One of the Bolivian national flag carriers, the state owned Boliviana de Aviacion (also known as simply “BoA”) has sponsored Andrea Cornejo Vargas and her mother to fly to Europe to participate in the finals of the Miss Colours International 2014 wheel chaired beauty contest.
The Miss Colours Beauty Contest was organized as an international event for the first time in 2014 (previously known as Miss Colours Hungary) with the help of the Rotary Club Budapest-Center. There were more than 50 applications received from around the world, from Mexico to Ukraine and from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Bolivia. From the semi-finals (with 16 participants) Andrea (28) has advanced to the finals as one of the only 8 finalists! She lives in La Paz with her family and does graphic and creative design. She chose to participate in the contest as she believes that accessibility is not a wide-spread idea or concept that is followed or applied in Bolivia – and also because her dream was to visit Europe, and Hungary! After sharing the news in her native Bolivia that she advanced to the finals of the contest, Boliviana de Aviacion stepped up and gave her and her mother a return ticket from La Paz to Madrid. Reportedly these tickets were given to her in a live TV show!
The flight to Madrid is the longest route served by the Bolivian airline currently, that operates an all Boeing fleet of 11 737’s and a single long-haul Boeing 767 – which they deploy on the flights to Madrid as well. This Boeing 767-200 first flew in 2001, and was operated by US Continental Airlines for 10 years. After a year of being stored, it was used by Omni Air International, which then leased it to BoA in 2013. It has 174 seats total, 25 in business class, and 149 in economy.
Back to the competition: The finals were held in Budapest – the capital of EU Member Hungary – where the finalists spent a week together in a preparation camp at the Expo Hotel. 8 girls in wheelchairs, together for 7 days from 6 countries – getting to know each other, becoming friends and sharing their problems, their happiness, their tears during the preparations and rehearsals for the big show, their experiences about beauty, life and accessibility around the world.
Among many other programs during the week, Andrea also had the chance to take a lap in a super-fast Jaguar XFR (courtesy of Business Lease) around the world famous Hungarian Formula-1 circuit: the Hungaroring which will probably remain a memorable moment from her week long European trip. This was probably the second quickest moment of her whole trip after the flights sponsored by BoA and the Rotary Club of Chuquiago Marka – who sponsored her onward European flights from Madrid to Budapest (via Münich).
We are always very happy to hear about such generous sponsorships from airlines, where they stand up for a good cause! We were also very happy to hear her personal experiences of an accessible flight itinerary, where she was taken care by BoA at the airport and during the flight as well! We are hoping that Andrea’s experiences in Hungary and on such a beauty contest will bring benefits to Bolivia, to Bolivians in wheelchairs across the country and to her own personal life as well!
It has been a week. A full week since the now famous Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, has disappeared. It disappeared from radars, from air traffic control, from the map – and from the Asian skies as well…
This past (very long) week will be the food for thought and the basis for media speculation for months, if not years to come. At the current moment, after one week of contradicting information having been published, and leaked by multiple nations’ authorities and unnamed “resources familiar with the matter”, we barely know anything about what actually may have happened. We don’t know facts, other than that the plane’s transponder stopped working above the South China Sea – about one hour into the flight, and that it has never arrived to Beijing.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that operated flight MH370 (registration 9M-MRO)
The public news that were published and circulated state that the plane has not crashed around the area where it was last seen on radars, nor has it landed anywhere in the vicinity. Authorities have searched to the North, to the East, then with a sudden twist to the West last week – without proper reasoning back then. HOWEVER, the picture that is being drawn by the known – and at least twice confirmed – “facts” leads us to the conclusion that the plane must have been hijacked. Why?
