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Aussies abroad can’t fly home for Christmas



International carriers at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Australians overseas hoping to come home before Christmas are set to be disappointed as airlines slash flight schedules and cancel flights, with no new seats available.

According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, industry players are warning that there are no more available seats on commercial flights into Australia before Christmas, as airlines navigate significantly reduced arrival caps.

It comes after repeated calls for the government to provide the aviation industry with guidance on rules and regulations around international travel, due to restart in the coming months, particularly in relation to arrival caps, quarantine requirements, and health screening.

The few airlines that have continued commercial services to Australia, including Singapore Airlines, have been forced to cancel flights and slash capacity due to the reduction in arrival caps, as Australia bunkered down to battle its COVID-19 outbreak in NSW and Victoria.

According to travel agents, this has caused Singapore Airlines to convert passenger services into freight-only flights, and the airline is no longer taking bookings for flights into Australia until March 2022 due to the restrictive passenger caps.

“This is the worst that it has ever, ever been,” said Perth-based travel agent Jennie Bardsley, stating that passenger arrival caps are now so restricted that it is now harder than ever to get home.

Bardsley said that she had to stop taking new bookings for Australians trying to come home this month, and her waiting list has now blown out to “hundreds and hundreds”.


“No travel agent’s taking any new bookings,” she said, adding that it’s now impossible to book an Australian on a commercial flight home before Christmas.

“I can’t – it’s heartbreaking.”

Bardsley explained that even though airlines and booking sites might suggest there are tickets available, most of these will end up becoming “ghost flights”, and passengers will likely be disappointed by last-minute flight cancellations.

“Airlines are just cancelling the whole aircraft; they’ve just canned everything whether you are flying to Sydney, Melbourne or Perth because there’s just no certainty from the Australian government,” she said.

“If your Mum’s dying, your Dad’s dying in Australia, your sister’s got cancer, if you’ve done the right thing and stayed because the government said ‘don’t come back’ – some of these people being bumped now [had] booked flights for October in January.”

Meanwhile, Barry Abrahams, executive director of the Board of Airlines Representatives Australia, said the arrivals caps are “totally annihilating” the financial viability of commercial flights, and that airlines are now flying into Sydney with 6,000 empty seats.

“When you’re down to only being able to bring in 10 passengers, you’re better off converting that flight to freight-only,” he said.

“All the networks are sitting on backlogs – there are no tickets available to come home.”

This has led more people to solely rely on government-provided repatriation flights, with over 44,000 Australians now registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to return home.

The news complicates current estimates that Australia’s international borders will open before Christmas.

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan confirmed this week that Australians will be free to travel internationally by Christmas “at the latest”, in keeping with the government’s national re-opening plan.

The tourism minister confirmed that the federal government had no plans to stray from its current national re-opening plan, which allows for the opening of international borders once the national adult population reaches 80 per cent vaccination.

It comes after the federal government revealed a new plan to drop its ban on Australian citizens and residents leaving the country as early as November.

“I do empathise with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year,” Minister Tehan said.

However, airlines and airports have repeatedly warned that the government is still leaving them in the dark about requirements for post-pandemic travel, which threatens the speedy re-start of overseas flights.

Speaking with Australian Aviation last week, Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin called on the government to clarify its planned procedures and requirements around post-pandemic travel “as soon as possible”, so the aviation industry can adequately prepare.

“At the moment, we still don’t know what procedures will be for passengers coming in from overseas, and what is needed of airports, airlines, staff and government agencies to facilitate that,” Goodwin said.

“There are long lead times in aviation, so six or 12 months is not actually a long time in our world. So a lot of this planning could have and should have been done a long time ago.”

Just yesterday, Rex deputy chairman John Sharp also joined in calls for the government to provide clear and uniform directions for post-pandemic travel requirements, to give the industry enough time to prepare.

According to Sharp, Rex is “waiting for government direction” on key parameters for the return of domestic travel, which the airline anticipates could be fully operational by November.

This includes whether or not passengers will need to be fully vaccinated, or provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests before boarding a domestic or regional flight

“We are waiting for the government to tell us what the rules are so that we can then implement them, but without the rules we don’t know what to do,” Sharp told Australia Today on Thursday.

Sharp said that airlines can’t just implement new policies overnight, so the government needs to be providing certainty now.

“For example, we might require our booking system to be altered, if [air travel] now requires proof of double vaccination,” he said.

“That would require a change to our website, and to our booking system, which you just can’t do overnight, it’s not a simple thing.”

