New Protests As Iran Makes First Arrests Over Downed Airliner

In this file photo taken on January 13, 2020 Iranian protesters hold flowers as riot police fire tear gas during a demonstration in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University. STR / AFP

 

Iran announced Tuesday its first arrests over the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, as protesters vented their anger over the catastrophic blunder for a fourth consecutive day.

Nearly two weeks after the US killed a top Iranian commander in Iraq, tensions with the West increased further as EU countries on Tuesday launched an arbitration process charging Tehran with failing to observe commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal, prompting Iran to warn of unspecified “consequences”.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

Iran has struggled to contain the fallout over its handling of the air disaster, after initially dismissing Western claims it was brought down by a missile before admitting it on Saturday.

The tragedy has seen hundreds of angry protesters, most of them students, take to the streets, apparently chanting slogans against the Islamic republic.

New videos circulating on social media purported to show fresh protests on Tuesday evening at universities in Tehran, along with clashes between students and Basij militia loyal to the establishment.

It was not possible to immediately verify the videos.

Earlier, AFP correspondents said around 200 mainly masked students gathered at Tehran University on Tuesday and were locked in a tense standoff with youths from the Basij.

“Death to Britain,” women clad in black chadours chanted as Basij members burned a cardboard cutout of the British ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire, after his brief arrest for allegedly attending a demonstration Saturday.

Kept apart by security forces, the groups eventually parted ways.

AFP journalists said there appeared to be a lower police presence on Tuesday compared to preceding days.

Internet connectivity was significantly lower than usual.

‘Real Rift’

The protests have been much smaller than nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes that turned deadly in November.

But one commentator said the latest rallies showed there was a “real rift between the people and the authorities”.

“I hope that (police restraint) will continue and that no lives are lost, because this could be a catalyst for more protests,” Mehdi Rahmanian, director of reformist daily Shargh, told AFP.

In another sign of growing dissent, a group of artists cancelled their participation in the Fajr festival, held each year on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Hamshahri newspaper, which is owned by Tehran City Hall.

Meanwhile, group of reformist journalists in Tehran published a statement denouncing the lack of freedom of the press and official media.

“We are attending the burial of public trust”, said the statement, which the official IRNA news agency reported on.

Even a key state TV personality, Elmira Sharifi, hit out at authorities on Twitter.

“At a time when you should come and give your apologies and explanations, you stay quiet! Why are you bringing us shame in front of the public?”.

Tehran had for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the Boeing 737 had been downed by a missile.

It came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the plane for a cruise missile and opened fire independently.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said the first arrests had been made over the air disaster, without naming them or specifying how many.

“Extensive investigations have been carried out and some people have been arrested,” he said.

Esmaili also said around 30 people had been arrested in the protests over the air disaster.

‘World Watching’

The announcement came shortly after President Hassan Rouhani said — in relation to the air disaster — “anyone who should be punished must be punished”.

“The judiciary must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts… The whole world will be watching,” he said.

“It cannot be that only the person who pressed the button is at fault. There are others.”

The Kiev-bound plane was shot down at a time when Iran’s armed forces were on heightened alert after launching a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops.

Iran fired the missiles in retaliation for a US drone strike on January 3 that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm.

Addressing that issue, Rouhani said while “the root of all sorrows goes back to America… this cannot be a reason for us not to look into all the root causes” of the air disaster.

The president also demanded officials explain why it took so long for authorities to announce the real cause of the air disaster.

But Rouhani said that for him it would be more important that Iranians are “assured that this incident will not be repeated”.

Iran has invited experts from Canada, France, Ukraine and the United States to take part in the probe.

The office of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke to Canada’s premier Justin Trudeau on Tuesday for a third time since the crash, with the latter asking for help from Kiev in liaising with Iranian authorities to help identify bodies of Canadian citizens.

