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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

French ex-airline boss claims cover-up on MH370

France24 – AFP, 18 Dec 2014

Former airline boss and famous French author Marc Dugain argued Thursday that there had been a cover-up in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, speculating that the passenger jet could have been hacked and then shot down by the US.

Dugain, a well-respected French author, argues that the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people crashed near Diego Garcia, a British island in the middle of the Indian Ocean used as a strategic air force and intelligence base by the US military, in the six-page article in Paris Match.

The US has always officially denied that flight MH370 came anywhere near Diego Garcia.

The latest theory into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 8, 2014 has all the ingredients of a spy thriller and has grabbed the French public’s attention.

The former boss of Proteus Airlines travelled to the neighbouring Maldives where residents told local media that they had seen an airliner fly in the direction of Diego Garcia. Their claims were promptly dismissed by the authorities.

“I saw a huge plane fly over us at low altitude,” a fisherman on Kudahuvadhoo island told Dugain. “I saw red and blue stripes on a white background” – the colours of Malaysia Airlines. Other witnesses confirmed the sighting.

Fire on board?

Dugain speculates – adding to the numerous other existing hypotheses about what happened to flight MH370 – that a modern aircraft such as Malaysia Airlines' Boeing 777 could have been hijacked by a hacker.

“In 2006, Boeing patented a remote control system using a computer placed inside or outside the aircraft,” he noted. This technology lead Dugain to the idea of a “soft” remote hijacking.

But the writer also suggests that a fire could have led the crew to deactivate electrical devices, including transmission systems.

Whatever the initial reasons for leaving its flight path, Dugain suspects that the plane then headed to Diego Garcia, where a number of scenarios may have played out – including the US Air Force shooting it down for fear of a September 11-style attack.

Dugain met the mayor of neighbouring Baarah island, who showed him pictures of a strange device found on a beach two weeks after the plane had disappeared and before the Maldives military seized it. Two aviation experts and a local military officer concluded that the object was a Boeing fire extinguisher. Dugain points out that for the extinguisher to have floated, it must have been empty, having been automatically triggered by a fire. He adds that precedent exists in which fires on board aircraft caused all passengers and crew to die of asphyxiation, while the plane’s automated systems extinguished the blaze and kept it in the air.


The rest of his article draws more conclusions from the information that has remained buried than from new facts.

The writer notes that the search operation in the southern Indian Ocean was based on satellite data from UK-based Inmarsat – the last organisation to receive a signal from the airliner – which is "very close to intelligence agencies".

For Dugain, the suppression of testimonies from the Maldives, the unlikely event that Diego Garcia’s US intelligence officers “equipped with the best technology in the world may have ‘lost’ a 63-metre-long object”, and the secrecy surrounding the cargo in the plane’s hold all point towards a large-scale cover-up.

So does the friendly advice of a “Western intelligence officer” – a British one, Dugain said in a radio interview on Thursday – who cautioned him against the “risks” of investigating the flight’s disappearance and suggested that he “let time do its work” instead.

The writer’s conclusion is that “the only firm belief left from this investigation is that someone knows”.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

China MH370 families protest for information on missing plane

Yahoo – AFP, 19 Dec 2014

Relatives of passengers from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speak
 to a policeman as he makes a phone call outside the Foreign Ministry in Beijing
on December 19, 2014. (AFP)

Grieving family members of Chinese passengers from a missing Malaysia Airlines flight protested outside the foreign ministry in Beijing Friday accusing the government of failing to provide them with regular updates on the search for the aircraft.

About 30 people, many of them elderly, gathered at the gates of the ministry with temperatures approaching freezing and were confronted by a line of police.

They demanded to speak to government officials in a bid to get more information on the search for flight MH370. Police manhandled and pushed protesters that attempted to enter the gate and warned passersby to leave the area immediately.

"My son is alive and I want to know what the government is doing to find him," said Liu Dianyun, the mother of one of the passengers.

Some drove for two hours to attend the demonstration, despite acknowledging that their efforts were unlikely to produce results.

Chinese passengers account for about two-thirds of the 239 people who were aboard the Boeing 777, which vanished on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to China's capital.
Dozens of their relatives were reportedly beaten and arrested earlier this year.

Australia has been spearheading the hunt for the plane, which is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

South Korean heiress apologizes to flight attendants for 'nut rage'

The daughter of Korean Air Lines chairman has apologized to the two flight attendants she harrassed about improperly served macadamia nuts. One steward described her allegedly outlandish behavior on South Korean TV.

Deutsche Welle, 14 Dec 2014

Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of Korean Air Lines Chairman Cho Yang-ho and former head of cabin service for the company, apologized personally on Sunday to two flight attendants she admitted insulting and humiliating in an incident dubbed "nut rage" by the media.

