Vol. 9 No. 83                                            WE COVER THE WORLD                                          Monday July 12, 2010

Ram Menen Looking At Tomorrow

     It should have come as no surprise when last week it was announced that Emirates SkyCargo is now the number one air cargo resource on the planet to utilize paperless movement of its air freight product, or ‘efreight.’
     Right now, Ram Menen, the SkyCargo Divisional Vice President, has quietly become among the longest serving and most prolific executives in the history of the form.
     Emirates SkyCargo 2010 continues as a dynamic innovator, changing the playing field for air cargo the world over.
     What’s more, Emirates is not finished, but maybe just ending its beginnings.
     While it has been fashionable to admire, for example, Singapore Airlines, Emirates in every measure will eclipse even that island nation’s great international carrier.
     One of my earlier memories of Ram was walking into a room where I found him huddled inside the Dubai World Trade Center, mulling over some papers with his friend and long time colleague at Emirates Sky Cargo, Prakash Nair.
     Dubai was hosting The International Air Cargo Association bi-annual event in 1996; the New York Yankees were winning their first World Series in 18 years; TIACA, on the brink of collapse, was saved by the money it made at the UAE event.
     We had spoken previously in Seattle at another less illustrious TIACA event two years earlier (if memory serves, the SeaTac guy who hosted the event lost his job shortly after TIACA left town).
     TIACA Seattle was a “keep it going” affair after Bob Arendal brought the organization back from extinction by hosting in Luxembourg in 1992.
     It was another time made no less memorable by the attendance and access to HH Prince Maktoum of Dubai, who was at the event and (amazing as it may seem today) often evident inside the SkyCargo display stand, where he smiled amiably and chatted with just about everyone.
     It’s doubtful that even the most visionary precognitive could have foreseen the rise of Emirates Airline 16 years ago, as both a world aviation power and industry icon.
     It is even more unlikely to have supposed that Ram Menen would have continued to steer the course and remain at the helm of a major world cargo carrier as long as he has, longer than any airline top executive in the history of the business.
     But that is exactly what has happened.
     The kid from the tent alongside the runway at DXB, humping and running cargo in and out of a couple of leased-in aircraft from Pakistan in preparation of a new airline called Emirates, is now the senior air cargo executive, and for all his service and charity back to the industry and to others along the way, Ram is at the very top when measuring the greatest airline air cargo executives of all time.
     Ram Menen dresses formal—always in a dark suit with white shirt and tie.
     But don’t let the business uniform fool you.
     Ram is approachable by anybody; a down-on-the-ground kind of guy who knows a thousand air cargo areas, the best place to enjoy some delicious dosa, and how to stay in touch with the most critical area in the movement of freight.
     We spoke to Ram after the stunning news that new A380 aircraft orders are in, meaning that at some point, the carrier will operate 90 (or more) of the super jumbos and annual financials came in quite positive as well. It may be hard to believe, but after a generation Ram seemingly can’t wait for tomorrow and thinks things look better everyday.
     Works for us.

