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.

QZ8501 (AirAsia)


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Uber’s Cheaper Service Called UberX to Start on Friday in Jakarta

Jakarta Globe, Vanesha Manuturi , Jan 29, 2015

The Uber smartphone app, used to book taxis using its service, is pictured over a
parking lot in the Indian capital New Delhi on Dec. 7, 2014. (AFP Photo/Tengku Bahar)

Jakarta. Uber Technologies, the San Francisco-based taxi booking app developer, is set to launch its low-cost service in Jakarta on Friday in its continued quest to conquer taxi services in Southeast Asia’s most populous nation.

“All over the world what we’ve seen is that people are looking to save money on things and transport is a very important people’s budgets. We’re proud to say that UberX will be the least expensive way to travel around Jakarta other than walking or buses,” said Michael Brown, the general manager for Southeast Asia, during a media briefing in Jakarta on Thursday.

The company claims the service called UberX to be 35 percent cheaper than its premium counterpart, Uber Black, which was the first service the firm offered in Indonesia last year. At its current rate, UberX charges riders at a base fare of Rp 3,000 (24 cents) per ride and an additional Rp 2,000 for every kilometer or Rp 300 per minute of waiting time.

Brown noted that the current rate excludes the typical 20 percent commission Uber generally charges, as the firm hopes to attract new customers. However, he didn’t disclose how long the commission-free promotional rate will last.

In comparison, Uber Black, which offer riders premium cars and a private driver, starts at Rp 7,000 and charges an additional Rp 2,850 per kilometer or Rp 500 per minute. Aside from Jakarta, the firm expanded its Uber Black service in Indonesia to Bali earlier this month, mostly covering the Seminyak area.

When asked about the threats of Uber service being banned from the DKI Jakarta government last year, Brown said that the company has been in touch with the government, as well local transportation organizations, to explain its business model to the Jakarta authorities.

The dialogue “has been very productive. The most important thing is that we’ve been able to explain our model — that we’re a tech company. We don’t own or operate any vehicles,” Brown said. “As the government understands that better, we’re making good headway.”

Still, it remains unclear whether the Google-backed company has obtained a particular operational license in Jakarta.

Uber — currently available in 277 cities across 53 countries — has faced resistance from many cab companies around the world. Its operations have even been banned in certain countries, such as in France and Spain.

Uber competes head to head in Indonesia with other technology companies including GrabTaxi, a taxi booking smartphone app from Malaysia, and Easy Taxi from Brazil. Local taxi operators, such as Blue Bird and Express Transindo Utama, the operator of Express taxi, have been improving their own booking app to compete.

Globe Asia

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paris mayor wants to ban polluting trucks, buses

Yahoo - AFP, 28 Jan 2015

Traffic clogs the rue de Rivoli in Paris on August 5, 2014. The mayor of Paris
 wants to ban polluting buses and trucks in the French capital from July (AFP Photo/
Fred Dufour)

Paris (AFP) - The mayor of Paris said she wants to ban polluting buses and trucks in the French capital from July to fight pollution in one of the world's most visited cities.

Paris has a relatively high population density and tourists are often surprised by the traffic levels in and around its historic sights.

The city also experiences periodic pollution spikes, forcing authorities to impose temporary speed limits on motorists, make public transport free and even ban vehicles from running on certain days.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, seen here at
 the city hall of Paris on November 17, 2014,
 will formally submit her anti-pollution plan
next month (AFP Photo/Stephane de
"I want to ban the most polluting buses and heavy goods vehicles from July 1, 2015," Anne Hidalgo told Le Monde daily in an interview published Wednesday.

"And on July 1, 2016... this ban will extend to all of the most polluting vehicles," she said, adding that the area where the ban would be enacted was still under negotiation.

"I would like this ban to first apply to the whole of Paris, apart from the peripherique (ring road around the city) and the woods of Paris," she said.

Hidalgo is due next month to formally submit her anti-pollution plan for the city of more than two million people.

She has already announced she wants to ban all diesel vehicles by 2020, limit cars in the city centre, and extend zones where the speed limit is fixed at 30 kilometres (18 miles) an hour.

She also wants to double the amount of cycle lanes as part of a 100-million-euro ($113 million) bike development plan, and roll out a system of electric-powered bikes along the same lines as the city's popular velib temporary bike hire network.

