03 June 2014


This here video clip ('courtesy' of The Atlantic Magazine), taken from space several hundred kilometers from Earth, obviously, of a flight passing the world's tallest building brings the missing Malaysian Airlines' flight MH370 (a Boeing 777-2H6ER on its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China, with 227 passengers and 12 crew members) in mind in a flash. It seems we, the humanity, can see what is going on in our airspace with amazing accuracy.

Note that in the video, the satellite's angular movement is quite fast, because its trajectory is at fairly low altitudes. Hence, the building is tilting noticeably away from the satellite's movement, and from us, the viewers in the sky. And also the aircraft's apparent trajectory seems to be moving away from us, the observers.

This is amazingly accurate picture, though!

Down here, on the ground, worth some nimble interpretation may also be what Jay Carney (the then president Barrack Obama's spokesman, who has resigned since) meant, exactly, in the first days after the flight disappeared, when stating in a White House press briefing that the aircraft is actually in Indian Ocean (south-west of Malaysia), while the search aircraft and vessels were at the time still deployed searching east of Malaysia. Sounds now, many weeks later, more than intriguing, doesn't it? What Carney said, after some unnamed Pentagon official had first hinted the same, is like this:
“It's my understanding that based on some new information that's not necessarily conclusive, but new information, an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean, and we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.”
That statement precedes the later speculation that the aircraft's engines had been running up to 7 hours after the last contact over South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. INMARSAT calculated later on that the aircraft's probable course could have been along a circular route either northwest and southeast of Malaysian airspace

The problem with MH370 seems to be that, after the flight had levelled off at 35,000 feet, something/someone inhibited/damaged the aircraft's location (e.g. ADS-B that broadcasts certain location specific data 'continuously') transmissions and all other communications from the aircraft including the Secondary Surveillance Radar replies. What that something/someone was, is anybody's guess.

There are (unconfirmed, naturally) reports that MH370 had climbed to 45,000 feet, which is well above the maximum operable flight altitude limit specified for this type of aircraft, after it had disappeared from civilian radar at the time when its control was being handed over from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian) ACC (Area Control Centre) to Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) ACC. The last radio communications where quite normal and innocent enough at 01.18 Malaysian local time:
Lumpur ACC: 'Malaysian Three Seven Zero contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9 Good Night.'
MH 370: 'Good Night Malaysian Three Seven Zero.'
After the flight disappeared from the civilian surveillance systems and reached 45,000 feet (again according to these unconfirmed reports), it had descended in sporadic steps to 23,000 feet, and had then climbed to 29,500 feet at the time when all radar contact was lost with the flight, including by military surveillance.

All that could imply that the aircraft was not flown by a functioning human being or an aircraft system. However, it has been widely interpreted as meaning that somebody/something was flying the aircraft and trying to avoid being detected by surveillance systems.

The plot thickened further, when, day after Carney declared that the search area will be moved thousands of kilometres south west of Malaysia in that briefing at the White House, a CIA admiral (can't find the name now) went public and angrily asked how the hell the White House can tell such a thing (that the aircraft is in Indian Ocean). And White House went quiet for awhile.

Meanwhile, the search continued Heaven knows where, until INMARSAT used, a week later or so, their expertise to calculate the probable locations and the search was moved eventually to Indian Ocean and intensified using military units from several States and an Australian general (ex-chief of their armed forces no less) was put in charge of the search (instead of SAR experts from one of the participating states).

So, that would be a good start for a beautiful conspiracy theory.

Of course, what happened could as well be explained in terms of technical problems and flying several hours until the fuel run out. But that would not be as interesting as a good, old-fashioned and solid conspiracy, would it?

Intriguing times we are living!?

08 September 2011

G-YROX Stalled By Russian Bureaucrats

G-YROX Stalled By Russian Bureaucrats | Aero-News Network And, incidentally, the first round-the-world gyrocopter is stuck awaiting the Russian authorities to approve the flight through Siperia.

The G-YROX pilot, Norman Surplus, is based in Northern Ireland. He left his home base in March 2010 and has struggled around Asia and through Japan and hopes to continue up the Russian east coast and across Bering Sea into Alaska sometimes in the spring of 2012. The G-YROX blog explains.

