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December 2, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee yesterday declared pilot error to be behind the crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501. All 162 passengers and crew died when the plane crashed into the Java Sea a year ago.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April 2014.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

The Airbus A320-200 was around 40 minutes from Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport to Singapore’s Changi International Airport when it vanished on December 28. Wreckage and bodies were found floating two days later; National Search and Rescue Agency divers led an international recovery effort but over 50 bodies remain lost.

The pilots were facing a fault with the rudder travel limiter, a part involved in rudder control. They repeatedly received warnings on their Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system. The first three times Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto and French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel followed correct procedure only for the fault to recur. The fourth time, they tried something else — based on Flight Data Recorder readouts, investigators believe they reset power to their Flight Augmentation Computers.

The computers are principally responsible for rudder control and aircraft stability. With both computers switched off, the entire fly-by-wire system of semi-automation disconnected, as did the autopilot and autothrust systems. The pilots were now left to fly entirely manually, without automation that protects the aircraft from entering unusual and dangerous positions.

A miscommunication followed. Iriyanto asked Plesel, who was flying, to “pull down”. Plesel pulled the controls down, which pitched the nose up; Iriyanto had wanted to descend. The flight ascended without permission through 36,000ft with a ground speed of 353knts. The aircraft would normally be travelling faster, with a nearby Emirates jet at a ground speed of 503knts at 36,000ft. The aircraft also banked as the disengagement of automation left the rudder off-centre.

A ship carries the aircraft’s recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The AirAsia flight reached 38,000ft and entered a stall. The crew did not manage to regain control. The 155 passengers and seven crew died when the plane hit the sea. Most were Indonesians, but for three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit, and French national Plesel.

The fault was traced to cracked solder on a circuit board. It had repeatedly occurred in the weeks before the crash. The investigation concluded maintenance failings contributed to the disaster, but Muhammad Alwi of the Indonesian Transportation Ministry said “Repeated trouble in maintenance is a normal thing[…] If the trouble is fixed in accordance with the manual maintenance procedures, then it’s alright”.

Investigators believe the solder crack is attributable to extreme temperature changes in the unprotected compartment near the tail that houses the component.

The investigation further found the flight crew were untrained in recovering from extreme events. AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes said yesterday “there is much to be learned here for AirAsia, the manufacturer and the aviation industry… We will not leave any stone unturned to make sure the industry learns from this tragic incident”.

The report also dismisses weather as a contributory factor. The flight was diverting around storms in the area.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto had a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. They spent three minutes struggling to regain control as the pane fell to the sea. Some bodies were recovered around 1,000km away near Sulawesi.

AFP spoke to Terence Fan, an air industry expert from Singapore Management University, who said “It’s a scenario that has played out in air accidents in the past[…] Pilots are either distracted by a faulty equipment or cannot properly solve the issue and something else is brewing in the background.”

One such accident was the loss of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 into the Atlantic. It was investigated by the BEA of France, which also assisted the AirAsia probe. The BEA issued recommendations on how to train pilots after the Air France crash. Ex-BEA boss Jean-Paul Troadec said to AFP “Several recommendations of the (BEA) on the subject of pilot training were clearly not implemented by [AirAsia].”

Indonesia saw such an accident on New Years’ Day 2007 when Adam Air Flight 574 crashed into the Makasser Strait near Sulawesi. The plane suffered a failure on a navigational instrument. While pilots were troubleshooting for this navigational system they first unintentionally disconnected the autopilot, then lost control and crashed into the sea.



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November 26, 2015

New Polish government takes down findings on Russian air disaster

New Polish government takes down findings on Russian air disaster

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Coffins of some of the victims at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, photographed days after the crash.
Image: Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland.

The Law and Justice Party of Poland, which took power last week, this week removed web pages featuring the results of an investigation into the Smolensk air disaster in Russia in 2010. The cause of the crash, which killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski, is disputed.

The flight was carrying high-profile political figures to attend a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when thousands of Polish prisoners of war and civilians were killed by the Soviets. All 96 on board died. Amongst the dead were First Lady Maria Kaczyńska, several members of the lower parliamentary house known as the Sejm, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer, National Security Bureau head Aleksander Szczygło, and Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last President of the Polish government-in-exile.