Cho made headlines last week over her behavior on a Korean Airlines jet, in which the 40-year-old executive delayed the New York-Seoul flight because she was dissatisfied with the way an attendant served her macadamia nuts. New details about the events have emerged, with the flight attendant in question claiming he was asked to lie to investigators and forced to kneel by Cho.

"People who haven't experienced [this] will not understand that feeling of being insulted and shamed," said senior flight attendant Park Chang-jin on South Korea's KBS television network. After Cho became enraged that the first-class steward brought her the nuts, which she had not ordered, in a packet instead of a bowl, Park says he and his colleague were made to kneel in front of her, before being called names and pushed into the cockpit door.

According to Park, Cho shouted to the cabin crew to "call right now and stop the plane. I will stop this plane from leaving." In his KBS interview, Park said he feared to "disobey the daughter of the owner."

Cho vehemently denies forcing anyone to kneel, saying on Sunday: "I've never heard of such a thing. I don't know anything about it."

She went to the homes of both Park and his unnamed colleague, but as neither of them was home she left notes of apology.

Privilege and arrogance

She resigned her post as head of cabin service for Korean Air Lines shortly after the incident, and both Cho and her father made public apologies at press conferences. Cho told journalists, "I sincerely apologize. I'm sorry," a few hours after her father had bowed to members of the press corps and taken responsibility for failing "to raise the child properly."

The drama has captivated South Korea, where Cho has been called a "princess" and chided by the media. Amid growing criticism of such displays of entitlement, many point the finger at a culture in which business dynasties were credited with leading the country to modernization and wealth.

Cho is being questioned by state authorities about whether she violated aviation law.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

MH17 Wreckage Arrives in Netherlands

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Dec 09, 2014

Trucks carrying the wreckage of the passenger airplane MH17 that crashed in
 Ukraine drive on the A1 highway near De Lutte, the Netherlands, on
Dec. 9 2014. (EPA Photo/Vincent Jannink)

The Hague. A convoy carrying wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Tuesday on its way to a Dutch air force base where the doomed plane will be reconstructed.

Dutch national broadcaster NOS showed eight trucks carrying wreckage crossing the border with Germany overnight, before heading to a southern air base after the morning rush hour and under police escort.

The convoy of lorries carrying pieces of wreckage from Ukraine is due to arrive at the Gilze-Rijen airbase in the south of the country at around 1300 GMT, the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) said.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky on July 17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, two-thirds of them Dutch.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of supplying pro-Kremlin insurgents with the missile that shot down the jet, but Moscow and the separatists deny they were responsible and have instead pointed the finger at Kiev.

Dutch authorities are charged with establishing exactly what brought the plane down and are reconstructing part of the aircraft as part of their probe.

The convoy of trucks left Ukraine last week and will on Tuesday drive past next of kin who wish to see the wreckage arrive at the base, the OVV said on Monday.

“The arrival of the wreckage at the air force base will not be of a ceremonial character and those attending will not be permitted to be present during the opening or unloading of the trucks,” it said.

The wreckage will be photographed, scanned and categorized before being reconstructed in a hanger.

The reconstruction will be closed to the public, although next of kin will be allowed to see it if they wish.

A preliminary report in September said that the plane “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”

A Dutch-led investigation team has so far identified 292 of the dead, but six victims remained unidentified as recovery work at the crash site shut down for the winter.

Agence France-Presse
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Judge bans cellphone taxi service Uber in Spain

Yahoo – AFP, 9 Dec 2014

A judge on Tuesday banned the popular US cellphone-based taxi service Uber from operating in Spain, court officials said, following similar attempted moves in several other countries.

Drivers hired for rides via the application "lack the administrative authorisation to carry out the job, and the activity they carry out constitutes unfair competition," the court services said.

The ruling was a "cautionary measure" adopted while the court examines a case brought by the Madrid Taxi Association, the service said in a statement.

The court also ordered telecom companies and payment service providers to block Uber, which calls taxis and processes payments via a mobile telephone application.

Founded in 2009 in California, Uber is best known for its smartphone app that connects passengers with local drivers. Uber charges a commission for each ride.

The company said last week it was valued at $40 billion (32 billion euros), twice what it was worth six months ago. It is now present in more than 200 cities across 45 countries.

Dutch judges on Monday banned one of Uber's services, UberPOP, from taking bookings via its smartphone app and threatened the company with fines of up to 100,000 euros ($123,000), saying unlicensed drivers were breaking the law.

A defiant Uber reacted in a statement by saying it "will continue to offer UberPOP."

Monday's decision "is simply the first step in a long-running judicial battle," the San Francisco-based company added.

