Archive for the 'airport' Category

Friday Fun – Airport Security

It’s been a while since our last Friday Fun post, so here we go again.

Is this how airport security really works? It would explain a few situations, I guess…

by balint01

Are You A Passenger Or A Criminal?

Cavity search, biometric data, pat-down, body screening. What is next? A regular passenger is checked more often than an average criminal in jail. Is it really necessary?

As CNN reported yesterday (April 16), two majos US airports – Los Angeles LAX and New York JFK – will start to use body screening machines. The machines had been tested in Phoenix, Arizona and apparently it proved to be useful as more passenegrs chose to go through the body screener than having a pat-down.

When I read this part of the article, I was really surprised. I am not pleased by a pat-down, still I would prefer it to a body screening machine, where all bits of my body could be seen for a complete stranger. May be it just my “feminist aggression” that says: no, I have the right to decide who can see my body.

Then I kept on reading and I understood it:

Travelers will continuously and randomly be selected to go through the machine. While signs will inform them of the pat-down option, screeners will not announce that choice. But passengers electing not to go through the millimeter wave machine will be given the option of the pat-down.

You have the right, you just won’t be informed about it. Now that is nice, isn’t it? Bad news for passengers departing from the US is that TSA is planning to buy 30 more machines. Once a business is blossoming…

Body screeningI understand it, that they just want to protect us, regular travellers from being blown up on a passenger jet and I agree that airline safety is first priority for them, but is it really necessary? Is there anything on earth that this wil show on a human body and those beeping gates do not filter out? Is it still about safety?

Basically it has become a nightmare to fly in or out of the US. Hours of queues at the immigration when travelling in including fingerprint and eye check and now body screening when travelling out. Why is it much more simple in the EU?

(photo by USA Today)
By Szafi

London Heathrow Terminal 5 Opens

The biggest construction work over the last years is finished and the largest standalone building of the UK has started its everyday business today. The UK’s flagship building is solely to be used by British Airways (BA), the UK’s flag carrier. BA promises that connections will be much faster (~20 mins), and also time spent at the Terminal while departing will also be significantly reduced (~10 mins), as they plan with most of the passengers checking in online before arriving to the airport and then “flying” through the Departures area very quickly. To allow this, 96 fast-bag drops have been installed with the same number of self-service check-in kiosks for those who had no time to check-in from their office, home or mobile phone. According to the website of British Airways, all passengers must be ready to fly (passed check-in and security) 35 minutes before their flights, which means on a normal operational day you can arrive at the airport only 45 minutes before your flight (but this is a theoretical minimum, we believe this means 55-60 minutes in reality…) – if you’re an experienced self check-in kiosk user or have used online check-in and do not have any baggages to check-in.

Terminal 5 banner on ba.com

A Green Building

Following the first idea about a fifth terminal in as early as 1982, construction finally started on the £4.3 billion pound project in September 2002 (5.5 years ago) and has been on time and on budget. 2006 Stirling Prize winner the Richard Rogers Partnership designed the 40 metre high, 396 metres long and 176 metres wide, 5 level Terminal 5. It is built between Heathrow’s two runways, on reclaimed land previously occupied by a sludge works. The project has successfully moved 9 million cubic metres of earth and two rivers have been diverted to create space for the new building. The area now is home to 30.000 woodland plants and 4.000 trees and is planned to have more in the next two years. On top of this green initiative, the building will be operated with as small environmental effects as possible:
  • Water conservation – 85 per cent of the water that falls on T5 will be collected and reused
  • Recycling – 97 per cent of the construction waste was reused and passengers can contribute by recycling their waste at special facilities around the terminal
  • Lighting – the predominantly glass constructed building allows in natural sunlight, reducing the need for artificial lighting (30.000 square metres of reinforced glass and 5.500 glass panels also guarantee the light and airy feel)
  • Heat – 85 per cent of the heat required by the building is provided by waste heat from the existing airport heat and power station

The terminal housing the longest baggage carousel system in the world will be able to handle 30 million passengers every year, raising the total capacity of Heathrow to 90 million from 68 million currently (while the airport was originally designed for 45 million…). The main terminal building is home to Concourse A, while the satellite Concourse B has been finished as well (with dedicated stands for the Airbus A380 superjumbo – already on order with BA), and is connected to the main building by an underground people mover system. The opening of Concourse C is scheduled for 2010. Alltogether, Terminal 5 will have 60 aircraft stands.

