TIME Aviation

Flights in Chicago Slowly Return to Normal After Control Center Fire

Flight Cancellations Continue At Chicago's O'Hare After Yesterday's Fire
The arrival and departure display at O'Hare International Airport shows a list of cancelled flights on Sept. 27, 2014 in Chicago. Scott Olson—Getty Images

More than 2,000 cancelled flights and delays

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it expects a Chicago-area air traffic control center to be fully operational in a couple weeks, after a fire there Friday led to thousands of canceled and delayed flights.

The fire at the air traffic control center in Aurora, Ill. led to more than 2,000 canceled flights on Friday at Midway and O’Hare airports. By Sunday, O’Hare Airport was about 60% operational while Midway was about 75% operational, according to the FAA, after Aurora-based traffic controllers relocated to facilities across the Midwest. Delays continued to persist on many flights.

The air-traffic controllers will continue to work at other facilities until the Chicago center is fully operational, which is expected to happen by Oct. 13

TIME Military

Military Pilots Enjoy National Parks, Too

They've got the right stuff when it comes to making a quick visit

If you’ve ever attended an air show, you know to expect the Navy’s Blue Angels or the Air Force’s Thunderbirds to suddenly roar overhead, hugging the Earth and delightedly scaring young and old alike.

It’s quite a different matter when you’re quietly communing with nature on the ridge of a canyon deep in Death Valley, and a pair of F-18s screams by—flying lower than you, down in the rocky gash.

That’s just what happens in this recently-posted YouTube video. It’s no surprise that the gobsmacked reaction of those on the ground (foul-language alert!) is just as much fun to witness as the F-18 Hornets themselves, which likely came from the nearby Navy’s China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station.

“If there is one thing in this world that can turn a fully grown man into an excited teenage girl,” one viewer enthused, “it’s the sound of two GE F404 engines tearing overhead.”

Such flights, by military and other aircraft, have long been a concern, both for environmental and safety reasons. While it may be exciting, is this the proper use for such a national treasure (in this case the park, not the jets)? You bet, according to the National Park Service, which oversees the 5,200 square-mile California park.

While the FAA urges civilian aircraft to fly no lower than 2,000 feet—and orders them to stay above 500 feet—such altitude restrictions don’t apply to military planes. That’s because much of Death Valley is part of the R-2508 military training complex. “Congress and the FAA have given the military authority to deviate from standard flight regulations in the training complex,” the park service says. Outside of Death Valley itself—which includes many valleys—“the military can fly to within 200 feet of the ground.”

The military services regulate flights over national parks (Air Force, Army), but those rules don’t always apply when the park is part of a military training range.

Military pilots will tell you that flying low amid terrain—to practice hiding from enemy radar—can be good training for possible real-world missions. But such flights—especially outside military ranges—carry risks. In 1998, a Marine EA-6B jet crew was schussing, too fast and too low, through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. It clipped a ski gondola cable and sent it plummeting more than 300 feet to the ground, killing all 20 aboard. “The aircraft,” the official investigation concluded, “flew lower and faster than authorized wherever the terrain permitted.”

The pilot and navigator were cleared of charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. They were later convicted of obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming an officer for destroying a videotape, perhaps resembling the one from Death Valley, made from the cockpit during the fatal flight through Alpine Valley.

TIME Aviation

More Pilots in Crashes Are on Drugs, Report Says

Toxicology reports over the last two decades show sharp increase drug use among pilots and in drug mixing as well

More pilots involved in airplane crashes are testing positive for drugs, according to an analysis of toxicology reports going back 20 years by the National Transportation Safety Board.

According to the draft report released Tuesday, in 1990 just 9.6% of pilots involved in crashes tested positive for one drug, compared to 39% in 2012. Drug mixing—which can be an especially dangerous and unpredictable way to consume drugs—has been on the rise as well.

The study crunched the numbers on toxicology reports from nearly 6,700 pilots who were killed in airplane crashes between 1990 and 2012. The study looked at the use of both legal and illegal drugs and found increases in the use of all drugs.

Alcohol was not considered in the study.

The most commonly used drug that can cause impairment was diphenhydramine, a sedative antihistamine used in cold medicine and other related applications. Few pilots tested positive for illegal drugs, the report says, but the percentage of pilots who tested positive for marijuana increased over the study period, mostly in the last 10 years.

