The Bahrain International Airshows second edition goes underway today and has according to local media reports been sold out for the 50.000+ spectator capacity set aside every day.
Running over three days the worlds leading aircraft manufacturers and suppliers or aviation equipment are showcasing their latest and newest, with amongst others Airbus showing off the A380 and Bombardier having put together a display of their new C-series.
All 40 corporate chalets were sold out months ago it was learned giving rise to expectations that the third edition of this annual calendar opening air show will be yet larger come 2014.
Information provided by the media centre to registered journalists, over 300 from around the world are in Bahrain for the event, also confirms that 69 aircraft will be on display in the trade only area while the public will have access to still 15 more of them, close up and personal.
The show has gained added significance this year, considering the tension Iran has been fueling in recent weeks and months, in as far as the static and aerial displays of military aircraft and related hardware is concerned, with trade missions expected from several countries in the region and beyond. 18 countries are confirmed to participate in the event, again a significantly larger number than in 2010. This is also belying detractors who had predicted a flop for BIAS 2012 in view of the political events of last year and attempts by what appears to be a small minority of foreign sponsored trouble makers with last ditch but feeble efforts to protest as the global media focus on the Kingdom ahead of and during BIAS 2012.
Air acrobatics, THE thrill for the crowds on the ground, will be performed by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, the French Air Force, the Russian Air Force and the UKs Red Devils, while those with more hands on experience in aviation will have the opportunity to get into a flight simulator, including one put up for the Hornet F18.
Over the next two days stand by for a full update every evening, pictures and sound bites and all. And this may also be the right moment to thank Gulf Air for their kind invitation to cover the event and learn more about the vision of GFs new Chief Executive Officer, whom I will meet later today for a chat. As the saying goes, watch this space!
Archive for January 19th, 2012
The often said words, Small is Beautiful gained a new meaning for me as I headed to Bahrain on Gulf Air, ahead of the Bahrain International Air Show 2012 I was going to attend. Cruising at 39.000 feet above sea level on board a Gulf Air A319, I found myself alone in the business class cabin and the centre of attention of the crew. On boarding, escorted from the lounge in Entebbe to the open door of the aircraft by one of Gulf Airs ground handling staff, I was greeted by name by the airlines station manager and the cabin services manager, which left a cryptic smile on my face, considering the words charm offensive I had used in several articles written after the inaugural flight. If this was part of it, for sure it worked and put me in the mood for the 4.45 hrs flight from Entebbe to Bahrain. I had last travelled on Gulf Air just before they left the Entebbe route, and when they were code sharing with Uganda Airlines, itself already in winding up mode. That flight was packed, my ID ticket ended me with a downgrade to economy class as the front cabin was full and I was in the end happy to be home again in Uganda, not looking back.
What a difference this flight was, and not because I had the front cabin to myself I sneaked back to economy to see the service there and must say that inspite of the ghastly hour, the flight left Entebbe at 03.20 hrs local time, the crew was cheerful, attentive and the passengers seemed happy, most of them having an empty seat besides them as the load was only in the 60 percent region.
I asked one Musoke, other names withheld on his request when he figured that I was going to use his name, why he had opted to travel with Gulf Air, and he did say that he got a good deal for his trip, better than on Emirates, leave alone British Airways or some of the other carriers and wanted to try some other airline to compare service and punctuality. Well, later on, as we walked off the aircraft in the morning after landing in Bahrain, he was convinced he had made the right choice, having had a row of 3 seats for himself for the night flight and gotten a hot breakfast once cruising altitude had been reached, with TWO choices of the main dish he did not fail to point out, having apparently settled for the foul medames, an Arabic cooked morning dish. I in fact had settle for the same dish when having my breakfast before landing, well presented and tasty indeed, with the traditional flat bread, preceded by some warm croissants into which the butter just melted ever so nicely.
Meanwhile though did the words of Gulf Airs Chief Services Officer Marcus Bernhardt at the airlines launch on the 05th December last year at the Kampala Serena Conference Centre came back to me, when he mentioned the Small is Beautiful as almost a corporate philosophy, making it quite clear to the audience that it was not the size of the airline which mattered but what service and product the airline actually offered, and consistently offered for that matter.
Gulf Air, today, is clearly one of the smaller airlines with a home base in the Gulf, but nevertheless covers the entire region like no other, a testament to the legacy of the early years when the airline was owned by several countries and was THE pan Gulf carrier. Others countries own development strategies, varying visions and perhaps even national pride, especially after Emirates was launched and turned into a success story, led to gradually one shareholding nation after the other to go their own way, reducing Gulf Air to become the sole national airline of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Smaller, but equally determined to grow and spread their wings, with a new CEO and a new vision of how to achieve that, GF has served notice of intent to their rivals, that the airline is here to stay and then some more. The introduction of a Sous Chef on board, not just on long haul flights but as seen now on the medium distance flight from Entebbe to Bahrain too, is one such service element bound to attract added traffic, and I for one liked having the opportunity to discuss menus and ingredients of Arabic cuisine with my chef on board.
