Cotam Unit├ę in Manila

27 February 2015

Escadron de transport, d'entra├«nement et de calibration (ETEC) A330-200 plane of  the French Air Force landed at Manila on February 26, 2015 carrying the President of France, Francois Hollande on official state visit. Hollande was the first French President to visit the Philippines.

Radar In The Sky

P-8A Poseidon patrolling the South China Sea from its headquarters in Clark Air Base, Pampanga, Philippines.

27 February 2015

By Manuel Mogato

The United States has begun flying its most advanced surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, out of the Philippines for patrols over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the US Navy said on Thursday, acknowledging the flights for the first time.

The United States, the Philippines' oldest and closest ally, has promised to share "real time" information on what is happening in Philippine waters as China steps up its activities in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

The U.S. Navy said in a statement it demonstrated the capabilities of P-8A in both littoral and open ocean environments, explaining the aircraft's multi-mission sensors to Philippine forces.

"It was a remarkable opportunity to work alongside the members of the Filipino armed forces," said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matthew Pool, Combat Air Crew 4 patrol plane commander.

"Sharing this aircraft's capabilities with our allies only strengthens our bonds."

The United States says it does not take sides in disputes between China and other South China Sea claimants and it calls on them to negotiate a formal maritime Code of Conduct.

The Unites States has also called for a freeze on provocative acts in the sea but China rejects U.S. involvement in the dispute.

China accuses the United States of emboldening claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam with its military "pivot" back to Asia.

The P-8A was deployed in the Philippines for three weeks until Feb. 21, making more than 180 flight hours over the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said.

Colonel Restituto Padilla, a spokesman for the Philippine armed forces, said the U.S. Navy has been operating P-3C Orions since 2012 from Philippine bases under a bilateral security agreement that sees U.S. forces rotate through the Philippines.

He said P-8A aircraft replaced the Orions on the rotations last year but the allies had made no announcement of its flights.

"We expect more surveillance planes to be deployed in the Philippines, increasing the frequency of rotation," Padilla said.

Common Sense

27 February 2015

Boo Chanco

I have been talking to a lot of experts in aviation the past few weeks, including experienced pilots on the congestion problem at NAIA. I am getting the impression that the best solutions with the most immediate impact involve creative thinking, not more big ticket capex.

We have apparently been waylaid by the debate on whether it is better to have another runway parallel to the main one or if a new terminal will fix things up. One expert summarized the key to a solution: Runway Occupancy Time (ROT).

Simply put, attention must be focused in minimizing the time an aircraft is on the runway to allow the next aircraft to either takeoff or land as quickly as possible. Focusing on ROT will optimize the limited capacity at NAIA.

That just requires policy and behavioral changes, not new toys, not a new terminal, not new studies we have to wait a long time for. The infrastructure needed to reduce ROT is rather simple: two quick exit taxiways for the main runway.

Indeed, a Google map of NAIA shows the current exit taxiways are inadequate because an aircraft that missed one will have to be on the runway longer to catch the next one. The Google maps also show other international airports abroad have more of those quick exit taxiways.

It isn’t as if our officials are unaware of this need. A May 8, 2012 press release from DOTC published by the Official Gazette talks of then DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas announcing several measures to address current runway congestion issues at NAIA. One of those has to do with quick exit taxiways.

“To enhance the runway’s capacity, Roxas said that the construction of two rapid exit taxiways worth P300M each is being fast-tracked and is expected for completion early next year.” (That was in May 2012 or almost three years ago.)

We all know that plans to build those quick exit taxiways did not progress beyond talk and press releases. Way back in 2012, the Official Gazette reported that “DOTC has come up with a number of other immediate short-term and long-term measures in increasing the capacity of NAIA’s runway and demand management redistribution.” A review of those announced measures shows nothing much had been done.

Another of Mar Roxas’s proposed measures to address congestion at NAIA as reported by the Official Gazette: “Transfer of general aviation flights to Sangley. Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angel Honrado said they are in discussions with the Department of National Defense to transfer all general aviation flights to Sangley Point in Cavite City within a month. There are 82 general aviation flights per day in NAIA, including fish runs. This measure will help decongest the NAIA runway.”

It seems DOTC and NAIA officials lost their balls when influential people with private planes at NAIA protested. This promise never progressed beyond several press releases. The small planes with two to four passengers take the same time as a large Airbus 320 with a hundred or more passengers to take off or land and are a big contributor to congestion.

