India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

Radhika Bansal

25 Apr 2022

India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals, global airlines body IATA told its member carriers on April 20.

India has been raising with China the plight of approximately 22,000 Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities who are unable to go back for physical classes. However, the neighbouring country has to date refused to let them enter.

These students had to leave their studies in China and come to India when the COVID-19 pandemic began at the beginning of 2020. They have been kept waiting even as Beijing allows students from Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to return.

India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

In a circular issued on April 20 regarding India, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, "Tourist visas issued to nationals of China (People's Republic) are no longer valid."

UK and Canada are among the countries whose citizens can’t fly to India on e-tourist visas but can come on regular paper visas issued by Indian missions in those countries. Indian tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid, except for those issued to nationals of Japan and the US.

It said the following passengers are allowed to enter India: nationals of Bhutan, India, Maldives and Nepal; passengers with a residence permit issued by India; passengers with a visa or an e-visa issued by India; passengers with an overseas citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet; passengers with a person of Indian origin (PIO) card; and passengers with a diplomatic passport.

The IATA also said that tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid. The IATA is a global airlines body with around 290 members that comprise more than 80% of global air traffic.

IATA issues these updates regularly so that airlines know which nationalities are allowed to be flown to which countries. The latest India-specific IATA update, issued on April 19, is about the countries whose nationals cannot travel to India on e-tourist visas.

India had late last month restored the electronic tourist visa facility for 156 countries, in time for the resumption of scheduled international flights from March 27 this year, after a gap of over two years.

India has urged Beijing to adopt a "congenial stance" on the matter as the continuation of the strict restrictions is putting the academic careers of thousands of Indian students in jeopardy, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on March 17.

This issue was also taken up with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021.

Bagchi said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson had stated on February 8 that China was looking into the matter in a coordinated manner and that arrangements for allowing foreign students to return to China were being examined. 

"But let me clarify that to date, the Chinese side has not given any categorical response about the return of Indian students. We will continue to urge the Chinese side to adopt a congenial stance in the interest of our students and that they facilitate an early return to China so that our students can pursue their studies," Bagchi said.

He said the issue was also taken up with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021. The two foreign ministers had held talks in the Tajik capital city on the sidelines of a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

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Air India flight lands safely from Chicago to Delhi after suffering a lightning strike

Radhika Bansal

25 Apr 2022

An Air India Boeing 777 flight operating from Chicago to Delhi on April 22 suffered a lightning strike during a climb from the origin at about 10,000 feet. The flight, AI-126, continued to its destination safely.

The lightning strike on the aircraft (VT-ALM) was observed during an inspection at Delhi airport. "Air India reported the lighting strike to the regulator on April 23," said people in the know. DGCA is examining this case.

ALSO READ - Wondering what if your flight suffers a lightning strike?

Air India flight lands safely from Chicago to Delhi after suffering a lightning strike

If a plane is struck by lightning, the pilots check all the systems to ensure everything is functioning as it should. If there is an issue, the aircraft should land at the nearest airport. Preferably not getting struck again before touching down.

However, even if the flight does continue to its destination seemingly unscathed, maintenance crew will examine it thoroughly for damages upon arrival. Small holes, no larger than a centimeter, may have appeared at the points where the current entered and exited the fuselage.

Even though lightning activity can vary by geographic location, its frequency is such that, an aircraft is struck by lightning every 1,000 flight hours, the equivalent of one strike per aircraft per year.

Seasons play their part too with the most occurrences reported in spring and summer.

It is estimated that most of the strikes are triggered by the aircraft itself and they generally occur during the climb and/or descent phase at an altitude of 1,524 to 4,572 meters.

Aircraft are built to power through these electrical power outages and rarely pose a safety risk, although it can cost a fortune to the companies in post lightning strike repairs and flight delays/cancellations. Statistics show commercial airliners get struck by lightning once or twice a year.

Lightning activities are influenced a lot by geographical locations. Areas in and around the equator tend to experience the most lightning events as thunderstorms are rampant due to warm temperatures leading to convection. Seasons play their part too with the most occurrences reported in spring and summer.

