Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Soviet Douglas A-20 Havoc (re) discovered in Siberia - The history

U.S. World War II Havoc A-20 Bomber Found in Siberia: 

The Moscow Times Jul. 23 2014



An American military aircraft lost 71 years ago over western Siberia was discovered in the Taiga, Russian environmentalists said.The wreck of a Soviet Douglas A-20 Havoc recently re-emerged in the Taiga of western Siberia in Russia. Apparently the lend-lease medium bomber, one of roughly 3400 of the type given to the Soviet Union, went down on its ferry flight from Alaska to the Eastern Front in 1943 flying from Alaska over the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air ferry route. The Taiga is a vast  forest which is largely uninhabited, and buried under snow and ice for much of the year.


No photographs have surfaced publicly as of yet, the aircraft (technically designated a DB-7) apparently went down on the slopes of Zelyonaya mountain in the Kemerovo region. Sadly, it appears that the un-named Soviet ferry crew perished in the wartime crash. The aircraft’s serial number is not known currently, but the fuselage bears the markings “F216″, so finding its true identity should not pose too great a problem for researchers.


The Soviet Union received more than $11 billion worth of supplies and military equipment from its U.S. ally over the course of the war. The wreckage of the lost DB-7 was initially discovered by a hunter in 1966, but after leaving the aircraft, he was unable to retrace his steps in order to find it again.

The search continued for 48 more years until the bomber was finally discovered in the Kuznetsky Alatau wildlife reserve, according to the reserve's official site.

It remained unclear what caused the crash. No hostilities took place in Siberia, but the heavily loaded bomber could have failed to fly over the mountain in cloudy weather, the report said.
Aircraft incoming from Alaska were manned by Soviet crews. The DB-7 had a crew of four, whose names remain unknown.


What will happen with the wreck is not public knowledge, but hopefully a recovery team will locate and identify the crew’s remains for burial. Given the remoteness of the location, the wreck seems likely to stay where it is for the meantime though.

Inhospitable Taiga forest terrain

The Douglas A-20 Havoc (company designation DB-7) was an American attack, light bomber, intruder and night fighter aircraft of World War II. It served with several Allied air forces, principally the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), the Soviet Air Forces (VVS), Soviet Naval Aviation (AVMF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom. Soviet units received more than one in three (2,908 aircraft) of the DB-7s ultimately built. It was also used by the air forces of Australia, South Africa, France, and the Netherlands during the war, and by Brazil afterwards.


In British Commonwealth air forces, bomber/attack variants of the DB-7 were usually known by the service name Boston, while night fighter and intruder variants were usually known as Havoc. An exception to this was the Royal Australian Air Force, which referred to all variants of the DB-7 by the name Boston. The USAAF referred to night fighter variants as P-70.



 


Operational history

France
The French order called for substantial modifications, resulting in the DB-7 (for Douglas Bomber 7) variant. It had a narrower, deeper fuselage, 1,000 hp (746 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC3-G radials, French-built guns, and metric instruments. Midway through the delivery phase, engines were switched to 1,100 hp (820 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G. The French designation was DB-7 B-3 (the B-3 signifying "three-seat bomber").


The DB-7s were shipped in sections to Casablanca for assembly and service in France and French North Africa. When the Germans attacked France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the 64 available DB-7s were deployed against the advancing Germans. Before the armistice they were evacuated to North Africa to avoid capture by German forces.


French DB7s being assembled

Here, they fell under control of the Vichy government, but saw practically no action against the Allies except briefly during the Allied invasion of North Africa. After French forces in North Africa had sided with the Allies, DB-7s were used as trainers and were replaced in front line units by Martin B-26 Marauders. In early 1945, a few DB-7s were moved back to France where they saw action against the remaining isolated German pockets on the western coast.


British Commonwealth
The remainder of the order which was to have been delivered to France was instead taken up by the UK. In the course of the war, 24 squadrons operated the Boston. It first entered service with RAF Bomber Command in 1941, equipping No. 88 Squadron.

