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Air crash kills former British Airways captain

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Air accident investigators are attempting to find out why two small aircraft collided in mid-air near a West Sussex airport. The incident resulted in the death of former British Airways captain Alan Weal after his Vans RV6 smashed into a Diamond DA40 and plunged into the ground near Shoreham Airport.

Incredibly, the pilots of the two-seater DA40 both survived the collision without injury and were able to land safely at the airport. Gareth Abbott, a student pilot who was being debriefed at the time, described how the RV6 hit the Diamond, taking out its engine causing damage to the aircraft’s left-hand side. He added that it was a miracle that both pilots were able to walk away from the incident.

Abbot described how the other aircraft went out of control before going down. Sandra O’Kane watched the incident from her houseboat. She described how the Vans plane appeared to steer away from an area of housing and a motorway towards open ground after the impact. She added that the tail part of the aircraft fell away and she could see smaller pieces of plane falling onto a playground.

The plane then went into a nosedive and crashed behind some trees in a fireball. An air ambulance team, paramedics and firefighters attended the crash scene and the site was cordoned off by Sussex Police.

According to Superintendant Neil Honnor, the deceased pilot appeared to have fought with his plane to get it away from a local residential area and crash it on open ground.

Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul suffers terrorist attack

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Suicide bombers and gunmen last night attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul. A five-hour siege then followed during which all six insurgents were apparently killed by security forces or blew themselves up.

According to Afghan officials, 10 civilians were also killed. The attack was staged the day before the International Security Assistance Force was due to have a conference at the hotel with Afghan security forces about the hand-over of responsibility.

A hotel guest said the attack began while many were eating their dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Another described how guests had been ordered to remain inside their rooms and lock the doors. According to reports, a group of provincial officials were also meeting at the Intercontinental.

An intelligence source said a gunfight broke out in the car park between the insurgents and the officials’ bodyguards. After three of the terrorists managed to get to the roof of the hotel, two NATO helicopters were called in to engage them. All three gunmen have apparently been shot dead.

Gen Muhammad Ayub Salangi, Kabul’s police chief, said the hotel was now secure and had been searched. He added that all guests were safe. He went on to say that police had shot dead one attacker and were working on making his explosive vest safe.

Responsibility for the incident has been claimed by the Taliban. It said that the attackers had intended to specifically target foreign visitors at the hotel. The US has condemned the incident and the disregard for life demonstrated by the terrorists.

Fewer car journeys as price of fuel rises

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The high cost of petrol is forcing many motorists to cut back on the journeys they make. According to a recent survey by the RAC, around a third of drivers are making fewer journeys than they would like because of fuel prices. Diesel currently costs around £1.42 per litre and unleaded is at £1.37.

Among the journeys being cut are those taking children to activities after they finish the school day, and visiting friends and family. Many are also looking at alternative forms of transport to get them to work. However, the survey indicates that those who live in rural areas are finding the situation toughest because there are limited public transport alternatives available.

The survey of 1,000 motorists revealed that 35 per cent are now making fewer short journeys, and 30 per cent are also cutting down on longer trips. Just below 40 per cent said that they were now trying to plan their journeys to combine as many trips as they could.

If the price of fuel continues to rise, 65 per cent of respondents said they would be forced to substantially reduce the amount of time they spend behind the wheel. Motoring could soon become a luxury for 58 per cent.

Adrian Tink, motoring strategist for the RAC, said the ability of people to perform basic tasks and to live their lives is under threat. He added that the government needs to take action if the situation is not going to get worse. He went on to say that, at the very least, the authorities need to put a freeze on fuel duty.

Avis Budget offers $1 billion for Avis Europe

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

US car hire group, Avis Budget, has declared its intentions to buy Avis Europe by making an offer of 315 pence per share. The $1 billion deal will reunite the Avis brand across the Atlantic for the first time since 1986 when they split. The takeover offer has been given the nod by 60 per cent owner of the European division D’Ieteren, a Belgian based dealership.

