The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reduced the travel alert for 61 countries. Going from the most severe “Level 4” to the less severe “Level 3,” the CDC is using updated criteria to determine which country gets which warning. The US State Department is also expected to follow with reduced alert levels for most, if not all, of the 61 countries.
CDC reduces risk level for 61 countries
New ratings available on the CDC’s website show much of the world sits at a Level 3 alert. The good news for travelers is that most of the changes cover some of the most popular international tourist destinations.
For example, the following countries are at a Level 3 alert:
- South Africa
Over 60 countries worldwide are now at a Level 3 alert. A full map of the alerts as is available on the CDC website.
What is the difference between the two levels?
The CDC categorizes Level 4 as “Very High Risk” while Level 3 countries are categorized as “High Risk.” The change in criteria sees Level 4 countries as the ones with the worst outbreaks, at 500 cases per 100,000 people. Previously, to be categorized as Level 4, a case rate of 100 per 100,000 people was required.
Under Level 4, the CDC recommends that passengers avoid traveling to these destinations, even if a passenger is fully vaccinated. However, for Level 4 countries, if travel is an urgent need, the CDC recommends being fully vaccinated (two weeks after your final dose of the vaccine) before traveling.
The CDC recommends that passengers be fully vaccinated before traveling to Level 3 destinations. It urges unvaccinated travelers to avoid nonessential travel to those destinations.
Travel restrictions still remain
Even if the State Department follows with its own reduced risk alerts for most of these countries, the travel restrictions barring foreign nationals who were physically present in China, Iran, the European Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India in the 14-day period before returning to the United States continue to remain in effect.
The CDC categorizes the US as a Level 3 country. This puts it on par with South Africa, Iran, most of the Schengen Area, and the UK. The recent improvement of cases in these geographies – especially Europe – has led airlines to lobby for a reopening.
All passengers, whether they are coming from a Level 1, Level 3, or Level 4 country who are eligible for entry, need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure to the United States. This restriction also remains in effect for fully vaccinated passengers.
The US has also continued its steady stream of vaccinations. According to data from the CDC, nearly 50% of all people ages 12 and older in the US have been fully vaccinated. That number is expected to continue to trend upwards as over 61% of people ages 12 and older in the US have received at least one dose.
With the summer season in full swing, airlines and industry groups are pushing both sides of the Atlantic and destinations worldwide to reopen for fully vaccinated individuals or else through a robust system of testing.
Already, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and more have at least announced plans for reopening or reopened in the last few weeks for passengers who are fully vaccinated or else are willing to undergo extensive testing. This is on top of the various destinations in places like the Caribbean that have been open for Americans since last year.
Are you planning any international travel this year? Have you taken an international trip this year? Let us know in the comments!
Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight
BL-4 is the fourth Italian F-35B, the third STOVL aircraft destined to the Italian Navy.
On Jun. 14, 2021, the F-35B BL-4, the fourth STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft assembled in Italy, at the FACO (Final Assembly and Check Out) facility, in Cameri, carried out its maiden flight.
The aircraft, coded “4-03” and serialled MM7454, is the third aircraft destined to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy). The first two aircraft MM7451/4-01 and MM7452/4-02 are currently at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training, where the Italian pilots destined to the STOVL variants are trained too.
BL-4 sports the same livery already adopted on the first two aircraft and clearly inspired to the one used by the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati “Wolves”, based at Grottaglie: it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the “MARINA” text.
The images in this post were provided by our friends at BestShotAircraft and their photographers Roberto Resnigo and Marcello Alongi.
The aircraft has already carried out two test flights: the program calls for six test flights, including one in STOVL mode, before the jet is delivered to the customer for acceptance.
Where the aircraft is headed after being delivered to the Italian Navy is still not clear. Considered that two F-35Bs are already in the U.S., it seems quite likely that the third aircraft will remain in Italy, possibly becoming the first Italian Navy F-35 to land aboard Italy’s aircraft carrier ITS Cavour, the flagship of the Marina Militare, that has recently returned to Italy after successfully completing the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B.
As often explained here at The Aviationist, the Italian Government is currently procuring 90 F-35s, 60 of those are F-35As and the remaining 30 ones are F-35Bs. Out of those 30 F-35Bs, 15 will go to the Navy and 15 to the Air Force. The Lightning II will replace the Navy’s ageing AV-8B+ Harrier II and will be embarked on the Cavour aircraft carrier and the new LHD Trieste. It is not completely clear, however, where the F-35s will be land-based.
