Wednesday, 4 February 2015

MH370: Eyes in the sky

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The loss, literally, of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March 2014 was an incomprehensible tragedy for the 239 souls aboard and the loved ones they left behind. It was also a devastating blow to an industry that prides itself on impeccable safety standards. As the hopelessness of the investigation became apparent, Tony Tyler, the boss of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade body that represents most large airlines, declared: "We must never let another aircraft go missing in this way." Industry chiefs rallied behind him, voicing bewilderment and outrage that, in this day and age, a commercial widebody jet could simply vanish. One year on, with their rhetoric fading into memory, what progress has been made to ensure that Flight 370 forever remains a cruel anomaly...

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Interview: Rasha Al Roumi, Kuwait Airways Chairwoman

Full article in PDF format: page 17-19 & cover

Readers would have been forgiven for voicing scepticism in May 2013, when Kuwait Airways unveiled a comprehensive fleet renewal programme involving 25 aircraft purchases and 12 interim leases.

That the loss-making flag-carrier sorely needed modernisation was questioned by no-one – most of its existing 18 aircraft dated back to the early 1990s – but Kuwaiti politicians have a long history of meddling with, and ultimately derailing, its plans.

In 2007, most controversially, the government scrapped a newly placed order for 12 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and seven Airbus A320s. Then, in 2013, incumbent chairman Sami Al Nesf was fired for defying parliament’s wishes and trying to acquire five aircraft from India’s Jet Airways...

Royal Air Maroc raises the standard

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News that Royal Air Maroc grew its African traffic by 16% over the 12 months to October 2014 – transporting 1.3 million passengers across the continent – might seem perplexing against a backdrop of both the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and regional instability in North Africa.

There is no denying that Morocco’s flag-carrier is heavily exposed to the Ebola crisis, serving about 30 West African destinations, including the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Its home base in the Maghreb region of North Africa also places the airline in a volatile neighbourhood wracked first by the Arab Spring and now by a series of deepening Islamist insurgencies.

Yet despite the turmoil engulfing both sub-regions, Royal Air Maroc is not only expanding on the continent but, more remarkably, it is doing so while turning over a profit...

Interview: Peter Foster, Air Astana CEO

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page 18, page 20/21 & cover

If there is one message that Peter Foster, the president and chief executive of Air Astana, wants to get across in 2015, it is that Kazakhstan "is not Russia".

As the second largest member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional grouping of former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan's public image all too often falls on the wrong side of stereotyping.

The woefully inaccurate but irrepressibly funny mockumentary film Borat, released in 2006, epitomised many of these lingering anti-Soviet prejudices.

They are perhaps forgivable misconceptions: Kazakhstan's second official language is Russian; and its president-for-life entered office way back in 1989, when the country was still part of the USSR. But the geopolitical identities of these two neighbours have, in more recent times, sharply diverged – a point that Foster is keen to emphasise while Russia marches defiantly towards global pariah status...

Better path for Kuwait Airways

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The Gulf often features prominently in discussions about civil aviation, but Kuwait is one name that rarely, if ever, gets a mention. Whereas Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar have over the years developed world-class hubs that hoover up and redistribute intercontinental traffic, Kuwait International Airport remains something of a minnow in the regional marketplace.

These contrasting fortunes are no accident of history. The UAE and Qatar are only now reaping the spoils of aviation after pumping billions of dollars into their ground and air infrastructure. Alongside weighty financial investment, long-term political vision in both countries has nurtured pro-aviation environments with low costs and liberal visa regimes. This has in turn given their state-owned flag-carriers – Emirates Airline, Flydubai, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – a solid foundation for commercial viability.

It is a very different story in Kuwait, where, despite immense national wealth and a vibrant political landscape, Kuwait Airways has floundered for decades...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Interview: Said Korshel, Somali Transport Minister

Full article in PDF format: page 63-67 & cover

In most places around the world, working in civil aviation would not be considered an especially dangerous calling.

Somalia, however, is not most places. On September 20, shortly before African Aerospace travelled to Mogadishu for this special report, Ali Mohamed Ibrahim, the general manager of Somalia’s civil aviation authority (SCAMA), was attacked by gunmen en route to his office.

The assassination attempt killed his driver and bodyguard, but Ibrahim managed to escape with his life. He is now receiving medical treatment in Istanbul, and we wish him well.

Such incidents are, regrettably, not uncommon in Somalia...

Somalia: Mogadishu Airport's facelift

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Abdullahi Mohamud, Somalia’s most senior immigration official, was working at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport before the outbreak of civil war in 1991, and he still works there today.

Flicking between CCTV cameras on a huge widescreen display in his airside office, Mohamud said the airport has undergone radical changes for the better in recent years.

The introduction of biometric passports was among the most noticeable improvements. When Turkish Airlines launched flights between Mogadishu and Istanbul in March 2012, Mohamud’s staff would seize fake travel documents on almost every Europe-bound flight. That flow of asylum seekers has since run dry, with the federal government’s new E-passports proving too hard for human traffickers to forge...

Somalia: The UN and AMISOM keep the peace

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Only about half of the 50 or so aircraft movements per day at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport are commercial transport services.

The other half are mostly operated by the United Nations (UN) and its myriad related agencies, providing a mixture of humanitarian airlifts; military support services for the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), the multinational force battling Al Shabaab; and diplomatic or other VIP transportation flights.

It is a complex web of operations that hinges on various overlapping partnerships, so the number of entities and corresponding acronyms can get overwhelming...

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Interview: Olgan Bekar, Turkish Ambassador to Somalia

Full article in JPG format: page 56/57 & page 58

Anyone who doubts Turkey’s long-term commitment to Africa need only look at the growing number of star-and-crescent flags fluttering outside diplomatic missions across the continent. The distinctive red motif now adorns 36 embassies in Africa, three times as many as in 2009.

Each new mission speaks to the growing inertia of commercial and political ties between Ankara and its partners on the continent. Bilateral trade with sub-Saharan Africa is up tenfold since the turn of the century, totalling $7.5 billion in 2013. Among Turkish contractors, Africa now accounts for 19% of international business volumes. Turkey’s heavy-duty exports – notably iron, steel, machinery and vehicles – are helping the continent down the laborious path of industrialisation.

One embassy, though, stands out less for its economic providence than the simple audacity of being opened in the first place...

Interview: Paul Byrne, Flynas CEO

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There was no shortage of sceptics in the airline industry when Flynas, Saudi Arabia’s only private scheduled carrier, began operating long-haul flights in early 2014. Sure enough it took just a few months for the airline to scrap the new routes; return its widebody Airbus A330s; and hire yet another chief executive – the fourth in three years.

Incoming boss Paul Byrne, who took to the helm on 1 November, admits that the airline made a strategic blunder by going long-haul. Its limited overseas brand awareness and semi-budget product was always going to struggle when competing with better-established flag-carrier Saudia...