All sorts of traffic means are connected to the building, including Heathrow Express rail service as well as the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line. 4.000 cars can be parked in the new Parking Garage, but there are bicycle routes up to the terminal as well, with free bicyle parking in car parks 1 and 1A.

BA will use Terminal 5 as the only one carrier, but Terminal 5 will not be the only one terminal used by BA, as they are forced to keep some of their services on Terminal 3. You can find the list of destinations served by BA and their Terminals here. There will also be a frequent coach service launched between Terminals 3 and 5 to allow BA passengers to easily transfer between the two terminals used by the British carrier.

The first flight to arrive is BA 026 from Hong Kong, piloted by BA’s first woman pilot, Captain Lynn Barton, due to touch down at 4.50am. She has described the role as “a huge honour”. The first flight to depart is heading for Paris at 6.20pm with a further 380 (what a coincidence with the A380…) flights due to arrive or depart at the terminal on its first day. The BA move will involve a convoy of more than 1,000 vehicles, including 360 baggage trailers, 240 cargo containers and 27 short-haul aircraft. More than 2,500 ground staff will also make the move, with another 3,000 to follow on the 30th of April.

Once airside, BA passengers will be able to kill time in an enormous shopping mall and a range of cafes and restaurants – the list of outlets includes Harrods, Prada, Bulgari, Wagamama, Gordon Ramsay, Paul Smith and Carluccio’s as well as Starbucks among many-many others.

by balint01

White Plane at Bratislava

According to news from Slovakia, the plane on the picture below has been sitting on the apron at Bratislava international airport for quite some time (for weeks according to one of the commercial TV stations in Slovakia and published by the Hungarian News Agency – MTI as well). As we can see on this picture, the plane has no livery painted, only a US registration number, even that painted with hard-to-see grey color on the white aircraft body. Just by doing a little research on the internet and looking for this registration number in search engines, we can see the following “unfolding story” of the aircraft itself:

  • the plane used to be operated by Continental Airlines until around late 2005,
  • 2006 January, it began appearing at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany, with still blue tail, but without the Continental logo, it also showed up at least once in Luxembourg (according to Airframes.org it was delivered to Vision Air on 2006-01-09)
  • 2006 February and March, more spotting in Frankfurt,
  • 2006 May already saw the aircraft with a white tail, showing up in Budapest, Hungary, some pictures providing such information that it was to fly to Washington with a stop in Iceland,
  • 2006 September, it is spotted in Budapest, Hungary again,
  • 2007 July already sees the aircraft flying out of Bratislava – where it is still stationed in March 2008, according to the reports spreading today around the internet.

Here is the public information about ownership and history of the aircraft, which first flew in 1985. It’s interesting that one article on the internet mentions this same plane flying together with another, which is claimed to be inolved in CIA operations.

White Boeing 737 in Bratislava (from airliners.net)

Photo: Andras Kisgergely. More photos from this photographer here. 

The above mentioned reports spreading in the news try to find the reason, why this plane may be sitting on the apron at the International Airport of the Slovakian capital, which is a member of the European Union since 2004. According to the Slovakian press, the plane hasn’t flown in the last few weeks, but the engine is started up everyday as a check-up. They also claim that only one person (whose citizenship is supposedly US) has access to this aircraft. If it’s true that they run the engine everyday for a few minutes, it proves the theory suggested by the reports that this is a back-up plane for some sort of operations. What kind of operations require such a back-up plane to be always ready to fly? The same reports also suggest that it may be supporting secret CIA missions and operations, where the CIA still transports whatever and whoever they wish through European Air Space, what more, uses a European Union airport as a supporting base.

