Flights at Dubai Airport Halted Over ‘Drone Activity’

Dubai International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, was forced to briefly shut down departing flights on Friday because of what it said was “suspected drone activity,” the latest instance in which a major airport had to restrict air traffic over concerns about the remotely controlled devices.

The airport said in a statement that flight departures were suspended between 10:13 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. because of concerns about drone activity. Incoming flights were allowed to land, and the airport said on Twitter that operations were back to normal.

“Dubai Airports has worked closely with the appropriate authorities to ensure that the safety of airport operations is maintained at all times and to minimize any inconvenience to our customers,” the airport said.

The Dubai airport has grown rapidly in recent years, a reflection of changes in the region, and it has emerged as a busy hub for travelers heading all over the world.

The airport, which is the base of operations for the Emirates airline, says it serves more than 89 million people annually, with flights to 240 destinations on six continents operated by more than 100 airlines.

Government regulations in Dubai are fairly unambiguous about flying drones in areas where there might be significant air traffic: It is forbidden “near, around and over airports,” and users must obtain a certificate from the General Civil Aviation Authority in the United Arab Emirates.

In the last few months, reports of drone sightings have led several large airports to shut down or restrict air traffic.

In the most serious case, Gatwick Airport, one of the two main airports that serve London and the surrounding area, was shut down for the better part of 36 hours, as perplexed investigators struggled to confirm reports that at least one drone had entered its airspace.

In early January, flight departures were interrupted at London’s other main airport, Heathrow, after reports of drone sightings, although normal service resumed after about an hour.

Later that month, officials at Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the three main airports serving the New York City area, halted all departures and delayed incoming flights after two pilots said they had seen a drone at a smaller airport in Teterboro, N.J., about 17 miles to the north.

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern says turning back of China-bound flight not a red flag for ties

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – An Air New Zealand flight bound for Shanghai was turned back because of an “administrative issue” and the incident holds no political implications for ties with China, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (Feb 11).

The flight, with about 270 passengers, left Auckland shortly before midnight last Saturday but turned around several hours into the journey and landed in New Zealand on Sunday morning, the national carrier, part-owned by the government, has said.

“I think it is important to be really clear and not confuse administrative and regulatory issues as issues to do with the relationship,” Ms Ardern told a weekly news conference.

“This was very much an administrative issue,” she added. “There’s an expectation that inbound aircraft be registered, that the flight in question had not fulfiled the administrative requirements.”

China’s foreign ministry has not made any comment yet.

Ms Ardern’s remarks came after some politicians and analysts questioned whether the incident pointed to broader issues in New Zealand’s ties to its key trading partner.

“We need to know what has happened here. Is it part of the ongoing deterioration in relations between this New Zealand government and China?” opposition National Party leader Simon Bridges wrote on social network Twitter on Sunday.

In November, New Zealand’s intelligence agency rejected the telecommunication industry’s first request to use Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s equipment in its planned 5G mobile network, citing national security concerns.

That followed a defence policy statement in July, in which New Zealand said China’s rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking complaint from China.

“There’s a heightened degree of sensitivity around the relationship right now,” said Mr David Capie, director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

“On a range of issues with China, this government has signalled it’s taking a different stance to its predecessor, so I think people are waiting to see if and how Beijing responds.”

The rescheduled flight landed in Shanghai on Monday, data from flight tracking website FlightAware shows.

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Air New Zealand flight forced back after being denied China landing

WELLINGTON (DPA) – An Air New Zealand flight was forced to return to Auckland halfway to Shanghai on Sunday (Feb 10) after it was found the aircraft was not allowed to land in China.

“Flight NZ289 Auckland to Shanghai returned to Auckland around four and a half to five hours into its journey after it was discovered a technicality meant the particular aircraft operating this service did not have Chinese regulatory authority to land in China,” the carrier told dpa in a statement on Sunday.

It could not immediately confirm what type of plane was involved or how many passengers and crew were affected.

The flight had taken off as scheduled about midnight Sunday (5am Singapore time).

The pilot later told those on board that “Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around”, passenger and American academic Eric Hundman told the New Zealand Herald.