Avis Europe boss, Pascal Bazin, said the deal would be good news for car hire customers who would benefit from a stronger global presence. The merging of the two companies would see Avis serving customers in more than 150 different countries around the globe. Mr Bazin added that it was also good news for Europe because there was now the potential to grow the brand in ways that the firm was unable to do in the past.

The buyout will also generate some $30 million in cost savings every year, according to Avis Budget, and will generate worldwide sales of $7 billion. Mr Bazin said it would also mean that there will be improved strategic benefits as well as more access to capital.

The move comes as Avis is still tied up in a long running battle with US rival Hertz over acquisition of budget hire company Dollar Thrifty. The two sides have been in talks with Dollar about a takeover, but neither has been able to secure antitrust approval from the US regulators.

Avis is currently the third largest rental company in the US ahead of Dollar Thrifty and behind Enterprise and Hertz.

Bodies recovered from Air France wreckage

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

All of the bodies salvage experts have managed to retrieve from the wreckage of a crashed Air France jet are being transported to France where experts will attempt to identify them. The operation to recover bodies and debris from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean is now over. The Airbus A330 went down after leaving Rio de Janeiro for Paris on 1 June 2009. All of the 228 passengers and crew died in the accident.

Along with wreckage recovered from the surface of the ocean following the disaster were 50 bodies. The rest of the plane was discovered in April by teams using robots capable of operating at extreme depths. Among the debris were the aircraft’s data and voice flight recorders.

These are already in France where experts have managed to retrieve information which shows the passenger jet went into freefall for more than three minutes before impact.

It is thought that the pilots lost control of the Airbus after stalling. Data transmitted from the cockpit showed that air speed indicators were feeding conflicting information to the crew.  The pitot tubes which provide this data are likely to have iced up.

It appears that after experiencing an aeronautical stall the pilots tried to pull the aircraft’s nose up, therefore exacerbating the problem. There have since been calls for better training for all pilots on how to regain control of aircraft in similar situations. A stall occurs when the air passing over the wings becomes unstable. Although it is a natural reaction for a pilot to try and pull out of a stall, many experts agree that with enough altitude a dive works better.

HotelClub announces competition winners

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

HotelClub has announced the winners of its latest competition to find the most outstanding hotels in the world based on a variety of categories which are intended to reflect unique local experiences. These categories include: best hotel for a rendezvous, best for spotting celebrities and best for a London dry gin.

There were 20 winners from the UK and Ireland and five for Scottish hotels including best for a haggis breakfast and best hotel for a tee off. The three wins for Ireland included best place for a pint of Guinness and best place to stay if you enjoy Gaelic games.

Vice president of hotel services at HotelClub, John Ryan, said the awards are based on unbiased reviews submitted by members along with the opinions of a team of experts at HotelClub. He added that he was looking forward to working closely with the winners over the next year.

Each winner will receive a certificate and will be awarded a mention on HotelClub’s website. The hotels will also be promoted by the club across social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The aim of the promotion is to give customers more information so that they can make better informed choices when booking a place to stay.

Some of the winners include the Landmark in London, which is the best place in which to enjoy afternoon tea; the Scotsman in Edinburgh, which is the best place to get a haggis breakfast and the Arlington Hotel in Dublin which serves the best Guinness.

Armed police to patrol train stations and Underground

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Warnings from security agencies that Britain could be the focus of a terrorist attack similar to the one which took place in Mumbai in 2008 have prompted the government to sanction armed police on transport networks. Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, told MPs that armed officers would be deployed at times of high alert, but would not be seen on the tube or at train stations on a daily basis.

Mr Hammond said that by giving British Transport Police officers the ability to carry out armed patrols some of the strain would be taken off other forces currently used for armed response duties in the capital. Counter-terrorism expert, John Yates, is urging regional forces to consider increasing their ranks of armed officers to protect against terrorist attacks.

Mr Hammond said the decision to equip the British Transport Police with armed units was not a response to a specific threat but a way of making sure that the necessary resources are available in the event that they are needed.

