A plane carrying Pakistan’s parliament speaker and a number of politicians was forced to turn around on Thursday, after explosives were found in the airport in Afghanistan where the aircraft was set to land.
According to local media, the plane was about to descend when the pilot turned around from landing at Kabul after explosives, apparently years old, were found near an airport building.
While it was not immediately clear who the explosives belonged to, General Reyaz Arian, the commander of Kabul’s international airport, said the explosives were placed at the airport some years ago during construction work.
As a result of the shock discovery, the airport was shut down for several hours on Thursday and all flights in and out of the Afghan capital were either delayed or turned around.
The flight carrying Pakistan’s parliament speaker will be rescheduled rather than cancelled.
Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, tweeted about what he said was a “security threat” to the Pakistani delegation.
“The plane was about to descend when the control tower informed the pilot about the airport’s closure,” he said. “New dates for the visit will be decided after mutual consultations.”
It is understood the Pakistani delegation was to stay in the Afghan capital for three days under the leadership of Asad Qaiser, speaker of the lower house of parliament.
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A last minute mistake could have caused a fatal ultralight plane crash south-east of Melbourne in an Easter Sunday tragedy.
The 52-year-old pilot was taking off from a private runway at a Koo Wee Rup Road airfield when the weight-shift type aircraft crashed about 6.50am.
“He’s taken off to about the height of the trees and experienced technical difficulties,” Acting Inspector Glen Finlay said.
A call from a witness alerted emergency services to the fatal crash.
“The cause of the accident is the patient has forgot to put his helmet on,” the woman who made the call said.
“The helmet has gone through the propeller and taken out the wings.”
She is from Aeros Trikes Australia.
“There was a witness who was on the ground watching. She has rung police and emergency services,” Finlay said.
The “very experienced” pilot was killed on impact in the crash, according to the Sports Aviation Federation of Australia.
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On February 9, 2019, it will be 50 years since the first Boeing 747 took to the skies. Since its first passenger flight, in 1970, it has become the most successful commercial jet aircraft built. More than 1500 747s have rolled out of Boeing’s Everett production facility, they’ve carried more than 3.5 billion passengers and flown the equivalent of 70,000-plus trips to the moon and back. Chances are you’ve flown aboard a 747 several times, yet there are a few things about the aircraft that might come as a surprise.
How the Boeing 747 got its hump
Boeing’s 747 was conceived as a multi-purpose aircraft, both as a passenger carrier and a cargo aircraft. In the 1960s, when the 747 was on the drawing boards, it was believed that supersonic aircraft were the future of passenger flights. If that proved the case, the 747 might be relegated to the role of a heavy-duty cargo aircraft.
To allow for that option the 747 was designed with a flip-up nose with a hinge at the top making it possible to load and unload even large cargo items quickly. However, the cockpit was in the way so designers added the hump and put the cockpit up there. The most aerodynamic design proved to be a teardrop-shaped hump and that gave the 747 its upper level. And as history proved, the 747 turned out to be one of the most successful aircraft that ever flew, while supersonic flight failed to gain traction.
A revolutionary power plant
The Boeing 747 was the first aircraft to be fitted with high-bypass turbofan jet engines. Turbofan engines, in which most of the air that enters the intake bypasses the core engine where combustion takes place, began replacing the far smaller turbojet engines on commercial aircraft in the 1960s.
These were low-bypass turbofans, which produce more jet thrust relative to fan thrust. High-bypass turbofans produce greater fan thrust relative to their jet thrust. They’re also quieter – anyone who lives under a flight path can hardly forget the screaming jet engines of the past – they’re more powerful and they offer improved fuel efficiency.
After a design competition, Pratt & Whitney was awarded the contract for the 747’s engines and developed the JT9D engine. The JT9D produced 43,500 pounds of thrust, more than twice that of the engines used to power the Boeing 707 or Douglas DC-8, the workhorses of the day. Built extensively from titanium and nickel alloys, the JT9D was the precursor of the high-bypass turbofan engines that power all larger modern commercial jet aircraft but the test phase was hampered by engine stalls and damage to the turbine casings.
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The 747’s first commercial service, a Pan Am flight between New York and London on January 22, 1970, was cancelled due to engine overheating. A substitute aircraft was eventually deployed, and the flight took off six hours behind schedule.
The 747 could have bankrupted Boeing
The 747 was a revolutionary aircraft, and development costs were astronomical. Its sheer size meant that just about everything about it – the airframe, the cockpit, the landing gear – required fresh thinking. Boeing had to create a special facility large enough to build the aircraft. Eventually they settled on a site at Everett, 50 kilometres north of Seattle. The production facility still holds the record for the world’s largest building by volume, which now stands at more than 13 million cubic metres. Some 16 MCG playing fields could fit comfortably inside. When it was first built clouds would form inside its ceiling, a problem solved by a new air circulation system.