A court in Paris is due to decide on Friday whether Uber's services constitute unfair competition to traditional taxi drivers.

Authorities in Denmark and Norway have also filed complaints against Uber.

In Germany, a court in Frankfurt threw out an injunction against Uber in September. Uber was able to resume operating legally in Germany pending a final ruling on a complaint by the taxi federation.

The city government in New Delhi on Monday banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape.

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Korean Air CEO's daughter resigns over 'nut rage' row

Yahoo – AFP, December 10, 2014

Korean Air apologises over VP's nuts incident

Seoul (AFP) - The daughter of Korean Air's CEO resigned Tuesday after being widely criticised for having the chief purser kicked off a plane because of the way she had been served some nuts.

Cho Hyun-Ah, a top executive in Korean Air's in-flight service, forced the New York-Seoul flight to return to its gate last Friday to remove the most senior member of the crew, causing the plane to be delayed.

Her behaviour attracted heavy criticism in South Korea, where she was accused of being petty and arrogant, and even prompted a state probe over a possible breach of aviation safety laws.

"I feel so sorry for our customers and South Koreans for causing such trouble... and seek forgiveness from the people who might have been hurt by me," Cho, 40, said in a statement released by Korean Air.

"I will resign from all my posts at Korean Air to take responsibility for the incident," she was quoted as saying.

Korean Air CEO Cho Yang-Ho immediately accepted her resignation, according to the statement.

Korean Air's spokesman told AFP that Cho would retain the title of vice president even though she no longer had any official role in the company, adding it was not clear whether she would hold any responsibilities in the future.

The Seoul flight had just left its gate at New York's JFK airport on Friday when the incident occurred.

Cho, sitting in first class, took exception to the arrival of some macadamia nuts she had not asked for, and to the fact that they were served in a packet rather than a bowl.

She summoned the chief purser who, according to an earlier Korean Air statement, replied with "lies and excuses" when challenged over his crew's knowledge of in-flight service procedures.

Cho then decided the chief purser was "incapable" and the plane returned to the gate where he disembarked, causing an 11-minute delay in arrival.

Korean Air -- South Korea's flag carrier -- earlier apologised for causing "inconvenience" for passengers but defended Cho's action as a "reasonable" move to improve in-flight service.

It also argued that the final decision to deplane the employee was taken by the captain.

Transport Minister Suh Seoung-Hwan said earlier Tuesday the incident was being investigated and any regulatory breach would be "handled sternly".

'Ugly behaviour'

The media backlash against Cho has been extensive.

"This ugly behaviour by the Korean Air boss's daughter puts the entire nation to shame," Seoul's top business daily, the Maeil Business Newspaper, said in an editorial.

"This is a global embarrassment for South Korea... Korean Air should punish Cho, and she should apologise to the public for disregarding passengers' safety," it said.

The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said Cho's action had exposed the "sense of entitlement and supercilious attitude" prevalent among the rich.

"Apparently some members of owner families like Cho see their companies like their own kingdom," it added.

Cho, one of the CEO's three children, joined Korean Air in 1999 and was promoted to vice president this year.

A major Seoul civic group joined the fray, saying it would ask prosecutors to investigate Cho for a potential breach of aviation safety laws and disruption of business.

"Given the suffering of the cabin crew who were subject to such insult and abuse... the prosecutors should launch an investigation immediately to prevent similar abuse by high-level company executives in the future," People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said in a statement.

A formal request for the probe would be filed Wednesday, it added.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jokowi: Papua Railway Development to Start in 2015

Jakarta Globe, Ezra Sihite, Dec 08, 2014

A railroad under construction in East Jakarta on Dec. 3, 2014. (Antara
Photo/Irene Renata)

Jakarta. The government will start building a railroad network in Papua next year, President Joko Widodo promised on Monday.

“The railway development in Papua will start next year. We want the provincial development agency to support us so the development can start as soon as possible,” Joko said on Monday during a teleconference with district heads and governors from Papua and Maluku, both in the east of the country. “We want the railways to reach higher areas in Papua.”

A preliminary study is set to be concluded in six months and building can start immediately afterward, the president said, adding that old railways in Biak that are no longer in use will also be reactivated from next year.

Besides railways, Joko wants to revamp the roads in the outlying parts of the country as well.

“We want the railway development to start immediately,” he said. “It’s time the eastern part of Indonesia receives more attention from the central government. We want to start developing together, maintain the unity [of the nation], and manage our border areas.”

Zero Motorcycles’ Electric Bikes to Hit Indonesia’s Roads Next Year

Jakarta Globe, Carla Isati Octama, Dec 08, 2014

A screen grab from Zero Motorcycles' website.

