volume at the Naia, even without a parallel runway, which is the current vogue in the world.

He said Melbourne Airport in Australia has almost the same X-like configuration runway at the Naia, but in the absence of GenAv, it can still handle 30 percent to 40 percent of air traffic.

“La Guardia in New York and San Diego in California are very similar to Manila, but if you look at those airports, you can see a large difference in volumes of traffic being processed,” Kingshott added.

“All successfully managed airports in the world handle purely commercial flights,” Kingshott said, asking a rhetorical question: “When was the last time that Hong Kong allowed a small Cessna plane to land or take off at the Chep Lap Kok Airport? When was the last time Bangkok, Taiwan, Vietnam or Kuala Lumpur permitted a 20-seater airplane to land or take off on their runways?”

It was decades ago, Kingshott answered his own question.

With purely commercial jets in operation, arrivals and departures are geared to maximum capacity of about one aircraft per minute.

At the Naia, however, we could see a B747 “jumbo jet” with a landing speed of about 160 mph, following a lumbering twin-engine C-45, loaded with marine products from the Visayas, landing at a leisurely 60 kph.

The situation is almost laughable but it remains a reality, Kingshott observes.

Unfortunately, upgrading Sangley Point for GenAv use will take time, although at present, the Light Rail Transit from Baclaran is being extended to Bacoor, Cavite. There are also plans to reclaim Manila Bay all the way to Cavite. If ever the matter is pursued, the project can take years before it is realized, according to airport sources.

To be more effective in utilizing its present resources, Kingshott suggests improving the returns from existing assets. “Because if you put in larger aircraft, first of all, you charge the airlines more in takeoff and landing fees.

“Logic tells you that if you can replace an aircraft that carries six people with an aircraft that carries 300 people, it’s a better use of assets.”

He added that “if the landing and takeoff slot is five minutes, what is the maximum value he could get out of those five minutes of runway time?”

“And it takes a six-seater plane sitting on the runway as much time as a big aircraft,” he pointed out.

In Sydney, he said, the authorities there remedied the problem by the “pricing” approach, which involves charging the same amount of landing and takeoff fees, regardless of the aircraft size.

We can already hear the howls of protests from GenAv if the idea is adopted here.

Kingshott suggests to aviation authorities at the Caap and the Naia to do some fact-checking, gather the data and see what would come out of this proposal.

The other idea being bandied about is to transfer the Naia to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Dmia).

Airport sources said this is another long-shot deal, knowing that all the infrastructure needed to connect the Naia to the Dmia is practically nonexistent.

There is no high-speed train, no eight-lane highway, no international passenger and no cargo terminal at the Dmia to handle all the operations currently existing at the Naia.

Former President Ramos, during an interview, said that in his time, he had proposed connecting Naia 3 with a light-rail transit to a proposed Grand Central Terminal at Fort Bonifacio. From there, Naia passengers could simply take a high-speed train to the Dmia, the way passengers in Japan take the Shinkanshen, or bullet train, from Tokyo to Narita Airport in an hour.

Ramos’s idea did not materialize until he left office in 1998.

The other solution forwarded to the Naia was to remove the houses at a portion of the Merville Subdivision, where there used to be space reserved for a runway parallel to the current 06-24.

However, the area reserved for a parallel runway had been taken over by a housing subdivision, and Merville residents would surely not take it sitting down. The government would have to grapple with hundreds of temporary restraining orders from angry residents, Cusi said.

The Solomonic solution

Former Miaa manager Cusi, meanwhile, is proposing a Solomonic solution.

First, he said that it would be downright impractical and difficult to remove GenAv considering that most of their members are “captains of industry.”

Before and after WWII, these pioneers of Philippine business and industry used their money and talent to map and explore the country’s vast resources, which could be tapped and turned into export products.

We could name minerals, timber, agricultural products, marine products, plywood, hemp, tobacco, sugar, coconut and practically every export products that were successfully developed through the labors and ingenuity of these pioneers.

