5J Crisscrosses Islands, expands domestic network

Launches 6 inter-island routes

July 30, 2012

Low cost carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB) is launching six additional inter-island routes in the Philippines in the latter part of the year.

The airline will start thrice weekly flights between Cebu and Busuanga, and between Tacloban and Legazpi on October 4, using an ATR 72-500 aircraft.

Another route is added on October 5 with the airline adding Davao – Butuan (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday), Davao – Dipolog (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday), and Tacloban – Iloilo (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), while on October 20 Cebu Pacific is also starting a thrice weekly service between Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro.

Cebu Pacific recently announced its intention to sell its entire fleet of 10 Airbus A319 aircraft to American carrier Allegiant Travel Company commencing in March 2013 as it  receives 22 more Airbus A320 and 30 Airbus A321neo aircraft between 2012 and 2021. It is also slated to begin long-haul services beginning in the 3rd quarter of 2013 using up to 8 A330-300 aircraft.

Airline President Lance Gokongwei said that "The Airbus A319's are our oldest and smallest jet aircraft. Whilst they have served us well for the last six years as we have grown our business and developed new markets, the time is right to trade up to bigger, brand new Airbus A320 aircraft. Between now until 2014, CEB will be taking delivery of 15 brand new Airbus A320 and 4 Airbus A330 aircraft. Cebu Pacific is likewise exploring options to advance the delivery of Airbus A320 orders scheduled for delivery between 2015 to 2016." 

The Philippines biggest carrier offers 63 domestic routes to 32 domestic destinations, providing passengers with the fastest access to key cities and destinations in the country. It currently operates a fleet of 38 aircraft comprising 10 Airbus A319, 20 Airbus A320 and 8 ATR-72 500 with an average age of 3.6 years.

New Services for Philippine Carriers

Amidst intensified competition

July 26, 2012

Philippine Airlines recently announced that it will soon include Apple iPads as part of its inflight entertainment options for its flights to North America.

The  iPad option will be available on the fourth quarter of the year in its four trans-Pacific flights: Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Francisco and Las Vegas. 

The third-generation iPad will be brought in all Airbus A340-300 flights which doesn't have individual Inflight Entertainment Systems (IFE's), and to its one Boeing 747-400 flights (RP-C8168) that doesn't have IFE. 

The iPad IFE will be loaded with various inflight entertainment options such as movies, TV shows, music, games and the latest newspapers and magazines. It will also be customized by Apple to include PAL's Mabuhay magazine, duty-free catalogue, inflight meal menu and safety card.

Meanwhile, aside from offering on-air-internet on demand next year, Cebu Pacific is set to serve Hot Meals on all its international flights starting September 1, 2012 to add more travel options for its passengers. Pre-ordered meals come with a free juice drink. All three halal-certified variants are available for P350 each.

The airline said that its Hot Meals may be pre-ordered through its website www.cebupacificair.com, reservation hotlines and ticketing offices, until 4 hours before the flight.

Passengers may choose between Black Pepper Chicken (diced chicken in a rich black pepper sauce with rice), Chicken Rendang (chicken dish cooked in coconut milk and spices with rice) and Japanese Style Curry (curried thick stew of chicken, potatoes and carrots with rice).

On another front, Air Asia Philippines is rolling out its Piso Fare promo for all local and international destinations including Fly-Thru service from Clark International Airport to Australia. 

For domestic flights, the Piso Fare Promo is available for Davao, Kalibo, and Puerto Princesa.

1,000 seats are available for grabs with the Piso Fare Promo that runs until July 29, 2012. Travel period is from July 25 to October 31, 2012.

Piso Fare Promo excludes fuel surcharge, processing fee, aviation security fee and VAT.

5J Makes ILO International

Opens flight to Hong Kong and Singapore

July 16, 2012

Cebu Pacific unveiled plans to launch international services from Iloilo airport to Hong Kong, Singapore, Puerto Princesa and General Santos in November 2012 which will see Iloilo become the LCC's fifth hub in the Philippines.

The airline operates hubs in Manila, Cebu, Clark, and Davao, and currently operates flight from Iloilo to Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao. 

The airline said it will launch the following services:
    Iloilo-Hong Kong: Twice weekly service from 08-Nov-2012;
    Iloilo-General Santos: Four times weekly service from 08-Nov-2012;
    Iloilo-Manila: Daily service from 08-Nov-2012;
    Iloilo-Singapore: Three times weekly from 09-Nov-2012;
    Iloilo-Puerto Princesa: Three times weekly from 09-Nov-2012;
    Cagayan de Oro-Bacolod: Three times weekly from 09-Nov-2012.

Cebu Pacific is taking delivery of three new A320s on the fourth quarter of 2012, two A330-300 on 2012, and another five A320s for 2014.

PAF to buy 10 attack helicopters

By Rudy Santos

July 18, 2012

MANILA, Philippines - Ten attack helicopters will be purchased from Italy for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The PAF will also get 21 Huey helicopters, three medium-lift fixed-wing aircraft and 12 lead-in jet fighters before yearend as part of the P75-billion Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz said the Philippines preferred the Italian helicopters as they are cheaper compared to those made in the United States.

“I was in Italy to look at some of the attack helicopters that were offered and hopefully, we will have them by the end of the year,” he said.

De la Cruz arrived Monday after participating in the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom.

“I was able to take a first-hand look at some of the industry participants, talk to some of them and would now report to senior leaders in the AFP on the best options available for the country,” he said.

