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Missile may have caused TWA crash

A documentary set to air next month on the 17th anniversary of the crash that killed 230 people will “prove that the officially proposed fuel-air explosion did not cause the crash,” the filmmaker said in a statement.

The six “also provide radar and forensic evidence proving that one or more ordnance explosions outside the aircraft caused the crash. They do not speculate about the source or sources of the ordnance explosions.”

Numerous witnesses had reported seeing a streak of light and a fireball when the plane exploded, leading some to fear the aircraft had been struck by a rocket or missile before it came down over Long Island shortly after takeoff from John F Kennedy airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled out terrorism and said the crash probably resulted from an explosion in the plane’s centre fuel tank due to an electrical short circuit in a fuel gauge wire aboard the Boeing 747.

The former investigators “were not allowed to speak to the public or refute any comments made by their superiors and/or NTSB and FBI officials about their work at the time of the official investigation,” the filmmaker said.

“They waited until after retirement to reveal how the official conclusion by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) was falsified and lay out their case in a new original documentary film.”

The six are also filing a petition with the NTSB to reopen the probe.

The NTSB said in a statement it was aware of the documentary and would consider the request.

Samoa Air introduces XL seats

Samoa Air the first airline to charge passengers by weight is to introduce what it terms “executive row”, with extra space and no armrests, to seat its largest passengers.

The airline, with a motto of “a kilo is a kilo is a kilo” hit the news last year when it announced its pay-by-weight policy.

Chief executive Chris Langton told ABC News in Australia that the airline was “in the process of changing the space between the seats. What we’ve done is create what we call the executive row, where they’ve got an extra 14 inches (35cm) between the seats. There’s also a ramp so people have easier access. They’ve got added space as there’s no [arm] rest between the seats. It’s basically like a two- or three-person sofa.”

Passenger fares range from $1a kg for the weight of traveller and baggage on Air Samoa’s shortest route, to about $4 a kg on the longest to American Samoa.

The growing size of passengers is causing headaches for airlines.

In 2000, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine estimated that the increasing weight of passengers was costing US airlines $275 million for the additional 300 million gallons of fuel required to lift the extra pounds.

With fuel costing four times as much today that figure could be over $1 billion.

But it’s not just a US or Samoan problem the World Heath Organization says that today more people – 2 billion – are overfed than malnourished.

In 2005 the US regulator the Federal Aviation Authority average male passenger weight figures for payload calculations were adjusted upwards from 185lbs to 200lbs. Female weights also climbed from 145 to 179lbs.

And the problem is ending up in the courts. In 2002, Virgin Atlantic Airways paid out $20,000 to a female passenger after she alleged that she suffered serious medical complications including a blood clot after sitting next to an overweight passenger. 

And downunder the bronze Aussie is turning into a myth with over 50 per cent of women and 70 per cent of men overweight or obese. Those numbers have doubled in the past 20 years.

Compounding the problem the population is getting taller. According to R. W. Howard’s “Interrelating Broad Population Trends,” the world’s population grew 7 cm. from 1945 to 2000.

Airlineratings.com understands that the only airline, apart from Samoa Air, with a clear policy on “passengers of size” is Southwest Airlines in the US. Its policy, which has been tested in court, states that if a passenger does not fit into a 17 inch wide seat two seats must be purchased. However if the plane is not full the passenger gets a refund.

In 2002 that policy drew some unfortunate publicity on US late night television with comedians suggesting that at least the passenger would get two meals.

 

Flight lands safely after poisoning scare

United adds Europe flights

 

An FBI spokesman says the man stood up during the flight Monday to make the claim but that there is no indication that any passengers were poisoned. United Airlines says Flight 116 continued as scheduled after the man made the statement.

A passenger from another plane at the terminal says a heavy police contingent greeted the flight’s arrival at Newark Liberty Airport.

University of San Francisco student Merrill Amos tells The Associated Press than more than a couple dozen police and emergency vehicles were on the tarmac. She says she saw a staircase pulled up to the plane and an ambulance nearby.

“He wasn’t passed-out limp, but he looked very sluggish,” Ms Amos said.

Safest aircraft revealed

AirlineRatings.com, the world’s first airline safety and product rating website has found that the numerous aircraft can boast a perfect safety record.

AirlineRatings.com which rates 425 airlines for both safety and product has completed a comprehensive analysis of the crash records of 55 different aircraft in active service.

Editor Geoffrey Thomas said that AirlineRatings.com had only looked at the records for the last ten years as they were relevant to today’s travelers.