Media trips of course almost always contain an element of show boating and red carpet treatment, but on the flight I had the distinct feeling, besides the initial greeting initiated surely by the station manager, that the crew was giving their best as a matter of cause, with the added advantage of being alone, a shame really considering the comfort of the extra wide seats and the deals apparently available for Ugandans wanting to try out flying upfront without spending their entire shopping budget before even reaching their destination, be it across the Gulf region or beyond to Europe or Asia, with emphasis on the Indian subcontinent.
My journey ended in Bahrain to cover the first major air show of 2012, the Bahrain International Air Show, where Gulf Air also serves as Official Carrier and major corporate sponsor of the event. And of course, Gulf Air is also the official carrier for the Bahrain F1 race, and it was a most pleasant surprise to see this bird on arrival, an A330 painted in the F1 colours flying the message across the Gulf Air network that in 2012 it is back to business as usual.
(A Gulf Air Airbus A330 painted in the colours of F1, docked at the terminal of Bahrains international airport)
In coming days my reporting from Bahrain will mainly focus on the events at the Bahrain International Air Show 2012 but I intend to do some sightseeing too and incorporate such elements too. To start with, while I do see similarities with say Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, Bahrain on first impression appears more intimate, more personal, a work still in the making and traffic for one is easy flowing, compared with rush hour Dubai in downtown areas or across the bridges or along the highway to Sharjah.
Parallels I can see, but also uniquely different features, more of the old and ancient, more of the history which made the Gulf and made Bahrain. Watch this space!
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES DENOUNCE LEBANESE CRASH REPORT
Following the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines B737-800 shortly after taking off from Beirut on 25th January 2010 was the accident investigation report finally published, but not without further controversy, which has apparently marked the entire period of the enquiry. Ethiopian sources from Addis Ababa had, on repeated questions as to the time elapsed since the crash and the silence of the Lebanese authorities hinted, that not all was well and that the trend of the investigation by the Lebanese was not corresponding with the Ethiopians own interpretation of available facts and eye witness statements available.
With the report now formally out, the Lebanese Civil Aviation has seemingly put the blame squarely on the pilots of the stricken flight, something the Ethiopian Civil Aviation body has rejected and attached their own dissenting statement to the final report, as is their right to do.
It is understood that further investigations outside the formal enquiry which is now concluded, are continuing to establish the true cause of the crash, focusing on eye witness reports of the plane being engulfed in a ball of fire while still in the skies, before crashing.
Speculation is therefore only freshly fueled now by the formal report, and the dissenting insert being published and it is hoped that at one time in the future the truth will finally come out.
Ethiopian Airlines safety record has otherwise been rated as very good and their own MRO in Addis Ababa is considered one of the leading repair and maintenance facilities in Africa as well as globally, while their training standards meet all the requirements of global aviation bodies. Watch this space.
Blue Panorama gives ‘Valentine Gift’ to the Italian market, announcing nonstop flights to Seychelles as of 14th February
VALENTINES GIFT FOR ITALIAN SEYCHELLES FANS
Italians will be able to take their Valentine to the Seychelles on a new nonstop service when it was confirmed overnight that Italys Blue Panorama Airline will commence operations from Milan via Rome to Mahe on the 14th of February this year, following an agreement between the two countries over traffic rights. The initial single weekly frequency will be doubled to two flights a week from July onwards.
(STBs Alain St. Ange seen here with the Blue Panorama top management breaking the news)
The announcement comes hot on the heels of the Seychelles hospitality and tourism sector voicing their concerns over the impact of the sudden withdrawal of Air Seychelles flights from Milan and Rome, which left the important Italian market suddenly struggling for seats and with no more nonstop flights. Air Seychelles itself is in the final stage of concluding an extensive codesharing arrangement with Abu Dhabis Etihad, which will see the former destinations of London, Paris, Milan and Rome in particular seeing an HM flight number return, while more destinations across Etihads European network are also thought to be included in the deal to more extensively market the Seychelles. Seychelles Tourism Boards CEO Alain St. Ange was quoted to have said: The Hotels and Resorts in Seychelles are today offering rates that reflect an across the board range making Seychelles more accessible than ever before. The addition by the Blue Panorama Airline, an Italian Company on the Seychelles run, brings a new dimension of accessibility as they will provide new flight options from Italy to the mid ocean tropical islands over and above the twelve weekly flights by Emirates, seven by Qatar and four by Etihad.