They mapped the country’s mountains and forests through aerial photographs, built their own private strips, brought in their airplanes for the job, and now we have an extensive GenAv that caters to practically every aspect of our social and cultural life.

Cusi said old family names like Ayala, Soriano, Cojuangco, and newcomers like Tan, Alvarez, Mitra and Enrile, to name a few, would be names to reckon with if someone were to ask the private and corporate aircraft operators to leave their present location at the GenAv compound of the Manila Domestic Airport.

The GenAv hangars here also speak of the country’s who’s who, such as those of the Philippine National Bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Meralco, Aboitiz, PLDT, Banco de Oro, Delta Air and many others.

According to Cusi, commercial aviation and GenAv can coexist, according to his plan.

“I have already made an initial study, and I found out that the present Taxiway 06-24 could be made into a runway parallel to Runway 06-24,” Cusi revealed.

With the same length of 3.5 kilometers, it would simply be a matter of realigning Runway 06-24 so that it would move further south of Taxiway 06-24, so that there would be enough distance between them for an Airbus A380 to land and take off.

When the A380 landed at the Naia a few years ago, other aircraft parked at the time of its touchdown were not allowed to move out because of space constraints.

“There is enough space near the perimeter fence and the Merville Subdivision to move the present Runway 06-26 closer there and, at the same time, strengthen both runways to be able to take in the much bigger and heavier A380,” Cusi noted.

“It would cost about P2 billion and 18 months to build,” Cusi said, adding that he would soon talk with Matibag for a detailed study of his plans.

Maria Lourdes Reyes, the chairman of the AOC, lauded Cusi’s proposal, saying that they would give their full support for such a move to construct parallel runways at the Naia.

Cusi and Matibag were part of the same team that convinced Cebu Pacific to transfer and use the Terminal 3, which is now effectively utilized. However, given the way politics are run here, both airport headmen are at the mercy of the incoming administration. However, even if Cusi’s term as Caap boss is not coterminous with President Arroyo’s since he was appointed with a four-year term to expire in 2014, he said he would still submit a courtesy resignation to the incoming Aquino administration.

Kalibo Terminal Opens June 15

June 12, 2010

Kalibo International Airport will be opening its newly expanded terminal building on June 15.

The P80 million expansion works is set to accommodate 1 million passengers annually. The airport currently handled 646,075 domestic and foreign travelers in 2009 from seven domestic and international airlines.

Aklan Governor Carlito Marquez said airport capacity will be good for the next 10 years based on current DOTC projections.

The new terminal building is set to compliment the original terminal which was refurbished and joined with the new one. Expansion works began two years ago by International Builders Corporation.

Kalibo International Airport serviced 5,203 domestic flights and 360 regional flights from Korea, Taiwan and mainland China says airport manager Engr. Percy Malonesio.

The airport is the 8th largest airport in the Philippines in terms of passenger traffic based on the data compiled by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).

Tan not selling PAL

Denies Rumors for good!

June 11, 2010

Manila - Lucio C. Tan is not about to give up Philippine Airlines (PAL) despite burgeoning losses, labor problems, and stiff competition from budget airlines.

“Not for sale,” Mr. Tan, chairman of PAL Holdings, Inc., said Thursday after Eton Properties Philippines, Inc.’s annual stockholders’ meeting in Makati.

First Pacific Co. LTD. of Hong Kong headed by Manuel V. Pangilinan was in talks with one of the sons of tycoon Lucio Tan to pursue his take-over bid for PAL but the offer fizzled out when the mogul said no to one of the Philippines largest business conglomerate.

San Miguel Corporation has also expressed interest in acquiring a majority share of the Flag carrier but Lucio Tan declined the offer.

SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said that they wanted to buy at least 51 percent of PAL but Tan is not about to give up his control of the airline who also has received offers from foreign airlines who are now conducting due diligence with the company for a substantial minority stake.

