Thursday, 3 July 2014

Back on line after my password was hacked!

Back on line after my password was hacked........shall post as normal here instead of Facebook!

Sunday, 20 October 2013


                                                                          PART 1.

I thought it might be interesting for us to have a quick look at how the options which are open for pilot training have evolved over my last thirty years in aviation. For myself, I have been very fortunate to have been exposed to the most basic and the most advanced training simulators; learning something new at every turn…..and I know that I still have an awful lot to learn in the years ahead.

                                              VIRTUAL AVIATION'S BOEING 737NG SIMULATOR

Those who say that they know everything need to hang up their headset and find a job in something less technical than a garden centre. Bizarrely I did meet one Italian training captain who admitted that he knew everything, a stupid comment as he was then only one conversation away from being proved wrong……which I delighted in and I agree was not very CRM (Crew Resource Management) orientated.
It seems that the current aviation devices and methods of torture (I shall explain why torture later!) have certainly come a long way since I first started my flight training back in 1982; from what could now be almost described as a clockwork toy, to a machine which now resembles a NASA spacecraft on stilts.
There are now numerous means, with just the push of a switch by which an unscrupulous, sorry enthusiastic training captain can ruin your day! With simply a click and a smile your engine could be on fire, the pressurisation system could fail, the flight controls could malfunction or if it was a really bad day all the engines could flame out……..yes it is a training device but once the adrenalin kicks in and the sweat starts to run down your back, you soon forget this and the normal four hour session literally flies by, thank goodness!

For some pilots, being scheduled for their recurrent simulator training, literally puts the fear of God into them. I have known them to start having sleepless nights weeks before the ‘main event’ and seen pilots who were excellent aviators when flying the line, lose the plot and make the most stupid of mistakes in ‘the box’; as the full flight simulators are now commonly known.

It was whilst completing the ‘advanced’ training syllabus at Oxford Aviation College in England that I first came into contact with these so-called synthetic training devices. However, my introduction was limited to a flight simulator which appeared in design to be similar to one of those photo booths that could be found in most major supermarkets……but slightly less mobile and certainly less sophisticated!

These early training devices allowed you to practice instrument flying techniques using just the most basic of navigational information based on a computer database, one which I suppose compared to nowadays would have a smaller memory than that of a modern pocket calculator. However, it was a great way of developing situational awareness, no moving map displays or sophisticated glass screens to assist in this, often just a rudimentary map and a stopwatch.

All we had were just ADF (Automatic Direction Finding), VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range), DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) and their associated compass cards on RMIs (Radio Magnetic Indicators). If I was to try and do that now………I’d certainly have my work cut out! Although in my previous article on my flight on-board the IL76 to Aqaba, this was basically all this crew had to orientate themselves and as I stated, they made it look very easy.
The simplistic navigational routes back then which needed to be completed as well as the holding and approach procedures were plotted on a flat, plastic coated map with a movable pen; so allowing you to check how your skills were progressing after the training session from this high tech equipment! A simple yet effective training tool added to which, that when you looked forward out of this rudimentary generic cockpit there were no 3D images or wrap around visual screens…….just an almost child-like model of a light aircraft pivoting on a small shaft which would move in relation to your control inputs, making the trickery from the late 1960’s Thunderbird’s television shows (readers under 30, you’ll need to Google this!) look almost futuristic!

As rudimentary as this simulator training was, it must have helped. Because in the summer of 1983 I passed my Instrument Rating on the fabulous Piper PA31 Navajo, a big aircraft to me at the time. In reality it was a great little aeroplane, well it had 8 seats! Little did I know that in seven years’ time I would be flying Virgin Atlantic’s G-VMIA a Boeing 747-100 series aircraft carrying five hundred people!
All too often for pilots, I was to find out that reality can be a tough mistress, as only a couple of months later I would experience first-hand that aeroplanes can bite and that there is never any time to allow complacency to creep in, a mantra which I ‘try’ to teach when instructing to this day….when politics allow, tales for another time! But proof that training is oh so important and should never be compromised on the grounds of costs, unfortunately far too often these days it is…….there is a clue below!!
I found this out the hard way on my first flight after graduating…….
On a cloudy autumn afternoon in 1983 I was to suffer a double engine failure in the same PA31 aircraft that I had trained in. This was whilst flying a small group of my family and friends back from Jersey (EGJJ) in the UK Channel Islands to Oxford’s Kidlington airport (EGTK) and scarily for me in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) over southern England too. However, this was a situation which had a happy outcome culminating in a dead stick landing at an almost deserted Middle Wallop military airfield (EGVP.) I owe my thanks, and so do my parents for this happy outcome, to the excellent training by my fabulous Oxford Aviation instructor, Mr John Gledhill and once again a tale for another time.

