Lai See

Steve Miller plans to start his third airline

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 May, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 May, 2014, 8:00am

Friends of Steve Miller can only shake their heads in disbelief at the news that, at the age of 74, he is attempting to start another airline. He has already started two - Dragonair, which is still flying, and Oasis Hong Kong Airlines, which nosedived after 17 months in 2008. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which is based in Florida, Miller has already set up the company, Sunrise Airlines of Sarasota and now just needs US$30 million to lease four Boeing 737s.

Miller, who was a longtime Hong Kong resident and is well known here, moved to Florida with his wife in 2011 where the airline bug has apparently bitten him again.

His business plan, the newspaper reported, proposed flying to 24 cities, including Los Angeles. In its first year, Miller aimed to fly to eight cities, including Baltimore, Detroit, Indianapolis and Boston. However, the story was published about a year ago and Miller, optimistic as ever, was anticipating taking to the air by October last year. But it appears that investors have so far been slow in coming forward.

The venture appears to have been prompted by the withdrawal of AirTran Airways from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, leaving a gap in the market. Miller found his main backer for Oasis Airlines, Raymond Lee, in, of all places, a cinema queue. "He was standing behind me in the queue to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. We got talking and I decided to approach him."

Friends of Miller will be hoping that he does not find the backing for this new venture and put himself through the wringer yet again.


Waste matters

While the Environment Bureau continues with its line that gasification is an inappropriate technology for dealing with Hong Kong's waste, other municipalities around the world are turning to it as their preferred solution.

The Gaochun district government in Nanjing has recently signed a deal for a HK$400 million gasification plant, which will process 500 tonnes a day and generate 54 million kilowatt-hours annually. A statement says: "Through the introduction of plasma gasification technology as the project's preferred technical solution, it will accelerate the research of new waste treatment technology, with the ultimate goal of manufacturing the technology domestically." So this is not just going to be a one-off project.

Authorities in Costa Rica and Barbados have also announced plasma gasification projects for handling waste. Air Products and Chemicals is building a second gasification plant in Billingham in Britain. Numerous airlines, including British Airways and Lufthansa, have signed deals for plasma gasification plants to turn municipal solid waste into biojet fuel, while 10 others have signed letters of intent with Solena Fuels to supply them biojet fuels at airports in California, which will come from a plasma gasification plant using municipal solid waste and agricultural waste as fuel. And the list goes on.

Despite innovation in technology, the Environmental Protection Department has stuck to the plans for a moving-grate incinerator. In seven or eight years' time, when the rest of the world will be converting municipal solid waste into biofuels without the worry of toxic emissions or ash, Hong Kong will be loading about 1,000 tonnes of toxic bottom ash a day on to barges and burying it in the ash lagoon or, when that fills up, in landfill. This doesn't seem to make sense.


HK Country Club politics

A few eyebrows were raised at the Hong Kong Country Club recently at Dickie Lau Kam-wing's manifesto. The former chairman of Burwill is seeking election to the club's general committee. But his "election platform" is rather more high-powered than others in that it is adorned with photographs of two well-known political figures.

Dickie has the support of no less than Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and James Tien Pei-chun. Ip says she is confident that "Dickie will bring good contribution to our club", while Tien urges: "Please vote for Dickie, vote for a better HKCC". Some members apparently feel that bringing in these political big guns is rather over the top for what is essentially a club committee election. Others who were given the option of similar support declined on the grounds that they did not feel comfortable with this kind of politicisation.