The Law and Justice Party was in power at the time, led then as now by Lech Kaczynski’s identical twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Jaroslaw was himself Prime Minister of Poland from 2006 to 2007. Jaroslaw contested the vacated Presidency later that year but was defeated by Bronislaw Komorowski of the Civic Platform Party. Lech and Jaroslaw co-founded Law and Justice.

Some of the wreckage shortly after the disaster.
Image: Bartosz Staszewski.

Russian and Polish investigations deemed the crash an accident. Edmund Klich, head of the Polish air accident investigatory body, said in 2010 the Polish military pilots of the Tupolev Tu-154 were determined to get the dignitaries through dense fog so they could attend the ceremony. He said the pilots were insufficiently trained and put safety second, whilst Russian air traffic controllers should have diverted the aircraft away from Smolensk. Passengers entered the cockpit during the final stages of the flight.

Government spokesman Elzbieta Witek yesterday said Donald Tusk, a former Prime Minister, should be prosecuted before the State Tribunal, although Witek said this was a personal view and not government policy. Jaroslaw and allies have insinuated Russia purposefully brought the plane down.

Law and Justice accuse Tusk, Prime Minister from 2007 to 2014, of failings before and after the crash. He is accused of not ensuring the President was safe, of not establishing an international investigation, and of allowing Russia to maintain possession of the wreckage.

Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee performed its own investigation blaming solely Poland’s pilots and exonerating the controllers. Upon receiving the first draft of their report in 2010 Tusk branded the contents “unacceptable”, the findings “without foundation”, and the overall result a breach of the Chicago Convention, an international regulatory document on air travel.

Tusk resigned last year to take the European Council Presidency until 2017. Witek said he had “given away” investigative control. Polish minister Adam Lipinski has previously called for Tusk’s prosecution after his European duties conclude, saying he has “a lot to answer for” over the disaster.

Polish conspiracy theorists have been spurred on by Russian refusal to accede to Polish requests to return wreckage, which the Russians claim to still be investigating.

The new Prime Minister is Law and Justice’s Beata Szydlo. Asked on Tuesday about one disappearing website containing investigative findings, Szydlo told press “the website has been closed and will simply remain closed.”



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November 25, 2015

Athens bomb targets business group, damages Cypriot embassy

Athens bomb targets business group, damages Cypriot embassy

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A bombing outside the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises in central Athens, Greece early yesterday morning caused heavy damage to the Cypriot embassy across the street.

Nearby Syntagma Square, from file.
Image: Athenswalk.

The explosion hit Xenofontos Street around 3.30 a.m. local time (0130 UTC). Police had cordoned off the area after two local newspapers received calls warning of the impending blast 30–40 minutes before the blast. Unconfirmed reports state the bomb as being 3kg of explosives left in a backpack outside the office and detonated by a timer.

Police evacuated a hotel near the scene and warned kiosk vendors in the vicinity. Nobody was injured. The site is close to the city’s famed Syntagma Square. Witnesses report two individuals leaving the bag and police told Reuters a CCTV camera recorded two dark-clad men speeding off on a motorcycle.

Kyriakos Kenevezos, the Cypriot Ambassador, said to state media conglomerate CNA “Our embassy absorbed the full impact of the blast[…] there is incalculable damage to the interior from the ground floor to the sixth floor.”

Domestic anarchist and extreme left militants have been carrying out bombings and starting fires since 2010 saw the introduction of widespread austerity. Attacks have however decreased since left-wingers Syriza took power in January under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The government condemned the attacks, as did conservative opposition party New Democracy.



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Pakistani female fighter pilot Marium Mukhtiar dies in jet crash

Pakistani female fighter pilot Marium Mukhtiar dies in jet crash

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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Marium Mukhtiar yesterday became the first Pakistani female fighter pilot to die on duty when a jet aircraft crashed near Kundian, in Punjab’s Mianwali district.

