Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 commercial jet.
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Salt water-powered Quant e-Sportlimousine gets European approval

Gizmag, C.C. Weiss, July 18, 2014

Nunzio La Vecchia accepts the TÜV registration

After making a debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Quant e-Sportlimousine has received approval from Germany's TÜV Süd. The car, which uses an electrolyte flow cell power system, is now certified for use on German and European roads.

As I stood around waiting for NanoFlowcell's Geneva Motor Show press conference in March, my eyes bounced back and forth between the exotic curves of the concept car at center dais, the oddly punctuated letters of the make and model and the bubbling tanks of water that looked like they were ripped off the wall of an after-hours lounge. Then Nunzio La Vecchia sauntered out, wearing his best jet black pompadour, and made a bunch of bold claims about the 912-hp, gull-winged 2x2 and its bleeding-edge flow cell technology.


Everything about the scene suggested that it might very well have been the last we heard of the NanoFlowcell Quant e-Sportlimousine. Promises of a magic bullet of energy storage, made by a three-month-old company, packaged with outlandish numbers like 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 236 mph (380 km/h), hinted, rather strongly, that this car's technology and performance would only exist on paper. Given that a similarly outlandish Quant car, centered in a similar black-walled booth, introduced by a very different Nunzio La Vecchia company, had vaporized years earlier, it seemed a responsible assumption that the e-Sportlimousine would do the same.

Just a few months after its debut, however, the car has resurfaced and taken a step forward. After an in-depth inspection of the car, the German TÜV Süd in Munich handed over the official registration plate this week. Now the company will be able to test the car on public roads in Germany and Europe as it prepares it for series production.

"We are delighted as pioneers to be able to present an automobile driven by flow cell technology on public roads, and one which achieves not only fantastic performance values but also zero emissions," said Le Vecchia, tossing out a slightly revised set of numbers, including "a projected top speed of over 350 km/h (217.5 mph), acceleration from 0-100 in 2.8 seconds, a torque of four times 2,900 Nm (2,139 lb-ft) and a range of more than 600 km (373 mi)."

The flow cell system powering the Quant e-Sportlimousine's four electric motors develops electricity from an electrochemical reaction created by two electrolyte solutions. This electricity is forwarded to super capacitors where its stored and distributed.


Beyond fancy supercars, NanoFlowcell sees its technology taking on a variety of applications. Presumably it will work its way down to more affordable cars, but its perceived potential reaches far beyond the road's edge.

"We've got major plans, and not just within the automobile industry," says NanoFlowcell AG Chairman of the Board Prof. Jens-Peter Ellermann. "The potential of the NanoFlowcell is much greater, especially in terms of domestic energy supplies as well as in maritime, rail and aviation technology. The NanoFlowcell offers a wide range of applications as a sustainable, low cost and environmentally-friendly source of energy."

We'll wait to see the Quant e-Sportlimousine live up to its billing before we get too excited about that future expansion.

Source: NanoFlowcell
Related Article:


Malaysia Airlines to slash 6,000 jobs in survival bid

Yahoo – AFP, Julia Zappei, 29 Aug 2014

Airport groundstaff walk past Malaysia Airlines planes parked on the tarmac at
 the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on June 17, 2014 (AFP
 Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)

Malaysia Airlines will slash 6,000 jobs, trim its route network, and replace its CEO under plans announced Friday to stave off bankruptcy after two air tragedies plunged the already troubled carrier deeper into crisis.

State investment fund Khazanah Nasional, which controls the failing flag carrier, said it would pump 6 billion ringgit ($1.9 billion) into the airline, hoping the changes will return the company to profitability within three years.

Khazanah's Managing Director Azman Mokhtar said, however, there were no plans to change the carrier's name -- now deeply tarnished by its association with the MH370 and MH17 tragedies, which have pummelled bookings.

Azman Mokhtar, managing director of state
 investment fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad
 which owns Malaysia Airlines, addresses
media in Kuala Lumpur, August 29, 2014
(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyanana)
"The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived," Azman said.

Aviation analysts, however, said it was far too early to predict success, citing a lack of details in the plans, intense industry competition, and the airline's sullied image.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has bled money for years, with analysts blaming poor management and a failure to keep up with industry competition.

But the outflow has become a torrent due to this year's disasters.

MH370 mysteriously vanished on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew aboard. MH17 went down July 18 -- believed hit by a surface-to-air missile -- in rebellion-torn eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on the plane.

