A growing number of airlines said Wednesday they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace or flights to the region after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against bases housing US troops in Iraq.
“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” an Air France spokesman told AFP.
Iran launched a series of missiles at the bases housing US troops in the early hours, officials in Washington and Tehran said.
Iran’s supreme leader later called it a “slap in the face” after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad international airport last week.
Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.
The regions is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.
A KLM spokesman told AFP: “Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes.”
In Germany, Lufthansa said it had cancelled its daily flight to Tehran in addition to halting overflights of Iran and Iraq until further notice.
It added that Saturday’s twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.
UAE carriers Emirates Airline and low-cost Flydubai said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for “operational reasons”.
Australia’s Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.
“We’re adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice,” said a spokesman.
Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.
Vietnam Airlines said it will make “appropriate adjustments” of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.
Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said their planes do not fly through airspace affected by latest flare-up.
From its first flight to ceasing production and ouster of the CEO on Monday, below are the key dates in the life of the Boeing 737 MAX and the twin crashes that sparked a crisis.
Two deadly disasters
The Boeing 737 MAX, a narrow body aircraft that can transport up to 230 passengers depending on the model (7, 8, 9 and 10), was certified to fly on March 8, 2017 by the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). It was put into service in May of that year.
On October 29, 2018, a 737 MAX 8 from budget airline Lion Air crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing 189 passengers and crew members.
Less than five months later, on March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8, flying to Nairobi, crashed near Addis Ababa, claiming 157 lives.
China is the first country to ban the aircraft, on March 11. Regulators worldwide follow suit, but the American officials initially said there was “no basis” for grounding the 737 MAX.
US President Donald Trump intervened on March 13 announcing the planes would be grounded “effective immediately.” The FAA issued the official decree shortly after his statement.
– Crash investigations – Indonesian authorities published its preliminary report on the Lion Air crash on November 28, 2018 — months before the second disaster — citing nine factors that contributed to the accident, including inadequate pilot training, and flawed design and certification of the MCAS flight control software.
The MCAS, which lowers the aircraft’s nose if it detects a stall or loss of airspeed, was developed specifically for the 737 MAX, which has heavier engines than its predecessor in the 737 family. But it relied on a single sensor which made it vulnerable to failure.
On March 17, 2019, Ethiopian Transportation Minister Dagmawit Moges revealed “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610.
The MCAS anti-stall system was activated automatically in both disasters after receiving erroneous information indicating that the aircraft was stalling. The pilots were not aware of the existence of this software since it was not in the flight manuals.
Boeing comes under scrutiny of American and international regulators, as well as the US Congress, which is investigating complaints from American pilots about the MCAS, and the close ties between the FAA and the company.
After the aircraft is grounded, Boeing is forced to suspend deliveries on March 14, 2019, but the company initially maintains MAX production at 52 planes a month.
Output is later cut to 42 a month for the popular plane, which represented nearly 40 percent of Boeing sales in 2018.
But on December 17, after the FAA made it clear the MAX would not return to the skies anytime soon, Boeing announces it will halt production of its flagship aircraft in January 2020, for an indefinite period.
The company had continued to express confidence that the MAX would return to the skies by the end of 2019, as it addressed software modifications and improved pilot training, but was criticized for putting pressure on regulators to rush the plane back into service.
Airlines were forced to push back the expected date for returning their Boeing 737 MAX fleet to service.
A week after announcing the production halt, Boeing on December 23 ousted Dennis Muilenburg, who has been at the helm of Boeing since July 2015. The company already stripped him of his title of chairman of the board in October.
Boeing named board Chairman David Calhoun as chief executive and president, saying the company needed to “restore confidence” and “repair relationships with regulators, customers and all other stakeholders.”
Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, which has been grounded since March following two deadly crashes, will not be cleared to fly until 2020, the top US regulator said Wednesday.
Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson told CNBC the process for approving the MAX’s return to the skies still has 10 or 11 milestones left to complete, including a certification flight and a public comment period.