Two Pakistani F7s from file.
Image: Asuspine.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) said Flying Officer Mukhtiar and male colleague Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi faced a “serious in-flight emergency” while training in an F7-PG fighter. After taking evasive action to avoid a residential area the pilots were left with insufficient altitude to safely eject. Both ejected and were injured; Mukhtiar died in hospital whilst Abbasi sustained minor injuries.

The PAF said Mukhtiar “embraced shahadat [martyrdom] and became the first lady pilot from PAF to attain this great honour,” crediting Abbasi’s survival as possibly down to his escaping several seconds prior to Mukhtiar. The duo “handled the serious emergency with professionalism and courage and tried to save the ill-fated aircraft till the very last minute,” according to the PAF.

The PAF estimates it has around 30 female fighter pilots. The force began recruiting women in 2003 and in 2006 the nation’s first seven female fighter pilots began service.



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November 24, 2015

Ferry MV Suilven sinks in Suva, Fiji

Ferry MV Suilven sinks in Suva, Fiji – Wikinews, the free news source

Ferry MV Suilven sinks in Suva, Fiji

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MV Suilven off Scotland in 1979.
Image: Dr Neil Clifton.

MV Suilven, a ferry in service in Fiji, capsized and sank in Suva Harbour today.

Around thirty people, all crewmembers, were on board. Local media report all were rescued. The 41-year-old vessel previously saw service in Scotland and New Zealand.

The ship capsized early this afternoon and sank within an hour. It had been converted from passenger to cargo use following its most recent sale, to Venu Shipping in 2012 or 2011. Local reports indicated police, the Navy, local tug boats, and volunteer rescuers all attended the accident.

The converted ferry reportedly began to list on entering the harbour. It was working a route carrying cargo between Suva and the Northern Division.

Built in Norway, in service from 1974, the ship served with Scottish ferry firm Caledonian MacBrayne until 1995, connecting the mainland town of Ullapool to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. It was ultimately replaced by a larger, faster vessel and was sold to Strait Shipping who used it until 2004 to ply New Zealand’s seas, connecting Wellington to Picton and to Nelson.

The name MV Suilven is in reference to the Suilven mountain in Scotland’s Sutherland region.



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November 17, 2015

Rwandan Senate approves constitutional change allowing third term for Kagame

Rwandan Senate approves constitutional change allowing third term for Kagame

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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The Senate of Rwanda today voted to amend the country’s constitution to allow a third term for President Paul Kagame.

President Kagame last year.
Image: Veni Markovski.

The changes, which require a referendum before becoming law, reduce the current limit of two seven-year Presidential terms to two five-year terms. Kagame receives an exemption allowing another seven-year term before starting to count his five-year terms. If approved the amendments can keep him in power until 2034.

Following Rwanda’s genocide Kagame grew popular at home and abroad, leading to over three million petitioners demanding he be allowed to run again. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has already gained approval from Parliament and seen off a Supreme Court challenge by the opposition Democratic Green Party.

Kagame has yet to decide if he will run again. Opposition leader Frank Habineza says his party will continue to oppose the change. Senate leader Bernard Makuza says he expects the referendum, the date of which is not yet set, to succeed.



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Rwandan Senate approves constituional change allowing third term for Kagame

Rwandan Senate approves constituional change allowing third term for Kagame

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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The Senate of Rwanda today voted to amend the Rwandan constitution to allow a third term for President Paul Kagame.

President Kagame last year.
Image: Veni Markovski.

The changes, which require a referendum before becoming law, reduce the current limit of two seven-year Presidential terms to two five-year terms. Kagame receives an exemption allowing another seven-year term before starting to count his five-year terms. If approved the amendments can keep him in power until 2034.

Following Rwanda’s genocide Kagame grew popular at home and abroad, leading to over three million petitioners demanding he be allowed to run again. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has already gained approval from Parliament and seen off a Supreme Court challenge by the opposition Democratic Green Party.

Kagame has yet to decide if he will run again. Opposition leader Frank Habineza says his party will continue to oppose the change. Senate leader Bernard Makuza says he expects the referendum, the date of which is not yet set, to succeed.



