Hard times: not for the rich and influential!

Despite these difficult economic times, those that have seem to get even more, sometimes beyond the borders of legality. Perhaps, as with some chimpanzees,  it is built into their DNA.

A new scientific report by the magazine Nature looks at the contrasting behaviour of the chimpanzee and its african cousin, the bonobo. Like chimpanzees, with whom they share 99.6% of genomes, bonobos and humans share 98.7 percent of the same genetic blueprint. However, they have distinctly different behaviours, both of which can be seen in humans. As the report says (and you can hear a BBC World Service review of this report, repeated on World Radio Switzerland)

Bonobo.JPGBonobos make love, not war. Chimps have been documented to kill and make war. Bonobos share food with total strangers, but chimps do not.

In our human world we see constant news articles that demonstrate how some humans are more akin to the chimpanzees than to the bonobos. However much they have, these humans desire ever more money, power and influence, and are often willing to go to, and even beyond, the legal limits. Regrettably, the supervisory authorities often seem unwilling to use their regulatory powers, so this behaviour goes uncontrolled.

Unsurprisingly, top bankers and their associates feature prominently in this list of chimpanzee-like behaviour. One, however, has recently gone too far over the limits. According to reports on Saturday June 16, Rajat Gupta, a former director of Goldman Sachs (the bank that helped Greece get into the Euro zone!) has been convicted of leaking confidential information to a former friend and business partner.

Mr Gupta sat on the boards of Goldman Sachs, Proctor & Gamble and American Airlines (he could probably fly anywhere for free!) and was world-wide head of the consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. He clearly had everything that anyone could want, yet he wanted still more. Now, instead of working on his golf handicap, he is contemplating many years in a US jail. As far as I know, his defence has not yet offered his DNA profile as a mitigating factor, but maybe one day ... !

In Switzerland, the rich and famous equally seem to want more and more, whilst the regulatory bodies procrastinate interminably. On the same day, the Swiss paper "Le Temps" carried an editorial suggesting that the Swiss Parliament (le Conseil national) had conspired to prevent the Swiss from voting on the initiative of Thomas Minder to ban excessive payments to executives ("contre les rémunérations abusives"). This initiative was handed to the Swiss authorities on February 26, 2008, i.e. 1573 days ago.

It is not hard to imagine some reasons for this delay. The political parties in Switzerland may receive donations for undisclosed amounts of money by unnamed donators. The members of both Chambers may have outside affiliations which, whilst normally being disclosed, may affect their point of view. Finally, there are very effective lobbies of powerful outside interests which try to influence members.

The end result of this is that Thomas Minder has shortly to decide whether to withdraw his initiative. He is reported as saying that he would have available only about 100,000 francs to invest in a campaign, whereas his adversaries would have millions at their disposal! Personally, if he had a Web site where I could make a donation then I would do so, merely on the principle that people should have a right to vote on the initiative.

Nearer home, and of particular interest to me and the association of which I am President, is the continual growth in air traffic around Geneva. I have the distinct impression that the same DNA mentality may be playing a rôle in the desire of the airport authorities to have more and more flights to more and more places at all available hours of the day and night. In this case, the regulatory authorities, who should be defending the rights of the airport neighbours to a minimum of nuisances and nights of sleep undisturbed by the noise of aircraft flying until after midnight, appear not to want to interfere.

The example which makes me doubt whether these authorities really care about the airport neighbours is that of the acceptance by the airport management of a final incoming flight from Lisbon by the portuguese airline TAP. Progressively, over the last few years, this flight has been scheduled later and later, so that now it is scheduled to arrive at 11h35 pm. As such, it is the last scheduled flight into Geneva, as well as being the last TAP flight to leave Lisbon for the principal mainland Europe destinations.

The two regulatory bodies which could have affected this decision are the Geneva state authorities (state councillor François Longchamp is president of the Geneva airport administrative council) and the Swiss Federation Civil Aviation Office (OFAC). Sadly, it is unrealistic to expect the Geneva authorities to do anything: the airport is, for Geneva finances, the goose which lays the golden egg. Thus, they will insist that this is a federal affair under the competence of OFAC.

OFAC, to whom we wrote to complain about this extreme lateness of the flight from Lisbon (click here to see the letter), normally side with the airport. In this case, their reply, which arrived yesterday, seems to obey this observed rule. After the falsely reassuring paragraph reiterating their principle that airlines should be restrictive in scheduling flights between 10 pm and 6 am, there is a paragraph clearly written by the airport management trying to justify the flight, followed by their own (OFAC) statement that the planning of this flight, albeit at the end of the evening, is perfectly normal. Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise.