MAS previously had a solid safety record.

Smaller staff, regional focus

The airline released a statement saying its flights would operate as normal during the restructuring.

Azman said the company will shed about 6,000 -- or 30 percent -- of the airline's nearly 20,000 employees.

Ismail Nasaruddin, head of Malaysia's flight attendants union, said the union was awaiting details on how the layoffs would be carried out.

"The numbers are pretty high," he said. "A lot of frustration is in the air. That's obvious."

MAS also will "rationalise" its flight network -- a term it has used previously for cutting unprofitable routes -- to become a "principally regionally focused" carrier, Azman said, giving no further details.

A Malaysia Airlines employee writes a message expressing prayers and well-wishes
 for passengers onboard missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur
 International Airport in Sepang on March 14, 2014 (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)

A new CEO would be chosen by end-2014, though current under-fire boss Ahmad Jauhari Yahya would stay in charge until July 2015 to ensure a smooth transition.

Azman added that Khazanah may sell stakes in the carrier to strategic buyers from the private sector in the future.

Khazanah Nasional, which already owns 70 percent of Malaysia Airlines, announced plans in early August to acquire all remaining shares and de-list the company's stock as it works to revive it.

That process is still under way, and it remains unclear whether Khazanah will be able to carry out its plans.

Even before this year, aviation analysts have long said the airline needed wholesale reform.

Some also have complained that MAS CEOs have come from non-aviation sectors, blaming that for a series of poor business decisions over the years.

The carrier has controversially been kept aloft for years by transfusions of public money, and Azman stressed that "public accountability for the use of the funds" means the carrier cannot remain on life support "at any cost".

But Shukor Yusof of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics said Khazanah's plans were essentially a government bailout.

'Throwing good money after bad'

"This is throwing good money after bad," said Shukor, who called the plans "piecemeal."

Normi Abdullah (C) wife of Malaysia Airlines in-flight
 supervisor, Mohd Ghafar Bin Abu Bakar, one of the
 Malaysians killed in the July 17 MH17 disaster, cries 
during a ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International
 Airport in Sepang on August 24, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Mohammed Rasfan)
"Returning to profitability in three years is wishful thinking. Its brand is now severely damaged."

He said Khazanah was part of the problem, noting that previous turnaround strategies under it have failed.

Adrian Ng, analyst with Kenanga Research, said too little was known about the company's future focus to say whether MAS can become self-sustaining.

"The industry is tough, and the competition is very stiff," he said.

On Thursday, MAS announced that it posted its sixth straight quarterly loss in the April-June period and predicted more losses this year as the disasters' impact on bookings intensifies.

MH370 inexplicably diverted from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing course. The Malaysian government believes it went down in the Indian Ocean, but no trace has been found.

The government and Malaysia Airlines came under fierce global criticism over their failure to account for the jumbo jet, a slow-footed response and accusations of secrecy.

Western leaders say MH17 was shot down by pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine. An investigation is ongoing.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dutch firms trials robot hawks to chase off gulls and protect crops

DutchNews.nl, Thursday 28 August 2014

A remote controlled hawk in action. Photo: Clear Flight Solutions

A Dutch company is developing robot birds to protect crops and chase away other birds, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.

Robot birds are not new but Clear Flight Solutions hopes to take its own product to market mid next year. Trials are currently underway on a rubbish tip in Twente where the remote controlled birds are being used to keep gulls at bay.

There are dozens of places where the robot hawks and falcons can be used, the Volkskrant says. For example, tens of thousands of geese which congregate around Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport could be chased away rather than gassed.

Gulls

The robot birds, with a wing span of up to one metre, could also be used to reduce the nuisance caused by gulls and pigeons in cities which become accustomed to other attempts to scare them off.

‘Birds are disturbed by kites or loud noises a couple of times but then they get used to it,’ company founder Nico Nijenhuis told the paper.

‘But birds are genetically programmed to be afraid of birds of prey. Our birds not only look like birds of prey but act like them. They chase other birds at 80 kph and make it very clear: I am the predator and you are the prey.’

Before the birds can be used in the field, a number of changes need to be made. For example, Dutch law bans the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial aims unless they have a permit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

At least five dead in South Korea flash floods

BBC  News, 26 August 2014

A bus was washed away by floods, killing one and leaving four more people missing

Related Stories

Flash floods brought on by heavy rain in southern South Korea have killed at least five people, officials say.