Their first operational use was not until February 1942 against enemy shipping. On 4 July 1942 United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bomber crews, flying RAF Boston aircraft, took part in operations in Europe for the first time attacking enemy airfields in the Netherlands. They replaced the Bristol Blenheims of No. 2 Group RAF for daylight operations against occupied Europe until replaced in turn by de Havilland Mosquitos.


Some Havocs were converted to Turbinlite aircraft which replaced the nose position with a powerful searchlight. The Turbinlite aircraft would be brought onto an enemy fighter by ground radar control.





The onboard radar operator would then direct the pilot until he could illuminate the enemy. At that point a Hawker Hurricane fighter accompanying the Turbinlite aircraft would make the attack. Unfortunately this also made the aircraft a target. The Turbinlite squadrons were disbanded in early 1943.


Soviet Union
Through Lend-Lease, Soviet forces received more than two-thirds of version A-20B planes manufactured and a significant portion of versions G and H. The A-20 was the most numerous foreign aircraft in the Soviet bomber inventory. The Soviet Air Force had more A-20s than the USAAF.

They were delivered via the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air ferry route. The aircraft had its baptism of fire at the end of June 1942. The Soviets were dissatisfied with the four Browning machine guns and replaced them with faster-firing ShKAS. During the summer 1942, the Bostons flew low-level raids against German convoys heavily protected by flak. Attacks were made from altitudes right down to 33 ft (10 metres) and the air regiments suffered heavy losses.

 By mid-1943 Soviet pilots were well familiar with the A-20B and A-20C. The general opinion was that the aircraft was overpowered and therefore fast and agile. It could make steep turns with an angle of up to 65°, while the tricycle landing gear facilitated take-off and landings. The type could be flown even by scarcely trained crews. The engines were reliable but rather sensitive to low temperature, so the Soviet engineers developed special covers for keeping propeller hubs from freezing up.


Some of these aircraft were armed with fixed-forward cannons and found some success in the ground attack role. By the end of the war, 3,414 A-20s had been delivered to the USSR, 2,771 of which were used by the Soviet Air Force.

user posted image




American-built Douglas A-20C Havocs being loaded onto a cargo ship for transport to the Soviet Union. They were welded to the deck to prevent loss in heavy seas.

The scow with two planes on it, the Lillian E. Petrie, was damaged in an accident Long Island in November 1943. While the Arctic Convoys were more dangerous and captured the public's attention, much more supplies were sent through Iran and across the Pacific. Ships carrying Lend-Lease supplies would transit from New York, New York to Capetown, South Africa and terminate in Bandar Shahpur, Iran or Basra, Iraq.


In 1941-1942 most supplies went through the North Sea, because the Soviets did not want a large Anglo-American presence on their border. It took time to develop the "Persian Corridor" to receive substantial supplies, because only one dock in each terminus could handle large ships and the Tehran-Soviet railways lacked capacity. The railway from Bandar Shahpur to Tehran and then the Soviet Union was light rail through mountains. As late as 1944 supplies ordered (and delivered) in 1942 were still waiting for transit to the Soviet Union. The British took over the railroad, but the delivery of rolling stock and engines from the United States was delayed. The Americans took over the administration of the Persian Corridor in 1944, when their industrial output was reaching its zenith. By July, the peak month of deliveries, 282,097 long tons (286623.8 metric tons) came through the Persian Corridor.


2,771 A-20s were delivered to the Soviet Union through Lend-Lease. The A-20C was an attempt to standardize British and American versions. Developed for foreign markets, it was designated the A-20C by the United States Army Air Force and the Boston IIIA by the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force. Douglas built 808 at their Santa Monica plant and Boeing Aircraft built 140 A-20Cs under license.

user posted image

Much of the Lend-Lease order for the United Kingdom was sent to the Soviet Union. When the United States entered the war, they took over many A-20Cs to start training; the Americans rarely, if ever, used the C model in combat. However, because the variant could carry a torpedo, it was effective as a surface raider with the Soviet Air Force.

user posted image

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Last of Enola Gay's crew dies

The last member of Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atom bomb's crew  has died.



