Arlington, Virginia — An American Airlines mechanic appeared in a Miami court Friday after being charged with sabotaging a jetliner. The aircraft was filled with passengers and set to take-off.
At 10:30 a.m. on July 17th, American Airlines flight 2834 pulled out of gate 49 at Miami International Airport headed for the Bahamas. But pilots noticed a problem and as the plane, with 150 people aboard, moved into position on the runway, they were forced to turn around.
According to investigators, American Airlines mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, who appeared in a Florida court Friday, was seen on surveillance video tampering with the plane’s navigation systems just an hour before it was scheduled to depart. Alani, who’s worked for American since 1988, said he tried to sabotage the plane because he was upset about a stalled contract dispute between his union and American Airlines and that it had affected him financially.
Captain Laura Einsetler said had the plane taken off, it could have been catastrophic.
“It is significant. Any time we reject a takeoff, that’s a big deal,” she said.
Alani said he hoped sabotaging the plane would allow him to get overtime pay to fix it. American Airlines called it a disturbing event and said that it has been cooperating with the investigation.
Mitigating the growing threat of wildlife hazards at airports.
The world’s increasingly busy airports face a growing threat of birdstrikes and wildlife hazards, partly due to expanding urban environments and bird populations, but also due to the global growth of airport traffic. Lee Pannett, Director at the Scarecrow Group, reveals how bio-acoustic technology can successfully mitigate the issue.
CLEARING RUNWAYS: A Scarecrow Group vehicle in Prague
Regulations concerning airside bird control differ across the world in terms of what is mandatory and the extent to which practices are then governed by authorities. The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), for example, has published a set of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and although not binding, the SARPs recommend that member countries establish a national procedure for aircraft and airport personnel to record birdstrikes.
Understanding the importance and the implications of birdstrikes and wildlife hazards remains a major challenge for all airports no matter their size, for ground staff, operations teams and management.
Robotic falcon takes to the sky above Southampton Airport
Robird, as it is called, is designed to strike fear into the hearts of a wide range of potential runway hazards, including ‘other’ birds of prey.
ON PATROL: Robird is the first of its kind to be used on a regular, long-term basis at an airport
Birds of prey are a popular method of keeping the population of pest species down. Hawks have been unleashed on the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom to scare of resident pigeons and seaside resorts to manage seagulls. For years, airports have used various species but now, increasingly, they are considering a turn to ornithopters for their needs – and Southampton Airport has become the first in Europe to employ the technology on a long-term basis .
Traditional bird scaring methods lose their impact over time and need to be backed up with lethal deterrents. The benefit of Robird is that all types of birds including corvids (crows), birds of prey, pigeons and gulls see the drone as a predator, and change their behaviour to keep well away. No harm comes to any bird through this method of bird control.
The drone has been trialled at Southampton Airport in partnership with NATS and the developers, Clear Flight Solutions. The successful trial means similar robot bird systems could take flight at other airports in the future.
Dan Townsend, Southampton Airport’s Airside Operations and Safety Manager, said: “At Southampton Airport, we invest every effort to make sure our airfield is as safe as possible. Robird is an innovative idea that we’ve found to be an effective and durable way to reduce bird strikes — so you could say this idea really has wings.”
Ian Rogers, UK & Ireland Director, Clear Flight Solutions, added: “Clear Flight Solutions and Southampton Airport worked together to establish a drone operation on a regular and on-going basis in a CTR for the first time in Europe. The effect of flying Robird at Southampton has been to remove bird hazards safely and controllably from safety critical areas. This will benefit the airport and its customers.”
Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar casus flight chaos at Hong Kong International Airport
The 2nd major storm to hit Hong Kong within a week leads to 206 flight cancellations and 471 delays
Forty-two landing attempts were aborted at Hong Kong International Airport between 7am and 7.30pm on Sunday as winds whipped up by Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar made conditions unsafe.
A review by the Post of data from Flightradar24, which tracks commercial flight movements, found some aircraft tried two or even three times to make a safe touchdown, as crosswinds and wind shear, which exerts a turning force on aircraft, wreaked havoc on operations.
Some pilots eventually opted to divert to other airports, with Xiamen, Kaoshiung, Haikou, Manila and Bangkok taking a large chunk of flights.
Diverted aircraft included Cathay Pacific flight 238 from London, which made no fewer than three failed attempts at landing before being diverted to Kaoshiung. Another flight, CX616 from Bangkok, made one failed attempt to touch down before flying back to the Thai capital.
A Hong Kong finance worker who asked not to be named said his flight to Singapore was supposed to depart at 11.15am on Sunday, but had been delayed twice.
On Twitter, affected fliers complained of delays, with one hitting out at Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay for bumping him to a flight on Tuesday.
Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said 44 flights had been diverted to other destinations.
A total of 206 flights were cancelled and 471 delayed due to the storm, with 50 planes left stuck on the tarmac at one point in the day as the city was pummelled by its second severe storm in a week.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued a T8 warning on Sunday morning as Pakhar lashed the city with heavy rain, but downgraded that signal to T3 at 1.40pm and T1 at 5.40pm.
