14 October 2002


Helderberg: Questions remain
Wolfram Zwecker

Johannesburg - Despite several unanswered question surrounding the Helderberg air disaster in 1987 in which 159 people died, cabinet has decided upon recommendation of Transport Minister Dullah Omar not to reopen the investigation into the exact cause of the accident.

The investigation is now regarded as concluded.

Dr David Klatzow, an independent forensic expert and chairperson of the Friends of the Helderberg group that represents the relatives of the victims, was furious about the decision on Friday afternoon.

"I expected it. There is more than enough new evidence to justify a new investigation. We have always been told lies but we will not give up. Bits of information still often surface.

"Our big problem is that we don't have the money to institute civil claims to force an investigation," he said.

The South African Air Force's Boeing 747 Combi crashed into the ocean about 180km northeast of Mauritius on November 27, 1987. The aircraft had been on its way from Taiwan to Johannesburg and was supposed to land in Mauritius.

Rumours of red mercury

The report by Mr Justice Cecil Margo, who investigated the accident, states that a fire had started in the cargo hold, which caused the plane to crash into the sea. The cause of the fire could never be established.

An improved transcript of the cockpit voice recorder was published about two years ago. In the transcript, which contains parts not included in the Margo report, there is a reference to, among others, "Boy George", which led to the suspicion that the plane had been transporting explosives. The transcript followed on reports that so-called red mercury, which was to be used as rocket fuel, had been transported as freight in the plane.

Omar said the probe by John Welsh SC of the office of the public prosecutor did not bring to light any new information to justify a new investigation.

"I submitted the reports by Advocate Welsh to cabinet on Thursday and my recommendation that the investigation not be reopened, was approved. That means that the case is regarded as closed but at the same time any new information brought to my attention will be judged on merit," said Omar.

Source: News 24 (




Sigcau klap glo wag uit haar pad

Die formidabele minister Stella Sigcau laat haar nie sommer keer nie. Toe 'n veiligheidswag op die Durbanse Lughawe haar onlangs by 'n verbode uitgang wou voorkeer, het sy hom glo 'n taai klap gegee.

Die wag het 'n klag van aanranding ingedien, maar is later blykbaar oorreed om die klag terug te trek.

Die veiligheidswag, mnr. Johannes Mtolo, werk vir die veiligheidsmaatskappy Fidelity Springbok Security Services (FSSS) op die Durbanse Lughawe. Hy het Dinsdag 'n verklaring by die polisie afgelÍ oor die voorval op 1 Oktober toe hy na bewering deur Sigcau, minister van openbare werke, geklap is.

Maar Woensdag het Mtolo die klag teen haar teruggetrek - glo onder druk van veiligheidspersoneellede van die Lughawensmaatskappy van Suid-Afrika (Acsa).

Die beweerde onderonsie was nadat die minister voorverlede Dinsdag op vlug 543 van die Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens van Johannesburg af op die Durbanse Lughawe aangekom het. Toe sy in die binnelandse aankomssaal kom, het sy glo 'n familielid buite die saal gesien wat aangestap het na 'n vliegtuig van British Airways op die laaiblad.

Sy wou glo die vrou gaan groet en het omgedraai. By die deur waar sy ingekom het, het Mtolo haar voorgekeer. Luidens 'n verklaring deur Mtolo, waarvan 'n afskrif aan Rapport gegee is, het sy hom uit die pad gestamp. Toe hy haar aan die arm gryp om haar te keer, het sy hom na bewering geklap. Sy was toe reeds buite die gebou.

'n Hewige woordewisseling het ontstaan. Die situasie is eers ontlont toe 'n lid van British Airways en 'n werknemer van Acsa tussenbeide getree het.

Sigcau was glo woedend en het aan Mtolo gesÍ sy wil die volgende dag 'n geskrewe verskoning "op haar tafel in Pretoria hÍ". So nie, sal sy die lewe vir hom "uiters onaangenaam" maak.

Personeellede van Acsa het haar nŠ die voorval na die sitkamer vir baie belangrike persone weggelei waar sy gekalmeer is. Daar is aan haar verduidelik dat sy kragtens die veiligheidsmaatreŽls op lughawens nie weer na die laaigebied kan terugkeer as sy die gebou binnegegaan het nie.