One person was killed and four others are missing after a bus was swept away by floods near the southern city of Changwon, Yonhap news agency reported.

In Busan, South Korea's second-largest city, four people were killed after heavy rain battered parts of the city.

Victims included two people who drowned in their car after driving through a submerged city underpass.

An engineer is also believed to be missing after checking basement power lines in a flooded building.

More rain is forecast for the south of the country, weather officials say

Monday's heavy rain also disrupted train services in Busan, and a nuclear power plant was forced to halt operations after a cooling facility became flooded, AFP news agency reported.

Weather officials said that more heavy rain was forecast.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Galileo GPS satellites launched into wrong orbit

Setback for European-run navigational network as space agency announces satellites missed their target positions

theguardian.com, Associated Press in Paris, Sunday 24 August 2014

A Soyuz rocket launches from French Guiana on its way to putting Europe’s fifth
and six Galileo satellites into the wrong orbit. Photograph: ESA/Arianespace/EPA

Two satellites meant to form part of a European-run GPS navigational network have been launched into the wrong orbit in a blow for the programme.

European space officials say they are investigating whether the inaccurate deployment will complicate their efforts to develop the Galileo system, which would rival the American-run GPS network.

The European Space Agency and launch company Arianespace said the satellites – meant to be the fifth and sixth in the network – ended up in off-target orbits after being launched on Friday from Kourou, French Guiana, aboard a Soyuz rocket.

Saturday’s agency statement did not explain whether their orbital paths could be corrected.

Arianespace said the satellites settled into a lower elliptical orbit instead of the circular one intended, and initial analysis suggested the mishap occurred during the flight phase and involved the Fregat upper stage of Soyuz.

“Our aim is of course to fully understand this anomaly,” said Stephane Israel, Arianespace chairman and chief executive. “While it is too early to determine the exact causes, we would like to offer our sincere excuses to ESA and the European commission for this orbital injection that did not meet expectations.”

Israel said Arianespace along with customer ESA and the commission would create an independent panel to investigate what caused the inaccurate deployment and to develop corrective actions so Soyuz launches could resume.

The European Union hopes to have its 30-satellite Galileo navigation network operating fully by 2020. The Prague-based programme oversaw the launch of its first two satellites in 2011, two more in 2012 and the two that went up on Friday.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French space agency CNES, said the investigation still needed to determine precisely how far off course the satellites were. He said ESA experts in Toulouse, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, were calculating whether small motors inside the satellites would be strong enough to push them into the correct orbit.

Le Gall said the investigation would take “several days to understand what has happened. And then we’ll see about the possible consequences on the launch calendar,” he said, referring to plans to launch more satellites in coming months.

He called the Galileo navigation network “a very complex programme, and even if we have some failures that’s unfortunately part of the life of operations.”

If the two satellites cannot be pushed to the correct altitude above the earth, he said, subsequent satellites would have to take up the slack.

The programme has faced other delays and operational hiccups. ESA officials said on Wednesday that they had to reduce the strength of another Galileo satellite’s signal because of unspecified problems.

The agency says it hopes Galileo will provide greater precision for satellite navigation systems than the GPS system already used worldwide to pinpoint locations and plot routes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Uberpop drivers threatened with fines in Amsterdam

DutchNews.nl, Friday 22 August 2014

(NOS/ANP)
Several drivers for the alternative taxi service Uberpop have been sent warnings by the transport ministry, saying they face fines of up to €4,200 if they continue to transport people for money, Nos television said on Friday.

Uberpop, launched in Amsterdam last month, allows private car owners to operate as taxis through an online matching service. Nos did not say how many drivers have been threatened with a fine.

However, the transport ministry said earlier the Uberpop set-up breaks existing laws requiring taxi drivers to be licenced and that it would come down hard on drivers who joined the scheme.

Related Article:

Malaysia pauses in solemn homecoming for MH17 dead

Yahoo – AFP, M Jegathesan, 22 Aug 2014

Soldiers carry a coffin with the remains of a Malaysian victim from Flight MH17 
during a ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on August 22, 
2014 (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - Black-clad Malaysians observed a minute of silence and a nationwide day of mourning on Friday as the first remains of the country's 43 citizens killed in the MH17 disaster returned home.