Jakarta. Garansindo Inter Global, the local distributor of Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler cars, will start selling Zero Motorcycles’ electric bikes made in the United States by June next year, marking its first step into Indonesia’s zero-emissions vehicle market.

The company also plans to assemble and sell the Vmoto, a cheap electric bike from Australia, in the second half of next year, Garansindo’s chief executive, Muhammad Al Abdullah, said on Monday.

“We are eyeing to market the electric motorcycle in 2015, because we see Indonesia is a growing market for this vehicle,” Abdullah said.

Santa Cruz-based Zero Motorcycles has been producing electric motornbikes, whose performance is on par with their internal combustion peers, since 2006. Zero SR, the company’s latest model, can travel up to 298 kilometers in the city and accelerate from standstill to 100 kilometers per hour in just 3.3 seconds.

Abdullah said the Zero bikes would sell for between Rp 170 million and Rp 200 million ($13,770 to $16,200) in Indonesia, a tag that limits the market to enthusiasts.

For the mass market, Garansindo will assemble and sell Vmoto in the second semester. Each will fetch around Rp 12 million, Abdullah said. That price would be competitive with the scooters that many Indonesians use daily.

“We plan in the future to produce [Vmoto] in Indonesia, but we will do it in stages, starting with [assembling] the completely knocked-down kits,” Abdullah said.

Panggah Susanto, the director general for high-tech manufacturing at the Industry Ministry, said government backed Garansindo’s plan to establish a domestic plant, but did not elaborate on the form such support might take.

Motorcycles are still the most popular mode of transport in Indonesia, with an estimated eight million new bikes expected to leave showroom floors this year.

Dutch court upholds ban on Uberpop – not a carpooling app, judges say

DutchNews.nl, December 8, 2014

Taxi app Uberpop, which allows private individuals to operate as taxis, remains banned in the Netherlands, the company appeal court said on Monday.

Uber was appealing against a lower court decision which said the app breaks current taxi licencing laws.

Uberpop allows anyone to register as a driver and offer taxi services. Four drivers in Amsterdam have already been fined €1,500 each for breaking the taxi law and face a further €10,000 fine if they do it again.

The court ruled that drivers are practising an ‘economic activity’ and there is no question that they are operating a carpooling system, as Uber claims.

In addition, because Uber claims 20% of the drivers’ earnings, it cannot simply be seen as a supplier of technology, the court said.

In a reaction, Uber said it would continue to operate its Uberpop service in the Netherlands pending a further appeal.

‘This ruling was made on the basis of an old law from 2000. Then there were no smartphones and other innovative ways of guaranteeing quality,’ the company said. ‘We will continue to offer Uberpop so as not to stop the renewal process we have set in motion.’ 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Delhi city govt bans Uber after alleged rape

Yahoo – AFP, 8 Dec 2014

Uber has been banned from operating in New Delhi with immediate effect and
the company will be blacklisted from providing any future transport services (AFP)

The Delhi city government on Monday banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape, dealing a fresh blow to the reputation of the online taxi service.

Uber is banned from operating in the capital with immediate effect and the company will be blacklisted from providing transport services in future, a government statement said.

"(The) Transport Department has banned all activities relating to providing any transport service by the www.Uber.com with immediate effect," it said.

Friday's alleged attack on the woman has dealt a major blow to the reputation of the company, which claims to put passengers' safety first.

Local media reports say it failed to do a background check on the driver, who faced a separate rape allegation in 2011 and was acquitted the following year.

The 32-year-old man will appear in court on Monday after police tracked him down and arrested him on Sunday in his native Uttar Pradesh state, where he had fled.

Special commissioner Deepak Mishra, said Sunday that early investigations showed GPS had not been installed in the taxi and police background checks were not conducted on the driver.

However Uber said it had complied with city regulations. Background checks are "currently absent in (Delhi's) commercial transportation licensing programmes," chief executive Travis Kalanick said in a statement.

"What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific. Our entire team's hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime," the statement added.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Orion test marks 'milestone' for US space program: NASA

Yahoo – AFP, Kerry Sheridan, 5 Dec 2014

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying NASA's first Orion deep
 space exploration craft takes off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 5,
2014 (AFP Photo/Joe Raedle)

Cape Canaveral (AFP) - The US space agency's Orion capsule made a flawless first test flight on Friday, in what NASA called a "significant milestone" in the years-long journey to Mars.

The unmanned spacecraft soared into space at 7:05 am (1205 GMT) atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that rumbled and roared as it climbed into the pastel skies over the Florida coast at sunrise, leaving a plume of smoke in its wake.

"It was just a blast to see how well the rocket did," said Orion program manager Mark Geyer, after technical issues with the rocket and wind gusts delayed the first launch attempt Thursday.

