Mad new airline safety procedures

July 10th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Passengers flying to and from British airports, and not just those on United States-bound flights, must ensure their electronic devices are charged.

Although New Zealand authorities have not been asked to implement the tough new safety measures, the Aviation Security Service said it was prepared to step up checks.

The ASS should say that they will not succumb to the paranoia from overseas. To ban you travelling with a cellphone if it has run out of power (which is very common) is madness. Think of the huge delays as every person has to power their phone on, and then has to either give up their cellphone or change flights if it has run out of power.

A spokesman for the department said: “In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device on to the aircraft.

“Passengers … are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel.”

Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis of the huge cost this imposes, against the very marginal benefit?

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Tracking planes

April 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An aviation industry group is creating a task force to make recommendations this year for continuously tracking commercial airliners because “we cannot let another aircraft simply vanish” like Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. …

The aviation mystery has highlighted the need for improvements in tracking aircraft and security, according to the International Air Transport Association, a trade association for the world’s airlines meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

“In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief that an aircraft could simply disappear,” said Tony Tyler, the director general of the group whose 240 member airlines carry 84 per cent of all passengers and cargo worldwide.

“We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” he said in announcing the high-level task force to make recommendations on tracking commercial aircraft.

I strongly agree with this, and not just  because by the time this post appears I’ll be on board a Malaysia Airlines flight to (hopefully) Kuala Lumpar!!

I’d even go further and say modern aircraft should have drone capability where their airline can take over control via autopilot if a plane diverts from its intended route without good reason.

But the Air Line Pilots Association, the world’s biggest pilot union, warned that live-streaming of information from the flight data recorder, as an alternative to the current black boxes, could lead to the release or leak of clues that could make pilots look bad before all the facts about an accident are known.

The pilots union have a lot to answer for when it comes to safety. They’re the reason the black box only records the last two hours of conversation, which means for MH370 even finding the black box may not help us know what happened. Their concern about people judging pilots prematurely should be a distant second to safety.

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MH370 confirmed crashed

March 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The devastated relatives of passengers on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 must assume the plane is “lost” and the flight crashed in the Indian Ocean, the Malaysian PM says.

The families were called to meetings this morning to be told the fate of flight 370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people, including two New Zealanders, aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

Those who could not attend received a text message or phone call from the airline confirming the terrible news.

New satellite analysis showed MH370 flew along the southern corridor and its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth, representatives of the UK Air Investigation Branch had told Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sights,” Najib said today.

“It is, therefore, with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

I think this almost rules out terrorism.

Either it was a freak accident that overwhelmed the pilots, or it was one of the pilots.

I’m unconvinced that something like a fire on board would kill the pilots, yet allow the plane to keep flying for seven hours.

Also there is the mystery of the fact that the deviations from  the flight path appear to have been programmed into the computer in advance.

At least the families of those on dead have some certainty now, but questions will remain until at least the black box is found. Even then it may say little as it only has the last two hours of cockpit conversation, in the bizarre interests of pilot privacy protection. Anything short of a clear motive for or confession from a pilot will mean it remains a mystery.

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Who dun it?

March 19th, 2014 at 12:57 pm by David Farrar

Well I think it was either the pilot or co-pilot. I can’t imagine the plane could have been diverted without any distress signal, without at least one of them involved.

How awful for the families of those on board, and how intriguing for the rest of us as we all wonder how did it happen.

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Terrorism less likely

March 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Interpol has identified the two men travelling on stolen passports on a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.

Both were Iranians who boarded the plane at the same time.

Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said last night the two men travelled to Malaysia on their Iranian passports, then apparently switched to the stolen Austrian and Italian documents.

He named them as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, and Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza, 29, and said information discovered about them made terrorism a less likely cause of the plane’s disappearance.

The terrorism theory weakened after Malaysian authorities determined that one of the two men was an Iranian asylum seeker.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Tan Sri told reporters the 19-year-old Iranian man was believed to be planning to enter Germany to seek asylum. He said the man was not believed to be a member of a terrorist group.

He said the young man’s mother was waiting for him in Frankfurt and had been in contact with the police. He said she contacted Malaysian authorities to inform them of her concern when her son didn’t get in touch with her.

Still not sure why the stolen passports were needed, especially as they managed to leave Iran on their Iranian passports. The mystery continues, but sort of reassuring that terrorism is less likely.  Hopefully the plane wreckage will be located in the near future.

Stuff reports:

Malaysia’s military believes it tracked a missing jetliner by radar, flying low over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast, a military source says.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, now in its fourth day, has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, said.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia’s west coast. The airline said on Saturday (local time) that radio and radar contact with Flight MH370 was lost off the east coast Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.

The development injects more mystery into the investigation of the disappearance of Saturday’s flight, and raises questions about why the aircraft was not transmitting signals detectable by civilian radar.

The mystery deepens.

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MH370

March 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

It must be anguishing for families and friends of those on MH370 to not only have to deal with the almost certain death of their loved ones, but to have no idea how the flight went down, or even where it has crashed.

Most crashes are at take off and/or landing. It is rare for a flight to crash with no communication from the cockpit. The speculationseems to fall into three categories:

  1. A catastrophic structural failure that tore the plane apart instantly, or at least the cockpit
  2. A terrorist event of some sort, or external attack
  3. For some reason the plane had diverted from its normal flight path and hit something

No 1 seems unlikely. The 777s have a good safety record.

No 3 can not be ruled out, but seems unlikely.

So the speculation is mainly focused on the second category. The fact that at least two people on board were travelling on stolen passports (maybe up to four people were) makes you wonder if it was a freaky coincidence, or it has some significance.

A fourth possibility is an extreme weather event, but it seems there were none in the area.

A sad and puzzling mystery. Let’s hope that eventually the plane is located and the black box holds some answers.

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The end of flight mode?

February 22nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Economist reports:

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, a Democratic senator from Missouri, is perhaps best known for beating Todd Akin, a Republican with a bizarre theory about pregnancy and rape, at the 2012 election. That may soon change. If Ms McCaskill succeeds in her latest quest, she stands a chance of becoming a patron saint of business travellers for getting the ban on using in-flight portable electronic devices lifted.

Ms McCaskill, a member of the Senate’s transportation committee, is fed up with the slow pace of change at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). She has warned the agency in a letter that she is “prepared to pursue legislative solutions should progress be made too slowly” on allowing the use of electronic devices throughout a flight. The FAA, which has given various evasive explanations for the ban, is under the jurisdiction of the committee and so has reason to take this seriously.

There is no evidence that electronic devices such as phones and iPads cause a problem on aeroplanes. If there were, they would be banned on board. In any case, many people leave their phones on, or simply defy the rules. According to a recent survey cited in The Week,around 40% of passengers said they never turn off their phones during a flight, and a small number knowingly break the regulations by using their phones to talk or text.

The restrictions are silly. There is no technical necessity to switch an iPad off during take off, or even to have it in flight mode during the trip.

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