Both of the airport’s runways were set to operate overnight instead of the usual one, to cope with a backlog of flights.
At noon on Sunday, all airlines closed their check-in services until 2pm.
Earlier in the week, more than 450 flights were cancelled due to Typhoon Hato, which hit the city on Wednesday and caused major damage.
The typhoon left 10 people dead in nearby Macau and at least 244 people injured.
On Sunday, as Pakhar lashed the city, an authority spokesman advised travellers to check the status of their flight before coming to the airport.
“Operations are quite severely affected,” he said.
The spokesman said flights were still coming and going from the airport on Sunday afternoon, but a flight attendant on a Delta plane waiting to take off said no planes were taking off or landing, according to a Post reporter on board an affected flight.
The pilot for flight DL38 to Seattle said that at one point 20 planes were stuck on the runway waiting for safer conditions, while another 30 were waiting to push off from the terminal.
He estimated that take-off could be a few hours away at the very least.
Now we are just stuck on the flight like sitting ducks
MARK STRANSON, BUSINESS TRAVELLER
Flights heading southeast of Hong Kong were largely cancelled, while planes to Thailand, Japan and the United States boarded their passengers, the pilot said.
Mark Stranson, aboard DL38 after visiting Hong Kong on business, said he was pleased with the decision not to fly.
“I’d prefer that they delayed us before boarding because now we are just stuck on the flight like sitting ducks, but I’m glad they’re not trying to fly in this weather.”
But Cheri Cheung Wing-lam, a Georgetown University student, expressed concern she would miss her connecting flight.
“I cannot believe we have to sit here for so long, they shouldn’t have boarded us if they were going to keep us waiting. I’m thankful they’re not risking anything and that they provided refreshments, but I cannot imagine sitting here for hours.”
"In Australia you need a photo ID to enter a licensed venue, but not to board a flight!" Roger Henning, Founder, Homeland Security Asia Pacific
Letters: Airport security, the constitution and the NBN
Basic steps to tighten airport security
When will the government implement the necessary protective security measures to minimise the risk of a terrorist attack on civil aviation, and require airlines to assure the travelling public as to who and what is flying on their aircraft.
Anyone at our city and regional airports can board a domestic aircraft without ever producing identification. Simply check in online or at an electronic kiosk (including checked baggage), obtain your boarding pass, pass through security screening, and proceed to the boarding gate then onto the aircraft! Or, simply hand your boarding pass to one of the thousands of people in the sterile area, many of whom are not flying.
You, and your ticket and baggage, are never matched.
The bottom line is that our domestic carriers cannot guarantee who or what is travelling in their aircraft.
There are six basis steps to improving aviation security that should be implemented at all domestic airports immediately:
•Automated passenger profiling from the point of ticket purchase (national database interfaced with select government agencies and all airlines).
•Ticket-passenger verification (photo ID) prior to screening – only flying passengers permitted to proceed to the sterile concourse area.
• Scalable risk-based security screening (not everyone presents the same risk) incorporating automated full body scanning.
• Secondary ticket/passenger verification (photo ID) at the boarding gate.
• Replace the low-paid private security personnel working at our airports with a competent and highly motivated government aviation security force forming part of our border protection force. We do this for customs and quarantine inspection, why not security?
• Replace the Aviation Security Identification Card issued to employees, concessionaires and contractors working at our airports with biometric access control and ID –start tracking the person, not the card.
Anything less is simply a cost-driven politically expedient approach to our safety.
Mike Carmody, Former chief of security, Sydney Airport, Forde, ACT
It is worth highlighting a suggestion posted on Facebook by Paul TrueschlerIn know it’s a tourist attraction, but please install a small deflector to at least reduce the blast effects. It can still be exciting while becoming safer.
Hope the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten Airport Authorities instal a small deflector, to reduce the risk of injury and death of future visitors.
Safety concerns over soft tarmac spots at Suvarnabhumi airport by IATA.
In a report focussing on airport infrastructure in Thailand, IATA has highlighted an urgent need to address soft tarmac spots at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).
Temporary remedial repairs have been carried out on the runway tarmac, but reported incidents are steadily increasing, and IATA has urged Airports of Thailand (AoT) to urgently commit to a permanent solution.
Soft tarmac issues that result in runway closures and disruption have significant knock-on effects
IATA’s overwhelming concern regards safety, but soft tarmac issues that result in runway closures and disruption have significant knock-on effects.
• Delays resulting in missed onward connections, lost or delayed luggage
• Costs as a result of passenger re-routing due to missed connecting flights, hotel costs, and passenger compensation
• Gate changes caused by capacity constraints and repairs, resulting in passenger complaints and missed onward connections
• Fuel costs and delays caused by imposed holding patterns, and taxiing congestion as a result of capacity issue
• Impairing slot management and takeoff efficiencies
IATA also revealed its support for the approval of terminal expansion plans at BKK. With passenger numbers already surpassing the terminal design capacity of 45 million per year—and demand growing by 10% annually—expansion is vital if the airport is to meet demand.