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Vaccine passports for overseas travel to be rolled out this week



The long-awaited vaccine passport for international travel is due to be rolled out by the Australian Government from Tuesday this week, as the country prepares to re-open its international borders for the first time since March 2020.

It comes as New South Wales officially hit its 80 per cent vaccination target in its adult population, and follows the NSW Premier’s announcement that the state will restart quarantine-free overseas travel for fully-vaccinated citizens and residents from 1 November.

Dubbed the International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate, the vaccine passport for overseas travel will work in a similar fashion to existing digital COVID-19 vaccine certificates.

The vaccine passport will contain a QR code that can be readily scanned for verification by border officials, and will be available for download via the MyGov website from Tuesday morning.

Further, the digital document is linked to a person’s physical passport, with travellers required to provide their passport information when they request the vaccine passport from Medicare.

Once downloaded, the document can either be printed and used physically, or stored digitally on a smartphone.


The federal government has promised that the certificates are as secure as a traditional passport, and contain a higher level of encryption than the domestic proof-of-vaccination certificate.

Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who oversaw the creation and rollout of the international travel vaccine passport, said he expects Australians to welcome the new process.

“Australians understand when you travel overseas, countries require documentation to prove who you are,” he said.

“In the same way, for example, that for the last 20 years Australians, when they travelled to Africa, they have had to carry a little international vaccination book that showed the Yellow Fever vaccination.

“This is exactly the same”

Minister Robert stated that while not all countries require proof of vaccination in order to enter, Australia does, so travellers will need to have the vaccine passport organised ahead of any planned overseas trips.

Last week, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that from 1 November, international arrivals who are fully-vaccinated will no longer be required to complete any form of hotel or home quarantine.

The number of arrivals that are not yet fully vaccinated, and therefore need to enter 14-day hotel quarantine, will be capped to 210 people per week.

The Premier did note that additional advice on possible testing requirements for overseas arrivals will be provided “in the coming days”.

The announcement appears to be a slight deviation from the national plan, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month, which specified a seven-day period of home quarantine for those returning to Australia.

The Prime Minister later confirmed that NSW was free to restart international travel from 1 November with no quarantine for vaccinated travellers, however, reiterated that foreign tourists will not yet be granted permission to travel to Australia, despite NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet seemingly suggesting they could.

Notably, in a significant concession, the federal government will allow the parents of Australian citizens and residents to join their families here, however.

It is unclear if other states will follow NSW and drop quarantine requirements entirely for double-jabbed Australian citizens and residents, or if they will welcome seven-day home quarantine.

In light of the announcements, Qantas also revealed that it had moved up its planned restart of international flights to 1 November for flights connecting Sydney and London, as well as Sydney and Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed additional details on what the future of travelling internationally will look like for Australians.

He stated that Australian passengers will likely need to undergo at least four COVID tests, as well as be fully vaccinated, when flying the airline internationally.

Joyce said that passengers will generally be required to complete a pre-flight COVID test both before leaving Australia and prior to their return flight, as well as complete two additional tests during their seven-day home quarantine stay, on top of being fully vaccinated.

It is currently unclear what the protocol will be for passengers who contract the virus while on their travels, and if they will be unable to board any, or certain, flights back to Australia.

According to the Qantas boss, the airline is working with the IATA to develop a new Qantas smartphone app that passengers can access to upload and verify their vaccination status and COVID-19 test results ahead of their flight, based on IATA’s Travel Pass technology.

Joyce said another app is also in development that will use geolocation and facial recognition technologies to ensure that passengers are complying with home quarantine requirements, however he added, “there is a level of trust with this”.

Joyce said it will be the responsibility of the passenger to ensure they have an appropriate location to complete their home quarantine.

“There will be an electronic arrival form that people have to fill in to come into the country which will have the details of where they’re staying … and there will be requirements for people on all of that to tell the truth and to be honest because they’re legal forms.”

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Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’



Grifone 2021
An Italian Air Force HH-139A and a TH-500 during Ex. Grifone 2021. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

A wide variety of assets were involved in the annual Search And Rescue Exercise in Sardinia.

Organized and managed by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) through the RCC (Rescue Coordination Center) of the COA (Comando Operazioni Aerospaziali – Aerospace Operations Command) “Grifone 2021” exercise was held in Sardinia island, Italy, between Sept. 20 – 24, 2021.

The “Grifone” (Italian for Griffin) is an international and interdepartmental exercise planned and conducted on an yearly basis by the Italian air Force under the SAR.MED.OCC (SAR Western Mediterranean) international agreement, with the aim to develop synergies between the service and other public departments, and to constantly improve techniques and procedures to carry out Search and Rescue missions.