But airline President Jaime Bautista denied such offer was made and was surprised by the revelation.

"We only learned of Mr. Ang's alleged plan to buy into PAL through the newspapers. If he is seriously considering to buy a majority stake in any company, he should approach the owners rather than tell the press." Bautista said.

Bautista confirmed that neither Metro Pacific nor San Miguel had talks with them on possible investments but doesn't state categorically whether there was a talk made between the Tan group and Metro Pacific or San Miguel on the other.

The PAL President does say that they are actively engaged in ongoing talks with prospective investors whom he doesn't want to divulge as they are still on preliminary talks with the foreign investors.

“We are looking at fresh equity that will go directly to PAL,” Bautista said, meaning the airline would be offering new shares to obtain new capital.

Bautista stressed that Tan wanted to keep majority control of the company 92% of which he owns while opening the carrier to new investors.

“The preference is for Mr. Tan to maintain majority control of the airline,” Bautista added.

PAL has been on the red for the past three fiscal years with consolidated losses over $350 million, or P15 billion.

Adding to its woes is the decline of international passenger traffic due to worldwide economic recession and the stiff competition offered by budget carrier like Cebu Pacific, which recently surpassed PAL as the dominant domestic carrier of the country flying 2.35 million passengers in the first quarter of this year as compared to PAL's 2.34 million.

The airline wants to lay off 3,000 workers and outsource non-core operations to cut losses. In its restructuring program, the airline wanted to spinoff the inflight catering services; airport services, including ground handling, cargo terminal/cargo handling and ramp handling; and call-center reservations at the close of business hours on May 31. But the plan was put on hold by the Labor Department last April until the labor dispute with the PAL Employees Association is resolved.

PAL had net loss of $40.2 million for nine months of its current fiscal year, narrower than the $330.2 million reported the previous year. Its consolidated losses was trimmed further to $14.3 million for its fiscal year ending March 2010.

CAAP opens Caticlan for two way traffic

As LET 410 skids again at runway

June 9, 2010

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) re-opened Caticlan airport for two way traffic Monday after improvements were made extending its runway length and constructing larger overrun areas for large turboprop planes.

"Large prop aircraft can now land on and take off from either end of the Caticlan airport's runway" says Alfonso Cusi, CAAP Director General.

Cusi however admitted that the short runway at Caticlan still poses a serious safety concern, particularly during the rainy season as wet runway could potentially cause hydroplaning on landing preventing the aircraft 's brake from working as it tend to float the wheel on landing.

It took the aviation body 15 months to remedy the problem at the Philippines busiest rural airport. The Airport records the highest number of landing and takeoff among secondary airports in the country, reaching a peak of 130 a day, or 65 landings and 65 takeoffs, according to Director Willy Borja, the chief of the Air Traffic Services Division.

CAAP earlier designated Caticlan as a one-way airport after a Zest Air MA-60 flight overshot the runway last year. The order essentially restricted the airports operation to smaller aircraft such as the 14 seater LET-410 of Seair.

The CAAP restriction resulted in airlines like PAL Express, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air which utilized Q300, ATR 72 and MA-60 aircraft that can accommodate at least 50 passengers to use the facilities of nearby Kalibo airport who had passengers with original bookings for Caticlan.

The re-opening however was not without incident as the Seair LET plane skidded off the Caticlan runway Monday morning, prompting a half-day closure of the provincial airport.

No one was reported injured. Fifteen other flights had to be directed to the Kalibo airport while the stuck plane was being towed to the tarmac.

Cebu Pacific, which flies 13 flights daily to Caticlan from Manila and 11 weekly flights to Cebu using ATR 72-500 aircraft, welcomed CAAP move, saying it would spur business and employment in the region.

"We are delighted that as a result of our re-certification, CAAP has authorized Cebu Pacific to take-off and land in both directions for Caticlan," said Candice Iyog, vice president of Cebu Pacific.