De la Cruz said the government is planning to get 12 jet fighters that are not so sophisticated for the pilots to easily adjust from lead-in to multi-role fighter jets.

The four contenders to sell the jet fighters are Italy, South Korea, Russia and the UK, he added.

The attack helicopters would replace the aging OV-10 Bronco and MG520 attack helicopters, and the three fixed-wing aircraft will augment the C-130 plane, he added.

De la Cruz said the acquisitions would be purely for defense purposes.

“The Armed Forces had concentrated on dealing with internal insurgency, until we realized the need for credible defense following the row with China over the Spratlys,” he said.

The Air Force has been given the authority to purchase medium- and light-lift aircraft as replacement for the C-130 Hercules troop and transport carrier, long-range patrol aircraft, radar, the SAA/LIFT and the attack helicopters, according to spokesman Col. Miguel Okol.

The Department of National Defense and the AFP are working to fast-track the approval of a total of 138 contracts mostly aimed at boosting air and naval assets. 

5J, Z2 Like PNG Too!

What now? 

July 16, 2012

Low cost Carriers Cebu Pacific and Zest Airways wants to fly to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and are requesting the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) to cancel the unused entitlements granted to flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).

CAB is set to hear the consolidated application of service for designation as official Philippine carrier and allocation of entitlements to Papua New Guinea under Route I on July 24.

Carmelo Arcilla, CAB executive director, said the two countries agreed to amend their Air Services Agreement (ASA) last year in August by increasing entitlements to 600 seats per week from the current 150 for route I covering both capital cities.

The increase is equivalent to thrice a week service of Boeing 767 or four times a week service by Airbus 319. The sector is currently being served by Air Niugini thrice a week on a Boeing 767 plane.

Arcilla said a new route was also agreed in 2011 for all airports outside Manila at 1,500 seats per week under route II. Air Niugini is also flying Port Moresby twice a week to Cebu effective this Tuesday.

Cebu Pacific and Zest Airways are both asking for 540 seat entitlements equivalent to thrice a week service on an Airbus 320 plane.

Arcilla adds that only one of the competing applicant airline may be given the frequency as it is uneconomical to grant one weekly flight for each of them. 

CAB may also consider cancelling Philippine Airlines (PAL) rights for non-use, unless it flies Port Moresby or enters into a code share arrangement with Air Niugini. The latter proposal was previously denied by PNG's Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) for being anti-competitive.

The Philippines has a total of 600 seat entitlements per week between Manila and Port Moresby, 300 of which have already been allocated to PAL.

ICCC reported in 2010 that Port Moresby - Manila route was estimated to have an annual average growth rate around 14%. For the period 2003 to 2010, the growth rate was 193%, with traffic composition predominantly of Government and business travel, followed by holiday travel, those visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and other categories.

Air Niugini Flies Cebu

Starts Flight July 17

July 15, 2012

Port- Moresby - National flag career Air Niugini will be commencing operations to Cebu in the Philippines next week, its 10th international destination, with the inaugural flight set to take place on Monday 16th July utilizing its brand new Being 737-700 aircraft let from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

The airline will be operating Cebu twice a week every Tuesday and Thursday with PX016 leaving Port Moresby at 17:50 arriving Cebu at 20:40. PX017 leaves at 22:10 from Mactan arriving Jacksons International at 05:00 the next day.

Air Niugini Chief Executive Officer, Mr Wasantha Kumarasiri said the airline is opening up an additional route in the Philippines due to increase in demand.

Air Niugini flies five times a week via Manila and Cebu. Its has been operating in the Philippines since 1976.

“Australia and Asia remain as Air Niugini’s most important international markets. We are extremely delighted to reach our next expansion milestone. The opening of the Cebu route is important as it allows for easy and direct travel for the Philippinos involved in the PNG-LNG project as well as those in the fisheries sector and other related activities who can travel direct to Cebu instead of going via Manila.” Mr Kumarasiri said.

Air Niugini operates across Asia-Pacific from its hub in Port Moresby to Australian routes of Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Honiara (Solomon Islands), Nadi (Fiji), Tokyo Narita (Japan), Singapore, Hong Kong,  Manila and now Cebu (Philippines.)

PAL - For Love Of Country

By Conrado Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer

July 9, 2012

When in April this year San Miguel invested $500 million for 49 percent control of our flag-carrier Philippine Airlines, the conglomerate also injected a good dose of confidence in the economy.

Already, from what I gathered, the airline recorded “positive cash flow” last month, indicating that just the prospect of fresh capital entering the airline, perhaps, even lifted the spirits of its work force, and we all know that the airline almost has been killed by labor problems over the past several years.

Now, San Miguel’s entry into PAL surprised not just a few in the business community, particularly those people—well, “critics,” mostly—closely watching the performance of San Miguel president and COO Ramon S. Ang, known in business as RSA, who only a few days ago bought a huge chunk of San Miguel shares to become the single biggest stockholder of the conglomerate.

They were saying that for some years now, the airline industry worldwide has been a tough business—tough even for the man that, in the past 14 years or so, steered a financially shaky San Miguel (back in the late 1990s), bleeding profusely as it was from huge investments in breweries in some godforsaken remote areas in China, to become one of the country’s most profitable companies and aggressive investors today.