The transponder was turned off.It did not simply stop working, it was turned off – otherwise it would have sent signals during a crash. And it was turned off at the right time. The plane just left Malaysian air space, saying the last words “Good night!” – so the Malaysian air traffic control would not be looking for it for a while. The plane has not yet checked in with the Vietnamese air traffic controllers – so they would not be looking for it for a while, either – giving a free, uncontrolled hour or so worth of head-start flying time for the hijacked plane, before any civil authorities would start looking for it. The transponder being off simply takes it off the civilian radars as well. By the time military radars pick it up and start checking it – in the middle of a Friday night with probably only a handful of workers on duty – the plane could have flown on its own for probably like 2 hours or so.
The plane changed direction. After the transponder was turned off, the plane changed direction and instead of continuing North-East, it turned back West and flew past the Malaysian peninsula – following navigational points, which indicates that the person in control in the cockpit knew where they were flying, and knew exactly where they wanted to get. This is information now (7 days later) confirmed by the Malaysian Prime Minister, based on Malaysian military data. (This was once said back on the second or third day of the search, but was then denied the same day…) Even though they turned off the so called ACARS reporting system that sends data from the engines to Boeing and Rolls-Royce (the manufacturer of the turbines), this system continued to ping satellites – practically giving a life-signal, but no any additional data. But it says that the engines were running for at least 4 hours more, but some reports say that up to 7 hours more after the reporting was turned off…
The plane changed altitude. Drastically. Multiple times. This may sound like a small detail, but to me it indicates that the person in control in the cockpit knew what they were doing. Flying up to 45.000 feet (beyond the 777’s official maximum altitude) may have knocked out the passengers on board so that they were unconscious for at least a little time. (The pilot(s) in control may have taken the oxygen masks before going up so high.) Maybe then someone onboard took away their mobile phones and any other communication devices they could find in the pockets and elsewhere. Then the plane went much lower – to avoid some of the civil radars and continue it’s new flying course.
Then what happened? This is of course the biggest question. We need to look at the possible motivation/goal behind the hijacking to seek answers for this.
Pilot suicide – they would have taken the plane down after they took control, crashing into the South China Sea, leaving debris. No debris found, therefore can be ruled out.
Seeking global attention for a (political) cause – “typical” terrorist approach, but they would have contacted the government and global media with their reasons behind the hijacking. No media reported anything similar, therefore can be ruled out.
Seeking political asylum – hijack the plane, and land in a third, free country. It would only make sense for those with a fake passport on board – but as they had a working fake passport (they could get through security and onboard), it would make little sense to complicate matters this much. Plus, the country where they would have landed, would have already publicized the event and we would know about it. Ruled out.
Stealing the plane and selling it – given the so many identifiers and easy recognition of the plane itself, this is very unlikely that another airline would actually buy it… Putting it on eBay would not be a solution, either. Can be ruled out in my opinion.
Stealing the plane for technological advances – this would only be useful for a handful of countries, like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and some others in the region. Stealing a maintenance handbook could almost be as useful, unless you need some special material from onboard. Seems unlikely in my opinion, especially as North Korea is in the other direction (would have made more sense to hijack the plane much later in the flight in order to reduce risks), and Iran is simply too far away.
Seeking ransom for the plane and the passengers – this could be a valid motivation – but it requires the plane to be landed. Otherwise there is no plane and passengers they you can ask the money for. We would probably know about it by now – but could be that the negotiating government is keeping this information from the media.
Gaining control over someone onboard, or something in the cargo hold – this could be a valid motivation – but it also requires the plane to be landed. Otherwise there is no person or no cargo that you can unload the use later on. We will probably never learn if there was any classified cargo on board, such as special weapons, weapon materials or anything similar. The affected governments would never release such information publicly.
So the plane could have landed somewhere. We would probably know about it by now, there would be some witness who would tell the American or any other media for a little money if they had seen such a big plane – even simply flying low, not to mention landing on a remote airstrip. I believe we can rule this out, unless there is a big conspiracy behind this missing flight. (Like it landed on a small island airport, they stripped all communication devices, let the crew and passengers out, and flew it somewhere else under a different flight number and with a new transponder on board. Or they took it apart, or buried it in the ground, or put it in a hangar – but it’s a big plane. So the number of such big hangars, and runways able to support such a plane on such a small island is really only a handful.)
