Friday, November 12, 2010

Tarco Airlines plane crashes at Darfur, Sudan

A plane crashed while attempting to land in Darfur, western Sudan, killing at least one woman though most passengers walked away with minor or no injuries, according to a local government official.

The Tarco Airlines plane was carrying 44 passengers and six crew members when it took off west from Khartoum, Sudan, for Zalingei. An explosion erupted in the aircraft's side as it was touching down at 4:20 p.m. local time Thursday at the airport, said Abdullah Mohammed al-Amin, a commissioner for the district of Zalingei.

"Nothing is clear, at the moment, as for the reasons behind the explosion," said al-Amin, who was at the scene and talked to authorities involved in the investigation and recovery operations.

In addition to the woman who was killed, one person was seriously injured, and four others suffered minor injuries, according to al-Amin. The governor of the west Darfur state planned to accompany the body back to Khartoum, added al-Amin.

Previous media reports had put the death toll as high as 15, with news agency AFP citing hospital sources as saying six people were killed.

The full plane carried passengers were coming back to Darfur to join their families in celebrating Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that commemorates the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God, according to al-Amin.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boeing Dreamliner makes emergency landing during test flight

A Boeing 787 jetliner on a test flight over Texas made an emergency landing on Tuesday after smoke was detected in the main cabin, the latest setback in development of the new plane.

The plane landed safely in Laredo and the crew was evacuated, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said. Boeing is still gathering information about the incident, she said.

The smoke appeared in the rear cabin of the plane, farthest from the cockpit, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

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"The pilot landed and advised he was declaring an emergency," said Lunsford, who added that the airport fire department was called to the scene. He said the FAA would look into the incident.

Boeing said one person suffered a minor injury as the crew of 30 to 40 people were being evacuated down exit slides.

The 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, is made of composite material designed to make it lighter and more fuel-efficient, but Boeing has run into a series of delays in developing the big, two-aisle passenger plane.

Boeing has said it will deliver the first production models of the 787 to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the middle of the first quarter of next year - about three years behind schedule.

Development of the aircraft has been pushed back several times by snags including availability of Rolls-Royce engines and supplier workmanship issues. The company halted test flights last summer after finding that some parts in the tail were not properly installed.

It was unclear whether Tuesday's incident would add to the delays.

Boeing is conducting flight tests with several 787s, some with Rolls-Royce engines, which will be the first models delivered to airlines, and others with General Electric engines.

The company said last month it had completed takeoff and handling tests for the initial version of the plane but that more testing was needed for 787s with GE engines.

Boeing is relying on suppliers from around the country and the world to build components for the plane. The company has taken 847 orders from 56 customers.

The Dreamliner involved in the Texas landing has made 179 test flights spanning more than 558 hours, according to Boeing's website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If it ain't a Boeing, I'm not going

The investigation now underway into Qantas's A380s is one of the most complex detective stories ever to unfold in the aviation world.

Qantas is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that there is no repeat of last Thursday's uncontained engine failure on one of its A380s just after it left Singapore for Sydney.

"Uncontained engine failure" is technical talk for an explosion that ripped apart the engine casing, sending hot metal fragments into the wing at high speed. It's not yet known whether it was good luck or good design that prevented a fuel explosion that could have killed all 466 people aboard.

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In fact the explosion did damage the aircraft's hydraulics and cut some of the control lines to another of the plane's engines, which could not be shut down normally after the plane returned to Singapore.

The fact that the engine type, the new-technology Rolls Royce Trent 900, was developed and built by the British manufacturer with a fearsome reputation for reliability simply adds to the intrigue that has gripped the aviation industry.

So does that fact that the only other A380 operators using the Trent 900 design, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, cleared their A380s to fly again after inspections that took less than 24 hours.

About 70 per cent of the airlines that have ordered the A380 have chosen the Trent 900 engine option; the rest, such as the world's biggest A380 operator Emirates, have gone for the Engine Alliance GP7000, developed by an American joint venture between aero engine manufacturers General Electric and Pratt and Whitney.

Whatever the cause of the fault that is eventually tracked down by the forensic engineering now underway, the people who are paying for the tickets to fly in these mega-machines are already forming opinions based on their own prejudices.

"If it ain't a Boeing, I'm not going" was one of the many cliches wheeled out this week – the irony being that even though there are more Boeings than Airbuses in the skies, Airbus in the past few years has been decisively outselling Boeing in the airline marketplace.

Recommended reading:
* Air France A380 grounded for fourth time due to fueling problem
* Qantas A380 Airbus fly passengers over Antarctica
* Qantas A380 passengers tarmac ordeal