South African Team In LA On GA Circumnavigation Attempt

South African Team In LA On GA Circumnavigation Attempt | Aero-News Network Sling 4 is a four-seater born out of the South African Sling LSA whose second prototype crashed in the ocean off the South African coast during flat-spin testing on February 13 2010. The crew are now stuck in LA by the US authorities, perhaps because of the proximity of 9/11 anniversary.

23 March 2011

Destination Tokyo on the Day of the Big Events

Picture a Boeing B767 at Narita by K. Kitou for Narita Airport

This comes from an Australian friend of mine who has a friend who has a friend whose friend is the airline pilot who wrote the account below (and we are not even speaking about the ‘degrees of separation’ here, although we could be). It must have been mighty exciting in the air, too, when the earthquake and tsunamis hit Japan.


I'm currently still in one piece, writing from my room in the Tokyo/Narita crew hotel. It's 8am. This is my inaugural trans-pacific trip as a brand new, recently checked out, international 767 Captain and it has been interesting, to say the least, so far. I've crossed the Atlantic three times so far so the ocean crossing procedures were familiar.

By the way, stunning scenery flying over the Aleutian Islands. Everything was going fine until 100 miles out from Tokyo and in the descent for arrival. The first indication of any trouble was that Japan air traffic control started putting everyone into holding patterns. At first we thought it was usual congestion on arrival. Then we got a company data link message advising about the earthquake, followed by another stating Narita airport was temporarily closed for inspection and expected to open shortly (the company is always so positive).

From our perspective things were obviously looking a little different. The Japanese controller's anxiety level seemed quite high and he said expect "indefinite" holding time. No one would commit to a time frame on that so I got my copilot and relief pilot busy looking at divert stations and our fuel situation, which, after an ocean crossing is typically low.

It wasn't long, maybe ten minutes, before the first pilots started requesting diversions to other airports. Air Canada, American, United, etc. all reporting minimal fuel situations. I still had enough fuel for 1.5 to 2.0 hours of holding. Needless to say, the diverts started complicating the situation.

Japan air traffic control then announced Narita was closed indefinitely due to damage. Planes immediately started requesting arrivals into Haneada, near Tokyo, a half dozen JAL and western planes got clearance in that direction but then ATC announced Haenada had just closed. Uh oh! Now instead of just holding, we all had to start looking at more distant alternatives like Osaka, or Nagoya.

One bad thing about a large airliner is that you can't just be-pop into any little airport. We generally need lots of runway. With more planes piling in from both east and west, all needing a place to land and several now fuel critical ATC was getting over-whelmed. In the scramble, and without waiting for my fuel to get critical, I got my flight a clearance to head for Nagoya, fuel situation still okay. So far so good. A few minutes into heading that way, I was "ordered" by ATC to reverse course. Nagoya was saturated with traffic and unable to handle more planes (read- airport full). Ditto for Osaka.

With that statement, my situation went instantly from fuel okay, to fuel minimal considering we might have to divert a much farther distance. Multiply my situation by a dozen other aircraft all in the same boat, all making demands requests and threats to ATC for clearances somewhere. Air Canada and then someone else went to "emergency" fuel situation. Planes started to heading for air force bases. The nearest to Tokyo was Yokoda AFB. I threw my hat in the ring for that initially. The answer – Yokoda closed! no more space.

By now it was a three ring circus in the cockpit, my copilot on the radios, me flying and making decisions and the relief copilot buried in the air charts trying to figure out where to go that was within range while data link messages were flying back and forth between us and company dispatch in Atlanta. I picked Misawa AFB at the north end of Honshu island. We could get there with minimal fuel remaining. ATC was happy to get rid of us so we cleared out of the maelstrom of the Tokyo region. We heard ATC try to send planes toward Sendai, a small regional airport on the coast which was later the one I think that got flooded by a tsunami.

Atlanta dispatch then sent us a message asking if we could continue to Chitose airport on the Island of Hokkaido, north of Honshu. Other Delta planes were heading that way. More scrambling in the cockpit - check weather, check charts, check fuel, okay. We could still make it and not be going into a fuel critical situation ... if we had no other fuel delays. As we approached Misawa we got clearance to continue to Chitose. Critical decision thought process. Let's see - trying to help company - plane overflies perfectly good divert airport for one farther away...wonder how that will look in the safety report, if anything goes wrong.

