Domestic Aviation Services To Resume As Soon As Practicable

A file photo of the PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu.

 

Domestic aviation service operators have been granted permission to resume operations as soon as practicable.

This is according to the national coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr Sani Aliyu.

Making clarifications during the PTF briefing on Monday, Mr. Aliyu also noted that while the current curfew will remain, the Federal Government has lifted the ban placed on interstate travels with effect from July 1, provided such journeys are made outside curfew hours.

Mr Aliyu who was expatiating on a brief made by the chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, further revealed that students in graduating classes will be allowed to resume as part of plans for the second phase of eased lockdown.

He, however, warned that the use of face masks will be strictly enforced, stressing that those without masks will not be granted entry into government and commercial premises.

Aviation Minister Lists Conditions For Reopening Of Domestic Flights

A file photo of the Minister of Aviation. Photo: [email protected]

 

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika on Monday listed some conditions which are currently being considered before the final reopening of domestic flights following weeks of lockdown.

Sirika listed the conditions during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

He said following the directive of the Federal Government for domestic flights to prepare to resume operations June 21, technical and health factors will be considered.

READ ALSO: Domestic Flights May Resume June 21 – FG

“Regarding the tentative date for reopening of domestic flights from 21st of June, the explanation is that, this is an industry that is highly regulated, it borders on safety and efficiency.

“On the technical aspect, there are aircraft that have been parked for a few months and not been run. We want to ensure that between now and that time, these aeroplanes are good and safe to fly.

“The maintenance for aircraft is either usage or calendar time and there are protocols to the use of such aircraft. So, the airline industry needs to be able to bring those machines to safe operations,” he said.

Sirika added that on the issue of flight crews and carrier crew, efforts are being made to ensure that they get their licence valid again for operations.

He noted further that the medical aspect also needs to be considered as every pilot has a licence which must state that he is fit and able to carry out operations.

According to the Aviation Minister, even the airport needs to be prepared to adopt the new way of life which must reflect social distancing.

“Even the airport where all of these activities will be done needs to be prepared to get ready to accept this new way of air travel,” Sirika said.

The Minister concluded that, although the aviation sector is the worst hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, caution must be taken to ensure reopening in a very orderly and organised manner, “so that we will achieve the intent and purpose of air travel which is safety, efficiency and security.”

Singapore Airlines Reports Nearly $150 Million Virus Loss

Singapore Airlines reported an annual loss of almost $150 million Thursday, driven by the collapse in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the latest sign of the outbreak’s devastating impact on the aviation sector.

The airline group – which includes subsidiaries SilkAir and Scoo – suffered a net loss of Sg$212 million (US$148 million) for the financial year that ended on March 31, compared to a profit of Sg$683 million last year.

The city-state’s flag carrier lost Sg$732 million in the fourth quarter, mainly due to a reduction in passenger revenue as the virus crisis exploded.

“Fears about the spread of the virus, as well as global travel restrictions and border controls, led to a collapse in the demand for air travel during the quarter,” the airline said in its financial report.

Read Also: Nigerian Airlines Lose N17bn Monthly To COVID-19 – Sirika

The recent collapse in oil prices also led to Sg$710 million of fuel hedging losses in the fourth quarter.

Singapore Airlines cut passenger capacity by 96 percent from April to June and grounded most of its fleet as people stopped flying due to the pandemic.

The airline’s majority shareholder, state investment fund Temasek, has thrown its weight behind a rescue package to help the carrier weather the pandemic.

The International Air Transport Association estimates that airlines operating in the Asia-Pacific region stand to lose a combined $27.8 billion of revenue this year.

The trade body said last month that global air traffic suffered a 52.9 per cent drop in March compared with the same period last year – the “largest decline in recent history” – due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

COVID-19: We’ve Denied Several Governors Flight Requests, Says Aviation Minister

A file photo of aviation minister, Hadi Sirika.
A file photo of aviation minister, Hadi Sirika.

 

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says the ministry has denied the flight requests of several governors, since the closure of the airports and the lockdown order by President Muhammadu Buhari as a result of the COVID-19.