So how is the flight justified (francophones can read the text here)? Firstly, by the need for the airport to ensure an increased number of destinations from Geneva: this argument is completely irrelevant since Lisbon has always been one of the destinations. Secondly, a flight at the end of the evening is necessary to ensure the maintenance of the aircraft before its departure the following morning: again, completely irrelevant, especially since TAP has its own maintenance facilities in Lisbon, and the later the flight arrives in Geneva, the less time there is for maintenance. Finally, the airport management has made the airline aware of the constraints in Geneva: clearly, these constraints have not been sufficiently strongly emphasised to stop TAP progressively retarding the arrival time.

For me, the conclusion is that the airport authorities have capitulated without any serious protest to a request by TAP to land aircraft in Geneva later and later. Either this management does not care about its neighbours or it could not bear to envisage the loss of face by refusing the flight (which would leave only 4 flights per day from Lisbon!). Either way, we suffer the consequence of this craven acceptance: we might suffer even more if/when other airlines realise how late they can send evening flights to Geneva. Perhaps we don't protest enough because we have the Bonobo type of DNA!

11:32 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: geneva, airpoort, dna, bonobo, chimpanzee, night flights | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook


Is Swiss suppressing some Zurich flights?

For the last two days the first morning flight of Swiss to Zurich has been suppressed. Yesterday the last Swiss flight from Zurich to Geneva was half-suppressed. Signs of the hard times?

For years the first flight out in the mornings has always been the Swiss flight LX2801 to Zurich, scheduled to depart at 6am (usually over my head at Versoix!), whilst the last flight back at night has been LX2818 from Zurich, scheduled to arrive at 11h20 pm. However, for the last two days (Thursday 24 May and Friday 25 May) the morning flight has been cancelled. Since the next Swiss flight to Zurich is not too much later (LX2805 at 7h40 am) it seems likely that there have not been enough passengers for the early flight, so these passengers booked on the early flight have to wait for the next one.This in turn implies that these early passengers would not be able to transit to early Swiss flights from Zurich!

Yesterday, the last evening flight was also cancelled. However, the one before that (LX2816, due to leave Zurich at 8h35 pm) was actually delayed until about the same time as LX2818 would actually have left. In other words, effectively the two flights were coalesced into one, which left more or less when LX2818 should have left. Thus, the flight would have been available for passengers returning to Geneva via Zurich (if it had not then those passengers would NOT have been pleased!).

Will this continue? I don't know: what I do know is that on the flight departures list of the airport the first morning flight LX2801 was simply not mentioned, which tends to suggest that it was not simply cancelled today.

Of course, for those of us in Versoix who want our early morning wake-up call, I can say that between 6am and 7h30am this morning (my radio alarm time) I had the doubtful pleasure of hearing 18 jets taking off. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these (10) were easyJet Switzerland. Tonight, unless the wind changes direction, it will be the people living in Vernier who will hear the aircraft (again, mostly easyJet) returning over their heads (although if there is not too much wind we in Versoix may nonetheless have some of these late arrivals be allowed to come in over our heads).

Clearly, of course, this is not a problem to people who have had their dwellings soundproofed at the airport's expense: they simply have to close the windows of their bedroom (and hope for a cool summer!).

TP942.JPGps: don't forget that as from tomorrow, Saturday 26 May, the last scheduled flight every day will be that from Lisbon to Geneva, operated by TAP and scheduled to arrive at 10 minutes before midnight, so don't necessarily open your bedroom windows once the last Swiss flight is in!

12:26 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: swiss, zurich, geneva, airport | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook


Geneva rush hour traffic

When there was an accident at the Vernier tunnel the resulting tailback went right through the airport. Maybe this is partly why the area around the airport is a pollution centre.

This experience shows how on a knife edge is the morning and evening rush hour traffic situation around Geneva: one accident in an awkward spot and road traffic grinds to a halt. Drivers fume in their minds, whilst almost all of the cars fume from the exhaust pipe as the engine ticks over. Needless to say, most of the cars have a single occupant.

I experienced this when driving from Versoix to Petit Lancy yesterday evening, Tuesday 5 May, at around 6pm. I hit a traffic jam even before Palexpo (which was when my car radio told me that there was an accident at the Vernier tunnel, blocking one lane of traffic!).

Like many other motorists (mostly ones in cars with French plates), I chose to get off the motorway by taking the next possible exit: the turning to the airport. This then meant that I got into another traffic jam going through the airport. This was made worse by some motorists, obviously having already experienced this situation, who went on a side road leading to the World Trade Centre underground parking, but then went past the parking entrance and back onto the main road.

Eventually, I got onto the Avenue Louis Casai going towards Balexert, then turned right to go over the Pont Butin. Of course, this was also in a jam situation (though less bad than the motorway to France via the Vernier tunnel). End result: about an hour sitting in my car. In mitigation, I can say that because it is a hybrid, it was not pollutiing when at rest or moving very slowly since this was battery-driven.