The SAR mission is one of the institutional tasks of the Italian Air Force; a task that can be carried out, if needed, with the contribution of inter-agency, inter-ministerial or inter-agency units. For this reason, Ex. “Grifone” represents a collective and coordinated effort of resources, personnel and assets that has as its ultimate goal the training of crews and rescuers from the many realities of the SAR “chain”, in order to cooperate synergistically for the protection of human life.

Italian Air Force HH-139A during a night mission with NVGs.

The drills saw the involvement of over 430 people belonging to the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS) of Sardinia, the Italian Army, Police, Carabinieri (Military Police), Guardia di Finanza (Customs Police), Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighters), Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), Protezione Civile (Civil Protection), Forestry and Environmental Surveillance Corps of the Region of Sardinia, Regional Agency of Urgency of Sardinia (AREUS) and the Italian Red Cross.

Decimomannu Air Base was the DOB (Deployed Operating Base) of the exercise, while the “XPTZ” airfield at Decimoputzu played the role of the PBA (Posto Base Avanzato – Advanced Base), a real field heliport suitable for projecting the capabilities of personnel and aircraft as close as possible to the exercise area in the southwestern mountainous area of the island, including Mount Linas and the area of the Parco Perd’e Pibera.

The importance and organizational effort of the Grifone are also revealed in the number of aircraft involved:  1x HH-139A of the 80° CSAR Center of Decimomannu; 1x TH-500 of the 72° Stormo from Frosinone; 1x TH-500B and 1x SIAI U-208 of the Squadriglia Collegamenti (Liaison Flight) from Linate; 1x BH-412 of the 21st Orsa Maggiore Group of Elmas of the Italian Army; 1 AW-109 Nexus of the 11th Nucleo Elicotteri (Helicopter Nucleus) C.C. of Cagliari of the Carabinieri; 1 PH-139D of the Guardia di Finanza of Elmas and 1x UH-169A of the Guardia di Finanza from Pratica di Mare; 1 UH-139C of the 7° Reparto Volo of the Polizia from Fenosu; 1x AW-139 of the Nucleo Elicotteri of the Vigili del Fuoco from Sassari; 1x HH-139A of the 4^ Sezione della Capitaneria di Porto from Cagliari and the support of 1x EC-145 of AREUS (Azienda Regionale Urgenza Sardegna).

AW-109 Nexus of the Carabinieri (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

The level of realism of the scenarios and the intensity of the flying activity were such as to make the training part indistinguishable from the operational one: for instance, during the exercise, the AREUS EC-145 was called to operate a real mission in the island area.

AREUS EC-145 (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

Particularly numerous was the component of the research teams made up of the personnel of the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS), Air Riflemen of the 16° Stormo of the Italian Air Force, the Taurinense Alpine Brigade and the Army Alpine Training Center, Alpine Rescue of the Guardia di Finanza, Civil Protection Volunteers and Forestry Corps and Environmental Surveillance of the Sardinia Region.

Italian Army BH-412. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

As reported by the Ex. Director Col. Cipriano during the media day held on Sept. 24, at the end of the exercise: “The Grifone is an extraordinary opportunity for professional growth for all participants who have the opportunity to improve their skills to collaborate in complex scenarios, regardless of the units to which they belongs, be it military or civilian. The high value of the objectives achieved in just two days of activity is in the numbers: 47:46 flight hours 3:33 of which at night with the help of NVGs, 100 sorties with the transportation of 55 ground crews.”

Italian Air Force HH-139A during the boarding a rescue team. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

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Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First Flight



Kuwait Typhoon
One of the two Typhoons destined to Kuwait during taxi on Oct. 15, 2021. (All images: Alessandro Maggia)

Kuwaiti Air Force Typhoons are going to be the most advanced in service among the eight Eurofighter operators.

On Oct. 15, 2021, the first two Eurofighter Typhoon jets destined to Kuwait made their first flight at Leonardo’s Caselle plant near Turin, northwestern Italy.

The two aircraft were given the Italian experimental serials CSX55243 and CSX55244 but they will become KT001 and KT002 once in service with the Kuwaiti Air Force. The aircraft currently sport the flag of Kuwait, the Kuwaiti Air Force insignia and a medium grey paint scheme that, under certain lighting conditions, seems quite similar to the one of the German Air Force Typhoons.

Ace aviation photographer Alessandro Maggia took the shots of the new aircraft as they taxied and took off for their first local test sortie inside the R64 and R64bis restricted airspaces.