Take note: The airline industry worldwide posted $1 billion in losses during the first quarter of 2012, due mainly to the sky-high prices of oil. Really, how can San Miguel make a killing in its PAL investments? To think, financial markets became used to San Miguel making a killing in its acquisitions here and abroad. PAL, as an investment, did not seem to promise such a bonanza.

But such intangibles as business confidence and national hope, precisely, were the main goals in the business strategy behind the San Miguel entry into PAL. The PAL investment—at least to RSA as the top executive of San Miguel—was not meant to bring in loads of cash, although San Miguel was confident it could make a little profit out of it. Reports abroad for instance quoted RSA as saying that San Miguel’s efforts to strengthen PAL would help boost economic growth in the Philippines. In a way, San Miguel investment in PAL is something for the country.

There, like it or not, the flag-carrier is one of the leading economic indicators in the country. It is also the best—the most effective—promoter of tourism. More travelers simply mean more business activities, which means more travelers, and so on, ad infinitum.

In other words RSA—who by the way is a licensed pilot himself—must know what he is doing when he caused San Miguel to invest in PAL, even committing some $8.5 billion in additional investment in the airline over the next 10 years.

According to think tanks in business, the Philippines must concentrate on four main economic sectors, namely tourism, agriculture, mining and infrastructure. All those areas, by the way, force the government to spend a lot of capital—that is, all of them except mining, which is the sector that promises huge “royalties” and tax revenues for the government.

Anyway, most financial institutions abroad are already looking at the Philippines as the next Asian country due for an economic boom. The country has such a big potential for the moment. Reports said that RSA found our good economic prospects right now as the “right timing” for PAL. It is a good time for the airline to make a big push towards regaining its status as one of the leading airlines in the region. His thinking already had basis in the experience of the Indonesian national airline Garuda, which only a few years ago turned around in consonance with the fast growth of the economy of that country.

Internally, from what I gathered, PAL already started a strict corporate regimen towards efficiency. Volumes upon volumes of analysis, focusing on reasons why international airlines lost tons of money in the past few years, point to the high cost of fuel. For PAL, fuel accounted for close to 50 percent of its total operating costs.

Surely there is nothing that PAL management, even with RSA at the helm, can do to bring down the international price of oil. The airline, thus, wants to concentrate on “best practices” in fuel management. The airline, for instance, has always been lenient regarding “excess luggage” on its routes across the Pacific Ocean, which naturally has needed more fuel to carry and, in the end, leading to higher costs to PAL, as heavier load simply means more fuel burned.

Moreover, it is said that the new ownership structure in the airline can plug some revenue leakages, since the majority owner, Lucio Tan (a.k.a. Kapitan) has been known to be too kind and generous to a fault, even to the riding customers of PAL, including of course politicians and government officials.

Thus, under the RSA business strategy for PAL, it seems that the airline must concentrate on four areas: changing its image (no more “late” arrivals for instance), financial discipline (stop the leakages), labor relationship (no intentional work slowdowns and such), and new fleet of aircraft.

On the last item, the aircraft model may have a lot to do with fuel efficiency. My info is that one foreign airline even offered to sell to PAL its new fleet of huge airplanes—at an attractive 40 percent discount. It should have been a tempting offer, since the airplane model recently became a “symbol of supremacy” in the airline industry in Asia. PAL turned down the offer for one and only reason: the aircraft model was a fuel monster.

By the way, in case you missed the reports, it was said that another San Miguel company, Petron, just signed a six-month contract to supply the fuel requirements of Malaysia Airlines for its fleet of Airbus A380 airplanes. It seems that Petron is now reaping the rewards of its promotion campaign in Malaysia, where it opened gas stations in line with its acquisition of more than 500 stations from US-based oil companies in Malaysia.

Of course, chaos in our airports also contributes to the high fuel costs of all our airlines. Thus the CAAP—the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines—is putting in place a new arrival system at the NAIA: If the airline has no landing slot, it cannot leave, as yet, its airport of origin. No more fuel-burning waiting time up in the air for landing at the NAIA!

San Miguel for its part already started to invest in airport operation about two years ago, by expanding the airstrip and facilities at Caticlan airport, which served the most promoted tourist spot in the country, none other than Boracay. Aside from polishing the country’s tourism image, the San Miguel investment in the Caticlan airport perhaps presaged its entry into the airline business.

From what I gathered, RSA wants to build a new airport—yes, both runway and terminal—near Metro Manila for the exclusive use of PAL. Based on his track record for San Miguel, he just may succeed.

Filipino LCCs locked out of Japan

July 5, 2012

JCAB Rules

The Philippines Low Cost Carrier (LCCs) cannot expand in Japan due to a Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) recent restriction which essentially follows US determinations relating to a country’s safety category. The Philippines for a number of years now has been denied US FAA Category 1 status, the normal level. 

As a result of not being Category 1, Filipino carriers serving the US cannot open any new routes or change frequency or aircraft. As Japan has chosen to follow this determination, the same restrictions apply on Filipino carriers serving Japan.

Philippine Airlines holds the largest amount of capacity in the Philippines-Japan market, in place prior to losing Category 1 status, with the second largest amount of capacity from Delta, which uses its ex-Japan traffic rights to serve the Philippines. Delta offers more capacity to the Philippines than ANA and JAL combined.

There is also limited frequency between the Philippines and Japan via service from from Jetstar Airways (originating in Australia) and Jetstar Asia (originating in Singapore). Jetstar Japan will enable the group to enhance links between the Philippines and Japan on an origin and destination basis without having a first leg from Australia or Singapore to the Philippines. 

