Leaks and Media Reports Suggest Laptop Ban Linked to Jan. 28 SEAL Raid on Yemen.
Unattributed quotes from “three intelligence sources” link evidence gathered during the U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017 with the new ban on electronic devices including laptops in the passenger cabins of some airline flights.
Journalists Jana Winter and Clive Irving have published reports attributing the anonymous media leaks in at least one media outlet, the Daily Beast. It is possible that other media outlets will report on the connection between the events.
Winter and Clive wrote, “Information from the raid shows Al Qaeda’s successful development of compact, battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices believed to be strong enough to bring down an aircraft, the sources said.”
Winter and Clive did not name any sources for their report. It is an occasional practice in the intelligence community to intentionally “leak” reports for publication, and then measure public response to the leaks to make decisions about additional, more official media releases.
CNN reported that a Somali passenger jet was damaged by a “sophisticated” laptop bomb that got past X-ray machines at the Mogadishu airport (Somali Police Authority via CNN)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially cited the Oct. 31, 2015 destruction of the Russian MetroJet (Kogalymavia) flight 9268 as a bomb over the Sinai Desert after departing Sharm El Sheikh International Airport, Egypt. Homeland Security officials also named the Djibouti-bound Daallo Airlines flight D3159 damaged on Feb. 2, 2016 as being linked to the reasons for the recent changes in airline security. These incidents likely contributed to the motive for the U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017 and this subsequent recent change in airline security.
In the Russian Metrojet attack a laptop bomb was suspected while a bomb carried by a man traveling in a wheelchair damaged the Daallo flight. The Daallo flight bomber detonated his bomb, possibly contained in a laptop, cell phone or his wheelchair, near the starboard wing root of the aircraft. The bomber presumably felt the most structural damage could be done near the wing root, intending to detach the wing in flight. The Daallo Airlines Airbus A321-111 survived the attack and returned to Aden Adde International Airport in Somalia, Mogadishu for an emergency landing.
An additional flight, EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo, crashed on May 19, 2016 over the Mediterranean, killing all 66 passengers and crews. Numerous subsequent reports indicated that traces of explosives were found on the bodies of victims from the flight recovered at sea.
Major media outlets like CNN and the BBC have not yet reported on any alleged connection between the U.S raid in Yemen on January 28 and the changes in airline security. Over a month ago David Sanger, writing for The New York Times, reported, “It’s hard to call this [raid] much of a success yet, because we don’t know what the value was of the information they were trying to exploit, which came mostly from computers and cell phones. And from everything we have heard, they haven’t had a chance to assess that yet.” That report was published in the New York Times on February 2. These emerging reports and new airline restrictions may suggest the intelligence gathered in the raid may now have yielded some actionable outcomes.
Top image: Damage from a bomb detonated on board Daallo Airlines Flight 159 Over Somalia on February 2, 2016 (credit: GoobjoNews).
Wake turbulence flips Challenger jet upside down. Crew survives after emergency landing.
In a bizarre incident that occurred on Jan. 7, 2017 and has been made public last week, a Challenger 604 business jet flying at 35,000 ft over the Arabian Sea 630 nautical miles southeast of Muscat, Oman, was flipped upside down in midair and thrown violently out of control by a passing Airbus A380 super jumbo.
The midair wake-turbulence incident was so violent that both jet engines on the Challenger 604 business jet flamed-out and departed controlled flight, dropping 10,000 feet out of control and recovering at only 25,000 feet above the ocean. Several people onboard the Challenger 604 were injured in the incident, with one hospitalized according to a report on FlightServiceBureau.org.
Midair incidents due to wake turbulence, similar to this one, caused one of the most sensational and tragic accidents in military aviation on June 8, 1966 over Barstow, California near Edwards Air Force Base when the NASA F-104N Starfighter flown by test pilot Joe Walker collided with an Air Force XB-70 prototype. Wake vortices spinning off the XB-70’s wingtip caused Walker’s F-104N to roll, colliding with the right wingtip of the huge XB-70 and breaking apart. The incident contributed to the demise of the ambitious XB-70 program.
North American XB-70A Valkyrie just after collision. Note the F-104 is at the forward edge of the fireball and most of both XB-70A vertical stabilizers are gone. (U.S. Air Force photo)
FlightServiceBureau.org is a credible and authoritative journal of aviation operations used by operators worldwide as a source of critical information for flight operations. Their dispatch on the incident is summarized here:
“An Emirates Airbus A380-800, most likely registration A6-EUL performing flight EK-412 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Sydney,NS (Australia), was enroute at FL350 about 630nm southeast of Muscat (Oman) and about 820nm northwest of Male (Maldives) at about 08:40Z when a business jet passed underneath in opposite direction. The A380 continued the flight to Sydney without any apparent incident and landed safely.
The business jet, a MHS Aviation (Munich) Canadair Challenger 604 registration D-AMSC performing flight MHV-604 from Male (Maldives) to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) with 9 people on board, was enroute over the Arabian Sea when an Airbus A380-800 was observed by the crew passing 1000 feet above. After passing underneath the A380 at about 08:40Z the crew lost control of the aircraft as result of wake turbulence from the A380 and was able to regain control of the aircraft only after losing about 10,000 feet. The airframe experienced very high G-Loads during the upset, a number of occupants received injuries during the upset. After the crew managed to stabilize the aircraft the crew decided to divert to Muscat (Oman), entered Omani Airspace at 14:10L (10:10Z) declaring emergency and reporting injuries on board and continued for a landing in Muscat at 15:14L (11:14Z) without further incident. A number of occupants were taken to a hospital; one occupant was reported with serious injuries. The aircraft received damage beyond repair and was written off.”