“I would be stunned if Air NZ had allowed a plane full of passengers to take off without being quite sure they would be able to land it in Shanghai,” the assistant professor at New York University Shanghai added.

Air New Zealand began flying from Auckland to Shanghai in June 2006.

In August, flight NZ289 was forced to return to Auckland less than an hour after taking off due to a possible technical issue which was later ruled out.

“Customers will be accommodated for the day at hotels or at the airport’s Strata Lounge before they depart for Shanghai on a special service at 11pm this evening,” the airline told dpa.

“We know customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans.”

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Unclaimed bag forces Scoot flight for Singapore to return to Bangkok

SINGAPORE – A Scoot flight from Bangkok to Singapore was forced to return to the Thai capital on Wednesday (Jan 30), due to an unattended and unclaimed cabin bag.

In a statement, the budget airline said that Flight TR607, which took off at 11.55am, returned to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport an hour after departure in the interests of safety.

The plane with 131 passengers on board landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport around 2.10pm Bangkok time.

Scoot’s preliminary investigations found that the airline’s ground handling agent had seen an unattended bag in the gatehold room, and handed it to the flight’s cabin crew thinking that it belonged to one of the passengers on TR607.

Cabin crew accepted the bag, “which was a breach of security protocols”, but were unable to determine the owner of the bag.

“The captain was not informed of this issue till the flight had departed Bangkok,” Scoot said.

However, he made the decision to return to Bangkok after he was alerted to the situation.

Passengers disembarked from the aircraft at the airport and security personnel conducted the necessary checks, the airline said.

The bag was removed from the aircraft by airport authorities, Scoot added.

Flight TR607 later departed Bangkok at 7.49pm local time, with a new set of operating crew.

Scoot said that passengers who miss their connecting flights in Singapore on Scoot or partner airlines, including Singapore Airlines and SilkAir, will be transferred to the next available flights.

“We sincerely apologise for the lapse and we will review our training processes to prevent a recurrence,” Scoot said.

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Airport Delays Ripple Across Northeast Due to Air Traffic Controller Shortage

Significant flight delays were rippling across the Northeast on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers as a result of the government shutdown, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agency said it was slowing traffic in and out of the airports because of staffing problems at facilities in Washington and Jacksonville, Fla.

The delays were cascading along the Eastern Seaboard, reaching as far north as Boston. But La Guardia was the only airport closed off to arriving flights from other cities because it was so crowded with planes taking off and landing on a weekday morning.

Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports continued to operate and flights bound for those airports were proceeding.

On Wednesday, unions representing air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants offered an urgent warning that the lengthy government shutdown had created serious safety concerns for the nation’s air travel system. Like many other federal employees, the controllers have been working without pay for more than a month.

“The President has been briefed and we are monitoring the ongoing delays at some airports,’’ said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA.”

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that it was rerouting planes and slowing air traffic to cope with an increase in the number of controllers calling in sick.

The spokesman said the changes were having “minimal impacts to efficiency.”

On Friday morning, the departures screen at one of the terminals at La Guardia Airport in New York began to show ‘Delayed’ across arriving flights.

The partial shutdown, nearing five full weeks, has caused strain across the air travel system. For more than a month, thousands of transportation security officers and air traffic controllers have been working without pay. Many have taken on side jobs driving for ride-hailing apps or in restaurants to try to pay their bills.

Staffing among air traffic controllers, who are responsible for keeping planes from colliding, was already an issue even before the shutdown, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the controllers’ union

The number of certified controllers is at a 30-year low, the union said, and staffing at the centralized radar facility for the airports that serve New York City, which is known as a Tracon, has only about 130 controllers, far short of its full complement of 228.

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Airlines, Too, Are Hit When Government Workers Are Grounded

It’s not just airport security lines and control tower workers that are affected by the federal government shutdown. Airlines, too, are being hit.

The industry as a whole lost about $105 million in revenue in the first month of the shutdown, according to data from the consulting firm ICF. That figure represents only the loss of revenue from some government employees not taking work trips.