Also on the diplomatic front, Britain on Monday summoned Iran’s ambassador to lodge its “strong objections” after its Tehran envoy, Macaire, was temporarily arrested for allegedly attending a demonstration on Sunday night.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman on Tuesday described Macaire as a “persona non grata” and said his “obligations under international treaties are clear”.

Boeing Chairman Says CEO Muilenburg Did ‘Everything Right’

Employees work in the cargo hold of a Boeing 727 MAX 9 test plane outside the company’s factory, on March 14, 2019 in Renton, Washington.
STEPHEN BRASHEAR / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Boeing’s new chairman on Tuesday gave a forceful vote of confidence in CEO Dennis Muilenburg amid calls in Congress for the embattled Boeing chief executive to resign after two deadly crashes.

“Dennis has done everything right,” Boeing Chairman David Calhoun told CNBC, praising Muilenburg for keeping the board closely abreast of efforts to return the 737 MAX back to service after 346 people were killed in the accidents.

“To date he has our confidence,” Calhoun said.

Shares rose after the interview in which Calhoun also confirmed that the company still expects the MAX to receive regulatory approval this year to return to service.

Calhoun acknowledged that some of Boeing’s assumptions in the development of the MAX were faulty but hit back at suggestions that the company cut corners and compromised safety.

Boeing’s board has kept a low profile during the crisis over the MAX, which was grounded worldwide in March following the second of the two crashes.

The company on October 11 stripped Muilenburg of the chairman title — replacing him with Calhoun — even as he was kept on as CEO and as a member of the board.

Muilenburg last week endured two days of bruising grilling and criticism from lawmakers probing the issues that led to the two accidents involving the top-selling jet.

Boeing has acknowledged problems with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, an automated flight control system implicated in both the Lion Air crash of October and Ethiopian Airlines crash in March.

Calhoun said the crashes also revealed “flawed” assumptions about how pilots would react to a malfunction of the system.

“No one was hiding anything. It was a set of engineering decisions that ended up being wrong,” Calhoun said.

“And our job now is to make sure that whatever processes we had, whatever process our regulator has, that those processes never allow for this to ever happen again.”

But lawmakers depicted the crashes as evidence Boeing had cut corners on safety to rush the MAX into service to compete with a plane from rival Airbus.

Cultural Problem?

US Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who chaired last week’s hearing before the House Transportation Committee, pointed to documents he said showed that during the MAX’s development, Boeing leadership was “aware of many of the problems that engineers are now attempting to fix.”

DeFazio faulted Muilenburg’s responses to many questions as “consistent with a culture of concealment and opaqueness.”

“The bottom line is that there are a lot of unanswered questions and our investigation has a long way to go to get the answers everyone deserves, especially the families of the crash victims,” DeFazio said in a letter to congressional colleagues.

But Calhoun said criticism of Boeing’s corporate culture missed the mark.

While Boeing could take steps to strengthen the visibility of its commitment to safety, “I do not believe that this instance is indicative of a cultural problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said Muilenburg is completely focused on returning the MAX to service and succeeding in the face of “one of the most difficult situations any CEO that I’ve ever known has lived through.”

“We’re going to support Dennis.”

Calhoun said Muilenburg had asked not to receive a bonus for 2019 after lawmakers lambasted the CEO over his pay at the hearing last week.

In 2018, Muilenburg’s total compensation package was $23.4 million, according to a securities filing.

And Calhoun said the company was not considering clawing back Muilenburg’s pay from earlier years because there was “no culpability.”

Shares of Boeing rose 2.1 per cent to $358.29.

FG Vows To Monitor Airlines Closely After Dana Air Mishap

The scene of the Dana Air Plane accident.

Following the recent near-crash accident involving Dana air, the Federal Government has vowed to closely monitor the operations of Dana Air and other air operators in the country.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said this on Thursday during a visit to the site where the Dana plane ended up after overshooting the runway

Sirika said the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been mandated to heighten safety oversight of Dana Air, thoroughly following up their air operational activities.