Amptenare van Acsa se veiligheidsafdeling het Mtolo en sy toesighouer Woensdagmiddag ontbied. Hy het kort daarna die klag teen haar teruggetrek.

Mnr. Colin Naidoo, woordvoerder van Acsa op die Durbanse Lughawe, het die afgelope week ontken dat druk op Mtolo uitgeoefen is om die klag te laat vaar.

"Ek weet niks van aantygings van intimidasie nie. Na my wete het hy dit uit eie vrye wil gedoen."

Naidoo sÍ hy weet daar was 'n onderonsie tussen Sigcau en Mtolo. Hy het later op die toneel aangekom en is nie bewus van 'n klap wat uitgedeel is nie.

Sigcau het die afgelope week by monde van mnr. Lucky Muchalibane, haar woordvoerder, die voorval bevestig. "Die minister is jammer daaroor en glo dit was 'n ongelukkige misverstand."

Die minister beskou die voorval as opgelos en vergete en sy wil nou graag voortgaan met haar lewe. Muchalibane sÍ Sigcau vereis ook nie meer 'n geskrewe verskoning van Mtolo nie.

Mtolo kon nie vir kommentaar bereik word nie omdat hy volgens FSSS 'n kursus bywoon.

Source: News 24 / Rapport (




Omar rules out new Helderberg inquiry
By Leon Engelbrecht

An exhaustive search for new evidence produced no new information about the 1987 Helderberg aircrash disaster, said Transport Minister Dullah Omar on Friday.

Consequently, he had decided not to re-open the investigation into the crash of SA Airways Flight SA295 into the ocean off Mauritius on November 28 of that year.

All 159 people on board the Boeing 747 died.

According to an official investigation into the crash, which still stands, the aircraft fell into the sea after a fire on board.

The cause of the fire was never established.

"In the light of all the information, I come to the conclusion that to set up another commission of inquiry will be entirely futile in that there is no evidence, which can be placed before such an inquiry, which will throw a different light on the Helderberg disaster," said Omar.

An initial commission of inquiry, led by the late Judge Cecil Margo, into the disaster found that no-one was to blame, but in 1998 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was told that Armscor's apartheid-era arms procurement was to blame.

This and a slew of other allegations prompted the government to consider appointing a second commission of inquiry into the matter.

Speaking on the sidelines of an imbizo at Kagiso on the West Rand, Omar said the search, led by the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Civil Aviation Authority had produced no new evidence to put before such a commission Ė just unsubstantiated rumour.

Omar said team leader, Advocate John Welch, had tendered him three reports on his enquiries, the latest dated September 20.

This report, as well as those of May 21, 2001 and October 8, 2001, were placed before Cabinet this week.

Cabinet endorsed his view that there existed no reason to re-open the investigation at this time.

"However, cabinet has instructed me to monitor the situation. There will always be an opportunity to reconsider the decision despite the closure for now," said Omar.

"I fully appreciate the trauma of relatives of the victims and once again convey condolences to them.

"I know that the families want closure but above all they want to know the truth. Whilst therefore, the matter is closed for the present from the point of view of government, I will continue to monitor the situation and should any new evidence become available, I will assess it," said Omar.

The reports, Omar said, were on Friday morning posted on his department's website,, for public view. - Sapa

Source: Independent Online (





The City of Cape Town has received a proposal to develop a Mediterranean village on the Green Point Common where the centrepiece would be a massive helium balloon designed to lift visitors 150m into the air for a panoramic view of the city.

The balloon would be registered as an aircraft and would fall under the regulation of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The company proposing the balloon would charge around R40 a person for a "lift", but would make most of its money from selling advertising space.

Local residents' associations are against the proposal and say they will fight it.

The balloon venture forms part of the city council's new Green Point Common Action Plan which includes:

On the common's bowling green site, building two office blocks, a retirement complex and a four- or five-storey shopping centre.

Developing Hamiltons Rugby Club into a sports academy.
Developing the Green Point track precinct for shops, offices, a hotel and parking.
Building a parking facility between the Western Boulevard and the Main Road.
Fencing the sports fields and establishing a management plan for the sports clubs.
Leasing the Green Point Stadium to an independent sports operator to manage.
The construction of an R11-million road, Granger Boulevard, between Beach Road and Western Boulevard.

All the proposals are on land zoned as public open space.