The plane could have crashed on its own. Running out of fuel would be a dumb mistake from someone who could turn off the transponder, though… Crashing after such a long flight on purpose would be a waste of time and lots of risk for a suicide crash. It could have crashed – in case the passengers had a “riot” on board against the hijackers and the onboard fight resulted in someone taking over the cockpit who had no idea how to fly the plane. The cockpit is complex enough, that in such a case, an amateur would not be able to turn on the radio, the transponder and seek help from the ground – let alone getting instructions on how to land the aircraft somewhere. In such a case, they may have run out of fuel actually.
And finally, The plane could have been shut down by military. Just look at the last two possible motivational ideas above. Either case, the government (sorry, but given it was a Malaysian aircraft, we must assume the Malaysian government here) may have shot down the airliner to reduce further risk and danger. They may have actually negotiated with the hijackers in the first hours or so, but getting no results and seeing the plane flying out of Malaysian Air Space, they went ahead and shot it down. If there was some precious, illegal cargo on board, it’s better to have it rest somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean than having it land at a terrorist base… Now this scenario could be the reason behind why the Malaysian authorities were giving so contradicting information for days. They simply had no communication plan for such a situation. Or they had one, but the fact that most of the passengers on board (154 out of the 239 including crew) were Chinese, simply does not allow it to be confirmed. As it would lead to a very tricky political situation with the biggest (super)power in the region: China. And this is not something Malaysia (or any other country in the area for that matter) wants. (Alternatively, the military may not even have noticed the whole thing – as per the BBC.)
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK by leaving a comment for this article or voting here below.
So the facts what we knew are pointing to a hijacking scenario, with one of the more tragical ends. The plane is still missing. The plane can not be in the air anymore, so it must have either landed, or crashed, or shot down.
We may learn the faith of MH 370, or we may never get to know what really happened. It will soon transfer to a legal procedure between Malaysia Airlines and the aircraft insurer, the airline and the passengers’ relatives, the airline and the cargo owners, and maybe the airline and some media outlets about the contradicting information published during this last week.
We’ll keep an eye on the future news about this mysterious flight and suggest that you do as well.
Funny and innovative safety videos for airlines are now a very trendy tool for marketing, especially as items for viral and social marketing.
Air New Zealand seems to be in the front line here, as they have created a very popular Hobbit version earlier in 2012 for the first part of the Hobbit trilogy: “An Unexpected Briefing” (a’la the title of the movie: “An Unexpected Journey”). They were followed with a pop-song like version of the safety instructions from Virgin America not so long afterwards.
So following the sometimes ugly creatures of the Hobbit Universe, Air New Zealand started 2014 with a different topic and a beautiful “partner”: the 50 year old Sports Illustrated – Swimsuit Edition!
To be honest, personally I like this one much better. What do you think? (the links to the other two are available in the first paragraph)
Not a safety video, but still worth to mention in the league of viral Airline marketing videos is the one that came with the second Hobbit movie last year: a short film of what a day is like at the official airline of Middle-Earth (aka.: New Zealand), starring real Air New Zealand employees from Flight Attendants to Engineers – and a plane slapping its wings like a bird. (title: “Just another day in Middle-earth“):
For the record, they also accompanied the second Hobbit movie (The Desolation of Smaug) with a special aircraft livery last year as well:
But for some reason, we haven’t come across this great TED video for all those years. This video is from 2011 (so not new at all), but still worth sharing here as well, I believe. Rick Elias had the seat 1D on flight 1549 that day. He talks about his thoughts that went through his mind as the plane was preparing to attempt the almost impossible landing on the Hudson River. He shares three things with us:
I believe all of us – who are at least a little bit interested in either cars/trucks or aviation – have watched the special airport vehicles from the airport terminals or the taxiing airplanes before. Well, the Top Gear guys had the privilege to even race them (older models of course…) in an older episode of their show, but let us share it with you as it is a pretty good episode – excellent for a little Friday Fun!