He said this on Tuesday during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, while responding to questions about some ongoing flights.

The minister also stressed that governors are not exempt from the lockdown and no-flight orders.

According to him, 98% of any ongoing flights, are either essential flights relating to the COVID-19, or repatriation requests.

“Every single flight that you would see, every single flight that we would approve would be an essential flight and 98% of them would be connected to COVID-19,” he said.

“A few others, maybe 1% might be either a repatriation request from a diplomatic community which must go through foreign affairs or it might be repatriation due to illness of another kind.

“And those repatriations will also need the stamp of a teaching hospital.

“There is no exception to governors. I had denied several of such flights, including two governors from south-south and two from the south east and by the way, three of them are members of the APC and I think one is from north-central.

“Once you see a flight approved, it is diligently done and it must be essential, COVID-19-related or some other flights like essential cargo that would bring in medicines or equipment or something related to our well being like food,” Sirika added.

Malaysia Suspected MH370 Downed In Murder-Suicide – Former Australian PM

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 7, 2015 shows Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik creating a sculpture of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Puri beach in eastern Odisha state.
J .K. Jagdev / AFP

 

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has claimed “very top” level Malaysian officials believed vanished Flight MH370 was deliberately downed by the captain in a mass murder-suicide.

The Malaysia Airlines jet vanished on March 8, 2014 carrying 239 people — mostly from China — en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000-square kilometre (46,000-square mile) Indian Ocean search zone and the Australian-led search, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January 2017.

A US exploration firm launched a private hunt in 2018 but it ended after several months of scouring the seabed without success.

The disappearance of the plane has long been the subject of a host of theories — ranging from the credible to outlandish — including that veteran pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah had gone rogue.

In an excerpt from a Sky News documentary airing Wednesday, Abbott claims he was told within a week of it vanishing that Malaysia believed the captain had intentionally downed the jet.

READ ALSO: Elated Passengers Leave Cambodia Cruise Ship After Virus All-Clear

“My very clear understanding from the very top levels of the Malaysian government is that from very, very early on here, they thought it was murder-suicide by the pilot,” he said.

“I’m not going to say who said what to whom but let me reiterate, I want to be absolutely crystal clear, it was understood at the highest levels that this was almost certainly murder-suicide by the pilot — mass murder-suicide by the pilot.”

Zaharie’s family and friends have long strongly rejected such claims as baseless.

Malaysia’s former premier Najib Razak, who was in power during the tragedy, said suspicions over the disappearance weren’t made public and there was no proof that the pilot was responsible.

“It would have been deemed unfair and legally irresponsible since the black boxes and cockpit voice recorders had not been found,” he told online portal Free Malaysia Today.

“There was no conclusive proof whether the pilot was solely or jointly responsible.”

Najib said the scenario involving the pilot was “never ruled out” during the search for the plane.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the former head of Malaysia’s civil aviation regulator, criticised Abbott’s remarks and said there was not sufficient proof to support the idea.

“It is only a theory,” Azharuddin, who led the regulator when Flight MH370 disappeared, told AFP.

“You do this speculation and it will hurt the next of kin. The family of the pilot will also feel very bad because you are making an accusation without any proof.”

In 2016, Malaysian officials revealed the pilot had plotted a path over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator but stressed this did not prove he deliberately crashed the plane.

A final report into the tragedy released in 2018 pointed to failings by air traffic control and said the course of the plane was changed manually.

But they failed to come up with any firm conclusions, leaving relatives angry and disappointed.

Six passengers were Australian, including four from Queensland state, where Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week suggested authorities may pursue an inquest into their deaths.

Mid-Air Plane Collision Kills Four In Australia

Scene of the crash. Credit: 9News.

 

Four people were killed in a mid-air collision between two light planes in Australia on Wednesday, scattering debris across a rural area north of Melbourne.

Police said the two twin-engined aircraft were each carrying a pilot and a passenger when they crashed around 4,000 feet (1,200) above the town of Mangalore.

Images from the crash scene on the ground showed twisted metal and chunks of fuselage scattered in a field and among trees.