“Aircraft such as the 777, A380, A340, 717 and 787 have never had a fatality,” said Mr Thomas

“We have used the Boeing database which is an industry standard and supplemented that with our own records and those of Aviation-Safety.net and Ascend,” he said. 

Statistics 2003-2012

                         

Best safety record

 
Boeing 777                                0

Boeing 717                                0

Airbus A380                               0

Airbus A340                               0

Boeing 787                                0

Boeing 767/757                          0

Embraer 135/145                        0    

CRJ 700/1000                            0

Airbus’ answer to the Boeing 787 takes to the air

Like the 787 the twin-engine A350 is of all composite construction which enables the manufacturer to make significant improvements to passenger comfort.

Typically aircraft are pressurized to an altitude of 2800m which gives some passengers mild altitude sickness with impacts such as mild headaches.

However, because the 787 and A350 are made of composite structure which is stronger than aluminium the pressurization can be increased to the equivalent of a 2000m altitude removing the impact of altitude sickness.

And composite structure does not corrode so the humidity can be increased thus reducing the impact of dehydration.

The A350 can fly up to 15,000km.

There are three models with capacity between 270 in a three-class international configuration for the A350-800 to 550 in the largest model the -1000 with an all economy layout.

First deliveries will be to Qatar Airways in 2014.

Airbus has sold 615 A350s, while Boeing has sold almost 900 787s.

The A350 opens a new chapter in Airbus’ 43 year history.

Equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofans, the A350 XWB first flight took place over south western France.

An international crew of six was on board, comprising two Flight Test Pilots, one Test Flight Engineer and three Flight Test Engineers.

At the controls of the A350 XWB’s first flight are Peter Chandler, Airbus’ Chief Test Pilot, and Guy Magrin, Project Pilot for the A350 XWB.

Accompanying them in the cockpit is Pascal Verneau, the A350 XWB Project Test Flight Engineer.

At their flight test stations in the main aircraft cabin and monitoring the progress of the flight via an extensive array of flight test instrumentation are the three flight test engineers: Fernando Alonso, Head of Airbus Flight & Integration Test Centre; Patrick du Ché, Head of Development Flight Tests; and Emanuele Costanzo, lead Flight Test Engineer for the Trent XWB engine.

This first flight marks the beginning of a test campaign totaling around 2,500 flight hours with a fleet of five development aircraft.

The rigorous flight testing will lead to the certification of the A350-900 variant by the European EASA and US FAA airworthiness authorities, prior to entry into service in the second half of 2014 with first operator Qatar Airways.

Still Glamorous

In an extraordinary twist the film star who started her career in 1946 modelling for the Douglas Aircraft Company in its then brand new 70-seat DC-6B passenger aircraft has been voted today as the most glamorous flight attendant.

In a survey of 1000 people conducted by American Airlines in the UK, Marilyn Monroe was selected as the first-choice fantasy flight attendant from the golden era of film with 22% of the overall vote. Audrey Hepburn was second choice with 20%.

George Clooney (22.5%) led Prince Harry (21.4%) as the favourite fantasy pilot of all time, with Angelina Jolie rated as the highest scoring female with 10.8% of the vote. US President Obama (11%) lay in fifth place behind the star of The Great Gatsby and Aviator – Leonardo DiCaprio (11.6%). The brand new Superman, Henry Cavill scored just 1.9%.

Jennifer Aniston (18.1%) topped the pole for favourite flight attendant from modern day stars with Kate Middleton (17.1%) in second place and Angelina Jolie (14.7%) in third. Pippa Middleton matched Beyonce’s popularity, each with just under 11% of the vote. They were both beaten by the highest scoring man – Prince Harry – with 11.9%.  

The survey was conducted to launch American Airline’s brand new B777-300ER aircraft on the route from London (Heathrow) to Hollywood (LAX).

In 1946 Norma Jean Baker, later Marilyn Monroe, answered an advert to model for Douglas Aircraft. The images taken are now copyright and cannot be shown but the cover of the in-house Douglas Airview Magazine is shown here.

American Airlines employed Marilyn Monroe lookalike – Suzie Kennedy – to pose with the engine of its brand new 777-300ER aircraft.

Worst airlines revealed

Rated by AirlineRatings.com, a company that has received plenty of negative attention is Indonesian carrier Lion Air.

The airline is on its way to becoming one of the biggest carriers in the world, committing $46 billion for almost 500 new planes, in one of the biggest aviation deals in history.

Geoff Thomas from Airline Ratings says “they are brand new planes – the planes themselves are magnificent. But as we saw recently one undershot the runway at Bali. Fortunately everybody walked away, but that should never have happened, it should simply never have happened to an airplane like that one (which is) state of the art.”