“If you just do the math, it’s going to extend into 2020,” Dickson said.
Boeing has been aiming to win regulatory approval this month, with flights projected to resume in January.
But Dickson said, “I’ve made it very clear Boeing’s plan is not the FAA’s plan.” He added that “we’re going to keep our heads down and support the team in getting this report done right.”
Boeing and the FAA have been under intense scrutiny following crashes that together killed 346 people and have prompted Boeing to cut production of the top-selling jet while new plane deliveries are suspended.
Dickson was expected to face another round of tough questioning at a congressional hearing later Wednesday.
Lawmakers have questioned whether the crashes were the result of FAA officials being too cozy with Boeing, leading to lax oversight during the original certification process for the aircraft.
Cash-strapped carrier Hong Kong Airlines was handed a lifeline by regulators on Saturday after they decided not to punish it for delaying salary payments amid an ongoing financial crisis.
The international finance hub has seen six months of protests which has dealt a massive blow to the tourism sector and airline operators.
Hong Kong Airlines is owned by struggling Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which has been looking to lower its debt burden.
Last month the carrier announced it would delay salary payments to some staff as it struggled to find cash, triggering a warning from regulators that their license might be at risk.
But earlier this week, the company announced it had found a last minute injection of funds.
“The Civil Aviation Department has been satisfied that Hong Kong Airlines is able to continue to operate properly and safely,” a spokesman for the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department said on Saturday.
The city’s Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) said on the same day that the airline has met the conditions for raising and maintaining its cash level.
The authority added that it will continue to monitor the carrier’s operation closely.
In late November, the carrier said its business was “severely affected” by the social unrest in the city and a sustained weak travel demand, which also impacted its payroll.
The licensing authority later required the airline to raise a significant amount of funds within a deadline in order to prevent its financial situation from deteriorating and to protect public interests.
Earlier this year, HNA unloaded budget carrier HK Express to rival Cathay Pacific and cut some operations.
On Wednesday, in a letter to staff and colleagues, the carrier’s chairman Hou Wei said “an initial cash injection plan has been drawn up.”
Although the amount of cash was not disclosed, the chairman said the company would pay outstanding salaries to staff on Thursday and the airline’s services will gradually return to normal as soon as the funds arrive.
The tourism industry in Hong Kong has been battered by nearly six months of pro-democracy protests that have become increasingly violent.
Visitor arrivals have tanked with arrivals from the Chinese mainland plummeting, hammering retail sales and helping to tip the city into recession.
At least 29 people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed after takeoff into a densely populated area of the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
A survivor among the 19 people — 17 passengers and two crew members — who were aboard the plane was taken to hospital along with 16 others injured on the ground, the North Kivu regional government said.
“At this stage, 29 bodies have been found in the rubble,” the statement said.
The Busy Bee Dornier-228 smashed into two houses near the airport, the deputy transport minister Jacques Yuma Kipuya said earlier.
The first images from the scene showed smoke billowing above the neighbourhood and the aircraft in flames with local people throwing buckets of water on it.
A video seen by AFP showed the cabin of the plane still smouldering embedded in the wall of the house.
The aircraft had been headed for the city of Beni, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Goma, when it went down after takeoff in the residential area.
Busy Bee airline staff member Heritier Said Mamadou had earlier confirmed that 19 were on board the flight scheduled from Goma around 9:00 am (0700 GMT).
Busy Bee, a recently established company, has three planes serving routes in the North Kivu province.
The pilot “failed in his takeoff,” Nord Kivu governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita said in a statement.
One of the airline’s maintenance workers at the site, quoted by news site actualite.cd, blamed a “technical problem”.
Among the victims of the Goma crash was a woman who was the coordinator of an association for the defence of women’s rights, Mambo Zawadi, her NGO said.
There were also three civil servants in the housing sector “who were returning to their posts in Butembo and Beni after work sessions that I had organised,” their supervisor Molendo Sakombi said in a statement.
The UN mission deployed in DR Congo, MONUSCO, sent two fire engines to support local rescue services.
