Iran seeks help reading downed plane's black boxes in new standoff
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said it had asked the U.S. and French authorities for equipment to download information from black boxes on a downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially angering countries which want the recorders analyzed abroad.
FILE PHOTO: General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020 is seen in this screen grab obtained from a social media video via REUTERS
Canada, 57 of whose citizens were among the 176 people killed in the crash, has said France should handle the flight data and voice recorders as one of the few nations with the capability. Kiev wants the recorders sent to Ukraine.
The U.S.-built Boeing 737 flown by Ukraine International Airlines was shot down in error on Jan. 8.
Tehran, already embroiled in a long-running standoff with the United States over its nuclear program that briefly erupted into tit-for-tat military strikes this month, has given mixed signals about whether it would hand over the recorders.
An Iranian aviation official had said on Saturday the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine, only to backtrack in comments reported a day later, saying they would be analyzed at home.
A further delay in sending them abroad is likely to increase international pressure on Iran, whose military has said it shot the plane down by mistake while on high alert in the tense hours after Iran fired missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq.
Iran, which took several days to acknowledge its role in bringing down the plane and faced street protests at home as a result, launched its missiles at U.S. targets in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander on Jan. 3.
"If the appropriate supplies and equipment are provided, the information can be taken out and reconstructed in a short period of time," Iran's Civil Aviation Organization said in its second preliminary report on the disaster released late on Monday.
Its initial report was released just 24 hours after the incident, before Iran's military acknowledged its role.
A list of equipment Iran needs has been sent to French accident agency BEA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the Iranian aviation body said.
"Until now, these countries have not given a positive response to sending the equipment to (Iran)," it said. It said two surface-to-air TOR-M1 missiles had been launched minutes after the Ukrainian plane took off from Tehran.
Iran's aviation body said in its report it did not have equipment needed to download information from the model of recorders on the three-year-old Boeing 737.
Iran has for years faced U.S. sanctions that limited its ability to purchase modern planes and buy products with U.S. technology. Many passenger planes used in Iran are decades old.
Under Tehran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran received sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear work. But Washington reimposed U.S. sanctions after withdrawing from the pact in 2018, a move that led to the steady escalation of tension in recent months between the United States and Iran.
Responding to U.S. President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign designed to shut off Iran's oil exports, Tehran has scaled back its commitments to the nuclear accord.
After Iran's latest move this month to scrap limits on uranium enrichment, a process that can make material for nuclear warheads although Tehran denies any such aim, Britain, France and Germany triggered the nuclear pact's dispute mechanism.
Launching the mechanism starts a diplomatic process that could lead to reimposing U.N. sanctions on Iran.
European capitals say they want to save the deal but have also suggested it may be time for a broader pact, in line with Trump's call for a deal that would go beyond Iran's nuclear work and include its missile program and activities in the region.
Iran says it will not negotiate with sanctions in place.
The Iranian general killed in the U.S. drone strike, Qassem Soleimani, was responsible for building up a network of militias that created an arc of Iranian influence across the Middle East.
Since the plane disaster, Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has said compensation should be paid to families of the victims, many of whom were Iranians or dual nationals.
Canada, Ukraine, Britain, Afghanistan and Sweden, which all lost citizens, have demanded Iran make the payouts. Canada's Transportation Safety Board said two of its investigators had spent six days in Iran and visited the wreckage. Iranian investigators had been "cooperative and helpful", it said.
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Iran confirms two missiles fired at Ukraine airliner
The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down in a catastrophic error shortly after takeoff from Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board (AFP Photo/-)
Tehran (AFP) - Iran has confirmed two missiles were fired at a Ukrainian airliner brought down this month, in a catastrophic error that killed all 176 people on board and sparked angry protests.
The country's civil aviation authority said it has yet to receive a positive response after requesting technical assistance from France and the United States to decode black boxes from the downed airliner.
The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines plane was accidentally shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8.
Iran has come under mounting international pressure to carry out a full and transparent investigation into the air disaster.
"Investigators... discovered that two Tor-M1 missiles... were fired at the aircraft," Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation said in a preliminary report posted on its website late Monday.
It said an investigation was ongoing to assess the bearing their impact had on the accident.
The statement confirms a report in The New York Times which included video footage appearing to show two projectiles being fired at the airliner.