"[This] should make flying to Boracay more convenient for our passengers. However, flights may still be diverted to Kalibo if the runway is wet," Iyog added.

Meanwhile, two of the 10 planes owned by South East Asia Airlines (Seair) have been permanently grounded by aviation officials as it was not fit for commercial aviation.

Alfonso Cusi said that one of the planes, the three-engine Dornier DO-24 ATT, was built in the 1930s and should never have been given a certification to fly, even after it had been restored.

The second aircraft, a Dornier 328, which Seair uses extensively to transport tourists from Manila to Boracay and Palawan, was a prototype aircraft that was not intended for regular flight operation, Cusi adds.

5J Philippines Largest

Gained 1 percentage point from last year

June 8, 2010

Cebu Pacific (CEB) beat flag carrier Philippine Airlines as the Philippines largest airline flying more passengers on domestic and international routes, data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) disclosed.

CEB flew 2,448,990 domestic and international passengers from January to March this year, almost 110,000 more than Philippine Airlines system-wide figures of 2,339,788, according to the CAB.

CEB claimed the No. 1 position in the domestic market last year when it captured 50% of the domestic market share. It remains the number one carrier in 2010, with 51% market share.

The airline which started operations in 1996 is buying 22 more Airbus A320 aircraft for expansion slated for delivery starting October this year until 2014. The acquisition would make the airline's Airbus fleet the largest in the country as well.

Cebu Pacific is currently operating the youngest aircraft fleet in the country, with 21 Airbus and 8 ATR 72-500 aircraft.

PacificFlier ships tuna to Clark

June 6, 2010

By Rendy Isip

Palau’s PacificFlier airline has started delivering tuna shipments to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport as part of the carrier’s regular flights to the Philippines.

“It only shows that to the cargo world that the airport [DMIA] can handle such kind of cargo operations and we have the capability to do this,” Asia Foundation director captain Ben Solis said in an interview, after PacificFlier delivered at least 15 tons of tuna fish through the airport on May 27.

PacificFlier offers from Palau to Manila, Guam and Brisbane, Australia. It started its regular flights to Clark, Pampanga every Thursday and Sunday and committed to ship in 15 to 20 tons of tuna fish from Koror, Palau for distribution to Metro Manila.

“This is an important element that DMIA can handle this kind of operations, which makes it very accessible to Metro Manila because of the modern expressways that makes travel faster and convenient,” Solis said. “The cargo world will recognize DMIA as an important part of their cargo operations in the Asia-Pacific Region.”

Solis said DMIA serves international and local commercial flights as well as cargo operations.

“Clark is fully equipped to take these perishable items, even transit them to Metro Manila and we have ground handlers to do this,” Solis said.

About 50 to 60 tons of tuna fish are available for shipment to Japan daily and for transit to other countries, Solis said.

Israili Cobra Choppers deal Cancelled

For being too old!

June 4, 2010
By Eliza Victoria

MANILA, Philippines—The New Year call turned into a pre-procurement conference.

On Jan. 5, 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promised to crush all armed threats to the country by 2010 by upgrading the military’s battlefield equipment with a budget of P10 billion.

Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., then chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, emerged from the conference and announced that acquisition contracts had been approved “in record time, in just one day.”

The shopping list included attack helicopters.

But the military still had to settle with hand-me-downs. In June 2007, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) got 10 Vietnam War-era UH-1H choppers, or Hueys, for the government’s counterinsurgency operations.

The Hueys were part of the military hardware promised by then US President George W. Bush during his visit to Manila in 2003.

In September 2007, the government opened bidding to acquire new helicopters. Asian Aerospace Corp., a local partner of Boeing Co.’s McDonnell Douglas, won the P1.2-billion ($29-million) supply contract with an offer to sell six MD530F attack helicopters.

But the losing bidder, Poland’s state-owned PZL-Swidnick S.A., protested the bidding procedures, saying the helicopters supplied by Asian Aerospace fell short of the 3,000-kilogram-payload technical requirement. (The US-made chopper has a payload of only 1,500 kg.)