That same evening there was a report in the main RTS 19h30 news, repeated in this newspaper today, saying that the Swiss, in particular in the German-speaking areas, are increasingly using public transport, but yet the amount of car traffic is not decreasing. The explanation might be that they are progressively living further away from the workplace, for a variety of reasons (including, of course, the inability to find affordable housing near the workplace).

Is there any solution? Maybe the railway improvements, including the new CEVA rail project and the extra capacity with the double-decker regional trains from Lausanne, will help. However, a pessimist might perhaps think that these will, at best, stop the car traffic from growing. Pessimists, of course, are rarely disappointed!

My solution: I will buy a senior yearly rail pass then go to Petit Lancy (and elsewhere) by train and tram/bus (a lot easier and faster than yesterday).

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Nature abhors a vacuum: airlines also

Iberia pilots have been striking in protest at the setting up of a new low-cost subsidiary, Iberia Express. Now there is another Spanish airline operating low cost services to Geneva.

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M-KATE: not the British Royal Family

Over the past few weeks an Airbus A319 has paid several overnight visits to Geneva. I thought that this Isle of Man Registration might be related to Harry and Kate, but no!

There are many private jet aircraft registered in the Isle of Man which come to Geneva, but very few are of the size of an Airbus A319, capable of carrying over 100 passengers. This one, registered as M-KATE, was one of the ones for which the registration might be personal (many of the M- registrations are personal), so I tried to find out more.

It turns out that the aircraft belongs to a company called Sophar Property Holding BVI (British Virgin Islands, I believe). The history of this company is somewhat mysterious, because some years ago it was bought by the Russian potash mining company called Uralkali, the head of Uralkali being a Russian oligarch called Dmitry Rybolovlev. At the time that it was bought, its only assets were an option to buy two private jets: a much smaller Falcon and this A319.

Somehow, when Dmitry lost his position in Uralkali, it seems that he was rather attached to these jets, so apparently he bought them back (effectively buying Sophar Property Holding at the value of the two aircraft). If this is so, then he can travel around in either of them.

The three overnight visits of M-KATE to Geneva this year have been on 15/16 March, 20/21 March and 28/29 April. Data from an aircraft tracking web site appears to show that this last visit came from Zurich and then went to Nice. Not exactly long flights from an aircraft which is said to have installed extra long-range fuel tanks.

Mr Rybolovlev appears to be another of the eastern European rich people who like to acquire Football clubs in Europe: he was at the head of a consortium which bought a controlling interest im Monaco FC last year. Another Russion, Roman Abramovich, has long owned Chelsea FC, and will have a prime seat for the European Champions League final shortly. Other East European adventurers have been less successful, including in Switzerland (Neuchatel Xamax!).

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Swiss air pollution is rising

According to the Swiss federal environment office, Switzerland emitted more greenhouse gases in 2010 than in 2009. What happened in 2011 and will Kyoto targets be met this year?

The report indicates that in 2010 the CO2 emissions equivalent for Switzerland was 54.2 tons, an increase of 3.4% over 2009 which was attributed to extra heating requirements because of low temperatures in the home heating season. The expressed hope is that the situation will be improved in 2011, because of more clement temperatures. However, the graphics on the federal web site do not exactly make this expressed hope obvious. I have to say that, in my experience, official figures usually tend towards the optimistic side. We will have to wait for some months to see any actual figures for 2011.

According to the Kyoto protocol, Switzerland is required to reduce its emissions by an average of 8% relative to 1990, in order to drop to not more than 48.6 tons this year. The first indicator for the feasibility of this drop will be the figures for 2011, and one has to say that the drop in heating needs might be counterbalanced by the rise in other sectors due to the general economic improvements last year. As for this year, I wonder what effect the extremely cold weather of February (and the start of April) will have!

One of the ways (somewhat artificial in my thinking) is to buy certificates from other countries via the "Fondation centime climatique". According to newspaper reports, the Federal Government, under its minister Doris Leuthart, has signed a contract to increase the certificates that it will buy for the period 2008 to 2012 from 12 millions to 17 millions.

2011_NO2_Geneva.JPGSome figures that are already available for 2011 are that of air pollution in Geneva, as calculated by Geneva cantonal authorities. These do not make for particularly comforting reading, especially for NO2 emissions around Geneva centre and the airport. In 2010 there were two zones in which the year's emissions exceeded what is called the emission limit value (VLI : valeur limite d'immission) of 30 micrograms per cubic metre: one around the centre of town and one around the airport. Figures now issued for 2011 show that both of these zones have increased enough to be merged into a large single zone.

This VLI zone is one inside which the NO2 emissions are said to have a harmful impact on people's health and the ecosystems. Thus, anyone resident in a very large area between the airport and the town centre is liable to this harmful effect. It is, of course, possible that other regions in Switzerland will all have less pollution in 2011 than in 2010, but I would not bet too much money on it.