The Tor-M1 is a short-range surface-to-air missile developed by the former Soviet Union that is designed to target aircraft or cruise missiles.
Iran had for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence reports that the Boeing 737 operating Flight PS752 had been shot down.
It came clean on January 11, with the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh accepting full responsibility.
But he said the missile operator who opened fire had been acting independently.
- Black boxes -
The deadly blunder triggered days of student-led protests mainly in the Iranian capital.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that the demonstrations were unrepresentative of the Iranian people and accused the country's enemies of exploiting the air disaster for propaganda purposes.
In its report, the Civil Aviation Organisation said it was "impossible" for it to read the flight data and cockpit voice recorders -- commonly known as black boxes -- because they are so advanced.
But it suggests Iran wants to keep them for the time being.
"If devices are provided, the information (on the black boxes) can be restored and retrieved in a short period of time," it said.
The Civil Aviation Organisation said it had asked its French and US counterparts, the BEA and NTSB respectively, to provide a list of the equipment required to read the black boxes.
It said it had also sought the transfer of the required equipment, but added that neither the BEA nor NTSB had "so far responded positively" to such a transfer.
It said it had acquired the list nonetheless, without saying how, and hinted that it would use it to buy the equipment itself.
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Accident: British Airways A35K at Tel Aviv on Jan 20th 2020, hard landing
A British Airways A350-1000, registration G-XWBD performing flight BA-163 (dep Jan 19th) from London Heatghrow,EN (UK) to Tel Aviv (Israel), landed on Tel Aviv's runway 12 but suffered a hard landing. The aircraft rolled out without further incident and taxied to the apron.
The return flight was cancelled. The aircraft is still on the ground in Tel Aviv about 18 hours after landing.
A passenger reported the ceiling panels came down in the aft galley at touch down.
According to information The Aviation Herald received the hard landing checks revealed damage to the aircraft.
Israel's AIAI confirmed the hard landing and damage to the aircraft.
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Incident: Austral E190 at Mar del Plata on Jan 19th 2020, engine shut down in flight
An Austral Embraer ERJ-190 on behalf of Aerolineas Argentinas, registration LV-CKZ performing flight AR-2601 from Mar del Plata,BA to Buenos Aires Ezeiza,BA (Argentina) with 96 passengers and 5 crew, was in the initial climb out of Mar del Plata when the crew needed to shut one of the engines (CF34) down, stopped the climb and entered a hold to burn off fuel. The aircraft returned to Mar del Plata for a safe landing.
Argentina's JIAAC rated tht occurrence a serious incident and opened an investigation.
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Incident: Virgin Australia B738 near Brisbane on Jan 19th 2020, skin peeling near left flap
A Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800, registration VH-VOO performing flight VA-346 from Brisbane,QL to Melbourne,VI (Australia), was climbing out of Brisbane when some surface skin/cardboard material began to peel off the left hand wing near the flap track fairing. Enroute at FL300 about 160nm southwest of Brisbane the flight crew decided to return to Brisbane where the aircraft landed safely about 50 minutes later.
A replacement Boeing 737-800 registration VH-YIF reached Melbourne with a delay of about two hours.
The airline reported the aircraft returned due to an "engineering issue", engineers are repairing the flap of the aircraft.
A passenger reported the aircraft was climbing when he noticed a large chunk like wing skin or cardboard flapping around and notified cabin crew.
The large chunk flapping:
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'Picking The Wrong Target': Lasers Causing Major Risk To Colorado Pilots
(CBS4) - When the sun goes down, the lasers come out across Colorado. It has first responders feeling like they have a target on their cockpits.
Flight for Life crews say helicopters are being hit by lasers from the ground almost every night flight across Colorado. They say it has got to stop.
"We are being tagged by lasers on virtually every leg of a flight after dark," Kathleen Mayer, program director Flight for Life, told CBS4 Monday.
The scary reality these flight crews face in Colorado's skies isn't a new problem. It's something they are seeing far too often.
"When it hits the cockpit, it's like a huge flash bulb going off inside. It blinds everyone temporarily," Mayer said.
Federal law forbids pointing lasers at aircraft, but the threat of heavy fines and jail time isn't stopping people from targeting helicopters.
"There are a lot of risks in the environment. The weather is certainly one of them, but this one is absolutely preventable," Mayer said.
The blinding light causes pilots to land prematurely, even forcing them off the job with temporary vision problems.
