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Third private carrier flies Vietnam’s skies

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 3:59 am

Third private carrier flies Vietnam’s skies

QĐND – Monday, October 11, 2010, 21:42 (GMT+7)

Vietnam’s third private airline, Air Mekong, received its Air Operator’s Certificate from the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) in Kien Giang province in the south on October 8.

The carrier also launched its first two routes, Hanoi – Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Minh City – Phu Quoc on the same day. 

“The CAAV certificate will open a new page for our development”, said Air Mekong chairman Doan Quoc Viet. 

He said Air Mekong started commercial operations on October 9 with eight flights from Ha Noi and HCM City to Phu Quoc, Con Dao, Buon Me Thuot and Pleiku, adding that Air Mekong will expand operations in November, including flights to Da Lat in the Central Highlands and Da Nang city. 

The airline has launched a promotional offer with 1,000 tickets on sale until November 9 at prices from VND400,000 to VND1.2 million on all its domestic routes. Tickets are on sale at travel agents as well as Air Mekong’s website and customer care centres. 

Air Mekong was established in 2009 by the Ha Long Investment and Development Company based at Phu Quoc Airport. The other two private carriers already operating in Vietnam are Indochina Airlines and VietJet AirAsia. 

The CAAV said there are also a number of other organisations and individuals planning to launch airlines. To qualify, private operators must have a charter capital of at least VND500 billion to fly internationally and VND200 billion to launch domestic flights. They must also meet strict aviation and security standards.

Source: VNA


Source: QDND

King’s rainmakers take to skies to ease Thai drought

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 7:23 am

HUA HIN, Thailand, Aug 18, 2010 (AFP) – High above Thailand’s parched landscape the kingdom’s fleet of intrepid royal rainmakers work their meteorological wizardry.

A squadron of 20 aircraft plunges through the clouds firing a cocktail of chemicals that they hope will provoke a downpour to alleviate the effects of drought on the country’s crucial agriculture sector.

A picture taken on July 28, 2010 shows Thai Agricultural officials seeding chemicals in the sky during a rainmaking operation on the outskirts of the Hua Hin resort.

The annual cloud seeding operation is something of a personal crusade for Thailand’s King Bhumibol, who has earned the title “Father of the Royal Rainmaking” for his half-century project to persuade clouds to rain on cue.

Not content to leave the weather in the hands of nature, the octogenarian monarch developed the programme to support the country’s farmers and has even patented his own cloud seeding technique.

In a manoeuvre known as the “sandwich”, the king’s rainmakers fire chemicals at different altitudes — such as sodium chloride above and dry ice below — to induce rainfall from warm clouds.

The “super sandwich” adds another aircraft to the operation, releasing silver iodide from about 20,000 feet — around 6,000 metres — to initiate rain from formations of varying temperatures.

Pilot Major Phumintorn Undhisote flies from the rainmaking centre in Hua Hin, where the king has his holiday home.

Seeding in this narrow strip of the country between the Gulf of Thailand and the Myanmar border takes a high level of precision.

And while Major Phumintorn believes in the effectiveness of his missions, they are not without risk.

“According to the flying textbook, in bad weather pilots have to fly away… or land, but rainmaking means we have to fly into the clouds,” he said.

He is one of 522 people — including scientists, engineers, pilots and technicians — involved in the Bureau of the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation’s efforts to manipulate Mother Nature.

More than 5,500 cloud seeding flights were made from eight centres in 2008 and around 870 million baht (27 million dollars) was spent on the project.

This year the rainy season — normally from about May to October depending on the region — got off to a weak start.

While Thailand has a tropical climate and suffers floods as well as drought, the size of the agriculture sector and growing consumer demand for water makes the country particularly sensitive to the vagaries of the wet season.

Figures from the country’s central bank suggest agriculture accounted for almost 10 percent of the economy last year and nearly 40 percent of the labour force.

Wathana Sukarnjanaset, director of the Hua Hin cloud-seeding centre, said there had been “quite a crisis” this year, with water in some of the country’s biggest dams falling to critical levels, although the situation is improving.

In the most recent dry season, from November through April, 6.4 million people in 52 provinces were affected by drought, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

In the past, cloud seeding was dismissed by some as little more than meteorological alchemy as scientists struggled to assess whether rainfall would have happened regardless of chemical assistance.

But it has gained a mainstream following in many countries, including the United States and China, while Thailand recently gave Australia permission to use the king’s techniques.

Wathana said Thailand’s own research suggested cloud seeding can increase precipitation by 109 percent.

He said there was usually “quite a change in the weather” after the flights, which operate from February to October.

“Farmers come to ask us to make rain in that area so we tell them ‘go back and wait’ and it is raining in the afternoon (or) in a short time, one or two days mostly,” he added.

One of those who relies on the cloud seeders is Siriwan Boonngarm, whose farm nestles deep in the Phetchaburi countryside.

She started out in 2005 after retiring as a teacher and now focuses on growing pineapples, bananas and rubber trees, which require less water than Thailand’s thirstier rice crops.

But the former maths tutor said she still finds herself calling on the king’s rainmakers — sometimes as often as every four or five days.

“This year is the worst drought. The rains did not come on time. The weather was hot and there was not enough water,” she said.

Siriwan, whose rural home is festooned with royal flags, has no doubt who she has to thank when the clouds darken and the rain falls.

“Humans cannot survive without water,” she said. “His Majesty helps us with everything, gives us love, gives us life.”