The pairing of routes can be polar, with very price-sensitive VFR traffic visiting the Philippines’ main cities while leisure travellers head to tourist hubs.

Rank of airlines serving Japan-Philippines based on capacity (seats): 02-Jul-2012 to 08-Jul-2012
Rank Airline Total seats
1 PR Philippine Airlines 9108
2 DL Delta Air Lines 5474
3 JL Japan Airlines 3318
4 NH All Nippon Airways 1540
5 JQ Jetstar Airways 732
6 3K Jetstar Asia 540
7 5J Cebu Pacific Air 537

Cebu Pacific, the largest and only profitable LCC in the Philippines, has only about 500 weekly seats to Japan. The potential of the Japan-Philippines market to expand with low-priced LCC service (ANA and JAL have some of the highest costs and prices) is exemplified by the South Korea-Philippines market.

South Korea does not follow the US over Category 1 ratings and so Filipino carriers have been able to expand in line with bilateral agreements. In Apr-2012 Cebu Pacific requested approximately 4,000 additional weekly seats to South Korea.

Rank of airlines serving South Korea-Philippines based on capacity (seats): 02-Jul-2012 to 08-Jul-2012
Rank Airline Total seats
1 OZ Asiana Airlines 8813
2 PR Philippine Airlines 7756
3 KE Korean Air 6250
4 5J Cebu Pacific Air 5191
5 Z2 Zest Air 3360
6 7C Jeju Air 1323
7 LJ Jin Air 1098
8 BX Air Busan 780

The lack of Category 1 status in the Philippines is a sore point and Japan’s somewhat arbitrary adoption of it is already the subject of discussions between the two countries. This issue will likely come to head and be resolved if and when Japanese LCCs request capacity into the Philippines.

Category 1 reflects not on individual airlines (it relates to regulatory oversight capability) but consequences work against them. Philippines Airlines acquired Boeing 777-300ER aircraft under the assumption the Philippines would regain Category 1 status but has since had to use the aircraft on alternative routes, decreasing cost synergies and revenue improvements, as it cannot change equipment on US routes so long as the Philippines is not Category 1 rated. 

A likely scenario is that the Philippines could pressure Japan to relax its following of US Category 1 ratings (which globally is followed by very few countries) in exchange for giving Japanese LCCs access.

When the market is finally opened, the Japanese LCCs will feel pressure from Filipino carriers that not only have a lower cost base but greater brand recognition, as is especially the case with Cebu Pacific. Jetstar could want to secure its position early and before the Philippines-Japan market is opened to expansion by Filipino LCCs. None of the Japanese airlines will be anxious to see any change in the status quo relating to Category 1.

The AirAsia group is advantaged as it launched a local subsidiary, AirAsia Philippines, in Mar-2012 that could potentially serve more of the market than higher-cost AirAsia Japan. Jetstar has no Filipino subsidiary and the market is saturated enough that a joint venture there is unlikely. CAPA

US P-3C Orion Spy plane sent to PI

 July 4, 2012

Lockheed P-3C Orion of the US Navy now operating at West Philippine Sea

In a diplomatic tact, Malacanang Palace insists presence of Clark-based P3C Orion belonging to the US Navy for overflight missions to South China Sea are for monitoring purposes and assured Beijing that the overflights were strictly for surveillance and not meant to provoke China.  

President Benigno Aquino III revealed on Tuesday that the Philippine government was still planning to ask the United States to send P3C Orion “spy planes” for monitoring missions but mum on the questions why they are already here.

The President met recently with US counterpart Barack Obama in Washington last month with the maritime dispute high on the agenda. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed its "neutral position" to the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines.

Aquino said China should not be alarmed by Philippine efforts to improve its monitoring capability.

"Does the Philippines have the capacity to become an aggressor?" he asked.

 "By any stretch of the imagination, the Philippines does not. So why should it upset a superpower if we're all reasonable?"

A Pentagon official brief earlier stated that the US Pacific Command made an initial offer in August last year to deploy the P3C Orion spy planes to the Philippines to help monitor disputed areas in the South China Sea after China increased its presence and activities near Reed Bank. The offer was accepted by the Philippine government but exact details of the agreement remained unknown.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment on the Orion aircraft, but said Washington has long assisted Manila, a formal security treaty ally.

"As part of our longstanding military cooperation, the United States supports the Philippines in enhancing its maritime domain awareness," she told a news briefing.

"We are talking about helping the Philippines be aware of what is going on and supporting our ally in defense of its own security," added Nuland.

In a carefully crafted statement, Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said that the deployment of “spy planes” was only one of the options being considered by the government to protect the country’s sovereignty over the disputed areas and is not meant to provoke China since the spy planes would not be armed. 

The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Navy. 

