Archive for the 'terrorism' Category

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

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EU-US Agreement on Personal (PNR) Data Of Air Passengers

On 23JUL2007, the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union (the foreign ministers of the member states) has approved the new agreement with the US about the transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data of air passengers.

There was an interim agreement in place since October 2006, which expired at the end of July 2007, so it was necessary to reach a new agreement. It is interesting that the agreement was accompanied by an “exchange of letters between the US and EU” – and is not officially a legal act (!). In the letter the US provides assurance (more like a description actually) on how the data will be handled on their side. The agreement, it said, will be valid for a period of seven years, and will ensure “an adequate level or protection of passengers’ personal data in line with European standards on fundamental rights and privacy.” But what is an “adequate level of protection” exactly?

When?

Under the terms of the agreement, EU airlines will begin on 01JAN2008, to “push” PNR data in their reservation systems to the US Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), replacing a system in which DHS “pulled” the data from the carriers’ systems. The data will be retained in an “active database” by DHS for no more than seven years (!) and afterwards data will be moved to a dormant, non-operational status for no more than eight years (!) and can be used by US authorities “only for the purpose of preventing and combating terrorism and related offenses and other serious offenses that are transnational in nature. This means that the new agreement will be in place between 2008 and 2015, BUT as the data can be stored for a maximum of 7+8 years, it means if you travel on New Year’s Eve in 2015, your data will still be stored by and available for US authorities in 2030!!! Long-long time ahead, and it basically foresees, that fighting terrorism will still be an important issue on our planet 23 years down the road… Not so promising actually…

What?

According to the final agreement, there will be 19 data stored about each passenger entering US airspace. Previously as the negotiations were taking place, the parties were discussing 34 data, but this has been reduced. Many claim that it was not a real reduction, more of a simple transaction of merging data fields…

Files of personal data…

Data types of EU PNR Collected:

  1. PNR record locator code,
  2. Date of reservation / issue of ticket
  3. Date(s) of intended travel
  4. Name(s)
  5. Available frequent flier and benefit information (i.e., free tickets, upgrades, etc)
  6. Other names on PNR, including number of travelers on PNR
  7. All available contact information (including originator information)
  8. All available payment/billing information (not including other transaction details linked to a credit card or account and not connected to the travel transaction)
  9. Travel itinerary for specific PNR
  10. Travel agency/travel agent
  11. Code share information
  12. Split/divided information
  13. Travel status of passenger (including confirmations and check-in status)
  14. Ticketing information, including ticket number, one way tickets and Automated Ticket/Fare Quote
  15. All Baggage information
  16. Seat information, including seat number
  17. General remarks including OSI, SSI and SSR information
  18. Any collected APIS information
  19. All historical changes to the PNR listed in numbers 1 to 18

This actually means all data that an airline can and is able to store about a passenger in an IATA standard reservation will have to be forwarded to the US DHS. Line 17: “OSI, SSI and SSR information” would include such things as special meal requests for example which can give an idea to the authorities about religious beliefs of the passenger. If you’re somebody who would not like to disclose such information and think you would not order special meal and just leave the regular meal on the tray untouched, be careful, because flight attendants have to signal if a passenger is not eating or drinking throughout a flight, as they may be carrying drugs in their digestive system. If you’re suspected with such an act, you may end up in a more difficult situation than if you would have just requested your regular kosher/hindu/moslem meal…

And this data will most probably “meet up” at DHS with all the other data that is taken about all passengers on the border while entering the US (photo, fingerprint, etc.)…

How?

As mentioned above, the US can store our data for “nore more than” 15 years altogether, which is quite scary. But what can be even more worrying for some of us is that the agreement (letter, sorry) does not contain guarantees about the US sharing this data with third countries! (“EU PNR data is only exchanged with other government authorities in third countries after consideration of the recipient’s intended use(s) and ability to protect the information.”) So you fly from the EU to the US, but if the US authorities feel the necessity to share your data with ANY third country in the world, they can do that according to this agreement… Also the agreement says that “sensitive data (e.g.: racial or ethnic origin) must be filtered and deleted unless an exceptional case. EU Commission will be informed if such data has been accessed”. That means after it has been accessed, so what’s the point??

As I wouldn’t want to influence anyone on forming their opinions about this agreement, I have uploaded the full text as an attachment to this article, (EU-US PNR Agreement and accompanying letters – full text) you can go ahead and read it for yourself. If you have any opinions or comments please share with us and the readers of this blog by leaving us a comment, thanks!

by balint01

European Parliament Against On-board Liquid Restrictions

he European Parliament called on the European Commission to review urgently the legislation restricting the amount of liquid passengers can carry onboard aircraft.

According to the decision this regulation causes too much inconvenience to passengers comparing to the real safety it brings.  The liquid restriction was introduced early 2007 after an attempt to burn down a plane using high concentration alcohol in 2 l bottles.  The new restriction says liquid can be taken on board only in 100 ml bottles that are packed in a reopenable closed transparent plastic bag and the maximum number of 100 ml bottles per passenger is 10 (1 l alltogether).

The problem is that when somebody travels – especially children and old people suffer – it is hard to stand in a queue for example betwen security and boarding without drinking. Or if a transit passenger has to sit for hours and for any reason he or she cannot drink those soft drinks sold in the airport bars (or does not have money at hand).

By Szafi

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