Police said both planes were flying legally in the area but investigations were ongoing.

“We’re not sure why both aircraft were exactly on the same trajectory or why they were in that area but unfortunately they have collided mid-air,” Police Inspector Peter Koger said.

One aircraft had just taken off from the nearby airfield but the other plane’s origin was still unclear, he added.

Three Dead, Scores Hurt, In Turkey Plane Accident

 

Three people have died and 179 were injured when a plane skidded off the runway at an Istanbul airport, caught fire and split into three after landing in rough weather.

Live images broadcast on Turkish television showed several people climbing through a large crack in the severed aircraft and escaping onto one of the wings at the rear.

The Boeing 737 operated by Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines had flown into Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport from the Aegean port city of Izmir on Wednesday, NTV television reported.

The plane was apparently buffeted by strong winds and heavy rain lashing Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.

Three Turks were killed and 179 injured, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters.

“Some passengers evacuated the plane by themselves but others are stuck inside and our rescuers are working to free them,” Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said on CNN-Turk television.

The plane was carrying 177 passengers and six crew members, state news agency Anadolu said, revising the previous total given by Turkish authorities. Turkish media reports said there were 12 children on board.

Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya said the plane “slid some 60 metres (200 feet)” after skidding off the runway, and then “fell about 30-40 metres” down a bank.

The accident, which he attributed to bad weather, “could have had more serious consequences”, he said.

NTV showed images of the badly damaged plane and flames inside, which were later put out by firefighters.

After darkness fell, television footage showed dozens of rescue workers in high-visibility jackets surrounding the plane with flashlights.

Some sprayed water jets onto the severed body of the aircraft, while others could be seen climbing up onto the plane to comb through the cabin.

‘Strong landing’

According to NTV, Turhan said the plane broke after a “strong landing” at Sabiha Gokcen, one of two main international airports in Istanbul.

The front of the plane including the cockpit was sliced off from the bulk of the fuselage, and another huge fissure separated the rear of the aircraft including the tail.

Sabiha Gokcen, which lies on the Asian side of Turkey’s commercial hub, was closed and flights were being redirected to Istanbul’s main airport.

There had been very strong winds and rain in the area before the incident and poor weather conditions in Istanbul, particularly in winter, often lead to the cancellation of flights.

The Istanbul public prosecutor has launched an investigation into the incident.

The plane had landed at the airport at 1518 GMT, the private DHA news agency reported.

In January 2018, a Pegasus Boeing 737-800 slid down an embankment at Trabzon airport on the Black Sea, and landed just metres from the water with its wheels stuck in thick mud.

After four days, the plane was eventually lifted back onto the runway with engineers using cranes. All 162 passengers and six crew were safely evacuated.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to make Istanbul the world’s top aviation hub and in 2018 opened a new mega-airport in the city of 15 million people.

Pegasus, which has been flying for 20 years, has a fleet of 83 aircraft, including 47 Boeings and 36 Airbus planes, according to its website.

AFP

Trump Warns Iran Against ‘Massacre’ As Protests Erupt Over Jetliner Downing

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

 

US President Donald Trump said Saturday the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely, warning against any new “massacre” as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane.

Iran said earlier it unintentionally downed a Ukrainian jetliner outside Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile. The firing came shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing American forces.

President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”

At a student protest to pay tribute to the crash victims on Saturday, Iranian authorities briefly detained Britain’s ambassador, in what the British government called a violation of international law. He was later released.

Trump told Iranians — in tweets in both English and Farsi — that he stands by them and is monitoring the demonstrations.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you,” he tweeted.

“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added, apparently referring to an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November.

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he said.

The new demonstrations follow an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November. Amnesty International has said it left more than 300 people dead.

Internet access was reportedly cut off in multiple Iranian provinces ahead of memorials planned a month after the protests.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded that Iran provide “full clarity” on the downing of the plane. Ottawa says the dead included 57 Canadians.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also offered his condolences and ordered the armed forces to address “shortcomings” so that such a disaster does not happen again.

