Flying Frenchman Fails In Channel Crossing Bid

 

A daredevil French inventor Thursday crashed into the sea on an attempt to fly across the Channel standing on a jet-powered “flyboard”, wrecking for now his dream of becoming a new aviation pioneer.

Franky Zapata, 40, a former jet-skiing champion, had to be fished out of the Channel by rescuers after falling into the clogged shipping lane between France and Britain during a tricky refuelling manouevre.

But he was in good health and would soon try again, his entourage said.

Zapata took off successfully from Sangatte in northern France and had planned to land in Britain around Dover after a flight of just 20 minutes.

But the refuelling was always set to be one of the trickiest parts of the operation and Zapata made contact with the refuelling platform due to the waves, forcing him into the sea.

“There was a problem with the refuelling,” a spokesman for his team said. “He could not carry out the procedure and so the crossing has been cancelled.”

The mayor of Sangatte, Guy Allemand, said that Zapata was fine and being brought back to the French coast.

“He was recused by the boat’s divers. It was a question of just a few metres” between the refuelling manoeuvre coming off and not working, he told AFP.

‘Failure won’t stop him’

Zapata had hoped to make the 35-kilometre (22-mile) crossing in 20 minutes, keeping an average speed of 140 kilometres an hour (87 mph) at a height of 15-20 metres (50-65 feet) above the water.

“Franky is fine, I spoke to him my phone,” said Zapata’s wife Krystel, who carried out the final launch preparations.

“He is very disappointed but, in general, one failure won’t stop him,” she added, saying he could launch a new bid “perhaps very soon”.

The flyboard is fuelled by kerosene stored in the rider’s backpack.

Zapata carried 47 kilos (104 pounds) of it on Thursday. But as that would only take him part of the way across the Channel, he needed to pick up a new backpack in mid-Channel for the second half of the trip.

In a scene resembling a science fiction film, Zapata had zoomed into the sky to begin his attempt wearing a full body suit, helmet and clutching a joystick to control the device.

Onlookers in Sangatte gasped in astonishment as he soared high above the sea and rapidly became just a tiny speck on the horizon.

In a tribute to past aviation heroes, Zapata had picked the day that marks 110 years since pioneer Louis Bleriot made the first airplane flight across the Channel on July 25, 1909.

His plan hit problems initially as the French maritime authorities refused to give the project their blessing — while stopping short of an outright ban — due to busy shipping traffic in the Channel.

But the maritime authorities said they lifted their “unfavourable opinion” after receiving guarantees from Zapata about his refuelling plans and safety.

‘Follow in the footsteps’

Zapata sprung to national prominence at the July 14 Bastille Day military parade when he soared above the Place de la Concorde in Paris in front of world leaders including President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He carried a rifle during that demonstration and the French defence ministry said it was studying how the flyboard could be used by its troops.

“We created a new way of flying. We don’t use wings. You are like a bird, it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream,” he told reporters ahead of the Channel flight.

“We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation,” he added.

Zapata’s flyboard, which is about the size of a skateboard, is powered by five small jet engines that allow the rider to fly at speeds of 190 kilometres an hour (118 mph).

AFP

Small-Aircraft Crash kills Nine In Sweden

 

 

Nine people died Sunday when a small aircraft being used for tourism crashed in northwest Sweden, the regional authority said.

“The nine people on board are dead,” Gabriella Bandling, spokeswoman for the Vaesterbotten region, told AFP. She did not say who they were.

According to Swedish media reports, the plane was carrying people for a parachute jump but crashed a little after 2:00 pm (1200 GMT). The plane, a GippsAero GA8 Airvan, had taken off from Umea airport.

READ ALSO: At Least 50 Dead In Nepal’s Monsoon

Amateur footage posted online by the Swedish daily Aftonbladet shows the plane plunging from the sky in a vertical line.

“I heard a weird sound, which didn’t sound normal,” one witness, Peter Larsson, told the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “I looked up and saw a plane spinning like a top.