                                          PA31-310 OXFORD AIRPORT WITH MY DAD
Well with this incident  and my initial training behind me, a shiny new blue UK CAA CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) burning a hole in my flight bag, I was very fortunate to be offered employment with a great British Airline, Dan Air Services Ltd as a co-pilot on the Avro 748. An aircraft affectionately known throughout the world as the ‘Budgie’!

                                              THE HS748 AND ME IN AMSTERDAM
I was to find that my flight training for this particular type was not to be undertaken on a multi-million pound flight simulator but entirely flown on the actual aircraft itself… and safety would probably be up in arms over this concept now! Especially as……….

……..Take-offs, landings, engine failures, simulated engine fires as well as navigation exercises and approach procedures were all accomplished in real time and on a real aeroplane. This included actually shutting down and feathering the propellers when necessary, though only one at a time!

I have to admit I struggled trying to master this ‘old fashioned’ aircraft, not because it was complicated, which it obviously wasn’t. It was just that the skills I had at that time were only just, and I mean just, up to the task and to be honest at times I wondered if I was cut out to be an airline pilot. However, I was very fortunate to again be taught by very patient and very experienced training captains, to all of whom I will always be very grateful.

I would spend literally hours trying to turn my landings into something that would not scare the pants off of the most ardent of thrill seekers. Bashing the circuit in Aberdeen (EGPD), Bournemouth (EGHH), Newcastle (EGNT) and finally Inverness (EGPE), I succeeded. I had achieved a level where after my final landing and we had handed the aircraft back to the engineers, they could use it again with the minimum amount of maintenance work! Although I hate to think how many tyres I was responsible for that would have needed replacing.

                                                           INVERNESS AIRPORT
Not until three years later when I transferred onto the sublime Boeing 727, a real pilot’s aircraft in my opinion and once again whilst employed with Dan Air Services Ltd, was I first exposed to the ‘wonders’ of the full flight simulator. However, by modern standards it would have failed to excite even the most enthusiastic of aviation fans at a low grade fairground! Although this one actually moved in pitch, roll and yaw as well as being an accurate reproduction of the Boeing 727’s cock-pit……there was still no visual system, no futuristic wrap around screens depicting the outside world. It also quickly manifested that the only airport in the database was Cologne (EDDK), its navigation procedures I would eventually be able to recite by heart.
                                                          DAN AIR BOEING 727 SIMULATOR
What also made this simulator stand out from any others which I have subsequently ‘flown’ was its situation, located in the middle of a warehouse down a railway siding. This low-rent building was used by many different departments of the said airline; and its tea/coffee facilities were located right next to the base of this simulator. Meaning that as you attempted to concentrate on flying an engine-out approach often you would hear shouts like….”Frank you having sugar in yours, and are there any biscuits?”…..this tended to detract from the realism, well more accurately, added to the lack of realism!

As this simulator was not certified by the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) for training pilots in the art of take-offs and landings we would have to practice these, just as we did on the ‘Budgie’…….in other words once again on the actual aircraft. So after completing all the procedural and systems requirements of the type rating it was time to finish the Boeing 727 training on what would turn out to be a fabulous weekend in Shannon Ireland (EINN).
This ‘jolly’ involved my fellow classmates and I taking off from London Gatwick’s airport (EGKK) in G-BAJW a Boeing 727-100 series three-holer as it was often known. During this short flight we had the opportunity to each see the effect of Dutch Rolls on a T-tail jet aircraft. This involved switching off the yaw damper, which corrects for this aerodynamic oscillation by imputing an opposite rudder deflection, and then slowly feeding in a rudder input of our own to demonstrate both how to recognise it and how to minimise the effects so protecting the aircraft’s tail.

Dutch roll will cause the aircraft’s passengers to feel sick, virtually a form of sea sickness and under extreme circumstances a build-up of Dutch Roll oscillations could eventually cause catastrophic structural failure. Hence the importance to recognise, understand and be able to correct this unscheduled manoeuver if necessary should the yaw damper fail.