Hiroshima
Van Kirk (3rd from the left); the last surviving member of Enola Gay's crew has died

The last surviving member of the US crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II and moving the world into the atomic age, has died. (Associated press)

Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk died on Monday (local time) of natural causes at the retirement home where he lived in Georgia, his son Tom Van Kirk said. He was 93.

Van Kirk flew nearly 60 bombing missions, but it was a single mission in the Pacific that secured him a place in history. He was 24 years old when he served as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb deployed in wartime over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee for Special Mission No. 13.


Signed Enola Gay postcard Tibbet (L) and Van Kirk (R)


The mission went perfectly, Van Kirk told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. He guided the bomber through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule, he said. As the 4080-kilogram bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" fell toward the sleeping city, he and his crewmates hoped to escape with their lives.

They didn't know whether the bomb would actually work and, if it did, whether its shockwaves would rip their plane to shreds. They counted - one thousand one, one thousand two - reaching the 43 seconds they'd been told it would take for detonation and heard nothing.


"I think everybody in the plane concluded it was a dud. It seemed a lot longer than 43 seconds," Van Kirk recalled.

Then came a bright flash. Then a shockwave. Then another shockwave.

The blast and its aftereffects killed 140,000 in Hiroshima.

Three days after Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The blast and its aftermath claimed 80,000 lives. Six days after the Nagasaki bombing, Japan surrendered.


Whether the United States should have used the atomic bomb has been debated ever since. Van Kirk told the AP he thought it was necessary because it shortened the war and eliminated the need for an Allied land invasion that could have cost more lives on both sides.

"I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run. There were a lot of lives saved. Most of the lives saved were Japanese," Van Kirk said.

But it also made him wary of war.

"The whole World War II experience shows that wars don't settle anything. And atomic weapons don't settle anything," he said. "I personally think there shouldn't be any atomic bombs in the world - I'd like to see them all abolished. "But if anyone has one," he added, "I want to have one more than my enemy."

Van Kirk stayed on with the military for a year after the war ended. Then he went to school, earned degrees in chemical engineering and signed on with DuPont, where he stayed until he retired in 1985.

Like many World War II veterans, Van Kirk didn't talk much about his service until much later in his life when he spoke to school groups, his son said.

"Dutch" Van Kirk

"I didn't even find out that he was on that mission until I was 10 years old and read some old news clippings in my grandmother's attic," Tom van Kirk told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday.

"I know he was recognised as a war hero, but we just knew him as a great father," Tom van Kirk said.


Signed photograph of Enola Gay (11 signatures) also the only known photo with "Boxcar" the plane that dropped the Nagasaki bomb, in the background.

The Enola Gay was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named for Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, who selected the aircraft while it was still on the assembly line. On 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb. The bomb, code-named "Little Boy", was targeted at the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and caused unprecedented destruction. Enola Gay participated in the second atomic attack as the weather reconnaissance aircraft for the primary target of Kokura. Clouds and drifting smoke resulted in Nagasaki being bombed instead.

Paul Tibbets

After the war, the Enola Gay returned to the United States, where it was operated from Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. It was flown to Kwajalein for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the Pacific, but was not chosen to make the test drop at Bikini Atoll. Later that year it was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, and spent many years parked at air bases exposed to the weather and souvenir hunters, before being disassembled and transported to the Smithsonian's storage facility at Suitland, Maryland, in 1961.

In the 1980s, veterans groups began agitating for the Smithsonian to put the aircraft on display. The cockpit and nose section of the aircraft were exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), below,  in downtown Washington, D.C., for the bombing's 50th anniversary in 1995, amid a storm of controversy. Since 2003, the entire restored B-29 has been on display at NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Malaysia Airlines Tragedy Again: MH17 Boeig 777-200 shot down

Malaysian Airlines Jet shot down

An Air Malaysia Boeing 777-200 has been shot down by Cossacks of the Donyetsk separatist movement:

United States Vice President Joe Biden confirmed the plane was hit by missile, killing 295 people from several countries, including 27 from Australia.