I have a copy of a power point presentation of IATA on capacity enhancement at NAIA. IATA is saying the problem with NAIA is runway use optimization. Another terminal is not going to help. There is however, a division of opinion on the third runway.

One school of thought feels a third runway will not contribute significantly to increasing aircraft movements at NAIA if the same old policies on use of runways remain.

DOTC Usec Timmy Limcaoco in an e-mail to me pointed out “the third runway will be a dependent (and not independent) parallel runway. Being a dependent runway, there can be no simultaneous take-offs or landings at both runways. The required separation distance (for safety purposes) between the two runways is insufficient to designate them as independent.”

Additionally, one expert told me that “since an aircraft using the third runway will have to cross the main runway 06/24 to get to the terminal, it can disturb as much as 12 -18 movements out of the main runway’s movements.” But another debunked this claim because an aircraft crossing at the furthest end of the main runway will supposedly not disturb operations.

Anyway, I tend to agree with a group of experts who think we can put the debate on the third runway aside for the moment and just work on what can be done by changing policies and tightening operating procedures.

First of all, they think there is no technical basis for that often repeated claim of officials that artificially puts a ceiling of 40 movements per hour at NAIA. I am told there is no good basis for that number because before Mar Roxas gave that number, they were doing as much as 55 movements per hour.

Indeed, London Gatwick does 55 movements per hour on one runway. La Guardia in New York does 80 an hour on the same cross runway configuration as ours. Even Jaime Caringal of DOTC’s Project Development Office in a presentation I saw, conceded that cross runways like NAIA can do 60 movements an hour.

Limiting movements to 40 also gives air traffic controllers no incentive to allow more even if it is possible. Indeed, they have a disincentive to do more as no good deed remains unpunished in government.

Some experts I consulted also want CAAP to allow again takeoffs at Runway 31. They do not buy the observation that there are significant obstacles at the end of that runway that affects safety. For additional safety, maybe a billboard atop a restaurant in front of the Domestic Terminal should be removed.

An IATA study suggests that NAIA should be able to move 70+ aircraft per hour. Currently, with Runway 31 closed, the traffic gets backed up when using Runway 13 because the departing aircraft has to cross the main Runway 06/24. When Runway 31 opens again, it should be easy to achieve an additional 20 departures per hour from Runway 31 without any change to the current utilization of the main runway, one expert said.

Regardless, with the correct policies and procedures in place some experts still see a significant improvement from the current 40 movements even without the return of Runway 31. “Just optimizing the takeoff procedures could probably net additional 5-10 movements per hour using the current runway configuration.” Only a sense of urgency is needed among our officials.

Experts also call for training of air traffic controllers at international airports. Indeed, exposure of our air traffic controllers to foreign airport operations would facilitate transfer of know how, but there is danger they may decide to stay abroad.

I am told brain drain is a big problem. We lose the best air traffic controllers because government cannot match the pay and benefits offered by foreign airport authorities. That’s a safety concern in my book if the more competent ones leave.

It is possible that our air traffic controllers are also slowing down work to call attention to their plight. They know they deserve more pay and perks because their work is the same as the air traffic controllers elsewhere in the world and they get pitifully lower salary and perks.

A good solution is to outsource air traffic control to a reputable foreign entity that does this sort of business worldwide with the condition that they absorb the current ATCs.

When I was in Toronto, I was told that they outsource air traffic operations. This way, we get world class controllers who get world class pay for this very taxing work plus world class training and supervision.

On another point… Better coordination with the airlines, one expert said, will help revise procedures and policies that will optimize runway utilization. IATA calls it Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM), which describes how runway slot management is supposed to work.

In the short- to medium-term, there should be capacity gains by working with the airlines to design approach procedures for each runway. Agreement could also be reached on reducing separation standard for arrivals sequencing.

The poor implementation of ACDM in the Philippines, as IATA recently complained about in Congress, appears to be a problem. In NAIA operations, the ‘Collaborative’ part with its main users is apparently missing, if IATA is to be believed.

We will have to live with NAIA at least 10 more years or more. A new airport will take that long to put up. And we may well decide NAIA is worth keeping too after the new airport is up, for the same reasons Japan chose to keep Haneda.