The development of U-Tapao (Pattaya) as a third Bangkok airport would be an error
Another Bangkok airport, Don Mueng (DMK), meanwhile, experienced demand growth of 21.34% in 2016, driven by a surge in low-cost carrier passengers.
Although recognizing the pressure the Thai Government is under to meet demand, IATA believes the development of U-Tapao (Pattaya) as a third Bangkok airport would be an error. IATA instead believes the focus should be on maximizing throughput and efficiently using the facilities at BKK and DMK.
Lone-wolf radio hoaxer hacks Melbourne air traffic control
Federal police are hunting a lone-wolf radio hoaxer who made 15 illegal transmissions to air-traffic controllers and domestic passenger pilots last month – including one telling a Virgin pilot to abort a landing.
The agencies investigating the incidents believe only one person has made the transmissions by finding a way to tap into the air traffic control frequency and communicate directly with planes and control towers.
AFP hunt for Melbourne air traffic control hoaxer
The Australian Federal Police are investigating a series of hoax calls to air traffic controllers and domestic pilots. Vision courtesy ABC News Melbourne.
Flight data shows the plane came close to the runway at 5.19pm as it approached Tullamarine Airport. Then three minutes later the plane climbed to 3800 feet and started circling over north-west Melbourne – all under orders from the hoax air-traffic controller.
John Lyons, president of Virgin Independent Pilots Australia, said rogue radio transmissions were “a concern” because pilots must obey instructions from air traffic controllers but may not be able to verify who is or isn’t a legitimate controller.A radio hoaxer told a Virgin pilot to abort a landing. Photo: Tian Law
Later that evening, the hoax caller impersonated the pilot of a light aircraft. He issued a mayday call and pretended to be experiencing engine trouble. The ABC have posted audio where air traffic control personnel are trying to assess the mayday call. An air traffic controller then communicates with the light aircraft which the unauthorised individual is pretending to pilot.
“I can see you there now. Roger your mayday. Could you please advise what your situation is,” the air traffic control operator asks.
“Engine failure,” the hoax caller replies. “Descending passing through 4500.”
Mr Lyons said rudimentary amateur VHF radio equipment could be used in such a hoax.
“It’s not hard for someone to obtain,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that spend a lot of time observing aircraft at airports, and many of them have radios that monitor frequencies. But most of them just listen.
“In a worst case scenario, an aircraft will be told to go around, but there’s an aircraft on a runway crossing that runway.”
Mr Lyons said rogue transmissions also pose a risk because if someone pretends to be a pilot issuing a distress call, that call gets top priority from traffic controllers.
The union boss, who was a pilot for 48 years, said rogue broadcasters would have to be close to a plane in order to tell it to turn around.
“Normally VHF would require them to be in line of site of the aircraft,” he said.
Mr Lyons said the investigating agencies were doing everything they could to eliminate safety risks.
The Australian Federal police are yet to make any arrests in relation to the incidents. Also investigating are the Australian Communications and Media Authority and Airservices Australia – a government-owned ‘air navigation’ company.
None of the three agencies would comment further last night. Sources said this was for fear of copycat amateur radio operators trying to do the same thing.
However, Fairfax Media understands it is relatively easy to track rogue radio transmissions – but only when the signal is live. It is not known if authorities made attempts to track the rogue transmitter while he was making fake broadcasts.
Police warn the offender could face 20 years in jail. The incidents happened to controllers and pilots at or near Tullamarine and Avalon airports.
The AFP’s head of Crime Operations, acting Assistant Commissioner Chris Sheehan, said today the public could be assured there was no risk to safety.
However the ABC reported on Monday night that a Virgin Australia passenger flight from the Gold Coast to Melbourne aborted its landing only 80 metres from the tarmac on October 27. According to the ABC the incident happened around 5:00pm on October 27. The aircraft changed its altitude and course under the instruction of the unauthorised person transmitting from an unknown location.
“These incidents are being thoroughly investigated by the AFP, with technical support from the ACMA,” says Assistant Commissioner Chris Sheehan.”The airlines have been briefed to ensure the advice has been passed on to their pilots and to ensure appropriate measures are in place.”
Aircraft do not use encrypted frequencies like police because air traffic control need to respond quickly to incidents and have planes coming in from interstate as well as overseas. To move all aircraft in Australia to an encrypted system would be very costly.
At Leeds-Bradford airport in Britain in 2010, investigators from the airport’s anti-terrorism Project Griffin probed two incidents of hoaxers – or ‘pirates’ – trying to communicate with planes which were landing or taking off.
All airlines have individual call signs and all air traffic controllers use special VHF frequencies – but all this information is freely available online.
According to Australia’s Aviation Transport Act, interfering with aircraft navigation facilities or “putting the safety of an aircraft at risk by communicating false information” are in the same class of offence as taking control of an aircraft, damaging an aircraft or planting a dangerous item onboard.