In January 2008, the government halted the deal after an inquiry showed that the Asian Aerospace product indeed failed to meet the basic technical requirements.

In August 2009, four officials of the Department of National Defense and PAF faced graft charges over the botched deal.

According to the Ombudsman’s field investigation office, the respondents took part in covering up the winning bidder’s failure to comply with the minimum requirements specified in the bid documents.

In April, Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon alleged that Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales was pushing for the purchase of 14 Cobra attack helicopters from Israel that were “almost 20 years old.”

But defense and PAF officials denied that Gonzales was batting for specific purchases.

International Traffic up 9.6 percent

Registers 3.4 million in 1st Quarter

June 3, 2010

International passenger traffic in the Philippines grew by 9.6 percent, data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said Wednesday totaling to 3.4 million in the first quarter from 3.1 million a year earlier.

There were 1.63 million incoming passengers while 1.804 million left the country during the first 3 months of the years CAB added.

“There’s very vibrant competition between local airlines and there are many products in the market, so consumers have lots of choices," CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) carried the most number of passengers but grew slower than the industry average in terms of passengers served in the first three months of the year. The Lucio Tan-led airliner carried 942,144 passengers, up 6.9 percent year-on-year.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific recorded a 36-percent growth in international passengers totaling 492,114 in the same period.

Zest Air also carried 15,283 passengers in the first three months with no comparative numbers from a year earlier as it was still in the process of activating domestic and international destinations.

The airline regulator said that of the 44 airline carriers with authority to operate in the country, only 36 airlines managed to operate during the period.

The CAB said Air Nauru and Vietnam Airlines ceased flying to the Philippines in 2001 while British Airways stopped flying to the Philippines in 2002. Swissair, Egyptair, Air France and P.T. Bouraq also stopped flying to manila in 2004 while Lufthansa Airlines terminated its operations in April 2008.

Cebu Pacific flies to Brunei

Starts August 21

June 2, 2010

Manila - Cebu Pacific (CEB) will begin flying to Brunei Darussalam on August 21, 2010. The airline is slated to operate a twice weekly service from Manila to Brunei using an Airbus 319 aircraft. It leaves Manila at 11:50 p.m., and the return flight departs Brunei at 2:25 a.m.

Flight fare to the Sultanate State begins with an P899 “Go Lite” seat sale to promote the new route. The promo sale period is June 2 to 4, 2010 for travel from August 21 to November 30, 2010. The seat sale fare of P899 is 68 percent less than the lowest year-round “Go Lite” fare of P2,899, which will be offered after the seat sale period.

Passengers with check-in luggage will just add P100 upon booking. “We hope this will give more opportunities to travel to and from Brunei, for visiting family and friends over the weekend or for business travel. With our trademark low fares, convenient twice weekly schedule and constant seat sales, we expect there will be a big demand for CEB flights to Brunei,” said CEB VP for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog.

“Naming our 15th international destination is one more step towards our expansion in the Asia-Pacific region. We are expecting delivery of 22 more brand-new Airbus A320 until 2014, which will be used to bring our low fares to more markets,” Iyog added.

CAAP Grounds Seair plane

DO-328 to undergo re-certification

By Paolo Montecillo

June 1, 2010

THE CIVIL Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is looking into allegations that an aircraft being used by a local airline is not safe enough to carry passengers.

The aircraft in question, owned by local leisure carrier Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAir), allegedly does not meet minimum safety requirements and was sold to the airline
by a German firm on the condition that it would only be used for test flights or displayed in a museum.

But SEAir, headed by former Philippine Airlines president Avelino Zapanta, denied the claims, saying that its fleet of four Dornier 328-100 turbo prop aircraft has been cleared to be used for commercial flights.

“This issue is currently under investigation, but this [aircraft] is registered in the Philippines and it was the CAAP itself that gave it a certificate of airworthiness,” CAAP Director General Alfonso Cusi said in an interview.