“At first I thought it was an acrobatic flight but we quickly realised that something was wrong.”

The wreck of the plane has been found on an island in the archipelago south of Umea.

AFP

Head Of Boeing’s 737 MAX Program To Retire

In this file photo taken on June 27, 2019, Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are stored in an area adjacent to Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington. STEPHEN BRASHEAR / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

The head of Boeing’s embattled 737 MAX program plans to retire, the company said Thursday, just as it gears up to persuade regulators to return the plane to the skies after two deadly crashes.

It was the most high profile departure of a senior executive since the aircraft was grounded in mid-March following two crashes that claimed 346 lives.

Eric Lindblad, who has led the MAX program since August 2018, will step down and work with his successors on a transition, Commercial Airplanes President Kevin McAllister said in a staff memo.

Boeing apologized following the two crashes and acknowledged falling short in communications with regulators. But top officials, including chief executive Dennis Muilenburg, have kept their jobs amid the crisis.

“These are unprecedented times for us, as our primary focus remains the safe return of service for the 737 MAX and driving quality and safety in all that we do,” McAllister said.

The company has been widely criticized over its development of the 737 MAX, which included a flight handling system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that has been seen as a factor in both crashes.

McAllester praised Lindblad for “strong leadership and timeless drive” since assuming the 737 program less than a year ago.

Lindblad “shared with me his desire to retire last year, and we will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition plan,” McAllister said.

Mark Jenks, a 36-year company veteran, will replace Lindblad. Jenks has been leading Boeing’s effort to develop a new midsized commercial plane. The memo did not specify the timing of the transition.

McAllester also said Boeing executive Mike Sinnett, an executive in product strategy and future airplane development, will assume Jenks’ duties while continuing work to restore the MAX to service.

Sinnett “will also continue to play a pivotal role in our stakeholder and customer outreach efforts on the MAX certification and return to service efforts,” McAllister said.

Boeing has developed a software upgrade for the MCAS. But the jet has not yet been cleared by regulators to resume flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration late last month identified a fresh problem during simulator testing, further clouding the outlook for the plane’s return to service.

AFP

BA Fined £183m Over Computer Theft Of Passenger Data

 

British Airways has been fined more than £183 million after computer hackers last year stole bank details from hundreds of thousands of passengers, its parent group IAG said Monday.

In a statement, IAG said the UK Information Commissioner’s Office intends to issue the airline with a penalty notice under the UK Data Protection Act, totalling £183.39 million ($229.7 million, 205 million euros).

The fine is equivalent to 1.5 percent of British Airways’ turnover in 2017, IAG added.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said it would consider appealing the fine as it seeks “to take all appropriate steps to defend the airline’s position vigorously”.

BA’s CEO Alex Cruz said the airline was “surprised and disappointed” by the punishment.

“British Airways responded quickly to a criminal act to steal customers’ data,” he said in the statement.

“We have found no evidence of fraud/fraudulent activity on accounts linked to the theft. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this event caused,” Cruz added.

BA had revealed the hack in September, just a few months after the European Union tightened data protection laws with the so-called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The stolen data comprised customer names, postal addresses, email addresses, and credit card information.

However the 15-day breach, which was fixed on discovery, did not involve travel or passport details.

Following disclosure of the hack, BA promised to compensate affected customers and took out full-page adverts in the UK newspapers to apologise to passengers.

It had meanwhile described the mass theft as “a very sophisticated, malicious, criminal attack on our website”.

IAG is the owner of five airlines, including also Aer Lingus, Iberia, Level and Vueling, none of which were affected by the hack.

GDPR establishes the key principle that individuals must explicitly grant permission for their data to be used.

The case for the new rules had been boosted by a scandal over the harvesting of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica, a US-British political research firm, for the 2016 US presidential election.

AFP

US Shutdown Stokes Air Safety Fears

file photo

 

The partial shutdown of the US government could have serious consequences for air safety, according to unions representing aviation workers, which are calling for an immediate resolution to the budgetary stalemate.