Eleven airlines take out the seven-star double

A380
Passengers love the Emirates' A380 bar

According to AirlineRatings.com Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas, the airlines that have achieved the double seven-star for safety and product in alphabetical order are: Air New Zealand, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air from Taiwan, Korean Air, Qantas Airways, Royal Jordanian, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

“These are airlines that are clearly standouts in the world of aviation and have dedicated years of effort to achieve these high standards,” said Mr Thomas.

“They are at the forefront of innovation and operational excellence and are always on the winner’s podium collecting awards for their efforts.”

Mr Thomas noted however that there were a number of airlines, such as Virgin Australia that were ‘knocking on the door’ of achieving the double. “Once it has completed its extensive makeover, Virgin Australia will be a seven-star airline. It’s only product inconsistency on a few routes that keeps it out of the seven-star category,” said Mr Thomas.

Best of the low cost airlines were New York-based JetBlue Airways, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, German-based TUIfly and Denver-based Frontier which achieved a seven-star safety rating and the maximum – for a budget airline – five-star product rating.

“In the case of JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Frontier they often offer a better product than many so-called full service airlines in the US,” said Mr Thomas.

World First – 425 Airlines Independently Rated For Safety

There is relief at last for billions of flyers with the launch today of the world’s first comprehensive airline rating system.

AirlineRatings.com was created by award-winning Australian aviation editor and author, Geoffrey Thomas. The site was developed by Geoffrey and a team of aviation editors who have forensically researched airlines flying today.

The airlines are rated from one to seven stars on both safety and product quality – with seven being the highest ranking. “While air travel has never been safer and we found a record number of 137 airlines with a seven-star safety ranking, 43 have just three stars or less,” said Geoffrey.

The rating system takes into account a number of different factors related to audits from aviation’s governing bodies and lead associations as well as government audits and the airline’s fatality record.

“We view safety holistically and objectively using only internationally recognised audits from the most respected bodies,” said Geoffrey.

While major airlines in Australia and New Zealand scored very well with high ratings for both safety and product quality, many of those flying in Africa and Indonesia today scored very poorly.

“As someone who typically flies more than 75 days a year, I can tell you, it’s important to know more about the airline you’re about to hop onto than merely what they’re serving for lunch! In some parts of the world, people may be better off considering road or train options than risking a flight,” he said.

“For example, if you’re flying from London to Moscow, do you think Belavia Airlines would be a safe bet or not?” he added. “It is highly likely you haven’t heard of them and you may prefer to opt for a different airline, and yet Belavia has a perfect score of seven for safety.”

The painstaking work took more than two years and the result is a website with the most comprehensive collection of independent information about airlines, their safety ratings, product quality, aircraft types, lounge reviews, and much more.

AirlineRatings.com will be updated continuously to add new reviews, incorporate new information and re-rate airlines based on their demonstrated safety.

“We believe AirlineRatings.com is the best website for people flying today, people planning to travel and those working in the travel industry who need quick, independent and reliable information for their clients,” said Mr Thomas.

Geoffrey Thomas’s safety efforts praised

The Professor of Engineering at the University of Southern California Najmedin Meshkati, PhD, CPE and former Jefferson Science Fellow and Senior Science and Engineering Advisor to the US State Department, has lauded AirlineRatings.com Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas’s “seminal works” saying they have made an “invaluable contribution to the improvement of aviation safety in the world.”

As a professor of engineering at the University of Southern California (USC), Dr Meshkati teaches at and was director of the world’s renowned, 60-year old USC Aviation Safety and Security Program during 1992 to 1997.

Professor Meshkati teaches and conducts research on Human Factors in Aviation Safety; pilot mental workload assessment and situational awareness; crew resource management; cockpit design and automation; Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT); runway incursion; and loss of control in flight.

“Mr. Thomas and his articles have been a major source of information for me and I have always shared them with my students. Furthermore, I consider some of his articles in Air Transport World and Australian Aviation as “seminal” and refer to them in my classes as “must read” for any aviation safety professionals,” said Professor Meshkati.

Mr Thomas is Airlines Editor at Australian Aviation and is former Chief Editor of Washington DC-based Air Transport World.

Mr Thomas’s safety related articles have won numerous international awards and his most insightful, Back to Basics on the problems of cockpit automation deskilling pilots was published just three days before the tragic loss of the Air France 447.

“Geoffrey Thomas [has made] an invaluable contribution to the improvement of aviation safety in the world,” said Professor Meshkati.

 

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