Reports quoting documents supposedly issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) showed that the German-made 32-seater Dornier with serial number 3003 was bought by SEAir from Avcraft Aerospace GmbH (AAG), an aviation firm in Germany.

The aircraft departed from Germany on April 3, 2006 with call sign RP-C9328, and it was supposed to have been sold with limitations, such that the plane can only be flown under experimental approval or put in a museum.

Cusi said the authenticity of the report was still in question, but for the meantime, the CAAP has grounded the concerned aircraft as of yesterday while investigations are ongoing.

Zapanta maintained that the claims were unfounded, saying that the airline’s aircraft would not have been given the CAAP’s OK to fly commercial flights if these were not safe.

SEAir, owned by Greek national Nikos Gitsis and German Iren Dornier, flies mainly to popular tourist destinations like Boracay and Palawan.

Sky Pasada connects Baguio for P998

Keeps Binalonan hub for weather diversions

June 1, 2010

Baguio - Rural airliner Sky Pasada of WCC Aviation commenced its first flight out of Loakan Airport on Friday Morning of May 21 as it tries to connect Baguio for Tuguegarao in Cagayan and Cauayan in Isabela with an introductory one way fare of P998 only.

The aircraft came from Cauayan City with six Singaporeans on board. The flight was also loaded with cargo of fresh seafoods and left with cargo of agricultural products.

The rural airline operates a fleet of two Czech made LET 410 planes that sits 14 passengers for its destinations in Cauayan, Basco, Binalonan and Tuguegarao.

Airline President and CEO, Capt. Ramon Guico III said they intend to make Loakan its hub because it is strategic to servicing a market in Manila, Cauayan, Tuguegarao, Batanes and Boracay. It is looking to add Baguio - Basco, Baguio – Manila and Baguio - Caticlan to its route network soon.

Sky Pasada currently operates from its hub at Binalonan, a privately owned agricultural airstrip in Pangasinan which boast an 850 meter runway and is now becoming a busy general aviation (GA) airport. It was officially opened by President Gloria Arroyo on February 16, 2008.

Captain Alito Getalaga, who piloted the 45-minute Cauayan - Baguio flight, says Baguio's unique weather remains a challenge for air navigation and they intend to reroute flights to Binalonan airfield when the Loakan Airport is not available because of cloud cover.

Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) backed out from its inaugural flight to Baguio in September last year citing foggy conditions and unpredictable weather as the main reason for them not to continue with their proposed flight to the city.

Marketing Manager Richard Tanglao said they will bring the passengers to the city which is one and a half hours drive away from Binalonan in cases of diversionary flight due to bad weather.

WCC Aviation ventured into the airline business in 2009 but started off as a flying school in 2006 providing pilot training to aspiring local and international students with base at Binalonan, Pangasinan. It spinned off Sky Pasada from the firm’s successful Pilot Academy which boast 36 General Aviation planes.

Sky Pasada’s initial commercial routes included Palanan and Maconacon towns in Isabela, catering to the cargo requirements of Isabela fishermen who needed to ship seafood products to Cauayan and Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.

Tanglao said the airline which he dubbed as "Jeepney in the Sky" aims to link under-served Northern Luzon with top tourist destinations in the country while serving its cargo transport needs.

Tanglao said that Sky Pasada is an airline of the countryside. The airline also flies to Divilacan, Cauayan, Palanan, Maconacon and Calayan, in Isabela ; and to Basco, and Itbayat, in Batanes.

"This is what we look at Sky Pasada's role in bringing highland vegetables to Isabela as we also link Isabela's fresh seafood catch to Baguio," says Tanglao.

He explained that traveling for 12 hours by land for P500 through zig-zagging route is a waste of time and a hassle just to get to locations like Tuguegarao and Isabela while their flight at less than a thousand pesos all-in Baguio to Tuguegarao or Cauayan, Isabela just take 40 minutes to travel.