New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said at least one New Zealand passport holder was aboard flight MH17.  "Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are following up on indications that at least one New Zealand passport holder, and other passengers with New Zealand connections, may have been on board," McCully said. "The Ministry is working hard to confirm these details and make contact with the next of kin."

Malaysia Airlines confirmed in a press release it had received notification from Ukrainian air traffic control that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at GMT 2.15pm (NZT 2.15am) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam Thursday at 12.15pm (NZT 10.15pm) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Friday at 6.10am Malaysia time (NZT 10.10am).


Malaysian 777-200 at Naruto, Tokyo

It has emerged that a surface-to-air missile was detected by US intelligence agencies, but the Wall Street Journal reported officals were divided over whether it came from Russia or eastern Ukraine. Biden confirmed the missile attack while he was at a conference in Detroit and Malaysian officials have reported the plane made no distress call. The UN Security Council would today hold an emergency meeting to discuss Ukraine.


The news of confirmation came a short time after Ukraine's state security chief accused Russian military officers of being involved in shooting down Malaysia Airlines MH17, which happened about 3am (NZT).

The disaster comes only four months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished on March 8 when flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine

Ukraine media have now reported the content of a phone call between members of militant groups, intercepted by Ukraine's security agency. (Transcript below)

The phone call was made 20 minutes after the plane crash, the Kyiv Post reported, by Igor Bezler, military commander of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic. He was said to be reporting to a Russian army colonel in their intelligence department. In a transcript of the conversation Bezler said: "We have just shot down a plane." Russian-backed Cossack militants have allegedly claimed responsibility for shooting down Malaysia Airlines MH17.

Ukraine media have reported the content of a phone call between members of militant groups, intercepted by Ukraine's security agency. The call was made 20 minutes after the plane crash by Igor Bezler, military commander of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, the Kyiv Post reported. He was said to be reporting to a Russian army colonel in their intelligence department.


In a transcript of the conversation Bezler said: "We have just shot down a plane". In another conversation between two militants identified as "Major" and "Greek", they were heard discussing what they found at the crash site, discovering it was a civilian aircraft:

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo.
Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?
IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.
VG: How many minutes ago?
IB: About 30 minutes ago.

SBU (Ukraine Intelligence) comment: After examining the site of the plane the terrorists come to the conclusion that they have shot down a civilian plane. The next part of the conversation took place about 40 minutes later.

Major: These are Chernukhin folks show down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.
Greek: Yes, Major.
Major: The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first "200" (code word for dead person). We have found the first "200". A Civilian.
Greek: Well, what do you have there?
Major: In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.
Greek: Are many people there?
Major: Holy sh**t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).
Greek: What kind of aircraft?
Major: I haven't ascertained this. I haven't been to the main site. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.
Greek: Is there anything left of the weapon?
Major: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.
Greek: Are there documents?
Major: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson. 

- via Sydney Morning Herald/Kyiv Post

1:52: About that plane shot down near Snezhnovo Torez. It turned out to be a passenger plane. Fell near Grabovo, there's lots of bodies, women and children. Right now the cossacks are inspecting it.
2:03: On TV they are saying AN-26, Ukrainian transport, but are saying it's labeled Malaysian Airlines.
2:12: What was it doing in Ukrainian territory?
2:16: Maybe it was transporting spies. Who knows. It's war.


Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 metres (33,000 feet) over the eastern Ukraine when it crashed. He also said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, which could fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 metres (72,000 feet).

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said Air New Zealand did not operate over Eastern Europe.
Dutch authorities said that, along with the 27 Australians, there were also 143 Dutch on board.
Other passengers included 20 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, six from the UK, four each from France and Germany and one from Canada. Some of the passengers were on their way to New Zealand, Dutch media reported.

MH17 was also a very popular route with oil and gas workers coming to South East Asia from the UK.
Ukrainian armed forces were not involved in the plane being brought down, the Ukrainian presidential press service said. Interfax quoted it as saying that President Petro Poroshenko had described the incident an act of "terrorism".
"We stress that the armed forces of Ukraine did not carry out any action to destroy targets in the air."