The shutdown began more than a month ago, on Dec. 22, and legislators have largely remained deadlocked over how to end the impasse. Dueling bills in the Senate and other proposals in the House seem unlikely to restore funding to reopen the government in the immediate future.

“In the context of the airlines’ total revenue, this is a drop in the bucket,” said Samuel Engel, a senior vice president and lead of the aviation practice at ICF. “One major storm can cut airlines’ revenue more than a month’s lost government travel, but a storm doesn’t continue month after month,” he added in an email.

Mr. Engel said that ICF’s data did not include travel by private citizens like government contractors or lobbyists, or leisure travel to Washington.

“What these numbers don’t capture is the degree to which the economy is being affected more broadly by the consequences of the shutdown,” he said.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said in a letter to lawmakers earlier this month that the shutdown has more than just economic effects for airlines. It hinders operators from bringing new planes into service and has delayed a variety of safety inspections and certifications for aircraft and airline employees.

“We urge elected leaders to resolve or address these impacts quickly to ensure that travelers can continue flying, cargo can be delivered on time, the American economy can keep growing and our skies remain safe,” Airlines for America said in a statement.

American Airlines, which carries the largest share of government workers and has seen the largest drop in revenue, will see a shortfall of 1.2 percent in its total monthly revenue, according to ICF.

The losses could increase by 10 or 20 percent if the shutdown continues beyond this month, because January is generally a slow travel period, according to ICF’s data.

American, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines accounted for nearly 90 percent of the industry’s total losses because most employees on government business fly on one of those three carriers.

Mr. Engel said airlines faced a bigger problem, though, with demand for flights declining overall.

“A relative softening of demand,” he said, goes beyond the effects of the shutdown.

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Fatalities on commercial passenger aircraft rise in 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The fatality rate on passenger jet aircraft worldwide jumped in 2018 after airlines recorded zero accident deaths on passenger jets in the prior year, according to a Dutch consulting firm and an aviation safety group.

Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network both reported on Tuesday there were more than 500 deaths stemming from passenger airline crashes in 2018, but emphasized that fatal crashes remain rare.

To70 estimated that the fatal accident rate for large commercial passenger flights at 0.36 per million flights, or one fatal accident for every 3 million flights.

That is up from 2017’s 0.06 per million flight rate and above the most recent five-year average of 0.24 per million flights. There were 13 deaths in 2017 in two fatal crashes worldwide, but both were on regional turboprop aircraft.

Over the last two decades, aviation deaths around the world have been falling. As recently as 2005, there were 1,015 deaths aboard commercial passenger flights worldwide, the Aviation Safety Network said.

Despite the increase, 2018 was still the third safest year ever in terms of the number of fatal accidents and the ninth safest measured by deaths, the Aviation Safety Network said.

“If the accident rate had remained the same as ten years ago, there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year,” Aviation Safety Network’s chief executive, Harro Ranter, said in a statement. “This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades.”

On Oct. 29, a Lion Air-operated Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed into the Java Sea after takeoff from Jakarta, killing 189.

In May, a Cubana flight of a Boeing 737-201 crashed just outside Havana airport, killing 112 people. In March, 51 of 71 on board died after a US-Bangla Airlines plane crashed on landing at Nepal’s international airport.

In February, a plane operated by Saratov Airlines crashed in Russia after taking off from Stepanovskoye, killing all 71 people aboard, while the same month an Aseman Airlines flight crashed into a mountain in Iran, killing 66 people onboard.

The United States suffered its first accident death involving a U.S. airline since 2009 in April, when a fan blade on a Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) Boeing 737’s jet engine broke apart in flight, shattering a window and nearly sucking a woman out of the plane.

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Opinion | The Best New Year’s Eve Party Is in Seat 17A

When the clock struck midnight at the Oakland Coliseum on Jan. 1, 1990, I should’ve known that it would all go downhill from there for my future New Year’s Eves.

I was at a Grateful Dead concert. I’d scored a “miracle”— that’s Deadhead for a freebie ticket, often bestowed in the 11th hour. The band played “Dark Star” (they almost never played “Dark Star”). I was happy that the ’80s were finally over; any nostalgic notions that it was a kind and gentle decade are deeply misguided.