"Being near a launch -- a rocket that big -- you can feel it."

The four-and-a-half hour flight was "picture-perfect" and "a significant milestone for America's space program," said NASA commentator Rob Navias.

It tested crucial systems like the heat shield and parachute splashdown. NASA engineers will carefully study the data it collected in the days and weeks to come to see how the capsule withstood the stress of space flight.

Peak height

The spacecraft made two loops around the Earth smoothly, first orbiting about as high as the International Space Station, which circles at an altitude of about 270 miles (430 kilometers).

Halfway through the flight, a second stage engine burn went ahead as planned, to propel the spacecraft higher than any vessel meant to carry people since the Apollo 17 moon mission in 1972.

About three hours into the flight, at 10:11 am (1511 GMT), the spacecraft reached its peak height of 3,604 miles above the Earth.

Four hours 24 minutes after launch, the spacecraft floated back to Earth, aided by a trio of parachutes, before plunging into the waters 600 miles to the west of Baja California, to be retrieved by the US Navy.

An analysis of sophisticated sensors on the capsule should let NASA know how the heat shield performed and if the temperature inside remained survivable for a potential crew.

The spacecraft's exterior heated to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 Celsius) during its re-entry to Earth's atmosphere at a velocity of 20,000 miles per hour.

Potential future missions for Orion, which can fit four people at a time, include a trip to lasso an asteroid and a journey to Mars by the 2030s.

"I think it's a big day for the world, for people who know and love space," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

NASA has already spent $9.1 billion on Orion and the powerful rocket meant to propel it with crew on board, the Space Launch System (SLS).

Another unmanned test flight is slated for 2018. The first Orion test flight with a crew on board is scheduled for 2021, when total costs are projected to reach $19 to $22 billion.

About $370 million dollars in equipment was at stake in Friday's launch.

NASA says the Orion launch has reinvigorated a manned exploration program that has been stagnant for more than three years since the last space shuttle carried a crew of astronauts to the International Space Station.

The 30-year shuttle program ended in 2011, leaving the United States no option but to pay Russia to carry astronauts on its Soyuz capsules at a cost of $71 million per seat.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Boeing’s Dreamliner Battery Fire Caused by Design, Probe Finds

Jakarta Globe, Alan Levin, Dec 02, 2014

A Boeing 767 plane casts a shadow above a bay near Arnhem Land, east of the city
of Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory July 15, 2013. (Reuters Photo/David Gray)

The battery fire that led to the grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner jets for more than three months last year was caused by inadequate design and testing, investigators concluded.

Boeing had certified that overheating in one cell of the lithium-ion battery couldn’t spread to others and the Federal Aviation Administration approved the design and testing. The National Transportation Safety Board faulted both in a final report for not anticipating how the power packs might fail, and cited battery maker GS Yuasa for poor manufacturing.

The findings bring to a close the probe into events that triggered the longest grounding of a large commercial aircraft by US regulators since jets were introduced in the 1950s. It also prompted a re-examination of the dangers of lithium-ion power packs that have helped drive advances in personal electronic devices and electric cars.

“That’s the new technology that requires time for the industry to get on board to manage safety appropriately,” said Dan Doughty, a battery testing consultant in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa said it will decide on how to respond after examining the report, spokesman Hiroharu Nakano said by phone. Shares in the company fell 2.3 percent to 556 yen as of 9:54 a.m. in Tokyo, extending this year’s decline to 8.1 percent.

The fire occurred Jan. 7, 2013, while a Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner sat at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Boeing uses two lithium-ion batteries in the Dreamliner to power electronics and other equipment. A short circuit in one of the battery’s eight cells triggered a runaway failure that engulfed the entire power pack, the NTSB said.

Overheating cells

“The investigation identified deficiencies in the design and certification processes that should have prevented an outcome like this,” NTSB acting Chairman Christopher Hart said in an e-mailed statement. “Fortunately, this incident occurred while the airplane was on the ground and with firefighters immediately available.”

The incident resulted from Boeing’s failure to understand how the batteries would fail and the inability of FAA inspectors to recognize those deficiencies, the NTSB concluded.

The NTSB issued 16 new recommendations calling on the FAA to tighten its watch over new technology and improve guidance to its inspectors. It also asked Boeing to improve oversight of subcontractors and revise how it conducts safety assessments.

The FAA, in an e-mailed statement, said it has already implemented many of NTSB’s battery recommendations and will evaluate the latest ones. The Boston fire “was a significant event that helped the FAA and the industry to better understand installed lithium-ion batteries in aircraft design and operations,” the agency said.