A single strike may contain around 100,000 volts (30,000 ampere)

The initial strike of a lightning charge may be seen as a glow on the nose or wingtips. The charge then travels through the aircraft’s metallic shell before exiting through a point in the tail. A single strike may contain around 100,000 volts (30,000 ampere).

Typical after-effects

Temporary flickering of lights or short-lived interference with equipment.Ferromagnetic aircraft components may become strongly magnetised after a powerful lightning jolt.Lightning strikes at night may temporarily blind the flight crew hampering visibility.

The metal skin that goes into the construction of a modern-day fuselage is thick enough, providing the first line of defence while at the same time, preventing the entry of electromagnetic energy from penetrating the electrical wires.

Out of 3,000 aircraft incidents since 2000, only eight of them were caused by lightning.

Modern planes are made of lightweight carbon composite covered with a thin layer of copper that acts as Faraday Cages.

Fuel tanks located under the wings are shielded from lightning sparks as the surrounding structural components and fuel and filler caps have a temperature threshold of up to 30,000 degrees Celsius and hence can withstand any burning from lightning.

Most lightning strikes are benign, and only very rarely cause for major concern. According to an article by Interesting Engineering from 2019, out of 3,000 aircraft incidents since 2000, only eight of them were caused by lightning.

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India integrating Russian Mi-17 helicopters with Israeli NLOS anti-tank guided missiles - here's what we know


24 Apr 2022

As a part of its strategy toward bolstering aerial prowess and enhancing firepower against enemy armoured regiments, India is now planning to arm its Russian Mi-17 helicopters with the Israeli ‘Non-Line of Sight (NLOS)’ anti-tank guided missiles.

Russian Mil Mi-17 chopper

Also known as the Mi-8M series in Russian services, the Mi-17 is a Soviet-designed Russian military helicopter. Although primarily used as a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter, armed versions are deployed for military operations as well.

Mi-17V5 | Representative | The Print

These helicopters are part of a larger family of high-performance and multipurpose Mi-17s that can fly at high altitudes in complex weather conditions, be it in tropical and maritime climates or even in desert conditions.

A Mi-17 showcasing the clamshell cargo door arrangement | Wikipedia

Tech and specs

The Mi-17 is easily recognizable in that it has the tail rotor on the port side instead of the starboard side and dust shields in front of the engine intake.

Crew3Capacity24 troops / 12 stretchers / 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) cargo internallyHeight 5.65 mMTOW13,000 kgPowerplant 2 × Klimov VK-2500PS-03 turboshaft engine (2,400 hp)Cruise speed 260 km/hRange  800 kmService ceiling 6,000 m (20,000 ftWikipedia

It was reported as "the most widely operated helicopter in history", on its company's website of Russian Helicopters, in 2021.

Spike NLOS anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM)

A member of the world-renowned Spike Family, the Spike NLOS is a multi-purpose, electro-optical missile system with a real-time wireless data link for ranges up to 32 km - nearly four times that of the US-made AGM-114 Hellfire, which is carried on the Apache attack helicopter.

Hellfire air-to-ground missile | Representative | News from Havana

Tech and specs

Provides the gunner with the unique ability of striking targets at stand-off range with no line of sight and can be installed on a variety of platforms.

Rafale Advanced Defense Systems

The Spike NLOS electro-optical (EO) seeker incorporates a dual sensor capable of effectively engaging targets day and night and in adverse weather conditions.

The capability for the operator to control the missile, known as "man in the loop", enables engagement of moving targets and operations in bad weather

Effective Range30kmWeight-Missile in canister71kgModes of operationDirect AttackMid-course navigationWarheadsHeat/Fragmentation/PBF,

According to the manufacturer Rafael, the Spike NLOS has been modified to be fired from helicopters and can be armed with different types of warheads suited to destroy tanks, air defence systems or for use in urban combat, where the need to prevent harm to civilians is critical.

Reportedly, these armed choppers might also be deployed in the high mountainous terrain in Ladakh and adjoining sectors where the Chinese have positioned a large number of their armoured regiments.

