Sunday, April 26, 2009

Australia Philippines Expand Air Links

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and Australia have agreed to new air service arrangements, opening the way for expanded services on routes between the two countries, the Australian Embassy in Manila disclosed.

Under the new arrangements, Australian and Philippine airlines are now able to offer up to 4,000 seats each way per week between major Australian destinations (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and/or Sydney) and Manila and/or Clark in the Philippines.

Over time, and in response to demand, the new limit can be increased to 6,000 seats. Previously, the limit was 2,500 seats.

To encourage airlines to serve important regional destinations, Australian and Philippine airlines can now operate unlimited services to regional airports.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith welcomed the new arrangements.

Last year, over 313,000 people travelled between the Philippines and Australia.

“The new arrangements are a good example of Australia and the Philippines working together to liberalize international aviation to the benefit of the travelling public, the tourism industry and airline carriers in both Australia and the Philippines,” Smith said.

Meantime, the Australian government recently provided the Philippine Office for Transportation Security (OTS) with training equipment for the Aviation Security Training Center, strengthening the country’s capacity to secure its aviation system.

“The assistance seeks to enhance transport security measures across the country and reduce the vulnerability of transport systems to security threats,” Smith said.

The training facility equipment is part of Australia’s continuing security capacity building support that will enable the Philippine OTS to standardize training and application of aviation security measures across the Philippines.

The program also funded the training of Philippine aviation security officials on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) courses at accredited facilities in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Auckland. This training has built the subject expertise of aviation security managers, technical personnel and training staff.

“The assistance will significantly increase the capacity of the Philippine OTS to conduct aviation security training both in Manila and other regional airports throughout the country,” he added.

Australian Office of Transport Security Executive Director Paul Retter and Philippine OTS Director, Col. Lucas Cauton (designated Officer-in-Charge), formally signed a Deed of Donation that marked the official turnover of the equipment on 2 March 2009. During the ceremony, Retter was presented a plaque of appreciation from Undersecretary Cecilio Penilla, Philippine OTS Administrator, for his role in assisting the Philippine Government.

“Australia’s assistance will further develop the Philippine OTS capability to safeguard aviation against possible threats using internationally-recognized ICAO standards,” Cauton said.

Australia and the Philippines share a strong bilateral defense and security relationship that aims to counter global and regional threats. Since 2006, Australia has committed up to P10.9 million (A$340,000) for the implementation of a broader range of aviation security assistance measures to safeguard the long-term security of Philippine aviation and the travelling public.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Runway, Many Problems at NAIA

IT is well that Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi has given “additional guidance” to the Naia Time Slotting Committee to give priority to review the scheduling of small-aircraft flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), in light of recurring problems of runway congestion that aggravate an already problematic situation for aviation in general.

Cusi recently asked Gen. Ruben Ciron, chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), “to consider the utilization of Naia’s domestic runway, runway 13-31, during daytime for aircraft weighing 25,000 kilograms and below.”

He explained the rationale for the decision: “Aircraft like these are usually owned by operators at our general aviation, therefore, would be most logical to make them use the domestic runway for landing and takeoff. In so doing, we can maximize the use of the international runway for commercial operations.”

The Philippines is the only Asian country that has only one international runway (runway 24) at its premier airport, thus disrupting so many international flights when even just a single incident occurs on that runway.

In the latest incident, Cusi reported that at about 8 p.m. on Sunday, a Westwind-II aircraft with registry number N-911GU aborted takeoff at Naia’s international runway after the pilot noticed smoke emanating from its left wheel. Rescue teams were quickly deployed to the site, but heavy rains delayed their work.

But whether the rains are pouring or not, the fact that there’s only one international runway is a real constraint.

Disruptions to flights owing to this congestion compound the already problematic situation in general, as this paper’s aviation reporter, Recto Mercene, had long been writing about. As a result, air-traffic control has to use a “bag of tricks” in order to ensure the safety of all flights going into and out of Manila, i.e., imposing longer separation times between flights during peak seasons or holidays like Christmas and New Year. Again, the bottom line: Flights are delayed because—rightly so—air-traffic controllers must pick safety over convenience.

