Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tanker-Transport Acquisition Up In The Air

The air force and Airbus have had trouble finding used planes for conversion into the A310 Multirole Tanker-Transport version, significantly delaying Chile's acquisition. Two aircraft that were to be transferred from a government-owned airline in Poland had to be scratched. European Union rules bar direct sales of surplus government property, and the required bidding process would have been lengthy. A pair of FedEx planes were then considered. But extensive corrosion also scotched that option. A couple of A310s appear to be available from Turkish Airlines, reported. Despite the setbacks, the air force says the deal with EADS remains in place. The need for new long-range transport planes was underscored when the FACH plane carrying President Michelle Bachelet and other officials had to make an emergency landing April 9. One of the engines of the aged Boeing 707 had to be shut down en route to China. The plane returned to Chile for repairs, and Bachelet (and a much smaller entourage) had to fly in an air force Citation IV.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More Trouble For Pinochet-Era Commanders

Five retired Chilean admirals were indicted April 18 over the death of dissidents, including a British-Chilean priest, following the September 1973 coup. The indictments, handed down by a judge, came one day after the former head of Pinochet's secret police was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the disappearance of a leftist activist. Retired Gen. Manuel Contreras is already serving time for abuses.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Air Force Laments Rash of Pilots Flying the Coop

The air force keeps losing pilots to higher-paying airline jobs. FACH commander Ricardo Ortega said 17 pilots quit in 2007 and 12 more in the first two months of this year. At the same time, FACH adds about 22 pilots a year, to maintain a force of about 400 aviators. The problem has gotten worse in recent years, as commercial aviation booms in Latin America. Like in other countries, the economics favor airlines. A Chilean F-16 pilot makes roughly $1,800 a month, but could earn a starting salary of $4,000 a month flying for Chile's LAN Airlines. Ortega has pleaded for higher pilot pay, but there's been no response from the government. LAN is the main destination for former FACH pilots. But others are flying for carriers in India, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asian countries. In fact, LAN itself has lost a number of pilots -- some who earn as much as $25,000 a month, not including housing and other benefits -- to foreign carriers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Finalists Chosen for Satellite Project

Three companies are finalists for the Chilean air force's contract to build and launch a research and surveillance satellite. Europe's EADS, Israel Aircraft Industries and MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates of Canada remain from seven original contenders, according to The project, which may cost $80 million, would serve to monitor climate, oceanic, forestry and other geologic trends. It may help watch over Chile's borders, too. The project includes technology transfers to Chile's military and universities. In 1994, Chile's first satellite was a dud: The British-built orbiter couldn't be dislodged from its Ukrainian launcher. A second satellite was put in space in 1998, ending its life in 2001. The winner of the new contract is expected to be announced by the end of April. An earlier contract, with EADS, was voided after controversy over the selection process.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Enaer Teams Up With Aermacchi For Trainers

Chile's air force-owned aerospace company is hooking up with Alenia Aermacchi on the Italian company's M-346 new-generation trainer jet and M-311 basic trainer. The partnership aims to market the planes to Latin American countries and opens the door to joint production of the aircraft by Enaer. That gives Alenia Aermacchi, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA, the inside track on Chile's upcoming contract for new trainers. The agreement is the biggest headline so far out of the Fidae air show this week in Santiago. Another noteworthy item was news that the U.S. Air Force will conduct training exercises with Chile's air force.