TIME Aviation

Los Angeles Airport Security Boosted Amid Possible ISIS Threat

Los Angeles Airport
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Investigators said they were not aware of a specific plot

Security is being stepped up in Los Angeles, its area airports and other parts of Southern California amid new Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS)-related threats calling for attacks on uniformed personnel, several U.S. officials told NBC News on Friday.

ISIS, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq, has long called on its sympathizers to attack Western interests around the world.

Los Angeles had already started using two-man patrols as a precaution. Upgraded measures were extended to Los Angeles International Airport this week, officials said.

Investigators said there was no specific plot but concerns increased as result of intelligence from overseas as well as ongoing…

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

TIME Aviation

New Airline Provides Only Nonstop Service

So far, just between two cities

A new airline featuring nonstop flights—and free Evian water—has taken to the skies.

OneJet’s nonstop flight service began April 6, flying from Indianapolis to Milwaukee, and the airline will add service to Pittsburgh to its list in early May. Its flights are all direct, and plus, there’s complimentary Evian and newspapers.

The company uses three seven-seat Hawker 400 aircraft to service the three airports, USA Today reports, and only schedules a flight if passengers book tickets.

The highest fare prices will be “two to three times the lowest coach fares” for connecting flights on other airlines, said OneJet CEO Matthew Maguire.

[USA Today]

 

TIME Aviation

Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Buffalo After Passenger Loses Consciousness

The plane was going from Chicago to Hartford, Conn.

A plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday after one passenger lost consciousness, amid crew concerns about the plane’s cabin pressure.

The SkyWest flight, operating under United Express Flight #5622, landed safely in Buffalo, where the passenger received medical treatment and was released.

The plane’s crew had reported an emergency pressurization problem before landing, the Federal Aviation Administration told the Associated Press. An airline spokesperson said the circumstances were under investigation and mechanics were inspecting the plane.

“There may have been early concerns regarding pressurization but there was no indication in the flight deck,” said SkyWest spokesperson Marissa Snow in an emailed statement.

The flight departed from Chicago’s O’Hare airport at 9:32 a.m. EDT and made an emergency landing in Buffalo around noon, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.

SkyWest said it was currently working to connect the 75 passengers on a flight to their original destination of Hartford, Conn.

 

 

TIME Aviation

Why We Should Stop Looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

A man walks past graffiti depicting flight MH370 on the one year anniversary of its disappearance in Kuala Lumpur
Olivia Harris—Reuters A man walks past graffiti depicting the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 on the one year anniversary of its disappearance in Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2015

One aviation expert tells TIME that resources would be better spent elsewhere

On Thursday, officials announced that the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would be doubled to 120,000 sq km (46,000 sq. mi.) if the errant aircraft is not discovered in the southern Indian Ocean by May.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that he was “committed to the search,” while his Australian counterpart Warren Truss said, “We are confident we are searching in the right area.” (Australia is coordinating efforts as the nearest nation to the presume crash site.)

However, it has been over 13 months since the Boeing 777 vanished on March 8 last year soon after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board. The subsequent search operation is by far the most expensive ever attempted, already costing Australia and Malaysia over $90 million, yet not a scrap of debris has been found.

Extending the search is thought to entail spending an additional $40 million.

Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, tells TIME that it is hard to justify expanded efforts.

“I’m not in the position of being one of the relatives, and I deeply sympathize with their situation,” he stressed. “However, once the areas of highest priority have been searched there are diminishing returns when increasing the area.

“This means there’s a huge amount of money being spent, and if you’re looking at saving lives through improving future safety outcomes, then the money is arguably much better spent in a whole variety of other areas rather than just ‘mowing the lawn’ in the ocean trying to find something.”

For families of passengers, two-thirds of whom were Chinese, finding out what happened to their loved ones is naturally of paramount importance. But there is also a feeling that their loss will not have been in vain if the safety of future flights can be improved.

“It’s necessary to find the plane, not only for the lives that have been lost, but also for the safety of future passengers and crews,” Jennifer Chong, whose husband Chong Ling Tan was on board MH370, tells TIME. “The money will not be wasted.”

Jennifer Chong says she hopes that officials will also consider going back to the drawing board and consider other theories that suggest the plane might have gone down somewhere other than the current search site.

“We do hope that they will explore other areas,” says Chong.

Middleton is of the opinion that “this was most probably some kind of suicide [similar to Germanwings].” He explains that “it’s very unlikely it was a totally mechanical set of failures. We’ll never know what’s behind the brain of the person who caused the crash, so in terms of ongoing safety ramifications, the search seems likely to yield very little.”

