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August 23, 2015

Vintage plane crashes into road during Shoreham Air Show in England

Vintage plane crashes into road during Shoreham Air Show in England

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The crashed aircraft, pictured in 2013 during a display.
Image: Alan Wilson.

Police warn more bodies may remain to be found after yesterday’s crash of a vintage jet killed at least seven people. The Hawker Hunter crashed into a busy road during the Shoreham Air Show in England.

The plane failed to pull out of a large loop at around 1:20p.m. It hit the nearby A27 road, erupting into a fireball and leaving cars burned out and heavily damaged. The scene in West Sussex is near the town of Shoreham.

Pilot Andy Hill is presently alive but critically injured in hospital. He has previously flown with British Airways and the Royal Air Force. Two of the dead are Worthing United FC football players, Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, who were on their way to a match.

Also killed was Matt Jones, 24, who worked as a personal trainer. He came from Littlehampton and was giving a friend a lift. A vintage Daimler wedding limousine on its way to collect a bride was also caught up in the crash, but its owner Chariot Chauffeurs say they are unclear on if the driver was a fatality.

Sussex Police and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are investigating. Police Superintendent Jane Derrick said last night “”At this time we are continuing to search[…] It is possible that tonight and tomorrow we are going to find more bodies at the scene.” She said it is believed all casualties except the pilot were road users. At least fourteen were injured.

A Hawker Hunter displaying at last year’s show.
Image: John5199.

The pilot did not eject. Hill was experienced, with years of display flying under his belt and a military career that included flying Harrier jump-jets. David Wildridge, another pilot who took part yesterday, said Hill is “well-known and well-loved”, “very professional”, and that his Harrier experience made him “the best of the best.”

The 1950s jet was decommissioned from military service in 1996 and sold at auction. In 2012 English entrepreneur Graham Peacock bought it for around £65,000. It is a regular at airshows.

Tina Tilley, head of the local chamber of commerce, was at the show ans said “From where we were we could see the jet came down very low and looked like it was going to scoop up – but it didn’t. There were flames and we knew it was right on the A27. Everyone was horrified and there were people crying.” Motorist Dom Lawson, whose car was narrowly missed, said “It was like something out of Die Hard.” The road closure left thousands trapped at the scene as they could not remove their cars.

In a statement, Prime Minister David Cameron sent “his heartfelt condolences to the families of the people who were so tragically killed… [his] thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.” The airshow is cancelled today.

Earlier this year a pilot was killed when his plane crashed during an aerial display a CarFest in England. In 2007 a Shoreham Air Show display recreating the Battle of Britain ended with a pilot dead following a crash.



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Vintage plane crashes into road during Shoreham Airshow in England

Vintage plane crashes into road during Shoreham Airshow in England

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The crashed aircraft, pictured in 2013 during a display.
Image: Alan Wilson.

Police warn more bodies may remain to be found after yesterday’s crash of a vintage jet killed at least seven people. The Hawker Hunter crashed into a busy road during the Shoreham Airshow in England.

The plane failed to pull out of a large loop at around 1:20p.m. It hit the nearby A27 road, erupting into a fireball and leaving cars burned out and heavily damaged. The scene in West Sussex is near the town of Shoreham.

Pilot Andy Hill is presently alive but critically injured in hospital. He has previously flown with British Airways and the Royal Air Force. Two of the dead are Worthing United FC football players, Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, who were on their way to a match.

Also killed was Matt Jones, 24, who worked as a personal trainer. He came from Littlehampton and was giving a friend a lift. A vintage Daimler wedding limousine on its way to collect a bride was also caught up in the crash, but its owner Chariot Chauffeurs say they are unclear on if the driver was a fatality.

Sussex Police and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are investigating. Police Superintendent Jane Derrick said last night, “At this time we are continuing to search[…] It is possible that tonight and tomorrow we are going to find more bodies at the scene.” She said it is believed all casualties except the pilot were road users. At least fourteen were injured.

A Hawker Hunter displaying at last year’s show.
Image: John5199.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry today said eleven people are “highly likely to have died in this tragedy”, based upon “our initial work at the site” and “inquiries following calls to the emergency services from worried families and friends”. He said officers currently remain at the “incredibly large” scene. There are plans to remove plane wreckage using a crane tomorrow.