“We want to ensure the general public that the government is conscious and aware that transportation, especially by air remains the safest means of transportation. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) whose duty is to oversight the aviation sector have been mandated to heighten safety oversight on Dana Air and to ensure their operational efficiency and competence.

“The whole company, their plane, their equipment of use, their maintenance, their operations, the proficiency of airmen working with the company. And then, of course, to straightaway come up with their findings and they have the freedom and autonomy to do what is provided by law,” he said.

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika at the scene of the accident on Thursday, February 22.

 

The Minister who noted that Nigeria recently scored high in safety in its air operations with certification of two Nigerian airports recently.

“For the first time, Nigeria certified two airports and the only African country including Egypt and South Africa that certified two airports (Lagos and Abuja) at the same time and we are not stopping.”

READ ALSO: CPC Demands Action As Dana Air Plane Overshoots Runway

The Federal Government had earlier announced the commencement of an investigation into the accident. The investigation is being carried out by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).

AIB under the Federal Ministry of Transportation is set up to investigate any civil aircraft accident and serious incident in Nigerian airspace. It is aimed at improving aviation safety by determining the circumstances and causes of air accidents in Nigeria.

The plane belonging to Dana Air was on Tuesday, February 20 involved in an accident. This was after it overshot the runway in Port Harcourt Airport while flying from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the nation’s capital Abuja.

The aircraft had the following details: 5N-SRI, flight number: 0348, Type: MD 83. 54 passengers were on board including five crew members. Everyone on board were evacuated safely and no reported casualties. The weather condition was rainy.

Monarch Airlines Collapse Leaves 110,000 Passengers Stranded

Monarch Airlines aircraft are pictured on the tarmac at Birmingham Airport in Birmingham, central England on October 2, 2017. Oli SCARFF / AFP

British short-haul carrier Monarch Airlines went bust Monday in the biggest airline failure in Britain, prompting the government to take emergency action to return home 110,000 stranded passengers.

Monarch and its holidays business went into administration, with KPMG appointed to oversee the financial chaos that has left nearly 2,000 employees having to find new employment.

The airline had been struggling financially for a while and won a cash injection a year ago that allowed it to continue flying and fund growth plans, as the sector faced turbulence from Brexit and terrorism.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority described the events on Monday as “the biggest ever UK airline failure.”

“All future holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating,” it said.

The CAA said that the government had asked it “to support Monarch customers currently abroad to get back to the UK at the end of their holiday at no extra cost to them”.

Passengers are being flown back from numerous countries, including France, Greece, Israel and Turkey on aircraft leased by the CAA.

“I got a text message… to say that the airline had ceased business,” Irish graphic designer Aine Cassidy told AFP, after returning on a CAA-chartered flight from Menorca, Spain, to Luton airport, north of London.

“I thought it was maybe a joke or a mistake so I did a quick Google and saw that Monarch was in trouble.”

Among planes being leased were Airbus A320s from Qatar Airways, according to the flight-tracking site Flightradar24.

“The handling by the government and the CAA was excellent,” said David Banks, who returned to Luton with his wife after spending a week in Menorca.

“But, by Monarch, some kind of contact would have been nice.”

Hundreds of thousands of customers will be affected by Monarch’s collapse, most of whom have future bookings, the CAA said.

“We are quite upset… we don’t know anything. I suppose it’s just a waiting game,” holidaymaker Desmond Morland told AFP in Cyprus after being told he may face a delay returning to Britain.

– ‘Biggest peacetime repatriation’ –

The government said it was overseeing what it described as the biggest repatriation since the end of World War II.

“This is a hugely distressing situation for British holidaymakers abroad and my first priority is to help them get back to the UK,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement.

“That is why I have immediately ordered the country’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation to fly about 110,000 passengers who could otherwise have been left stranded abroad.”

But the Unite labour union hit back, saying ministers rebuffed requests by Monarch — Britain’s tenth-largest airline according to Euromonitor International — to provide a bridging loan.

“Monarch’s workforce has worked tirelessly and loyally, with great sacrifice, to try and turn the airline around in the last year,” said Unite official Oliver Richardson.