The new action plan is described as a medium-term guide to implementing the Green Point Common Development Framework which the council approved in 1988.

Since then there has been no funding to put the framework into action.

Last year councillor J P Smith, who was concerned about the "social and physical deterioration" of the common, appointed a team to develop the action plan.

Smith said on Wednesday these were still proposals and no development applications had been lodged with the council.

He said the proponent of the balloon project had shown officials a video of similar balloons in operation in other cities.

"It is noiseless and meets all the safety requirements. It will have to get a certificate as an aircraft from the Civil Aviation Authority. It will be prominent and visible for quite a distance.

"Some residents quite possibly would not be happy with it, but the reason I would consider it, is it would generate significant revenue.

"It comes with a 7 000sq m Mediterranean village. If you look at the common now, the sports clubs are no longer generating revenue to keep them going.

"We're trying to get revenue to feed back into the common and restore it to the recreational pearl it once was."

The city's outdoor advertising bylaw restricts aerial advertising to 45m. The bylaw would have to be amended to allow advertising on the balloon.

Bronnie Harding, chairman of the Mouille Point Residents' Association, said on Wednesday the common was not the place to anchor a massive balloon.

"We are opposed to it. It (would be) so high people would be able to look right into properties," Harding said.

Brian Berkman, spokesperson for the Sea Point, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Residents' Association, said the association was opposed to the commercial development of the common.

"We believe in using the common for the common good and will insist that the rights of residents and ratepayers are enforced," he said.

Grace Pick, chairman of the association, said they were extremely concerned that parts of the common were being eyed by developers.

She said residents had not been informed of the proposal to develop the bowling green sites.

Green Point has been commonage for centuries.

In 1923 it was given by King George V to the then-Cape Town City Council as "vested land to be retained as commonage, used for general public recreational purposes and sports usages"

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





The realisation of one man's dream, to build and fly his own aircraft around the world, appears to be gathering momentum and nearing completion.

Project Dreamwings is the brainchild of Arthur Piercy, (42), who is in the final stages of building one of only two Seawind amphibian aircraft in South Africa, which he hopes will carry him on a circumnavigation of the globe in 2003.

The idea sparked in 1989, when Piercy was a serving officer in the South African Air Force. After his Mirage fighter plane had been hit by a missile during a mission over Angola in 1987, he had been severely injured in the subsequent forced landing at high speed.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





Four people, including two children, miraculously escaped injury when a light plane crashed into a pick-up truck on the N12 about 10km outside Kimberley.

The two children, aged 10 and 12, were standing at the back of the pick-up, which their father was driving, when the Mooney M20 Executive crashed into the truck's railing on Tuesday.

Northern Cape civil aviation officials are investigating the cause of the accident.

The plane's engine failed only minutes after it took off from Kimberley Airport.

The pilot, Allen Roebuck, said that while he had survived the collision without any serious injury, his plane was damaged.

He added that once the engine failed, the only thing he could do was find a place to land as fast as possible.

"I had to look for a place to land quickly, and the only place I could do that was on the road. I tried to look for a safe place, but there were vehicles coming from both directions.

"There was nothing I could do, and the driver of the pick-up could not see me because I was behind him.

"I tried to slow down but the wing of the plane crashed into the truck."

The driver of the vehicle, Pierre de Smidt, said he did not even hear the plane, and became aware of it only when his children ducked for cover and the plane crashed into the truck.

"It's not every day that you expect a plane to crash into you. If it was not for the railing on my pick-up, my children would have flown out of the vehicle," De Smidt said.

The plane was loaded on a truck and taken to the airport, where it is to be repaired.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





Ghanaian-born Sam Ofori, president of Afrinat International Airlines, has said that the proximity of Banjul to the United States of America and Europe gave him sufficient motivation to use Banjul as the headquarters of Afrinat International Airlines.

Mr Ofori who has chosen to register the airline in The Gambia said: "I am an African and a businessman. The Gambia is very ideal and has the right environment for investment and the business climate - the peace, stability, the government guarantees and the proximity of this country to the USA and Europe gave me sufficient motivation to use Banjul as the headquarters of Afrinat International Airlines." He added that they were going to open up the Trans- Atlantic route by having scheduled flight to the USA and eventually to Europe, adding that the schedule would cover Freetown, Abidjan, Douala, Conakry and Bamako via Banjul/JFK.