Hidalgo said if her plan to ban polluting trucks and buses came to fruition, she planned to incentivise businesses to buy cleaner vehicles through financial aid and prime rate loans in a bid to avoid affecting deliveries in the city.

Related Articles:

Dubai now home to world's busiest international airport

Dubai International handled a record number of passengers last year, putting it ahead of London's Heathrow for the first time as the planet's busiest international airport. Heathrow looks unlikely to win back the crown.

Deutsche Welle, 27 Jan 2015

FlyDubai plane landing at Dubai International

Dubai's airport operators said Tuesday that 70.5 million passengers streamed through the city's international airport in 2014, marking a 6-percent increase on last year.

The rapid growth put Dubai International squarely ahead of London Heathrow for the first time as the world's busiest international transport hub.

Dubai International pulled off the big gains despite having to redirect many flights to the Gulf city's second airport, Al Maktoum while it overhauled the hub's two side-by-side runways over the summer.

Rise of domestic carriers

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths predicted Dubai International would top its own record and handle 79 million passengers this year, saying it offered "more flights connecting more people to more destinations."

Dubai airport has been expanding fast thanks in part to the growth of hometown airline Emirates, and smaller budget carrier FlyDubai.

Both airlines and the city's airports are owned by the emirate's government, which has championed aviation as a central driver of the local economy.

While Dubai is now home to the busiest international aviation hub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, in the US, remains the world's busiest passenger airport overall.

hg/bk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dutch and Chinese governments sign aviation agreement

DutchNews.nl, January 27, 2015

The Dutch and Chinese governments on Tuesday signed an agreement to work together ‘more intensively’ in the aviation sector.

This is good news for the Dutch aviation industry, according to economic affairs minister Henk Kamp, who is on the second day of a trade mission to China.

‘Normally Dutch companies are in competition with Chinese companies in trying to do business in China,’ he told broadcaster Nos. ‘This will become easier with an agreement between the two governments.’

China has the fastest growing aviation sector in the world and its ambitions are big. Not only are Chinese airlines aiming to increase their fleet by 2,000 aircraft in the next 20 years, they are also developing their own aircraft, the Comac C919. They are also developing their know-how in space travel at a fast pace, Nos says.

The agreement creates opportunities for Dutch companies such as Fokker Elmo which makes electrical systems for aircraft. 

Military Pulls Out of AirAsia 8501 Recovery Effort

Jakarta Globe, Jan 27, 2015

The Indonesian Military (TNI) said on Tuesday that it plans to end its participation
 in AirAsia Flight QZ8501 recovery operations, a day after its attempt to raise the
 downed plane’s fuselage from the bottom of the Java Sea failed. The civilian search
 and rescue agency (Basarnas) said it may continue its efforts, which will be limited
without the Navy’s help. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. Indonesia’s military on Tuesday halted search and recovery efforts for an AirAsia passenger jet that crashed last month killing all 162 people on board, navy officials said.

“The operation has been ongoing for 30 days so the joint team has been pulled out,” Rear Adm. Widodo, head of the navy’s western fleet, told reporters. “We apologize to the families of the victims. We tried our best to look for the missing victims.”

The Airbus A320-200 vanished from radar screens on Dec. 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors. Seventy bodies have been recovered.

The flight recorders have also been retrieved and are being analyzed. Days of rough weather and poor visibility have hampered navy divers’ efforts to find more bodies and recover the fuselage of the plane. Widodo said no more victims had been found by divers involved in the search for the past two days.

Since Saturday, salvage teams have been using giant inflatable bags to try to raise the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200, which is lying in the sea at a depth of around 30 meters. At one point, they managed to lift the main body to the surface for two minutes before a sling holding it snapped.

Video showing images of the fuselage dragging against the military recovery boat’s deck, then ripping and tumbling back to the bottom of the sea, raised concern among observers that vital clues about what caused the crash may have been destroyed in the failed attempt to raise the fuselage.

The civilian National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said on Tuesday it may press on with the search for bodies. But its efforts will be hampered by the loss of the military’s large vessels and heavy recovery equipment.

“Perhaps we will do regular operations with help from fishermen and communities near the coast to find other victims,” said Tatang Zaenuddin, Basarnas’s deputy of operations. The agency will hold a news conference on Wednesday.