Image credit: FAA
In addition to this incident being noteworthy because of its severity for a wake turbulence incident, it is also one of several being reported by controllers and flight crews around the world. Interestingly, at least six other similar incidents involving severe wake turbulence have recently been reported since 2009, all involving “wide bodies” such as the Airbus A380.
According to the Aviation Herald media outlet, as a result of these incidents air traffic controllers have been given updated and additional instructions for routing smaller aircraft in the vicinity of A380 flights in particular.
Tailhook landings by land-based aircraft are used in emergency situations to arrest planes experiencing failures that could imply a braking or steering malfunction. Like the one shown in the video.
The following clip shows something quite unusual: a RAF Typhoon jet belonging to the 29 Sqn making an emergency landing and using the tailhook system to come to a very quick halt on Mar. 9, 2017.
According to Airshowvision, the popular channel that posted the interesting footage to Youtube, the procedure was required by a nosewheel problem: “A chap with a scanner informed me a few mins before this that a pilot 10 miles out had reported a “nosewheel issue” and requested an emergency landing with the arrester mechanism.”
The Author adds an interesting comment to the video description, speculating a bit as to which could have been the root cause of the issue: “Just a theory here but a Typhoon took off a few mins before that in a performance take-off which could have been this one, and it is possible that he over stressed the landing gear by not retracting the wheels quickly enough. Also could have just been a random fault?”
Land-based military airfields operating combat jets use arresting gear systems to slow the aircraft down in case of emergency: such systems feature arresting cables spanning the width of the runway. Cables are typically 1 to 1.25 inches (2.5 to 3.2 centimeters) in diameter and suspended 1.5 to 3 inches (3.8 to 7.6 centimeters) above the pavement surface by rubber donuts 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) in diameter. Overrun arresting gear consisting of hook cables and/or elastic nets known as barriers (or Safeland) are used as a backup system: they are raised by pilot’s request if needed to catch the planes before they reach the overrun area.
Temporary or deployment airbases may use expeditionary systems similar to the permanent ones; unlike the fixed systems these can be installed and removed in a matter of a few hours.
While this has always been a great place to celebrate aviation, it can also turn dangerous.
On March 7, Tuesday, WestJet flight 2652 from Toronto was making a descent through a low ceiling to Princess Juliana. The first attempt through rain and low cloud cover was videotaped and photographed by plane spotters who are almost always at Maho Beach to watch incoming aircraft. On that Tuesday they caught a near miss: a near Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).
The first approach puts the Toronto flight short and low, low enough that jet wash from the Boeing can be seen creating turbulence on the surface of the water. The flight crew does an excellent job of immediately applying power and going around for a second approach. Commercial flight crews, and especially those trained and, in some cases, specially certified to fly into airports with unusual approaches, are well-drilled both in the simulator and as 2nd officers for flights into these airports before captaining a flight there.
Even with the low cloud cover the second approach in the video has a higher trajectory, is more on glide slope presumably and has no problem coming in safely over the water and clearing the famous fence at Princess Juliana.
The video is noteworthy since incidents like this at Princess Juliana, St. Maarten are actually very rare. According to at least one source, there has never been an accident recorded on the final approach to the famous runway 09/27 at Princess Juliana (even though it’s pretty obvious there have been several near-CFIT incidents and actual mishaps by civil and military aircraft crashing short of the runway at the end of a final approach in both good and bad weather in aviation history). This further speaks to the special training commercial pilots undergo to fly the route.
While there have been conversations about closing Maho Beach to the public for safety reasons it has remained open since there have really been no significant accidents for observers on the ground and it remains a sensational attraction for tourists and aviation enthusiasts alike.
A Soviet-era helicopter landed on a highway and blocked a truck convoy…to ask for directions to the closest village.
An Mi-8 helicopter makes a surprise landing on a highway and blocking a truck convoy somewhere in Kazakhstan. A crew member gets out of the gunship and runs towards the first truck.
He shakes the hand of the driver, and then starts pointing his arms animatedly in different directions, before returning to his place aboard the aircraft. Shortly thereafter, the helicopter takes off again, continuing its mission as if nothing had happened.
This is not a hilarious story but was shown by the video below that spread through the social media.
According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense the helicopter (carrying four rocket pods) was involved in a “planned visual orienteering exercise,” in which trainee pilots were told to determine their location “including by means of human survey.” According to the statement, cited by the local media, the exercise was a “success.”
In other words, the crew member was asking for directions to the closest city after getting lost in poor weather.
“The helicopter has now returned to the airfield where it is based,” the statement concludes according to RT.
This is not the first time helicopters got lost in bad weather and were forced to land before continuing their mission.
On Sept. 10, 2014, six U.S. Army choppers (consisting of Chinook and Black Hawk utility helicopters) landed in the middle of a rapeseed field in Poland in foggy weather. The American pilots received information leaflets on the municipality, in English, and departed again to their destination about 2 hours later, after the weather improved.