"I am not in competition with any other airline as there is enough room for everyone. One target is to embark on a new generation approach and change the face of Africa in air travel by providing an efficient service that will put the dignity of the passenger first and above everything else. We are also determined to make the prices very affordable especially to this part of Africa," he said.

The president noted that one can travel JFK-London- JFK for about $300 and to other destinations such as China for $700 and St Petersbourgh for about $800.

He further revealed that Afrinat would maintain very high standards and would recruit local staff who would undergo high professional training for eventual take-over of key areas of the airline.

"Plans were well advanced to set up a Board of Directors and the company will be run like a US company and shares will be sold to the public across the national spectrum. It is my passion to maintain high standards and to restore dignity in the African Travel Market and above all, the airline will ensure that The Gambia benefits financially from our operation," he said.

At the moment, he added, plans were well advanced for the inaugural flight to take off from JFK and land in Banjul at the end of October, 2002.

Mr Ofori said The Gambia was a gateway and for Afrinat, Banjul has been designated as the commercial capital of West Africa.

In the establishment of the Banjul headquarters, he explained that a liaison office was established under the efficient care and supervision of Madame Fatou Joko Bojang, who he described as "Lady Afrinat".

He said when the flight starts operation, Mrs Bojang would become Afrinat's supervisor in West Africa in charge of their various destinations on the continent.

In our meeting with President Jammeh, he said, the president gave them a lot of encouragement and intelligent advice, principally to operate an efficient service and treat their passengers with respect and dignity.

Mr Ofori said the Gambian authorities had been very positive and supportive.

"The delay for the inaugural flight has nothing to do with the Gambian side of things, but very soon the teething problems will be resolved because Afrinat is here to stay. In addition to our commercial operation, Afrinat will market and project the image of The Gambia to levels that no other private institution has done," he said.

Mr Ofori expressed thanks to Essa Bocarr Sey, Gambia's ambassador to the US and pay a special tribute to President Jammeh, whom he described as a great pan-Africanist who "is very receptive to the concept that we stand for".

Madame Fatou Joko Bojang expressed her confidence in the capacity and ability of Afrinat to provide an efficient, affordable and dignified service. She thanked the government for all the support.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





The only surviving crew member of the May 4 Executive Airline Services (EAS) plane crash in Kano, which claimed about 100 lives, Miss Naomi Ukpong, was yesterday flown to Cologne, Germany for treatment. She had sustained multiple injuries in the air mishap and had been admitted at the Dala Orthopaedic Hospital since.

Having been under the hospital's care in the past five months without much improvement, EAS through its insurers, decided to fly her out for better treatment in Germany.

THISDAY could not however ascertain the specific hospital in Cologne where Miss Ukpong was being taken to but she was flown into the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport via an IRS Airlines aircraft in crutches as her two legs reportedly suffered severe injury during the air mishap.

On arrival at the airport, anxious family members, her colleagues, well wishers and staff of EAS were on hand to welcome her and bid her farewell to Germany for treatment.

Shortly after she disembarked from the plane, an ambulance brought her from the tarmac and stopped in front of the EAS Airlines' office at the General Aviation terminal(GAT) right in front of the domestic wing of the airport.

On sighting her, those present burst into praises and thanksgiving for her miraculous survival in the crash.

She however declined comments when prodded by journalists but referred them to the airline's Chief Pilot, Capt. Yakubu Okahatai, who disclosed that she was being flown to Cologne.

President of the Cabin Crew Attendants Association, Mr. Kunle Martins, who spoke to journalists, thanked the management of EAS for showing concern to Miss Ukpong since the crash.

A doctor from the Dala Orthopaedic Hospital, Dr. Nurudeen Isah who aslo spoke, stated that the hospital tried its best to treat Naomi but noted that she had to be transfered to Cologne for better treatment.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





Building and landed property of the National carrier--Nigeria Airways within the country and the West Coast of Africa have been valued at N13. 2 billion even as about 48 of such properties are occupied by Federal Government agencies, including the military while an asset is said be confiscated by Sierra Leonean authorities.

Testifying at the public hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation and Privatisation on the joint venture between Nigeria Airways and Airwing Aerospace Limited(AAL),

The Principal Partner of Knight Frank, Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Mr. John Oghenekpobor said his firm was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Aviation to value the assets of the national carrier on August 6, 2002.

