Category Archives: Aviation Safety

US, European airlines cancel all flights to Israel after rocket lands near Tel Aviv airport

Tel Aviv airport is almost isolated following the decision of several U.S. and European airlines to cancel all flights to Israel amid concern for the continuing rocket attacks.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shot down by an SA-11 Gadfly (“Buk”) while overflying eastern Ukraine, has reminded the world that civilian planes should be kept away from war zones.

For this reason, when on Jul. 22 rockets fell close to Ben Gurion international airport, in Tel Aviv, Delta Airlines and several U.S. and European airlines decided to cancell all their flights to Israel not to jeopardize the safety of their planes.

At the time Delta decided it was not safe to fly to Israel, DL468, a Boeing 747-400 was en route from JFK to Tel Aviv. The flight was then diverted to Paris Charles De Gaulle international airport.

Along with Delta, United Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia and other airlines decided to cancel their flights to Tel Aviv, most of them for at least 24 – 36 hours, or “until further notice.”

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Here’s why Malaysia Airlines MH17 overflew Ukraine on its way to Malaysia

In order to save time, fuel airliners to fly from departure airport to destination as close as possible to a Great Circle.

A great circle is the shortest path interconnecting two points on a sphere.

Since Earth is almost spherical, routes followed by aircraft follow great circles between departure and destination because they are shorter, thus make flights shorter and cheaper for airlines.

Obviously, it’s impossible to fly along the Great Circle until destination: aircraft departing from an airfield have to follow SIDs (Standard Instrumental Departure) routes, have to comply with airspace restrictions, avoid dangerous airspaces (or fly above them, as in the case of the MH17 shot down over Ukraine) or bad weather etc.

Nevertheless, routes are planned in such a way they are as close as possible to a Great Circle and the ideal GC route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crosses Ukraine.


Image credit: Great Circle Mapper

All European airlines followed (more or less) the same route and crossed the same airspace during long haul flights to Asia. Indeed, Singapore Airlines SQ351 (B777) and Air India AI113 (B787) were in the vicinity of Malaysia Airlines MH17 when it was hit by a missile (or more than one) most probably fired by an SA-11 Gadfly system.

Ukrainian authorities had banned aircraft from flying below FL320 (32,000 ft) but MH17, at FL330 was still within the reach of some of the most deadly weaponry in the hands of pro-Russia separatists that have been using SAM (Surface to Air Missile) systems quite effectively against Ukrainian Air Force aircraft.

The airspace over eastern Ukraine was closed to civilian flights after the incident.

Since no other restriction was in place, Malaysia Airlines flight dispatcher could plan the usual route to from AMS to KUL. Unfortunately that route brought the Boeing 777 in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Top image credit: Wiki


It was just a matter of time before a civil plane was shot down in Ukraine’s SAM-infested airspace

In spite of the amount of aircraft shot down by the rebels, civil airliners flew through the SAM-infested airspace of Eastern Ukraine with the risk of being mistakenly hit. As happened to the Malaysian Boeing 777.

It’s not a secret separatists own several anti-aircraft systems that they manage to use quite effectively. This week alone, they have shot down two military aircraft (an An-26 cargo plane near Luhansk on Jul. 14 and a Su-25 attack jet near Amvrosievka on Jul. 16) and, most probably, a civilian plane: MH17, earlier today.

USA Today infographic

Indeed, the Boeing 777 with 295 people on board, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was mistakenly shot down by the pro-Russia militia, who aimed at the Malaysia Airlines flight believing it was an AN-26 or another Ukrainian aircraft, as confirmed by some posts, then deleted on social media.

An-26 by accident

Even though there are reports that Russians personnel is supporting Ukrainian separatists on the field, it is quite likely the militia have become more proficient with such weapons by simply using them rather frequently against Ukrainian Air Force aircraft.

Obviously, every weapon system requires training. Unless you don’t have time for training: in this case you may use launchers and make mistakes, as downing a civilian plane instead of a surveillance one.