A recent reconnaissance missions of one of Orion's sibling, the US Navy EP-3E reconnaisance plane led to midair collision in 2001 with People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) J-8II jet fighter-interceptor resulting to the crash of the latters jet and death of its pilot. The damaged spy plane landed safely at Hainan' s Lingshui airfield, dubbed as Hainan Island incident

Spyplanes, Spyships, & Seizures

a deadly dance of dark suspicion
& dangerous curiosity

Copyright 2001, 2003, 2004
Richard Harris
(316) 685-3371  -  rh1@iwichita.com
photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense, generally
Excerpts previously published by Aero News Network ( www.aero-news.net ) and In Flight USA

The emergency landing of an American EP-3 Aries spyplane, in China, March 31, 2001 (described at the end of this story) opened up the book on a lot of historical "precedents," where America and other nations lost or gathered aircraft and ships in the endless game of cat-and-mouse that is a part of spying along foreign borders (and sometimes over them).  Here are a few key events and milestones in spycraft operations, attacks on suspect craft, and seizures of aircraft, ships and crews, which have kept the battle for information edgy, dangerous and dramatic:
1944:    U.S. B-29's confiscated by Russia.   During World War II, in operations against Japan, some U.S. Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers landed in Eastern Russia, after overflying Japan. The world's's most advanced bomber in 1944, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Though Russia was officially a U.S. ally in the war, Russia impounded the B-29's, and -- though returning their crews -- refused to return the aircraft.

Instead, Russian plane-maker Tupolev disassembled the 76,000-part B-29's -- the war's most advanced bomber -- and copied them, to build a virtually-identical Russian bomber, the Tu-4 (NATO code-named "Bull").

It became the chief Soviet postwar bomber for nearly a decade.  At the same time, Boeing built an improved version of the B-29, the B-50 Superfortress, with the resulting irony that each nation's greatest threat to the other -- in the early postwar "Cold War" years -- was from nuclear bombers built from the same original design:  the Boeing B-29. Exacerbating the irony, in the mid-1950's the Soviets gave several TU-4's to Communist China, where they continued to serve for many more years -- as China's chief long-range, strategic heavy bomber.

1953-1954:       Korean War pilots shot down over China. During the Korean War, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber an American B-29 Superfortress bomber, with 14 American servicemen aboard, was shot down when it apparently strayed over China's border with North Korea. The servicemen were captured, and -- following the Quemoy and Matsu crisis -- China announced plans to try them as spies (with the implicit threat of execution), despite the fact that all but two had been in uniform. All were given lengthy prison sentences.

This outraged the American public, already angry with China over its support of North Korea -- with members of Congress and virtually the entire Pentagon leadership calling for nuclear war against China. It was the sixth time in a year that the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council had urged President Eisenhower to use nuclear weapons. Eisenhower stood firm against all his advisers, and Washington was eventually able to negotiate the airmen's release.

1960:     The U-2 Incident;  Russia.  At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy were over-flying the Soviet Union (Communist Russia and its border colonies) -- frantically trying to discern Soviet military developments.

At first the tightly-closed Communist nation was ill-equipped to combat the flying spies. Soviet defenses were concentrated around its few major cities, and its fighters had limited range, speed and altitude capabilities. Still, many of the American spyplanes were intercepted and shot down.

Generally speaking, neither government publicly acknowledged these hot flashes of the Cold War, and the outside world was largely unaware, as were most of the people in their own countries. a B-29, desginated as a 'WB-29' -- 'weather plane' -- assigned to gather samples of air around Siberia's borders, actually looking for traces of fallout from Soviet nuclear tests.

At first, the propellor-driven Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers (re-labeled "RB-29" for "Reconnaissance") were used, mostly -- due to their long range, high altitude, substantial speed, defensive armament, and enormous payload (needed for the bulky cameras and electronics of early spy flights).

But as the Soviets developed fast, well-armed jet fighters which could shoot them down (and did), the RB-29's were gradually replaced by the faster, higher-flying jet-powered Boeing RB-47 Stratojet (shown at left), also a modified bomber.

The overflights quite unnerving to the Soviet Union -- a nation who had recently lost one-tenth of its people to a surprise invasion by the Nazis -- especially since American overflights were by planes derived from, and visually identical to, U.S. nuclear strategic bombers. Soviet defenses, particularly fighter development, evolved rapidly to counter the U.S. intruders. In time, even the 600-mph Stratojets could not outrun, nor outclimb, the latest Soviet fighters.

The U.S. government finally decided the solution was a "non-military" reconnaissance plane, designed from the start for that purpose:   the Lockheed U-2 -- a high-flying reconnaissance plane stripped of all identification, and assigned to the CIA. The high-flying U-2 recon jet The long-winged U-2's, powered by a single jet engine, were designed to fly over 60,000 feet up (12 miles high, on the edge of space; U-2 pilots wore pressurized suits like astronauts).  Designed to fly higher than any known jet fighter or anti-aircraft missile, they would fly over Soviet territory with impunity.  The U-2's soon became America's chief resource for hard data on Soviet military developments.

Pilot Francis Gary Powers, on the longest U-2 overflight mission ever, was to fly a zig-zagging course across the entire Soviet Union, south to north.  The key object was to photograph suspected new Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM's), capable of striking the U.S. He took off May 1, 1960 -- "May Day" -- the international holiday of Communists. About one-third of the way through his twisting, 3,788-mile Turkey-to-Norway overflight, an explosion (whether an engine failure or a Soviet missile was never known outside the USSR) blew the U-2 out of the sky.  Powers successfully parachuted to Soviet soil, and was promptly captured.

