Category Archives: non-military aviation

Could a satellite falling to Earth hit an airplane?

If you live below the red line in one of the two images below, please consider the 0,9% probability that one of the 26 pieces of debris (from 0,6 to 158 kg) from a satellite could fall on your head between 1.00pm LT on Sept. 23 and 5.00 am LT on Saturday Sept. 24, 2011. So, keep your eye on the sky.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), a giant 12,500-pound NASA satellite decommissioned in 2005 is expected to re-enter the atmosphere at 17,000 mph with extremely little chances of striking a person. Actually, objects reenter the atmosphere on a daily basis: satellites gradually fall back due to atmospheric drag and solar radiation pressure and, according to the TIME, an intact spacecraft or launch vehicle orbital stage falls back to Earth once a week. They usually fall in the open seas.

Air traffic authorities in Italy are currently evaluating whether to free the civil and military airspaces and routes interested by the predicted space junk’s path. However, nobody seems to be evaluating the possibility of evacuating fixed “targets” like buildings, hospitals, schools, etc. Why? Are moving targets more vulnerable than fixed ones? Obviously not. Most probably, the reason is that moving targets can be re-routed to nullify any risk of a hit, while fixed targets can’t be moved, and residual risk must be accepted.

I don’t know if there’s a specific analysis about the risk of airliners being hit by orbital junk. An interesting study by William A. Cassidy, of the Dept. of Geology and Planetary Science, on the University of Pittsburgh in 1997 who was asked to study the probability that a meteorite could have brought down TWA flight 800 estimated the expected frequency of hull-penetrating strikes to an aircraft over the U.S. in once in 59,000 – 77,000 years.

Image source: Dipartimento Protezione Civile


Air India 101 conspiracy theory update: debris pictures

On Apr. 21, 2009 I’ve published an article about the Air India 101 that crashed into the Mount Blanc in 1966. Quite surprisingly, that post remains one of the most commented of this blog.

Since then, Daniel Roche, the French aviation enthusiast who has been researching this topic since many years and has conducted several expeditions on the crash site [collecting 5 tonne (?!?!) of plane parts], has sent me emails with pictures that, according to him, would prove his theory of a collision with an Italian fighter jet.

I’ve already written in my previous article what I think about the crash. Plane crash investigations require experts in various fields. They must be performed in accordance with specific procedures and protocols, that cover also how evidences must be collected and preserved. So, regardless what Daniel believes, I still think the official report of the French BEA says it all about the reasons of the crash of the Air India 101 flight.

Furthermore, I don’t like conspiracy theories very much.

However, the last pictures Daniel has sent to me are quite interesting because they show some aircraft parts he has found on the glacier. Text on the debris is English, suggesting an American fighter. I don’t know where he actually found them and I haven’t checked yet if another US or Italian plane has crashed in the same area but I’m curious to hear from any of this weblog’s readers who is able to identify the type of aircraft that parts and tank (?) belong to.

Utøya island attack: another example of news helicopters faster to the scene than police choppers

Follow up post (Jul. 25, 2011)

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me a message after seeing images taken from a helicopter of Anders Behring Breivik shooting people at Utøya island during the so-called 2011 Norway attacks. He couldn’t understand why there could be images of the murderer before the police had arrived into the island.

The explaination is simple: those images were taken by a news helicopter that was able to reach Utøya and shoot the footage well before the Police’s Special Forces could manage to reach the island (1 hour and 35 minutes after Breivik had begun massacring people).

People on Social Networks was astonished that a news chopper could intervene quicker than a police one, however, there are many media helicopters overflying the largest town of the world and, quite often, they are able to get exclusive images in the immediate aftermath of disasters and terrorist attacks.

In my opinion, the question is not why a news helicopter was able to get to the scene before special forces one but: in such events does the news chopper stand in police chopper’s path? Can a news helicopter spur the wrong reaction from a murderer/terrorist who could feel under the spotlight?

Above: a RAI TV helicopter

First Airbus A380 lands at Rome Fiumicino airport

On Jun. 6, 2011, the first (long awaited) Emirates Airbus 380 landed at Rome Fiumicino. It was a one-off trip to celebrate Fiumicino airport’s 50th anniversary, along with 150th anniversary of Italian unification. The Super Jumbo (A6-EDJ) replaced the usual B777 scheduled service on the Dubai-Rome route: EK 97 departing Dubai at 08.55 LT and arriving in Rome at 13.15LT (the A380 actually landed at 13.30LT). The flight left Fiumicino at 17.03 (scheduled time 16.45LT) with an expected arrival time in Dubai at 00.40LT on Jun. 7.

Emirates had initially planned the upgrade of the EK097/098 DBX-FCO-DBX daily flights from the Boeing B777-300 (B773) to the Airbus A380-800 (A388) in Dec. 2009.

Looks like the EK98 had to perform some orbits before landing at Dubai:

State flights at Rome – Ciampino airport for the beatification of John Paul II

On May 1, 2011, I had the opportunity along with Giovanni Maduli to visit Ciampino airport that was the hub for the vast majority of State flights bringing to Rome authorities attending the beatification ceremony of John Paul II in Vatican City. The aircraft, military planes wearing national liveries and civilian registered ones used by the delegations, were parked in both the military apron in the “northern” part of the airport and, mainly, in the “southern” one, the civil one usually used for the General Aviation.
Among the most interesting visitors worth a mention the Mexican AF B737, the FAF A330, the Mexican Gulfstream G-V XA-CPQ, the Dassault 900EX VP-BEF used by the Angolan delegation, the Polish E-170, the Brazilian VC-99B and the Slovakia Government Tu-154M.