Suddenly ATC comes up and gives us a vector to a fix well short of Chitose and tells us to standby for holding instructions. Nightmare realized. Situation rapidly deteriorating. After initially holding near Tokyo, starting a divert to Nagoya, reversing course back to Tokyo then to re-diverting north toward Misawa, all that happy fuel reserve that I had was vaporizing fast. My subsequent conversation, paraphrased of course...., went something like this:
"Sapparo Control - Delta XX requesting immediate clearance direct to Chitose, minimum fuel, unable hold."
"Negative Ghost-Rider, the Pattern is full" <<< top gun quote<<<
"Sapparo Control - make that - Delta XX declaring emergency, low fuel, proceeding direct Chitose"
"Roger Delta XX, understood, you are cleared direct to Chitose, contact Chitose approach....etc...."

Enough was enough, I had decided to pre-empt actually running critically low on fuel while in another indefinite holding pattern, especially after bypassing Misawa, and played my last ace...declaring an emergency. The problem with that is now I have a bit of company paperwork to do but what the heck.

As it was - landed Chitose, safe, with at least 30 minutes of fuel remaining before reaching a "true" fuel emergency situation. That's always a good feeling, being safe. They taxied us off to some remote parking area where we shut down and watched a half dozen or more other airplanes come streaming in. In the end, Delta had two 747s, my 767 and another 767 and a 777 all on the ramp at Chitose. We saw two American Airlines planes, a United and two Air Canada as well. Not to mention several extra All Nippon and Japan Air Lines planes.


Post-script - 9 hours later, Japan air lines finally got around to getting a boarding ladder to the plane where we were able to get off and clear customs. - that however, is another interesting story.

By the way - while writing this - I have felt four additional tremors that shook the hotel slightly - all in 45 minutes.


13 September 2010

ATR-42-200 Accident in Venezuela

Picture: ImageShack

A ConViasa flight from Porlamar-island (ICAO code KPMV) to Puerto Ordaz airport (ICAO:n koodi SVPR) in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, had an accident 6 miles from the destination. Of 43 passangers and 4 crew members at least 23 have survived.

Conviasa was founded in 2004 and it operates 15 aircraft, the flag ship is the sole Airbus A340-200.

Before today's accident ConViasa had already one previous fatal accident in 2007, in which their Boeing 737 (YV102T) flew into terrain while on approach to Caracas. In that accident two crew members and one passenger were killed. The accident was a CFIT, controlled flight into terrain. The flight had gone outside the approach procedure's protected zone by executing a base turn late and hit a side of a vulcano.

ConViasa is owned by the government and was founded as a successor for the previous Venezuelan State-owned airline, Viasa, that went bust in 1997. The founding was done on the orders of the colourful president Hugo Chavez. ConViasa is keeping a good comapany otherwise as well, it is code sharing with Aeroflot, Iran Air and Cubana.

Viasa flew from 1960 and it had a fairly good safety record, a couple of major accidents during the 60's but after those things had gone without major mishaps.

24 August 2010

Nepal DO228 Accident

Video is from Nepal TV and the aircraft is the Dornier DO228, 9N-AHE.

This morning's accident to an Agni Air flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (Tenzing-Hillary) airport is again a reminder of how difficult flying conditions in Nepal are, and how little the flights receive in a form of ATM services.

Lukla airport is at an altitude of 9380 FT. Its runway is 1729 FT long and about 66 FT wide with bitumen surface. It is inclined by about 12 %. There are no instrument landing system at Lukla and in fact only possible system would be based on GNSS, but there are no GNSS procedures designed for Lukla or any other airport in Nepal. The main reason seems to be an old-fashioned inclination against other than conventional navaids.

Tne Nepalese surveillance system is not much better, there is an PSR/SSR station in Katmandu Valley but its coverage is hampered by the local terrain and is usefol only within a very small area around the Katmandu TIA International Airport and, therefore, its use is very limited even within the Kathmandu TMA, e.g. ATC are not allowed to vector traffic at all.

