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Downunder plane encounters increase

The Australian crash investigator has found that there is a breakdown in separation – or near miss – between planes every three days in Australian airspace, although most pose no risk to safety.

In a comprehensive report the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) warned that while the risk was low more needs to be done.

In an exclusive briefing the ATSB Chief Commissioner Mart Dolan told AirlineRatings that while Australia has one of the world’s lowest rates of near misses there are red flags.

“Nevertheless we have one loss of separation standards every three days,” Mr Dolan said.

That separation standard is 9km laterally and 300m vertically.

“However 90 per cent are a technical infringement and have no safety implications.”

“But 10 per cent – or six a year – have a heightened level of safety issues.”

Mr Dolan said that the air traffic control aircraft interface was a complex automation matrix and occasionally human error will occur.

Of concern Mr Dolan said that there was an increase in loss of separation incidents in airspace controlled by the Australian Defense Forces.

“The number of Loss of Seperation (LOS) occurrences under military control was found to be relatively high and most are the result of controller actions.”

In the case of civilian airspace loss of separation incidents are caused equally by pilots and the air traffic controllers.

The ATSB warned however that Australia’s aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has no control over the ADF air traffic controllers despite numerous commercial aircraft transiting military areas.

In a statement the ATSB said: “The report finds that current regulatory arrangements do not enable the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to give the same level of safety assurance for civilian aircraft under military control as it does for aircraft under civilian control.”

The ATSB has issued safety recommendations to the Department of Defence and CASA to address the safety issues identified in the report.

There have been no midair collisions in Australia involving aircraft being provided with a separation service by air traffic control.

The backup for the industry is a system called Traffic Collision Avoidance System or TCAS.

TCAS was introduced in the US in 1989 and shortly thereafter around the world.
The concept for TCAS dates back to the earlier 1950s, when air traffic started to grow considerably.

It gained further momentum after the 1956 mid-air crash involving a United DC-7 and a TWA Constellation over the Grand Canyon.

The US regulator the FAA launched the TCAS program in 1981 after a series of mid-air collisions due to failure of Air Traffic Control (ATC).

TCAS identifies the location and tracks the progress of aircraft equipped with beacon transponders.

Basically beacon transponders work by broadcasting an electronic signal to ATC radar giving details of the aircraft’s altitude, speed and course.

There are various ways that the TCAS information is displayed and in the latest cockpits, other aircraft in the vicinity are shown on the pilot’s primary flight display as an open diamond.

If an impending conflict is detected, the open diamond turns into a solid yellow circle with an aural alert to the crew.

If no corrective action is taken the circle turns red, with verbal instructions to the pilot to climb or descend. The opposite instruction is given to the pilot of the other aircraft. TCAS has saved tens of thousands of lives over the past 30 years.

Air traffic controllers also have a similar system.

To see TCAS in action see the video below which was shot in a Qantas A380 simulator as part of a TV series Eye on the Sky.

You will see a head-on encounter with a Boeing 747.


Did a microburst bring down Lao Airlines plane?

Crash investigators are focusing on a severe microburst as the probable cause of the crash of the Lao Airlines ATR72-600 at Pakse in southern Laos on Wednesday that killed all 49 aboard.

A microburst is a large downdraft of air affecting an area as much as 4 km (2.5 miles) in diameter which can travel at speeds of up to 270km/hr (168m/ph).

When it hits the ground the air is pushed out in all directions much as water from a tap hitting the ground.

Microbursts have proved fatal to many aircraft and forecasting these weather phenomena is challenging.

In microburst conditions an aircraft can first encounter a headwind then a downdraft and then a tailwind.

And on landing when the aircraft’s speed is slower the impact of the microburst is far greater and the pilot may have very little attitude to recover.

The microburst would have been associated with tropical storm Nari which had been battering the southern and central provinces of Laos at the time of the crash.

The passenger list comprised six Australians, 16 Laotians, seven French nationals, five Thais, three South Koreans, two Vietnamese, one Chinese, one Canadian, one Myanmar national, one person from Taiwan and one American.

The Australians have been identified as an explosives expert, his father and a family of four, all from NSW.

The Australian victims were named as Michael Creighton, 41, and his father Gordon, both from Glen Innes in northern NSW. Sydney tax agent Gavin Rhodes, his wife Phoumalaysy and their children Manfred and Jadesuda were also killed.

According to Aviation Herald the ATR72-600 carried the registration RDPL-34233.

