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Every major airline except US Airways could be hiring pilots by the end of the year, according to the pilot employment service Air Inc. Twelve of the 14 major airlines hired 366 new pilots in September, according to the Atlanta company, putting the year's hiring total through that month at 2,977 for the majors. That nearly matched 1996's nine-month total of 3,080. National airlines hired 204 pilots in September and a total of 2,297 through the first nine months of the year. Air Inc.


Tower Air plans to enter short-term agreements with two foreign carriers for the lease of seven aircraft from its fleet of 17 Boeing 747s. An unnamed major Asian carrier is expected to lease three aircraft for two months each year for three years for passenger service to the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which next year begins on Mar. 3. An unnamed Middle Eastern carrier plans to lease four Tower 747s for a nine-month period, with the first aircraft scheduled to begin service at the end of this month.


British Airways and Finnair are discussing entering into a long-term alliance to match the strength of Star Alliance partners SAS and Lufthansa in what Finnair CEO Antti Potila calls the ``battle of Scandinavia.'' The move could portend a broader link between the Finnish carrier and BA's prospective partner American Airlines if their alliance is approved. ``Finnair wants to be a member of a global alliance,'' Potila declared earlier this month.


Responding to concerns about English language proficiency standards for air traffic controllers and pilots, a House/Senate Conference Committee has approved a $500,000 addition to the FAA's Fiscal 1998 budget, earmarked for that purpose. The House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee had earlier voted for those funds, encouraging the agency to work with ICAO and the National Transportation Safety Board to develop standardized training and monitoring for English language proficiency around the world (AW&ST Sept 29, p. 46).


Passenger traffic has been increasing steadily at Montreal's Dorval Airport since the Aeroports de Montreal decision, effective Sept. 15, directing international scheduled airline flights to Dorval from Montreal's Mirabel Airport. Swissair reported a 10% increase in Dorval passenger traffic in the first two weeks. The shift of international flights from Mirabel allows passengers coming from domestic and U.S. cities to Dorval to connect directly with Dorval's new international services.


At its recent annual meeting, the European Regions Airline Assn. (ERA) called for member states of Eurocontrol and the Joint Aviation Authorities to give airlines adequate time to modify aircraft to meet new navigation and communications requirements. It said agreed-upon specifications should be implemented and interpreted consistently throughout Europe. ERA members also voiced fears that moves to harmonize flight crew time and duty limitations within Europe may fall victim to social politics.


British Airways, as part of an effort to streamline its engineering department, has agreed to sell its wheel and brake repair and overhaul operations to AlliedSignal Aerospace. The deal, to be concluded by year-end, will include a 10-year contract with AlliedSignal to perform the work on BA aircraft. BA, meanwhile, is on track to open its new 250-million pound ($403-million) cargo center at London Heathrow airport in January. The automated center will allow BA's capacity for freight and mail to double to 800,000 metric tons (88,000 tons) a year.


By shifting most of its flights to Denver, Western Pacific has left Colorado Springs airport's expansion in a state of uncertainty. The airport had experienced extremely rapid growth since Western Pacific brought low fares to southern Colorado, quickly surpassing its design capacity of 1.5 million annual enplanements. The airport had started expanding its terminal and parking facilities to keep up with Westpac's growth plans. The airline's sudden move to Denver has had a significant impact on traffic at its former hub.


Volunteer airline passengers at Albuquerque (N.M.) International Airport are helping evaluate a new explosives detection portal. Being developed by nearby Sandia National Laboratories, the walk-through portal relies on chemical preconcentrator technology to identify individuals who may have handled a wide variety of explosive materials. An air sample--obtained by ``scanning'' passengers with a gentle puff of air--is checked by an ion mobility spectrometer, which identifies the signatures of numerous explosives.


Lufthansa German Airways is close to finalizing a code-sharing agreement with Spanair of Spain, according to Christoph Mueller, Lufthansa vice president for corporate planning and network management. The two carriers began cooperating earlier this year in the area of reservation systems and frequent-flier programs. Spanair is a charter and regional carrier with two Boeing 767-300ERs and 15 MD-82/83s. Revenues in 1996 were 46 billion pesetas ($300 million). Lufthansa has no plans to purchase an interest in Spanair, despite reports to the contrary, Mueller said.


Major U.S. carriers followed United Airlines' lead in cutting the commissions that travel agencies receive for writing tickets. Commission rates for domestic and international ticketing were reduced to 8% from 10%; the maximum commission payment for round-trip domestic tickets remains at $50, while there is no commission cap on international flights. United's initiative was matched by American, Delta, US Airways, Northwest and Continental. Southwest Airlines and Kiwi said they would maintain the 10% commission.


Northwest Airlines concluded an agreement to acquire 50 Airbus A319 aircraft powered by CFM International CFM56-5A engines. The 124-seat aircraft will be delivered at the rate of 10 a year beginning in 1999. Northwest already operates 50 A320s, and will take delivery of an additional 20 next year and in 1999. The new contract, which also contains options for 100 more A319/A320s, firms up a memorandum of understanding signed at the Paris air show in June.


Western Pacific and Frontier airlines have decided to terminate their planned merger, and by Nov. 16 expect to discontinue a code-share agreement. Under a deal announced in June, Westpac would have acquired Frontier and operated a combined fleet of 34 Boeing 737s from Denver by the end of this year (AW&ST July 7, p. 52). Westpac CEO Robert A. Peiser said ``cultural differences and the contrast in our scheduling philosophies'' were largely responsible for the failed merger attempt.


Boeing will modify two 747-200 passenger transports into freighter configuration for Taiwan's China Airlines. Deliveries from Boeing's Wichita, Kan., factory are scheduled for November 1998 and June 1999. The modifications include adding a side cargo door and smoke detection system and installing a stronger floor incorporating a powered cargo handling system. The aircraft also will be certified for increased operating weights. Each 747 will be capable of carrying 120 tons of cargo up to 4,000 mi.


A survey of economic indicators by Airports Council International (ACI) showed that 82% of its members had operating surpluses in 1996 or were at least at the break-even point. The combined operating surplus was $2.5 billion. Geneva-based ACI represents 475 operators that run 1,200 airports in 152 countries and territories. But only a handful--85 representing 246 airports--responded to the survey. Of those, 15 reported operating losses. ACI reported combined data for 222 airports showing gross revenues of $11.4 billion and expenses of $8.9 billion.

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