Some 800,000 federal employees, including those from the Department of Transport and the Department of Homeland Security which handles air safety and oversees screening at airport checkpoints,  have been affected since December 22 when the impasse over President Donald Trump’s demand for a southern border wall opposed by Democrats in Congress began.

Those deemed non-essential have been placed on unpaid leave, while others have been forced to continue working without pay.

“This is a matter of safety, security, and economic concern,” said the Association of Flight Attendants, which held a protest in the capital Washington on Thursday along with other aviation sector unions, to demand the resumption of normal services.

“Our members and the traveling public are flying within a system that is less safe and secure as long as the shutdown continues,” added the letter to Congress from the union, which represents some 50,000 professionals.

“We know all too well the economic hardship that can result from any loophole in our security and any means for inflicting harm by those who view the United States and its citizens as the enemy,” it added in a reference to the September 11 2001 attacks.

The association noted the airline industry contributes over 5 percent of the national GDP and supports 11 million jobs, warning: “As the shutdown continues the entire industry will begin to unravel.

“Airlines cannot receive delivery of aircraft causing route cancellations, attrition of air traffic controllers reduces flow of aircraft in the air, and as transportation security officers reduce in numbers we will experience long, slowed security lines.”

– Sick days –

The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NACTA) meanwhile slammed the crisis, saying it was making difficult conditions even worse for its 20,000 members.

Federal Aviation Administration Academy in Oklahoma City  has been closed as a result of the shutdown and simulator trainings have been disrupted.

“Stopping the hiring and training pipeline will exacerbate the current controller staffing crisis,” warned the association in a statement.

Even before the shutdown, controllers have been working six-day weeks and 10-hour days at many of the country’s busiest airports, NACTA’s president Paul Rinaldi said, adding: “This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown almost certainly will make a bad situation worse.”

Travelers meanwhile are beginning to worry about long lines, with a spike in the number of Transportation Security Administration agents calling in sick since the end of December.

“Despite providing essential government services, TSA officers are among the lowest paid Federal employees, with many living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Representative Bernie Thompson, the new  Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security wrote in a recent letter to the TSA leadership.

“It is only reasonable to expect officer call outs and resignations to increase the longer the shutdown lasts, since no employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay.

The TSA has tried to reassure the public. A statement on its website on Wednesday said 1.74 million passengers were screened across the day, and 99.9 percent had to wait 30 minutes or less.

“Yesterday, January 9, 2019, TSA experienced a rate of 5 percent compared to a 3.6 percent unscheduled absence rate one year ago on January 9, 2018,” it said, lauding “the more than 51,000 officers across the country (who) remain focused on the mission.”

Blockage Of Murtala Muhammed International Airport II Enters Second Day

Muritala Muhammed International airport

 

Aviation unions have continued their blockade of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (II) in Lagos for the second day as they protest over the alleged sack of some staff of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited.

The union leaders insist that they will not vacate the gate until Bi-Courtney Aviation Services reinstates the sacked workers who were allegedly relieved of their jobs for participating in union activities.

Before now the company said it had begun downsizing staff owing to age and dwindling fortunes.

Read Also: Aviation Unions Shut Down Murtala Muhammed International Airport II

With the ongoing protest, airlines flying out of the terminal have had their businesses grounded while other businesses like eateries and shopping malls operating at the terminal are also affected.

The protesting unions are the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

Plane With 10 People Aboard Goes Missing In Kenya

Rescue teams on Wednesday were looking for a small plane with 10 people on board that went missing north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the aircraft owners and the national disaster agency said.

The plane, operated by East African Safari Air Express, took off from the western town of Kitale in the late afternoon Tuesday.

It disappeared off the radar screens at Nairobi international airport, its final destination, around 80 minutes later, the owners, Sax, said in a statement.

Searchers on the ground were being helped by a police helicopter, focussing on an area about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Nairobi, on the western fringe of the Aberdare mountains.