Pro-Russian separatists have said they were willing to have up to three days of ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to allow for recovery work at the site of the downed airliner, RIA news agency reported. However, the head of Ukrainian Emergency Situations said search efforts at scene were being hampered by "armed terrorists".


BODIES SCATTERED

An emergency services rescue worker confirmed 100 bodies had so far been found at the scene, near the village of Grabovo, and that debris from the wreckage was spread across an area up to about 15km in diameter.

''I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke,'' said a witness, who gave his name only as Vladimir.

A separatist rebel from nearby Krasnyi Luch who gave his name only as Sergei said: ''From my balcony I saw a plane begin to descend from a great height and then heard two explosions.''

Ukraine's Espreso TV reported that pro-Russian militants had recently received anti-aircraft weapons capable of shooting down planes at high altitudes.

The 'Buk' anti-aircraft missile system, manufactured in Russia, can hit aircraft up to an altitude of 25km. A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, which is held by pro-Russia rebels yesterday.

BUK, also known as SAM-17 Grizzly, or SAM-11 Gadfly is a mobile anti-aircraft system mounted usually on a tracked vehicle or truck that can simultaneously track and strike up to six targets flying from different directions and at different altitudes..


BUK/SA-11 (Gadfly) Missle system

On June 29, the Itar-Tass news agency reported that Donetsk People's Republic separatists had taken control of a missile defence unit equipped with Buk missile systems. (Clicky to Aus Airpower info)

However a spokesman for the Donetsk rebels denied any involvement. "The plane was shot down by the Ukrainian side," the spokesman told Interfax. "We simply do not have such air defence systems."

He said the plane was well beyond the range of any of their weapons, which can only go as high as 3000m. He also expressed his condolences to the bereaved families.

However the capture of such weapons was reported on a Russian News site: Donetsk militia captured military defense part A-1402. Point defense is a division of Missile Forces and equipped with self-propelled anti-aircraft missile systems "Buk". This is the second division of the Air Force, which passed under the control of militias in recent days. One part surrendered voluntarily, for the second conducted many hours of fighting, RIA "Novosti".



The Wall Street Journal reported an earlier missle strike (above) on a Ukrainian Transport:

MOSCOW—Pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane early Saturday, killing all 49 people on board, in the deadliest episode of months of unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The Il-76 plane was downed near the government-controlled airport in Luhansk, a region largely in the grasp of the separatists, after coming under fire from heavy machine guns and shoulder-launched missiles, said Ukraine's Defense Ministry.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said the 40 military personnel and the nine crew members on board were all killed.



The incident, the second such shooting down of a plane this month, demonstrates how far the nascent government in Kiev is from its target of restoring security in the regions bordering Russia. Luhansk has been the center of significant unrest in recent months, and a month ago separatists declared independence in the region, as well as in Donetsk.



It came less than a day after the U.S. said it had confirmed the rebels had acquired tank and missile launchers from Russia and as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization released images it said supported allegations that Russian tanks had entered Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has consistently denied charges that the country has provided weapons and troops to the rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk.

In the wake of the attack, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on the European Union to immediately introduce sectoral sanctions against Russia.

More info: According to an online flight tracking site, the plane's last known position was near Donetsk at an altitude of just over 10 km. A Dutch man, Cor Pan,  is feared missing by his Facebook friends, after posting a joke as he boarded a plane in Amsterdam saying "if the plane disappears, this is what it looks like". Cor also posted a photo of what is believed to be the Malaysia Airlines plane later reportedly shot down over Ukraine.

Friends initially laughed along with the reference to missing Malaysia flight MH370, wishing him and his partner happy holidays. However their comments later turned to shock and disbelief. One wrote "rest in peace dear Cor and (his partner) Neeltje, and we wish strength to your family - what a nightmare this is."
Fairfax could not independently verify whether the post was genuine. According to his Facebook page, Cor Pan was self-employed and lived in Volendam in the Netherlands.


Internet sleuths claim to have some photos of the offending SA-11:
Photos of Donetsk Missile Unit (Unproven); including a picture of a BUK Missle system leaving the area.