The sudden decision to increase the search also seems curious, given that officials had earlier dropped hints about scaling back efforts. Despite Truss’s “confidence” on Thursday, only last month he conceded, “We clearly cannot keep searching forever,” amid rumors that the operation was to be called off within weeks.

“It’s been highly politicized from the start, as seen by the dribbling of information from the Malaysian government,” says Middleton. “Had the correct information been released earlier, it might well have resulted in a much smaller search area, as the question of whether the aircraft flew low or high early on has an impact on fuel consumption, hence how far the airplane may have been able to fly into the southern [Indian] Ocean.”

Compounding matters, the current search area is based almost entirely on satellite-data analysis from British telecommunications firm Inmarsat. This tracked a series of maintenance pings using groundbreaking analysis techniques as MH370’s own secondary radar was disabled in the cockpit. However, corroborating the Inmarsat data is impossible, meaning the search could be taking place in entirely the wrong place.

“The total lack of debris is a puzzle,” says Middleton. “And the Inmarsat information cannot be tested by intelligent and capable people because they do not have access to the proprietary information from Inmarsat.”

He adds: “The Inmarsat stuff is untestable. And although I’m not suggesting they’ve done anything improper, the search area relies very much on their calculations, and if they have made errors, we are not able to replicate their calculations. And there’s a chance they’ve stuffed up and the plane is not there at all.”

With reporting by David Stout / Hong Kong

TIME Aviation

95-Year-Old Man Sets World Record for Oldest Active Pilot

Peter Weber Jr.
Randy Pench—AP In this March 30, 2015, photo, Peter Weber Jr., 95, pushes his plane back after a flight in Placerville, Calif.

The Air Force veteran flies twice a month

(PLACERVILLE, Calif.)—A 95-year-old Northern California man has become the world’s oldest active pilot.

The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday that Guinness World Record keepers confirmed that a flight last month by Peter Weber Jr. qualified him for the record book.

Weber was 95 years, 4 months and 23 days old when he flew three looping circles around an airfield near Sacramento on March 30.

Guinness lists Cole Kugel as the oldest pilot ever. Kugel, who lived in Longmont, Colorado, flew for the last time in 2007 at age 105 and died the same year.

Weber says the record keepers have designated a new category: Oldest qualified pilot still licensed and flying solo.

The Air Force veteran has been pilot for 72 years and says he flies about twice a month.

TIME Malaysia

Search Area for Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane to Be Doubled if Plane Not Found

In this March 18, 2014 file photo, a young Malaysian boy prays at an event for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, at a shopping mall, in Petaling Jaya, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Joshua Paul—AP A Malaysian boy prays at an event for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, on March 18, 2014

The search area for the missing Flight 370 will be expanded by another 60,000 sq km

(KUALA LUMPUR) — Malaysia said Thursday that the search area for the missing Flight 370 will be expanded by another 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) in the Indian Ocean if the jetliner is not found by May.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that Malaysia, Australia and China, which are leading the search for the Boeing 777 that went missing on March 8 last year, are “committed to the search.”

He told reporters after meeting with his counterparts from the other two countries that so far 61 percent of the 60,000 kilometer (23,000-square-mile) search area has been scoured off Australia’s west coast. The remaining area would have been searched by the end of May, he said.

“If the aircraft is not found within the 60,000 square kilometers, we have collectively decided to extend the search to another 60,000 square kilometers within the highest probability area,” he said.

He said, the two areas together would cover 95 percent of the flight path of the plane, which went missing while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. It dropped off radar, and investigators later figured out that it made a series of turns and headed in a completely opposite direction from where it was heading before crashing into the Indian Ocean.

“We are confident we are searching in the right area,” Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss said at the news conference, alongside Liow. “We are confident we have the best search equipment .. if the plane is in the area we will find it.”

He said Malaysia and Australia will continue to fund the cost of the next phase of the search. He or the other ministers did now say how much it would cost.

TIME Aviation

Here’s Why Wi-Fi on Planes Could Lead to a Terrifying Disaster

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You'll never complain again about not having the Internet at 30,000 ft.

Yes, having access to Facebook on a long flight helps to pass the time, but it could also be putting passengers in the crosshairs of terrorists and hackers, according to a new report released this week by a U.S. watchdog agency.