People across the country of 28 million went silent at 10:55 am (0255 GMT), about an hour after a Malaysia Airlines jet landed with the remains of 20 people killed when MH17 was blasted from the sky by a suspected surface-to-air missile over Ukraine on July 17.

Malaysia's King Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, Prime Minister Najib Razak and dozens of other top officials were on hand for a sombre reception ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Soldiers carry a coffin with the remains of
Malaysian victim from Flight MH17 during
ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International
Airport in Sepang on August 22, 2014
(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
Flags flew at half-mast nationwide and various entertainment events and other festivities in the Muslim-majority country were cancelled or put on hold out of respect.

Residents of the capital Kuala Lumpur were overwhelmingly black-clad, including many Muslim women in black Islamic headscarves, as state television aired recitations from the Koran and photos of the Malaysian victims.

"No words can express the sense of loss in seeing the bodies return, my prayers are with the victims and families of #MH17," Najib said on his Twitter feed.

Dozens of Malaysia Airlines cabin crew and pilots in their work uniforms, some weeping, gathered near the welcoming ceremony holding Malaysian flags and white flowers to remember their lost colleagues.

'Life must go on'

Shazly, 40, a flight attendant who gave only his first name, citing a company request regarding contact with the media, mourned Nur Shazana Mohamed Salleh, who joined the airline with him in the same 2004 recruitment class.

Relatives attend a ceremony for the return
 of the remains of Malaysian victims from
 Flight MH17 at Kuala Lumpur International
 Airport in Sepang on August 22, 2014
(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
"She was a very jovial girl. She loved her job very much. She was very close with all her friends," he said.

"Life has to go on, even though it's very difficult for us to accept what has happened to our airline. They are our friends."

Some wore T-shirts with their dead colleagues' names and the Arabic phrase for "See you in Paradise." Fifteen crew were aboard.

The first batch of remains included those of Ariza Ghazalee, 46, and her son Muhammad Afif, 18, part of a family of six wiped out in the disaster.

It was a far different homecoming than what they had planned -- the family was returning to live in Malaysia after three years abroad, and Ariza's final Facebook post had said, "Starting our new migration. Praise God."

Friday's special flight arrived from Amsterdam, where remains have been taken for identification by Dutch authorities investigating the tragedy.

All 298 on board Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight MH17 were killed, including 193 Dutch nationals.

Malaysia Airlines flight attendants cry
 during the arrival in Sepang of the remains
of the Malaysians who perished onboard
Flight MH17, on August 22, 2014 (AFP
Photo/Mohd Rasfan)
The West accuses Russian-backed separatists of shooting down the plane, while Moscow blames Ukraine.

A military guard conveyed the coffins and urns -- at least three people have already been cremated -- from the plane and into waiting hearses.

Some were to be put aboard other aircraft for transport to their final resting places throughout the country.

A number of prayer sessions and funerals were planned for Friday in mosques, churches and temples, reflecting Malaysia's multi-ethnic make-up.

The MH17 tragedy has compounded Malaysian grief over the troubling and still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 just four months earlier.

Healing process

The airline and the Malaysian government came under fire worldwide for their chaotic response to MH370, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Soldiers carry a coffin with the remains of a
Malaysian victim from Flight MH17 during
a ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International 
Airport in Sepang on August 22, 2014
(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
The plane is believed to have inexplicably diverted to the Indian Ocean, but no trace of the jet has been found. Some angry relatives have alleged a cover-up.

Malaysia Airlines, now in a financial crisis over the double disasters, said in a statement it was "deeply saddened" by MH17, noting that Friday ends a "long and painful wait" for next of kin.

The government has said 30 Malaysians on MH17 had so far been identified. Further remains will return in coming days.

Malaysian Twitter feeds filled with sorrow as MH17-related hashtags dominated top-trending rankings.

Many expressed hope that Friday's homecoming could help Malaysia find closure from both air disasters.

"Welcome home #MH17, and please come back to us #MH370," read one.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New policies set to boost China's new-energy car market

Want China Times, Staff Reportor 2014-08-20

A new-energy car at the Wuhan Auto Service Industry Expo International,
Aug. 10. (Photo/Xinhua)

Beijing has introduced a series of measures that are expected to provide a shot in the arm to the new-energy vehicles market this year, according to Shanghai's National Business Daily.

China sold merely 17,533 new energy vehicles in 2013, but 20,000 were sold during the first half of this year, according to data from the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers.