Imam Sampurno, who lost four family members on Flight QZ8501, none of whom has been found, said he was resigned to their fate. “We can only hope they will continue to search, but if it’s stopped there is nothing I can do about it. I am resigned to it,” he said.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) will submit its initial findings on the crash this week to the International Civil Aviation Organization. The preliminary report, which the ICAO requires within 30 days of an accident, will include “information on the plane, the number of passengers and other information like that,” NTSC investigator Suryanto said.

But it  will not include analysis from the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, both of which were recovered by divers from the bottom of the Java Sea.

Data from radar and the aircraft’s two “black box” flight recorders will provide investigators with a clearer picture of what occurred during the final minutes of the flight. But investigators say they have yet to start their analysis, as they have been compiling other data for the inquiry.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told a parliamentary hearing last week that, based on radar data, the plane had climbed faster than normal in its final minutes, and then stalled. Investigators have found no evidence of foul play.

The NTSC will hold an annual media conference this week on its work over the past year but it is not expected to discuss details of its investigation of the AirAsia crash, NTSC head Tatang Kurniadi said.  The final report on the crash, which will be made public, must be filed within a year.

Former Garuda Indonesia captain Shadrach M. Nababan, said that based on the crashed plane’s logbook data, the Airbus A320-200 serving AirAsia flight QZ8501 had experienced problems with its auto rudder trim limiter as many as nine times in 2014, as reported by Tempo.co. Three days before crashing on December 25, 2014, flight QZ8501 was forced to “return to apron” twice, according to Shadrach, although it is not clear if the reason for the plane’s forced return was related to rudder trim trouble.

Reuters & AFP

Monday, January 26, 2015

Private jet market hit by China's anti-graft campaign

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2015-01-26

A private jet in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, July 5, 2014. (File photo/CNS)

China's anti-corruption campaign has hurt the previously booming market for private jets, but the temporary setback may also lead to the more measured development of the sector, China Entrepreneur magazine reports.

China's private jet market has seen rapid growth since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and the Greater China region posted an annualized growth rate of 34% at the end of 2013 compared with the global rate of 5%, the magazine noted.

This rapid growth attracted different players to the business, including airline companies, leasing companies and other private enterprises. However, the government's crackdown on corruption has hit the private jet business, and it has become a game of endurance for companies that invested in the sector in terms of surviving in a race that initially offered profits similar to a gold rush, the report said.

"We all believe the market will rebound in the future but at the moment we need to wrap up to stay warm through the cold winter," said Jin Yao, president of Dream Jets, a company established in 2012 to operate chartered private jet services.

Xu Shaoyi, a venture capital fund investor who invested in Dream Jets, said the company had decided to focus on chartered services and consultation services for the purchase of private jets because of the heavy costs involved in buying and operating the aircraft independently. "The sector may be flourishing but it has not yet yielded returns. It is most important to avoid investing too much but rather to maintain a presence and accumulate experience," Xu said.

The government's introduction of stricter rules to curb the lavish spending of officials has led to the cancellation of existing orders of private jets by both state-owned and private companies. State-owned companies cancelled their orders in adherence to the government's rules, while private companies made the same decision since the private jets were meant to carry company executives and government officials, the magazine said.

Since the manifest of all private jet passengers must be submitted to the aviation authorities, no government official dares to take flights offered by private companies for fear of falling foul of the anti-graft drive, the magazine added.

However, Jin remains positive about the sector's future, saying that the current downturn may help eliminate the business' image of being a luxury service. "In the past, everyone bought irrationally. Many people only chose to buy the most expensive premium models," Jin said, noting that American companies generally start by buying secondhand planes rather than new.

While the government is also attempting to resolve the issues restricting the development of the business, which include a lagging infrastructure and the applications required before each flight, Dream Jets is exploring other opportunities.

"We want to become the Uber of private jets," Jin said, noting that a seat on a chartered private jet can be cheaper than a first-class ticket on international long-haul flight on some routes.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dutch to experiment with self-driving cars that cooperate with each other

DutchNews.nl, January 24, 2015

Ministers have approved the large-scale testing of self-driving cars and trucks on public roads in the Netherlands arguing the technology could cut jams, improve road safety and reduce pollution. 