What is very annoying (to put it mildly) to many environmentalists is that the calculated CO2 emissions for Switzerland do not include any contribution from international aviation. This is one of two exceptions stated in the Kyoto protocol, the other one being shipping: not too much of that emitted by the steam-powered lake steamers on Geneva lake. It is another demonstration of how the airline lobby has succeeded in retaining enormous privileges, always claiming that air traffic only adds a few percent to global emissions.

In England I am sure that one would be able to do spread betting on the final 2011 and 2012 emission levels. What would your predictions be?

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Night flights to nowhere

A rich person wishing, for tax reasons, not to be considered resident in Britain regularly slept overnight in his private jet. Each flight reduced his residence by 2 days!

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Jetman Rossy and Wingman Connery

When Swiss Jetman Yves Rossy flies, his flying suit is jet-powered. The Brit, Gary Connery, has been training in Switzerland to fly without power and land without a parachute.

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Lille FC coach beats airport offside trap

March 2012 044.JPG

Last Friday night the driver of the coach of Lille Football club performed miracles to turn things around. The team then beat Evian 3-0 in Annecy and are now in third place.

It was late afternoon on Friday 23 March, when I was near the General Aviation centre, on the North (Jura) side of the airport, that I saw this luxurious red coach manoeuvering to get to near where the passengers on the private jets come through the customs and out into the car park. Knowing that region, I realised that he would be in big trouble, since that is a narrow road, at the end of which the area for turning round mostly has parked cars all over it, so I followed him down.


This coach turned out to be the official coach of Lille Football Club. The driver told me that he was there to meet the Lille FC players and staff, and then take them to Annecy to spend the night before playing Evian TG on the Saturday night. He would then bring them back to the airport, where they would fly back to Lille. I told him he would have two problems: turning his coach around and then queueing to go through the Vernier tunnel and the Bardonnex customs post.

He started an attempt to turn the coach around, with me trying to indicate when he was getting too close to a wall, a building or a car. After 15 minutes he was still trying when, by a great stroke of luck, the owner of the critical parked car arrived and moved it: ouf!

While waiting for the team to arrive, he told me that the opposing team, whose full name is Evian Thonon Gaillard F.C., had been promoted into the top league in France last season, after only one season in the second league. This rapid ascension seems to be in part because of support from the Danone Group. However, even when they were in the second league, their home ground did not meet the required standards, so they had to find a suitable ground to play their "home" matches. There was some talk of them playing in Geneva, but finally they opted to play in Annecy.

Their flight, in a Dornier DO-328 registered as OY-NCO and operated by Sun Air of Scandinavia, landed at 7h35 pm. A quick passage through customs meant that they left at around 8pm, so they would probably have missed the worst of the Friday night jams, got to Annecy and had a good night's sleep. They then beat Evian 3-0, thus keeping their third position in the French league, and returned to Geneva to take a flight on a similar, but different, Sun Air aircraft (OY-NCN): it left at 11pm on the Saturday night.


Curiously, when I looked up the result on the Swiss teletext on the Sunday morning I saw that the match was goalless at half-time, before finishing as 3-0 to Lille. The first goal for Lille was a penalty transformed by Hazard in the 36th minute! Maybe the person updating the teletext sports pages did not get enough sleep?

The next important encounter in Lille will take place next Wednesday, 28 March, when a team of lawyers of DSK United, renowned for their robust defensive play, will try to neutralise the attack of a team of state prosecutors.


11:11 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: lille, football, evian, geneva, airport | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook


Swiss aircraft advertises shopping at Zurich Airport

After trams painted to advertise, Swiss airline has decided to do likewise on one of their aircraft. The Swiss Avro RJ100 HB-IYS is painted to advertise shopping at Zurich airport.

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More carbon emissions menace Bangladesh

More cars and more aircraft still mean more carbon emissions. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister recently warned that her country will suffer, but others will follow.

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German visitors to the Salon

The motor show in Geneva always brings many visitors from Germany. On the last day, corresponding to the first day of the 2012 Formula 1 season, we can look back on them.

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Three Czech / Slovakia incidents!

A flight by a German company aborts a landing in Geneva. Later, it goes back to Slovakia avoiding overflying Czech airspace. Very late at night a small Czech private jet takes off!

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The limits of a single runway?

20120311_circling.jpgYesterday, 11 March, between 5h30 pm and 6pm, six incoming aircraft had to circle over the Jura, near Morez. Perhaps the signs of a saturation on the single runway?

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Volkswagen flies with Cayman Island aircraft

The Volkswagen car group has a fleet of 9 jet aircraft, including a big Airbus A319. All have been seen in Geneva this week and all are registered in the Cayman Islands!

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14:33 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: vw, volkswagen, geneva, airport, motor show | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook