An extraordinary photo of the night sky has been taken from a 747 by pilot Christiaan van Heijst as he speeds vital cargo across the globe.
Christiaan takes up the story….
The second week of August is extraordinary.
It’s the perfect time of year to see the galactic core of our milky way, a handful of planets and the Perseid meteor shower: remnants of the Swift-Tuttle comet’s dust tail, causing a true spectacle across the night sky. Dimming cockpit lights and looking at the pure wonders of the universe as they unfold in their full spectrum makes August night flights absolutely enjoyable.
I placed my camera facing up at the lower end of the cockpit windshield, automatically clicking away a series of long-exposure shots across the north-eastern Atlantic. Immortalizing the night sky, hoping for a couple of meteors and whatever else might pop up above.
Meanwhile, two Dutch pilots conversed about the more important topics of life and the state of the world, while watching dozens of bright shooting stars that drag their final trail of existence through Earth’s atmosphere. A few minutes of shared solitude with an unobstructed view of the universe.
Flashes of intense thunderstorms over France and Belgium illuminated the stratosphere far across the curvature of the horizon. We’ll deal with them in a few hours from now, I just made a fresh coffee: couldn’t be bothered yet.
I passed the 8000 hours total flight time this night. Exactly 333,33333 days in the air. Hooray, I guess.
A journey that started in a small and elegant glider when I was fourteen years old. The first flight of many. Twenty-three years later I’ve seen the world and had my share of experiences and adventures. Impossible stories, if I wouldn’t know any better.
The hours come and the years go by at a frightening pace.
Another bright shooting star flashed by, the twenty-eighth tonight. I broke my habit and made a wish.
Technical data; 7 images stacked, Nikon D850, 10.5mm Fisheye, each 30-second exposures, f/2.8, ISO 2500.
Christiaan is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and more of his work and more close encounter (s) can be found here.
You can follow Christiaan on Instagram here: @jpcvanheijst
No aircraft manufacturer can design an aircraft that will survive pilot errors of ignoring air traffic control instructions and multiple warnings or just making bad decisions.
This year alone there have been three deadly accidents all of which appear to have involved one of these three fatal elements – or all three.
On Feb 3, Pegasus Airlines Flt 2193, a Boeing 737-800, had a runway overrun after landing on runway 06 at Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Turkey. Incredibly only 3 of the 183 occupants lost their lives.
According to Aviation-Safety.net at the time the flight arrived in the vicinity of Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen Airport, a thunderstorm was passing and the runway in use was 06.
The tower controller cleared Flt 2193, to land with conditions that translated into a 19-knot tailwind.
According to Mode-S data transmitted by the aircraft, it landed very long and fast. It touched down 1950 past the threshold and just 1000 meters before the runway end and overran the end of the runway at about 116km/hr, went over an airport road and a cliff, and impacted the airport perimeter wall.
The crew was warned that other aircraft were performing go-arounds and weather conditions were very difficult yet they proceeded with a landing that was marginal at best with tragic results.
In May, a Pakistan International Airlines crew ignored ATC instructions and multiple warnings causing the loss of their aircraft and 97 of the 99 aboard according to the preliminary report.
PIA Flt 8303, an Airbus A320, crashed on approach to Karachi-Jinnah International Airport, Pakistan.
According to official reports during the flight from Lahore, the pilots did not follow standard callouts and did not observe Crew Resource Management aspects during most parts of flight but discussed the coronavirus.
The crew was too high on approach but ignored an ATC command to circle to lose height. According to the crash report Karachi Approach advised repeatedly about the excessive height but the pilots continued the approach. It also advised repeatedly to discontinue the approach.
The crew lowered then retracted the undercarriage which is still not explained. Over-speed, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warnings System (EPGWS) and undercarriage warnings were then triggered. The A320 touched the runway on its engines and the pilots then initiated a go-around but both engines were severely damaged and subsequently failed, causing the loss of the aircraft.
On August 7th an Air India Express 737 crashed at Calicut after landing long on a tabletop, water-soaked runway, and then sliding down an embankment.
After one missed approach in heavy rain and low visibility, the pilots elected to perform a landing with a 22km/hr tailwind but touched down about 900 meters down the 2850 m long runway and overran. It went down a 34 m dropoff and broke in two killing 18 including the two pilots.
According to renowned crash investigator Greg Feith, the issue of runway overruns is nothing new especially in that part of the world. “The major manufacturers, including Boeing, have provided operators with safety information that includes training aids, pilot procedures, and other educational materials. Unfortunately, these types of accidents are still occurring for the same reasons, including a lack of operational discipline!”
All of these accidents involved a lack of crew and procedural discipline with tragic results and no amount of instruction or system automation by Airbus or Boeing will prevent such tragedies.
Both of the 737 MAX tragedies in 2018 and 2019 involve a significant amount of crew failure to follow well-drilled and known procedures.
In November 2019, Mr. Feith told AirlineRatings.com that the Lion Air co-pilot who was flying the 737MAX when it crashed “had significant training deficiencies and lacked basic flying skills.
“These same deficiencies occurred during the accident flight. These two pilots had no business being in the cockpit and the airplane should not have been operated because of all the maintenance issues that began at the beginning of October, and were not corrected, making the airplane unairworthy.”
In the Indonesian report, the training record for the First Officer’s training states: “Application exercise for stall recovery is difficult due to the wrong concept of the basic principle for stall recovery at a high level and low level.”
According to one former Airbus training captain, the “first officer not only should have failed his training but should never have held a license.”
Mr. Feith and another former NTSB investigator, John Goglia, deliver sobering insight into what really happened in the Lion Air 737 MAX crash here at flightsafetydetectives.com.
In the aftermath of the PIA, A320 disaster it was revealed that 262 pilots in Pakistan had fake pilot licenses, with other pilots sitting the exams.
The revelation came from the country’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar according to Gulf News.
Sarwar revealed the disturbing news about the “fake” pilots while presenting a provisional inquiry report in the National Assembly of Pakistan about the PIA crash.
Sarwar told the National Assembly that Pakistan has 860 active pilots, which includes PIA, Serene Air and Air Blue pilots as well. He said that “the inquiry which was initiated in February 2019 showed that 262 pilots did not take the exam themselves and asked someone else to sit for the exam on their behalf.”
Sarwar further revealed that “pilots were also appointed on a political basis and merit was ignored while appointing pilots.”
This revelation comes after a similar scandal in India and accusations of bribery in Indonesia in 2016 by its aviation Director-General. This accusation was made in this Foreign Correspondent story – False Economy.
In the wake of the 737 MAX disasters and subsequent pilot errors, all manufacturers are reassessing cockpit design and systems/reaction assumptions to try and counter the level of pilot competency and training.
JetBlue has achieved carbon-neutral flying on all domestic services as it prepares for the new climate reality.
The airline is offsetting emissions for all domestic flights and investing in sustainable aviation fuel.
Earlier this year, JetBlue became the first major U.S. airline to commit to this critical and measurable step toward reducing its contribution to global warming and is now the first U.S. airline to achieve carbon neutrality on all domestic flying.
On July 1, the airline began offsetting its carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) from jet fuel for all domestic JetBlue-operated flights. JetBlue views carbon offsetting as a bridge to other industry-wide environmental improvements like fuel with lower emissions. Therefore, JetBlue is also investing in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and to start, the airline is fueling flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) with SAF.
Carbon neutrality is just one way JetBlue is preparing for a changing climate and ensuring a more sustainable business for its crewmembers, customers, shareholders, and communities.
JetBlue’s carbon reduction strategy focuses on reducing emissions in the first place. This includes investments to shrink its impact through fuel-saving technologies and aircraft, and advocating for a more fuel-efficient air traffic control system.
JetBlue has achieved reductions in emissions on an intensity basis since 2015 and most recently improved 2.2 percent per available seat mile (ASM) from 2018 to 2019. Offsetting all remaining emissions from domestic flights and investing in SAF will help JetBlue move toward the lower-carbon economy for which aviation and all sectors must plan.
“The global pandemic reinforces the need to mitigate risks that threaten the health of our business. Our commitment to sustainability has only become more important as we prepare our business for a new climate reality,” said Joanna Geraghty, president, and chief operating officer, JetBlue.
“Even with a long recovery ahead following the COVID-19 pandemic, JetBlue remains focused on short- and long-term environmental opportunities, particularly lessening our largest impact – carbon emissions – and more fuel-efficient flying.”
Since 2008, JetBlue has been offsetting CO2 emissions from jet fuel with programs to balance customer flying, including a month of carbon-neutral flying network-wide in 2015 and again in 2019.
Offsetting all domestic flying expands those efforts in a bigger and more impactful way. Prior to this announcement, JetBlue had already offset more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions in partnership with CarbonFund.org Foundation—a leading U.S. based nonprofit carbon reduction and climate solutions organization. JetBlue’s new carbon offsetting partners include two experts in climate solutions and carbon offsetting – the South Pole and EcoAct, in addition to Carbonfund.org.
JetBlue will offset all emissions from jet fuel for domestic routes and expects to ramp up to offset 15-17 billion pounds (7 to 8 million metric tons) of CO2 emissions each year – the annual equivalent of removing more than 1.5 million passenger vehicles from the road.
As part of its offsetting program, JetBlue selects projects around the globe that will balance the emissions from its jet fuel. Many projects operate in developed countries where a bigger community impact can be made. Emissions reduction projects reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere in at least one of three ways – avoiding greenhouse gas emissions in favor of renewable sources, removing emissions from the atmosphere, and destroying emissions when possible.
JetBlue has also started purchasing and flying on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Neste, the world’s third most sustainable company and the largest producer of renewable diesel and SAF made from waste and residue materials, starting in July 2020 for flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Neste’s SAF will contribute to JetBlue’s efforts to reach its climate goals, providing an immediate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from any aircraft using the fuel.
The recovery of world air traffic is going to be slower than hoped according to S&P Global Ratings, which now forecasts normality won’t return until 2024.
S&P in a new report says air traffic this year will be down between 60 and 70 per cent on 2019, a full 10 to 15 per cent worse than forecast just two months ago.
S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Rachael Gerrish said: “We now also foresee a more gradual recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2024.”
S&P says the COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe crisis the airline industry has ever faced and by way of comparison in the six months following the 9/11 attacks, previously considered the most severe aviation crisis, air passenger traffic measured in revenue passenger kms declined by 12 per cent.
However, it added it did not believe the revision of global air passenger traffic forecasts will have a widespread rating impact across the global portfolio of airlines it rates.
Since the pandemic begin S&P has lowered its ratings by multiple notches on most airlines.
“S&P says the COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe crisis the airline industry has ever faced.”
Pre-COVID-19 just over one-third of its global airlines portfolio was rated at ‘B’ level and below, and now this has risen to about two-thirds of the total.
It says cost reductions, fleet right-sizing, and liquidity preservation will be critical measures to partly counterbalance the depressed demand for air travel.
“It is impossible to predict the pace, extent, and timing of recovery in travel patterns with any certainty,” said Ms Gerrish.
S&P warns the weakening global macroeconomic outlook will also impact both consumer and business spending power on all but essential travel.
It says corporate travel has not yet shown signs of recovery and widespread adoption of remote working and virtual meetings, as well as corporate cost-cutting, will have some lingering impact on business travel.
Business travel and intercontinental trips, the two most severely affected by COVID-19, are also the most profitable sources of passenger revenues.
But S&P sees some green shoots with ticket refunds for trips canceled by airlines not causing as great cash outflow as expected, with large numbers taking vouchers for future flights.
Many airlines have also managed to cut costs more extensively than initially expected.
In addition, governments in many countries have provided generous aid to airlines in the form of cash grants, equity injections, and state-backed loans.
It says Government support for airlines, and more general central bank moves to support capital market liquidity, have bolstered market confidence to support surprisingly large borrowings.
S&P says there is high uncertainty over the recovery of travel patterns.
It says it is impossible to predict the pace, extent, and timing of recovery in travel patterns with any certainty.
USB charging ports and personal HD touchscreens are also available for all seating classes, for those moments in between iceberg spotting.
The flight provides a full day of Antarctic experience. The flight from Australia ranges between 9,500 – 10,500 kms round trip (approximately 12.5 hours) depending on the departure city.
Antarctic experts will be on board to talk on the polar environment and its history while video screenings depict life on the ground.
Approximately three hours south of Australia, passengers will usually see the first scattered ice followed by dozens of icebergs and ice floes. We then cross the South Magnetic Pole where you will start to view the rugged mountainous topography of the Antarctic mainland.
Whilst we will be over the Antarctica Treaty area for around 4 hours, approximately 3 – 4 hours will be spent flying over the Antarctic continent.
In planning our route, pilots select the most spectacular area of Antarctica within the aircraft’s range. The selected area will be chosen from 19 different flight plans, taking into account:
Maximum viewing potential from both sides of the aircraft
Maximum variety in land mass scenery, including high mountains, glaciers, ice plateau, and coastline (Note: The high mountains are only visible on flights from the Eastern States of Australia, not Perth.)
The best possibility for viewing should weather conditions be adverse
Boeing and Etihad Airways will use a 787-10 Dreamliner to test ways to reduce emissions and noise as part of the aerospace company’s ecoDemonstrator program before the airline accepts delivery of the airplane this fall.
The collaboration, which includes extensive sound measurement testing with industry partners, builds on a strategic sustainability alliance Boeing and Etihad formed in November 2019.
“This is the latest program under Etihad’s industry-leading strategic partnership with Boeing, focusing on innovating real-world solutions to the key sustainability challenges facing the aviation industry,” Etihad Aviation Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas said.
“The ecoDemonstrator program is founded on innovation and sustainability — and these are core values for Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi, and the United Arab Emirates. Etihad and Boeing see a great opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge to minimize the impact of aviation on the environment.”
Our newest #ecoDemonstrator jet just got a fresh coat of paint. This 787-10 Dreamliner will be delivered to @etihad later this year, after helping us test technologies that enhance safety and reduce fuel use, emissions and noise. pic.twitter.com/aHk5vqDPOk
The ecoDemonstrator program utilizes commercial aircraft to test technologies that can make aviation safer and more sustainable now and into the future. The 2020 program, which will begin testing this month, is the first to use a Boeing 787-10.
“Industry collaboration is a key aspect of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program that enables us to accelerate innovation,” said Stan Deal, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO.
“We’re proud to broaden our sustainability partnership with Etihad Airways by testing promising technologies that can reduce emissions, help commercial aviation meet our climate goals, and allow the industry to grow in a responsible manner that respects our planet and its natural resources.”
Boeing and Etihad will work with industry-leading partners, including NASA and Safran Landing Systems, to conduct aircraft noise measurements from sensors on the airplane and the ground. The data will be used to validate aircraft noise prediction processes and the sound reduction potential of aircraft designs, including landing gear, that are modified for quieter operations.
In addition, a flight will be conducted during which pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operations center will simultaneously share digital information to optimize routing efficiency and enhance safety by reducing workload and radio frequency congestion.
Test flights will be flown on a blend of sustainable fuel, which significantly lowers aviation’s environmental footprint. The testing program is expected to last about four weeks before Etihad enters its Boeing 787-10 into service.
Air New Zealand has moved quickly to review its services after the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Auckland Region will enter COVID-19 Alert Level 3.
The Level 3 is from 12.00pm Wednesday, August 12, for a period of at least three days, while the rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2.
The move comes after four cases of COVID-19 were discovered in one family after over 100 days of no community spread cases in New Zealand. It is not known at this time where the family contracted COVID-19.
From 12.00pm today, Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounges and valet parking will close.
For the duration of the change in alert levels, Air New Zealand will also be taking extra precautions to keep people safe. Its front of house employees and domestic cabin crew will wear masks and gloves, and pilots will wear masks when interacting with customers or walking through the terminal.
Customers on flights departing from Auckland will be also be required to wear masks. Customers are welcome to bring their own, or these will be provided by the airline on board.
The below outlines changes customers can expect to see:
Customers on flights departing Auckland will be required to wear masks. They are welcome to bring their own, or these will be provided by the airline. It is also recommended customers travelling from other ports wear masks, however, this will not be a requirement
Air New Zealand Auckland-based front of house employees and domestic cabin crew will wear masks and gloves, and pilots will wear masks when interacting with customers or moving through the terminal
Customers are encouraged to check-in for their flight via the Air New Zealand app and allow extra time to process through check-in and security
For those checking in at larger airports, every second self-service kiosk will be operating to support social distancing. There will also be floor markers for queuing at check-in counters, service desks, bag drops and departure gates, and fewer customers will be boarded and disembarked at a time
Inflight, seating will be allocated to allow an empty seat between customers travelling alone from Thursday through to Sunday. The airline will aim to keep families and some travelling companions together, so there may be some people sitting together with no additional space between them
Food and beverage services on all domestic flights will not be available to minimise contact between customers and cabin crew. Customers should let cabin crew know if they would like a cup of water
The inflight magazine Kia Ora will be removed from seat pockets and Air New Zealand lollies won’t be handed out inflight across the domestic network
Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounges and valet parking will close at midday
Unaccompanied Minors with an existing booking will be able to travel. The airline is not accepting new bookings for Unaccompanied Minors at this time
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says the airline is requiring all customers travelling out of Auckland to wear masks.
“Customers are welcome to bring their own masks, otherwise these will be provided by the airline once on board. We’re also encouraging customers travelling from other ports to consider wearing a mask, however, this is not compulsory.
“We’re working through our schedule at the moment and making sure we can continue to move people with social distancing requirements in place out of Auckland. There is currently no change to our international services.
“We’d appreciate it if customers could exercise patience as everyone adjusts to the change in alert levels. We’d also advise allowing a little more time to navigate through the airport, as social distancing requirements will make things a little slower. Customers should not travel if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms – flights can be changed free of charge if needed.”
The airline said that customers who hold a ticket for a domestic flight within New Zealand and are scheduled to depart before 11.59 PM Sunday 16 August may opt to hold their fare in credit and can do this via the airline’s online booking tool.
Customers who are unable to manage their booking online and no longer wish to travel do not need to contact Air New Zealand immediately or prior to their flight’s departure and can be assisted at a later date to find an alternative flight option or be provided with a credit note.
The airline says that its contact centre and social media team are currently experiencing very high demand. Air New Zealand is grateful to customers for their patience while it works through these changes.
When, in one of those Einstein moments, the mistake was realized, we had just over an hour to get across Paris. Normally a wave curbside would summon a cab or two but add rain to our worsening situation and we didn’t stand a chance.
Not even Christine with her blonde hair, hourglass figure, and brilliant yellow umbrella, could sway a cab.
And our ticket on the Eurostar was not refundable, or transferable. There was no alternative. The French Underground, three blocks away, was our only option.
With umbrellas jammed between neck and shoulder, we set off with our baggage — all five pieces — as the heavens opened up with lightning just to add to the drama.
Into the underground, dripping wet, some locals took pity on us and helped us negotiate the not-so-automatic ticket machine that was making things as difficult as possible.