Furthermore, the missiles have already arrived in the country and are being integrated into Russian helicopters somewhere in the western sector-reports.


COVER: India Strategic

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Nepal's second international airport starts operations with domestic flights

Radhika Bansal

25 Apr 2022

Nepal's second international airport - Gautam Buddha International Airport - considered a national pride project built in Lumbini, formally came into operation on April 22 with domestic flights taking off from the new airport.

The country's first international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport, came into operation 74 years ago. Yeti Airlines conducted the first flight from the new airport's 3,000-metre runway.

BWA’s new runway replaces the old one that sits adjacent, but only spans 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) in length. The longer runway will allow BWA to accommodate widebody aircraft, thereby paving the way for long-haul flights to and from Nepal.

Yeti Airlines conducted the first flight from the new airport's 3,000-metre runway.

Common widebodies like the Boeing 777, Airbus A330, etc., require less than 3,000 meters of runway length to take off. Nepal Airlines is likely to take advantage of BWA’s upgraded facilities by serving international destinations using its Airbus A330 jets.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft will conduct flights to and from GBIA.

Director General of the CAAN Pradip Adhikari tweeted, "It is my pleasure to share the historic moment that Gautam Budhha International Airport has come into operation. Thank you all for your contributions. This is a milestone for Nepali civil aviation."

Although domestic airlines have started conducting flights from the newly-built airport, international flights will commence on May 16 to coincide with Buddha Jayanti.

ALSO READ - Nepal’s second international airport will start operation in May 2022

According to CAAN Spokesperson Chandra Lal Karna, the old runway has been converted into a taxiway. He said an agreement had been reached between the CAAN and Jazeera Air of Kuwait to operate flights from the airport three days a week after international flights come into operation.

"If all goes well, Jazeera Air will conduct flights from the airport around midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after Buddha Jayanti," Karna told The Himalayan Times. He said the newly-built airport would directly employ roughly around 300 people.

Stating that GBIA was constructed to accommodate parking for aircraft and as an alternative landing zone apart from TIA, CAAN Spokesperson Karna said the airport would also ease travel and make air commute cheaper.

Nepal's second international airport starts operations with domestic flights

He said an agreement had been reached with the Nepal Airline Corporation to conduct ground handling payments. Of the total payments collected by NAC, 15% will be given to CAAN.

"Of the total fuel sales collected from GBIA every month, CAAN will receive 0.05% of the earning," he added. In terms of air routes, aircraft will conduct flights from the same routes used earlier.

By doing so, flight times to and from the airport will be reduced, making airfares cheaper for passengers, Karna stated. The airport can be used as an alternative landing spot in case of emergencies or if for any reason TIA is unsuitable for landing

With tourist arrivals increasing in recent days, residents around the airport hope that the COVID-battered tourism industry would steadily recover.

Although domestic airlines have started conducting flights from the newly-built airport, international flights will commence on May 16 to coincide with Buddha Jayanti.

With the new airport complete and ready for use, the Nepalese authorities can focus on other ongoing airport upgradation projects around the country. The land-locked country finally seems to be taking its airport infrastructure seriously as it looks to add a few more names to its list of international airports soon.

Authorities are completing the construction of the third international airport, located in the Gandaki province. The Pokhara International Airport is set to open later this year and is aimed at regional international flights to neighbouring countries of India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, etc.

Next, Nepalese authorities are also planning to build the Nijgadh International Airport in Madhesh Federal province. The project was set to be completed by 2025 but has run into some trouble with environmental protection laws. The Supreme Court of Nepal halted construction in December 2020.

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Air India transfers 4 Airbus A321s to DRDO and IAF for Netra Mk2 AEWCS project

Radhika Bansal

25 Apr 2022

The Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Air Force are working to make an Airborne Early Warning and Control System on (AEWCS) legacy Air India Airbus A321 aircraft.

These systems will be called Netra-Mk2 where the aircraft will be legacy Air India aircraft and antenna array units will be supplied by DRDO's Lab Center For Airborne Systems (LCFAS).