But the point is that if the necessary hardware are budgeted for and actually installed, so many of the problems faced by aviation personnel could be reduced. For instance, in Sunday night’s fiasco, it turns out the air ambulance was not an exception: Small aircraft are routinely deployed to runway 24 (the sole international runway) because domestic runway 13-31 cannot be used after sundown. The excuse: It’s “not an instrument runway,” and can only be used for visual flight rules. Sources said efforts to install an instrument system at runway 13-31 ran into technical snags a few years ago, and no one, it seems, has bothered to review the problem.

And, speaking of personnel, it’s been nearly a year since Congress passed the CAAP law, but the latest word is that reforms to boost staffing morale and competence are proceeding slowly. The problem of getting, training and keeping competent airmen is thus something that won’t go away soon.

Taken together, these persistent problems are bound to affect our status as an aviation center—or derail hopes to reverse the dismal Category 2 status imposed by international bodies.

Reacting to Cusi’s move to review the runway slotting system, MIAA Airport Development and Corporate Affairs Assistant General Manager Tirso Serrano was quoted saying: “This move is intended to likewise increase terminal capacities for Naia Terminals 1, 2 and 3. With the recent opening of NAIA Terminal 3, we have increased our potential to 32 million passengers a year.” Between that potential and fruition is a wide chasm that requires, among others: the political will and a clear, unified vision among turf-conscious aviation agencies, and the budget to obtain crucial hardware and pay aviation personnel salaries they deserve.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chemtrad plane found

Officials say the wreckage of a light plane that had been missing for two weeks has been found in a northern Philippine jungle and that none of the seven Filipinos on board survived.

Regional police commander Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian says searchers found the 10-seater BN Islander on Tuesday on a thickly forested mountain outside Baggao township in Cagayan province.

The plane, owned by ChemTrad Aviation Corp., left the provincial capital of Cagayan on April 2 on a 35-minute flight to Maconacon township in nearby Isabela province.

Damian said Wednesday that helicopters were dropping supplies and equipment to the search teams to help them recover the remains of the victims from the remote area.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FSX vs: X-Plane 9

This not a comparison per se. Both FSX and X-plane 9 are excellent flight simulators worthy of anyone's attention. Consider that Microsoft FSX is an effort of a large team of the best programmers money can buy, and X-Plane has its humble beginnings in the mind of one dedicated man, Austin Meyer, and you might guess my bias. That said, I use FSX at least as much as I use X-Plane simply because of how I have chosen to configure FSX for my own purposes, more on that later. The real point is these two programs are both flight simulators using the latest geographical mapping tools available and using similar but actually entirely different flight modeling systems. How can something be similar and different at the same time? To the casual user, the flight modeling will seem similar in the two programs. To a serious or engineering oriented user, then the similarities become superficial. FSX and X-Plane approach flight simulation from quite different angles.

FSX is a mass marketed high end PC game with easy to use graphical interface. Its forte is the availability of consistently good aircraft from many third party sources, as well as literally hundreds of add on modules, landscapes, and tools. It simulates commercial flying with a sophisticated ATC and GPS(as well as other avionics). It has many bells and whistles that add functionality and "glitz" to the interface. If you love FSX, you will probably not be impressed with X-Plane. If you are a plane designer, like to know what airfoil your plane has, its Reynolds number, drag coefficient and a hundred other flight conditions and parameters X Plane will be attractive to you. If you want to drop bombs, fire guns, and rockets, scoop up water with a tanker and put out forest fires, again X-Plane will be interesting to you. If you want to fly on Mars, simulate and control three different space shuttle re entries, analyze a plane design real time in flight, then again X-Plane will be of interest to you. Want to get dropped from a B-52 at 30,000 feet, land on a carrier, catapult launch from same, get aero towed or winched in a sailplane? Then X-Plane will be your sim.

FSX, is a relatively compact installation of, in my case, 15 Gigabytes. And I said that in one breath! Compact? This includes Cumulus X, simprobe, a dozen add on planes, Cassiet gauges add on, several scenery add ons, and an auto gen enhancement. FSX is a decent sailplane sim with these additions.