This is what this Author wrote last year, commenting the news of the delivery of the first F-35B to the Air Force in February 2020:
The Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati, which will operate the F-35B within the Navy, is currently based in Grottaglie, close to the naval port of Taranto, home to the Cavour aircraft carrier [and to the Trieste landing helicopter dock (LHD), in the future]. However, according to some reports, the Italian Defense Chief of Staff has already identified Amendola Air Base, the MOB (Main Operating Base) of the F-35A within the ItAF (about 100NM northwest of Grottaglie), as the national MOB for both the CTOL (Convetional Take Off and Landing) and STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) versions of the Lightning II. This should prompt the relocation of the “Wolves” to Amendola, creating a joint Air Force/Navy flight line with common logistics and training, even though it would practically mean that the entire force would mostly be under Air Force control.
With both Italian Air Force’s and Navy’s F-35Bs based at Amendola AB, the Italians would replicate the British model that sees RAF Marham as MOB for a jointly manned “Lightning Force” made of Air Force (with the 207 and 617 squadrons) and Navy (with the 809 Naval Air Squadron that will be re-established in 2023) personnel, sharing aircraft, equipment and support infrastructures. The creation of an Italian Joint Lightning Force makes much sense: aircrew training, maintenance and at least part of the logistics could be concentrated in one place, with some significant savings. And if the selected base is Amendola, the Italian Joint Force could leverage at least some of the infrastructures built there to accommodate the Lightning. Indeed, preparation to host the F-35 in Amendola started in 2012 and today the “F-35 citadel” is literally a “base inside the base” with modern shelters and buildings located inside an access-controlled restricted zone created to isolate the 13° Gruppo’s area from the rest of the base. It must not be forgotten tha the advent of the F-35 has induced the Italian MoD to adopt tighter security measures than those in place before the arrival of a 5th generation technology and this becomes pretty evident if you think that all the photographs taken inside Amendola, must be reviewed one by one by security personnel so that no sensitive detail would be leaked. For sure, making Grottaglie ready for the F-35B would cost a lot of money and time, considered that the works to prepare the base for the Joint Strike Fighter were halted a couple of years ago.
In a post about the F-35B and the use of the aircraft as part of an Italian Joint Lightning Force published here at The Aviationist about 10 years ago our Editor David Cenciotti wrote:
“I don’t know if Italy is ready for a single type of aircraft for both ItAF and ItNy, capable of operating from the Cavour aircraft carrier as a single unit, something that would logically lead to the creation of a joint force similar to the British Joint Force Harrier and to the subsequent proposal of reabsorbing the unit into the Air Force, an option that the Navy might not accept….”
A decade later, the situation has probably not changed much.
In fact, while the final decision about the basing might still be uncertain, there is no doubt that the assignment of the third F-35B to the Air Force has made the Navy not happy. Navy officials have long challenged the decision of the Italian Air Force to procure the F-35B. The Italian Air Force considers the STOVL variant of the stealth aircraft indispensable for expeditionary scenarios and operations from unimproved and short landing strips.
But, does the Italian Air Force really need to trade such flexibility for a more expensive and complex airframe, with shorter maximum range, reduced flight envelope, external (in pod) gun? According to the Air Force planners and decision makers, yes: a worldwide survey of all the runways that can be used by military jet highlighted that the ratio, in Africa alone, was 1 to 10, that is, for each runway usable with conventional aircraft, there are ten shorter ones, that are only exploitable by STOVL aircraft.
Still, not everyone agrees, pointing out that within the U.S. military, the F-35B remains a prerogative of U.S. Marine Corps, that uses the type from its amphibious assault ships, while the U.S. Air Force, that is certainly involved in expeditionary operations much more than the ItAF will ever be, has never had the need to operate the STOVL-variant.
The former Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Adm. Luigi Binelli Mantelli wrote to the Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini an open letter (published by La Stampa newspaper) illustrating all the cons of assigning the STOVL jets to the Italian Air Force. The view of the retired Admiral is that the procurement of the F-35B should be exclusive to the Marina Militare: he argues that the purchase of variant B by the Air Force is a mistake because this version would be expensive, with complex maintenance and with different operational limitations compared to the A version operated by the ItAF. On the other hand, the Admiral supports the indispensability of the F-35B for the Navy to operate from “light” aircraft carriers, advising to divert all the STOVL-models to the Marina Militare. The initial requirement of the Navy was for 22 F-35Bs. With just 15 jets, one might expect that no more than 8-10 F-35Bs will be available at any given time, a number that is deemed not sufficient for the needs of the Italian naval aviation.