Boeing’s up-front investment in the 747 totalled more than $1 billion, yet constant injections of bank funds were required to keep the project alive. Boeing eventually took on a debt of more than $US2 billion to develop the 747, leaving it burdened with more debt than any other corporation in history at the time. In today’s terms, that would be close to $US14 billion.
As time would tell, Boeing’s huge gamble paid massive dividends, and the company held a stranglehold on the production of supersize passenger aircraft until the arrival of the A380, which carried its first passengers in 2007, 37 years after the 747 took paying passengers into the skies.
The presidential plane
Air Force One. Photo: AP
The 747 has long been the favoured long-distance conveyance for some heads of state, the big timers as well as those with an inferiority complex, plus a few crackpot dictators. As well as the heads of state of China and Japan, the rulers of Kuwait, Brunei, Oman and Morocco all have Boeing 747s in their executive fleet.
Former President Saddam Hussain had a personal Boeing 747SP, the stubby, long-range version, for his personal travels.
The most famous of all the presidential 747s is Air Force One, used by the US president, which joined the ranks of the executive fleet in 1990 during the administration of George H.W. Bush. That aircraft boasts a number of refinements that you won’t find on a typical 747. The triple-deck aircraft includes a suite for the president with a large office, bathroom and conference room, a medical suite that can function as an operating room, with a physician permanently on standby and two galleys that can feed 100 people at a time.
The onboard electronics, hardened against an electromagnetic pulse, enable the US president to continue to perform his or her duties in the event of an attack on the US.
Plans to replace the original presidential 747s were scuttled by Donald Trump when he balked at the replacement cost – almost $US4 billion. Instead the president will get a pair of almost-new Boeing 747-8 aircraft, originally destined for Russian carrier Transaero until that airline went bankrupt.
Some weird and wonderful adaptations
As well as ferrying billions around the globe, 747 aircraft have been called upon to perform some unusual duties. A 747 was officially designated a Space Shuttle Aircraft and used to “piggyback” the Space Shuttle between its landing sites and the Kennedy Space Centre. It was the first Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, SCA 905, that carried the Space Shuttle Enterprise aloft and released it mid-flight, allowing it to glide and land under its own control.
NASA’s SOFIA flying telescope. Photo: NASA
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is an airborne observatory housed in a radically modified Boeing 747SP. A joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, the SOFIA 747 carries a 2.7-metre reflecting telescope designed for infrared astronomy. The telescope is revealed at cruise altitude, when a large door opens in the aft section of the aircraft.
The German Aerospace Centre defines SOFIA’s role as “to understand the development of galaxies and the formation and evolution of stars and planetary systems from interstellar clouds of gas and dust”. At ground level, water vapour in the troposphere hinders observations in the infrared. By flying in the dry, blue skies at altitudes above 12 kilometres, SOFIA’s 747 escapes almost all our planet’s atmospheric water vapour. Nightwatch is a military program with the official title of E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, which uses four Boeing 747 aircraft.
These aircraft serve as survivable mobile command posts in the skies for the US president and the secretary of defence, a strategic command and control centre that allows the United States military to continue to fight even after a devastating nuclear ground attack. When the president travels outside North America, an E-4 is deployed to a nearby airport, just in case the call comes.
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Two pilots are being checked for injuries after ejecting from the plane near RNAS Culdrose.
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Plane lands at Brisbane Airport after mid-flight engine fire on Friday night.
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WHEN TOM CRUISE first appeared as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the rakish naval aviator of “Top Gun”, in 1986, the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet that he jinked around Soviet warplanes cost little over $50m. When he reappears in this year’s sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick”, he will fly a F/A-18E Super Hornet that approaches $60m. And if a geriatric Mr Cruise should be plucked from retirement to complete a trilogy, he might star in a stealthy F-35C that exceeds $90m.
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The answer to such runaway costs was once thought to be drones. The idea was that remotely piloted aircraft were not just smaller and thus cheaper than their crewed equivalents, but that they would also allow air forces to save money by pruning personnel. But a new report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think-tank in Washington, suggests that replacing humans with machines is not so simple.
Drones do require fewer people. Consider America’s fleet of planes for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)—essentially, spotting things from the air. Crewed aircraft like the E-8, E-3 and RC-135 have average annual personnel costs of around $12m per plane. Though the comparison is imperfect, an MQ-9A Reaper, a drone that can perform similar missions, comes in at $3m per plane. That is not cheap—it is about the same as the personnel costs associated with an F-35 jet—but it is a saving.