The cabinet wants the Netherlands to take a ‘leading role’ in the development of self-driving cars and systems to allow vehicles to communicate with each other, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

Large scale testing is planned to start in the summer, if parliament approves changes to current legislation, a ministry spokeswoman told news agency AFP. 

Last November, infrastructure minister Melanie Schultz kicked off the first Dutch test on a public road. Testing is currently largely confined to private roads because of legal restrictions.

The Dutch system does not involve doing away with drivers altogether, but with getting cars to work together instead. 

‘Vehicles which communicate with each other and accelerate or break in unison will contribute to smoother traffic flow,’ the ministry statement said. ‘The vehicles can travel more closely together and use the available road space more efficiently.’ 

A number of companies and institutes have already expressed an interest in taking part in the trials, the ministry said. For example, the TNO research institute is working with DAF, Rotterdam’s port authority and the transport industry lobby group TLN to develop self-driving lorries. 

A number of other trials of self-driving cars are underway worldwide. Google, for example, is working on its own robot car project, unveiling a prototype at the end of last year.

Related Articles:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dutch fine Uber €10,000 for breaking taxi rules

DutchNews.nl, January 23, 2015

Photo: Uber.com
Taxi service Uber has been fined €10,000 by the Dutch transport ministry for continuing to operate its budget Uberpop service in the Netherlands, according to broadcaster RTLZ 

Uberpop helps private citizens to operate as taxi drivers, using their own cars and charging customers around half the rate of a normal taxi journey.

The Dutch company court said at the beginning of December Uber must stop the Uberpop service because it is illegal and threatened it with fines if it failed to comply.

So far five Uberpop drivers have also been fined for breaking taxi laws. Uber said earlier it would pick up their fines. The transport ministry fine is the first time the company itself has been hit. 

Uber, founded in 2009, is reported to have raised an additional $1.6 billion in convertible debt last week. The company operates in 277 cities in 54 countries and has said it is opening in a new town every other day.

Related Articles:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Divers Recover Six More Bodies From AirAsia Wreckage

Jakarta Globe, Suara Pembaruan & Agencies, 22, 2015

Indonesian rescuers recovered six more bodies from the wreckage of AirAsia
 Flight QZ8501 on Thursday. A total of 59 bodies have so far been recovered.
(Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Jakarta. Indonesian searchers on Thursday recovered six more bodies from the wreckage of the Indonesia AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month, killing all 162 people onboard.

Divers found the six victims, some of whom were still strapped into their seats, trapped under plane debris not far from the jet’s fuselage, authorities said.

“We have found six bodies, four of whom were females and two males, all adults,” said S.B. Supriyadi, an official from Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).

Identity cards, driving licenses and bank cards were found inside some of the victims’ pockets, Supriyadi said.

The victims were evacuated from the search site in the Karimata Strait to nearby Pangkalan Bun on Kalimantan for identification.

Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control midway through its flight from Surabaya to Singapore on Dec. 28. There were no survivors.

A total of 59 bodies have so far been recovered, as well as the plane’s two black boxes.

Indonesian military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya said searchers were aided by fine weather on Thursday, but accessing the plane’s fuselage — where more victims are believe to be trapped — is proving difficult.

One of eight mooring buoys installed to locate the main part of the Airbus A320 has been lost, Fuad said.

“Today the divers had been swimming around the location but could not find the plane’s body,” he said.

The cause of AirAsia‘s first fatal crash is not yet known, though investigators have ruled out foul play.

Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan on Tuesday told a parliamentary hearing that radar data showed the plane had climbed faster than normal in its final minutes, and then stalled.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

AirAsia Jet’s Alarms ‘Screaming’ Before Crash: Investigator

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Jan 21, 2015

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed in shallow waters with 162 people on board,
but so far just 53 bodies have been recovered. (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

Jakarta. Warning alarms in AirAsia Flight QZ8501 were “screaming” as the pilots desperately tried to stabilize the plane just before it plunged into the Java Sea last month, a crash investigator said on Wednesday.

The noise of several alarms — including one that indicated the plane was stalling — can be heard going off in recordings from the black box in the Airbus A320-200′s cockpit, the investigator told AFP, requesting anonymity.

“The warning alarms, we can say, were screaming, while in the background they [the pilot and co-pilot] were busy trying to recover,” the investigator said, adding the warnings were going off “for some time.”

