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News Letter 21 March 2018

Happy Human Rights day to all certainly hope everyone is taking advantage of the wonderful weather we having to get some serious flying done.

This coming weekend the good people at Aviators Paradise will be honouring the late Piet “Vlieg” Smit, with a Fly-in. Aviators Paradise is always a good stop for a Saturday mornings flying.

The weather Gods seem to smiling on The Children’s Flight “Nav” flight to Margate this weekend. The idea for the Childrens Flight Nav was born out of the wonderful success of the Children’s Flight held at Grand central Airport the last two years, Felix Gosher with the help of a few generous pilots and sponsors will be introducing fifteen young children to the joys of flight and as an added treat they will get to experience the ocean for the first time. The aircraft will be departing Witbank at 8:00 on Friday morning for Margate airport where the kids will be treated to a weekend of fun, they will return on Sunday. If anyone is willing to help cover costs please contact Felix at 076 202 4206. This promises to be a life altering experience for these children.


Comair fleet renewal programme.

Comair has been operating for 72 years, continually making a profit over the years. It is the 4th largest airline in Africa, undertaking 43 000 flights per year using 26 Boeing 737 aircraft.

At a media briefing jointly hosted by Comair and Boeing, Comair CEO Erik Venter outlined the next phase of the airline’s fleet renewal programme.

Comair is scheduled to take delivery of the first of eight Boeing 737 MAX 8s early in 2019 with the last one due in 2022.

This marks the next stage of the airline’s renewal strategy, which started in 2011. It will see the company phasing out the remaining Boeing 737-400s and becoming the first airline on the continent to take delivery of the Boeing 737 MAX.

According to Venter, this will give Comair’s two airline brands, and British Airways (operated by Comair) the benefits of increased seating capacity, lower operating costs and lowered downtime for maintenance.

“Comair already has the most modern and efficient fleet in SA, which increases our competitiveness," claimed Venter.

“The reasoning behind this investment goes to the core of the operating efficiency of our airline and non-airline brands. The airline business has very narrow margins, so to operate sustainably you need the right equipment, operating systems, levels of customer service and the right people."

Runway confusion led to plane crash in Kathmandu

"I say again, turn!" the air traffic controller called over the radio, his voice rising, as the flight from Bangladesh swerved low over the runway at Kathmandu's small airport.

Seconds later, the plane crashed into a field beside the runway, erupting in flames and leaving 50 of the 71 people on board dead.

That moment Monday appeared to result from minutes of confused chatter between the control tower and the pilot of the US-Bangla passenger plane, as they discussed which direction the pilot should use to land safely at the airport's single runway.

A separate radio conversation between the tower and at least one Nepali pilot reflected the sense of miscommunication.

"They appear to be extremely disoriented," a man said in Nepali, watching as Flight BS211 made its approach, though it was not clear if the voice belonged to a pilot or the tower. "Looks like they are really confused," said another man.

In the recording, posted by air traffic monitoring website, the pilot and the tower shifted back and forth about whether the pilot should approach the runway from the north or the south.

Just before landing, the pilot asked, "Are we cleared to land?"

Moments later, the controller came back on the air, his voice clearly anxious, and told the pilot, "I say again, turn!" Seconds after that, the controller ordered firetrucks onto the runway.

The plane, which was heading from Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, to Kathmandu, was carrying 67 passengers and four crew members.

Kathmandu officials and the airline laid the blame for the accident on each other.

The airport's general manager told reporters Monday that the pilot did not follow the control tower's instructions and approached the runway from the wrong direction.

"The airplane was not properly aligned with the runway. The tower repeatedly asked if the pilot was OK and the reply was 'Yes,'" said the general manager, Raj Kumar Chetri.

But Imran Asif, CEO of US-Bangla Airlines, told reporters in Dhaka that "we cannot claim this definitely at the moment, but we are suspecting that the Kathmandu air traffic control tower might have misled our pilots to land on the wrong runway."

After hearing the recording between the tower and the pilots, "we assumed that there was no negligence by our pilots," he said.

He said the pilot, who initially survived the accident but succumbed to his injuries Tuesday, was a former air force officer. Captain Abid Sultan had flown the Bombardier Q400 series aircraft for more than 1 700 hours and was also a flying instructor with the airline.