For an example in his autobiography, legendary test pilot Tex Johnston described a Dutch Roll incident he experienced as a passenger on an early commercial 707 flight. As the aircraft’s movements did not cease and most of the passengers became ill, he suspected a misrigging of the directional autopilot (yaw damper). He went to the cockpit and found the crew unable to understand and resolve the situation. He introduced himself and relieved the ashen-faced captain who immediately left the cockpit feeling ill. Johnston disconnected the faulty autopilot and manually stabilized the plane “with two slight control movements.” So training but also as important experience is vital.

                                           VIDEO OF TEX JOHNSTON ROLLING THE BOEING 707

On arrival in Shannon we trainee pilots took it in turns to carry out take-offs, touch-and-goes and of course landings, generally using three engines but occasionally simulating that one had failed. These manoeuvers would later be replicated the following evening to practice our night flying skills.

My favourite manoeuver which we practiced that evening occurred at the end of flying an ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach down to 500 feet. Flown manually, i.e. no autopilot, levelling off and flying down the runway centreline. Followed by breaking off onto a 45 degree offset heading for about 45 seconds, before turning back towards the runway to land……..absolutely brilliant fun and a great confidence builder! Certainly worth buying my unbelievably chilled training captain Bob Andrews a beer or three when in the original 15th Century Durty Nelly’s pub later that evening. God rest him.

It would not be until four years later when I would have the opportunity to ‘fly a proper simulator’, one with a fully functioning visual system and multi-axis motion. Though nothing like the visual displays which are available today, one’s that are somehow tied into databases produced by companies such as Google Earth.

This would be after I left Dan Air to progress my career and join the newly developing Virgin Atlantic Airways as a co-pilot on the Boeing 747-200. I felt that my career was truly blessed, especially as only months later very sadly Dan Air was to fold and partially immersed into British Airways.

My initial training was to be conducted at the Pan Am Academy located near to Miami’s International Airport (KMIA), a far cry from the Dan Air warehouse in Horsham Surrey! No beaches, balmy nights or bikinis in Horsham!

The next two weeks would see myself my fellow co-pilot and flight engineer, all of us under training being religiously put through the wringer and jumping through hoops set by an ex-British Airways training captain. He used to fly the Lockheed Super Constellation for the British airline BOAC (British Overseas Aircraft Corporation) which was to become a part of British Airways. It was almost quaint that he would virtually shed a tear when a surviving example of this classic four engine propliner would overfly our hotel on its approach to Miami International Airport…….though this was normally during our debriefing in his hotel suite whilst drinking a gin and tonic!

Unfortunately this  simulator was not certified by the UK CAA for signing off take-offs and landings……..which meant heading back to Shannon for base training……once again, yippee was all I could think! Another eight circuits testing the structural integrity of an aircraft’s landing gear and tyres and I would be ready to fly the line, and I couldn’t wait!

For those who have not taken part in Base training, it is one of the most dangerous, planned for events, that as airline pilots we can undertake……whilst trying not to arrange an early meeting with an undertaker!

                                             ABOUT TO GO BASE TRAINING TO CHATEAUROUX

Flying a Boeing 747 around the circuit, practicing engine out approaches, though this time the engine is kept running, just the thrust lever is retarded to idle to simulate the yaw and the control needed to rectify it, places a huge amount of responsibility on the training captain, and I doff my hat to them all. Although I must admit it was absolutely fabulous fun and for that I thank them too. As an aside there is a video on my blog which shows my base training!
So my colleagues, whilst taking their turn flying the Boeing 747 and replicating the motions of a tumble dryer on the spin cycle, inflicting this upon the rest of us as we sat in the First Class compartment watching a movie on the in-flight entertainment system, eating our sandwiches…….I don’t know why, but at that moment I knew I had arrived. Yes I was an airline pilot already but now I was a Boeing 747 airline pilot and you needed a wide-bodied aircraft at that moment to contain the smile on my face…..yes happy days indeed. Thank you Dudley for the opportunity, you were and are a legend.

So now, as for every commercial pilot I would be faced with the prospect of having to attend my six monthly simulator checks, as I had done on the Boeing 727 and on the actual aircraft for the Avro/Hawker Siddeley/Bae 748, but now on a ‘real’ simulator. For the Boeing 747-200 this would mean either with British Airways at their Cranebank facility by London’s Heathrow Airport (EGLL), or various other training facilities located around the United Kingdom.