The investigator, from Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), added that the pilots’ voices were drowned out by the sound of the alarms.

The revelation came a day after Indonesian Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said that the plane had climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea, during a flight on Dec. 28 in stormy weather from Surabaya to Singapore.

“In the final minutes, the plane climbed at a speed which was beyond normal,” the minister told reporters.

The plane crashed in shallow waters with 162 people on board, but so far just 53 bodies have been recovered.

Divers have been struggling for a week against rough seas and strong currents to reach the plane’s main body, which was spotted on the seabed and is thought to contain the bulk of the remaining passengers and crew.

The two black boxes — the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder — were recovered last week after a lengthy search, and investigators are expected to complete a preliminary report next week.

As well as the cockpit voice recorder, the NTSC is examining a wealth of information in the flight data recorder, which monitors every major part of the plane.

They are focusing on the possibility of human or aircraft error, after ruling out terrorism following an analysis of the cockpit voice recorder.

Committee head Tatang Kurniadi said that the preliminary report into the crash would be completed on Tuesday, a month after the accident. He said the full report would not be released publicly but the media would be told some of its contents.

There was a huge international hunt for the crashed plane, involving ships from several countries including the US and China.

All but seven of those on board the flight were Indonesian. The foreign nationals were from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and France.

Agence France-Presse

AirAsia flight QZ8501: Plane climbed at speed 'beyond normal' then stalled, minister says

The Strait Times - AFP, Jan 20, 2015

A rescue team member walks near part of the fuselage of crashed AirAsia Flight
 QZ8501 inside a storage facility at Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun on Jan 19, 2015.
 An AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month with 162 people on board
 climbed at a speed that was "beyond normal" and then stalled, the Indonesian
transport minister said on Tuesday. -- Photo Reuters

JAKARTA (AFP) - An AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month with 162 people on board climbed faster than normal and then stalled, the Indonesian transport minister said Tuesday.

Flight QZ8501 went down on Dec 28 in stormy weather, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Indonesia’s meteorological agency has said bad weather may have caused the crash, and investigators are analysing the data from the jet’s black boxes before releasing a preliminary report.

Just moments before the plane disappeared off the radar, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid the storm. He was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic.

“In the final minutes, the plane climbed at a speed which was beyond normal,” Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters, citing radar data.

“The plane suddenly went up at a speed above the normal limit that it was able to climb to. Then it stalled.”

Earlier at a parliamentary hearing, he said radar data showed the Airbus A320-200 appeared at one point to be climbing at a rate of 1,800m (6,000ft) a minute before the crash.

There were several other planes in the area at the time.

“I think it is rare even for a fighter jet to be able to climb 6,000 feet per minute,” he said.

“For a commercial flight, climbing around 1,000 to 2,000 (feet) is maybe already considered extraordinary, because it is not meant to climb that fast.”

However, defence aviation experts said the minister’s statement was incorrect, adding that a fighter jet flying at an altitude of 10,000m is capable of climbing 10,000 feet per minute.


The minister’s comments came after Indonesian investigators said they were focusing on the possibility of human error or problems with the plane having caused the crash, following an initial analysis of the cockpit voice recorder.

“We didn’t hear any other person, no explosion,” investigator Nurcahyo Utomo told reporters, explaining why terrorism had been ruled out.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Committee were now looking at the “possibility of plane damage and human factors", he said, without giving further details.

As well as the cockpit voice recorder, the committee is also examining a wealth of information in the flight data recorder, which monitors every major part of the plane.

A preliminary report will be released on Jan 28.

There was a huge international hunt for the crashed plane, involving ships from several countries including the US and China.

Indonesian search and rescue teams have so far recovered just 53 bodies from the sea.

But last week a Singapore navy ship located the jet’s main body, with the AirAsia motto “Now Everyone Can Fly” painted on the side.

Rescue teams hope they will be able to find many of the passengers and crew inside.

However, divers have not succeeded in reaching the fuselage despite several attempts due to bad weather, high waves and strong underwater currents.

All but seven of those on board the flight were Indonesian. The foreign nationals were from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and France.

Solar plane set for landmark round-the-world flight

Yahoo – AFP, Wissam Keyrouz, 20 Jan 2015

Emirati men stand near the Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered plane to be able
 to fly for several days and nights, on January 20, 2015 at an Abu Dhabi airport, on
the sidelines of the eighth edition of the World Future Energy Summit (AFP)

A plane with the top speed of a homing pigeon is set to embark on a landmark round-the-world flight powered only by the sun's energy, organisers said Tuesday.

Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered plane to be able to fly for several days and nights, will land 12 times along its roughly 35,000 kilometre (22,000 mile) trip -- including a five-day stretch above the Pacific Ocean without a drop of fuel.

"We want to demonstrate that clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible," said Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard, the scion of a dynasty of Swiss scientists-cum-adventurers.

The Cockpit element of the solar-powered
 plane the Solar Impulse 2 is loaded to 
Cargolux Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on
January 5, 2015 at Payerne airport
"Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together we can help save our planet's natural resources."

The plane's route was unveiled Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, where it will begin the journey in late February or early March.

It will first stop at Muscat in Oman, to benefit from the Gulf's low-cloud conditions, before crossing the Arabian Sea to India and heading on to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York.

Landings are also earmarked for the midwestern United States and either southern Europe or north Africa, depending on weather conditions.

The longest single leg will see a pilot fly the plane non-stop for five days and nights across the Pacific between Nanjing in China and Hawaii -- a distance of 8,500 kilometres.

It will take around 25 days of total flying time for Si2 to complete its round-the-world journey.

'Virtually unlimited autonomy'

Although groundbreaking in distance, the trip will not be undertaken at a lightning pace.

With flight speeds of 50-100 kilometres (30-60 miles) per hour, the entire round-the-world journey is expected to take five months to complete.

The plane is the successor of Solar Impulse, a pioneering craft which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.

This year's flight marks the culmination of 12 years of research and testing, organisers say.

Si2, whose makers claim it is the most energy efficient aircraft ever built, has a wider wingspan than a Boeing 747 but, thanks to its innovative design, weighs about as much as a family 4x4.

The Cockpit element of the solar-powered plane the Solar Impulse 2 is secured
 in place after being loaded to Cargolux Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on January 5,
2015 at Payerne airport

The carbon fibre, single seater plane has 17,249 solar cells built into its wings that will supply four electric motors and the rechargeable lithium batteries.

Speed at night will be limited to prevent the batteries from being run down too quickly.

Designers say the system gives Si2 "virtually unlimited autonomy".

Aviation enthusiasts will be able to watch a live video stream of the plane's progress once it sets off from Abu Dhabi on its pioneering voyage on the firm's website www.solarimpulse.com.

"Solar Impulse 2 must accomplish what no other plane in the history of aviation has achieved -- flying without fuel for five consecutive days and nights with only one pilot in the unpressurised cockpit," said Andre Borschberg, a former Swiss air force pilot and the company's co-founder and chief executive.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

App and use of hard shoulder to relieve traffic jams around Amsterdam

DutchNews.nl, January 19, 2015

Amsterdam is launching the pilot of an app on Monday that will help motorists to avoid traffic jams before they begin. 

The app ADAM is connected to traffic information systems of motoring organisation Rijkswaterstaat, Amsterdam council and the province of Noord-Holland, allowing motorists to see the quickest route to their destination, broadcaster Nos reports.

The app also allows governmental control rooms to steer motorists away from problems before traffic builds up. For instance, if there is an accident, motorists can be advised to take another route. Or where one lane is closed, some motorists can be rerouted while others drive straight on, ensuring that traffic does not back up.

The pilot will be deemed a success if motorists follow its advice, according to Patrick Potgraven of the Traffic information service. Of course, there is the risk that ‘know-it-all’ drivers will ignore the detours, he said. ‘That is the exciting thing. Will people follow the advice.’ 

If the app is successful, it will be introduced in other cities.

Hard shoulder 

Meanwhile, transport Melanie Schultz van Haegen has given the go-ahead to open the hard shoulder of the A7 and A8 motorways to traffic during rush hours, the Telegraaf says on Monday.

At the moment, traffic builds up long before the Coen tunnel into Amsterdam, but the minister hopes using the hard shoulder between Purmerend-South and Oostzaan during morning rush hour will free up traffic flows into the north of the city. 

