Friday, November 13, 2015

Science Shows Metrojet Crash Triggered by a Bomb

The blast that took down a Russian Airbus A321 over the Sinai last month, had to be triggered by a bomb, an experienced explosives expert said today. "If the information about the plane being at 31,000 feet is reliable, it's not a fuel air explosion," Merritt Birky, a former safety investigator with the NTSB told me. Lacking any indication that a missile hit the airplane, Birky's conclusion eliminates the other possible scenario, that the plane came apart mid flight due to an explosion in the plane's center fuel tank.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Prudence and Probable Cause Not the Same Thing in Metrojet Crash

UK Prime Minister Cameron Government photo
All over the news today is the story of the UK and Irish governments canceling flights out of Sharm el Sheikh. British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters “ a bomb was more likely than not” to have brought down the Airbus A321 flown by the Russian charter airline, Metrojet.

But be cautious about drawing conclusions based on the reaction of government officials concerned about protecting the lives of citizens flying out of the Egyptian resort town. It is the job of Prime Ministers and other political leaders to be prudent and investigate what could have happened to determine if a real threat exists. That's not to say what is worrying them is what actually happened. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Eyebrows Ascend as Airline Execs Demonstrate Their Plonker-ism

It never ceases to amaze me how often senior airline bosses will prattle on regardless of what they know about the subject. The latest you've-got-to-be-kidding remarks come from Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of the airline, Metrojet whose Airbus A321 crashed over Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Sunday. 

"We rule out a technical fault of the plane or a pilot error," the executive said at news conference in Moscow on Monday and adding fuel to the speculation that the Airbus A321  was brought down by a terrorist. "The only possible (sic) could be a purely mechanical external impact," Smirnov said. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Don’t Be Spooked if 787 Battery Box is a Smoky Cauldron

Note: This post has been updated with new information from TUI Arkefly.

Two years ago, episodes of smoking and sputtering lithium ion batteries on two Boeing Dreamliners were so horrifying the entire fleet was grounded for months and the design was the subject of three safety investigations. But a mysterious transition has occurred, as if a spell had been put on the folks responsible for safe skies.

Just in time for Halloween and as I reported for Gizmodo, in the 18 months since Boeing was forced to confine its devilish batteries to a stainless steel housing so the plane could fly again, several more have misbehaved, emitting smoke and leading to at least one emergency landing.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Passion but Few Tears in Amsterdam for Airliners That Fly into the Past

Too often air travel is an antiseptic experience for the passenger as we sit in tile-floored, waiting rooms, our heads down and our minds in cyberspace. It is so rare and so thrilling to actually smell the jet fuel and hear the whine of the engines at the few airports that still encourage a love of the journey. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is one of them and it's the perfect place to reflect on commercial aviation's first century since KLM Royal Dutch is, at 96 years old, the oldest airline still in operation under its original name. (And what a nice name it is.)