The pilot, Hill, was experienced, with years of display flying under his belt and a military career that included flying Harrier jump-jets. David Wildridge, another pilot who took part yesterday, said Hill is “well-known and well-loved”, “very professional”, and that his Harrier experience made him “the best of the best.”

The 1950s jet was decommissioned from military service in 1996 and sold at auction. In 2012 English entrepreneur Graham Peacock bought it for around £65,000. It is a regular at airshows.

Tina Tilley, head of the local chamber of commerce, was at the show ans said “From where we were we could see the jet came down very low and looked like it was going to scoop up — but it didn’t. There were flames and we knew it was right on the A27. Everyone was horrified and there were people crying.” Motorist Dom Lawson, whose car was narrowly missed, said “It was like something out of Die Hard“. The road closure left thousands trapped at the scene as they could not remove their cars.

In a statement, Prime Minister David Cameron sent “his heartfelt condolences to the families of the people who were so tragically killed […] [his] thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.” The airshow is cancelled today.

It is one of three deadly European airshow crash in four days. On Thursday two planes carrying parachutists collided and crashed in West Slovakia. At least seven were killed. They had been practising for an airshow due to be held this weekend. Today two small planes collided during an airshow in Dittingen, Switzerland. One of the pilots escaped but the other was killed.

Earlier this year a pilot was killed when his plane crashed during an aerial display at CarFest in England. In 2007 a Shoreham Airshow display recreating the Battle of Britain ended with a pilot dead following a crash.

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March 31, 2012

European Commission clears British Airways owner IAG to buy bmi from Lufthansa

European Commission clears British Airways owner IAG to buy bmi from Lufthansa

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

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The European Commission (EC) has approved yesterday a takeover of loss-making UK airline bmi from Lufthansa by International Airlines Group (IAG), owner of British Airways (BA). IAG will have to make concessions after Virgin Atlantic told the EC the deal would be anti-competitive.

A bmi Boeing 737 at Edinburgh Airport. Rival Virgin had claimed the sale would give BA excessive dominance in Scotland.

The deal is set to cost IAG, who also own Iberia, £172.5 million. That value could fall as budget subsidiary bmibaby may be retained by Lufthansa or sold elsewhere, and IAG are reported to be primarily interested in the main bmi business. A regional subsidiary also exists.

IAG intends to use acquired slots at the busy Heathrow Airport, which serves London, to expand their own routes into Asia. The EC required IAG to surrender a number of flight slots at the airport. The slots surrendered or made available for lease are for use to destinations in Scotland, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. The EC also insisted that combined BA/bmi routing be made available for competitors to buy transfer seats upon.

Lufthansa intended to shut down bmi had the bid failed. The transaction is presently scheduled for completion April 20.

IAG boss Willie Walsh called the sale “great news for Britain” with results that are “good for UK business and UK consumers.” Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson had previously said the move would give BA excessive dominance on Scottish flights. More Heathrow slots earmarked for Scotland have been given up than any other destination.

Ryanair took the opportunity to claim only their own takeover bid for Aer Lingus has been a major EC casualty. “Today’s rubber-stamping of BA’s purchase of bmi shows yet again that the EC has one rule for Europe’s flag-carriers, but different rules for Ryanair”, said Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary.



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April 9, 2010

British Airways and Iberia sign merger deal

British Airways and Iberia sign merger deal

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Friday, April 9, 2010

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An Iberia Airbus A321-200
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

A British Airways Airbus A321-200
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

British Airways (BA) and the Spanish airline Iberia have signed a merger deal, which will create one of the largest air carrier groups in the world.

The two announced the merger yesterday, and said that the deal, which has been expected for a long time, is to be implemented by the end of 2010. The move will make a group with a market value of US$8 billion. The deal has been negotiated since July 2008.

Under the plan, both companies keep their own brands and operations, but will be owned by International Airlines Group, a new holding company. It will be listed in London, but taxed in Spain.

The airlines believe the merger will save $530 million annually. In February, BA reported a loss of $102.4 million for the final three quarters of 2009, whilst Iberia posted an operating loss of $629 million.

Meanwhile, investors in BA will receive an IAG share for every BA share they own, and stockholders in Iberia 1.0205 shares for each share in the Spanish airline; thus, BA shareholders will take 55% of IAG.