The modified aircraft are now birthed at Hindon airport.

DRDO and IAF acquired six aircraft and the first aircraft was already delivered in 2021. Four more aircraft were delivered by DRDO in the last couple of months, which are currently parked at Hindon airport.

According to the plan, the six will be taken from the Air India fleet, which means they will be A-319s and A-321 variants.

The original plan, which had also got an AON clearance, was to procure two larger A-330 jets, which were then to be modified and fitted with the AEW&C systems.

Air India transfers 4 Airbus A321s to DRDO and IAF for the Netra Mk2 AEWCS project

However, now the six Airbus aircraft will be modified and the indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar will be mounted on them.

IAF received Two A321 last month and after the conclusion of talks with the Airbus, it will soon be ferried to the Lagardère facility in Toulouse, France where it will undergo structural modifications so that Primary long-range multi-mode radar can be installed in a 10 mt composite dorsal unit that is designed by LRDE.

A319/321 will also get an additional Auxiliary Power Unit to power the radar systems. DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) is developing upgraded Primary and secondary radar for the system that will have enhanced detection and tracking range than its predecessor (Netra Mk1).

A319/321 will also get an additional Auxiliary Power Unit to power the radar systems.

In the latest tender document issued by the DRDO more visible structural changes to the aircraft seems to be much more radical than what was originally planned.

Changes visible are that the beyond-line-of-sight datalinks, satellite communication systems Radome have been moved behind and now it is close to the tail section and it seems plans to have multimode airborne Maritime surveillance Radar to act as an effective force-multiplier solution for operational missions in the maritime theatre seems to have been dropped.

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Singapore to have world's largest sustainable aviation fuel output capacity


24 Apr 2022

Singapore is poised to host the world’s largest sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production capacity when Finnish producer Neste’s facility in Tuas gets completed in the first quarter of 2023.

Neste Oyj is a Finland-based company engaged in the refining and marketing of petroleum and petroleum products. The Renewable Products segment produces, markets and sells renewable diesel, renewable jet fuels and solutions, renewable solvents, as well as raw materials for bioplastics.

Neste is now the top SAF producer globally in terms of output and capacity.

Neste's oil refinery, with a total refining capacity of about 13.5 million tonnes per year, in Porvoo, southern Finland, November 17, 2015, | REUTERS-Jussi Rosendahl

After the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the company's expansion project, it now plans to produce its first batch of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in Singapore by the end of the first quarter of next year.

It's been delayed due to the pandemic as we were already hoping to be on stream in 2022.But the revised plan is now fully on track.Neste's Executive Vice President for Renewable Aviation, Thorsten Lange, told Reuters

Thorsten Lange | Neste

The aviation industry is touted to account for 3% of the world's carbon emissions and is considered one of the toughest to tackle owing to the dearth of alternatives available to jet-fueled engines. Other technologies that aim to decarbonize aviation are on the horizon, but SAFs might be uniquely positioned to quickly reduce emissions in a large portion of flights.

According to Lange, the company plans of commencing SAF production at the end of the first quarter of 2023 and then onwards ramp up output to an annual capacity of 1 million tonnes.

Representative | San Francisco International Airport

Reportedly, Lange has had some very promising discussions at the very recently concluded Singapore Airshow while Japan aiming for 10% sustainable jet fuel for airlines by 2030 is "very encouraging".

What is typical for Asia is they may be lagging behind for the time being ... but that could massively change within the next two to three years. Having a mandate in place provides demand certainty. Lange added

Apparently. Neste is competing in an increasingly crowded space as fossil fuel majors enter the green fuel market, pushing up costs for used cooking oil and discarded animal fat.

The available "feedstock pool is enough to cover the requirements at an initial stage" but is needed to be widened in future and the company IS looking at options such as algae and power-to-liquids (ptl)Lange

Singapore Airlines, the flagship carrier of Singapore, will use blended SAF from Exxon Mobil, which will be supplied by Neste.

Wikimedia Commons

The US Federal Aviation Administration has plans of reaching 3 billion gallons of SAF production by 2030.


COVER: Port of Seattle