The Civil Aviation Administration of Nepal (CAAN) are in a process of improving their NAV and SUR services and may be also looking at possibilities to utilise GNSS (SBAS and/or GBAS augmentation) and ADS-B systems (Mode S ES). A basic GPS has been mandated in Nepal (no official IFR procedures), but all the domestic flights are still equipped with Mode A/C transponders only. But there is a very strong willingness within the CAAN and the pilot community to move forward with modernisation.

19 May 2006

Plane Wars 2

Picture Airbus: Singapore Airlines Airbus 380

All major airports in Europe are battling to increase their runway throughput to meet the ever-increasing passenger demand. The situation can be improved by use of larger aircraft types such as Boeing 747 and especially a new 550-seat Airbus A380.

Currently air traffic controllers are using distance separation (depends on aircraft weight category, must be minimum 2.5-3 NM over the runway threshold) between consecutive landings that must be increased significantly behind heavier aircraft due to wake vortex. Separating aircraft precisely on final approach without losing landing slots is notoriously difficult task for flights with different final approach speeds because the approaching aircraft have to follow the same final path established typically at least for the last 10-15 NM before landing.

Airport ATC system planners (see also the WakeNet2-Europe site) want to improve airport throughput e.g. by changing a distance-based separation to a time-based separation that would take into account different and gradually decreasing final approach speeds used by aircraft on final approach. This would require automated systems to assist controllers, and those are not currently available although there are some such systems in development phase.

The problem caused by wake vortex was highlighted by Airbus A300 crash on take-off from New York’s Kennedy airport in autumn 2001 soon after 9/11 killing everybody on board. The aircraft suffered major structural damage one minute into the flight and the investigation concluded that turbulance caused by wake vortex was a contributing factor in the accident.

On Thursday this week, Airbus’s new giant jet, A380, landed first time at London Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport. The UK Civil Aviation Authority, following an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recommended practise, has ordered that an 11 NM separation must be maintained behind a landing A380, maximum weight 540 tonnes, this is almost twice as much as separation behind a landing Boeing 747 (max weight 360 tonnes). If this is carried through to line operations of A380, the airlines – and airport operators – fear that the advantage offered by a 550-seater A380 would be lost by missing scarce landing slots.

Head of flight testing at Airbus, Fernando Alonso, has said that the Airbus's own flight tests have shown slightly more severe vortex behind an A380 than a 747, but that would not require almost doubling of landing separation minimum compared to 747. Airbus is trying to convince ICAO that a separation same or very similar to 747 would be safe behind an A380.

According to the London’s The Times –newspaper the president of the Emirates (of Dubai, orders for 49 A380s) Maurice Flanagan has speculated that ICAO’s decision on an excessive separation was influenced by the US, keen to protect Boeing’s share of the jumbo market.

Picture: Changi airport at the time when flights took days to finis and passangers stayed in the Raffles Hotel as part of their flight experience. Airbus A380 will be able to fly directly from London to Sydney, so even a Singapore stop-over will be just a part of nostalgic history. So soon even a quick drink of Singapore sling on the terrace in the Raffles will be impossible

Airbus has so far 159 firm orders for the A380. The first A380 with paying passengers will be operated by Singapore Airlines in December 2006 between Singapore Changi International and Sydney airports.

18 May 2006

Plane wars

Picture: Airbus A350

In October 2004, European Union and USA filed law suits against each other in the World Trade Organisation accusing both that the governments give their domestic aircraft manufacturers illegal subsidies. The case is the largest the WTO has handled and is expected to last several years.

The two giant aircraft builders are battling to dominate the market of commercial airplanes. Boeing has been the historical leader but Airbus has hit back and last year passed its rival in number of aircraft in its order books.

Last year the Bush administration ended a significant tax break that has sustained Boeing’s dominance and the Americans were hoping that that would end the dispute, but that did not happen.

Airbus is now planning to ask more aid from the European governments in order to redesign its troublesome A350 –project, which is falling behind Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Expected delivery dates for A350 are in 2010, Boeing will start delivering 787s already in 2008. A350 may be delayed further due to major redesign of the cockpit due to customer requests.

Picture: Boeing 787 Dreamliner

This week Ms. Neena Moorjani (spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's Office) warned the European governments:

Increasing the amount of launch aid already committed to the A350 only makes
the problem worse.

The spokeswoman also said that the US still prefers a negotiated solution, but will litigate the World Trade Organisation case until completed, if necessary.

The war continues.