We as an airline blog do not wish to be involved in the guessing of what this airplane does and why it is where it is, we’ll leave this for the regular media. For us it was just interesting to hear that there’s an “unregistered” plane at Bratislava – which as you can see above is not “unregistered”, it has an official owner and is registered in the Unites States of America and has a public history of flying around different airports.

by balint01

United Airlines Low Approach at Frankfurt

Following last weekend’s lucky but scary Lufthansa landing in strong crosswind, here’s another interesting video, again from Germany, but this time from the busy Frankfurt International Airport, where a retiring United Airlines captain was given the chance to make a low approach and a fly-by on his last flight as a commercial airliner captain, who even “waves goodbye” with his Jumbo Jet. It’s really nice from the ATC (Air Traffic Control) to allow such an event, it was probably one of the least busy periods of the day.

If any of you were on that flight, please share your experiences with the readers of this blog!

[Andreas and Thomas, thanks for the link!]

by balint01

Airplane hits cow on runway in Merauke, Indonesia

CowA Boeing 737-300 of Merpati Nusantara Airlines sustained a damaged engine after hitting a stray cow while landing at Merauke-Mopah Airport.

The impact of the collision damaged the plane’s left engine but all of the jet liner`s 141 passengers were safe and unharmed.

“The calf was running fast from Jati kampong which is located east of the airport, so the plane could not avoid hitting the animal,” a spokesman said.

The airport was not yet fully fenced due to financial constraints.

Poor cow…

By Szafi

British Airways Boeing 777 Incident at London Heathrow

British Airways flight BA 038 inbound to London Heathrow, from Beijing, China today at 12:42 pm local time (12:42 GMT) has crash landed just a few meters off the beginning of Heathrow’s Southern runway (unlucky?). From another point of view, it crash landed just a few meters off of a congested two way road, just inside the boundaries and fences of Heathrow Airport (lucky!!).

BA Boeing 777 after emergency landing at Heathrow - by CNN.com

According to the first reports by BBC and declined to be commented by British Airways, the aircraft has lost some (or all) of its power and avionics systems while descending to the airport, and it equals to a miracle that the pilot managed to reach the territory of the airport by gliding this huge bird “nose up”, and not crash-land into the heavily populated residential areas of West-London. This is the FIRST Report, only a few hours after the crash, so as investigations will take place, the findings may change the descriptions of the cause.

All 136 passengers and 16 crew escaped the aircraft, with 13 of the passengers (among them 7 British and 3 Chinese) reportedly being treated in a nearby hospital with minor injuries.

Scotland Yard has quickly stated that the incident is not terrorism related.

BA chief Willie Walsh, while praising the crew for doing an “excellent job,” declined to comment on the possible cause of the accident, which is being to be probed by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). He further added that “The captain of the aircraft is one of our most experienced and has been flying with us for nearly 20 years,” he said.

What is known at this moment, is a few eyewitness explanations:

Eyewitness Neil Jones, who has a general aviation pilot’s licence, said the plane had been making a “very, very unusual approach,” and the engine sounded louder than normal. “The aircraft was banking to the left and it was coming in very low over the surrounding houses. The plane was significantly lower than it would normally be,” he told the BBC. “You could see the pilot was desperate, trying to get the plane down. The aircraft hit the grass and there was a lot of dirt. The pilot was struggling to keep the plane straight. He did a great job,” said Jones. Another witness said the Boeing had come in at a “funny angle,” and, with its undercarriage down, had slid along the grass in a “plume of smoke.” The plane had hit the ground with a “big impact and a loud noise.”

The 6 year old Boeing 777-200ER, registration G-YMMM, was built by Boeing in 2001 and is one of 43 in the British Airways fleet. The plane is powered by two Rolls-Royce Group Plc Trent 895 engines and had accumulated 23,476 flying hours as of Dec. 31, 2006, (according to data on the Web site of the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority) and was immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles, including fire engines and ambulances, as a carpet of foam was sprayed. The wheels of the plane, which had a routine maintenance check in December, were still in the field where it crashed, several hundred meters from the runway.

Officials said delays were expected after one of Heathrow’s two runways was closed for almost two hours with an air exclusion zone imposed to help regulate traffic at one of the world’s busiest airports. The runway has since been reopened for take-offs only.