Next, we felt we were in a Prince of Persia computer game as various “jaws of death” tried to crush us and our baggage.
Finally, after racing up and down stairs we were on to the first train and had time to assess the damage so far….several strained arm and leg muscles and a pounding heart.
A bit of luck as we jumped off one train to find the next was only 50m away and it arrived as we did.
Three more stations and we were at Gare de Nord . . . with 10 minutes to go, I thought we had made it. Up some stairs and our Eurostar was still waiting but there was no entry, with a guard motioning us towards customs and immigration.
I had completely overlooked the tiny detail of checking in, exiting France and entry into the UK and then security for good measure. Up more stairs and those strained muscles were now pulled — or the traveling equivalent.
Another guard took pity — or at least felt sorry for Christine’s plight — and waved us through to the top of the queue. Within seconds we were checked in and on to customs and within a minute, again waved through.
But security was another matter. A near-total undress and baggage scan was required.
We raced off, still putting belts on while trying to wheel and carry our bags. Down the ramp on to the platform. We leaped onto the train thinking we would sort out where our carriage was later.
Air New Zealand’s ATR turboprop flights into and out of Queenstown are set to benefit from Required Navigation Performance (RNP AR) technology.
In 2016, the airline entered into a partnership with aircraft manufacturer ATR to equip its 68-seat turboprop fleet with RNP AR. The technology enables pilots to fly to lower altitudes with a more precise and efficient route into the airport, saving fuel and emissions and helping reduce the impact of bad weather on services.
Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer Captain David Morgan (below in video) says RNP is now operational on the airline’s ATRs operating to and from Queenstown.
“While all aircraft were upgraded with the necessary equipment last year, we have been working through a program of training with our pilots, with oversight from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In the past month, we have reached a major milestone with this project in receiving approval from the CAA to proceed with full RNP AR operations into and out of Queenstown.”
“This is fantastic news for our customers. The benefits of the technology mean that, even when the weather at Queenstown Airport is poor, disruptions to ATR passenger services are expected to be significantly reduced.”
The airline has 27 ATR 72-600 aircraft in its fleet. The airline’s larger A320 aircraft, which also operate to and from Queenstown, are already RNP AR-enabled.
The major refinement in its rating system examines serious incidents as a guide to an airline’s operational standards and pilot performance.
To arrive at the incident rating Airline Ratings has examined over 11,000 serious event reports since 2015 to establish a rating for airlines. Incidents and crashes now account for five of the seven-star ratings.
In the process, incidents such as bird strikes, lightning and weather were eliminated along with issues that were not related to the airline or pilots.
This brought the number of serious incidents down to 1,200 and our team, over the past six months, meticulously looked at each and reviewed the reports to determine responsibility and other factors.
Audits are still very important and we review completion or compliance with audits from ICAO and IATA’s IOSA plus the EU blacklist and FAA restricted list. If all the boxes are ticked then another star is awarded.*
Commenting AirlineRatings.com Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas said: “There is a growing concern industry-wide at some pilot performance issues and we have evolved our rating system to put greater focus on outcomes.”
“In some recent fatal crashes, the pilots have either shown total disregard for ATC instructions, ignored repeated aircraft warning systems or ignored company procedures – or, in one case, all three.”
“The Pakistan fake pilots’ license scandal has also brought into sharp focus that in some parts of the world getting a pilot’s license can be subject to abuse.”
The refined ratings, with a COVID-19 health compliance rating, are available for a small yearly subscription of US$15.
That subscription also includes an exclusive weekly editorial from Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas delivered directly to your email inbox.
Mr. Thomas has won 45 awards for his work, is the author of 10 books on the industry, has done four documentaries, appeared in the AgeofAerospace and Air Crash Investigation and works with numerous TV networks across the globe including BBC, CNN, SkyNews and Al Jazeera.
In the audits, if an airline has not done IOSA but has had 20 years of fatality-free flying it is accepted that the airline is up to IOSA standard.