Khrushchev views U-2 wreckage
The Soviets displayed the captured plane to the world, while the U.S. lamely claimed it was only a weather-research plane that had strayed off course -- way off course. Eventually President Eisenhower admitted the obvious, and defended his actions as "necessary." Though pilot Powers was treated civilly by his Russian captors, he was tried as a spy (with the implicit risk of a death sentence) in a public show trial.  The incident gave Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschchev a chance to humiliate President Eisenhower just before their Paris summit meeting, and greatly embarrassed the Eisenhower administration at home -- while Ike's vice president, Richard Nixon, was running for President.  Nixon was narrowly defeated by his opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy.

(Russia, a few years later, traded the imprisoned Powers to the U.S. for a captured Russian spy, Rudolf Abel. Powers returned to mixed appreciation, with many damning him for having confessed the obvious at his trial, and many others damning him for not having chosen suicide over capture. The CIA discharged him, but secretly funded his employment at Lockheed, as a U-2 test pilot, until he published a book about his experiences. After years of difficulty finding work, Powers became a prominent Los Angeles newscaster/pilot, and died in 1977 when his newscopter crashed.)

1962:    U-2 shot down; Cuban Missile Crisis.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis -- when the Soviet Union attempted to place nuclear-tipped, intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, just off American shores -- the U-2 was again used to discern Soviet developments.  One of the two U.S. Air Force U-2 pilots who first photographed proof of the missiles deployment -- Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. -- was shot down during one of his overflights by a Soviet missile.  1960's -- Cuba- an aerial view of the San Cristobal medium-range ballistic missile launch site number two. November 1, 1962 (U.S. Air Force Photo)
The event heightened tensions, as each side faced the other with an arsenal of nuclear weapons poised to annihilate millions of each others' men, women and children.  Some cabinet members and belligerent military leaders, particularly U.S. Air Force chief of staff Gen. Curtiss LeMay, urged war -- and with the loss of Anderson, the military's demands for attack grew passionate.  Kennedy held his ground, and settled the matter with a naval blockade of Cuba, until the missiles were withdrawn, peacefully.

The president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, wrote in his memoirs that the President "talked a lot about Major Anderson, and how it is always the brave and best who die.  The politicians and officials sit at home pontificating about great principles, and issues, make decisions, and dine with their wives and families, while the brave and the young die."

The day Soviet Premier Khruschchev ordered the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, as the cabinet members departed the oval office, his brother looked back and saw President Kennedy sitting down at his desk to write a private letter to Major Anderson's widow.

1967:     Israel attacks U.S.S. Liberty in 6-Day War.  Egypt, Syria and Jordan began massing troops along the borders with Israel, in an apparent move to invade the Zionist nation, and return it to the Palestinians.  Israel decided to strike first.  In an apparent attempt to conceal its initiation of hostilities, Israel targeted the U.S.S. Liberty, an American spy ship loitering in international waters between Israel and Egypt.

The Liberty, was among the first targets of a wave of Israeli fighters and bombers attacking Arab targets, signaling the outbreak of the Six-Day War -- in which Israel seized control of Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Several crewmen were killed and injured, in a series of sea and air attacks lasting over an hour -- despite repeated radio calls from the ship to the attackers and others.  Israel lamely argued that the U.S. ship was mistaken for an enemy vessel.

The Liberty eventually limped back to port in Malta, listing to starboard from a hole blasted by a torpedo (see close-up picture) and punctured throughout with holes from Israeli cannon and machine-gun fire.
1968:    The U.S.S. Pueblo;  North Korea.   North Korean gunboats harassed, then attacked and seized the American spy ship, U.S.S. Pueblo, whose captain, Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, claimed he'd been sailing outside the 12-mile territorial limit (which evidence later supported); the North Koreans claimed otherwise.

For over an hour, the crew frantically tried -- unsuccessfully -- to destroy its classified documents and equipment (using axes and hand-grenades, seriously injuring themselves in the process), while radioing for American help that never came.

The 82 surviving crewmembers were held captive, paraded in front of international media (as shown at left, Bucher standing), interrogated and beaten until "confessions" were extracted by North Korean authorities.  They were eventually released, exactly 11 months later, Dec. 23, 1968.

1969:    EC-121 spy plane shot down by North Korea.  Over international waters in the Sea of Japan, near the North Korean coast, an unarmed U.S. Navy Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star spyplane (shown at right; a modified Lockheed Constellation 4-prop airliner) was shot down by North Korean fighters, 90 miles southeast of North Korea -- closer, actually, to American ally South Korea.

The April 14 incident killed all 31 servicemen aboard.  This incident, along with the preceding Pueblo incident, led to a series of Congressional investigations of U.S. surveillance practices.
1976:    Stolen MiG-25 lands in Japan:  A Soviet military pilot defected to the West, fleeing to Japan in his MiG-25 fighter jet.  The Mach-3 jet (NATO designation "Foxbat")  was a mystery craft to the Western powers, particularly the U.S., who were eager to examine the latest, "most advanced" Soviet fighter.  The Defense Department had long used the mystery of the MiG-25 as a "boogeyman" to scare the government into funding advanced U.S. weaponry.

The Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 interceptor fighter was the subject of NATO military hysteria, until one actually fell into U.S. hands -- and turned out to be a turkey. From the Air Force Times Library On September 6, Russian pilot, Lt. Viktor Belenko, landed his MiG-25 fighter (NATO designation "Foxbat" shown below) at an airfield near Hakodate, on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, and asked for asylum, and it was temporarily granted.  The Soviet government furiously demanded the prompt return of their stolen plane, and the pilot who took it.  And when Japan refused, the Russian Navy, in retaliation, captured Japanese fishing boats and imprisoned their crews, while Soviet military craft menaced Japanese military craft over international waters.

