Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Virgin Galactic space flights in two years

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project is due to start making commercial flights to the edge of space within the next two years. The programme’s chief pilot, David Mackay of Salisbury, is due to be the man at the controls when the first ever mission takes off. He has described how passengers will be taken to 50,000 feet above the surface of the earth by a mothership before SpaceShipTwo will fire its rockets and transport them beyond the planet’s atmosphere.

It will take around a minute to accelerate the ship to some 2,500 mph, during which customers will experience nearly 4gs. Mr Mackay explained that it will certainly push people into the back of their seats.

At an altitude of around 360,000 feet passengers will be told they can unbuckle their seatbelts and experience weightlessness while looking at a unique view of the earth. The total time of the trip will be around three-and-a-half hours and will cost a cool £125,000. Virgin said that it had already sold 400 tickets for the journey.

Mr Mackay explained that he has wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a boy watching the Apollo moon landings. He said he joined the RAF after learning that pilots were usually chosen after they had become test pilots.

He was chosen as one of four test pilots for the Virgin Galactic programme while flying as a captain for Virgin Atlantic. He has been based at the Virgin Spaceport in the Mojave Desert in California test flying WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo’s mothership.

Air France crash blamed on pilot training

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Air France is denying that inadequate pilot training was the cause of the 2009 disaster which saw one of its passenger jets crash into the Atlantic killing the 228 crew and passengers on board. Air accident investigators claim that the pilots did not know how to deal with repeated stall warnings and a rapid descent.

Jean-Paul Troadec, head of French safety authority, the BEA, said information contained on the flight’s black-box recorders showed that even though alarms were going off in the cockpit, crew had not managed to properly assess or deal with the situation.

He explained that the autopilot had disengaged after the plane’s speed indicators malfunctioned. The appropriate response should then have been for the pilot to initiate an Unreliable IAS which involves tilting the plane’s nose up by five degrees. However, it appears that when the emergency started, the co-pilots far exceeded the angle which resulted in the plane climbing rapidly and entering an aeronautical stall.

The pilots then lost control of the jet and it descended rapidly and plunged into the sea. The BEA is also claiming that crew failed to notify passengers of the crisis. The tragedy occurred after Flight AF447 entered an electrical storm around four hours after taking off from Rio de Janeiro for Paris.

Makers of the A330, Airbus, and Air France are currently being investigated on alleged manslaughter charges. The airline claims there is nothing in the BEA’s findings to show that the crew on the flight acted with anything other than commitment and professionalism throughout the flight.

Cruise companies pull out of Antarctica

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Cruise companies are reviewing their Antarctica schedules as the price of fuel is set to rise dramatically. As of the beginning of next month, ships travelling to the Antarctica will no longer be powered by heavy fuel oil because of regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organisation. Instead, all craft will have to switch to the more expensive, but more environmentally-safe, marine gas oil.

The new rules have been introduced because of concerns that a spill of heavy fuel oil from a cruise liner could have a devastating impact on Antarctica, one of the most delicate environments on earth. The cost of using the more expensive fuel is likely to be passed onto passengers and will mean a number of companies will have to pull their cruise ships out of the Southern Ocean.

Companies such as Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal and Oceania have already decided to remove Antarctica from their schedules. Editor-in-chief of the UK website CruiseCritic, Carolyn Spenser Brown, said the new rules on fuel will change the way people travel to Antarctica.

There are a number of companies which sail smaller vessels already powered by marine gas oil to the region, including Polar Cruises, Abercrombie & Kent and Lindblad Expeditions. Ultimately, those who can afford the higher price tag of sailing with the smaller companies may end up having a more rewarding experience.

The larger cruise vessels had to anchor a long way off shore because of their size meaning passengers could see the ice, but not touch. The smaller vessels are able to moor far closer and their passengers are allowed ashore to explore.

Singapore Airlines investigates engine failure

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Singapore Airlines is working with engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and planemaker Airbus to find out what went wrong with one of the engines on an A380 superjumbo recently. Just 20 minutes into a flight from Singapore to Hong Kong the pilot reported experiencing vibrations and a surge in one of the aircraft’s Trent 900 engines.