“The merged company will provide customers with a larger combined network,” commented BA chief executive Willie Walsh. “It will also have greater potential for further growth by optimising the dual hubs of London and Madrid and providing continued investment in new products and services.”

Meanwhile, Iberia chief executive Antonio Vázquez remarked: “This is an important step in creating one of the world’s leading global airlines that will be better equipped to compete with other major airlines and participate in future industry consolidation.”

Independent aviation specialist James Halstead said he believed the merger was necessary for BA to remain competitive amongst other European air carriers. “BA’s unique position at Heathrow could help it survive for a short while, but in the long run it needs more than just Heathrow. The main point of the Iberia deal is to be able to cut costs and put the combined company in the position that Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are already in,” he said, quoted by The Independent.



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March 21, 2010

British Airways cabin crew begins strike

British Airways cabin crew begins strike

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

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A British Airways Airbus A320-100
Image: Juergen Lehle (albspotter.eu).

Cabin crew workers at British Airways have begun a three-day strike, affecting over 60,000 people, after last-minute talks between BA and the union, Unite, collapsed.

The strike will extend for three days, after beginning at midnight in London. After the first strike, the union plans another four days of industrial action, beginning on March 27th. According to BA, around 65% of the airline’s passengers will be able to reach their destinations, despite 1,100 of the normal 1,950 flights being canceled. The effect of the strike varied between airports; while all flights were operating from London City Airport, only 60% of long-haul and 30% of short-haul flights were expected to operate from London Heathrow Airport. At London Gatwick Airport, all long-haul flights and around half of short-haul flights were still operating.

The strike began after last-minute negotiations between BA and Unite collapsed. BA and Unite have been at odds for some time; in November 2009, BA announced plans to reduce the number of crew on many flights and institute a two-year pay freeze from 2010. While Unite says it recognizes the need for costs to be cut, it also claimed it was not consulted on the means to do so.

The strike also has political implications in the United Kingdom, as Unite is one of the largest backers for Prime Minister Gordon Browns’ Labour Party. The opposition Conservative Party have called on the Labour Party to sever financial ties with Unite during the length of the dispute, saying that “Labour’s dependence on funding from Unite is compromising their ability to stand up to the unions and stand up for the interests of passengers.”



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February 10, 2010

Final report blames London passenger jet crash on ice

Filed under: BA Flight 38,British Airways — admin @ 5:00 am

Final report blames London passenger jet crash on ice

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A photograph of the wreckage of flight BA 38 following the aircraft’s evacuation.
Image: Marc-Antony Payne.

The United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Board (AAIB) yesterday blamed a release of ice in the fuel system of a British Airways passenger jet as the cause of a crash two years ago at London’s Heathrow Airport. from China was attempting to land when both engines lost almost all power – a condition called “rollback”.

The exact phenomenon had never been previously identified, but it not only affected the British Airways jet two years ago but also a Delta Airlines jet above the United States later the same year. Both were Boeing 777 aircraft. That incident prompted the AAIB to collaborate with the US National Transportation Safety Board.

BA 38 was approximately 43 seconds from touchdown when it experienced a dual engine rollback that was beyond the control of the flight crew. Captain Peter Burkill and co-pilot John Coward were later hailed as heroes for performing a successful crash landing 330 metres from the runway. The plane avoided nearby buildings and a road, leaving the landing gear deployed to act as shock absorbers.

The jet slid 372 metres after the crash, but all 136 passengers evacuated alive. 36 passengers and twelve crewmembers were injured, mostly suffering whiplash and one incurring a broken leg. The report concluded there was no time to alert the cabin crew or passengers to the situation developing in the cockpit.

A photograph showing ice buildup on the component in question, during testing.
Image: US NTSB.

The engine rollback was caused by ice forming in the fuel system; the ice came from water molecules existing as impurities in the fuel, and lined the fuel system. When extra fuel was pumped through to supply the engines for landing manoeuvres, the ice was dislodged.

It is believed to have then settled on a component called the fuel-oil heat exchanger, a dual-purpose component that runs oil pipes through the fuel system. The idea is to cool down hot oil and keep fuel warm to prevent freezing. As the result of previous safety recommendations from both the UK and US investigators Boeing and engine company Rolls-Royce have worked to redesign the part.

Every component of the aircraft complied with all relevant airworthiness standards, and the fuel also complied with the standards applying to it. Although ice problems have been known since the 1950s, sudden release problems were unheard of before the crash. The testing conducted as part of the investigation is thought to be unique and the aircraft experienced unusually low temperatures during the flight.