The condescending bluster and arrogant challenges of the Soviets only insulted the Japanese -- who dug their heels in more forcefully, and welcomed U.S. requests to examine the aircraft. Then- U.S.-Defense-Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld (who, ironically, is now again  the Secretary of Defense) admitted "we wanted the plane. We wanted metal samples; to fly it, take it apart, then fly it again." He got his wish.  The Japanese government allowed the U.S. to disassemble the plane, stuff it in a giant C-5A Galaxy transport, and fly it to a Japanese airbase near Tokyo for a thorough disassembly and inspection. Two months later, it was shipped back to the Russians in pieces.

What was expected to be an intelligence bonanza turned into an embarrassment for the U.S. Defense Department.  The MiG's crude, bulky, stainless-steel construction, poor aerodynamic qualities, limited weapons capacity, short range and utterly archaic electronics discredited Defense Department paranoia over the new aircraft, and over Soviet military technology, generally.
The pilot, Lt. Belenko defected to the United States, and spent months answering questions for the Defense Department and the CIA.

1970's-1980's:  U.S. submarines in Soviet waters.  In a super-secret program (most famously labeled "HOLYSTONE"), U.S. submarines spied on the Soviet Union, by sailing submerged into Soviet waters, and sometimes even up Soviet rivers -- even tapping Soviet undersea cables.   The program "surfaced" during the "Year of Intelligence" (1975), among the many revelations (first made by reporter Seymour Hersh) about U.S. intellegence operations run amok (many of them subverting U.S. law) which ultimately sparked Congressional investigations.

The intruder-submarines story broke with Seymour Hersh's front page articles in the New York Times, May 25, 1975 and July 6, 1975, including the revelation that one of the subs had actually collided with a Soviet surface ship March 31, 1971. But the Navy kept rolling the dice, intruding into Soviet waters -- until the discovery of the Walker family spy ring, inside the U.S. Navy, which had tipped off the Soviets about key details of this and many other U.S. naval spy operations. That disaster reportedly brought the program to a screeching halt.

Korean Air Lines 747 (Korean Air Lines photo)
The RC-135RJ aerial reconnaisance aircraft, derived from the Boeing KC-135 tanker and 707 jetliner
Korean Air Lines
Boeing 747
EC-135 / RC-135
1983:    South Korean 747 airliner shot down by Soviet fighters.  On September 1, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a Boeing 747 with over 200 people aboard, was blasted out of the sky in the night, killing all aboard (including an American Congressman) after straying into Soviet Airspace near the Kamchatka Peninsula, a Soviet territory on the eastern edge of Russia, which served as a key Soviet miitary testing ground.
The peninsula had regularly been stalked by American spy planes, including RC-135 (modified Boeing 707 airliners) surveillance aircraft, particularly during recent sensitive Soviet missile tests.  Soviet authorities claimed that the trespassing South Korean 747 airliner had been mistaken, in the murky skies, for an American RC-135 spy plane. 

The incident fueled cold war tensions, and rattled the Soviet military establishment, severely discrediting it, and setting the stage for later shakeups and marginalizing of Soviet military leadership which would help bring about the weakening of Soviet Communism.

1992:     U.S. EC-130 attacked by Peru.  in April, a U.S.
EC-130 Hercules -- electronic reconnaisance variant of the C-130 transport
Lockheed EC-130 spyplane, a modified C-130 Hercules 4-prop transport, purportedly engaged in a drug-war mission, was attacked by Peruvian fighter aircraft over waters near Peru, killing one crewman and injuring others.  The plane landed safely in a field in northern Peru, near the border with Ecuador.  The crew was returned to the U.S.

Peru claimed that the U.S. plane was 300 miles off its officially-claimed course when attacked.  At the time (as often) there were heightened military tensions between Peru and Ecuador, who had been in territorial battles over sea rights. Further, the Peruvian government, in a leadership crisis, had just suspended its constitution.
2001:  EP-3 spyplane forced down in China:  March 31, 2001, an American EP-3 electronic-sensing spyplane (a modified U.S. Navy P-3 Orion, which, in turn, was a modified Lockheed Electra turboprop airliner) was patrolling off the coast of China, in international airspace over the South China Sea.

Maritime Security in the South China Sea

by Craig Snyder*

Philippines Military Capability

Unlike Malaysia or Vietnam, the Philippines military does not possess any real capability to fight in the disputed area. In the past, the government of the Philippines has not committed large amounts of resources to defend its claims to sovereignty over the Islands. Instead, it has relied on its Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) with the United States to protect Filipino interests in the area. While the MDT does not specifically cover the Spratlys, Filipino decision makers have relied upon the unwillingness of any rival to risk a potential clash with the United States should it attack Filipino positions in the Spratlys. With the withdrawal of the United States Navy and Air Force from their bases in the Philippines in the 1990s, there was a great concern that the level of American interest in the South China Sea had also diminished and with it much of the Philippines' ability to defend its sovereignty in the area. 