He was then forced to shut the engine down and fly the plane back to base. The double-decker was carrying 21 crew members and 368 passengers none of whom were injured. The incident comes eight months after dramatic engine failure on a Qantas A380 caused a violent explosion and forced an emergency landing.

Qantas grounded its fleet of superjumbos following the incident while accident investigators, Airbus and Rolls-Royce located the cause of the problem. They found that a design fault and a leaking oil pipe had resulted in the failure and Rolls-Royce has since repaired and replaced all of the Trent 900s affected.

Erin Atan, a Rolls-Royce spokeswoman, said the London-based manufacturer would be assisting Singapore Airlines and providing technical support to find out what caused the engine failure and get the problem fixed.

Managing partner at Agency Partners, a London-based research firm, Nick Cunningham said that the Singapore Airlines engine problem was unlikely to be related to the fault discovered on the Qantas A380. He added that shutting down an engine while a plane is in-flight is not such a rare occurrence as to be a major cause for worry.

Airbus has confirmed that it too will be assisting Singapore Airlines.

Air France crash report to be published

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

A report is due Friday which will outline the exact causes of the 2009 Air France disaster. The incident occurred after the flight was en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro on 1 June. All 228 people on-board lost their lives after the jet crashed into the Atlantic.

Previous reports have confirmed that the aircraft entered a storm and that erroneous information was being sent to the crew about the speed of the plane. Flight data recorders retrieved from the ocean floor nearly two years after the disaster show that the pilots lost control of the Airbus after it stalled. It then banked sharply and entered a free-fall for some three-and-a-half minutes before plunging into the sea.

Part of the investigation so far has concentrated on the possible icing up of the plane’s air speed indicators. Otherwise known as pitots, Air France has replaced the devices on all of its Airbus aircraft. However, experts believe that faulty airspeed readings could not have been the only cause of the crash and that perhaps the icing of the tubes caused that airliner’s autopilot to disengage.

A BEA spokeswoman said that Friday’s report will not reveal a cause but will describe what was happening before the accident.

The BEA has been criticised by some families of those who died for not offering up enough information as to what caused their loved ones to perish. Airbus and Air France have also been accused of not reacting quickly enough to warnings over safety. Something both the manufacturer and the airline have denied.

Flybe creates new operating divisions

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Flybe has announced that it plans to take advantage of growth opportunities across Europe by setting up three new divisions. The airline will now be made up of Flybe Europe, Flybe UK and Flybe Aviation Support. The carrier’s chairman and CEO, Jim French, said by creating the separate divisions the airline would be better positioned to grow organically through new European partnerships and acquisitions. He added that the carrier also intends to remain focused on growing its position within the UK airline market.

Former chief commercial officer at Flybe, Mike Rutter, is to be in charge of the European division. His tasks will include overseeing and developing operations, which will include Finncomm Airlines in which Flybe is a joint owner, as well as seek out other viable European ventures.

The job of managing Flybe UK has been handed to the airline’s chief operating officer, Andrew Strong. The business includes domestic operations in the UK and operations between the UK and other countries in Europe.

Flybe Aviation Support is to be run by John Palmer. He will step into the managing director shoes from his position as airline operations director. Among his responsibilities are the team in charge of looking after the fleet’s repair and maintenance programmes and running the Flybe training academy.

Walker trustee and deputy director of the airline, Mark Chown, will take on the responsibility of directing corporate strategy. Senior independent director, Charlie Scott, will take over the role of deputy chairman. Chown will also step down from the Walker Trust.

Jet2 engine misfires and sets alight

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Holidaymakers returning to the UK from Ibiza have described their terror after the Jet2 plane they were travelling on experienced engine malfunction which caused a blaze. The Boeing 738 was carrying passengers to Manchester when the technical problems meant an emergency landing in Majorca was requested. The pilot managed to bring the plane down safely into Palma.

The jet was carrying six crew and 180 passengers. The flight departed Ibiza at 11.39am. The total flight time to Palma was 77 minutes during which many passengers heard noises and witnessed flames coming from an engine.

Tourists on the beaches over which the aircraft was flying have described how they too looked towards the sky after hearing popping sounds to see orange flames coming from the aircrafts engine. There have been no reports of any injuries following the incident, although some of those on board did have panic attacks.