The 20,000 figure remains quite small, however, compared with the 11.68 million cars sold nationwide in the first half of this year. However, a slew of new measures are expected to help accelerate the development of the market this year and boost sales to between 60,000 and 150,000 vehicles.

New-energy vehicles include fully functioning electric cars, plug-in hybrids and those powered by fuel cells.

The wave of favorable policies introduced during the first half is expected to create enormous opportunities in the market, and domestic and foreign automobile makers are competing to roll out new models of green cars.

Industry experts believe the entry of foreign companies and joint ventures with local automakers will help form a manufacturing chain and improve manufacturing techniques.

On the other hand, domestic carmakers have stepped up their entry into the sector. They produced 20,700 and sold 20,500 new-energy vehicles in the first half of this year, reflecting a 230% and 220% year-on-year growth, respectively.

Since domestic automakers play a dominant role in the fully electric car market, they are likely to be the largest beneficiaries of the new round of preferential policies. However, after the new policies come into effect, carmakers will have to develop a new business model for marketing new-energy vehicles and boosting profitability, according to the report.

Meanwhile, since an insufficient number of charging stations are frequently cited as the reason for low public enthusiasm for new-energy vehicles, more still needs to be done in this area.

In addition, a new market making new energy vehicles available only for rent or leasing is expected to emerge due to the preferential policies, according to the report.

Japanese auto bearings suppliers fined for antitrust violation

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-08-20

Japanese NTN staff prepare for a product show in Nanjing,
Jiangsu province. (File photo/Xinhua)

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) fined two Japanese suppliers of automotive bearings Tuesday for market monopolization practices, reports Shanghai's National Business Daily.

Nippon Seiki KK issued a statement on its official website that the Chinese regulator has ordered the company to pay a fine of 174.9 million yuan (US$28.5 million).

NTN Corporation also stated that the NDRC has fined the company 119.2 million yuan (US$19.42 million).

NSK and NTN are the two of the largest manufacturers of bearings in Japan.

The Japanese companies were ruled to engage in common bid-rigging practices, in which the bidders take turns to win contracts.

In China's auto parts industry, Japanese and South Korean firms have relatively closed their supply chain. It has been a tradition for Japan and South Korea to be protective towards domestic automotive parts suppliers.

In addition, an analyst said that Japanese firms have the technological edge over other firms, making it easy for them to conduct horizontal monopolization, in which bid-rigging is the most common practice, according to the report.

Japanese auto parts companies have faced antitrust probes in the United States and Europe. They have also been punished in Canada, the European Union, Singapore and Australia earlier this year for price fixing.

It was reported that over ten Japanese parts suppliers have been accused of violating China's antitrust laws. The automotive parts involved include panel switches for heater controls, steering wheels, seat belts, wiper blades and airbags.

According to China's Anti-Monopoly Law, businesses that take advantage of their dominance in the market or agree to and implement price fixing have to pay a fine of 1%-10% of their one-year sales, along with their illegal gains being confiscated.

Some analysts said that overseas auto parts makers have earned high profits in emerging markets such as China. The antitrust investigation will help regulate the industry and create a positive environment for new domestic automotive parts suppliers, they said.

Related Article:


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dutch teenager set to become world's youngest Formula One racer

DutchNews.nl, Tuesday 19 August 2014

Max Verstappen is currently just 16. Photo: Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen is set to become the youngest Formula One racing driver ever at the age of just 17 when he takes part in the Australian Grand Prix next season.

Verstappen, son of successful Dutch racing driver Jos Verstappen, is joining team Scuderia Toro Rosso for the season.

Verstappen has won eight races so far in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and is currently in second place. He switched from karting to racing cars in 2014.

‘Ever since I was seven years old, Formula One has been my career goal, so this opportunity is truly a dream come true,’ the youngster told the Red Bull website.

His father drove for Benetton, Stewart and Arrows between 1994 and 2003.


Max Verstappen at the Zandvoort Masters of Formula 3 in July,
a race he won. Photograph: Sander Koning/AFP/Getty Images

Related Article:


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Snoozing China air traffic controllers force jet to delay landing

Yahoo – AFP, 19 Aug 2014

A Chinese aircraft was forced to delay its landing after two air traffic controllers
nodded off, reports say (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

Beijing (AFP) - A Chinese aircraft was forced to delay its landing after two air traffic controllers nodded off, reports said Tuesday, sparking a wave of online anger about airline safety.

The Boeing 737 was preparing to land at Wuhan airport in central China but had no response from the air traffic control tower for 12 minutes, reports said.

Contact was eventually made and China Eastern Airlines flight MU2528 from Sanya landed safely, the Sina.com news portal said.

"Because air traffic control was asleep on duty, (the plane) called many times," civil aviation authorities said in a statement quoted by Chinese business magazine Caijing.

"But there was no reply, and no contact could be made with the control tower."

A separate investigation report cited by Caijing said two controllers had fallen asleep.

The incident happened on July 8 and the statement was dated July 29. There was no explanation for the delay in making it public.

"Air control work is truly exhausting, but it is unforgivable to sleep on duty," a post on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, said Tuesday.

"Hundreds of people’s lives depend on the actions of flight tower controllers. We entrust our lives to you," the post continued.

Another netizen added: "Such serious consequences. Should let him sleep as much as he wants in prison."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Uber’s Taxi App Lands in Jakarta

Jakarta Globe, Vanesha Manuturi, Aug 13, 2014

A woman shows the Uber apps on her smartphone in Jakarta,
Wednesday (13/8). JG Photo/Jurnasyanto

Jakarta. Traditional taxi companies in Indonesia may soon face a big shift in the market, as new competition from smartphone-based transportation services like San Francisco’s Uber taps into the insatiable demand for transportation in the world’s fourth-most populated country.

Uber — a software company focusing on transportation services — officially launched its eponymous smartphone application into Indonesia on Wednesday, gunning for the growing middle class population in the capital city Jakarta.

The company, which has established its presence in 43 countries worldwide, had previously arranged a soft launching in Jakarta earlier in June and rolled out its service in the Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD).

“There are currently tens of thousands people who have signed up for Uber. That’s what’s exciting about Jakarta — things go viral very easily,” said Chan Park, Uber’s head of expansion for the Asia-Pacific region, to the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

The Uber app assists Indonesian commuters in finding transportation — private driver included ­— through its partnerships with local limo and car rentals, offering brands ranging from Toyota Camry to Hyundai Sonata.

Its base fare currently stands at Rp 7,000 (60 cents), with each additional minute costing Rp 500 and each kilometer Rp 2,850 — placing Uber at par with local taxis.

“You can think of [Uber] like Expedia,” said Park, referring to a travel booking website. “We’ll facilitate the transactions and that transportation experience by connecting driver and transportation provider with the rider, and we provide the app that enables that.”

Uber will be jumping into a competitive market that’s already filled with various public transportation options for the Indonesian middle class, such as taxis and ojeks , or motorcycle taxis.

The company is not the first smartphone-based transportation service to break through the Indonesian market. Brazil’s Easy Taxi and Malaysia’s Grab Taxi — both of which allow customers to hail a taxi from their smart phones — had already launched their services in the capital in June and April respectively.

Mixed reactions

The presence of Uber and other similar transportation apps in Jakarta has so far been met with a variety of responses by prominent business figures and taxi companies in the area.

Teguh Wijayanto, head of public relations at Blue Bird Group, the country’s largest taxi operator, said new competition is not unusual, adding that the company had already anticipated the growing use of smartphones among Indonesians with the launch of its own Blue Bird smartphone application back in 2011.

“Competition is something that’s expected and is needed … As long as the company continues to push for the best services, it’s in the public’s hands,” Teguh said.

Sandiaga Uno, an Indonesian businessman and the country’s 45th wealthiest person according to Globe Asia’s 150 Richest Indonesian list, echoed Teguh’s sentiments, noting that tighter competition from Uber and other similar transportation-related smartphone apps will eventually lead to better service for customers as traditional transportation providers work toward improving themselves.

“The prospect looks good for Uber in Jakarta with the increasing demand for more innovative modes of transportation from the country’s fast-growing and highly mobile middle class,” Sandiaga said on Tuesday.

Sandiaga is also advocating the use of the smartphone app.

In contrast, some remain skeptical as Uber’s business model remains unclear against Indonesia’s regulatory backdrop.

Daniel Podiman, president director of taxi operator Express Transindo Utama, said that Express, along with the Organization of Land Transport Operators (Organda), is currently reviewing how Uber’s business model fits into the country’s public transportation scene.

“We’re waiting for more clarity on the issue … Something that’s new will always be assessed and examined. But if it goes against regulation, then something must be done,” Daniel said.