The problem is that the savings tend to be wiped out because the drones rack up so many flying hours. Each of America’s Global Hawks, a surveillance drone that can conduct day-long sorties, flies an average of almost 1,400 hours annually—the equivalent of two months in the air. The U2 spy plane, a cold-war stalwart still in regular use, does less than half of that. During 2016-17, the last period for which complete figures are available, America’s ISR drones flew six times as many hours as every crewed ISR plane combined. Commanders’ “insatiable demand” for eyes in the sky has “prevented overall reductions in personnel and operating costs”, concludes CSIS.
That demand was evident in Iraq and Syria during the American-led war against Islamic State. A recent study by the RAND Corporation, another think-tank, notes that drones, by feeding back full-motion video, largely replaced the human targeters who in previous wars had been needed on the ground to guide air strikes. Yet precisely because drones generate so much intelligence, they require more humans to analyse it all—at least until artificial intelligence is good enough to do the job.
Doing away with the humans is hard. At present, keeping a single Predator or Reaper drone above a given target around the clock requires four drones, and thus 49 people in mission control and 59 more, most of them for maintenance, in the local “launch and recovery” area where the drone is operating. The current practice is to have one pilot per drone. Adopting a “one-to-many approach”, with a single pilot flying several aircraft at once, would be more efficient, notes CSIS—in other words, multi-taskers rather than mavericks.
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “The sky-high cost of drones”
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Here’s What You Need to Remember: “The X-40A had to autonomously find the runway, account for wind gusts, and track a straight course down the runway centerline. The tiny wings on the X-40A required a high angle of attack to generate lift on landing, which meant the X-40A would rapidly rotate nose-down upon braking during landing. This required a very accurate onboard sensing system.”
Today only one X-40A test vehicle remains in existence, and it is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. However, the program, which is now largely forgotten, proved instrumental in the development of the X-37B–the United States Space Force’s reusable space plane, which is currently conducting its mission in low Earth orbit.
The National Interest was able to get some insight into just how significant the X-40A was in the development of the X-37B from Darold B. Cummings, founder and president of ForzAero. Cummings holds thirty-six patents in a variety of fields. He worked in the design, analysis, fabrication and testing of air vehicles during his lengthy career.
“Up until the autonomous landing of the X-40A in 1998, no one had demonstrated that an unmanned space vehicle with such a low lift-to-drag ratio, and a high angle-of-attack landing attitude, could land safely,” Cummings told The National Interest.
“All the other key technologies, such as high-temperature materials and reliable propulsion systems, had already been demonstrated,” he explained. “The X-40A had to autonomously find the runway, account for wind gusts, and track a straight course down the runway centerline. The tiny wings on the X-40A required a high angle of attack to generate lift on landing, which meant the X-40A would rapidly rotate nose-down upon braking during landing. This required a very accurate onboard sensing system to provide an aerodynamically controlled gentle nose-down rotation to keep the nose from slamming down and collapsing the nose landing gear. This was all accomplished on the very first X-40A flight!”
The X-40A was not the first step in a reusable space plane, a concept that had predated the original Space Shuttle by decades. The experimental scaled-down aircraft was also just one part of the efforts to develop a reusable spacecraft that could be used in low Earth orbit missions.
Among the others was the X-34 unmanned space plane, which was designed to be a cargo resupply aircraft, much like the Space Shuttle.
“Unfortunately, that program was canceled in 2001,” said Cummings. “The latest air vehicle related to a Space Shuttle replacement is the Sierra Nevada Corporation ‘Dream Chaser,’ which is currently a piloted aircraft like the original Space Shuttle. NASA has supplied funding for the Dream Chaser, and an unmanned version is planned for the future that would land autonomously like the X-40A.”
The Parachute Misconception
One key point about the X-40A that Cummings would like to set straight is a longstanding myth that the unpiloted X-40, which was, in fact, built to 85% scale of the X-37 to test aerodynamics and navigation systems, utilized a drag or drogue chute.
“The Space Shuttle had a large drogue parachute that slowed the aircraft down, and also provided a stabilizing force to keep it straight down the runway,” noted Cummings.
“The X-40A did not have a drogue chute–the parachutes on the back of the bulkhead were there in case the X-40A lost control or lost radio contact during the flight test: the parachutes would deploy, and the X-40A would land on deployed airbags,” said Cummings. “Wikipedia incorrectly claims the X-40A deployed drogue chutes on landing. (Instead), all speed and control on the ground during landing was supplied by differential braking of the main landing gear.”