Tehran’s acknowledgment came after officials in Iran denied for days Western claims that the Ukraine International Airlines plane had been struck by a missile in a catastrophic error.

The Kiev-bound jet slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday.

The crash came hours after Tehran launched missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

Fears grew of an all-out war between Iran and its arch-enemy the United States, but those concerns have subsided after Trump said Tehran appeared to be standing down after targeting the US bases.

Protesters ‘dispersed’

On Saturday evening, police dispersed students who had converged on Amir Kabir University in Tehran to pay tribute to the victims, after some among the hundreds gathered shouted “destructive” slogans, Fars news agency said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said UK envoy Rob Macaire had been detained.

“The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Raab said in a statement. The US called on Iran to apologize.

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which is close to the country’s conservatives, said the envoy had been “provoking radical acts” among students. He was released a few hours later and would be summoned again by Iranian officials on Sunday, it said.

State television reported that students shouted “anti-regime” chants, while Fars reported that posters of Soleimani had been torn down.

The aerospace commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accepted full responsibility for Wednesday’s accident.

But Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said the missile operator acted independently, targeting the 737 after mistaking it for a “cruise missile”.

The operator failed to obtain approval from his superiors because of disruptions to a communications system, he said.

“He had 10 seconds to decide. He could have decided to strike or not to strike and under such circumstances, he took the wrong decision.”

Justice, compensation

Iran had been under mounting international pressure to allow a “credible” investigation after video emerged appearing to show the moment the airliner was hit.

In footage that the New York Times said it had verified, a fast-moving object is seen rising into the sky before a bright flash appears. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard.

Iran’s military said it had been at the highest level of alert after American “threats” and that the plane had turned and come close to a “sensitive” military site before it was targeted due to “human error.”

Rouhani said Iran had been on alert for possible US attacks after Soleimani’s “martyrdom.”

Rouhani added he had ordered “all relevant bodies to take all necessary actions (to ensure) compensation” to the families of those killed.

The majority of passengers on Flight PS752 were Iranians and Canadians, including dual nationals, while Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons, and Swedes were also aboard.

Rouhani told his Ukrainian counterpart Saturday that “all the persons involved in this air disaster will be brought to justice,” Ukraine’s presidency said.

This is Iran’s worst civil aviation disaster since 1988 when the US military said it shot down an Iran Airplane over the Gulf by mistake, killing all 290 people on board.

NATO Chief Backs Assessment That Iran Missile Downed Ukrainian Plane

 

 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Friday he had no reason to doubt reports from Western capitals suggesting an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people.

“I will not go into details about our intelligence but what I can say is we have no reason to not believe the reports we have seen from different NATO-allied capitals,” Stoltenberg said.

Canada and Britain have both said Iran shot down the plane outside Tehran, possibly mistakenly.

UK PM Says Information Suggests Ukraine Jet Hit By Iran Missile

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media on November 30, 2019.  SIMON DAWSON / POOL / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that there was now “a body of information” that the Ukrainian Boeing 747 that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people aboard, was brought down by an Iranian missile.

His comments follow a similar message by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“There is now a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian Surface to Air Missile. This may well have been unintentional,” Johnson said in a statement on the air disaster in which four British passengers died.

Johnson reiterated the call for “all sides urgently to de-escalate to reduce tensions in the region.”

The Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737NG went down on Wednesday, shortly after Tehran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“We are working closely with Canada and our international partners and there now needs to be a full, transparent investigation,” into the plane crash, Johnson added.

The British PM also called for “an immediate and respectful repatriation of those who’ve lost their lives to allow their families to grieve properly”.

Iran Civil Aviation Boss ‘Certain’ Ukraine Plane Not Hit By Missile

 

Iran’s civil aviation chief Ali Abedzadeh said Friday he was “certain” a Ukrainian airliner which crashed outside Tehran this week was not hit by a missile.

READ ALSO: US Strike Kills Taliban Splinter Commander In Herat

“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Abedzadeh told a news conference in Tehran after Britain and Canada both said intelligence sources suggested a catastrophic error by Iranian air defence batteries had downed the aircraft.