Prior to the crash, the plane circled Tribhuvan International Airport twice as it waited for clearance to land, Mohammed Selim, the airline's manager in Kathmandu, told Dhaka-based Somoy TV.

Police spokesman Manoj Neupane said Tuesday that 49 people were confirmed to have been killed and 22 injured. The injured were being treated in various hospitals in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.

Autopsies on the dead were being performed at the Kathmandu Medical College and Teaching Hospital morgue, where some 200 relatives waited to hear about their loved ones.

Dr. M.A. Ansari of the hospital's forensic department said positively identifying all the dead could take as long as a week because many of the bodies were badly burned. By late Tuesday morning, four bodies had been identified.

Anita Bajacharya waited at the hospital with her parents and other relatives for details on her 23-year-old sister, a medical student who had just finished school in Bangladesh and was returning home on the flight. The sister, Asma Shakya, had called her mother from the airport, excited about returning home. Now her family sat outside a hospital waiting for her body to be identified.

Relatives of the passengers from Bangladesh arrived in Kathmandu late Tuesday afternoon and were escorted to the hospital by airline officials.

Nepal's government has ordered an investigation into the crash. However, Mohammed Kamrul Islam, a spokesman for US-Bangla Airlines, said the governments of both Nepal and Bangladesh need to "launch a fair investigation and find the reason behind the accident."

According to the airline, the plane was carrying 32 passengers from Bangladesh, 33 from Nepal and one each from China and the Maldives. It did not provide the nationalities of the four crew members.

US-Bangla operates Boeing 737-800 and smaller Bombardier Dash 8 planes, including the Q400, the model that crashed.

The airline is based in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, and flies domestically and internationally. The parent company, part of US-Bangla Group, is also involved in real estate, education and agriculture.

Kathmandu's airport has been the site of several deadly crashes. In September 2012, a Sita Air turboprop plane carrying trekkers to Mount Everest hit a bird and crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 19 people on board.

Airlink will suspend services on the Pretoria-Cape Town

In order to stem losses, Airlink will suspend services on the Pretoria-Cape Town route from May 8 2018, the airline announced on Tuesday.

The airline's CEO Rodger Foster said in a statement it was not a decision taken lightly, but after almost three years, the route has not developed as was expected it would.

“Sadly, the route has not become profitable, despite our collaborative best efforts – including significant marketing initiatives by the City of Tshwane, to promote the connection. The combination of operational constraints on the size of aircraft that can be used on the route and the poor state of the economy have not helped,” explained Foster.

“A compounding factor has been government’s understandable and commendable belt-tightening efforts, which include cut-backs in government-related travel.”

The flight between Wonderboom and Cape Town started in August 2015 and was mainly aimed at Tshwane-based government officials, private sector businesses and leisure travellers, according to the airline.

Until recently, Airlink operated up to four daily return flights on the route, using a combination of 83-seat Avro RJ85 and 37-seat Embraer ERJ135LR regional jets.

“We are not closing the door, as we believe the Pretoria-Cape Town connection is important and could potentially be viable in the future. With this in mind, we will continually re-assess the market and the economy so that we can resume the service when the conditions are conducive,” said Foster.

Customers holding confirmed tickets for travel after the May 8 2018 will be re-booked on alternative SAA flights between OR Tambo International and Cape Town, or offered a full refund.

Airlink and Safair announced in February that they are disappointed that the Competition Commission did not approved the proposed Airlink acquisition of Safair.

The two independent SA aviation groups approached the Commission in November last year for approval to unite under the common umbrella of the Airlink group of companies.

The proposal submitted to the Commission was that the Airlink and low-cost FlySafair airlines as well as Safair’s other businesses would continue to operate separately under their unique brands. No job losses were foreseen because of the proposed consolidation.

The airlines indicated on Friday that they do not agree with the decision and will approach the Competition Tribunal to consider its application.

Airlink CEO Rodger Foster previously explained that the acquisition would bring opportunities to reduce combined costs and position the businesses for growth. At the same time connectivity would be increased. In his view the deal would make air travel accessible and affordable across Southern Africa.


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