He stated that the assets valued were only building and landed property scatterd in Nigeria, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal as well as a property in Rome, Italy.

Oghenekpobor disclosed that after the evaluation which lasted five weeks, the value of the property was put at N13.2 billion and N1.2bn Lira for the one in Rome.

He however disclosed that equipment and fittings as well as the value of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement routes(BASA) were not covered by the valuation while the title documents of the said property are in possession of Nigeria Airways.

He noted that he had the privilege of valuing the assets of Nigeria Airways in England about 17years ago, adding that the recent exercise was more comprehensive even as he stated that the report of the valuation has been submitted to the Aviation Ministry.

Also testifying before the House committee, a representative of AAL and the Vice Chairman of the Interim Board of Air Nigeria, Mr. Prem Sawney noted that cognisance was not taken by those who lay so much claim about the vast assets of the national carrier that many of its buildings have been appropriated by government agencies, including the military.

For instance, he stated that no fewer than 48 property of Nigeria Airways within Nigeria are presently occupied by various government agencies while the government of Sierra Leone had also confiscated one in Freetown.

When viewed against this backdrop,Sawney argued that it was unfair for critics of the joint venture to have an overbloated impression of the assets of Nigeria Airways vis-a-vis the joint venture.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





SN Brussels Airlines has surpassed its passenger number projections on the Entebbe-Brussels route barely five months after the Belgian airline launched flights to Entebbe.

This was revealed by Peter Davies, the airlines' CEO at a media conference held at Sheraton Hotel Kampala Oct. 3.

"Our projection for April to September was 11,000 passengers but as at Sept. 30, 12,500 passengers had flown our airline on this route", said Davies.

He also said he was in the country to thank the government and the Civil Aviation Agency for its quick response in granting the airline rights to ply the Entebbe-Brussels route. "We believe in building and strengthening relationships with the governments of the countries in which we operate. We appreciate the investor friendly environment in Uganda in comparison to other African countries".

He also revealed the airlines' number one priority was passenger safety and prompt arrival to their destinations. "We listen to our passengers and most want more connectivity. We have commercial agreements with British Airways, American Airlines and Continental Airlines. To ensure that our passengers fly in comfort, we are using the Airbus 330-300 for all flights to Africa".

At a cocktail reception held later that evening, Michael Werikhe, the Minister of State for Communication said that the removal of monopolies on routes and restrictions on frequency and capacity was in line with government's liberalisation policy.

SN Brussels' inaugural flight into Africa was to Entebbe on April 26, 2002. The airline operates four flights weekly out of Entebbe every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





IN SPITE of American Airlines losing out to Delta Airlines when SA Airways (SAA) formed a partnership agreement with Delta in 1999, American Airlines still managed to capture 70% of passengers flying to the US from SA.

This was despite American Airlines not having direct flights between the US and SA.

American Airlines SA MD Mike Tyler said the group captured this market by offering travellers a number of stopovers in Europe and the US when flying to the US.

Tyler said it did not matter what carrier a traveller took to Europe, but once they embarked for the US they would fly American Airlines.

Tyler said the decision to offer this package was taken after speaking to players in the market. The feedback showed there was demand for a more flexible product.

On whether his airline was open to partnering with SAA again, Tyler said the door was open. Delta took over from American Airlines when SAA was under the leadership of Coleman Andrews.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





ZIMBABWE's newest airline, MID Airlines has began flying to Johannesburg, South Africa.

The airline only launched its inaugural flight to Lusaka, Zambia, last month.

An official from the airline said they were flying a 76 seater plane to South Africa.

"Our launch went on well and we are flying a 76 seater plane to Johannesburg.

"From October 16, we will be flying to Johannesburg on a daily basis," the official said.

She added that the Lusaka flight was a success as there were getting a substantial number of passengers on their flights.

The airline failed to launch its inaugural flight last year after it emerged that the planes it was supposed to use were also leased to another airline whose contract had not expired.

Mid Airlines is the second privately owned airline, after Air Zambezi, to operate in the country.

Before the coming in of the private airlines, the industry was dominated by Air Zimbabwe whose monopoly was only broken by the now defunct Zimbabwe Express Airlines in the 1990s.

It is hoped that the increase in the number of airlines operating in the country would help to revive the tourism sector.

Analysts say that an increase in the number of planes in the skies would help to show that the country is a safe destination and would also make the tourism products in the country more attractive.

The tourism industry suffered a knock when some international airlines pulled out of the country for political reasons, thus the availability of local and reliable airlines is expected to prop up the activities in the tourism and travel business.

Airlines all over the world are facing a number of challenges following the September 11 attacks in the United States of America last year.

In Zimbabwe the tourism industry is showing signs of recovery and the coming in of the airlines is also expected to speed up the recovery process.

The privately owned airlines are expected to provide an efficient transport network during the December 4 solar eclipse and the Miss Malaika scheduled for December 7 this year.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





SA AIRWAYS (SAA) concluded a 20m bid to acquire a 49% stake in Tanzania's state-owned airline, Air Tanzania, SAA said yesterday.

The move is the first acquisition by SAA of a stake in a foreign carrier, and marks a milestone in the airline's strategy of expanding its network in Africa through regional hubs in the eastern, western and southern parts of Africa.

The deal forms part of Tanzania's privatisation programme, and has yet to be approved by the Tanzanian government, according to SAA. Approval was expected by the end of the month, SAA spokesman Rich Mkhondo said.

SAA was chosen by the Tanzanian Parastatal Sector Reform Commission as the winning bidder ahead of Kenya Airways and Emirates. The remainder of the shareholding in Air Tanzania was likely to be acquired by a Tanzanian organisation, which would be called on to partner SAA.

SAA regarded the $20m price tag as reasonable and affordable, Mkhondo said.

The Tanzanian carrier is understood not to be financially healthy. However, Mkhondo said SAA believed there was potential for growth by SAA and its new partner in the region. Air Tanzania had little in the way of assets, so SAA would mainly acquire the East African airline's flying rights.

Mkhondo said the acquisition would fit well with SAA's medium to long-term strategy to develop three main hubs in the east, west and south of Africa. Mkhondo declined to comment on where the next focus would be.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





Uganda and Nigeria yesterday signed a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) that paves way for direct air links between the two countries in 60 days.

Uganda's minister of state for transport, Michael Werikhe, and Nigerian minister for aviation, Dr. Kema Chikwe, signed the agreement at State House, Nakasero, in the presence of presidents Yoweri Museveni and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.

At a joint press conference, Museveni said he was optimistic the deal would materialise.

"The problem was that in the past we depended on government to do business but now we are facilitating private enterprises which are interested in making profit. Once you bring in businessmen, they will push the deal," he said.

Captain Joe Roy, chairman of AfricaOne Group of Companies, which is to operate the air link, was present.

Obasanjo returned home yesterday.

Answering questions from the press, Obasanjo said he believed Amina Lawal, the woman a Sharia court condemned to death for adultery, would not be stoned.

"So far nobody in the history of Nigeria has been stoned to death and I would want to believe that nobody will be stoned to death," he said.

He said under the federal system in Nigeria, states are semi-autonomous and make their own laws but the federal legal and judicial system provides for appeal against a state law.

He said ECOWAS (economic Commission for west African States) condemns actions of the rebels in Ivory Coast and supports the legitimate government of President Laurent Gbagbo. He said when peaceful means to end the rebellion fail, ECOWAS could resort to military force.

He said there was no ceasefire in Ivory Coast yet but added that West African leaders would not give up. He said the rebels should lay down their arms.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (





AIR Zimbabwe management has resolved to fire at least 100 engineers who last month went on strike pressing for a substantial salary increment.

The airline yesterday sent letters to the striking engineers inviting them to come for a hearing as part of the procedure to fire them.

Air Zimbabwe spokesman Mr David Mwenga confirmed that the airline had sent letters to the engineers but refused to divulge the contents.

He said following the prolonged industrial action by the 178 engineers, management and the Government saw it necessary to come up with a solution to finalise the matter.

"Management has to ensure that smooth operations continue without any unnecessary wrangles with any department", Mr Mwenga said.

But sources at the airline said the letters were the beginning of the procedure to fire the engineers who failed to respond to calls to report back for work.

The engineers, who have defied a Government order to resume work, went on strike demanding salaries ranging from $200 000 to $400 000.

Air Zimbabwe management, however, said that the figures demanded by the engineers would paralyse the airline and impact negatively on workers from other departments whose salaries were increased by 15 percent.

Only seven engineers took the Government's order seriously and returned to work in the last two weeks. They have been joined by 31 engineers who have recently been recruited.

Mr Mwenga said the airline, for the past four years, had been committed to the training of engineers.

"We have not been recruiting for the last four years and we feel it is high time we give those engineers a chance to work on a full time basis." He said the airline was left with no other option but to make such an undertaking after the engineers failed to return to work.

The airline's management and the striking engineers reached a deadlock even after a 500 percent increment in their allowances was awarded.

The secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Association, Mr Robert Basvi said nothing had materialised following the management's failure to come up with a solution to address their grievances.

"Management showed no interest to dialogue with us and it is apparent that the airline is being run by people with a little understanding about the aviation industry," Mr Basvi said.

He said the airline management had exploited them for many years and refused to accept that the engineers played a pivotal role in the industry.

"As professionals we deserve a little more than just allowances. We are aware that the airline is now sending aircraft for inspection and paying thousands of dollars in foreign currency when they are saying they have no money to pay us," Mr Basvi said. He claimed that this week, the airline will send a 767ZW aircraft to Ethiopia for inspection for US$ 200 000.

"They would rather pay an Ethiopian engineer the money we are asking them to pay us," Mr Basvi said.

Mr Mwenga last night confirmed the airline had sent two aircraft for 'A' checks to South Africa.

He said the management was still to make a decision on sending others to Ethiopia for 'C' checks where it is cheaper than having them checked in the country.

"The reason why we might consider sending them to Ethiopia for 'C' checks is that the exercise requires a lot of engineers to work on a single aircraft and at the moment we have not enough engineers. We have to ensure that our aircraft are in their best condition," Mr Mwenga said.

Source: Fly South Aviation News (




Cessna Warns Against Alcohol Fuels...

While Cessna once promoted the use of alcohol-based fuels, its enthusiasm for the products is apparently limited. The manufacturer recently issued a Service Bulletin warning owners of many of its aircraft models to not use ethanol-based alternative fuels amid concerns of a relative increase in fuel flow when compared to 100LL fuel, non-compatibility with some fuel-system components, and erroneous fuel-quantity indications. The bulletin, dated October 2, 2002, warns Cessna distributors, single-engine service stations and owners of some models, including the 152, 172, 180 and 182, that ethanol-based fuel is not approved for use in Cessna airplanes. The fuel, AGE-85 -- 85 percent of which is ethanol -- was developed as an alternative to 100LL amidst growing concerns that the low-lead product would be removed from the market over the next few years.

...While Brazil Embraces The Concept

While talks worldwide continue on the replacement for avgas, some ingenious engineers down in Brazil have come up with their own solution. Amidst some hoopla, Embraer -- the Latin American commercial and military aircraft manufacturer -- debuted its Ipanema aircraft last Thursday. This crop-duster is designed to guzzle alcohol distilled from sugar cane as its main diet. Neiva -- a subsidiary of Embraer and the marketing and production arm for this project -- claims that the Ipanema alcohol-powered airplane promises to reduce cost-conscious farmers' fuel outlays by two-thirds a year. The aircraft's gasoline-powered version is already a familiar sight in Brazil, where it has been sold for over 30 years and has captured 85 percent of the country's agricultural fleet.

Source: AVweb Ė the internetís aviation magazine and news service  (




Honda Gets Airborne

It seems that Japanese auto manufacturers are increasingly showing an interest in the aircraft manufacturing industry. AVweb has reported on Toyota's potential outreach (scroll down) into the GA market. Now, it seems that Honda may be throwing its hat into the ring as well. The manufacturer -- known for its auto and motorcycle lines -- said on Friday a small prototype jet plane would make a test flight for the first time next year. However, a company spokeswoman was quick to point out that this is part of a wide range of experiments. "We may consider selling our plane if there is any order, but we do not have any plans to make an entry to the jet plane market at the moment," Kumiko Hashimoto told Reuters. Somehow we doubt they're just spending the money for fun. Scheduled to fly somewhere in North Carolina, the prototype plane will have fewer than ten seats and use carbon fiber in some parts of the body to reduce weight. Aside from the fuselage, Honda reportedly designed and built the engine as well.

Source: AVweb Ė the internetís aviation magazine and news service  (