Iranian Missile Brought Down Airliner, Says Canadian PM

Minister of National Denfence Harjit Sajjan (C) and Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance (R) listen as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) speaks during a news conference on January 9, 2020, in Ottawa, Canada. DAVE CHAN / AFP

 

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday multiple intelligence sources indicate that Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 onboard, including 63 Canadians.

Trudeau’s comments came as video emerged that appeared to show the moment the airliner was hit.

That and other footage posted on social media increasingly pointed to a catastrophic mistake by Tehran’s air defense batteries in bringing down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 early Wednesday.

The video, which The New York Times said it verified, shows a fast-moving object rising at an angle into the sky before a bright flash is seen, which dims and then continues moving forward. Several seconds later an explosion is heard.

Citing information from allies as well as Canada’s own intelligence, Trudeau said the plane appeared to have been hit by an Iranian surface-to-air (SAM) missile.

“We know this may have been unintentional. Canadians have questions, and they deserve answers,” Trudeau told reporters.

He was backed by other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said mounting evidence supported a missile strike, which “may well have been unintentional.”

US President Donald Trump indicated that Washington officials believed the Kiev-bound Boeing 737 was struck by one or more Iranian missiles before it ditched and exploded outside Tehran.

The US National Transportation Safety Board late Thursday said it had received formal notification of the crash from Iran and would send a representative to join the crash probe.

Iran’s foreign ministry earlier invited the US planemaker Boeing to “participate” in the inquiry.

The flight went down in the dark just minutes after takeoff, with no radio message from the pilot to indicate distress, according to the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization.

It was carrying 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons.

With tensions high between the United States and Iran, the disaster unfolded just hours after Tehran launched ballistic missiles towards bases in Iraq housing US troops.

Iran retaliated for the January 3 US drone strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general.

The Iranian government said the missile strike scenario made “no sense,” however, arguing that several internal and international flights had been sharing approximately the same airspace.

Tehran later asked Ottawa to share its information with Iranian investigators.

‘Canadians want answers’

Trudeau said Canada was working with allies to ensure a credible probe.

“The families of the victims want answers, Canadians want answers, I want answers,” he said.

“This government will not rest until we get that.”

Canada’s transportation safety board on Thursday said it had accepted an invitation from Iran’s civil aviation authority to join the inquiry.

Britain’s Johnson called Thursday for a full, transparent investigation.

‘I have my suspicions’

Trump would not directly confirm what US intelligence was saying privately.

“I have my suspicions,” Trump said, adding that “somebody could have made a mistake.”

But unnamed officials told US media that satellite, radar, and electronic data indicated Tehran’s air defense units downed the aircraft.

ABC News reported that an unnamed official said it was “highly likely” the plane was brought down by two SAMs.

Black boxes

Ukraine called for United Nations support for a broad investigation and sent 45 crash investigators to Tehran to take part in the inquiry led by Iranian authorities.

Investigators are pursuing several possibilities, including engine failure, a missile strike or an act of terror.

“If any country has information that can help conduct a transparent and objective investigation into the tragedy, we are ready to receive it and cooperate in further verification,” the Ukraine presidency said in an English-language statement.

Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s civil aviation organization and deputy transport minister, said Iran and Ukraine were “downloading information” from the aircraft’s black boxes retrieved from the crash site.

“But if more specialized work is required to extract and analyze the data, we can do it in France or another country,” he said.

Analysts were examining photographs posted online of the wreckage and a private video apparently taken of the flight when it was struck for evidence that it was downed by a missile.

“I think this has a very good possibility of being accurate,” John Goglia, a former US aviation safety expert on the National Transportation Safety Board, said of the missile theory.

“Airplanes that have just taken off and have made a climb to 8,000 feet, that’s entering the safest period of time in the flight. So even an engine failure at that altitude should not cause the type of event we’ve just observed,” he told AFP.

The Ukrainian airline crash brought back memories of another tragedy, involving a US military error.

In 1988, an Iran Air flight was mistakenly shot down over the Gulf by a surface-to-air missile fired from the US warship USS Vincennes.

All 290 people aboard, most of them Iranians, were killed.