Reading the three year old press releases of Mar Roxas made me feel like being on a treadmill… getting very tired but getting nowhere fast. We deserve better.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

5J Sells Planes

24 February 2014

Philippine Low Cost Carrier Cebu Pacific has finally sold its fleet of six (6) Airbus A319 planes to Las Vegas-based budget carrier Allegiant Air after two years of extensive negotiations leading to a Forward Sale Agreement with the Allegiant Travel Company subsidiary.

Allegiant will add two A319 this year and another two will be made available next year as the Cebu Pacific upgrades its fleet to all A320, A321, and 330 fleet.

“This agreement is in line with CEB’s efforts to continuously improve operational efficiency by replacing and upgrading our fleet with the larger, more fuel efficient, and longer range A321neo aircraft,” Cebu Pacific president and chief executive Lance Gokongwei said in a statement released yesterday.

Delivery schedule is slated for completion in 2017.

Meanwhile,  Philippine Airlines also signed separate agreement with Allegiant to sell two of its A320 fleet for delivery in November 2015 as the airline also upgrades its fleet to A21s.

PH Grows Singapore Seats

16 February 2015

The Philippines and Singapore have increased its seat capacities between Manila and Singapore by 7.1 percent to 18,888 seats per week from the current 17,627 seats per week.

The expanded Air Services Aggreement (ASA) also allows Singaporean carriers to add more destinations in the Philippines to include Iloilo and Bacolod, adding to the current list of Cebu, Davao, and Kalibo.

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said the Philippines agreed to increase the limit on the frequencies for fifth freedom rights to Singapore to 10 per week from eight per week.

The fifth freedom right is currently exercised by Singapore based Jetstar Asia through daily services to Osaka from Manila.

CAB also said that both countries have agreed on a third country code sharing, which allows Philippine and Singaporean airlines to share marketing services with third-party countries outside the Philippines and Singapore.

The memorandum of understanding on air services was signed by the Philippines and Singapore last Friday.

Bursting At The Seams

PAL Offers To Expand Terminal 2

10 February 2015

But its easier said than done while DOTC ponders Terminal 5

Frustrated by delaying tactics employed by the Transport Department (DOTC) and its well known desire to build Terminal 5 instead of expanding Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, the Lucio Tan owned carrier is studying the possibility of paying for the expansion of their rented house instead.

Philippine Airlines is proposing to fund the $200-million expansion plan for Centennial Terminal 2 to accommodate its ever increasing number of international passengers which are beginning to get overcrowded after the airline embarked on a massive expansion drive supported by aircraft acquisitions in 2012.

PAL president Jaime Bautista said they are willing to fund the proposed Terminal 2 (north) expansion project that would extend the north wing portion of the terminal to the current Village Hotel building.

DOTC has pending plans to expand Terminal 2 in both directions with price tag of $300 million but is torn between expansion and building another terminal.

The extension terminal building expected to cater at least 10 million more passengers a year until 2025 is to be used exclusively for its long haul international flights.

The problem however is securing the right to expand the terminal as government construction works depends upon its circuitous procurement law which necessitates open and competitive public building that takes years to complete, while PAL wants it build as soon as the end of the year if they have their way.

Terminal 2 was build by Aeroport de Paris with projected capacity of 7 million passengers in 1999. Currently it is serving close to eight million passengers in 2014 (7.03m). It was supposed to be expanded this year until the project was shelved for unknown reason.

Bautista said they already secured exclusive parking rights to the newly build apron that will cost the airline some P600 million in parking fees for the next 25 years to accommodate all its arriving aircraft which has been seen of late to take apron parking intended for international cargo operations beside terminal 1.

PAL currently parks all its aircraft at Lufthansa Tecknik apron stands waiting for their next scheduled flights.

Bautista laments that parked aircraft cannot easily be retrieved for scheduled flights at LTP particularly when runway 24 is active due to runway and taxiway congestion. He also said that building a new terminal across LTP will not solve runway congestion considering also that both PAL and CEB maintenance are all located on the opposite side of the runway.

Ethiopian Flies Manila

10 February 2015

Begins Flight on June 27
After a long wait, Ethiopian Airlines is finally here as it sets to fly 3 weekly Addis Ababa – Bangkok – Manila service beginning June 27, 2015 using its brand new Boeing 787-800.