ACN/FT:  Now that the annual financials have been released for Emirates Group last year, can you describe how important is air cargo to the Group and how do you view performance during the past year?
RM:  Cargo revenue, including mail and courier, contributed 17.2 percent of the airline’s total transport revenue.
     Our flexibility and ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions led to Emirates SkyCargo rightsizing its fleet during the financial year.
     Emirates SkyCargo decreased its fleet from eight aircraft to seven – including five Boeing 747Fs and two Boeing 777Fs – helping to ward off the adverse effects of the economic downturn.
ACN/FT:  What do you expect for 2010-11 and what are you looking for in terms of driving growth that will tell you business is developing as planned?
RM:   2010/11 is already performing better than last year and we are expecting volumes to grow by about 20 percent this year.
ACN/FT:  What do you consider the absolute top priority right now?
RM:  Getting the right product mix to increase our yields and to have the right capacity at the right place all the time.
ACN/FT:  Are there any programs or product development or destinations you would like to engage that perhaps were on the back burner during the recent challenging financial climate?
RM:  The airline ran a very strict cost containment program during 2009 and we only launched two new destinations – Durban and Luanda (and Kabul for freighters), the fewest since 1998. Already this year Emirates has launched services to Tokyo, Amsterdam (as a passenger destination, we have been flying freighters there for 15 years), with several others due to start in coming months – Prague began July 1st, Madrid (August 1st) and Dakar (September 1st).
     We also restarted our freighter service to JFK and are also operating 747Fs into Incheon.
     Last year, in the midst of the crisis, we took delivery of two brand new 777Fs.
     So while everyone else was shedding capacity we were receiving these new-generation freighter, which obviously gave us a few sleepless nights beforehand! But, as I’ve said to you since, the 777F is a fantastic, very economical aircraft that has served us very well.
     And now we can hardly wait to receive more!
ACN/FT:  What areas of the world will you concentrate upon in terms of market development?
RM:  We are opening several new passenger destinations this year, which obviously afford new cargo opportunities – Dakar is a new one, Prague and Madrid to a lesser extent because we have been operating offline services there for a number of years.
     Africa is somewhere that Emirates as a group sees huge potential.
     Geographically, we are well placed to serve the continent and in terms of services, we operate scheduled freighter and passenger flights to 18 destinations on the continent (Dakar will be 19).
ACN/FT:  Can you describe 2009-10 service additions in terms of performance? For example, are you satisfied that India is thoroughly covered as well as China and the rest of Asia?
RM:  We operate to 10 cities in India and throughout the last year when volumes out of the Far East were declining significantly – and rates with it – India weathered the storm remarkably well.
ACN/FT:  What about equipment? What aircraft perform best for air cargo at Emirates and how many are in fleet and are to be added?
RM:  The 777F is an amazing aircraft – fuel efficient, economical, environmentally friendly in as much that it has lower emissions than some of the older freighters operated by some carriers.
     We are flying ours up to 16 hours a day. So far we have two in our fleet with a further two on firm order and four options.
     We also have five 747-8Fs on firm order, with a further option for five more.
ACN/FT:  As the biggest customer for A380, who once even had orders for a freighter variant, can you explain how such a giant aircraft—in fact, amongst the two or three largest on the plant—has such poor characteristics for air cargo?
RM:  How much lift does SkyCargo get from an A380?
     We were pleasantly surprised when we started flying the A380 that it took more cargo than initially expected.
     With a full load to Toronto, for example, it can carry 10 tons; to London, 14 tons.
ACN/FT:  How will that lift figure into your air cargo service at the point that EK is operating nearly four dozen?
RM:  Make that 90!
     Fortunately we have nine new-generation freighters on firm order with nine options, so we will most probably exercise all of the options.
ACN/FT:  Will there ever be an A380F in Emirates SkyCargo livery?
RM:   I don’t think so… I believe the A380F program itself is on the back burner for the time being …

The best way to achieve some of our main goals over the next few years such as 100 percent paperless transactions is to communicate with all the stakeholders through one voice.