Take off

Kuwait is set to receive 28 Typhoons: 22 single-seater and 6 twin-seats. The Typhoons will be equipped with the first variant of the Captor E AESA radar, the ECRS Mk 0, together with P3Eb (Phase 3 Enhancements Package b) multi-role features and the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, in what is considered the most advanced Typhoon ever produced. This specific configuration was developed and tested in Italy using the Typhoon ISPA 6 (Instrumented Series Production Aircraft).

Steep climb

The contract for 28 aircraft was inked in April 2016 after a first MoU had been signed in September 2015. Deliveries were initially set to be completed in 2023 but it’s not clear whether the plan is still the initial one. Kuwait will be the eight Eurofighter operator, after Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Final approach.

The Kuwaiti Air Force has been flying with an F/A-18C/D single-type frontline since the retirement of Mirage F1Ks and A-4KUs Skyhawks after the Gulf War. However it will soon return to a two-type frontline with an order also for 28 Super Hornets, order in 2018, with the same mix of single and two-seaters: 22 F/A-18Es and 6 F/A-18Fs.

A side view of one of the first two Kuwaiti Air Force Typhoons.

H/T to our friend Matteo Buono for the heads-up and a big thank you to Alessandro Maggia for the shots. Make sure to visit his Instagram account for more amazing photographs here: @alessandro_maggia_avphotos

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

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Ottawa eyes charging airport security with vaccine verification for travellers



From CTV News – link to source story

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press, Staff | Published Friday, October 15, 2021

A traveller walks between check-in kiosks at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, on June 23, 2020. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

OTTAWA — Airport security agents may soon be screening more than your luggage.

The federal government is mulling handing responsibility for verifying passengers’ vaccination status to airport officers, rather than airlines — which hope to skip the headache.

Canadian carriers received three consultation papers from Transport Canada this week asking for feedback on putting an agency in charge of the proof of-vaccine validation process, according to three sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), the Crown corporation that oversees passenger and baggage screening at airports, would take on the additional role in barely two weeks if the plan goes ahead following industry feedback.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that as of Oct. 30 all air, train and boat travellers aged 12 or older must be fully vaccinated, and have the documentation to prove it.

But a veil of uncertainty lingers over how that requirement will unfold, with carriers demanding answers on the patchwork of provincial systems and who will handle verification once a nationwide proof-of-vaccination platform and QR code come into effect, the timing for which is also unknown.

Airlines have been lobbying for CATSA to take the reins on vaccine checks at airports in what would amount to a shift from the current health protocol where carriers are responsible for checking passengers’ COVID-19 test results.

“Ultimately, verifying the legitimacy of people’s vaccination records should reside with government,” Andy Gibbons, head of government relations and regulatory affairs at WestJet Airlines, said in a virtual interview.

“I can see the Calgary airport from here. You have four entry points for CATSA, and you have 90-some-odd gates across however many airlines,” added WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem.

“It is a much more efficient process and gets it into the hands of government agencies versus us as the airline to be verifying that.”

The government continues to sort out how to knit together 13 different provincial and territorial documentation regimes into a single passport-like certificate, complete with a QR code that can be screened across the country.

The “technical administration” of a domestic vaccination document available in digital formats remains a work in progress, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday.

“We are working very closely with the provinces and territories to implement that requirement, but the requirement is clear, and people need to plan their lives accordingly,” she told reporters in Washington, D.C.

Transport Canada and the Immigration Department did not reply to requests for comment Thursday.

Flair Airlines chief executive Stephen Jones said his development team is working on how to upload proof of vaccination as part of the booking and check-in process, in case CATSA does not assume sole responsibility — or only does so until the digital vaccine passport enters the picture. “But that is yet to be completed,” he said of the upload plans.

“This is a federal mandate and that’s a federally run process, and so it would make sense to have it at that (security) point. Because failing that you can have people wandering around on the secure side of the airport without having had their vaccination status checked,” Jones said in a phone interview.

Complications to both the eventual digital, single-source proof of vaccination and the more scattershot process of validating vaccine documents from various jurisdictions that will kick off Oct. 30 include factors like records for shots received in the U.S. as well as differences in provincially approved vaccines.

Nova Scotia and Alberta, for example, recognize any vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization, such as Sinovac, while other provinces and Health Canada have a shorter list.

Discrepancies exist between countries as well.

“It would be very important for Canada to agree on the kind of proof that can be used for vaccination or for tests with as many countries as possible,” said Transat vice-president Christophe Hennebelle, stressing the government’s role in vaccine checks.

“The more help we can get in a planning and implementing that, the better for us.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.

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