While it’s now hard to believe the decision to give the Air Force some (or half) of the total F-35Bs will be reversed, the Navy at least wanted to receive most (if not all) of the first F-35Bs so as to continue the transition of its pilots and expedite the achievement of the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the new aircraft as the training required by the at-sea operations is far more complex than the one required for land-based operations. But the Italian MoD decided to give the Air Force its F-35B so that its pilots could start training on the new aircraft too. And Amendola, as explained above, has already been prepared to accommodate the new STOVL-models.
Whatever your opinion on this subject is (this is a much debated topic in Italy) it’s pretty evident that much more will have to be done to improve synergies between the two branches and make an Italian Joint Lightning Force a reality.
The situation remains more or less unchanged.
The Italian Navy carried has been declared ready to accept the F-35B while the Italian Air Force has taken continued to operate with its only B, that the service has presented to the public for the first time last year, during an Expeditionary Proof Of Concept on Pantelleria island. The same aircraft has been shown flying in “Beast Mode” alongside an A model and has recently returned to Pantelleria again earlier this month, along with a B model of the Royal Air Force embarked aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth for an Expeditionary Combat Support Event (ECSE) conducted as part of the large Falcon Strike 2021 exercise.
“The Italian Air Force needs the F-35B to be able to operate from short runways, a capability we had in the 1960s with the G-91 and lost with its successor, the AMX,” told us Gen. Gianni Candotti, the Italian Air Force’s operational commander during the ECSE at Pantelleria. “The lack of such ability has caused us issues for quite a long time. When we deployed to Afghanistan [in 2008], we first had to find an alternate airbase [Mazar-i-Sharif] with a runway that was suitable for the Tornado, then we started working on the runway at the forward operating location that was hosting the Italian base [Herat] and, after one year, once we had extended the runway, we were eventually able to operate from there [with the AMX]. The F-35B would have allowed us to operate from there since the beginning. That being said, while it is possible, operating from aircraft carriers is not our immediate objective: that is not the reason why we have selected this kind of aircraft.”
Interestingly, considered the number of F-35Bs both the Air Force and Navy are getting, Candotti didn’t rule out the eventual joint command similar to the British one that’s being considered (at least among analysts). “Everything is possible. Our British colleagues did it with the Harrier and continue with the F-35B. There are various ways to integrate from minimum collaboration to full integration. It is being studied.”
Longtime friends make company history as Cougar Helicopters’ 1st all-female flight crew
Allison Rumbolt flew the 1st all-female flight with her longtime friend and mentor, Zoe Webb
CBC News · Jun 18, 2021
A Labrador pilot has made history twice in the past year after becoming Cougar Helicopters’ first female captain to fly a Sikorsky-92 helicopter and recently being part of the first flight in the company’s history with an all-female crew.
For Captain Allison Rumbolt, her June 9 flight was extra-special because she sat next to her longtime friend and mentor, Zoe Webb, in the cockpit.
“She has been there for every step of the way throughout my career, so to be the first female crew offshore and to do it with her was a special moment,” Rumbolt told CBC’s Labrador Morning in a recent interview.
Rumbolt said it’s the first time the two of them have been in a helicopter together in over a decade, and while they were focused on getting the job done, there were some fist bumps and encouraging words shared after they landed.
“At the end of the flight you kind of look at each other and [say], ‘Wow, we have come a long way in the past number of years.’
“It’s a special moment, for sure.”
That flight came two months after she started her new role as a captain, making her Cougar Helicopters’ first female captain to fly a Sikorsky-92 helicopter.
‘It’s been a humbling experience’
After starting her career flying through the brush in Labrador, she needed to build her pilot command time, pass a number of evaluation tests and have a training captain sign off on her skills.
“It’s surreal. I have been working towards this and it’s been ultimately my goal to become a captain. Everybody looks at you a little bit differently. You have that little bit more respect.
“I have had lots of fist pumps and ‘good on you’ and congratulations and things like that. So it’s been a humbling experience, but I am enjoying it.”