However, the next real test for me was when I was advised that I was to be upgraded to captain. I was 30 years old and over the moon but I had to jump through more hoops first; this would be a series of simulator sessions with Jim one of Virgin Atlantic’s fabulous training captains, yes I was nervous but also excited! I wanted that hat with the gold braid on it…..oh and the pay rise too!

On arriving at the simulator centre for my first session, Jim was there but no flight engineer, he was on his way…….from playing golf in France. He arrived in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, straight from the ferry, apologising as he hadn’t been told in advance! A more relaxed atmosphere could not have been created, especially when Jim said that he wasn’t interested in following the planned course but doing it his way. For once, ‘my way is best’ was just so on the money.

Over the next few days I learnt so much, not necessarily about the aircraft but about my own abilities and how I could actually perform. Jim’s way was a great way to introduce me to my upcoming command course…..he would, in his way assess you but without you really realising it and also give you confidence in your own abilities. The likes of Jim I was to rarely meet over the next twenty or so years, he was unique and I was extremely privileged to have been taken under his wing.

So once again, more training both in classrooms, simulators and then off to Manston airport (EGMH) for more fabulous base training.

                               BASE TRAINING VIDEO OF MYSELF LEARNING TO
                                    FLY THE VIRGIN ATLANTIC BOEING 747-200
                                                                                 PART 2.

So, for those of you not directly related to the flight operations department of an airline and unsure of what actually happens and why in one of the high-tech multi-million dollar flight simulators…let me explain.

It might be easier if I explain how an airline, 6 monthly simulator check pans out. I will assume a two day program of events, though some airlines with in-house resources will schedule possibly 3 or 4 day programs.

For our purposes we will assume that day 1 is a training and LOFT (Line Orientated Flight Training) exercise and day 2 is the regulatory check flight.

LOFT exercises are ‘normally’ non-jeopardy, in other words there is no pass or fail, it is just an exercise to involve decision making and CRM (Crew Resource Management). Followed by an interactive, facilitative I believe it is also called, debriefing, in other words the two pilots debrief each other but in a positive manner…….hopefully!

The following clip shows CRM being used.......discuss!?


Monday, 9 September 2013


“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. My name is Alan Carter your Captain today. I would like to welcome you all on-board our fabulous Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet for your flight to San Francisco..............blah-blah-blah!”

I should imagine that an awful lot of aspiring pilots would one day hope to be able to recite a similar, welcome on-board Passenger Address before departure. I am very lucky to have been a Captain and in that position on over a thousand flights on the Boeing 747, as well as another thousand on the Boeing 737. Though my last  ‘customers’ were no longer interested in what I had to say, as I operated the freighter version of the Boeing 747-400 to destinations as diverse as those in China, Afghanistan and Europe!

However, for those pilots who have just completed their training, this could unfortunately be sometime away. With a shiny mint condition Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) in their possession, finding that first position in the Right Hand Seat (RHS) of any aircraft type can be both a daunting and frustrating experience; especially if you don’t yet have a type rating on an aircraft operated or recognised by the airlines.

A lot of co-pilot positions these days seem to initially be found by word of mouth or advertised on-line by various recruitment agencies, with very little other options available except possibly contacts which their flight training schools might have. Though there are a few ways to try and place your foot as the first one in the door. This takes a little research, a little knowledge and a lot of luck. Sometimes you have to push without being pushy!

There are very few companies these days who recruit low time and relatively inexperienced pilots, those who are new to the profession are finding it more and more difficult in this intensely fraught job market. Primarily because there are so many qualified pilots and often type rated pilots, who are also looking to move to their next position.

There are also some pilots who unfortunately falsify their logbooks and licences, obtaining employment with those ‘third world’ airlines who accept on face value obscure qualifications just to have ‘pilots’ in their cockpits. This is often born out of desperation but is simply pure criminality. I am finding that with the more reputable airlines, personal recommendations are the only way to achieve employment……..but these are tales for another time, though you might be surprised as to who some of these might be and where they are flying…….

I am frequently asked for advice from genuine pilots and those candidates who are just embarking out on the long road of their training, so I would like to offer my suggestions to these highly enthusiastic people. Well you must be enthusiastic and dedicated to spend the amount of money which is required these days to gain your initial licences, but again financial ‘hardship’ seems to now be the only viable option.

So, I suggest that you register with all of the aircrew recruitment companies which you can find, either by internet searches, or the back page of Flight Global magazine; as well as by consulting your peers for their own personal feedback. It doesn't matter if you do not meet their current requirements, but at least you are in their database and on their mailing list. Update your profile regularly, just to keep it fresh.