The prime suspect goes by the name Strelkov - or "shooter". Real name Igor Girkin, the former Russian intelligence officer has shot his own troops for insubordination. He may have just shot down a passenger plane with 298 people on board, or ordered it.

"We did warn you - do not fly in our sky," he reportedly posted to a Russian social media page just hours ago. This chilling message was most probably aimed at the Ukraine government, Girkin's target in a vicious separatist war.

But that post has now been deleted as it has become clear the jet was from Malaysia Airlines, not a military transport aircraft of the type Girkin has brought down in recent weeks.

The so-called "defence minister" of the Donetsk People's Republic first announced: "We just downed an An-26 near (the town of) Torez, and here is a video confirming that a 'bird fell'," said the post.

The video shows locals referring to the same coal mine in the region mentioned by Strelkov.

Russia's state media avoided any mention of the controversial posts and instead reported militia leaders' later claims that the Ukrainian air force had shot down the Boeing 777 instead.

Confirmation of separatist fighters killing the 298 people on board the plane from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur would further complicate Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to paint their uprising as a fight for self-determination.

The comments attributed to Girkin did not identify what missile was used to down the craft. But a message on the official Twitter account of the Donetsk People's Republic had announced hours earlier that insurgents had seized a series of Russian-made Buk systems capable of soaring to that height.

"dnrpress: self-propelled Buk surface-to-air missile systems have been seized by the DNR from (Ukrainian) surface-to-air missile regiment A1402," said the post. (link above) That tweet was later deleted as well.

No amateur can bring down a passenger jet streaking across the sky. A trained operator is needed to work the sophisticated surface-to-air missiles needed. Don't be lulled into believing any trooper with a rocket propelled grenade launcher on his shoulder could carry out this attack. The professionalism required alone makes Girkin and his Russian-backed separatists as the most likely suspects.

They have captured missile batteries mounted on trucks, and are suspected to have been supplied Russian-made "needle" portable launchers that can be carried by a man.

But it was far from clear whether Moscow condoned this atrocity.

The conflict in Ukraine has boiled for months since Russian commandos in Februrary seized control of the Crimean peninsula.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

20 Injured in SAA Turbulence incident: Global warming causing worse turbulence

Turbulence incident: Global warming causing worse turbulence ? 

Severe turbulence struck a South African Airways plane that was heading to Hong Kong, injuring 20 people before the aircraft landed safely on Wednesday, the airline said.
Medics were waiting at the Hong Kong airport to assist passengers on SA286, which had departed Johannesburg on Tuesday, the airline said in a statement.
Television footage showed rescue workers wheeling one injured passenger on a stretcher.
Three crewmembers and 17 passengers were injured, airline spokesman Tlali Tlali said.
The Hong Kong fire department said two people were critically injured. The victims were taken to three hospitals.
SAA Airbus 340-300
The airline said 165 passengers were on the Airbus 340-300 when the turbulence hit the aircraft as it flew over Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital
Last year in a similar incident about two dozen people on two flights were injured when their aircraft hit turbulence before landing at Hong Kong's airport.
Thai Airways said 20 people were hurt when an Airbus A38-800 carrying 500 passengers, two pilots and 24 cabin crew from Bangkok encountered "unforeseen turbulence" as it was descending to Hong Kong's airport.
The airline said passengers and cabin crew suffered injuries but the plane landed safely. 39 were reported injured but the airline later revised the number to 20. Kung says the injured were sent to three hospitals in the southern Chinese city.
Hong Kong Airlines reported three passengers and three flight attendants were hurt when their flight from Phuket hit "sudden turbulence" as it neared the city's airport. The airline said the plane landed safely and the six have left hospital. The plane was carrying 110 passengers and seven crew.
Clear air turbulence:
The most insidious kind of turbulence, clear-air turbulence, is invisible, comes without warning and occurs any time during a flight. One of the main culprits of clear-air turbulence is the boundary between the jet stream—that aerial river that forms where arctic air masses meet warmer air from the south—and the slower-moving air adjacent to it. This invisible boundary shifts unpredictably, and woe to any unstrapped passenger in a jet that crosses it. "If you're flying in clear air, you have no indication at all. If an aircraft has passed through the area ahead of your airplane, your pilot might get an advance warning of turbulence ahead. "But if you're an early morning flight and you're going through an area first, you're going to be 'Probe One.'" 
Even the worst turbulence is no cause for alarm—by itself. I don't think an airplane has ever broken up in flight because of turbulence. All planes are built to withstand much more than even a severe turbulent event."
Which makes passenger safety when an airplane hits turbulence—especially without warning—primarily the responsibility of the passengers themselves. That means buckling your seat belt, just as the pilots and stewardesses recommend, anytime you're seated. Air travelers should not get complacent. The best thing to do is to not loiter around in the aisles of the airplane," he says. "Do what you need to do, then get back to your seat and put on your seatbelt. You're still hurdling through the air at 500 miles an hour; things can happen. in 2005 an Air Korea jet fell 100 m in clear air turbulence, causing significant injury. Passengers and objects effectively become airborne, and go into free-fall until they hit something.