Boeing’s redesign

Boeing agrees with the findings that a short circuit triggered the failure and spread to other cells, Doug Alder, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Boeing has already redesigned the battery to include more protection around the cells to contain overheating, a steel case to prevent any fire from spreading and a tube that vents fumes outside the fuselage.

“We remain confident in the comprehensive improvements made to the 787 battery system following this event, and in the overall performance of the battery system and the safety of the airplane,” Alder said.

Even with those measures, the NTSB said its testing found the large lithium-ion batteries were vulnerable to failure. Cells may overheat when large amounts of power are being drawn and better protections should be installed, the NTSB said.

Contamination risk

The battery tested for possible failure by GS Yuasa wasn’t the same as the ones installed on the Dreamliner fleet and the  tests didn’t anticipate the most severe conditions seen in service, the investigation found.

An inspection of GS Yuasa’s manufacturing plant by the NTSB found evidence that foreign debris was allowed to contaminate batteries, “which could lead to internal short circuiting.”

GS Yuasa continues to believe “in the quality and safety of our batteries, our state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and our highly skilled and trained employees,” Kenneth Quinn, a lawyer in Washington who represents the Kyoto, Japan-based company, said in an e-mail.

The NTSB’s findings are part of the growing pains of the battery industry as it tries to improve quality and reduce risks from lithium-based products, Doughty said.

Boeing’s new 787 battery case are similar to how risks are controlled in other applications, said Doughty, who is helping the National Aeronautics and Space Administration develop safety measures for astronauts.

Supply chain

Japanese investigators reached similar conclusions as the NTSB while probing another battery incident that occurred during a flight and forced an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport on Jan. 16, 2013. The Japan Transport Safety Board found in a Sept. 25 report an internal short-circuit “was probably” at fault though it was impossible to say what prompted it.

The 2013 battery failures came as Boeing struggled to move past the design and production miscues that plagued development of the Dreamliner, the Chicago-based planemaker’s first all-new jet of the century. The 787 entered the market 3 1/2 years behind schedule in 2011, slowed by issues ranging from an in-flight electrical fire to shortages of titanium fasteners.

The negative publicity has died away this year as Boeing reached a steadier production tempo. Boeing had delivered 207 Dreamliners to 23 customers as of Nov. 19, its website shows.

Rigorous review

While supplier issues helped lead to Dreamliner delays and the battery design, Boeing has revamped how it does business, Howard Rubel, an analyst at Jefferies LLC, said in an interview.

“The supply chain management at Boeing today is more rigorous than it’s ever been,” Rubel said.

The Dreamliner was the first commercial jetliner built with a carbon-fiber air frame instead of aluminum and uses more electricity than earlier models to produce efficiency gains. A division of France’s Thales SA was contracted by Boeing to design the electrical system. Giaime Porcu, a spokesman for Thales, declined to comment in an interview.

As part of that design, Boeing installed two lithium-ion batteries, which hold more energy and last longer than older technology. Those factors also make them potentially more dangerous because they are made with flammable chemicals and contain enough energy to self-ignite if they malfunction.

They have been linked to other aviation incidents and accidents. A smaller lithium-ion battery used to power an emergency-locator beacon caught fire on a 787 on the ground in London on July 12, 2013.

Testing errors

Boeing had estimated that the chances of a single cell on one of its 787 batteries failing and venting flammable chemicals was one in 10 million. When the second failure occurred in Japan, the aircraft had flown just 52,000 hours, according to the NTSB.

This miscalculation was part of a cascading series of failures in the design and certification process, the safety board concluded.

Boeing didn’t even consider the potential for a single cell overheating and igniting adjoining cells, according to the report.

The FAA didn’t give its inspectors sufficient guidance on overseeing the battery design and the agency lacked expertise, according to the NTSB.

The safety board has no regulatory authority and must rely on non-biding recommendations to improve safety.

An FAA review of the Dreamliner’s certification concluded the plane was safe and the agency had processes in place to identify and correct issues that emerged after its certification.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Uber Taxi Service Ruled Illegal in Vietnam Following Complaints

Jakarta Globe, Bloomberg, Dec 02, 2014

The Uber App is shown in this Feb. 14, 2013, file photo
in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

Uber Technologies, the online car-booking company that competes with traditional cab services, faces a roadblock in Vietnam after the government said its taxi service is illegal.

The mobile application-based service has no legitimacy to operate as a cab provider, the Vietnamese government said on its website, citing the country’s Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Hong Truong. The government’s decision came after the Ho Chi Minh City Taxi Business Association complained about Uber’s cab operations. It isn’t clear by when Uber, which officially started operating there on July 31, has to cease operations.

Evelyn Tay, Uber’s head of communications for the Asia-Pacific region in Singapore, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment. The Vietnam Transport Ministry also didn’t immediately reply to faxed questions.