Spend some time searching for every airline that you can think of, find their websites and look for the ‘join us’ or careers pages, often these are not obvious but if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on the ‘site map’ link, often this will reveal what you are looking for.

Again just my opinion, but I can’t see the point of spending any money to ‘join’ an on-line subscription pilot job site; these are often just ‘cut and paste’ websites trying to screw the last Pound, Euro, Dollar out of those desperately seeking employment. The information which they offer can be easily found elsewhere with the simplest of searches…….so save your remaining pennies for more worthwhile purchases.

Trawling through magazines like Airways, Airliner World and Flight Global can give you a valuable insight into which airlines are placing orders for new aircraft or expanding their route network, both factors which could importantly require them to employ more pilots, and so possibly you. I used to spend hours in WH Smith exploring these magazines, but now the editors of these are getting wise and enclosing them in sealed polythene bags……like those found on the ‘top shelf’…… I am told!

Using websites such as Pprune, but here I’d like to add a not believe everything you read as some of the posts can be, shall we say a wee bit biased, lop-sided and from those with an axe to grind......however, they can assist you in finding out which companies might be recruiting. Use them primarily as a tool, by you to find out whom to contact, Chief Pilots, Fleet Managers, training managers and human resource departments.  I would suggest badgering all of these departments, sending e-mails, updating your CV with them, and if it at all possible a personal visit to the airline’s offices could do no harm.

Have a look at flight training organisation websites, such as OAA, CTC, Flight Safety, CAE and any others which you can find on Google, see which airlines they are training pilots for and again contact them all. It never hurts to ask, you just might be in the right place when they are looking for someone to fill an immediate position; I have been lucky to have been in just the right place and at just the right time on four occasions, once with Virgin Atlantic as well as Thomsonfly, then with Viking and again with Silkways… there is no reason why you too can’t be lucky too.

Now, Pay To Fly schemes, known as P2F…… lies a highly heated debate as to the pros and cons. I am going to put my tin hat on and comment.

“Pay To Fly schemes, in my opinion are morally WRONG. Paying to fly say, for 500 hours as a co-pilot after paying said company for a type rating is WRONG. This is just legalised slavery and exploitation and is WRONG. However, I would never knock anyone for doing this if they can afford it. If I was interviewing two pilots with the same qualifications and experience, the fact that one of them had embarked on a P2F scheme would not bias my judgement either way…….I know that this, in certain circles would be considered incorrect, personality and attitude would play a huge part in my decision instead………again this is just my opinion based on 30 years of experience in this fabulous industry, though one where safety and professionalism is being seriously degraded by politics and economics, again tales for another time.”

However, it is very true, you only have one opportunity of making a good first impression, so make the most of it. Your initial e-mails need to be polite, not pushy and asserting your complete flexibility. Don’t ask about an airline’s specific type or a particular base which might interest you. Give the impression that you would be happy to fly anything anywhere. If they have a hot air balloon, then agree that you would be happy to spend six months in the wicker basket…..this doesn't mean that you yourself are a basket case, just that you are committed……..and not that you should be ‘committed’ either! This might sound obvious, but I was stupid enough not to realise this, as the following paragraph will explain!

‘Many years ago whilst employed as a co-pilot on the Boeing 727 with Dan Air, sadly a fabulous airline which is no longer with us, I was invited to attend a British Airways selection course. After jumping through all their hoops, I made it through to the final interview, where it was suggested that I would be offered a position flying a turboprop, one which I used to fly in Dan Air. However, my answer to my interviewees remained the same.......I don’t want to go back to turbo-props; I want to keep flying jets! But they said this would be a way of you becoming a British Airways pilot! I again said no!’

Well, the upshot is.......I never worked for British Airways, and yes at the time I was probably a naive fool, but looking back, I don’t regret missing out due to all the fabulous experiences which I have had since; not to mention all the wonderful characters whom I have met!

I have since learnt never to turn anything down which is offered to you!

Preparation is the key and in aviation it is very true to say that ‘failing to prepare, is preparing to fail’; whether it is for a simulator check or an interview. There are some obvious facts which need to be addressed, from your CV to interview technique, to make yourself stand out.