There has also been an unprecedented increase in turbulence involving aircraft in Australia.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said turbulence doubled over the three-month period between October to December 2013, compared to the previous three months, significantly above the five year historical average.
Turbulence is the leading cause of in-flight injuries and an increase directly affects the safety of cabin passengers.
But the ATSB could not speculate as to why it was happening, according to Dr Stuart Godley head of the ATSB's Aviation Research Team.
"During the last five years there has been an increase in reporting, particularly from cabin crew, about an increase in turbulence, but we don't know why this is occurring," he said.
"Because they are weather-related, these events are cyclical.
"We're used to seeing more of them in summer, but this increase is unprecedented."
Turbulence is caused by the irregular movement of air and often cannot be seen.
When air masses with different speeds, direction or temperatures meet each other, turbulence is likely to occur.
While turbulence is normal and occurs frequently, it can be dangerous - especially for passengers not wearing seat belts or carrying unsecured items.
That was the case for one passenger in November 2013 who sustained a serious head injury from a laptop computer that fell from an overhead locker during a turbulent flight to Sydney.
Another passenger was injured after being struck by an iPad. Passengers not wearing seat belts are more likely to be seriously injured when turbulence hits.
"Serious head injuries can be sustained when a person hits the overhead panel where luggage is stored because they did not wear a seat belt," he said.
"Cabin crew have had legs broken from walking around the cabin when turbulence hit," he said.
Clear air turbulence (CAT) can pose a great amount of danger as it cannot be detected and hit any time, which is exactly what happened when cabin crew were commencing a meal service during a flight from Cairns to Tokyo in 1996.
Passengers, crew and meal trolleys hit the ceiling of the aircraft and landed heavily, seriously injuring passengers who were not belted up. Bone fractures, lacerations, neck and back strains, dislocated shoulders and shattered teeth were reported. Four were admitted to hospital.
While nothing that extreme has been reported during the recent bout of increased turbulence, Godley warns passengers to keep their seat belts on in the off-chance it should happen. Some areas of Australia are more prone to turbulence and Sydney has been a common spot for it to occur over the last summer, Godley said. "122 incidences of turbulence were recorded, 35 of which occurred on flights in to and out of Sydney, which seems to be a hot-spot for turbulence," he said. "Brisbane and the Gold Coast is another area which experiences a high amount."