The setback in Vietnam is the latest for the San Francisco-based company in Southeast Asia after Thailand said it will fine drivers using private cars to provide commercial services and warned users against the app. That could dent Uber’s global expansion plans that underpin a valuation of the company of as much as $40 billion, making it worth more than Twitter or Hertz Global Holdings.

Uber, which has started operations in more than 200 cities since its founding in 2009, faces legal battles in countries including Germany amid complaints about unfair competition and lack of customer safety.

The city of Oslo reported the company to the police for lacking permits to operate there, and Toronto has also asked a court to shut down Uber.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Solar cycle paths – the way forward?

DutchNews.nl, November 27, 2014

A magical cycle ride. Photo: Studio Roosegaarde

Last week, the world’s first solar cycle paths were opened in Holland: ‘Starry Night’ near Eindhoven and SolaRoad in Krommenie. The cycle paths use two entirely different technologies to generate solar energy, but are solar cycle paths a crazy idea or the way forward? asks Holland-Cycling.com’s Hilary Staples.

Starry Night near Eindhoven is both a functional cycle path and a work of art by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. It’s inspired by a painting by Vincent van Gogh. The opening of the cycle path marks the start of the celebrations for the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death in 2015.

The glow-in-the-dark cycle path uses light-emitting techniques: light stones are charged during the day and emit light during the evening. This not only lights up the cycle path, but also creates the impression of cycling through Van Gogh’s eponymous painting.

Smart fun

The Starry Night cycle path received a lot of attention from media all over the world. Most people love the project: ‘Beautiful. Technology making the present both futuristic and magical. Should embrace more of this to make life just a little bit more special,’ writers said. However, one sceptic is a bit confused by the concept: ‘I just don’t see the reasonable application.’

Obviously the Starry Night cycle path is meant as a bit of fun, but it’s also intended as a way to generate publicity for a serious, energy saving application, the Smart Highway: interactive road markings powered by solar energy that light the roads (no more street lights!) and increase road safety.


SolaRoad in the village of Krommenie is a pilot project testing the practicality and cost efficiency of embedding solar panels into a cycle path. The path is to generate energy that can power anything from street lights or traffic lights to electric cars or houses.

The experimental cycle path is made up of rows of solar cells, encased in concrete blocks. The road surface consists of a one centimetre thick translucent layer of tempered glass which is said to meet all (safety) requirements. A non-adhesive finish and a slight tilt so the rain can wash off dirt keep the solar panels clean so they can work as efficiently as possible. The path is now 70 metres in length, but will be extended to 100 metres in 2016.

Cycling over the solar road north of Amsterdam. Photo: SolaRoad

The developer of the solar bike path concept, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, sees great potential in the idea. They say there are only enough roofs suitable for solar panels to meet 25% of the demand for electricity in Holland. With SolaRoad, up to 20% of the 140,000 km of road in Holland could potentially be used to harvest solar energy.

‘It could mean a breakthrough in the production of sustainable energy.’ The cycle path in Krommenie is expected to generate between 50 and 70 kWh per m2 per year. This would be enough to power three households. The cycle path, which cost an impressive €3m, has been financed by the local government and Dutch companies who believe the project has economical potential.

More sustainable

The idea of using existing road infrastructure to generate solar energy is not new. Holland already has solar panels on street lights, sound barriers and sides of bridges. In a small and densely populated country efficient use of space is simply a must. The idea is now also catching on across the globe.

The Dutch media and public, who are usually very quick to voice any criticism, are overall optimistic. They hope ‘cycling is to become even more sustainable’ and are waiting for the test results to see whether the concept works.

Heated debate

Outside Holland, the response has been sceptical if not outraged. British newspaper The Guardian wrote a positive piece about the experimental cycle path, but pointed out that ‘since the path cannot be adjusted to the position of the sun, the panels produce roughly 30% less energy than those fixed on the roofs.’ This triggered a heated debate as to whether roads are the best location for solar panels.

The main concerns are the inefficiency of the solar panels on a road (due to their position, shade and dirt), the high production and maintenance costs, and the unsuitability of tempered glass as a safe road surface (dangerous, not durable and costly to replace). 

Roads need roofs

The strongest critic of the solar cycle path is Craig Morris of Renewables International, who hopes that people will quickly realise how terrible the idea is, so that the project will not be copied elsewhere.

‘I’ve been in the Netherlands, and I can tell you one thing – the roads need roofs. You should put a solar roof over a bike path, provide protection from the rain (most of the year) and the sun (a few days of a year), and actually generate a decent amount of electricity. Cyclists would not shade the panels, not as much dirt would build up on the panels if they are three metres up, and you would have a much less expensive, safer bike path underneath.’