Source: SGGP

Airlines want compensation as Europe’s skies reopen

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 4:12 am

As Europe’s airspace reopened and weary passengers boarded long-delayed flights home, airline executives pressed for government compensation to cover the industry’s massive losses.

Eurocontrol, Europe‘s air safety authority, said they expected air traffic to be “almost 100 percent” on Thursday, estimating that 75 percent of the 28,000 flights normally scheduled Wednesday had flown.

All Europe’s main air hubs were up and running Wednesday and experts in Iceland said the Eyjafjjoell volcano had lost most of its intensity.

But a week after a volcanic eruption in Iceland caused the worst disruption to aviation since World War II, airline bosses were counting their losses — and wanted to know who would foot the bill.

Stranded travelers trying to get back to Brussels wait in line at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) put the overall cost to the airline industry at 1.7 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros): at its peak, said IATA, the crisis was costing 400 million dollars a day.

“For an industry that lost 9.4 billion dollars last year and was forecast to lose a further 2.8 billion dollars in 2010, this crisis is devastating,” said IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani in Berlin.

“Airspace was being closed based on theoretical models, not on facts.”

Now governments needed to look at how to compensate the airlines, he said.

“I am the first one to say that this industry does not want or need bailouts. But this crisis is not the result of running our business badly.”

An extraordinary situation had been exacerbated by “poor decision-making” from the governments,” he argued.

“Governments should help carriers recover the cost of this disruption.”

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh had already branded the ban unnecessary, and British opposition leader David Cameron called for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis.

Conservative leader Cameron, who is locked in an election battle with Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said there had been “muddle and confusion” in the government over the crisis.

But as the recriminations flew, one vulcanologist advising the United Nations said the authorities had had no choice but to close their airspace because of the lack of hard facts about aircraft behaviour in volcanic ash.

“There is at the moment no reliable data on the exact concentration of ash in the atmosphere and when an aircraft can fly, or not, through such plumes,” said Gaudru, president of the European Vulcanological Society.

Because of this lack of knowledge, closure to air traffic “was the only measure that could be taken,” he argued.

The April 14 decision by several European governments to close their airspace affected millions of would-be passengers around the world.

But the main hubs in the continent’s flight networks expected to be running as normal Thursday.

Germany’s Lufthansa, Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers, said it would fly at full capacity on Thursday by operating around 1,800 flights compared to the 700 it was able to run on Wednesday.

All long-haul passenger services from Paris’ main international hub Charles de Gaulle were operating as scheduled, while Air France said it had flown 40,000 stranded people back home since Tuesday.

“Our traffic has returned to normal,” a spokeswoman said.

And London Heathrow airport, the biggest and busiest in Europe, was going strong after reopening late Tuesday.

The only place in Britain still affected by the volcanic ash cloud was in the north, where the airspace over the remote Scottish isles of Orkney and Shetland were temporarily closed again due to still unsafe ash levels.

In Scandinavia, however, Denmark, Norway and Sweden lifted the last of their restrictions in a sign the worst of the threat had faded.

Some 450 British troops and 280 civilians stranded by the volcanic ash cloud finally made it back home Wednesday after a warship came to their rescue.

HMS Albion sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base on the southern English coast after a day-long crossing from Santander in northern Spain.

The troops were returning from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan: the civilians were largely holidaymakers stranded by the closure of British airspace.

In Iceland, the civil protection agency said the volcano had lost nearly 80 percent of its intensity.

“Explosive activity has diminished. Ash production has gone down. It’s really insignificant right now,” said Pall Einarsson, a seismologist from Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

Einarsson, however, said the volcano had “not gone to sleep” and that it was impossible to predict when it would stop erupting.

Source: SGGP

VietJet AirAsia to hit skies in August

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm

VietJet AirAsia to hit skies in August

QĐND – Friday, April 09, 2010, 20:59 (GMT+7)

Vietnam-based low-cost airline VietJet AirAsia would make its first commercial flight in August, said AirAsia general director Tony Fernandes on April 8.

Fernandes was at a signing ceremony for the strategic partnership agreement between Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia and local VietJet Aviation, held in Hanoi.

The ceremony was witnessed by Malaysian Prime Minister Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, as well as representatives of the two countries’ ministries.

AirAsia has bought a 30 percent stake in VietJet Aviation to establish the new carrier.

Fernandes said the two governments had supported the operation of VietJet AirAsia. He said the carrier would help increase tourism to both countries and enhance the nations’ relationship and promote the integration process in ASEAN.

The agreement would strengthen co-operation between Vietnam and Malaysia towards common targets of the region’s economic development, he said.

VietJet Air general director Nguyen Duc Tam said advantage would be taken of AirAsia’s technology and experience to ensure quality and safety.

Fernandes also said there would be no competition between Vietnam Airlines and VietJet AirAsia as their market segments were different.

The carrier would operate both domestic and international flights, he said.
VietJet Air main shareholders were Sovico Group, T$C Group and the Housing Development Joint Stock Commercial Bank.

The first privately owned Vietnamese airline, it was launched in 2007 with an initial investment capital of VND 600 billion (37.5 million USD).

AirAsia in the biggest budget carrier in Asia with a wide network of flight routes in ASEAN. With its associated budget carrier, Asia X, AirAsia flies to destinations in mainland China, Taiwan, Australia and the UK. To date, the two carriers have carried over 85 million of passengers with 90 aircraft.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND