Thursday, April 19, 2012


This is a Blog about our experiences flying the Lake 250 Amphibious Aircraft. The videos are fun to watch although an amateur attempt using the phone! The Blog shows water landings and take offs from lakes and canals, some high speed on water movements and landing at airport too. This is the LINK to the Blog and videos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The earlier blog was published in 2006 and available on this link HEREThis is an updated version of the same.

Airlines make news for all kinds of reasons and lately it is all for all the wrong reasons. Airlines Worldwide are having problems compounded by rising fuel prices. Airlines in India, however, face a multitude of problems starting from the promoters own fault of improper business plans and setting out in a business that has generally a very low tolerance for mistakes of any kind to a regulator who believes in reacting to situations than action to prevent something from happening and the problem carries on to poor planning, high cost of fuel, irrational pricing and as one can see, it starts becoming one long endless list of woes.

Now, coming to the story in India, people who made claims that their Airline will make profits from the first year of starting operations, face heavy losses, if one cares to remember flamboyant Liquor Baron Vijay Mallya’s statements when they first launched their Airline. It’s not good times for them or their competition, even though the Indian market has grown tremendously and is set to grow at a rapid pace further.

I don’t claim that I was the only one who saw it coming when I made those predictions in 2005/06 (and got a lot of flak for it back then), about losses in aviation and the need to merge, consolidate and all that, there were a few others, but industry captains at that time were quite smug in their attitude. Not too many of the so-called experts whose sound bites get recorded from time to time in India predicted a bloodbath in terms of red ink. I did, but got ink thrown at me for being overly negative in outlook. Now fast forward from 2005/06 to 2012 and I am clearly vindicated. I never wished something bad to happen, only saw that the learning curve that the Airlines in India were starting on was something we had all gone through and seen in the West. Now who listens to free advice?

One of these Aviation expert organizations even gave away awards for Airlines as being the best in terms of glitz, glamour, quality of service and so on. Of course surveys were conducted using passenger’s feedback and that too in the era before IndiGo came around and offered on time reliable service. Pamper a guy and he'll love you. Ask him about management of the Airline, ground operations chaos, technical deficiencies and he'll give you a blank look. No wonder die hard Kingfisher fans feel let down by their favourite Airline’s dismal performance. Pampering your customer is good but how about running a profitable company? How about getting an award for being the most profitable or even barely viable Airline of the year? First prize goes to so and so Airline for making ends meet. That would be good. I had said in that 2006 Blog that there would be no Airline in India that can claim this prize at the moment. That was before IndiGo started and now quietly going about their business for expanding their fleet and network across India and a few International sectors.

The Captains of the industry only saw roses or fooled the public into thinking that way and made money out of them. Case in point Jet Airways Initial Public Offering priced at Indian Rupees 1250 (was it) and the share value is now down to less than half the IPO amount. This is what I wrote back in 2006. JetAir stock price today in Feb 2012 is approximately Rs.306!  Even less than I had thought it would sink to from its lofty IPO offering that was lapped up by investors. I was one of the few holding a red flag and no one bothered.

Here is a paragraph I wrote in 206 that still holds good, mostly, even now: “Sure there are genuine problems of tarmac space; congestion in the skies, antiquated air traffic equipment and systems, ill-trained foreign (chaps who can't speak English well enough to be understood by ATC) and Indian pilots (who can't land in Delhi in fog because they are not suitably trained), add the lack of quality middle and upper management and the masala becomes a dangerous mix. Add to this broth, the offering of free seats, deeply discounted cheap tickets, free gifts, low cut blouses and short skirts and you’ve got the public salivating and traveling in larger numbers than ever before. Good for the common man and he should make the most of it while the party lasts”. Cut to 2012 and apparently the party is over for many players! Air Deccan is long gone and so is Air Sahara. The party animal, King of Good times Kingfisher, moves from the edge of the precipice being held back  by a single strand of hair.

I wrote this in 2006: That’s when mergers and consolidations become a necessity, and I still predict some large scale bankruptcies that will leave a lot of employees and others high and dry. People who you see on TV sporting large smiles and making outlandish predictions will get out of the business, surely they are packaging the business to sell- cut to 2012- I said this of Kingfisher Airlines who is now banking on foreign Airlines to come in an pump in fresh equity.

I said in 2005/06: “Airlines in India have already consolidated in one way. They have formed a lobby of sorts. Long term scenario? Let’s see now. I'l close my eyes, pretend I am a soothsayer and predict that a couple of Airlines are going to go down (as in closing down, don’t want to scare the reader), a couple of them being sold off and a few mergers happening. Result will be that the fare paying passenger is going to have to pay more money, that’s for sure. In any case, running an Airline below cost (or any other business for that matter) is not viable. Don't need to be an expert to say this”.

Also in 2006, I wrote: “There’s another curious activity going on these days that’s also making news. Financial companies, investment firms and other corporate types are buying up small equity shares in some of the Airlines. I don’t know why and some seem keen on picking up larger equity. I don’t know who is advising these guys and I’ll bet there is an army of CA’s and MBA’s in ties involved. Oh, I did hear some sound bites from the “experts” about this and they were saying: “these are very positive a signs indeed, signs of maturity, such an investment lends credibility etc etc” and all that hogwash these guys come up with. And they get paid a mint, mind you, to say all this rubbish”. Remember the late 90’s when over a hundred chaps in ties converged on Damania Airways and the Airline was taken over by NEPC Airlines in what was then termed as the “fastest Airline take over in the history of aviation”. Remember that? What the business magazines, newspapers and TV’s forgot to mention later was, that this was also perhaps the “fastest Airline to go down the tubes after the takeover in history”. Leave the suits and ties chaps who came out Biz schools out of this, they don’t understand aviation. You don’t wear a suit and sit in an office and learn about aviation”.

I come back to the present day and can’t help feeling despondent about what I wrote back then 5-6 years ago. I am not happy at being proven right. Anyway, moving forward, here are things that I see currently happening. Indian Government, after a long stupor has decided to favour some players and permit foreign Airlines FDI in Indian aviation. They have also decided to let go of their Oil companies monopoly to help Airlines import fuel directly and avoid paying taxes. Are these moves going to help? I am left wondering about it too. While these are factors that may help bottomlines, I still don’t see anything but an erosion of values in the Industry.

One can throw freebies and incentives one after another to help the sector but fundamental changes need to take places, starting immediately by professionalizing the DGCA into a Civil Aviation Authority. The Airlines have to go back to the drawing board and put a practical business plan together, one that will help them grow and consolidate steadily instead of a mad ego driven rush to topple so and so from the top of the leader board. Pragmatism must set in. A fundamental shift in the sector must take place. Innovation must be a driver in this endeavour. I see some of them doing this, like IndiGo. Rest of them, including state owned Air India is sleep walking as I see it. Unless they re-invent themselves, Airlines like Kingfisher and others will keep afloat only by kicking the can further down the road. And that is never a solution for an Industry with wafer thin margins. Let us hope that the aviation sector in India and elsewhere have Happy Landings in the future, in the near future. We can only hope. 

Friday, January 15, 2010


Seaplanes are sometimes a great necessity in disaster zones, especially those communities that are close to the seashore. Take the unfortunate massive Earth Quake that struck Haiti recently. The amount of aid pouring in, through conventional Aircraft, is huge. But, since the Airport facilities are small, only a certain number of Aircraft can operate in and out at any given time. This is hampering bringing in massive aid that is required urgently. The quake destroyed the control tower also and that compounded issues. The US Air Force has taken over the Airport now I have heard. They know what they are doing. President Obama's immediate actions have helped a lot and it needed someone with his command to get the machinery moving quickly. Can't say the same for his clueless predecessor.

I am happy to report that the Seaplane Pilot Association of the United States has stepped in to help. They are appealing to the Seaplane community to bring in small medical supplies, water purifying tablets and other essential supplies. Seaplanes will be able to land in certain designated sea lanes near the shore and deliver aid to communities that are nearby. This may help mitigate the problem to a certain extent and in any case, be able to distribute aid to far flung places. I commend the Seaplane owners and pilots who are pitching in to help in this time of need in Haiti and that they are volunteering their Aircraft and services for this.

Now, the same solutions can be applied in other areas. Remember the far flung ocean communities that suffered Earth Quakes recently and Tsunami before that in Indonesia? Remember the Cyclone that struck Myanmar and SE Asia? Remember the annual cyclones and tropical storms in Asia and other parts of the World? Coastal communities were worst hit. These are the area, that a seaplane/amphibious Aircraft can operate and hence would be an ideal platform for disaster management agencies to consider. Of course, not all times can seaplanes operate especially is there is a lot of floating debris but the airplanes can be used for dropping supplies and even jettisoning life rafts to those who had been swept out to Sea.

Let's hope Haiti comes out of this trauma although it may take a dozen years for mental scars to heal, what with the tremendous loss of life. Let's support the International Communities efforts to help Haiti. We know this all too well in Asia, this author among those who was in the middle of the Tsunami on Gan Island in the Republic of Maldives at that time.

Monday, September 07, 2009


23 Sept 2009: Charter flight landed in MYQ Airport carrying tourists on the Dasara trail. I hope the service lasts beyond Dasara, and hope that if such is the case, the DGCA will complete its certification works of the Airport and we can look forward to long lasting service. I hope I am not overly optimistic!


I am not sure how long this link to Star of Mysore archives will be available online. In short, it says that Mysore Airport Inauguration has been put off indefinitely. There is going to be nothing happening for a while. There are no flights announced and none planned by any Airline, hence no one interested in opening an empty airport. All we have are false assurances from various authorities and ministers. SOM report claims that all that is false. Saga continues....
Star of Mysore link:



OK, here is a bit of disappointing news, if true. Indian Express online today says that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is not going to visit Mysore and conduct inspection before Dasara. They do not have the time to conduct this detailed and elaborate inspection at this time. The earliest inspection may be done sometime after December.

What does this mean to you and me? Well, nothing much really, no Airline had come forward to operate to and from Mysore to any point anyway. Global Vectra Helicopters had made a statement that they would like to operate a helicopter service. Well, that's going to be too bloody expensive, pardon my French.

Now, to save face, the State Government may still go ahead and inaugurate the Airport. Since it won't mean much, the same can be symbolic. Let us Mysoreans take it on the chin, again. Can they run the Airport without DGCA permissions? Of course they can, like they used to on the grass strip that existed before, minus the Control Tower of course, maybe minus the Meteorological service for the operators (if any operator, that is), minus fueling (that facility isn't even ready), minus fire fighting services (God, I hope not).

Well, here is the silver lining: Sources have been quoted saying that the State can still operate chartered flights "at it's own risk" even if DGCA clearance is not done before Dasara. That's how chartered flights used to fly into Mysore in the past. What a tangled web we weave. This is like someone playing April fools day in September. Fingers crossed and hope to fly!

UPDATED 19 September: No charter flight into MYQ Airport! What happened? Sri Sri Ravishankar arrived by Road to inaugurate Dasara. The Chief Minister arrived by Helicopter and landed at Lalitha Mahal Helipad. No one came in any chartered Kingfisher Aircraft like it had been announced before!

UPDATED on 16 September: Latest report says the Chief Minister and his entourage and Sri Sri Ravishankar and entourage are going to be landing at the new Mysore Airport (MYQ) on the 19th of September in a chartered ATR Aircraft. However, this will be a one off flight and is not the real inauguration of the Airport. The "official" inauguration may be on the 22nd of September when Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel visits Mysore. Don't know how far this is true either. Earlier report spoke of the PM visiting and inaugurating the Airport.

Latest from Mysore's paper says that Kingfisher will fly between Bangalore and Mysore in an ATR 42 (50 seat) between 22nd and 26th of September. Kingfisher will then start weekend services from Mysore to other destination such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Goa! Have they been reading my blog? hehehe...

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I normally don't just sit down and write about something unless I feel really compelled. YSR Rajasekhara Reddy the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh passed away in a Helicopter crash yesterday, the remains were found this afternoon. His passing away compelled me to write this piece. He was going to visit a Village, an unannounced trip till the last minute, because he just wanted to "drop in" and talk to the villagers one on one and understand their problems without having an entourage of interlocutors.

I met YSR this year with respect to some flight operations. He was very personable, likeable, simple and easy to work with. Even though our contact was brief, he easily remembered my name and called me by my first name. From what I know, rural people loved him a lot, he'd remember everyone's names when he went visiting villages. I was struck by his uncanny ability to remember so much with genuine affection. Even I felt that when I was with him briefly. There was no doubt about his sincerity to work for people. I can't say the same for many politicians. To lose someone like him is rather hurting. I had met his wife and family briefly and my condolences goes out to them in their difficult time. I am not forgetting the others on the Helicopter who also perished, previously I had even met the Security officer Wesley, who died in the crash.

I am sorry for this sad post but I guess it reflects how I am feeling today and the anxiety of the previous day when the Helicopter first went missing. I have to ask some plain and simple questions:

1. Why did they dispatch the Helicopter when the weather was known to be bad? I checked on the weather including satellite maps from Singapore and it was evident that the weather was bad. So, don't tell me otherwise. I'd also ask whether these pilots, even though well experienced, done any CFIT training lately? (CFIT = Controlled Flight Into Terrain)...Does the State Government aviation arm have recurrent courses for CFIT?

2. Does the State Government have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in place? Are the Aircraft in it's fleet always dispatched under guidance from their manuals or is it just a fill it-shut it-fly it operation?

3. I know that people around VIP's exert a lot of pressure, I have faced it myself quite badly, where they insist on flying at any cost, even when there was a technical problem. My question to them is: Is it worth it? Laloo Prasad Yadav just came on TV and said that yes they do pressurize the pilots to fly and he wanted the pilots to refuse and walk away. Does that happen in India? Air safety is a concept that has to be ingrained in everyone who is connected with it. Drill it into the bureaucrats and others who surround VIP's and add to the pressure on operators and flight crews.

4. Why did the Emergency Locator Trasmitter (ELT) not work? This is supposed to operate automatically in the event of a crash such as this. The time spent in trying to locate the missing Helicopter was unacceptable, nearly 24 hours to search for the crash of the reasons being an inactive ELT. An ELT is a stand-alone system with a separate power supply. The latest version is the ELT 406 which bounces signals off satellites to pin point the location of a crash. Did this Helicopter have this? If so, why was it not working?

These questions are meant for whoever is in charge, to answer. The DGCA (Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation), god bless them, don't even have an updated web site. They came on air saying that the Helicopter that crashed did have a Certificate of Airworthiness, even though their web site said otherwise. They said that their website had not been updated. Talk about inefficiency and confusion caused.

We have had too many Helicopter and general aviation accidents in India. Check this out (not in any order), GMC Balayogi died in a Helicopter crash (Single engine) in bad weather in 2002 prompting the DGCA to insist that all VIP flights have to be done in Twin Engine Helicopters henceforth. OP Jindal died similarly in a Helicopter crash in 2005. Another Bell 430 (same as the one that YSR passed away) crashed killing the pilots and engineer on board last year (2008), belonging to a private company that charters these machines. Madhav Rao Scindia died in a ratty old King Air in 2001 in very bad weather with two most inexperienced pilots at the controls who also lost their lives. There are many more, I only cited some accidents that had VIP's on board. Makes me general aviation safety audit really done properly in India? How many crashes need to take place before someone does something about fixing general Aviation in India?

Sad day for India and for the families of the deceased and for others who knew the people on this Helicopter and for aviation. The last one can be fixed. Do we have the professionalism in India to fix it?

Monday, August 17, 2009


First it was the Japanese who always went around the World wearing masks and gloves long before this new bug called H1N1 came along. Now, it seems Indians have panicked (thanks to the high decibel, repeated screeching of anchors on news channels there) and loads of them were seen wearing these masks without knowing whether the masks they had on were really going to stop the infection from hitting them or not. I saw "normal" Indians, even couples in downtown Bangalore wearing these funny contraptions. Why funny? Let me tell you why. There were people with kerchiefs tied around their noses, there were those who had these single layer masks and there were those with dupattas around their faces looking like The Taliban had enforced a dress code. Of course there were regular masks all around too.

Went to the Bengaluru International Airport to catch my late night flight back to Singapore. Saw more varieties of masks there, mostly on Indian faces. What bugs me is that the wearers don't even know if they are protected or not. One should check on guidelines and there are sources on the net also, such as the Center for Disease Control, USA that explains what works and what won't help. The masks, the different variety of ones that are available in the market in India, are ineffective in preventing the wearer from contracting the disease. They are only good in the sense that they stop droplets from spreading all around when the wearer coughs or sneezes. So, while it may not protect the wearer, at least the chaps around are safe to a certain extent! The N95 respirator "mask" is the one that is approved by CDC and health officials around the World. Not the mickey mouse contraptions that most of them were wearing. The mask manufacturers are laughing all the way to the Bank as they make a "killing", selling them like hot cakes.

Let me briefly describe some of the masks I saw on many faces at the Airport. There were these green surgical ones you see on TV medical shows and at hospitals. Then there were ones that are labeled "Duck billed" (even on CDC website!), I swear this is the funniest one. Some looked like birds standing around because they were yellow in color (the masks I mean!) There is a definite beak shape, just like on Tweety Bird. I thought that was the funniest until a couple walked by, both of them wearing, what would have come straight from Star Wars. I am not kidding you, they looked like the ones Darth Vader would wear to the beach. These were large, dark, covered a lot of the nose, mouth and cheeks, had round discs jutting out from both sides of the mask like Oxygen regulators and they looked like what some one would wear in a chemical attack. Maybe effective against H1N1 too, no?

On the Aircraft, some of wearers decided to give it a rest and took them off and put them back on whenever they felt like it. Catering arrived and soon all the masks were off to eat and drink! Some people are deluded to think that H1N1 is only floating around when they are wearing these masks. For me, I was just pleased. Firstly because the person next to me sneezed, while wearing the mask and so I did not have to hold my breath till I turned blue in the face...and secondly, these mask wearers were a source of entertainment, just looking at some of them and their behavior with and without the masks made my night!

I have to end this story with something really funny, without disrespect to anyone. Many of you would already know this I think, although it may not be politically correct. Anyway, what I heard in Bangalore was that the sales of padded Bras were going up in the city. Not because more women had come into town all of a sudden leaving their wardrobe behind but because half a padded Bra works wonderfully well as a mask! This it seems, is a fact, and not a joke as it had been mentioned in some media. Thanks to H1N1, Bra manufacturers can also laugh all the way to the Bank! I kid you not.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Use this link to read about the first part of my journey this monsoon season, undertaken by road...Mysore to Goa via Jog Falls. The article on my blog contains anecdotes of my journey, photos and videos especially of Jog Falls. Click on the title above to be redirected to my other blog where this article is published.