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November 12, 2015

South African judge jails eight police for Mido Macia\’s \’barbaric\’ murder

South African judge jails eight police for Mido Macia’s ‘barbaric’ murder

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

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A judge in Pretoria, South Africa yesterday sentenced eight police officers to fifteen years’ imprisonment each for the 2013 murder of Mido Macia. Mozambican immigrant Macia was dragged behind a police van and beaten in what the judge called a “barbaric” attack.

File photo depicting an officer on patrol in Cape Town.
Image: Shi Zhao.

Judge Bert Bam rejected the 25-year maximum sentence, citing a lack of premeditation and the otherwise good records of the officers involved. Judge Bam said he could not be more lenient owing to a lack of remorse.

Officers confronted Macia, whose illegally parked taxi was obstructing traffic in Daveyton, near Johannesburg. Macia remonstrated; an angry crowd formed. Police responded by binding the cuffed Macia to their van and dragging him through the streets. Video footage of this sparked worldwide media attention, but the assault continued out of public view in a holding cell where Macia was beaten.

Macia succumbed to head trauma and internal bleeding. His attackers were detained when the footage emerged; President Jacob Zuma called the film “horrific, disturbing and unacceptable”.

The sentence, which follows an August conviction, was welcomed by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate which says over 900 die annually either in police custody or from police action. Prosecutors and Macia’s family were also welcoming; the prosecution hope the sentence has a deterrent effect although the family had hoped for stiffer punishment.

The defence has indicated an appeal is likely. The convicted officers are Meshack Malele, Thamsanqa Ngema, Percy Mnisi, Bongamusa Mdluli, Sipho Ngobeni, Lungisa Gwababa, Bongani Kolisi, and Linda Sololo.

Macia had left his girlfriend Biuda Mazive, their young son Sergio, and other family including his parents in Mozambique. He headed to South Africa to join around five million immigrant workers and support his relatives, who are suing the South African government. They seek 6.5 million rand. The government say they intend to pay but are negotiating the value.


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November 11, 2015

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen lifts state of emergency

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen lifts state of emergency

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

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Abdullah Yameen, President of the Maldives, yesterday lifted the state of emergency he imposed on his nation last week.

One of over 1,000 islands that make up the Maldives.
Image: Timo Newton-Syms.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil cited progress in an investigation into the bombing of Yameen’s speedboat in September. The state of emergency was imposed last Wednesday with Yameen reporting security concerns.

The move proved controversial. The opposition Democrats accused the President of political motivations and using the powers to block a rally planned to demand ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, Democratic leader’s, release. A Democrat statement said “It appears that Yameen is willing to make up threats about the nation’s security in order to settle political scores[…] He has failed and should step down.”

Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was impeached and removed from office during the state of emergency. He is accused of involvement in the attack. After the ending of emergency rule a midnight vote in Parliament last night saw Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin dismissed by a heavy majority. The reasons for the vote have not been publicised. The opposition refused to attend.

Yameen also came under international pressure, including from the US, Sri Lanka, UK, and EU. The emergency provisions included the ability for authorities to search homes and people without formalities, restrictions on travelling around the nation of islands, and restrictions on the right to assemble.



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October 22, 2015

Former Miss Austria Ena Kadic dies after mountain fall

Former Miss Austria Ena Kadic dies after mountain fall

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

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Ena Kadić, an Austrian woman who won the 2013 Miss Austria crown, died early this week in hospital. She was 26 and fell whilst jogging in the Austrian Alps on Friday.

Ena Kadić in 2013.
Image: Miss Austria Corp.

Kadić fell roughly 30m down the Bergisel mountain in Tyrol, near Innsbruck where she worked. She was taken to Innsbruck University Hospital with injuries to her head, pelvis, and lung. Remaining conscious after the fall, she had alerted her family via telephone who in turn contacted emergency services.

She was found near the Drachenfelsen platform, which overlooks the River Sill. Police said she knew the area and enjoyed running; a profile on the Miss Austria website said she was into sports and nature.

The brown-haired, green-eyed beauty’s looks took her to compete in Bali, Indonesia in 2013. Thereafter she shunned publicity and worked in a fashion store. “The media, the events, the parties — that life made me so unhappy,” she said this year in a Seitenblicke interview.



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