Überlingen mid-air collision

This accident has recently came up in a conversation I had with a few friends.  Surprisingly, it’s not as widely known as I thought it was.  Read through the Wikipedia page for more details.

The Überlingen mid-air collision occurred at 21:35 UTC on 1 July 2002 between Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937 (a Tupolev Tu-154M passenger jet carrying 60 passengers – mostly children – and 9 crew) and DHL Flight 611 (a Boeing 757-23APF cargo jet manned by two pilots) over the towns of Überlingen and Owingen in southern Germany. All 71 people on board the two aircraft were killed.

Nearly two years later, on 24 February 2004, Peter Nielsen, the air traffic controller on duty at the time of the accident, was stabbed to death by an architect, Vitaly Kaloyev, who had lost his wife and two children in the accident.

On 19 May 2004, the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation (BFU) published its determination that the accident had been caused by shortcomings in the Swiss air traffic control system supervising the flights at the time of the accident and by ambiguities in the use of TCAS, the on-board aircraft collision avoidance system.

This is obviously very tragic, but what a story!  I’ve heard a rumor that there will be a drama movie made about it. That’s in addition to a few documentaries that already exist. Like this one, for example:


Cyprus Airways : Why so many pilots?

Cyprus Mail reader asks an interesting question:

Having just read your article on the Cyprus Airways pilots’ legal action against the board, I cannot believe their audacity.

They talk about how the board should remove excess staff. There are 71 pilots for a fleet of six aircraft. That is an amazing amount of pilots for such a small fleet. That is the equivalent of 10 crews per aircraft, when normally an airline would have four, possibly five crews per aircraft, especially with such a small route structure. Why so many pilots?

No wonder the airline cannot make a profit.

I wonder how many people actually know the following:

  • how many aircraft  Cyprus Airways has in its fleet?
  • how many pilots are employed by the Cyprus Airways?
  • how many pilots are usually in one crew?
  • how many crews on average an airline has per aircraft?
  • how does the number of crews per aircraft varies based on the route structure?

Flightfox – real people compete to find you the best flights

Flightfox – real people compete to find you the best flights

They are travel agents, airline personnel, or frequent flyers, and all of them are obsessed with finding the best flights.

They understand airline pricing, rules, routing, and frequent flyer programs. They’re also real people, so you can ask them anything.

I think this is a brilliant idea and excellent crowd-sourcing example.

What are they thinking?

Cyprus Mail reports that Cyprus Airways expands its operations in Greece:

“After the positive response from the Athens-Thessalonica-Athens route, the airline decided to start new regular flights to the country’s most important airports,” CY announced yesterday.

Starting on October 28, there will be twice-daily flights between Athens and Heraklion, one from Athens to Rhodes and back; one a day between Heraklion and Thessalonica and another between Rhodes and Thessalonica three times a week.

My first reaction after reading this is – what are they thinking?  Cyprus Airways has been in a lot of financial troubles lately, getting lots of help from the Cyprus government, including the kick out of the competition – Ryanair (here and here).  But at least Ryanair was working with Cyprus, bringing lots of people in and out.  What does Cyprus Airways do?  Yeah, right, instead of trying to help the Cyprus tourism a bit, they go to Greece.  Which, given Greece’s troubles, is questionable as well.  What’s the point of having Cyprus Airways in Cyprus at all then?  And why does the government spend the money on them.  Let them go to the other side of the world, if they want to, and help Australia’s tourism, or something…

All your base are belong to … USA

Slashdot reports:

The European Parliament has approved the controversial data transfer agreement, the bilateral PNR (passenger name register), with the US which requires European airlines to pass on passenger information, including name, contact details, payment data, itinerary, email and phone numbers to the Department of Homeland Security. Under the new agreement, PNR data will be ‘depersonalized’ after six months and would be moved into a ‘dormant database’ after five years. However the information would still be held for a further 15 years before being fully ‘anonymized.’

I’m so glad that I managed to visit the USA before it became a paranoid concentration camp.  The way things go, I don’t think I’ll live long enough to visit it again, without being worried for an arrest and endless detention.

P.S.: And some people still talk about privacy.  What privacy?

24 hours of air traffic in a minutes

Here is a mesmerizing video that I picked up at Pestaola.gr – 24 hours of worldwide air traffic compressed into a minute or so video.  Look at the density of that!  Consider the complexity of the underlying technology.  Consider how many people are affected but all of that.  And that’s not even all worldwide traffic, since some of it escapes the technology used for this research.


What’s wrong with airlines today?

I think there is something wrong with airlines, their policies, and their price making.  Here is one example.  I was looking for the cheapest way to get from Larnaca, Cyprus to Athens, Greece on Saturday, September 25th, 2010.  One of the lowest prices was offered by Aegean Airlines – 42 EUR for a one-way ticket.  That sounds awesome, doesn’t it?  Well, apparently that’s not the final price.  The final price with all the taxes and such came up to 156.16 EUR.

What’s the point of listing the price, on top of which you’ll have to pay the “tax” and “fee”, and which will be almost doubled by those extras?

Air plane crash

About two hours ago, an airplane of Helios Airlines has crashed 30km off Athens. It was flying from Larnaca, Cyprus to Althens, Greece carrying 115 passangers and 6 members of the crew. According to RBC news there are two versions of what happenned. One of them says that the plane crashed into the mountain when the pilot lost control. By another version, the plane blew up before it crashed into the mountain. The control tower lost all communications with the plane and that’s why it was followed by two fighter jets. There are also more details about pilots missing from the cabin a guy in the mask seen throught the window. This version doesn’t sound very authentic, but we’ll have to wait for the official version anyway.

I’m sure the tradegy will be all over the news for the next few days. Chances are that there were plenty of Greeks and Cypriots on board.

Update: Google news has about 300 stories already.