My X-Plane install includes only the stock U.S. scenery plus Europe so far, plus about two dozen add on aircraft. It occupies 22 Gigs of space. A complete install of X-Plane with all the worlds scenery will take 70 Gigs, with a few add on programs and aircraft can eat up 90 Gigs! Space is a consideration.

X-Planes scenery is more detailed in some ways than FSX. There are more buildings and given scenery settings, the airports tend to blend in more with surrounding terrain, giving a more natural look. But X-Planes roads and other items seem less accurate as compared to real life. FSX roads are more reflecting actual roads, but are not high res at close proximity. You can land on the roads in Xplane, and they are sharply in focus. I think the water effects are better in X-Plane, but so much depends on the user and your equipment blanket statements are difficult to make.

A little about the system I am running so you can have an idea of what is required. I don't have a super gaming system. The motherboard is an Asus M2N68-CM running an AMD X2, 2.6 GHz processor with 1mb L2 Cache. The graphics card is a 1 Gig Nvidia DDr2. I have 1 gig of system memory, and two 160 Gig Sata hard drives. What I can say is that on the same machine running graphics almost maxed out, X-Plane delivers consistently higher frame rates. Not a precise statement, but observed in my case. The control of graphic settings is different in FSX and X-Plane, so to say the rendering options are equal is impossible. My impression is that Microsoft uses a lot of resources for the slick user friendly graphic interface while X-Plane has a simple drop down menu interface, in exchange for a better sim experience. Honestly X-Planes menu system is clunky and difficult to use until you get used to it. X plane uses a lot of hard drive. The drawbacks to X-plane are that there are not as many third party planes and applications available, and the stock planes are not particularly impressive to my tastes. I have managed to add a few dozen planes to my X-Plane folder, and many are top notch. Beware that if you download the free planes from the X-Plane forum, many are done by amateurs and are not so great. Payware planes are available from many sources and offer a better choice.

X-Plane is a designer tool and offers an airfoil design and analysis program embedded. Airfoil data for the flight model is derived from lift polar data for each airfoil, you can choose appropriate Reynolds numbers and edit any selected airfoil. It also has a sophisticated plane designer program embedded. This requires previous design experience to use, and there is a bit of a learning curve. That said with my previous design experience I was able to concoct a crude unpainted aircraft in a few hours with no manual. And it flew! I can't list all the X-Plane features here but there are many tools available to test almost any aircraft component or system. FSX gets high marks for mass appeal, ease of use, and airline simulation. It has marketability. X-plane I would say is a techno geek tool and simulator. You have to judge for yourself which one suits you. I can't live without either.

Note red plane pics are screen shots from X-Plane 9, white plane is FSX. both taken at Innsbruck Austria. from approximately the same spots.

The following slideshow depicts some shot taken in both FSX and X-Plane 9 at the Grand canyon. The graphics setting are what I think are about equivalent. Note the frame rate difference. 50 in X-Plane, 25-30 in FSX.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cebu Pacific to Roxas

MANILA, Philippines - Gokongwei-owned Cebu Pacific Air, Inc. becomes the first and only airline operating a direct service between Cebu and Roxas starting May 2, it said in a statement.Through a promotional "Go Lite" fare of P488 all-in, Cebu Pacific said the seat sale will run from April 4 to 9. It is nonrefundable and valid for travel from May 2 to July 31, 2009.“Our Cebu-Roxas service will increase the accessibility of Roxas to its neighboring provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Local residents from Roxas can also enjoy the wide connectivity of flights we offer from our Cebu hub to other domestic and international destinations," Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog said.After the seat sale, the one-way "Go Lite" fare from Cebu to Roxas starts from P988 all-in.Using CEB’s brand-new ATR 72-500 aircraft, the tri-weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) service departs from Cebu at 5:20am and arrives in Roxas at 6:10am. The return flight leaves Roxas at 6:30am and lands in Mactan Cebu International Airport at 7:20am.