The airline’s face book page carried a message of condolences and deepest sympathy to family, friends, colleagues and relatives on Flight QV301.

It said that Flight QV301 left Vientiane at 2.45pm local time and upon preparing to land at 3.55pm ran into extremely bad weather conditions.

The flight was originally scheduled to arrive at 12.15pm but was delayed due to the weather.

A Lao newspaper quotes a witness as saying the plane was about to land when it was hit by very strong winds and “lost its balance.” 
The paper added that the pilots tried to bring the plane back up, but it veered into the river.  
Other witnesses said if the pilots had not tried to lift the plane up it would have crashed into houses and a nearby army ammunition depot, which would have caused more loss of life

Lao Airlines was only rated as a four-star airline by this website because it had not completed the important International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and the country was below average in the implementation of the ICAO country audit.

Laos is deficient in the areas of oversight of its airline’s airworthiness and operations.

Lao Air has now been downgraded to three-stars because of the tragedy.

The airline has six 74-seat ATR-72 planes, a European built turbo-prop aircraft co-manufactured by Airbus parent EADS and Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica.

ATR said in a statement that the aircraft involved, registered as RDPL-34233 and had a serial number of MSN 1071, was delivered new to the airline this March. 
ATR says that the circumstances of the accident are still being investigated, but noted that official sources at the carrier have said that the aircraft “ran into extreme bad weather conditions” before reportedly crashing into the Mekong River.

ATR and France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et Analysis will assist Laotian aviation authorities with their investigation of the accident, the manufacturer adds.

According to FlightGlobal, Ascend which tracks aircraft shows that the accident is the first involving an ATR 72-600.

The last fatal accident involving an ATR aircraft occurred in February 2012, and involved a UTair ATR 72-200 that crashed on take-off from Tyumen in Russia.

The last total loss of an ATR aircraft occurred in February this year, when an ATR 72-500 operated by Alitalia touched down hard and came off the runway at Rome Fiumicino airport.

Full details of Lao Airlines can be found here:

See the video of AirlineRatings’ editor Geoffrey Thomas being interviewed on Australia’s Channel 7 below.

Injured Roo seeks help at airport pharmacy

Passengers at Australia’s Melbourne got a real shock when an injured kangaroo hopped into the terminal and then interestingly into a pharmacy.

Australian Federal police and wildlife experts were called in to deal with the kangaroo and Wildlife Australia’s Ella Roundtree and Geoffrey Fuller tranquilized the terrified animal.

 The kangaroo is thought to have been hit by a car outside the terminal.

Ella Rountree, a volunteer wildlife officer with animal charity Wildlife Victoria told Sky News: “He has got injuries to his feet at the moment his claws are quite worn, from hopping down the road.”

Australian comedian Julia Morris broke the news on Twitter, where photographs began circulating of the marsupial in the skincare aisle of the terminal’s pharmacy.

“Ok, so I’m at Melbourne airport and a KANGAROO has just jumped into the chemist,” she tweeted.

The Kangaroo is the symbol of Australia’s national airline.

Melbourne Airport is located in countryside frequented by many kangaroos and while heavily fenced the terminals are accessible.

There have been several incidents with Kangaroos over the past two years, typically at the airport’s car parks.

The incident comes just weeks after the launch of Wildlife Victoria’s awareness campaign, Eyes Open for Wildlife.

See a video here:

Missing Mexican aircraft found

The single-engine Cessna 208-B Caravan was located from the air in the mountains of La Giganta, 26km west of Loreto, the airport in the state of Baja California Sur from which the plane departed.

Weather is believed to have been a factor in the crash with Tropical Storm Octave bringing heavy rain to the area Monday.

The Cessna Caravan was on a 30-minute flight to Ciudad Constitucion.

A search was launched two hours after take-off but later suspended because of bad weather.

It has been suggested that pilot may have altered course because of the weather and become disoriented.

The Cessna Caravan is a popular plane with over 2000 built since it first flew in December 1982.

There have been 231 incidents and accidents involving the Caravan.

So far for 2013 there have been 22 crashes with 197 fatalities.

The ten year crash average is 27 accidents with 627 deaths.

Last year was the safest on record with 15 fatal accidents involving with 414 fatalities.

In 2012 there were 37.5 million flights which carried almost 3 billion passengers

Antarctica: No Ordinary Place, No Ordinary Assignment

Air New Zealand has launched a global search for an environmental enthusiast keen to share the wonders of the Antarctic frozen continent with the world.