In addition, the existing extra lane between Zaandam and Purmerend will begin before the junction Zaandam on the A8, allowing traffic to flow more smoothly in the evening rush hour.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Francis thrills in Philippines with 'jeepney' popemobile

Yahoo – AFP, 18 Jan 2015

Pope Francis waves to people as he leaves in his "popemobile" after attending
a mass at a park in Manila on January 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Giuseppe Cacace)

Manila (AFP) - Pope Francis made a triumphant entrance for a mass with millions in the Philippines on Sunday aboard a "popemobile" styled after the nation's iconic, flamboyant and much-loved "jeepney" minibus.

The pontiff, standing in the elevated open body of the uniquely Filipino version of his popemobile, travelled through the streets of the capital Manila for the main event of his five-day visit.

Wearing a thick plastic yellow poncho over his vestments, the 78-year-old pontiff smiled and waved to hundreds of thousands who had lined the route to the venue for the mass.

The rectangular vehicle with a distinctive giant grille repeatedly stopped so he could reach into the cheering masses and pick up babies to kiss and bless them.

The pope rode the jeepney popemobile to Rizal Park where millions had gathered to hear him celebrate mass, in one of the world's biggest papal gatherings.

The jeepneys are regarded by many Filipinos as a symbol of national ingenuity. Locals created them from surplus US military jeeps after American forces left at the end of World War II.

The bodies of the jeeps were extended, seats were added and a fixed roof put in place. The vehicles were then painted with colourful and Catholic designs.

They proved to be strong vehicles with decades-long lifespans, and can be seen ferrying people through city streets and animals on mountain roads.

However the diesel-powered vehicles are also one the nation's chief air pollution culprits.

Francis's jeepney was an all-white popemobile. It had no doors, after the pope told local organisers he did not want a bulletproof vehicle so he could reach out and touch his followers.

Pope Francis (top L) kisses a child as he arrives to celebrate a mass
at a park in Manila on January 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe)

Related Articles:

Pope Francis, wearing a plastic raincoat, waves to well-wishers after
a mass in Tacloban, on January 17, 2015 (AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Charging remains major challenge for Tesla in China

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2015-01-18

A Tesla car being charged in a station in Hangzhou's Dragon Hotel, Aug. 28,
2014. There are 12 power chargers at the hotel. (File photo/ CNS)

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk revealed on Jan. 13 weak sales in the fourth quarter in China due to concerns over charging its electric vehicles. As a result, the auto maker's share price dropped US$14 in a 6.85% fall at the close of trading on the same day.

Tesla attributed to the slowed sales to Chinese potential consumers' "misperceptions about the ease of charging" and that the company is working on clearing up the misconceptions by explaining "the ease and convenience of charging," reported US's Business Insider.

Tesla China told Tencent's tech news portal that sales in the fourth quarter were "not bad" but not as good as expected.

Not enough charging locations and the fact that the car maker's charging portal is incompatible with the new government-built charging network are holding Chinese buyers back, said Tencent.

Tesla continues to expand the charging network in China, said Tesla communications chief Ricardo Reyes. Over the last year, Tesla has expanded the number of service centers and charging stations in major Chinese cities. More than 800 charging stations in over 70 cities' malls and office buildings, and 52 supercharger stations in over 20 cities have been built.

The electric car maker additionally provides options for home chargers that could fill the battery overnight. Charging at a supercharger station takes 30 minutes to fill a car to run about 250 km, and a general charging location could charge at a speed between the previous two.

But this is far from enough, said Tencent. China does not yet have the long-distance charging networks seen on US highways. For a Chinese driver who wishes to go hundreds of kilometers from Beijing to Guangzhou, it would be rather time- and effort-consuming.

To make matters worse, the Tesla charging portal is incompatible with the specifics applied in the nationally-owned charging networks, which work for local electronic car brands. In January, a new charging network built by the government was launched in Beijing and Shanghai.

Tesla said as authorities revise the nation's standard specifics for charger portals, the car maker will make adjustments to their designs accordingly once the new regulations are announced.

Despite falling sales and customer anxiety about charging issues, Tencent said that Tesla still holds great hope for the Chinese market as the car maker looks to adjust the car based on feedback from the Chinese customers. For example, the height of seats has been slightly adjusted, and the cushions are stuffed with softer material to improve rider comfort.

Tesla sold more than 22 million cars in China in 2013, which accounted for over 25% of its global sales. The company's shares had gained 48% in 2014 but is down 13% this year.