In my opinion a CV needs to be clear and concise, ideally one page will suffice, highlighting personal details, education background, aviation qualifications and experience. I have seen many CVs which go on for pages explaining how some candidates spent time working in pubs and restaurants, which although commendable can certainly be ‘abbreviated’. Human Resource departments and those pilots involved in recruitment receive dozens if not hundreds of CVs, both clarity and brevity is appreciated when reviewing them. A photo of you in a pilot’s shirt with a black tie will put a face to a name quite literally……don’t include a photo of yourself toned whilst on the beach…..yes I have seen one and I can promise you that it didn't help this guy’s application………though his girlfriend in her bikini, she was offered a job and she didn't even have a pilot’s licence! Joking…….aren't I?

Now I know this is obvious but wear a suit to an interview. I can almost hear the sighs as you read this…….but when I went for my interview simulator ride with Thomsonfly there were four of us; one of whom wore jeans and trainers, I never saw him again! You might be the ace of the base, but that sort of attitude will immediately send your application to the waste paper basket, again first impressions only get one chance of working.

These days a lot of airlines use ‘convoluted’ tests, be they mathematics, English reasoning or psychological. Do your research of these and if possible practice them, obvious yes. But one interview I went for I was presented with one of these so called English reasoning tests, now I had been a Boeing 747 Captain for many years and wondered what the heck this had to do with flying. Some of my fellow interviewees raised sarcastic comments to the invigilator, a company pilot…..I never saw them again either! They failed not necessarily the English test, but the attitude test. I simply said later in my interview with the Chief Pilot that I either had achieved 100% or 0% as I had no idea what I had just done! I was offered the job and spent two fabulous years flying the Boeing 737 whilst working for this company.

You might laugh but it does help to practice for a simulator ride, using a computer flight simulator game, this does not make you a geek………..just more prepared. In Virgin Atlantic I would often practice scenarios on my PC, this will build up your situational awareness of where the navigation aids are, diversion airports and the length of time a particular route takes. Again anything to give you the edge, more thinking time and a slicker session will elevate your chances of employment.

Back to the interview simulator check, often you will be asked obscure questions, such as your telephone number which your examiner will write down and then ask you to repeat it backwards……..all the time whilst you are flying a non-precision approach. Or you’ll be flying along at say 10,000 feet and you’ll be asked ‘what is currently the speed of sound’ a simple question as you probably have indications of TAS (True AirSpeed) and Mach Number on the displays in-front of you. So the more thinking time and spare mental capacity which you can develop will greatly assist you.

There are several companies which offer pre-interview courses for new pilots, now do your research on these carefully. They can be either a standard one day course or a bespoke course tailored to an individual’s requirements. Now they may not be necessary for everyone, but again anything that you can do to bolster your chances of securing that interview and then subsequently succeeding at it, can do no harm. Again though, do your research and try and find recommendations from those who have been and done it before you.

My Facebook page has in excess of 4,000 members, many of these are either aspiring or newly qualified pilots, often asking me for advice, or advice from my other ‘friends’, a less faceless method of networking than say LinkedIn. I try to answer all questions….eventually, though at times it can take me an hour or so a day to do this, but I try! All are welcome, so just send me a friend request and I’ll try to help where I can.
So, yes it is difficult to secure that first interview, but as I have said over the last thirty years that I have so far been involved in this fabulous industry, and yes it is still fabulous even though I know many pilots moan and whinge……part of our nature I imagine, but I wouldn't have done anything else. Probably couldn't!

You can contact me on my Facebook page:

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Terror in the Sinai and a threat to aviation.

Terror in the Sinai and a threat to aviation.

One look at the map of the Middle East will tell the story – a giant threat to the air transport across a very wide area. The Sinai desert – which is part of Egypt – has turned into the “greenhouse” of extreme Islamic terror.


If Al-Qaeda is the buzzword for hundreds of independent terror groups across the world, they are all represented in the Sinai. Since Egypt’s stability collapsed more than two years ago, this vast desert has lured thousands of terrorists – and they have accumulated a record number of shoulder-launched missiles and rockets.


Rocket fire from the Sinai prompted a rare, late-night alert in Eilat – the Israeli Red Sea resort – that sent residents and tourists scrambling for shelter at 01:00 on 13 August.


A single Grad rocket aimed at the city centre was shot down by an Israeli air force Iron Dome rocket interceptor battery that had been deployed near Eilat a month earlier, in response to another rocket threat. Just five days before this attack, on 8 August, Eilat’s airport was shut down for several hours following an Egyptian army warning of a likely terror attack.