According to Jet2 there was a technical problem with the engine which was shut down after it caught fire. One witness who watched the drama from the ground said that at first it sounded as if someone was setting off fireworks. A video clip, which was posted onto YouTube, shows flames’ coming from the misfiring engine before the pilot shuts it off.

Passengers have since described the experience as being terrifying. One said they were not happy to look out of the aircraft’s window to see flames coming out of the engine and another said they were just glad that they had eventually made it home safely.

Thomas Cook given approval for merger

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Travel operator Thomas Cook is hoping that Competition Commission approval for a merger with the Co-op and Midlands will reverse its financial problems in the UK. Over the past year the firm has issued a number of profit warnings as the travel market in the UK suffers from a lack of consumer confidence and troubles in popular tourist spots in North Africa and the Middle East.

According to Thomas Cook’s chief executive officer, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, consumers are still looking to the high-street for good deals on their package holidays. The new company will be 70 per cent owned by Thomas Cook which currently has 780 stores throughout Britain. The deal is expected to save the firm around £35 million but will inevitably lead to store closures and a number of job losses.

Industry analysts have questioned the long-term viability of the merger. Some have said that a tie-up is only part of the solution and that it may do little more than boost profits over the short-term.

Competition Commission deputy chairman and leader into the enquiry, Laura Carstensen, said it was unlikely that the tie-up between the travel firms would have an impact on the price and choice of holidays because there was so much competition coming from the internet.

The deal will also create the high street’s second-largest foreign exchange business. The market leader is currently the Post Office. A full report from the Competition Commission is due in mid-August. It will now ask for feedback on its decision.

BA compensates Kate and William for lack of entertainment

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

British Airways has issued an apology to passengers on-board a flight to Heathrow from the US for a lack of in-flight entertainment in its first-class cabin. Among those who did not get to watch films such as The Fighter, The Tourist and Gnomeo and Juliet were royal newlyweds William and Kate.

According to a source, the couple, and fellow passengers, were a little put out about the announcement on their 10 hour journey from Los Angeles, but were also in good humour about the situation. The duke and duchess will both receive a voucher to spend in the duty-free shops worth £200.

Kate and William were returning from a tour of Canada and parts of the US when the glitch occurred. A fellow passenger said that having made themselves more comfortable by changing into the pyjamas available to all first-class ticket holders, the happy couple made conversation with fellow travellers.

The pair were flown to Canada as guests of the country’s air force, a flight on which there was a DVD player and a working television. Tickets to fly up-front in the Boeing 747 cost around £5,000 a seat, but the source said BA’s offer of compensation seemed to be accepted with good heart by all those affected.

By deciding to return to the UK on a commercial jet, the royal couple will have saved many thousands of pounds. Their next scheduled trip is to be to Scotland, the itinerary of which is still to be announced but will probably begin with an appearance at the Braemar Gathering

Air Canada pays compensation to French speaking couple

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Air Canada has been reprimanded in a federal court after staff spoke English to a French-speaking couple. Despite being able to speak English, Michel Thibodeau, and wife Lynda, said they were not happy after they were greeted in English at both check-in and at the boarding gate for a flight from Ottawa.

The judge in charge of the case said Air Canada had failed in its duty to respect the couple’s right to be spoken to in their native language; told the airline to issue an apology and pay nearly £8,000 in damages.

During the flight, Mr Thibodeau said he and his wife had ordered a 7Up but that the English-speaking hostess had delivered a Sprite instead. He added that he found the carrier’s employees to be oppressive, malicious and reprehensible. Under the Official Languages Act, staff on Air Canada flights are required to provide services to passengers in both the French and English tongues.

Mr Thibodeau, who originally demanded £350,000 in compensation, said his linguistic rights had been violated. He added that he had decided to take the matter to the Canadian courts because he wanted to defend those rights. In 2002 he made a similar complaint against a bus company in Ottawa after the driver issued him with a hello, by way of greeting, rather than bonjour.

The decision to award financial compensation is likely to stir up the linguistic debate in Canada which is officially a bilingual country. A spokesman for Air Canada said it was currently examining the ruling.