Rumbolt, who is originally from Mary’s Harbour, said from a young age she knew she was interested in aviation. She spent lots of time at the airport, where her mother worked part time with an airline and where her dad worked in operations.
“I was lucky in the way that a lot of these pilots would let me get aboard these aircrafts and look around and take me for rides. Then when I was about 10 or 11 years old Zoe came into my life as a family friend and I got to experience a whole new side of aviation in the helicopter world.”
Rumbolt said she has spent every single shift, except for the flight with Webb, sitting next to a man. She said the number of women flying fixed-wing aircraft is increasing, but she hasn’t seen the same growth in helicopter aviation. She’s encouraging more girls and women to get involved.
“I think as long as you are good at your job and put the effort in, you work hard and you are not afraid to ask for help, I think you will get the respect you deserve in return and I have been very fortunate to have a lot of respect along the way.”
Rumbolt said she looks forward to advancing her career as captain and paving the way for others to do the same.
“You’re responsible for the person sitting next to you and everybody on board, so it’s a challenge — but it’s a challenge that I love and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Emirates Now Operates Nearly 90% Of Pre-Pandemic Network
Emirates is inching closer towards operating 90% of its pre-pandemic network. The Dubai-based giant is currently flying to 115 destinations and will reach 124 cities by the end of July. The expansion comes as demand for international leisure travel recovery, allowing the airline to make a substantial recovery.
Back in action
As Emirates emerges from the worst year of aviation, it is raring to go once again. The airline will fly to 124 destinations by August, with the Middle East, Europe, and North America in particular focus this summer. July alone will see flights to Venice, Nice, Lyon, Malta, Orlando, Mexico City, and Phuket resume.
Considering Emirates was grounded for weeks last spring, the summer of 2021 marks a stunning turnaround for the airline. However, it isn’t all good news. Travel bans mean that Emirates’ biggest market of India, and South Asia at large, remain off-limits this summer, a major blow for revenues.
In a statement about the airline’s bold reopening, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said,
“Emirates is committed to keeping Dubai, businesses and communities around the world connected and we are working hard to rebuild our network and secure access to more destinations in partnership with various authorities and stakeholders. We are encouraged by the latest developments as many countries have begun to turn the page and reopen for international visitors, and we are seeing strong signs of pent-up demand wherever restrictions have eased.”
A380 back in action
No discussion about Emirates would be complete without mentioning the Airbus A380. Indeed, this summer will see the superjumbo back into action, flying to 15 cities around the globe.
Once again, the A380 will primarily be deployed to cities in the US, Canada, and Europe, as those destinations remain largely open to tourism and attract thousands of passengers. However, three destinations in the Middle East and Guangzhou will also see superjumbos this summer.
Notably, Emirates has a significant advantage given its home city. Dubai has emerged as a tourist hotspot since last year, allowing travelers to enter with minimal restrictions. While testing is still needed, the city’s control of COVID-19 and rapid vaccine rollout has made it a favorite for this summer. Expect to see many travelers fly directly to Dubai in addition to connecting onwards.
Summer of recovery
While profitable segments such as business travelers remain out of reach for Emirates, this summer will still mark a recovery. The carrier reported a record $5.5 billion loss for 2020, its first in over three decades. Considering the lows of this year, seeing hundreds of thousands of leisure travelers return will be a huge bane. Moreover, with premium cabins still filling up, Emirates could see a sizeable chunk of revenues return too.
What do you think about Emirates’ summer plans? Let us know in the comments!
JetBlue launches flights to Los Cabos
JetBlue Airways today announced it has officially launched service at San José del Cabo’s Los Cabos International Airport (SJD). The first roundtrip flights between the popular Mexican destination and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) landed last night, and the first flight roundtrip flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Los Cabos landed back in the northeast this morning. JetBlue’s Los Cabos service from the East and West Coasts operates daily.
Located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez, Los Cabos is composed by two cities, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo – both major tourist destinations and among the most popular in Mexico. San Jose del Cabo welcomes visitors with its laid-back vibe, thriving arts scene and boutique shops, while Cabo San Lucas features a more bustling pace with a large number of restaurants and bars. Los Cabos is home to award-winning resorts and culinary offerings considered some of the finest available anywhere. A growing list of championship golf courses, rejuvenating spas, world-renowned sport fishing tournaments and a variety of activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding and many more to be discovered.
JetBlue will operates Los Cabos routes using its Airbus A320 aircraft.
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