The group behind that earlier attack were killed in an aerial strike on 9 August. Foreign press claimed that an Israeli unmanned air system (UAS) performed the pinpoint strike. The direct threat is on Israel.

Steps are being taken to protect international and domestic flights to Eilat, but the threat is wider.

Security experts say the concentration of so many terrorists in an area that not really controlled by any regime has a “damage potential” that is not limited only to the desert.


Israeli sources say the almost total freedom of operation these groups have in the Sinai will urge them to stage attacks not only in the vicinity but in other places.

To sum it up, the terror concentration in the Sinai directly threatens aviation in southern Israel, Egypt and Jordan – but not only here.

As one source puts it: “The thousands of shoulder-launched missiles and rockets will find potential targets.” When terror reigns in a “no man’s land”, it is imperative to look at the threats not only from the cockpit window.

Just look at what happened to DHL in Baghdad........surface to air missiles will strike again, in my opinion.

Whilst based in Baghdad I saw this DHL A300 aircraft parked out of sight behind the old terminal, which is featured in my Iraq video, which can be viewed on this blog.

So......keep your eyes peeled out there!


Monday, 19 August 2013

Crash: Asiana B744 near Jeju on Jul 28th 2011, fire in cargo hold..........Lithium batteries again?????????

Crash: Asiana B744 near Jeju on Jul 28th 2011, fire in cargo hold..........Lithium batteries again?????????

South Korea's ARAIB have released their preliminary report stating the first officer declared emergency about 50 minutes after takeoff from Seoul and 3 minutes after reporting on Shanghai frequency reporting a fire and requested to descend to 10,000 feet, 40 seconds later the first officer requested to divert to Jeju and reported they had an aft cargo fire. Subsequent communication between Incheon (Seoul) Radar and OZ-991 was done with the help of Korean Air flight KE-886, who relayed communication between radar and OZ-991. 12 minutes after declaring emergency the captain of OZ-991 reported they had lost rudder control, a minute later the captain stated they needed to open the hatch. 15 minutes after declaring emergency OZ-991 reported all flight controls were not working, the first officer added they had severe vibrations on the aircraft and needed to attempt an emergency ditching. 21 minutes after declaring emergency the first officer stated altitude control was not possible due to severe vibrations, "going to dtich ... ah" - and communication was lost.

One minute prior to the emergency call the crew had received a message "CARGO FIRE MAIN DECK ZONE-11 LOOP-A FAIL", just prior to the emergency call the message "CARGO FIRE MAIN DECK ZONE-6 AND 10 LOOP-A FAIL" arrived followed by "CARGO FIRE MAIN DECK ZONE-3, 4, 5, 7, 8, AND 16 LOOP-A FAIL", "CARGO FIRE EXTINGUISHING ARMED 'NO ACTION REQUIRED'", "YDM-LWR FAIL (Yaw Damper Lower)", "APU FIRE LOOP-A & -B", "DOOR L5 SWITCH FAIL" , "FLIGHT RECORDER FAIL", "FMC-L FAIL (NO BUS OUTPUT)", "CARGO BOTTLE A LOW PRESSURE & CARGO BOTTLE B LOW
PRESSURE", "CARGO AFT-4 LOOP-A FAIL" within 4 minutes.


First debris was found floating at position N33.2522 E125.0186 about 2 hours after communication with the aircraft was lost.

The captain (52, ATPL, 14,123 hours total, 6,896 hours on type) was assisted by a first officer (44, ATPL, 5,211 hours total, 492 on type). The aircraft had accumulated 28,752 flight hours in 4,799 flight cycles. The aircraft had undergone all necessary maintenance, the aircraft logs showed 208 logged faults in the 6 months prior to the crash, all of which were corrected properly and none relevant to the situation on board prior to the crash.

According to all ACARS messages received the aircraft had passed position N31.533 E124.588 at about the time of the first fire indication.

Examination of aircraft debris recovered from the sea floor revealed discolorisation and soot, evidence of thermal damage and fire, on the outside and inside of door L5, further components between FS1740 and FS2360 also showed evidence of thermal damage, a recovered skin panel from FS2180 to FS2360 revealed evidence the fire had burned through the skin panel. Cargo items had melted.

The autopsy of both flight crew revealed no evidence that any of them had consumed medications, toxic agents or alcohol. Both died as result of multiple rib fractures and rupture of multiple organs including heart and lungs as result of impact forces.