A total of eighteen safety recommendations have been issued, of which nine came from an interim report and nine are new. Some of these apply to aircraft “crashworthiness” – the ability to withstand impact forces.



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  • “US, UK investigators seek 777 engine redesign to stop repeat of London jet crash” — Wikinews, March 14, 2009

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British Airways Flight 38

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November 20, 2009

UK lawyer comments on court case against Boeing over London jet crash

UK lawyer comments on court case against Boeing over London jet crash

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Friday, November 20, 2009

The scene of the crash
Image: Marc-Antony Payne.

On Thursday, ten of those on board British Airways Flight 38 launched a case against Boeing over the accident before a court in Illinois. They are suing over an alleged flawed design that allowed an ice buildup to bring the 777 jet down at London’s Heathrow Airport. Scottish advocate Peter Macdonald spoke to Wikinews, commenting on the case and explaining the surrounding legislation. He has experience of litigating aviation accidents.

Although investigations are ongoing, the United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has issued interim reports indicating ice buildup on an engine component. As the jet passed over Siberia on its journey from Beijing, China it encountered significantly reduced temperatures. The AAIB has determined that the fuel was at a temperature below 0°C for an unusually long duration. This is believed to have caused water in the fuel — which met all relevant international standards — to have frozen into crystals.

A build-up of ice developed on a component called the fuel/oil heat exchanger. This restricted the flow of fuel to the engine, resulting in an “uncommanded engine rollback” — a loss of power — on approach for landing. Investigators initially struggled to produce enough ice under test conditions but later discovered that at high concentration, fuel can form ice at very low temperatures in enough quantity to seriously restrict fuel flow. This does not occur when fuel demand is lower, as the hot oil then becomes sufficient to entirely melt the ice. It was only when extra fuel was pumped in from the tanks for the landing that the crystals became a problem. The fuel/oil heat exchanger is a dual purpose part designed to simultaneously melt fuel ice and cool down engine oil by passing oil pipes through the fuel flow.

Cquote1.svg If I am correct that it is a product liability suit, then the fact that this is the first such accident matters not Cquote2.svg

—Scots lawyer Peter Macdonald

The crew of the aircraft were praised for their handling of the emergency, avoiding the airport’s perimeter fence and nearby houses to crash land short of the runway. None of the 136 passengers and 16 crew were killed but some of those suffered serious injuries, including broken bones and facial injuries. Some were left unable to fly and there were cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The crash was triggered by highly unusual circumstances; the first AAIB report noted that cold fuel behaving in this manner was an “apparently hitherto unknown phenomenon.” As part of the investigation, data of 141,000 flights of 777s equipped with the engine model involved — the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 — was reviewed without finding any relevant circumstance similar to the accident flight, although there was later a similar incident in the United States in which the aircraft continued safely after repowering one engine; the second did not lose power.

Given the circumstances surrounding the case, Wikinews asked Peter Macdonald if the plaintiffs intended to prove that Boeing knew or should have known the Rolls-Royce powerplant was dangerously defective by design. “I rather suspect that there may be product liability legislation in place in whichever US jurisdiction is being used,” Macdonald explained. “Such statutes normally do not require proof of fault, nor do they require proof of knowledge. All that you have to show is that there was a defect in the product which caused the losses concerned… If I am correct that it is a product liability suit, then the fact that this is the first such accident matters not.”

Cquote1.svg [Rolls-Royce] would be liable for a defect in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 Cquote2.svg

—Peter Macdonald

Macdonald went on to discuss the international legislation and how it interacts to the plaintiffs and the three companies involved — Boeing, British Airways and Rolls-Royce. Only Boeing is currently named in an action over the case. “There are several reasons why the plaintiffs will wish to sue Boeing in the States,” he said. “Were the plaintiffs to seek redress in a court in the United Kingdom, it is unlikely that the relevant part of Boeing would be subject to jurisdiction here.” He also pointed out that “US damages are generally higher than English damages.”