The first African Airline to Manila in many years will leave Addis Ababa at 12:40am arriving Bangkok at 11:20pm. It will then leave the Thai capital for the Philippines at 2:30pm arriving Manila at 7:00pm. Departure time to Bangkok and Addis Ababa is at 10:00pm arriving Bangkok at 12:25am the next day and will then leave at 1:35am arriving the Ethiopian capital 6:30am the next day.

The airline did not secure local traffic rights on Bangkok – Manila sector due to objections of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, but has unlimited traffic rights between Addis Ababa and intermediate points Bangkok if it flies to Cebu, Clark or Davao. You can see our earlier report here.

PAL Expands Canada Footprints

Enters Code Share with West Jet

9 February 2015

Philippine Airlines is expanding its network coverage in Canada through codeshare partnership with WestJet as it opens more flights to Vancouver and Toronto beginning March 15.

Codeshare services with Canadian carrier West Jet is scheduled to begin on February 10 with the following route networks:

Toronto – Montreal
Toronto – Ottawa
Vancouver – Calgary
Vancouver – Edmonton
Vancouver – Toronto
Vancouver – Winnipeg

The interline agreement will enable passengers to book West Jet flights from Montreal in Canada all the way to Manila in the Philippines with one ticket.

PAL earlier entered code share partnership with ANA to most of domestic networks in Japan.

5J Expands Network

Opens Cebu-Narita, Relaunches Kalibo-Hong Kong

8 February 2015

Cebu Pacific will fly from Mactan Cebu to Tokyo Narita Airport four times a week starting March 26. It will also re open flights to Hong Kong from Kalibo with three weekly flights starting March 2. All new flights will be service by Airbus A320.

Planning Backwards

Could Be A World Class Solution?

6 February 2015

In a possible policy shift, the Philippine Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP) has joined Transport Department (DOTC) proposals to axe the parallel runway project at Ninoy Aquino International Airport and build instead a new Terminal 5 building from where the runway is supposed to be built.

At least that is how (CAAP) Deputy Director General for Operations Rodante Joya wanted his way as he told lawmakers who inspected the NAIA facilities Thursday.

Joya said that building another terminal is faster and less expensive compared to building another runway to accommodate more flights.

Of course he did not tell the Congressmen that building the new Terminal 5 will not alleviate runway traffic. Instead Joya said that it is cheaper to build.

In an unprecedented move, the CAA has now ventured into the realms of airport and runway financing where it has no power or authority to say or do, other than following aviation regulations.

Runway congestion is different from terminal congestion. The former is defined by Air Traffic Movements (ATM) while the latter involves passenger traffic inside terminal building. They are never and will never be the same.

DOTC has been mulling the construction of NAIA Terminal 5 but President Benigno Aquino shut down the idea as Manila airport's problem is associated with aircraft movements and not passenger traffic. The President instead wanted DOTC to plan Terminal 2 and 3 expansion other than building another terminal.

The Agency however has devious plan to have its way by hiring an airport consultant that do its bidding and then say we are merely following the recommendations of the Dutch airport consultants that we hired, even if such plan is fatally flawed.

At least the airport operator is brutally honest about it.

Manila International Airport Authority(MIAA) Manager Jose Angel Honrado said that NAIA’s capacity to accommodate more flights is restricted by its limited runway. No matter how many terminals are built it will still suffer the same runway restriction with the four terminals.

And so it begs the question, "what good is a spanking new terminal would do to you when you spend hours inside your plane waiting for its queue or clearance to depart or land in the precious runway?"

The answer happens to be so simple even the school kids can figure, common sense, that is building a new runway. Even London Heahtrow is attempting to do so while Hong Kong is on its way to building their third runway because of runway congestion. But that sense could not be so common here as Philippine planners has a different solutions in mind to the same problem. It could be a world class idea.

Belly Up

5 February 2015

An Air Force UH-1H (518) Huey helicopter has crash belly up after rolling over when it was attempting take off around 3:30pm in Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City yesterday. No casualties were reported to the four passengers.

PAF Trainers Down

1 February 2015

Two people were killed after an SF260 (1034) trainer plane crashed Saturday morning into the sea off Nasugbu, Batangas. The trainer aircraft piloted by Capt John Bayao and 2nd LT.Al-Nazer Jana was conducting air exhibition exercise for the scheduled celebration of Nasugbu’s Liberation Day when their SF-260 plane crashed 150 meters from the shoreline of Barangay Bucana at 9:45 a.m.