Aircraft accidents are common in the vast, conflict-wracked central African country.
Last month an Antonov-72 cargo plane that was providing logistical assistance for a trip by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and carrying eight crew and passengers went missing after taking off from Goma.
Goma is the capital of troubled North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda.
The plane’s destination, Beni, has been the scene of other tragedies in the province plagued with fighting between rival militias. More than 60 civilians have been massacred since October 30.
The failure of the army and police to stop the killings has prompted protests by civilians, the latest one on Friday.
The Nord Kivu governor went to Beni to calm the citizens and on Sunday offered condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash.
Beni has also been at the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic which so far has killed around 2,200 people in DR Congo in the last year.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has reiterated that the establishment of the National Carrier, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities and implementation of other components of the Aviation Roadmap remain top priorities of the Federal Government.
He gave the assurance at a meeting with members of the Joint Aviation Unions Forum, an umbrella body of all unions in the aviation sector on Friday at his office in Abuja.
Senator Sirika commended the unions and staff for welcoming him warmly back into office on his reappointment, declaring that he can only deliver to their expectation in an environment of industrial harmony.
According to him, the establishment of the national carrier would further position Nigeria to compete with other nations, in line with the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project and develop as a regional hub for air transportation.
The minister was also confident that the establishment of MROs would save the country a lot of foreign exchange that would otherwise be spent by airline operators sending their aircraft abroad for checks.
He, therefore, promised to work with the unions in implementing the roadmap which he said would go a long way to advance the sector and position it to meet emerging challenges, while assuring them of continuous improvements to their welfare.
“I promise that there will be good understanding between us to drive the activities of our industry towards contributing more to national development.
“I will do everything reasonably possible to make the newly re-established ministry live up to the expectations of all stakeholders in the sector,” Sirika was quoted as saying in a statement by the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, James Odaudu.
He added, “This task, I think, is for you as well; not for me alone. It is for all of us. We will continue to hold stakeholders’ meetings with the unions, staff, the management and players within the industry.
“We will be committed to better welfare while expecting your full cooperation towards the implementation of The Aviation Roadmap which was developed during our first tenure.”
The ministry, according to the minister, will continue to lay emphasis on the safety and security of air travellers.
He said the recent acquisition of a calibration aircraft for the country and the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, for rehabilitation were some of the steps being taken to guarantee the safety of the nation’s airspace.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Forum and National President of Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), Mr Ilitrus Ahmadu, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring continuity in the aviation sector.
He urged the minister to pick up full throttle from where he stopped, especially in the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap, one of which major aspects was the establishment of a national carrier.
According to Ahmadu, the establishment of the airline will not only guarantee more employment for pilots, cabin crew, engineers and other aviation professionals but also enhance the nation’s international image, being a major player in the aviation world.
He also enumerated other areas which required the minister’s attention to include ensuring the appointment of qualified people into the boards of aviation agencies, in line with their respective Acts.
The union leader also sought the approval of new Conditions of Service for agencies that were yet to have theirs, better funding for capacity building, and the revival of the annual Aviation Week.
Seven people including two children were killed in a mid-air collision between a helicopter and a light aircraft over Spain’s Mallorca island on Sunday, authorities said.
The two aircraft crashed over the central town of Inca at 1:35 pm (1135 GMT), the regional Balearic Islands government said on its Twitter account.
Everyone aboard the two aircraft — two on the plane and five on the helicopter — perished in the crash, a police spokesman said.
A couple and their two children were aboard the helicopter along with the pilot, the spokesman told AFP.
The helicopter was registered in Germany, “which doesn’t necessarily mean the occupants were of this nationality,” he said, stressing that an investigation into the victims’ nationalities was still under way.
Police said the two aircraft crashed into a field.
Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands are popular with both Spanish and foreign tourists, especially in the summer season.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed condolences to the victims’ families, and said in a tweet that he was “following the news from… Mallorca with concern.”
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).
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.
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.