“Their hard work has been undone by a government seemingly content to… allow one of the UK’s oldest airlines go into administration.”

By Monday evening 1,858 of around 2,100 employees at Monarch’s airline and tour group had been made redundant, KPMG said.

– ‘Ryanair’s gain ‘ –

Affected parties used social media to get their messages across, mirroring a situation a week ago when Ryanair cancelled thousands of flights as it battles to overcome a shortage of pilots.

“Monarch customers in the UK: don’t go to the airport. There will be no more Monarch flights,” the budget carrier said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, customer Holly-Rae Copeland‏ tweeted: “Just when you think you’ve avoided Ryanair’s flight cancellations, #monarchairlines go into administration on the day of your flight.”

Blair Nimmo, a KPMG partner and joint administrator, said “mounting cost pressures and increasingly competitive market conditions in the European short-haul market have contributed to the Monarch Group experiencing a sustained period of trading losses”.

The collapse of Monarch, headquartered in Luton, was meanwhile “good news” for rival airlines, said ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson.

“Shares in Ryanair and EasyJet both rose… as the market reacted to the news of the demise of Monarch after 50 years in business,” Wilson said.

AFP

Azman Air Goes International

Azman Air Services has commenced its first international operations, taking off from the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano to Jedda, in Saudi Arabia.

Supervising the boarding exercise at the international terminal, the President of the airline, Mr Abdulmunaf Sarina, said two more aircraft will soon arrive Kano to begin flights to China and Dubai as approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Established in 2010, the company has already secured approval from the Federal Ministry of Aviation to begin regional operations in Africa which will start after the arrival of the two new white body aircraft.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sarina stated that safety of passengers and the aircraft will be his major priority in an attempt to diversify the company.

The General Manager of the company, Mr Suleiman Lawan also noted that the airline is expected to further expand soon in line with international best practices.

Arik Air Resumes Flight Operations

Arik Air, Flight operationsA commercial air carrier in Nigeria, Arik Air, has resumed flight services for domestic, regional and international operations.

The airline, in a statement, explained that all its scheduled flights were operated yesterday, and pledged to sustain the tempo on a daily basis.

Arik Air’s operations were disrupted on Tuesday, over claims that they were unable to renew their insurance due to the two-day public holiday observed to mark the Eid-El-Kabir celebrations.

The airline added that the backlog of passengers from the disruption had already been accommodated, with extra flights introduced to minimize inconvenience to passengers.

Return of Dana Air: Dana Airline is air-worthy – S.A. to Aviation Minister

Joe Obi, the Special Adviser to the Minister of Aviation was a guest on our Breakfast Show ‘Sunrise Daily’ to discuss the return of Dana airline to flight operations after the suspension placed on the airline company was lifted.

The Special Adviser said the standard norm all over the world is not to ground airlines for incuring air mishap so the withdrawal of Dana Airline’s license to fly was never to punish the airline company for the crash but was for the aviation sector to look at the several loopholes and proffer a solution to them.

On why Dana airline was reinstated, Joe Obi said they are satisfied with the technical audit by the airline.

Okorocha to establish Imo airline

The Imo state government on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the business community of the Republic of Kosovo in Europe to partner in the establishment of the Imo state airline company.

Briefing Government House correspondents in Owerri the Imo state capital, the state governor, Rochas Okorocha said that his one week business and economic trip to Europe was basically to attract foreign investors to the state.

Mr Okorocha said that the imo state government has signed “a Memorandum of Understanding with the business community of the Republic of Kosovo majorly for the purpose of industrialization and the establishment of Imo state airlines” in Owerri.

He said that the multimillionaire investment project will signal the commencement of a viable and beneficial business relationship between Imo state and the Kosovo business community.

The governor also said that from the business trip, Imo state is expected to begin to unfold plans to develop various sectors of the economy such as agriculture, construction, tourism, commerce, and power generation through Independent Power Plant (IPP).