Beyond the X-40:
In addition to his work on space plane technology, Cummings previously worked on the YF-23 Stealth Fighter, a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine stealth fighter designed for the United States Air Force in the late 1980s as part of the American Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) challenge.
He offered his thoughts on how the development of stealth aircraft has taken on new importance given the current geopolitical situation as other nations–notably China and Russia–work towards developing similar capabilities.
“That is a big question because there are a significant amount of geopolitical issues involved,” explained Cummings.
“The problem of force projection for the U.S. becomes an issue of numbers,” he added. “As an example, the ability to penetrate the overlapping/interconnected Chinese defenses will become increasingly difficult with current limited U.S. stealth assets.”
For that reason, he said he believes that the future focus for the Air Force will be on “Force Multipliers,” such as stealthy, but lower-cost/semi-expendable, unmanned aircraft working in consonance with manned fighters.
“That is the current focus of the Air Force Skyborg program,” Cummings said. “I personally do not believe the U.S. will launch another manned stealth fighter program at this time but will purchase and continuously upgrade the F-35, and supplement it with stealthy unmanned aircraft.”
Our thanks to Darold B. Cummings for sharing his insight and knowledge about the X-40B and YF-23 programs.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article was originally published in 2020.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
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A survivor of the 2016 Chapecoense plane crash has miraculously cheated death again – after walking away from a coach smash that left 21 people dead.
Erwin Tumiri was one of just six people to survive the 2016 plane crash that tragically killed most of Brazilian football team Chapecoense.
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It has now emerged that the 30-year-old has cheated death for a second time in less than five years after a packed coach careered down a hillside near the Bolivian city of Cochabamba.
The death toll from Tuesday morning’s tragedy currently stands at 21 and more than 30 people are said to have been injured.
Erwin, one of the crew on board the Chapecoense plane, told local media of his incredible new escape.
He said: “I was feeling a bit sleepy and listening to music on my mobile phone when I heard people screaming.
“The only thing I could do was hold onto the seat in front of me, broaden my shoulders and lean against the window so I wouldn’t move as the coach overturned.”
Speaking from his hospital bed with a bandage over his right knee but smiling despite his fresh ordeal, he added: “I felt the coach was going to overturn and it did.
“We turned and turned and there were people who did not hold on and they fell as if they were in a washing machine.
“I remained conscious throughout and managed to crawl out of the vehicle when it came to a halt.
“I can’t believe what’s happened. I’ve got injuries to my arm and I can’t lift it up at the moment.
“But I’ve been told I will recover mobility little by little. And I’ve got a gash on my knee, but that’s all.
“Things happen for a reason, the good times and the bad.”
Lucia Tumiri confirmed her brother was in hospital but had only suffered minor injuries.
More than 52 people were on the coach, which plunged nearly 500ft (150m) down a steep embankment on the road linking Cochabamba to Bolivia’s largest city Santa Cruz.
The plane crash from 2016 was one of the worst tragedies in Brazilian football history.
Mr Tumiri told Fox Sports Argentina how he survived the Chapecoense plane crash.
He said: “I put the bags in between my legs to form the foetal position that is recommended in accidents.”
Mr Tumiri had been a member of the crew of the LaMia Flight 2933 on November 28 2016 which crashed near Medellin in Colombia.
The disaster killed 71 of the 77 people on board including 19 players from the Chapecoense football team, then in Brazil’s top-flight Serie A league.
They were heading to Medellin to play the first leg of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana finals.
Only three Chapecoense players survived the crash.
Goalkeeper Jakson Ragnar Follman had one of his legs amputated as a result of the accident.
Journalist Rafael Henzel, one of the six survivors, died in March 2019 after suffering a heart attack while he played football with friends.
Chapecoense were relegated to Serie B shortly after the tragedy but secured promotion to Serie A in January.
This story first appeared in The Sun and was republished with permission.
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The bodies of two people have been recovered after a microlight plane crashed at a national park in Western Australia’s northwest.
Police said the aircraft was reported overdue from an aerodrome in Exmouth about 4.30pm on Wednesday.
The wreckage was found about three hours later, south of Exmouth.
“Two occupants have been located deceased,” police said in a statement on Thursday.
They are yet to be identified, but are believed to be a man and woman aged in their 50s.
Police said the man was the pilot.
“Their families have been notified,” police said.
“The investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.”
The recovery operation began at first light on Thursday.
Exmouth is a popular spot for tourism flights and microlight planes.
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Two people are dead after a microlight aircraft crashed in the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth on Wednesday.
After a search, the missing plane was found about 7.30pm just south of the town, with the aircraft reported overdue to land earlier in the afternoon.
Two occupants were found deceased at the scene, with a recovery operation to commence early Thursday morning.
More to come.
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