The Philippine Navy and Air Force are small and equipped with outdated equipment and weapon systems. The Philippine Air Force has fewer than 15 F-5 fighters. The navy has almost no ability to patrol the disputed area as its ships include only one US Cannon class frigate and some 13 old, offshore patrol craft, all of World War Two vintage. In 1995, following the Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef, the Philippine Navy transported members of the international media to the vicinity of the reef, but the warship carrying these reporters broke down on the return voyage and had to be towed back to port. The Philippines has only a limited maritime surveillance capability in one Fokker F-27M aircraft.56

Following the Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef the Philippines' Parliament passed a law that authorized the spending of 50 billion pesos (about US$2 billion) to upgrade the armed forces. The law called for the development of the Navy's war fighting capabilities, including surface, amphibious, anti-air, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. In addition, the Navy's sea-lift, transport, and maritime surveillance capabilities were to be upgraded. The Air Force was also allotted funds to purchase surveillance aircraft as well as multi-purpose fighter/attack aircraft.57 

In December 1996, a second bill was passed in the Congress allotting a further 164.5 billion pesos (US$6.3 billion) to modernize the military over the next 15 years. The Congress, in passing the bill, issued a statement expressing its hope that this would increase the capability of the Philippine armed forces to a "level where it can effectively and fully perform its mandate to uphold the sovereignty and preserve the patrimony of the nation." To date not much has come from the arms modernization bills as the need to fight the Abu Sayyaf terrorist forces in the south has drained much of the defence spending in the Philippines.58

In the short term, the Philippines has also tried to garner direct American support. The then-foreign secretary of the Philippines, Raul Manglapus, argued in a 1992 press conference following a meeting with the American ambassador to the Philippines, Frank Wisner, that the Americans were obliged to defend the Philippines if it was attacked in the Spratly Islands. He stated that the Mutual Defence Treaty "provides that a Philippine ship is an extension of Philippine territory and . . . [therefore] the United States is obligated to defend our ships." The United States refutes this claim stating that the treaty only covers the territorial limits of the Philippines as they existed when the treaty was signed. Moreover, the treaty does not bind the Americans to use military force to defend the Philippines in any case.59

56. Cloughley, "ASEAN at Arms," p. 22; and, IISS, Military Balance 2003-4, pp. 167-69, 307.

57. "Ramos Signs Military Modernization Law," Agence France Presse, 23 February 1995.

58. "Philippines' Ramos Hails Passage of Military Modernization Bill," Agence France Presse, 15 December 1996.

5J to use Routesonline for flight expansions

July 3, 2012

Cebu Pacific Air, the fast-expanding Philippines-based low-cost carrier, has entered into a partnership with Routes online, the online platform of Routes, to utilise its Route Exchange product to support its short-haul network expansion across Asia and its growth into medium and long-haul markets. 

A formal Request for Proposals (RFP) was launched today via Route Exchange and is working with Routesonline to open confidential discussions with airports to support the next stage of its network growth. With 52 additional short-haul aircraft, including new Airbus A320neos and up to eight widebodies on order, Cebu Pacific Air is seeking to gather data and proposals on the Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Chinese markets for its short-haul equipment and the Middle East and Oceania for its A330-300s. 

Cebu Pacific Air is inviting airports across the continent to fill out a Pre Qualifying Questionnaire (PQQ) to deem their suitability to meet the basic operational and performance requirements of the airline's aircraft. This is currently only open to the members of the Route Exchange platform, but from July 16, 2012 will be expanded to include any other airport. 

"The Philippines' largest carrier, Cebu Pacific, looks forward to bringing its trademark low-fares and fun flying to new destinations," said Alex Reyes, General Manager for the airline's new Long-Haul Division. "With the delivery of 22 A320s, 30 A321neos and up to 8 A330s enabling significant expansion in the coming years, we are excited to seek partnership opportunities with airports and tourism authorities through the release of this RFP." 

"We are delighted that Cebu Pacific has chosen the Route Exchange platform to help plan its expansion with the narrow and widebody aircraft," added Paul Winfield, Airline Director, UBM Aviation Routes. "The platform offered by Route Exchange will offer an efficient process for Cebu Pacific and allow airports to bid for new routes which over significant opportunity for their respective economies." 

Once airports have met the terms of the PQQ, they will then be sent the formal RFP where they can complete a pre-defined data requirements and a proposal document. The final deadline for responses is August 13, 2012 when Cebu Pacific Air will then analyse the submissions before scheduling meetings with potential new airport partners at World Routes in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Routes organises world-renowned airline and airport networking events through its regional and global Route Development Forums. 

Previous RFPs through the Route Exchange have included Air Asia X, Scoot and IndiGo.
Routes was founded in 1995 as part of the Manchester UK-based ASM Ltd., a consultancy specialising in the field of route development for airports.

5J Wants NAIA as hub for long haul

July 2, 2012

Cebu Pacific wants their planned 2013 long-haul flights to originate in Manila instead of the sprawling Clark complex.

Cebu Pacific president and CEO Lance Gokongwei said on Thursday, June 28 that connectivity is the main reason for insisting on operating at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"Yes we can fly long haul out of Clark but our intention is to fly long haul primarily out of Manila because the market is in Manila," Gokongwei explained, saying it is crucial in planning a route network that combines international flights involving destinations abroad over 4 hours away, and feeder flights.

Passengers travelling to long-haul destinations tend to reach NAIA through a connecting local flight from the provinces, or go home after arrival at NAIA to their final destination in the provinces.

"Most of our OFWs are actualy not based in Manila. They are based [in] Northern Luzon or VisMin (Visayas and Mindanao regions). So with Middle East flights [for example], you have to connect it to Manila," he said.

"Manila is the ideal base for a long-haul operation," he stressed.