And the main thing is, I was young. Why lament the passage of time rather than celebrate it when you’ve got all the time in the world stretched out ahead of you? What 18-year-old has the foresight to have foresight?

My New Year’s Eve memories from the decade that followed are fragmentary and faintly rotten, like milk just starting to sour. There were awkward parties I squirmed out of before I had to stand around a TV pretending that watching people in parkas watching a ball is entertainment. There was the time a swaying stranger on the subway threw up much too close to my feet for comfort.

Yet I persisted in the performance of forced merriment demanded of us by this bully of a holiday — until I went to another concert, one that featured a former punk idol whose dissolution and incoherence made for a disheartening, not-fun-at-all spectacle, followed by a long wait for a taxi in frigid weather in hopes of quelling the possibility of anyone barfing near my boots on the subway again. No taxi came, but I sure felt that hypothermia would. I took a vow: I would never go out on New Year’s Eve again.

Not long after I made that promise to myself, the man I would later marry moved in with me. He was a great cook, and didn’t like crowds, so small dinner parties at home were exactly his speed for New Year’s Eve, and that suited me fine. It became our tradition to spend most of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve making cassoulet, that excellent bean casserole of southwestern France. We submitted duck legs to nice confit baths, cured slabs of pork belly, sometimes even made sausage; we went for it.

Finally, on the night itself, we ate it in the company of a few friends with equally robust appetites, whom we shooed out of our small apartment as soon after midnight as politeness permitted, and as gently as we could.

Seven years after we married, cancer killed my husband. Of course there could be no more New Year’s Eve cassoulet after that — not because I couldn’t cook it by myself, but because, well, I couldn’t cook it by myself.

With its promise of new beginnings, fresh starts, all that, New Year’s Eve is supposed to feel auspicious and meaningful. We bind our desires to a square on the calendar, even though we understand how arbitrary that is, even though we know better. Healthy or sick, wealthy or poor, wedded or widowed — we are expected to get out there and revel, even when the last thing many of us want is to mark that time is passing so obviously and so ruthlessly. And no matter how low key my approach to the holiday had become, there seemed to be no way to subvert it altogether.

Then, a couple of years ago, work required me to be in England in early January. As I looked at flights from New York to London, I noticed that if I left two days sooner than I’d intended, the price dropped substantially. That, I assumed, was because flying two days earlier would mean flying on New Year’s Eve.

“Who flies on New Year’s Eve?” an automatic impulse made me ask myself, with an implicit “when they should be out celebrating” trailing close behind. But as soon as I shook off the dandruff of cultural conditioning, I knew exactly what sort of person would fly — and alone, no less — on New Year’s Eve: me. That’s who.

I embraced the scheme, as though, like some kind of strategic mastermind, I’d planned it that way all along. Flying on New Year’s Eve provided a ready excuse to turn down invitations (or to feel fine if I didn’t get any). I also didn’t mind saving a couple of hundred bucks. Plus, I’d heard a rumor that the airlines serve Champagne, gratis, to their New Year’s Eve guests.

Although I can’t presume to understand what dwelled in the hearts and minds of my fellow passengers, they struck me as kindred spirits: No one showed any sign of caring that it was New Year’s Eve. I saw not one sparkly hat. Zero noisemakers. Not a single fleck of confetti. We were quietly united in our not-celebration. I really liked those people.

That complementary Champagne rumor? Not true — at least in my coach-class experience. I went ahead and splurged on a glass, not as a concession to the holiday but just to treat myself: Champagne always tastes better on a regular, no-occasion Thursday than it does on an anniversary, right? It was cold and fizzy and delicious, and it paired perfectly with the small bag of potato chips the flight attendant tossed on my tray (at least that was free).

But the flight also gave me something much better than that: In a way, it made New Year’s Eve cease to exist. If it’s past midnight at your destination, but not yet at home, and who even knows what time zone you’re in, anyway — is it really the end of the year at all? And does it matter? And hey, what is time? Up in the air, New Year’s Eve turns into an elegant, existential riddle. And by the time I touched down at Heathrow, 2017 already felt like old news, which was exactly what I wanted.