Global warming to blame?
New research has found global warming is likely to double the chances of plane turbulence in the coming decades.
According to a study from the University of Reading and the University of East Anglia, atmospheric changes could lead to the amount of turbulent air patterns that affect planes doubling, and for the intensity to get stronger by the middle of this century.
Dr Paul Williams, who headed the research, said global warming would have a significant impact on the aviation industry. "Air turbulence does more than just interrupt the service of in-flight drinks. It injures hundreds of passengers and aircrew every year - sometimes fatally.
"It also causes delays and damages planes. The total cost to society is about US$150 million (NZ$177 million) each year." Researchers used supercomputer simulations to analyse jet streams over the North Atlantic Ocean.
Dr Manoj Joshi, from East Anglia, said they focused on looking at turbulence in its peak periods. "Our research focused on clear-air turbulence in winter. This is especially problematic to airliners, because clear-air turbulence is invisible to pilots and satellites, and winter is when it peaks."
It found the chances of encountering significant turbulence would increase by between 40 per cent and 170 per cent, but most likely double, and the intensity by anywhere between 10 and 40 per cent.
Williams said any increase in turbulence would make flying more uncomfortable and increase the risk to passengers and crew. Airlines would also be forced to re-rout some flights to avoid stronger patches of turbulence, which would lead to greater fuel consumption and emissions of atmospheric pollutants, make delays at airports more common, and ultimately push up ticket prices.
The research showed the atmosphere was becoming more vulnerable and unstable, and Williams said the aviation industry was partly to blame for that.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Air New Zealand gets first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Also to feature at Farnborough

Air New Zealand takes Delivery of the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, also to feature at Farnborough


 Air New Zealand has become the first airline to take delivery of the new 787-9, a stretched version of the revolutionary Dreamliner aircraft.

The plane was handed over in front of more than 1000 Boeing employees and guests at the aircraft manufacturer's facility in Everett, near Seattle in the US.

"It's a privilege to be the global launch customer for this aircraft and our team is looking forward to flying it home to New Zealand.  The 787-9 is a real game changer," Luxon said.

The fuselage for the 787-9 is stretched by 6 metres over the 787-8, and will fly up to 40 more passengers an additional 450 nautical miles (830 km).

Boeing's Dreamliners feature several major differences from other major passenger aircraft.

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It is the first airliner to be made of carbon fibre, not aluminium, and promises airlines more fuel efficiency - a saving of 20 per cent. It also offers 20 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than comparable aircraft.

The aircraft promises a better experience for passengers too. The cabin air is, unlike other aircraft, drawn directly from outside, rather than through the engines, meaning it is fresher. The air is also more humid, and pressurised at a lower level - the theory being that passengers will feel better at the end of their flights. There are also larger windows and a more spacious cabin.

Twenty-six customers from around the world have ordered 409 787-9s, accounting for 40 per cent of all 787 orders, Boeing said.

The Air New Zealand aircraft is scheduled to depart the US on Thursday morning, local time, and arrive in Auckland late afternoon on Friday.


This is the first of ten 787-9 Dreamliners to join Air New Zealand's fleet.  The aircraft will operate the Auckland-Perth route from 15 October 2014 and to Shanghai and Tokyo later this year.

Another of Air New Zealand's 787-9s will be displayed by Boeing at the Farnborough International Airshow later this month.

Delayed for several years, the Dreamliner has faced criticism over its reliability from some carriers. All active aircraft were grounded for three months last year after a battery fire on one Dreamliner. The incident forced Boeing to re-design the powerful lithium-ion battery and enclose it in a tough new steel containment box.

Boeing admitted in January it was not satisfied with the aircraft's performance. The Dreamliner's reliability rate was at about 98 per cent - this meant that two out of every 100 flights were delayed for mechanical problems.

The rate was higher than the 97 per cent recorded in October but was still short of Boeing's target. The company aims to have the aircraft's reliability up to the level of its long-range 777 model, which has a reliability rate of 99.4 per cent.

Plane spotters may think this is the same livery as the ‘All-Blacks’ livery that already graces some of the fleet, but you’ll actually be wrong. The fern, which now is the ‘New Zealand Way’ national fern rather than the all-blacks ‘Silver’ fern (above), is a sign of national pride, and symbolises New Zealand internationally.


Created by Designworks, the fern, now a part of the national carrier livery, was just one part of the job of bringing together all the ingredients needed to accelerate New Zealand’s brand on the world stage. “[we were] involved in a process of clarifying and articulating the strategic idea of New Zealand’s past, present and future purpose – engaging the country in a program of initiatives aimed at moving the whole population onto the same song sheet and collaborating with artists, designers and the wider community on a national attitude and vocabulary that is unique.”

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