The search was hampered by poor visibility in rainy conditions, officials said.

 

Aviation Minister Names Airport Concession As Next Big Thing

The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has identified the concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport and three others, as the next big project, after the successful rehabilitation work on the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Senator Sirika, disclosed this to Channels Television’s correspondent in Benue state, during the induction of mi-35m gunships by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Ministry of Aviation partners the Nigerian Airforce on airport security, research and training programmes.

The minister urged Nigerians to trust the Federal Government in protecting their interest, as was the case with the Abuja Airport runway project. He also stressed that four airports;  that of Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano, are not up for sale but concession.

READ: Passengers Applaud Timely Rehabilitation Of Abuja Airport

He said this days after domestic flights resumed operations at the Abuja Airport, following the re-opening of the runway to traffic.

Passengers aboard a domestic flight expressed delight at being able to fly directly into the capital city, and applauded the timely rehabilitation of the facility.

Nigeria To Establish National Carrier In 2017 – Sirika

Aviation, Hadi Sirika, Nigeria, National CarrierThe Federal Government has announced that it will ensure the establishment of a national carrier for Nigeria before the end of 2017.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, made the disclosure at a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation.

He led some officials of the Ministry of Aviation to defend the ministry’s 2017 budget at the session with the lawmakers on Thursday at the National Assembly in Abuja.

Senator Sirika also highlighted some other projects that the ministry would focus on in 2017.

The Chairman of the committee, Representative Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, set the tone of the meeting as the lawmakers began by looking at how well the ministry implemented its 2016 budget.

While scrutinising the 2017 budget proposal of the ministry, some members of the committee expressed concern about the effect of the exchange rate on some of the proposed projects.

The lawmakers had some queries for the ministry and gave the officials two days to submit the outstanding documents.

Abuja Airport Closure: Amaechi, Sirika Appear Before Senate

Abuja Airport Closure: Amaechi, Sirika Appear Before SenateThe Minister of State for Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika and the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi have appeared before the Senate to explain the reason for the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja.

The Senate invited both ministers on Tuesday to explain the reason for the closure and rather explore other options besides closing the airport.

Lawmakers are opposing the closure of the airport which they say would bring hardship on local and international travellers.

The Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika, explained that to continue to operate, the Abuja airport will be unsafe and unreasonable as there are daily incidents on the runway.

Captain Sirika said that every flight plan always have alternate landing routes and Kaduna has always been the alternate for Abuja airport.

He also pointed out that most of the sections of the runway have collapsed and if multiple sections have collapsed, it means the entire runway has collapsed.

The runway in the Abuja airport was constructed in 1982 with a lifespan of 14 years which had been exceeded.

Transportation, Aviation Ministers Appear Before Senate

Transportation, Aviation Ministers Appear Before Senate The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika and the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, have appeared before the Senate on Thursday, to explain the reason for the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.

The Senate invited both ministers on Thursday to explain the reason for the closure and rather explore other options besides closing the airport.

According to the lawmakers, closing the airport would bring hardship on local and international travelers.

Mr Sirika, however explained that it would be unsafe to continue to operate in the Abuja Airport, as there have been daily incidents on the runway.

Furthermore, the former pilot, stated that every flight plan always had alternate landing routes and Kaduna has always been the alternative for the Abuja airport.

He also pointed out that most of the sections of the runway have collapsed and if multiple sections have collapsed, it means the entire runway has collapsed.

The runway in the Abuja airport was constructed in 1982 with a lifespan of 14 years which had been exceeded.

Nigeria Steps Up In Global Aviation Safety Rating

aeroplane1The safety rating of Nigeria’s aviation sector has been upgraded to level 3, placing the country on the same pedestal with the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, explained that this categorisation is dependent on the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which tracks the SSP implementation process of member-states.

The country’s SSP was monitored through the universal safety oversight audit programme, and had achieved an e-i level of about 67% in March 2016.

The ratings earned usually come after member-states achieve effective implementation of over 60 per cent.