Officials say they more lasers in the winter.
"We see an uptick right after the holidays. I think people get the lasers for Christmas gifts and want to try them out, but they are absolutely picking the wrong target when they hit an aircraft," Mayer said.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the lasers are coming from, but every time this happens Flight for Life reports the strike to the FBI. Denver police also keep a database of reports of laser strikes for the state.
"We made six reports in December alone," said Mayer.
There currently isn't a state law on lasers and aircraft. It's something many aviators are hoping they can get lawmakers to change.
There are efforts behind the scenes to do just that happening during this year's legislative session.
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Coyote on the runway forces flights to circle at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Employees at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had to chase a coyote off the airfield so flights could land Monday morning.
A coyote interfered with multiple flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Monday morning, according to an airport spokesperson.
Employees managed to coax the coyote off the airfield, and it retreated toward the nearby Salt riverbed, airport officials said.
Three flights were affected by the animal. The planes had to circle the airfield once before the runway was clear, authorities said.
No other airport operations were affected.
Coyotes can often be found in rural and urban areas across the state, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department website. They are commonly seen in neighborhoods across the Phoenix metro area.
The agency will only remove nuisance wildlife to preserve public safety. Only those with a valid license from the Game and Fish department can capture or kill coyotes, the agency's website says, unless it is an act of self-defense.
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Alaska Airline flight with smoke detector issue makes emergency stop in Boise
Fire crews responded to the Boise Airport for a flight that made an emergency landing Monday morning, but no injuries were reported, according to Boise Airport spokesman Sean Briggs.
Fire crews responded shortly after 11:30 a.m., as well as a paramedic, according to Ada County dispatchers. Upon arrival, there was no fire. The airplane was traveling from Seattle to Dallas, Texas.
According to an Alaska Airlines spokesman, the flight was "diverted to Boise after a lavatory smoke detector light illuminated on the flight deck. No smoke was visible upon inspection of the lavatory."
Following safety protocols, the pilots diverted the flight to Boise.
"The aircraft landed safely and taxied to the gate where it will undergo a mechanical inspection," according to the airline. "The 76 passengers onboard the flight are being rebooked."
The Federal Aviation Administration said the airplane, an Embraer 175 jet, landed without incident around noon and the the FAA will investigate, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
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FAA administrator to speak at HAI Annual Membership Meeting at Heli-Expo
Helicopter Association International (HAI) has announced that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator Steve Dickson is scheduled to attend HAI Heli-Expo 2020 in Anaheim, California, on Jan. 28, 2020.
Steve Dickson, Federal Aviation Administration administrator. FAA Photo
Dickson will provide remarks at the HAI Annual Membership Meeting and Breakfast. He is expected to address a variety of topics relevant to the vertical-lift industry.
Those who are interested in viewing the discussion but who are unable to attend the meeting can view the event through live streaming on HAI's Facebook page. Other live-streaming sites may become available, too.
"We're grateful that Steve Dickson can take time from his busy schedule to attend HAI Heli-Expo and address issues that are significant to us," said James Viola, president and CEO of HAI. "There are a significant number of concerns facing our industry as it continues to evolve. We deeply appreciate the contributions of Administrator Dickson and several other FAA representatives to our show."
Dickson's participation in the breakfast meeting is scheduled to begin at approximately 8:30 a.m. PST and will last 15 to 20 minutes. Dickson will also participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open HAI Heli-Expo, at 10:15 a.m. PST.
Because of his responsibilities leading the FAA, Dickson's schedule is subject to change without notice.
HAI Heli-Expo is the world's largest helicopter-specific event, annually drawing thousands of visitors from around the world. In addition to a trade show floor covering hundreds of thousands of square feet, the event includes numerous professional education courses, safety classes and the related HAI Rotor Safety Challenge, working group meetings and forums, and networking opportunities. Nearly 60 helicopters, including mock-ups of urban taxi concepts, will appear on the show floor.
"We expect that Administrator Dickson will find our show as impressive as any first-time visitor does," added Viola. "Our show produces significant business for the international helicopter community, attracting attendees and exhibitors from every aspect of our industry. From helicopter manufacturers to repair facilities to suppliers of parts and services, everyone is here."