Confident no missile could be aimed at civil flights at cruising level, Ukrainian authorities had closed the airspace between the ground and 32,000 feet prior to the Malaysia Airlines incident. Therefore, airliners were routed through Kiev’s dangerous airspace in spite of the threat posed by uncontrolled SAM launchers.

When a missile hit MH17 1,000 above the ceiling of the restricted airspace, proving no aircraft is immune to deadly surface-to-air-missiles, Ukrainian airspace was partially closed.

Too late.

With so many anti-aircraft systems on the loose, it was just a matter of time a civil plane was threatened or, much worse, downed.

As happened to MH17.


Image credit:;  USA Today, Reuters


Malaysian Boeing 777 with 295 people on board shot down over Eastern Ukraine

A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border after being hit from a surface to air missile.

A Boeing 777 (9M-MRD) with 280 passengers and 15 crew members, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was reportedly shot down about 50NM to the northwest of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.

Based on the last transponder signal (with ADS-B mode) recorded by FlightRadar24, the aircraft at 13:21 UTC was at flying at 476 knots, at FL330 at position N48.56 E37.21.

Since the beginning of the fightings in Eastern Ukraine, between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian military, several aircraft (including large cargo planes as an An-30 and an Il-76 and many Mi-24 Hind and Mi-8 Hip helicopters) were shot down by the local militia using portable surface-to-air missile systems.

A video showed an Il-76 releasing flares shortly after take off from Donetsk, a sign that Ukrainian cargo planes are equipped with self-defenses against heat seeking air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles.

Little details are available on the type of MANPADS used in Ukraine, other than they pose a serious threat to Ukrainian aircraft. As already pointed out in the recent past, those involved in the downing of two Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopters by “unknown persons by means of man-portable air defense system (PZRK)” overnight into May 2, were Igla: either 9K310 Igla-1 (SA-16 “Gimlet”), or newer 9K38 Igla (SA-18 “Grouse”), which are known to be operated by the Ukrainian (and Russian) military; others were reportedly stolen from Ukrainian units in March and may have ended in the separatists hands.

However, according to the Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, the plane was hit by a SAM fired from a Russian-built SA-11 Buk launcher.

The Buk, known as SA-11 or SA-17 is a self propelled medium range, medium altitude anti aircraft system with a maximum range of 13NM and a ceiling of 39,400 feet. With a semi-active radar homing guidance system and a 70 Kg warhead it may hit a large plane at FL330 and cause a catastrophic decompression.

The SA-11 is known to be operated by the Ukrainian armed forces; a launcher was also spotted in Eastern Ukraine lately.

Other reports say it could have been an SA-6 Cube captured from Kiev stocks. But the SA-6 is mobile surface-to-air missile system for low to medium-level air defence system that is not believed to be able to reach the crusing level of the MH17 flight.

Ukrainian Mi-24 Hinds have been fitted with “Andros KT-01AVE” Counter MANPADS suites with “L166V1A Lipa” jammers as self-protection against SAMs.

Time to restrict airspace in the area to civil planes and equip them with countermeasures as well.

By the way, it’s a very sad year for Malaysian Airlines with a second big incident occurring about four months after the mysterious disappearance of MH370.

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[Photo] Eurofighter Typhoon with stuck nose landing gear after take off

An Italian Eurofighter Typhoon facing a nose landing gear problem solved by re-cycling it. Pretty routine.

What if the plane has trouble getting the landing gear to retract? The simplest thing to do is re-cycle it, that is to say, try to drop it back down before attempting to put it back up. It’s a pretty common procedure in aviation.

This is what the pilot of the Italian Eurofighter Typhoon taking off from Pratica di Mare airbase for the rehearsals of Roma International Air Show did on Jun. 28, as soon as he realized the nose landing gear failed to retract: he re-cycled the gear, successfully retracted it and performed the display practice as planned.

Image credit: Giovanni Maduli