Update: first good resolution pictures on airliners.net:
http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1318128/L/
http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1318132/L/
http://www.airliners.net/open.file/1318205/L/

Update: Video of the Crew’s Press Meeting on Telegraph TV, so you know who made sure that such an emergency situation was handled as best as possible: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1137942530/bclid1155254697/bctid1381652074 

Update: In the preliminary report The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the flight had been normal until that point but then the Boeing 777 descended rapidly. The report states: “At approximately 600ft and two miles from touch down, the autothrottle demanded an increase in thrust from the two engines but the engines did not respond.” This means that so far the first theory has been confirmed by pre-liminary investigation findings. This was the first ever crash involving a Boeing 777 aircraft, which is considered as one of the most advanced jets in the sky today.

by balint01

FAA Ban On Lithium Batteries – What’s The Point?

Ban on lithium batteries in checked baggeges

To help reduce the risk of fires, air travelers will no longer be able to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage beginning Jan. 1, the US Transportation Department said Friday.

Bag under x-ray

Illustration: Bag under X-ray

Passengers can still check baggage with lithium batteries if they are installed in electronic devices, such as cameras, cell phones and laptop computers. If packed in plastic bags, batteries may be in carryon baggage. The limit is two batteries per passenger. The ban affects shipments of non-rechargeable lithium batteries, such as those made by Energizer Holdings Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co’s Duracell brand.

“Doing something as simple as keeping a spare battery in its original retail packaging or a plastic zip-lock bag will prevent unintentional short-circuiting and fires,” Krista Edwards, deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said in a release.

The Federal Aviation Administration has found that fire-protection systems in the cargo hold of passenger planes can’t put out fires sparked in lithium batteries. The National Transportation Safety Board earlier this month said it could not rule out lithium batteries as the source of a cargo plane fire at Philadelphia International Airport last year.

What is the point?

Taking a look at the ruleit turns out that there are many illogical parts in it. Just to mention some:

– there are lithium and lithium ion batteries, the regulation affects only the lithium ones.

– 2 batteries carry around the same volume of risk as 4 or 8 batteries.

– no, a zipped plastic bag does not protect anything from catching fire in case of a spark

– there is a much higher risk of explosion when these batteries are under usage or charging and it is allowed to charge or use your laptop for example during the flight.

– the regulation affects planes leaving from the US. But if you fly to Europe you can carry as many batteries as you want on your return journey.

So what is the real intention behind this regulation? Well, my idea is that besides causing more troubles to passengers just because authorities do not have tools to filter out the bad guys from the mass, the problem they needed solution for is that they were afraid that any bombs or explosives can be launched with the use of a series of batteries. That is why they limited it to 2 per passenger. Will it protect us? We’ll never be able to tell.

By Szafi

Best Of AirlineWorld 2007

This is the last day of the year. As billions of people around the world, we also took a look back to what happened in the old year and made some New Year’s Resolutions.

For us 2007 was not a full year as we started our blog in June. It was a nice calm Sunday and Szafi wrote her first post about the Radio Alphabet – a useful tool not just for aviation fans. Balint01 joined her on the 7th with his first post about “Fuller Planes – Good Or Bad?” – a brief explanation of revenue and capacity management of airlines.

A380 

A380 was one of our main topics this year. We could see the a video of an imaginery evacuation of an A380, we reported on that quite unusual initiation that Singapore Airlines sold the first tickets to the A380 on e-Bay and gave the money (USD 1,25 million) for charity. We tried to find out more about the possible cabin configurations and then we reported on the first delivery.

Boeing 787

Boeing 787, the Dreamliner was our other favorite topic. We wrote about it when it was revealed, we put it in our blog header, we reported on the first announcement of delay that predicted 2 months. Now it seems that a 6-month delay is more realistic.

Developments 

Besides A380 and B787 we saw the birth of a Russian jet called Sukhoi Superjet and a Chinese one called ARJ21-700. We kept track of technology trends in aviation. We wrote an article about RFID usage at airlines and airports, about e-ticketing, a new online payment method at Qantas, a weightless flight, a solar powered, unmanned aircraft. Also we were interested in service developments such as the new Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow Airport, Lufthansa’s new A380 First Class Concept, Boeing’s 747 development to keep up with A380,