Luckily, I get to do it again this year because of another work trip, and I can’t wait not to celebrate. But as much as I wish I could, I can’t afford to fly away from New Year’s Eve every year. If you can swing it, and if you feel as I do about the holiday, I encourage you to let yourself off the hook this way some day. Just don’t make it a resolution — that’s exactly the kind of pressure you don’t need.

Rosie Schaap (@rosieschaap) is the author of “Drinking With Men: A Memoir.”

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Avianca Brasil files for bankruptcy, citing jet repossession threat

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s fourth-largest airline, Avianca Brasil, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, saying its operations had been threatened by potential repossession of aircraft, according to a legal document seen by Reuters.

The airline, which is privately owned by holding company Synergy Group, said the potential repossession of jets threatened its ability to fly some 77,000 passengers in December.

Avianca Brasil is independent but shares the same owner as the better-known Avianca Holdings SA AVT_p.CN, a publicly listed airline based in Colombia. Still, the fate of one company is linked to the other.

Shares in Colombia’s Avianca were down more than 19 percent on the news. Rivals’ shares jumped. Shares in Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (GOLL4.SA) were up almost 9 percent in Sao Paulo, while Chile’s Latam Airlines Group SA (LTM.SN) was up 4 percent.

The legal document did not give information regarding Avianca Brasil’s assets and liabilities or other financial information.

The airline has struggled for years with recurrent losses and recently faced the prospect of repossession of several of its aircraft.

Avianca Brasil did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo first reported the news on Tuesday.

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Manhattan Science Teacher Safely Lands Plane on New Jersey Golf Course

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A Manhattan science teacher by trade, Jonas De Leon is a pilot at heart.

This fall he even began teaching some of his students about aviation at Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics, work that was featured in a PBS report on Friday.

Just two days later, Mr. De Leon’s skills as a pilot were put to a terrifying real-life test: The plane he was flying on Sunday made an emergency landing on the ninth hole of a golf course in Paramus, N.J.

Of the four people on the plane when it landed, three sustained minor injuries, Sgt. Michael Pollaro of the Paramus Police Department said.

Ron Dorell, a cashier in the pro shop of the Paramus Golf Course, said he first noticed the small plane circling the course around noon. Eventually it passed over the crest of a hill, out of sight of staff members in the shop.

Minutes later, passers-by who had been driving by the golf course rushed into the clubhouse to report that a plane had landed on the course.

“There’s a lot of open space on the golf course,” Mr. Dorell said, speculating that the pilot might have considered it the best possible landing space in the area.

Only about 18 golfers were on the course when the plane went down, according to Mr. Dorell. Because of a frost delay earlier in the morning, the golfers had only set out at noon and were nowhere near the ninth hole when the plane landed there.

“Normally we are packed on a weekend,” Mr. Dorrell said. “But luckily, because of the frost, we didn’t have anyone out there on the back nine, so none of our golfers were injured.”

It is unclear what prompted the forced landing, or who else was on board the small plane. The Federal Aviation Administration said it is investigating.

Christine La Palma, Mr. De Leon’s partner, said in a phone interview on Sunday that she had just arrived at the hospital where the passengers were taken for treatment, and that she had no information about the circumstances of the landing.

“Right now my only concern is whether everyone is O.K.,” Ms. La Palma said.

In the PBS report, Mr. De Leon is described as having dreamed of learning to fly ever since he was a child watching planes from his parents’ porch. He began taking lessons at 17 and later bought a 1984 single-engine Mooney aircraft.

Becoming a pilot “was the only dream I had that stayed with me,” Mr. De Leon told PBS.

On Sunday, Mr. De Leon took off from Lincoln Park Airport in Lincoln Park, N.J., and landed on the 18-hole course around 12:15 p.m., according to Sergeant Pollaro.

“We tell all our pilots to train as if this will happen to you,” said Richard McSpadden, executive director of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute. But an emergency landing like this, he said, “is very rare.”

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