Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Cargo crashes, without a funny animal story

There’s nothing like a funny animal story to liven up the headlines. On 29th January a Qantas plane developed problems in its auxiliary power unit mid-flight between Melbourne and Auckland land was forced to land. A dog had escaped from its cage and chewed its way out of the cargo hold, through some heavy duty interior panel and electrical wiring. Apparently the dog, of unknown breed, was distressed but unharmed. Dog grounds Qantas plane

Cargo plane crashes do not get the attention of passenger flights, like the drama of the miraculous safe landing of the US Airways Airbus in the Hudson River on 16th January. We don’t even hear much about the near misses. On 20th January it was reported that a cargo plane had crashed on landing at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines because the landing gear collapsed on touchdown. It was a domestic flight carrying fish from Palawan. Nobody was injured but cargo crew and people living in the flightpath are not always so lucky. On 8th July 2008 a Kalitta Air cargo plane crashed into a house on take off from Bogota, Colombia. The crew were OK but two occupants of the house were killed. The plane was full of flowers destined for Miami.

Sudan in particular has a lamentable air safety record. In June 2008 there were two cargo crashes within three days of each other. On 27th June a cargo plane crashed near the town of Malakal, killing seven people, and on 30th June a cargo plane crashed on taking off from Khartoum, killing four people and only narrowly missing residential buildings. Cargo plane crahses in Khartoum Living in the flightpath can be dangerous as well as unpleasant.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

New flightpaths face resistance

Originally uploaded by RoseBridger
Unsurprisingly, London’s Heathrow Airport got the go-ahead for a third runway. Yet the mainstream media here in the UK hardly covers airport expansion anywhere else, even though all around the world there is opposition to be reckoned with, showing some success. Villagers and environmental campaigners succeeded in moving the site for a new airport in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, from its original site near the Bundala bird sanctuary, even though construction had started. A proposal for a new airport at Kampung Tekek in Malaysia could be cancelled for environmental reasons including risks to marine life.

In August 2008, protestors concerned about compensation for land, employment opportunities for locals and environmental impacts of expansion of Kisumu Airport in Kenya were constrained by riot police at the handover ceremony to the contractors. In Malindi, also in Kenya, 100 residents signed a memorandum to the Ministry of Lands demanding that certain conditions, including non-interference with ancestors' graves, be met before they would approve a new airport.

Many developments go ahead, without concessions or modifications, in spite of opposition from thousands of residents. A fourth runway for Frankfurt Airport in Germany has been approved, which will mean felling 100,000 trees. Frankfurt is already the world’s eighth biggest cargo airport, and planes to increase cargo volumes to 3.16 million tonnes by 2020. In Nagpur, India, 14 villages have been acquired for airport development, including 3025 hectares for a cargo hub and the usual maze of 6 lane roads and flyovers. Distressed farmers have been protesting over lack of rehabilitation and compensation for land. Whatever people think about airport expansion, nobody wants their village covered with concrete and tarmac, or to live under the flightpath.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Mr & Mrs PRESIDENT! Obama

Mr & Mrs Obama on TV
Mr & Mrs Obama
Originally uploaded by RoseBridger
A great day for America and the world! So here I was watching the inauguration, having no idea about taking pics with artificial light, the flash bouncing off the telly, the strobing effect off the TV screen…

The only vaguely interesting pic was this one with Barack and Michelle Obama’s faces overlaid. But this ‘First Lady’ and ‘First family’ business, it’s just so royal family-esque. It only elevates Michelle Obama into a rather prescribed role, once the world’s press can see past her outfits. And for world leaders like PRESIDENT! Obama (HOORAY!!) it’s weird that they are expected to have their wives (or, too rarely, husbands) standing at their side, gazing at them adoringly. Usually, it’s only on your first day at school, and maybe still some old-fashioned business functions that you are seen to need the support/approval of a family member.

Not sure about choice of pastor Rick Warren…a divisive figure. But Aretha Frankin, great singing, and fantastic hat!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Heathrow oil cargo boosted by UK-Saudi agreement

STOP Heathrow Expansion
Originally uploaded by RoseBridger
The announcement of a third runway and sixth terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport appears imminent, in spite of overwhelming opposition by residents, environmental groups and even a considerable proportion of businesses (photo right - just one of many protests). Take a look at HACAN for more info. In addition to passenger numbers, cargo is growing as well. Heathrow handled 1,310,987 tonnes in 2007, mostly carried in the bellyhold of passenger flights.

New growth at Heathrow includes ten British Airways flights per week to Saudi Arabia, which will commence in March. This has been enabled by the UK and Saudi Arabian governments’ June 2008 negotiations to increase oil production, which included an agreement between the two countries allowing for an increase of flights from 13 to 35 per week between the two countries. BA anticipates that most of the bellyhold cargo will be equipment for the oil industry.

The ten flights could add up to between 100 and 130 tonnes of oil equipment cargo from Heathrow to Saudi Arabia per week. This bellyhold cargo is tiny compared to the enormous freighters with capacity of over 100 tonnes carrying oil industry exploration, drilling and production equipment around the world. More freighters laden with oil and gas industry equipment are flying between destinations such as Houston and Calgary, Luxembourg and Doha, London Stansted to Tbilisi, and between Aberdeen and Oslo and Stavanger in Norway. It’s ironic how resource scarcity can trigger even more unsustainable resource use. Diminishing fossil fuel supplies, and anticipation of an overall upward trajectory in the oil price, has led to a boom in oil and gas equipment air freight, showing a willingness to burn vast amounts of aviation fuel in order to secure future oil supplies.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

A little duck I didn't notice

birds at Watermead Park
bird feeding
Originally uploaded by RoseBridger
Over the Xmas break I enjoyed a wander around Watermead Park in Leicester. I tried to indentify some of the birds, looking out for winter visitors, as there are many from the Arctic. I got confused about distinguishing resident geese from migrating visitors.

I opened up the pics and there are some tufted ducks which I hadn't noticed. One of the joys of taking photos is capturing things you didn't actually see. It could be something in the background or on the periphery, a bird in the sky, a beautiful reflection or a striking shadow.

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