Because the vast majority of airplane crashes involve non-commercial flights, more than 90% of the pilots tested were private pilots rather than commercial air carrier pilots.

TIME Aviation

Hunt for Missing Plane Takes New Course After 6 Months

Malaysia Plane
Flight officer Rayan Gharazeddine on board a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, scans for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in southern Indian Ocean, Australia, March 22, 2014. Rob Griffith—AP

Not since the American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared without a trace over the Pacific 77 years ago has there been a mystery like it.

And in so many respects the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 exactly six months ago today is a far more profound puzzle.

When Earhart went missing her plane was equipped with radio navigation systems, a Morse code receiver and a voice transmission system, all of which she used until her plane vanished into the sea. But this is rudimentary equipment compared to the highly sophisticated location devices on board the modern Malaysia Airlines jet…
TIME Iran

Plane Carrying U.S. Military Personnel Forced to Land in Iran

The State Department says the landing was the result of a "bureaucratic issue"

A charter plane carrying U.S. and allied military forces from Iraq to Dubai landed unexpectedly in Iran on Friday because of a “bureaucratic issue,” according to a senior State Department official.

“Contrary to press reports, this plane was not forced down by the Iranian military,” the official said. “The issue appears to have been resolved and hopefully the plane will be able to take off soon.”

The plane was carrying 100 Americans when Iranian military planes forced it to land in the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas, the Washington Post reports. Bandar Abbas is about a 40-minute flight from the plane’s original destination.

–Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

TIME Aviation

American Plane With Unresponsive Pilot Crashes Near Jamaica

The fighters broke away before the aircraft overflew Cuba

Updated Saturday 8:07 a.m.

An American aircraft whose pilot had stopped communicating with air traffic controllers for hours crashed near Jamaica on Friday, officials said.

Two people, owner and Rochester businessman Larry Glazer and his wife, Jane Glazer, were aboard the aircraft, their son said. The aircraft crashed about 14 miles off the coast of Jamaica, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The U.S. Coast Guard had launched a search and rescue operation Friday afternoon, and while some presumed the Glazers to be dead, their fate remained unclear to officials. Search teams will continue the search Saturday morning, CNN reports.

The aircraft, which departed Rochester, N.Y., en route to Florida on Friday morning, went unresponsive over the southwest Atlantic. U.S. military jets were dispatched by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to escort the aircraft, but the F-15s broke away before the aircraft overflew Cuba.

Those aboard the aircraft may have been suffering from hypoxia, NORAD said. Hypoxia can disable pilots and passengers aboard high-flying aircraft that lose cabin pressurization if they don’t engage supplemental oxygen systems before they’re rendered unconscious. Hypoxia can be fatal if supplemental oxygen isn’t administered quickly. Even if the pilot was disabled, the aircraft’s autopilot system may have continued flying on the last heading the pilot set. The F-15 pilots were able to see the smaller plane’s pilot slumped over, officials told CNN.

N900KN’s last heading change before flying over the ocean was a turn over North Carolina. It then proceeded on a straight path towards Cuba, according to data from flight tracking service FlightAware. It flew over Cuba, then proceeded towards Jamaica over the Caribbean Sea, where it likely ran out of fuel before crashing.

TIME Australia

A Check-in Error Caused Takeoff Problems for Qantas Flight

Airline employees incorrectly registered 87 children as adult passengers, creating an imbalance in the aircraft’s weight distribution

A Perth-bound Qantas flight from Canberra had a close call earlier this year, with the pilot having to make a risky last-minute adjustment to get the aircraft off the ground.

A report released Wednesday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said that a problem was caused because a group of school children on the Boeing 737 had been checked in as adults and assigned the standard adult weight of 87 kg.

The children — comprising more than half of the flight’s 150 passengers — were all seated in the back of the aircraft, resulting in it becoming nose-heavy. This meant that the captain had to apply a significant amount of back pressure at takeoff, running the risk of the aircraft’s tail hitting the runway. The report states that he was also forced to exceed the calculated takeoff safety speed.

The rest of the flight went off without a hitch, but it was a tense few moments for the pilots. The ATSB later found that the final load sheet overstated the aircraft weight by 3.5 to 5 tons.