“As to whether Boeing should settle, that all depends upon the basis of the action. If it is a fault [negligence] based action, they will be able to defend it. If fault is not needed, that is why they would want the action dismissed, forcing litigation in the UK.” In the UK, a product liability suit “would ordinarily be directed against the importers, i.e. British Airways… It would be a simple matter to sue BA here [the UK] for the physical injuries and their financial consequences,” said Macdonald. “That leaves RR [Rolls-Royce]. I assume that the engine was made in the UK. They would be liable for a defect in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, Part I.” This piece of UK-wide legislation states that “where any damage is caused wholly or partly by a defect in a product [the manufacturer] shall be liable for the damage.” Damage includes injuries.

This picture from the investigation demonstrates the effects of ice buildup on the part in question

US courts decide international jurisdictional issues under the Jones Act, passed as a result of Bhopal litigation, “which makes it much more difficult for a foreigner to sue in the US if the accident did not happen there… My restricted understanding of that is that it is likely that it would be difficult to remove an action from a US court where the aircraft was made in the US.” He further pointed out that the court would require there to be an alternative court with jurisdiction over the issue. “It may well be that the relevant part of the Boeing group is not subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts… I have seen cases where it was made a condition of the grant of an order under the Jones Act that the defendants would submit to the jurisdiction of a court in Scotland and that they would not take a plea of time bar in the even that an action was raised within three months of the court order.”

He then addressed the international law with regards to what could be claimed for against air carriers such as BA. In a previous case against the same airline, Abnett v British Airways, the House of Lords ruled in 1997 “that the only remedy for an injured passenger on an international flight is to sue under the Warsaw Convention, Article 17, incorporated into our law by the Carriage by Air Act, 1961.” The Warsaw Convention governs liability for international commercial airlines. At the time, the House of Lords was the highest court of appeal in the UK, although it was recently replaced by the Supreme Court. The Abnett case referred to British Airways Flight 149, in which Iraq captured the aircraft and occupants when it landed in Kuwait hours after Iraq invaded in 1990. Peter Macdonald represented Abnett in this case.

The Convention “provides a remedy for “bodily injury”. Interestingly, the term only appeared in the final draft of the Warsaw Convention. There is no mention of the term in the minutes of the many sessions which lead up to the final draft. It was produced overnight and signed later that day.” This term creates difficulties in claiming for mental problems such as the fear of flying or PTSD, although Macdonald points out that “there is a large amount of medical literature which details physical and chemical changes in the brains of people who are suffering from PTSD.”

In King v Bristow Helicopters, heard before the House of Lords in 2002 “held that PTSD was not a “bodily injury”, but expressly left the door open for someone to try to prove that what is known as PTSD is the manifestation of physical changes in the brain which have been brought about by the trauma. Such a litigation is pending in Scotland.” Macdonald is acting in this case.

Actions against Boeing are not bound in this way, as the Warsaw Convention only applies to airlines, making the States an attractive place to sue due to the issues with demonstrating jurisdiction against the relevant part of the Boeing group in the UK. Another reason why the plaintiffs would prefer to sue in America is that in the UK “there would be liability [for BA], and that would be subject to a damages cap. An action in the US [against any defendant] would probably have the same cap, but is likely to award damages more generously in the event that the cap is not reached.”



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November 13, 2009

British Airways and Iberia agree to merge

British Airways and Iberia agree to merge

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Friday, November 13, 2009

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British Airways and Spain’s Iberia airline have announced plans to merge. The merger is valued at £5.5 billion (US$9 billion dollars), and would create the third largest airline in the world.

The new company will be headed up by BA’s Willie Walsh with the board led by Iberia’s Antonio Vazquez. Shares are split 55% to 45% respectively, with each BA share being exchanged for a share in the new firm and each Iberia share worth 1.0205 shares in the new firm, to be registered in Spain with head offices in London.

A statement said the deal “is expected to generate annual synergies of approximately 400 million euros, and benefit both companies’ shareholders, customers and employees.” It also stated Iberia may yet call off the plan “if the outcome of the discussions between British Airways and its pension trustees is not, in Iberia’s reasonable opinion, satisfactory.” Subject to this, as well as shareholder and trustee consent, the merger is planned to be completed by next year.

The European Union is also required to approve. The EU has already warned the duo off from forming a transatlantic flight alliance with American Airlines, saying it would breach antitrust law. The trio still want to win approval for the plan to operate as one unit for flights to Mexico, Canada and the US. The possibility of a merger deal has been public since July, and may result in cost reductions. Iberia’s six-month figures are expected tomorrow; BA has already reported a record £217 million loss.