There have been many tries to make the boring, before-flight Safety Demonstration/Video a little bit more enjoyable than the average, simple, talking version. There have been ad-hoc Rappers on Southwest Airlines, Hobbit themed videos on Air New Zealand for example, but let’s take a look at this latest, fresh, pop-song like Virgin America video:
With the bankruptcy of oneworld member Malév Hungarian Airlines on 03 February, 2012, Hungary was left without a national air carrier. About 18 months later, this (temporary) status seems to come to an end with the rise of a new Hungarian air carrier: SÓLYOM Hungarian Airways.
In 2012, the market reacted quickly to fill the missing capacity left behind by the collapse of Malév, with Ryanair moving into the Hungarian market within days, Wizzair placing more aircraft to Budapest, and other carriers raising capacity and/or frequency soon after. The classical European airlines raised prices as they practically inherited a monopoly between their respective hubs and Budapest, especially among the business travelers. All long-haul operations from Budapest have also been suspended soon after Malév stopped flying. There were brave and not so brave initiatives among ex-Malév colleagues and outsiders to start a new airline in the last year or so, but they all proved to be a speculation or more of an “idea” by enthusiastic amateurs.
Then in early July 2013, one of the Hungarian newspapers reported that a new Airline is being formed, under the name of Sólyom. Many Hungarians rushed to comment about the name being hard to pronounce for foreigners, the fleet plans being too optimistic over the coming years, the business model being outdated and such, but interest was definitely raised among aviation enthusiasts in the country.
Then week in and out, more and more pieces of the puzzle “leaked” into the domestic media, which now seem to (more or less) come together. A few weeks later, the new CEO (Mr. József Vágó) also changed his approach towards the media and replaced his “no, I can’t answer this as it is still under negotiation” approach to revealing more and more details of his plans. The airline also held their first public news conference a week ago. So what we know so far:
overall plan is to have 50 aircraft by 2017 (6 in 2013, 25 by 2014, 50 by 2017): 10 wide-body, 20 mid-size and 20 regional
Starting with 6 aircraft leased from European Aviation Group, to be handed over between 18th of August and the end of September this year
First 6 aircraft: Boeing 737-500 with CFM56-3C-1 engines, with 110 seats in two cabin classes: 12 in business, 98 in economy
First regional aircraft to be taken over in September 2013 as well: Avro RJ 85
FLYING: International ICAO code has been awarded: “HUN” (Hotel-Uniform-November), full length call sign: “Hungarian”
First routes from Budapest: Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Paris and Stockholm. No airports were mentioned (yet). Plan is to have these operating by the end of September, but needs further confirmation.
Long-haul to start in the summer schedule of 2014 – with “North-American” destinations. New York is likely, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Booking any of the flights is not yet open at this stage.
The parent company in the Sólyom Airways Holding is owned by three Hungarian citizens (fact). Multiple fully owned subsidiary companies have been founded to deal with different areas of the operations.
Money is coming from Middle-East investors, from Oman and the Emirates (as confirmed by the owners). Lot of speculation is flying around about the (potential) identity of these secret investors, we would not like to comment on that as nothing has been confirmed.
classical, full service airline – they claim they will have a higher on-board service standard than most of the European airlines. NOT low-cost.
Point-to-point as well as transfer passengers. Revitalizing Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport as a Hub.
RECRUITING: Hiring started today (01AUG) by launching the above website and posting the first 35 positions where the company is hiring (only a few job descriptions available in English at the last page of the list) – You can imagine all the buzz among ex-Malev colleagues right now…
We are waiting for more details to be unveiled over the coming days/weeks/months, and are giving up our initial skepticism as well by writing this first post about Sólyom on this blog. We are wishing good luck and success for the new Hungarian Airways, and hope to have more and more international passengers learning how to pronounce “Sólyom” in the near future! After our first flight (hopefully sooner rather than later) we will make sure to post a Flight Review here!