ACN/FT:  Taking an industry view, what do you see as the universal challenge that affects all of air cargo and must be overcome in 2010?
RM:  What must be done?
     The universal challenge that we have is that of the health of world economy and how unpredictable it has become.
     So far 2010 is looking good and I hope it stays that way for a long time. However, the challenges that some of the Euro zone countries are facing need to be seen.
     Weaker Euro would/should help the exports from the Euro zone—provided the industrial actions don’t weigh down these countries.
     Changing security requirements are also creating some havoc.
     The frequency of natural disasters and its effect on the various economies is also a concern.
     Having said that, we are used to dealing with challenges of some sort every year; we overcome that by being agile and flexible in our approach so that we can react to the situation quite quickly.
ACN/FT:  You have been an ardent supporter of TIACA ever since Dubai put that organization on solid financial ground by supporting and hosting their forum and trade show in 1996.
     With all the changes in air cargo why do you still support TIACA and what do you look forward to, as that group offers its bi-annual trade show in AMS this November?
RM:  You’re right; I am a firm believer in the benefits of meeting your customers and partners face to face and TIACA shows provide a great platform for this. As you say, there are many changes in the air cargo industry, and many more to come if we are achieve some of our main goals over the next few years such as 100 percent paperless transactions. The best way to achieve these is communicating with all the stakeholders through one voice.
     TIACA’s membership is diversified and we have stakeholders from all walks of our industry present within the association.
     It is a great platform to create one voice.
ACN/FT:  When you are not at work, what are your hobbies or other interests?
RM:  When am I not at work?? (laughs)
     All my interests and hobbies have been merged into one for better efficiency …
ACN/FT:  What is the name of your favorite restaurant and where is it located?
RM:   Curry in a Hurry… I am still trying to find it!
ACN/FT:  We understand that Peter Sedgley, SkyCargo SVP Commercial Operations is retiring.
     Can you describe your feelings for him and what he has done to impress and perhaps inspire you over the years?
RM:  Obviously, after having worked together for almost a couple of decades and having had the wonderful opportunity to create what we have been able to, it is very difficult to see him hang his hat.
     Most of all I will miss his views about the birds, the bees and the world, which may not always be politically correct.
     I will also miss having the quite enthusiastic discussions that always ensured everybody is in touch with ground reality.
     He is a one of a kind, die-hard cargo professional and is one of the best men to have on your wings, especially when you are flying by the seat of your pants..
     I wish him all the best and good luck in getting his personal life back!
     Although he is retiring, he will always remain a friend and still be a part of our SkyCargo family.
ACN/FT:  Finally, if there were a couple of things about air cargo that you were given the power to change at once, what would they be?
RM:  Collaborative attitude, transparency . . . visibility throughout the entire supply chain.
     Everybody to 100 percent e-freight.

At Dubai The Beat Goes On

     We are looking at the above story and remembering a year ago, when news of financial stress was circling the world and was regarding, of all places, Dubai, where everything has been up, up and away! Or at least it was until 2009, when it was reported that there was some nasty money trouble floating about.
     Our first thought then (and now) is that, when it comes to world markets, we are all in this thing together.
     The rise of Dubai has been spectacular by any measure.
     The place, the airline, the airport, the port and the cargo business have come into international promises kept and delivered almost overnight.
     Dubai, as compared to markets it has passed and in the future will continue to eclipse, can still be called “the new kid on the block,” although what is going on in this metropolis of freedom and commerce can hardly be termed “kid stuff.”
     Maybe what happened in Dubai was simply a long overdue self-correction—a reflection on the weakness of the banks. Or maybe what the news is not telling us is that this is a financial squeeze play that is part of some international political tug of war for influence over what is now a mammoth business engine.
     While it is hard to determine all the drivers at work here, there is no doubt in USA power circles that if Iraq could fashion itself after Dubai, the American sacrifice would in large part be delivered.
     In Dubai there is peace and tranquility and one hell of a world-beating market for just about anything.
     What is better than that?
     Whatever is going on here, we must remember that in the stunned world that was shocked and dismayed after 9/11, it was an Arab Prince that many had never heard of, who almost single-handedly bought enough Airbus and Boeing aircraft to keep those two companies afloat.
     Without Dubai, there is no Emirates Airline, no Airbus A380—period.
     For the record, what goes around comes around as Emirates once again surprised everyone a month ago by upping the numbers of its A380 orders in Berlin to 90, lifting the fortunes of the world’s biggest passenger plane once again.
     On the heels of the mega order, an EK B777 freighter settled upon the runway at Al Maktoum-DWC, the new international airport being created to keep apace and ahead of planned aerial growth in both passengers and cargo.
     Our bet is that looking down the road at Dubai, the best is yet to come.

ATC Growing GSSA Adds Croatia

     Ingo Zimmer, CEO of ATC Aviation Services Group reports from Frankfurt headquarters that the number of air cargo companies utilizing its services continues to grow. Today with the addition of Croatia Airlines, the company represents 60 companies
     “We are very proud to announce a new co-operation with Croatia Airlines.
     “In addition to their direct flights into Frankfurt, we expect some cargoes to transit destinations served via Zagreb.
     “As example from Frankfurt to their hub in Zagreb, Croatia Airlines offers up to five daily flights plus onward transit to Pula, Zadar, Podgorica, Prishtina, Sarajevo and Skopje.”
     Effective August 2010, Croatia Airlines utilizes ATC Aviation as exclusive GSSA for the territories of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands.
     ATC was established in 1971 and today operates a network of offices throughout Europe.