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Etihad Aviation Training secures European approval to train Boeing 777, 787 pilots
Etihad Aviation Training, the specialist training division of Etihad Aviation Group, has become the first aviation company in the Middle East to gain approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to train Boeing 777 and 787 pilots for European operators and carriers elsewhere which adopt Europe's air safety standards.
The approval to train pilots for these two wide-bodied Boeing aircraft types expands the global capabilities of Etihad Aviation Training, which in 2018 also became the first Middle Eastern aerospace business to gain EASA designation as an Approved Training Organisation for pilots of Airbus A320, A330 and A340 aircraft.
Captain Paolo La Cava, Vice President and Managing Director of Etihad Aviation Training, said continuing growth in global demand for air travel was driving increased requirements for pilot training.
"Some operators have insufficient capacity to conduct training in their own facilities while others do not have in-house capabilities," said Captain La Cava. "In addition to training pilots for Etihad Airways, Etihad Aviation Training also supports the requirements of many other operators for a range of aircraft types.
The suite of offerings ranges from 'ab-Initio' courses to type rating and recurrent training, as well as Upset Recovery Training and Performance Based Navigation.
Etihad Aviation Training has 11 full motion training simulators, including five for Boeing 777 and 787 training, as well as fixed base devices, and training teams include senior pilots actively flying for Etihad Airways.
Support options can also be provided, including accommodation, transport and even tourism for trainees in Abu Dhabi.
Captain La Cava said the Boeing 777 and 787 were two of the most in-demand aircraft in service today, and as their deployment increased so too did demand for pilot training.
He said Etihad Aviation Training soon would also add training capability for the newest widebody aircraft in airline service, the Airbus A350.
"The EASA designation as an Approved Training Organisation for the Boeing 777 and 787 significantly broadens the markets in which Etihad Aviation Training can offer services, enabling the business to support operators in Europe and elsewhere, particularly in the fast-growing Asia region where EASA standards have been adopted," said Captain La Cava.
"This approval also strengthens the credentials of Abu Dhabi as an aviation centre of excellence for aircrew training and other services including maintenance and engineering."
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New report says Delta Air Lines ranks as the best in the US
If you're wondering about which airline to choose to book your next flight, The Wall Street Journal has a list you may want to see.
For the third year in a row, Atlanta's Delta Air Lines landed in the top spot of the best airlines in the US. It was followed by Alaska and low-cost carrier Allegiant Air tying for second place and ultra-low cost carrier Spirit Airlines rounding out the top 5. Meanwhile, American Airlines came in last. It's the third year since 2015 that the Fort Worth, Texas airline ranked in the position.
The categories Delta ranked no. 1 in are on-time arrivals, cancelled flights and involuntary bumping from flights as well as being the top overall airline.The WSJ report says Delta had an average of 36 canceled flights a day in 2019. By comparison, American had more than four times the cancellations with 159 a day last year.Each day, Delta had an average of 1,345 late or lost bags. Meanwhile, American had upwards of 2,600 lost or late pieces of luggage. Last year also saw only nine passengers bumped from Delta flights. Those flying on American saw over 15,000 passengers bumped from the aircraft. And with higher instances of severe weather and travel increasing at high rates last year - especially over the holiday season - Delta still managed to improve its average on-time arrivals. The report cites Global Eagle's data analytics unit masFlight when noting that Delta went from an 82.9% arrival rate in 2018 to 83.4% in 2019.
"While the weather itself is out of our control, how we react to that weather, plan for that weather and work through that weather is certainly within our control," Dave Holtz, Delta's senior vice president over the airline's operations center, told WSJ.Delta also saw improvements in its cancellation rates. In 2018, the airline and its regional partners cancelled 0.9% of its flights, but last year that decreased to 0.7%. American and second-to-last place United Airlines cancelled 2% of their flights in 2019.Delta also fared well in the complains category, ranking at no. 3. The top spot in that area, however, went to Southwest Airlines. Southwest also fared the best in the 2-hour tarmac delays category and Delta ranked no. 6.
Rankings of major airlines from best to worst (overall):
- Delta Air Lines
- Alaska Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Allegient Air
- Spirit Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- United Airlines
- American Airlines
View the full report here.
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Boeing is in talks to borrow $10 billion or more as 737 Max crisis wears on
- Boeing is in talks with banks to secure a loan of $10 billion or more, according to people familiar with the matter, as the company faces rising costs stemming from two fatal crashes of its 737 Max planes.