Regulatory pushbacks are not new to Uber, considering its history of numerous legal hurdles in some countries. Uber has faced lawsuits from taxi companies in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington DC. Reuters recently reported that Hamburg, Germany and Seoul, South Korea is seeking to ban Uber’s operations in the area.

However, Park said that the company has not yet been approached by regulators in Indonesia.

“How will the regulators react? I’m not sure. I haven’t heard anything from them,” Park said. “But we’re not trying to come in and cannibalize [the market]. We’re trying to provide an alternative.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Iran airliner crashes in Tehran street, killing 39

Yahoo – AFP, Siavosh Ghazi, 10 Aug 2014

A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards stands next to the remains of a
 plane that crashed near Tehran's Mehrabad airport, on August 10, 2014 (AFP
Photo/Atta Kenare)

Tehran (AFP) - An Iranian passenger plane crashed Sunday moments after takeoff from Tehran, killing 39 people on board and narrowly avoiding many more deaths when it plummeted near a busy market.

The plane was headed to the eastern city of Tabas, the IRNA and Fars news agencies said, when it crashed at 9:18 am (0448 GMT), after leaving Mehrabad airport.

It triggered a fireball when it smashed into the capital's Azadi neighbourhood, close to where hundreds of military families live, and only a few hundred metres (yards) from a row of shops.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards and security
 forces stand next to the wreckage of a
plane after a crash near Tehran's
Mehrabad airport on August 10, 2014
(AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iran's deputy transport minister, Ahmad Majidi, said the Antonov An-140 turboprop plane had 40 passengers, including six children, and eight crew on board.

The accident killed 39 people and injured nine, according to the latest official toll. A fire official initially said all on board had been killed.

The aircraft was operated by Sepahan Airlines, and a tail section bearing the company's dolphin logo could be seen sticking out of the road as security forces cordoned off the crash site where firefighters had doused the flames.

Black smoke billowed from the mass of burnt out and twisted metal, with officials saying the plane hit a wall and trees.

"The scene was terrible, with the back of the plane in the middle of the street," one witness said.

"But we were lucky because there was a market 500 metres away and a lot of people were there."

Another witness told state television: "I was on my motorbike and I heard something behind me. I turned round and it was a plane, so I got on to the ground because it was so close.

Iranian security forces secure the scene of a plane crash as emergency
 personnel search for survivors near Tehran's Mehrabad airport on August 10, 
2014 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

"With other people, we ran to try to save the passengers but there were two or three loud explosions and a huge fire."

Busiest domestic hub

Mehrabad airport, near central Tehran, is by far the country's busiest domestic hub, serving routes to all major Iranian cities.

Most international passenger flights take off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, which is farther west of the capital.

Iranian firemen attach the remains of a
 plane to a crane to remove it from the
 scene of a crash near Tehran's Mehrabad
 airport on August 10, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Behrouz Mehri)
Alireza Jahangirian, the head of Iran's civil aviation authority, said: "The plane crashed in trees. There were no casualties on the ground."

An investigation is under way, he added.

The Ukrainian-designed An-140 is intended for regional use, has a range of around 2,400 kilometres (1,500 miles) and can carry up to 52 people. Iranian airlines are one of the plane's biggest users.

The Isna news agency reported that the plane in Sunday's crash had been assembled under licence by an Iranian company in Isfahan, 450 kilometres south of Tehran.

Later Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani ordered the grounding of all domestically produced An-140s.

"The president has asked for a complete report from the transport ministry, and in the meantime has ordered a halt to all flights by this type of aircraft," IRNA reported.

Municipality workers clean up the scene
of a plane crash near Tehran's Mehrabad
 airport on August 10, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Behrouz Mehri)
Iran had nine locally built Antonov An-140s before Sunday's crash.

Iran has suffered several air crashes in recent years, blamed on ageing planes, poor maintenance and a shortage of new parts because of international sanctions.

Iranian airlines, including state-run operators, are short of finance and have seen business suffer because of banking restrictions imposed on the Islamic republic by the United States and Europe.

Iran's last major air crash was in January 2011, when an Iran Air Boeing 727 shattered on impact while attempting an emergency landing in a snowstorm in the northwest, killing 77 people.

And in July 2009, a Russian-made jetliner crashed shortly after taking off from the capital, killing all 168 people on board.