Antarctica: No Ordinary Place, No Ordinary Assignment will take the recipient of this once in a lifetime experience to Antarctica New Zealand’s headquarters in Christchurch to team up with National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards before flying south to the frozen continent for two weeks.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon says the successful candidate will not only live at New Zealand’s Scott Base research support station in one of the most fragile and special places on earth, they will also help draw worldwide attention to global environmental issues and the scientific research underway in Antarctica.

“The best suited candidate will have a passion for the environment and want to play a role in building awareness of the efforts we all need to make to better protect the world we live in.  Strong communication skills are a must along with a healthy respect for the difficult operating conditions in Antarctica,” Mr Luxon says.

Air New Zealand has deep links to Antarctica and has been a strong supporter of scientific research on the continent, including:

  • $100,000 grants to two Antarctic researchers to support their post doctoral studies.
  • Travel for scientists and research equipment from Canada and the United Kingdom to New Zealand to join Antarctic research efforts.
  • Flights for New Zealand based researchers to travel to Canada and the United States to advance international research collaboration.
  • Partnering with the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute on polar amplification research and its potential consequences.

Mr Luxon says launching Antarctica: No Ordinary Place, No Ordinary Assignment would not have been possible without the support of Antarctica New Zealand, the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute and National Geographic Channel.

“We have formed a terrific partnership with these three organisations to draw global attention and interest onto the fragile environment that is Antarctica and the role we all have to play in helping protect not just it but the world we live in.”

Budding Antarctic explorers can apply for this amazing opportunity at before Thursday 7 November 2013 at 5.00pm NZT.


More than 65 per cent of airlines in South East Asia are not IOSA safety audited has found that of the 41 main passenger airlines operating in South East Asia, only thirteen airlines have been IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certified.

Registering for IOSA certification and audit is not mandatory therefore an airline, which does not have IOSA certification may have either failed the audit or chosen not to participate.

Statistics show that airlines that have passed the IOSA audit have a 4.3 times better safety record than airlines that have not received their certification.

A good example relates to Garuda Indonesian which has not had a fatality or serious incident since it completed the IOSA audit in 2008.

Garuda Indonesia currently holds a 5/7 safety rating on

The airlines in South East Asia that have completed IOSA are:

  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Bangkok Air
  • Thai Airways
  • Thai Smile
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Silk Air
  • Orient Thai Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • MASwings (subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Royal Brunei
  • Myanmar International

Lao Airlines is one of the 28 South East Asian airlines that had not participated in IOSA.

The IATA certification audit is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

IOSA uses internationally recognised audit principles and is designed to conduct audits in a standardised and consistent manner.

Airlines are re evaluated every two years.

And the importance of safety oversight and regulations within the aviation industry is as important as the safety of an airline itself.

According to editor Geoffrey Thomas, audits from aviation governing bodies and governments are pertinent for the industry to determine which airline has had the highest safety standards. seven star safety assessment criteria is based on a comprehensive analysis using information from associations such as IATA, European Union (EU) Blacklist, Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“We view safety holistically and objectively using only internationally recognised audits from the most respected bodies,” said Mr Thomas. is updated continuously to add new reviews, incorporate new information and re-rate airlines based on their demonstrated safety., the world’s first airline safety and product rating website has found that the numerous aircraft can boast a perfect safety record.

For detailed information on our safety rating criteria please click or for the individual safety breakdown for any airline click


Mobile’s potential underused by passengers


Some 75 per cent of airline passengers carry smart phones, but they’re not exactly embracing all the benefits these devices can deliver, according to the 2013 SITA/Air Transport World Passenger IT Trends Survey.


The aviation technology company states less than five per cent of passengers actually take advantage of mobile services for uses such as check-in and booking.


SITA says 78 per cent of passengers concerns are about usability, as well as device limitations, as reasons for not employing more mobile technology when they travel.


“Passengers are ready, but remain at the edge of really ‘going mobile,’” says SITA CEO Francesco Violante in a prepared release.


Violante believes going to the heart of the problem is the best solution. “Improving usability and utilizing the unique capabilities of smart phones is the key to increase usage,” says the SITA chief.

Violante says, “Technology has become an indispensable travel tool for the vast majority of today’s passengers.” 

The survey shows a full 90 per cent of passengers say technology has helped them while traveling. It’s just the range of capabilities passengers choose to employ, which is what’s lagging.

SITA believes the ease with which passengers can perform more complex travel tasks holds the key to unlocking the power of mobile digital devices.