The investigation so far determined that cargo stored on the aircraft between FS1700 and the aft bulkhead had caught fire. There was no evidence of fire/thermal damage aft of the pressure bulkhead, sections forward of FS1700 showed damage by sooting.

The aircraft had been carrying 39,331 kg of cargo, 18,934 kg of which were loaded at Incheon Airport. A total of 2,092 kg was declared as dangerous goods, loaded near the left cargo door on the main deck. These goods consisted of flammable liquids, corrosive liquids and lithium-ion batteries, the shipment consisting of 198 cells rated at 25Ah at 3.65V. All dangerous cargo had been placed onto 2 palletes and had been loaded without problems, no observation of damage or leakages. The goods had been previously stored according to regulations. The captain had supervised the transport from the warehouse and loading of the two palettes onto position ML and PR on the aircraft.

Palette MR was recovered from the sea floor, films contained in the palette showed burns and blackened traces. recovered containers 43L and 44L from the lower deck showed no signs of fire or soot.

The Rails holding cargo pallets and recovered from the sea floor showed:
Bottom floor: no traces of fire or soot
SL: traces of soot and melting
SR: traces of soot and light melting, severe corrosion
PR: traces of soot and blue dye splatters, cargo net with burnt traces
ML: traces of burning and soot
LR: no traces of fire.
The cargo pallet positions (Graphics: ARAIB):

One package containing 12 Lithium-Ion battery cells (Photo: ARAIB):
A burnt through skin panel (Photo: ARAIB):
Cargo door L5 (Photo: ARAIB):
An Asiana Cargo Boeing 747-400, registration HL7604 performing flight OZ-991 from Seoul (South Korea) to Shanghai (China) with 2 crew, was enroute near Jeju Island (about 250nm south of Seoul) when the crew reported the cargo in the hold had caught fire and they needed to divert to Jeju Airport, then the aircraft disappeared from radar. Parts of a wing and other debris were located 130km/70nm west of Jeju. Both crew were killed. Their bodies were recovered from the sea floor 104km west of Jeju Island on Oct 30th 2011.

South Korea's Transport ministry reported, the Boeing 747-400 freighter was carrying 58 tons of cargo including 0.4 tons of hazardeous materials like Lithium batteries, paint, amino acid solution and synthetic resin. The crew had reported the cargo on fire with Shanghai Center and was diverting to Jeju Airport when it crashed about 70nm west of the Island at 04:12L (19:12Z Jul 27th), 67 minutes after it had taken off Seoul.

South Korea's Coast Guard reported both crew members were killed.

The flightplan identified Boeing 747-400 registration HL7604.

Asiana reported that radar contact with HL7604, manufactured Feb 2006, was lost at 04:11L when the aircraft was at 7600 feet MSL, the crew had reported control problems. The captain (52) had 14,123 hours flying experience, the first officer (44) had 5,211 hours flying experience. All cargo, 90% of which was standard cargo and IT products, the remainder comprised liquids (e.g., paint, resin solution, ...), was in compliance with IATA regulations.

A listener on frequency of Shanghai's Air Traffic Control Center reported, that the Asiana had just checked in with Shanghai when the crew reported they had a fire in the cargo hold, Shanghai's Pudong Airport was too far away, their only possible point of diversion was Jeju. The crew's distress was clearly audible and increasing during the transmissions.

A Shanghai Center Air Traffic Controller reported that the first indication of problems was the aircraft's transponder transmitting the emergency code just prior to the crew reporting on frequency near SADLI waypoint (N31.833 E124.998). The crew reported they had a cargo fire and requested to return to Seoul. The aircraft was handed off to the next sector while it was descending, the controller however watched the aircraft on his radar screen until it descended through 2400 feet and disappeared from the screen.

The NTSB reported on Aug 2nd the aircraft HL7604 crashed into the sea about 70 miles west of Jeju Island after the flight crew "reportedly declared an emergency due to a cargo fire and attempted to divert to Jeju International Airport." The NTSB assigned an accredited representative as state of manufacture and participates in the investigation led by South Korea's ARAIB.

Jeju's Maritime Police reported the wreckage and the bodies of the two pilots were discovered on the sea floor 104km west of Jeju Island on Sunday noon (Oct 30th) by a private salvage team hired by Asiana. The bodies were subsequently recovered from part of the fuselage which is believed to be the cockpit.
                                                    Debris floating off Jeju Island
..............BEFORE MORE PEOPLE DIE............