Qantas told the ATSB that it has issued a notification to check-in staff, reminding them to ensure that children are registered as children in the airline’s systems.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Airlines Asked for Travelers’ ‘Bucket Lists’ in Ill-Advised Contest

A member of ground crew works on a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 airplane on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang
A member of ground crew works on a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 airplane on the runway at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 25, 2014 Olivia Harris—Reuters

Would-be passengers in Australia and New Zealand were invited to share their bucket lists in hopes of winning a free ticket

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) launched a competition in Australia and New Zealand four days ago, according to media reports, in which it said it was giving away free economy-class tickets and free iPads.

The marketing ploy was to be expected from an airline still reeling from the twin tragedies of MH17 and MH370, but the competition name was bizarre: My Ultimate Bucket List.

Contestants had to explain “What and where would you like to tick off on your bucket list?”

The Merriam-Webster definition of bucket list is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.” The association is horrific, given that 537 people lost their lives flying on the airline this year.

The contest appears to have since been withdrawn, with the original competition link now leading to a 404 error page. A PDF of the competition terms and conditions could be found here at time of publication, but besides that there no longer appear to be details of the competition on the MAS site.

The launch of the competition was picked up in the Australian travel-industry press and even name-checked in British tabloid the Daily Mail. But perhaps MAS has since realized that asking prospective passengers to think up a bucket list before accepting a free ticket on one of its planes might be construed as macabre.

The airline can at least be grateful that online gaffes can be deleted. In 2003, the Hong Kong Tourism Board ran an ad promising would-be visitors that “Hong Kong will take your breath away.” At the time, SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — had killed about 100 people, mostly in Hong Kong and China. But the ad ran in British and European print magazines — and there was no time to change the slogan before the presses started to roll.

TIME Aviation

Malaysia Airlines to Cut 6,000 Staff in Overhaul

Malaysia Airlines announced the overhaul on Friday to revive its damaged brand, after double passenger-jet disasters

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysia Airlines will cut 6,000 workers as part of an overhaul announced Friday to revive its damaged brand after being hit by double passenger jet disasters.

The staff reduction represents about 30 percent of its current workforce of 20,000. A search for a new CEO for the airline is underway.

Khazanah Nasional, the state investment company that owns 69 percent of the airline, said the overhaul includes the establishment of a new company that will take over the existing Malaysia Airlines business and its reduced staff.

The revamp and new investment in the carrier will cost about 6 billion Malaysian ringgit ($1.9 billion).

“The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived,” said Khazanah managing director Azman Mokhtar.

The airline will be taken completely under the wing of the government. Khazanah previously announced that it plans to take 100 percent ownership.

A substantial revamp has long been on the cards for Malaysia Airlines, which was struggling with chronic financial problems even before it was hit by the double disasters this year.

Investigators continue to scour the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which veered far of course while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board. In July, 298 people were killed when Flight 17 was blasted out of the sky as it flew over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The tragedies have scarred the airline’s brand, once associated with high-quality service. Travelers on recent long-haul flights have posted photos on social media of nearly empty cabins and departure lounges. The airline says passengers fell 11 percent in July from the year before.

In releasing its latest quarterly financial result, a loss, on Thursday, Malaysia Airlines said the worst impact from the disasters will come in the second half of this year.

Khazanah said at a press conference that it has begun a search for a new chief executive for the airline, which is likely to be completed by the end of this year.

Current CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya will continue to head Malaysia Airlines until its new incarnation is established in July next year.

The state investment fund said it aims to restore Malaysia Airlines to profitability by the end of 2017.

TIME Aviation

Phone Call Offers New Clue in Search for Missing Plane

A Malaysia Airlines plane prepares to go out onto the runway and passes by a stationary Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft (top) at Perth International Airport on March 25, 2014 in Perth, Australia.
A Malaysia Airlines plane prepares to go out onto the runway and passes by a stationary Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft (top) at Perth International Airport on March 25, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Getty Images

Plane missing since March

Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 turned south earlier than previously thought, Australian authorities said Thursday, providing a new clue to the Boeing 777’s possible location in the southern Indian Ocean.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the new information was based on an attempted satellite phone call to the plane by Malaysia Airlines ground staff. However, the broad search area for Flight 370 remains unchanged, Truss told reporters at a news conference in Canberra, Australia. “Over the last few weeks and months, continuing work is being done on refining the information that we have in relation to the most likely resting place for this aircraft,” Truss said…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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