His alternative is readily embraced by the sceptics. While it’s hard to disagree that, from an energy efficiency and economical point of view, covering cycle paths with a solar roof would probably be a better idea than a solar cycle path, Morris misses the point of the pilot: using existing infrastructure to generate energy.

Leaving aside the question whether we should build roofs over cycle paths in a country where it only rains 7% of the time (and the rain rarely comes down straight!), I can’t help but wonder how many cyclists would still be eager to come and explore Holland by bike if the whole countryside were covered by ribbons of solar roofs.

Way forward?

Are solar cycle paths the way forward? It’s good to explore new technology and if the solar cycle path in Krommenie contributes to the development of more efficient, durable and affordable solar panels, who could be against it? However, many people – including me – wonder whether solar cycle paths and roads are the most economically viable option. Even if every suitable road surface would be used, it still wouldn’t be enough to supply every Dutch household with electricity.

Surely we should focus on developing more efficient solar panels and place them in the best possible locations, to start with on roof tops. And if all our roof tops aren’t enough, shouldn’t we ask ourselves: what are we doing wrong?

One thing is clear: solar cycle paths are of no benefit to the people for whom the cycle paths are intended. Some cyclists worry that the investment in solar cycle paths will come out of the budget for cycle paths and have a negative effect on cycling infrastructure in Holland. That should never be the outcome of a project aimed at more sustainability. After all, cycling is the most energy-efficient mode of transport!

This article was first published on website Holland-Cycling.com.

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"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) - (Text version)

“... Japan

Let us talk for a moment about Japan, and then I'll close the day of messages. There are thousands of souls on my side of the veil and they're just fine, more than fine. We have spoken so often of what happens at the Wind of Birth. I told you, before they even came in, they saw the potential. I looked in their eyes. "You may not last long. You know that, don't you? You're coming into this planet and you may not be here very long. And the passing that you will have with your family will not be pleasant, if any ever are. Why would you come in anyway?" I want to tell you what they said. When a soul has the mind of God, it understands fully what generates peace and what generates energy shift. You can clearly see what generates what the planet needs the most when you are about to arrive. So they said, "We're going to be part of one of the biggest compassion events the planet has ever seen." One earthquake, one tsunami. All of those who left that day will change the earth forever. And it already has. It was the same for the last tsunami as well.

Every single one of them on my side of the veil is getting ready to come back. Many old souls were involved, and just for a moment, if they could give you any information, if they could talk to you right now, if they could speak your language and look into your eyes, they would thank you for your compassion for them and those who are left. And they would say, "Be with those family members who are still alive. Enter their hearts every day and give them peace and keep them from crying, because we're OK."

Nuclear Power Revealed

So let me tell you what else they did. They just showed you what's wrong with nuclear power. "Safe to the maximum," they said. "Our devices are strong and cannot fail." But they did. They are no match for Gaia.

It seems that for more than 20 years, every single time we sit in the chair and speak of electric power, we tell you that hundreds of thousands of tons of push/pull energy on a regular schedule is available to you. It is moon-driven, forever. It can make all of the electricity for all of the cities on your planet, no matter how much you use. There's no environmental impact at all. Use the power of the tides, the oceans, the waves in clever ways. Use them in a bigger way than any designer has ever put together yet, to power your cities. The largest cities on your planet are on the coasts, and that's where the power source is. Hydro is the answer. It's not dangerous. You've ignored it because it seems harder to engineer and it's not in a controlled environment. Yet, you've chosen to build one of the most complex and dangerous steam engines on Earth - nuclear power.

We also have indicated that all you have to do is dig down deep enough and the planet will give you heat. It's right below the surface, not too far away all the time. You'll have a Gaia steam engine that way, too. There's no danger at all and you don't have to dig that far. All you have to do is heat fluid, and there are some fluids that boil far faster than water. So we say it again and again. Maybe this will show you what's wrong with what you've been doing, and this will turn the attitudes of your science to create something so beautiful and so powerful for your grandchildren. Why do you think you were given the moon? Now you know.

This benevolent Universe gave you an astral body that allows the waters in your ocean to push and pull and push on the most regular schedule of anything you know of. Yet there you sit enjoying just looking at it instead of using it. It could be enormous, free energy forever, ready to be converted when you design the methods of capturing it. It's time.

So in closing, do you understand what you're seeing? You're seeing intelligent design, quantum energy and high consciousness. You are seeing changes in Human nature. You're seeing countries putting things together instead of separating. You are seeing those who don't want war and instead want peace, good schools for their children, safety in their streets and a say in their government. We told you it was going to happen this way. I want my partner to teach these things that I have said in his 3D lectures for awhile. Many won't be able to know these things otherwise.  …”