- Boeing this month suspended production of the troubled planes this month as the grounding stretches into its 11th month, a planned pause in production that has rippled through the supply chain and already cost thousands of jobs
- Banks that have already committed to contribute to the loan include Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan, people familiar with the matter said.
The tails of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked at Boeing facilities at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, September 16, 2019.
Lindsey Wasson | Reuters
Boeing is in talks with banks to secure a loan of $10 billion or more, according to people familiar with the matter, as the company faces rising costs stemming from two fatal crashes of its 737 Max planes.
The company has secured at least $6 billion from banks so far, the people said, and is talking to other lenders for more contributions. The total amount could rise if there is additional demand from banks, one person familiar with the matter said.
Liquidity isn't an immediate concern, analysts have said, but the new debt shows Boeing is shoring up its finances amid the cash-sapping fallout of the two crashes - one in Indonesia in October 2018 and another in Ethiopia in March last year - that killed all 346 people aboard the two flights.
The amount Boeing is seeking to borrow is more than what some analysts were expecting. For example, Jefferies earlier this month forecast Boeing would issue $5 billion in debt this quarter.
But the jets' return has faced potential new delays that are threatening to drive up Boeing's costs, including a new software issue disclosed by the company last week.
Boeing this month suspended production of the troubled planes this month as the grounding stretches into its 11th month, a planned pause in production that has rippled through the supply chain and already cost thousands of jobs. However, Boeing earlier this month said it didn't plan to lay off 737 Max workers and said they would be reassigned to other functions.
The company also reversed its stance and will now recommend pilots undergo simulator training, a time-consuming and costly process, before the jets can fly again.
The company posted negative orders for aircraft last year, its weakest sales figures in decades, and handed the title of the world's biggest aircraft manufacturer over to its European rival Airbus.
Boeing has developed a software fix for the planes after a flight-control system was implicated in the crashes but regulators have not yet signed of on that or completed other checks that would allow them to certify the planes as safe to resume operations.
Boeing declined to comment on the debt raise.
Moody's Investors Service last week said it was putting Boeing's credit rating, which is investment grade, on review for a potential downgrade due to the Max issues.
"Recent developments suggest a more costly and protracted recovery for Boeing to restore confidence with its various market constituents, and an ensuing period of heightened operational and financial risk, even if certification of the Max comes relatively near-term, as expected," wrote Jonathan Root, Moody's lead Boeing analyst.
Boeing had about $25 billion in total debt at the end of the last quarter, up from around $19 billion at the start of the three-month period, the company said.
The loan Boeing is negotiating will be a two-year, delayed-draw loan, meaning Boeing can tap into it later, a move that may not immediately affect its credit rating as another type of loan or a bond would, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. J.P. Morgan estimates the grounding will still cost Boeing about $1 billion a month even after the planned production shutdown.
The new loan would come as Boeing is trying to close its $4 billion acquisition of a majority stake in Embraer's commercial plane business. The company has also continued to pay investors dividends during the crisis.
Banks that have already committed to contribute to the loan include Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan, people familiar with the matter said.
Boeing's temporary production shut down of the planes, which had been its best-selling aircraft, is hurting its supply chain. Spirit AeroSystems, which makes fuselages and other parts for the 737 Max, said earlier this month it would lay off 2,800 workers.
Moody's downgraded Spirit to junk territory last week, saying it "reflects our expectation that Spirit's liquidity profile will quickly and materially erode in the absence of mitigating developments that remain largely out of the company's control."
General Electric, which makes engines for the planes through a joint venture with France's Safran, has laid off 70 temporary workers in Quebec, but it could hire them back later.
Suppliers are in a tough position because they want to have skilled workers in place for a resumption in production.
GE, which reports earnings at the end of the month and also makes engines for Airbus planes, can move workers to other plants and programs. The company is also considering reducing worker overtime, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The 737 Max issues have cost airlines more than $1 billion in lost revenue, and Boeing took a $5.6 billion pre-tax charge last July to compensate its Max customers for the grounding and analysts expect it to report another this month.
While the company has reached compensation agreements with airlines including American and Southwest, those agreements apply only to revenue lost in 2019 and analysts expect Boeing will have to pay more without a firm date to get the planes back in the air. American, Southwest and United have all pulled the plane from their schedules until June.
Investors will hear more on the impact of the grounding from the carriers when they report earnings later this week and when Boeing reports on Jan. 29.
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