British Airways is the United Kingdom’s flag carrier and currently the third-largest carrier in Europe. The largest is Air France-KLM, formed in 2004 when Air France spent 700 million euros to acquire KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. That firm also owns 25% of Italian flag carrier Alitalia. This is followed by Lufthansa, who have acquired Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines and British Midland Airways. Lufthansa partially owns Belgian flag carrier Brussels Airlines.



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January 31, 2009

British Airways plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050

Saturday, January 31, 2009

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United Kingdom flag carrier British Airways (BA) has announced a plan to cut their net carbon dioxide emissions by 50% between now and 2050. The target was announced by airline head Willie Walsh speaking in Hyderabad upon the opening of a new route between London’s Heathrow Airport and the Indian city. This is the most ambitious such target set by an airline.

“Some people say that in economic times as desperately tough as these, we can afford to put climate change issues on one side. I could not disagree more. Halving net CO2 by 2050 is an extremely challenging target. But it is one I am sure we can achieve,” said Walsh.

“We will make progress through investment in cleaner aircraft, use of alternative fuels, more efficient flight routings and the spread of emissions trading from Europe to the whole world,” he explained.

“We have taken climate change issues very seriously for a long time. More than a decade ago, we became the first airline to publish fuel efficiency targets – and we have achieved an improvement since then of almost 30 per cent. […] We are the only airline to have experience of emissions trading, and we have helped fund research into lower-carbon aviation fuels. We are currently working closely with Rolls-Royce to develop alternative fuel opportunities.”

If successful, BA’s carbon dioxide emissions will lower from sixteen million tonnes in 2005 to eight million tonnes in 2050. Walsh also spoke of previous experience the airline had in the field, and noted that they “are currently working closely with Rolls-Royce to develop alternative fuel opportunities.”

Sources

  • “British Airways pledges to cut net CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050”. Malta Independent, January 31, 2009
  • “BA aims to halve emissions”. Aviation Record, January 30, 2009


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September 6, 2008

Interim report blames ice for British Airways 777 crash in London

Interim report blames ice for British Airways 777 crash in London

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

The scene of the crash
Image: Marc-Antony Payne.

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The United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has released an interim report into the crash of British Airways Flight 38. The Boeing 777-ER crashed early this year as it tried to land at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The report states that the AAIB believes the crash occurred when ice crystals formed within the fuel system. However, it should be noted that the report only serves as an update into the progress of the investigation and that the final report is yet to be published and may yet reach a different conclusion into the cause of the accident.

The flight from Beijing, China had been normal until final approach at Heathrow, at which point the aircraft was coming in for landing with the autopilot and autothrottle engaged. However, engine power became greatly reduced when the autothrottle requested more thrust, and the aircraft made a forced landing 1,000 feet from the runway. The aircraft suffered substantial damage as it slid across the grass to the runway threshold, where it came to rest, and was written off. There was only one serious injury and eight minor ones to the 136 passengers and 16 crew.

As the jet passed over Siberia it encountered significantly reduced temperatures. The AAIB has determined that the fuel was at a temperature below 0°C for an unusually long duration. This is believed to have caused water in the fuel – which met all relevant international standards – to have frozen into crystals. These were able to form undetected as the aircraft cruised with a low fuel requirement, and it was only when extra fuel was pumped in from the tanks for the landing that the crystals became a problem.

The report says that the current explanation being offered for the accident is an “apparently hitherto unknown phenomenon” and warns that other combinations of aircraft models and engines may also be vulnerable. The 777 involved was powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 800s, like 222 of the 736 777s currently operating. Data from 141,000 other flights of such aircraft has not yielded any other set of circumstances similar to the one in the crash flight.

In light of these results, a worldwide alert has been issued to the 11 airlines that between them operate all the aircraft identical to the lost jet. Boeing have instructed airlines to vary altitude regularly when fuel is below 10°C and to run the engines at max power for ten seconds before attempting a landing if the fuel has been at such temperatures for over three hours. The extra power is intended to clear out any buildup of water. To prevent buildup of water during ground operation at freezing temperatures all fuel pumps should be run at full power for one minute.

Air New Zealand have already confirmed they will introduce the new measures, and United States authorities are expected to make them mandatory within days. The affected aircraft are operated by US carriers American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.



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