In a dossier released Tuesday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said new aircraft may be susceptible to having their inflight computer systems hacked through onboard wi-fi networks or remotely by individuals elsewhere.

“According to cybersecurity experts we interviewed, Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors,” read the 56-page report.

The GAO stated that planes possess firewalls designed to block cyberattacks and protect the craft’s avionics; however, that software is still susceptible to being penetrated.

“Four cybersecurity experts with whom we spoke discussed firewall vulnerabilities, and all four said that because firewalls are software components, they could be hacked like any other software and circumvented,” the report said.

The situation is made all the worse by the prevalent use of smartphones and other mobile devices by passengers and pilots alike on flights worldwide everyday.

“The presence of personal smartphones and tablets in the cockpit increases the risk of a system’s being compromised by trusted insiders, both malicious and non-malicious, if these devices have the capability to transmit information to aircraft avionics systems,” stated the dossier.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it has already begun taking steps to make cockpits safer and is consulting security experts to single out areas of concern.

“This threat will continue to evolve and it is something that needs to be at the forefront of our thinking,” Michael Huerta, the FAA’s administrator, told a Senate oversight panel this week, according to Reuters.

Following the publication of the report, lawmakers demanded that the federal agencies act fast to counter any potential threats to the aviation industry.

“[The FAA] must focus on aircraft certification standards that would prevent a terrorist with a laptop in the cabin or on the ground from taking control of an airplane through the passenger wi-fi system,” Representative Peter DeFazio told CNN.

Read next: 9 Tips for Faster Wi-Fi Streaming

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TIME Aviation

These Tiny Seats Could Mean Air Travel Is About to Get Much Worse

Airlines are shrinking seat widths to squeeze in more passengers

The controversial Knee Defender blocks a passenger in front of you from reclining, but what do you do when your shoulders are getting squeezed on an airplane?

That’s the big question as airplane manufacturers continue to shrink seats to let airlines stuff more passengers into economy sections. The latest maker to apply this cost-cutting measure is Airbus, which unveiled a new 11 seat-per-row reconfiguration for its A380 superjumbo jet this week in Hamburg, Germany.

The Airbus A380 currently seats 10 passengers per row in economy (3-4-3), but the new configuration bumps the middle section up by one (3-5-3):

The double-decker’s new seats, which will arrive in 2017, are technically still the same width as before — 18 in. (46 cm.) — thanks to Airbus freeing up space by slightly modifying the seats’ layout, Quartz reports. But there’s no doubt the seats will look and feel a bit tighter, if only because the plane’s capacity will be raised to 544, up from 525. Even if you have relatively narrow shoulders — the average human shoulder width is about 16 in. (41 cm.) — you can’t always count on your neighbors to be similarly sized.

Here’s what you might be feeling aboard your next flight with the A380’s main users, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Qantas:

Read more: This Airline Just Made Your Butt Happy

The tight A380 seats are part of an industry trend that’s crept into long-haul planes from short-haul planes, where passengers tend to be more willing to endure a few hours of discomfort to save money. Other long-haul jets to shrink seats include the Boeing 777 — commonly flown by United and American Airlines — whose new models are being shipped with 17 in. seat widths.

Read next: 3 Reasons You Should Be Planning a Trip to Europe Right Now

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TIME Aviation

Flight Returns to Seattle After Worker Trapped in Cargo Hold

Pilot heard a trapped worker banging inside the plane's cargo hold

(SEATTLE) — Alaska Airlines says a Los Angeles-bound flight has returned to Seattle after the pilot heard a trapped worker banging inside the plane’s cargo hold.

Alaska flight 448 had just taken off Monday when the banging came from beneath the aircraft. The airline said in a news release the captain immediately returned to Seattle-Tacoma International and declared an emergency for priority landing.

After the plane landed a ramp agent was found inside the front cargo hold, which Alaska says is pressurized and temperature-controlled. The worker appeared OK but was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

The airline says it’s investigating.

TIME Aviation

Airline Service Is Getting Worse, Study Finds

Airplane Interior
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The Airline Quality Rating has been measuring the performance of airlines for 25 years.

In what seems like a broken record, the quality of airline service deteriorated last year as carriers continued to squeeze passengers in numerous ways.

“As a group they generally did worse,” said Dean Headley of Wichita State University. “We track four elements that we think are consumer relevant, on-time, baggage handling, complaints and things like that and literally all four of those got worse for the industry this year.”

The Airline Quality Rating, conducted by Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, has been measuring the performance of airlines for 25 years.

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