Crashes 

Unfortunately again some serious accidents happened. We saw around 200 people dying in a very tragical crash in Sao Paulo, brazil. 19 people died in an accident of Air Moorea on the way to Tahiti. When China Airline’ 737 burst into fire and blew up, everybody could escape in time thanks to the flight crew, who was criticized for being rude – we thought it was better being rude than being inactive. Later it turned out that a loose bolt caused the fire. There was a sad collision of two planes at an Air Show in Radom, Poland. SAS Airlineshad a bad series of crash landings – without serious injuries – of its Dash 8 turboprop planes. Finally they decided on grounding all their Dash 8 fleet. 87 died in One-Two-Go Airlines crash in Phuket, Thailand. A few days later rallye driver champion Colin McRae died in a helicopter crash over Scotland. The most commented article was the weird accident of an Airbus A340 on the ground of the Airbus factory during testing. The last serious accident of the year was an MD-83 crash in Turkey killing 56.

Photo reports 

We received a lot of photos from our friends and airline enthusiasts, so we could show a photo report of a Royal Aircraft in Budapest, Red Bull Air Race in Budapest, an Air Show in Kecskemet and the A340 Airbus crash at the Toulouse Airbus factory.

Innovations 

We criticized airlines and other players of the industry about wrong steps and we were happy to present good initiations of other players. We found KLM’s promotion: a gift of a costmetics set for online bookers a very smart and useful initiation. We loved Iberia’s enviroment-friendly attitude with naming their new aircrafts Royal Owl, Imperial Eagle and other endangered species. We could read funny comments about an interesting topic: Vatican’s Air Mistral. IATA’s initiation of a greener aviation industry was also worth a post.

Sex and rock and roll 

And finally we tried to entertain those not interested in professional matters of the airline business with articles like Sex in an airplane, Sexy stewardess uniforms – with special attention to the self-designed uniform of Easyjet, Superstar pilots, Special aircraft paintings and we learned about where lost luggage end up going.

We also lost a very key figure of the European airline indusry. Tony Ryan, the founder of Ryanair died on 03 October at the age of 71. Net year we will definately write an article about him, because only a few know about his role in today’s aviation business.

And what is our New Year’s resolution? Well, we’ll do our best to entertain you and draw your attention to the magic world of airlines we so much love.

We both wish you a very happy, successful new year and please keep on reading us! 🙂

By Szafi and balint01

Iberia Airbus Slides Off Runway At Quito

EC-JOH slid off the runway at Quito - by airliners.net 

On  Friday, 09NOV2007, an Iberia operated Airbus A340-600 has slid off the runway in Ecuador at the Quito Airport and caused the airport to be shut down for two days. Arriving from Madird, at 17:06 immediately after touching down the aircraft overran the runway and came to a still in the soft terrain, where it is still standing after two days. According to the Aviation Safety Network’s preliminary report: “The A340 suffered one or more tyre bursts on landing at Quito (UIO). The aircraft overran the runway and came to rest tilting to the left with nr.1 and 2 engines touching the ground.” Such accidents happen every once in a while, but we have seen that they can turn out much worse as in Sao Paolo a few months ago for example.

Fortunately nobody was hurt, all 349 passengers and crew escaped woundless. When I saw the pictures, my first thought was that just in less than a year I have flown the same type of aircraft with Iberia, and when looking at the name just on the side of the cockpit, I realized that it was this same aircraft that took me back from Lima, Peru to Madrid last December… It is a very strange feeling to know that the plane which I once flew in my life and is registered as EC-JOH and named “Miguel de Unamuno” has been involved in such an incident…

At the moment there are only indications as per what really caused the accident, some comments on the internet praise the pilots that they managed to save such a situation without anybody getting hurt, while others blame them for the accident. Only investigations will tell, but I feel sorry for this beautiful bird to damage one wing, three of the Rolls-Royce engines plus basically most of the landing gears including the nose. It will be a big management and technical task to repair it on site by Iberia as I’m afraid Quito lacks the necessary infrastructure for such a repair. The terminal is also operating under some restrictions since the ILS antennas were destroyed and replacement will take 15 days (ILS – Instrument Landing System).

This picture from a different angle shows just how close to residential areas were to this accident…

Iberia EC-JOH in Quito - by Reuters

A slideshow with more onsite pictures on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqfQAm-iyJI

by balint01


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