“Airlines and airports that recognize this, and provide passengers with easy-to-use mobile services that improve the travel experience, will enjoy higher adoption rates and passenger satisfaction,” said Violante


SITA says a significant 69 per cent of those responding to the survey book travel online via a website. 20 per cent, use airport kiosks to check in on the day they travel.


Among the services flyers desire on their mobile devices? 63 per cent answer that they’d definitely use their mobile to search flights; 58 per cent say they’d check for the status of their flight. However, survey respondents are less certain they’d actually make the plunge and purchase a ticket on their mobile. A mere 37 per cent are prepared to go that far.


The survey was conducted among 2,489 passengers from more than 70 countries, a mix of both business and leisure flyers. The 2013 Passenger IT Trends Survey was carried out at a half-dozen airports: Abu Dhabi International, Beijing Capital, Chhatrapati Shivaji International in Mumbai, Frankfurt International, GRU Sao Paulo International and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. 

Think before you drink

Tests have revealed drinking water served on commercial airline flights test positive for bacteria.

In a NBC 5 News investigation, samples conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that more than one in 10 planes (12 per cent) are contaminated with coliform bacteria.

In 2004 the EPA sampled about 300 planes and found 15 per cent of them, or just more than 1 out of every 10 planes, tested positive for coliform, an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be in the water. At the time EPA said that percentage was “high”.

New EPA data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request by NBC 5 News , shows in 2012, 12 per cent of commercial airplanes in the US had at least one positive test for coliform. That’s still just about one out of every 10 planes.

“I would say that’s still a high percentage,” said Bill Honker, deputy director of the Water Quality Protection Division, EPA Region 6, in Dallas.

 “I think there is more that needs to be done. So we’re expecting to see further improvement by all the airlines in the county,” Honker said.

Coliform itself is not likely to make a person sick, but it can be a red flag that other bacteria, like E. coli, have made their way into the water. E. coli presents bigger health concerns, but is only rarely found in samples taken from commercial airliners.

The EPA now requires airlines to test for coliform and E. coli on every airplane at least once year.

If a plane tests positive with either bacteria, EPA requires airplanes to flush the tanks and re-test the water. 

MASWings Twin Otter crashes, killing two

According to Aviation Herald, two people have died after a MASWings DHC-6 Twin Otter 6-300 crashed into a private property in Kudat, East Malaysia.

The aircraft, which was travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat carrying 14 passengers and two crew was on its second approach about to land on Kudat’s runway, however due to strong winds it crashed onto a private property, killing the first officer and a passenger.

Eight other passengers have received both serious and minor injuries.

In their first statement the airline MASWings, which is a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines reported the aircraft “landed short of the runway in Kudat”.

In their third statement the airline confirmed the aircraft was involved in an accident near Kudat. The airline confirmed one fatality and five injuries as result of the accident.

Following the airline’s third statement, they confirmed one fatality and it then became known the first officer had also passed away in hospital.

The airline reported the captain had a total of 4,700 flying hours and the aircraft had been well maintained.

The airline is in talks with all affected including the owner of the house, which was damaged by the accident.

It is believed that no one was home at the time of the crash.

MASWings has been given a 5/7 safety rating on

The best ride of your life

Seeing is certainly believing but in the case of the 787 the experience is believing.

There has been an enormous amount of hype about the impact of the 787’s pressurization system and humidity on passengers.
The 10.30 hour delivery flight from Honolulu to Melbourne for Jetstar’s first 787 was to be the acid test for this editor from

I had considerable work to complete and spent the whole flight in interviews, setting up photographs and crafting various features.

But to make it a fair test I had breakfast with a glass of champagne and lunch with two glasses of wine.

Two glasses of water and three coffees rounded off the fluid consumption.

Throughout the flight there were no headaches or dehydration or sore eyes thanks to the lower pressurization altitude of 6000ft instead of 8000ft and the increase in humidity from 5 per cent to 15 per cent.

I arrived in Melbourne relaxed and as if I had just done a Sydney to Melbourne sector.

My experience was echoed by my fellow travellers and we all commented on how quiet the 787 is.

And in the days after the flight my speed pattern was normal instead of the usual disrupted sleep after a long flight through many time zones.

Another major plus was the 787’s smooth ride!

And we had an excellent test in the landing at Melbourne where we had 70km/hour cross winds buffeting the plane.

Film crews on the ground captured a silky smooth touchdown compared to the landing of a Thai Airways 777 just minutes before. The video is below.

The 787 is clearly an exceptional aircraft and a quantum leap forward in the travel experience.


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