Chief constable of the BTP, Andy Trotter, said he agreed with Mr Hammond’s decision. He added that because officers already knew the rail network well, they were in a position to act quickly and efficiently should an incident occur.

The difficulty of policing a transport system such as the London Underground or the bus network was highlighted by the attacks of 7 July 2005. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 which resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 people also showed how vulnerable railway stations can be.

Thrifty employees opt for bikes over cars

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Thrifty car hire near Tower Bridge in London has come up with a novel way in which employees can complete their journeys once they have collected or dropped off a rental vehicle with a customer. Instead of getting behind the wheel of another car, employees have found it more convenient to jump in a hire bike.

Opposite the Thrifty branch is a docking station for bikes rented out under the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. Run by Transport for London, and otherwise known as Boris Bikes, customers are able to collect a bicycle from numerous points around the capital, use it to complete their journey and then drop that bike off at another conveniently located terminal.

Cyclists are only required to pay for the time they are actually using the bike. Thrifty is already seeing the benefits of employees choosing two wheels over four. There is now less to pay in congestion charges and at a time when the price of petrol and diesel is particularly high, the firm is making savings on fuel.

Taking advantage of the initiative is also a benefit to the environment. According to Thrifty’s Tower Bridge location manager, Francis Limbambala, none of the team has been forced to use the bikes. However, after deciding to test them out everyone agreed that they were far greener, far more efficient, and far quicker than utilising another petrol driven vehicle. The Thrifty team has also apparently found it a good way to get fitter.

The firm has invested in helmets, visibility vests and trouser-clips for the safety of its employees.

Airlines fear Emirates expansion

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

As airlines around the globe feel the effects of rising oil prices, natural disasters and political and social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, Dubai giant Emirates announces it intends to continue its plans to expand. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, the state-owned airline’s president, said hundreds of destinations would be added to the carrier’s roster following a 52 per cent jump in profits.

He also hinted that Emirates would be announcing new aircraft orders later this year at the Dubai Airshow. The airline already has an order with European manufacturer Airbus for 90 A380 superjumbos; a fleet which experts warn will change the face of the airline industry when deployed.

Sheikh Ahmed said he was aware that European carriers were concerned by the increasing competition that his airline was presenting, but added that the market was ready for growth and that he had the product with which to take greater market share.

European and US airlines have long been accusing Emirates of having an unfair advantage as it is essentially subsidised by the state. President Tim Clarke last year shrugged the accusations off advising rivals to put the energy they were using up running his airline down into their own businesses if they wanted to make a profit.

Tensions were caused between the UAE and Canada last year after Emirates and fellow Middle Eastern carrier Etihad were denied greater access to the territory. Lufthansa has also voiced concerns about Emirates’ expansion by requesting it be denied access to landing slots at the new airport in Berlin.

Air travel hit by Middle East and Japan

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Demand for air travel around the globe dropped from 5.8 per cent growth in February to 3.8 per cent growth in March compared to a year ago according to the International Air Travel Association. The fall has been directly blamed on the earthquake which hit Japan and the continuing troubles in the Middle East.

Also being blamed is the rising price of jet fuel. Leisure passengers are being put off by a number of airlines continuing to hike their fuel surcharges.

Despite astonishing growth recently, it was airlines in the Asia-Pacific region which were hit hardest with a drop of over two per cent on last year. In the US traffic fell by one per cent and in Europe demand was down by 0.5 per cent. Japan’s domestic air travel fell by 22 per cent on the year before. Following the earthquake, and subsequent nuclear disaster, airlines cut capacity to the country. Delta Airlines, which is one of the largest international carriers to serve Japan, estimated the crisis could cost it some $400 million.

Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director-general, said he expected the recovery of the airline industry to be supported by the recovery of the world’s economy, but warned that the high price of a barrel of oil was still a significant problem. Airlines around the globe are being forced to slash capacity because fuel accounts for around a third of their operating costs.

The Middle East continues to be an issue with travel demand to Tunisia and Egypt still well below what it was before the troubles started.