Flying Boat On Wings Of Help

     It may be a very small blip on the global radar, but come this September a flying boat will come down close to the deck, moving very low and slow as it acts as an air bridge across the Atlantic Ocean—an antique Sikorsky S38 is scheduled to make a charity flight from Canada to Germany, and we can hardly wait.
     Wings of Help and pilot Tom Schrade, who owns the aircraft, will make the flight to raise money for the children's charity.
     Wings of Help, or "Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen," is a charity that specializes in the air transport of children who receive medical treatment in Germany.
     Schrade reportedly met Wings of Help founder and President Frank Franke at a fly-in and got interested in the charity.
     By the numbers, the Sikorsky S38 flies at less than the Autobahn speed of 110 miles per hour.
     But in this case, taking your time pays off.
     Frank Franke elaborates:
     “Every flight mile, between 5 and 5000 miles, will be symbolically dedicated to those people who donated money for the flight.
     “A mile may be purchased for €10.00 and as a thank you the donor will receive a signed certificate from the pilot, which documents the donated route.
     “The proceeds will be used by Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen/Wings of Help (LOG) for the needy children of the world.
     “At the individual stations of the flight, pilots and LOG/Wings of Help will give children joy as they will be invited on board as ‘small VIP passengers’ for sightseeing flights.
     “Our partner, Aviation without Borders in London, will organize a day to highlight their ‘Smiling Wings Program.’”
     “For this historical long-haul flight, the historic S-38 will be supported by our technical partner, Condor.”
Bruno Gantenbrink, the former world and European champion in gliding, and the Astronaut and Cosmonaut Dr. Ulf Merbold will be flying along as co-pilots.
     Here are the journey segments:
          Day 1: Minneapolis (US) - Thunder Bay (CA)
          Day 2: Thunder Bay (CA) - Kapuskasing (CA) - La Grande Riviere (CA)
          Day 3: La Grande Riviere (CA) - Kuujjuaq (CA) - Iqaluit (CA)
          Day 4: Iqaluit (CA) - Kangerlussuaq/Sondre Stromfjord (GL)
          Day 5: Kangerlussuaq/Sondre Stromfjord (GL)- Kulusuk (GL) - Keflavik (IS)
          Day 6: Keflavik (IS) - Hornafjordur (IS) - Vagar (FO)
          Day 7: Vagar (FO) - Inverness (GB)
          Day 8: Inverness (GB) - Dublin (IE)
          Day 9: Dublin (IE) - London/Biggin Hill (GB)
          Day 10: London/Biggin Hill (GB) - Frankfurt (DE).
     This particular Sikorsky is in fact a hybrid combo of parts from other aircraft, along with some new fabrications.
     The plane has been featured in the movie “The Aviator” about Howard Hughes.
     Perhaps even more interesting: the aircraft is painted in stylized zebra stripes reminiscent of an S38 connected to Frank Buck, a 1930’s hunter and collector of wild animals, as well as a movie actor, director, writer and producer whose motto was “Bring ‘em Back Alive” as well as being connected to adventurers, authors, documentary filmmakers and photographers Martin and Osa Johnson.
     Looking over the S38 route, we wonder why the flight would not call at Foynes, Ireland, which today has the most famous and wonderful flying boat museum on the planet. The museum houses a walk in full-size replica of a giant Boeing B314, the in-service aircraft carrying revenue cargo and passengers during the pioneering years when Pan American World Airways and British Imperial Airways served the first aerial routes from North America to Europe.
     Foynes Flying Boat Museum also serves up the best Irish coffee in the world; in fact, it claims to have invented the drink one cold rainy night whilst awaiting the S-42 PAA flight from Port Washington, New York in 1937.
     Of course, a coffee with a stiff shot of Irish is not much of a leap, especially after several days of puddle jumping across the Atlantic.
For donations:  Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen e.V., Frankfurter Sparkasse
IBAN: DE 84500502010200332244

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Click On Image Below To Access