Boeing 777 crashes at San Francisco International Airport

A Boeing 777 operated by Asiana Airlines crashed while landing Saturday at San Francisco International Airport.

Flight 214 left Seoul’s Incheon International Airport earlier Saturday and flew 10 hours and 23 minutes to California, according to FlightAware, a website that offers tracking services for private and commercial air traffic. Two people are confirmed dead and 181 others have been taken to hospital (49 in serious condition). Somehow, 305 others survived.

Video taken soon after the crash and posted on YouTube showed dark gray smoke rising from the plane, which appeared to be upright. That smoke later became white, even as fire crews continued to douse the plane.

The top of the aircraft was charred and, in spots, gone entirely, according to video from CNN affiliate KTVU. The plane was on its belly, with no landing gear evident and the rear tail of the plane gone.

Fire trucks were on site, while first responders could be seen walking outside the aircraft. Evacuation slides could be seen extending from one side of the aircraft, from which there was no apparent smoke.

Corrine Gaines, from the U.S. Coast Guard’s operations in San Francisco, said that a helicopter from the Guard had been launched and that her agency is helping others responding at the scene.

There were a few clouds in the sky around the time of the crash, and temperatures were about 65 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Winds were about 8 miles per hour.

Asiana Airlines is one of South Korea’s two major airlines, the other being Korean Air. It operates many of its flights out of Incheon International Airport, which is the largest airport in South Korea and considered among the busiest in the world. The Boeing 777-200LR has been in service since March 2006. The plane can carry 301 passengers and travel a maximum distance of 9,395 nautical miles. Asiana Airlines operates 71 aircraft and serves 14.7 million passengers annually. The airline was voted Airline of the Year by Global Traveler in 2011. In 1993, Asiana Airlines Boeing 737 crashed killing 68 people.

San Francisco International Airport, located some 12 miles south of downtown San Francisco, is California’s second busiest, behind LAX in Los Angeles.

According to information on Asiana Airlines’ website, the company has 12 Boeing 777 planes. They have a seating capacity of between 246 and 300 people and had a cruising speed of 555 mph (894 kph). (CNN)

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Transport Canada wants trains to install recording devices

TORONTO — Transport Canada is urging railway companies to install voice and video recording devices in their locomotives in order to help with accident investigations.

The ministry released a study on Friday that calls on railway companies to voluntarily install the devices, at the cost of roughly $10,000 per locomotive. The issue was raised in the aftermath of a fatal train derailment in Burlington, Ont., last year.

A Via Rail train was travelling at almost 108 kilometres an hour on Feb. 26, 2012, when it derailed west of Toronto, killing the three engineers and injuring 45 people — 44 passengers and a Via employee. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will announce the results of its investigation into the accident on Tuesday.

At Transport Minister Denis Lebel‘s request, the Advisory Council on Rail Safety struck a working group of railway representatives, unions and Transport Canada staff to explore concerns that there were no communication recording devices in the cab of the Via train’s locomotive.

After meeting with various stakeholders, the working group decided that asking companies to voluntarily install recording devices was the best option.

Via Rail has already agreed to do. “We applaud Via Rail’s commitment to voluntarily installing voice recorders on all their trains, and we strongly encourage other rail operators to consider doing the same,” said Lebel in a statement.

However, stakeholders from the industry and those from the unions disagreed on whether the companies should be allowed to use the recordings for other kinds of monitoring. Industry representatives pointed out that installing the devices just to investigate one or two incidents a year would have very little, if any, safety benefit, whereas using the devices to monitor compliance could prevent accidents.

On the other hand, union reps were concerned that the recordings would be used for disciplinary action, and asked the companies to agree to delete recordings that are taken during uneventful trips.

The disagreement between the two sides contributed to the working group’s decision that installing the recording devices should be voluntary. (CP24)

U.S. Coast Guard shifts Arctic operations west

The US Coast Guard Cutter Healy off the coast of Nome.

The U.S. Coast Guard unveiled a westward-leaning 2013 Arctic Shield operations plan Thursday, emphasizing its commitment to a region facing increased traffic and scrutiny.

The Coast Guard will have a number of assets in the Arctic this season — including two ice-breaking vessels, the Polar Star and the Healy – as well as a National Security Cutter.

The biggest change will be designating the northwestern town of Kotzebue as the Guard’s Forward Operating Location, serving as the staging area for a Coast Guard helicopter and its crew. Last year, the Coast Guard operated out of Barrow, on Alaska’s northern coast and closer to the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as Royal Dutch Shell began drilling operations in those areas.  After the grounding of the Kulluk conical drilling unit near Kodiak Island, Shell decided to sit out this summer and work on repairing its rigs.

The focus for this year’s operation will be understanding traffic on Alaska’s west coast and through the 50-mile-wide Bering Strait, according to Coast Guard spokeswoman Veronica Colbath.

The region has witnessed increased traffic in recent years. Last year there were 480 transits of the Bering Strait, up from 220 in 2008. Colbath said better understanding of that traffic, and how to prepare for any potential incidents, is important to understanding the Arctic.

“We’re going to maintain a constant presence in the Arctic,” Colbath said. “We’re just utilizing resources a little different.”

During last year’s Arctic Shield, the Coast Guard conducted training exercises designed to test its oil-spill recovery systems.

Colbath said that this year’s Arctic Shield shifts the focus of the Guard’s Arctic operations to western Alaska, where it can by maximize the use of existing infrastructure.

Like other federal agencies, the Coast Guard has absorbed budget cuts under federal sequestration. Part of the reason it picked Kotzebue as its forward-operating location was to utilize an Alaska National Guard’s hangar there.

The Coast Guard has no permanent infrastructure in the Arctic.

“We’re trying to balance some of the budget constraints,” Colbath said. “But we are committed to deploying the right mix of resources to the Arctic.”

With sea ice melting, shippers are looking to the region as a possible international route. Last year, 250 vessels had a presence in the Arctic, up from 190 in 2011.

Colbath didn’t have any official numbers on the expected traffic in the Arctic this season, but that even without the Arctic drilling by Shell, she suspects that traffic in the region will increase.

“The Arctic is a vast region,” she said. “We’re still learning where we can be strategically be positioned to be most effective.

“(Arctic Shield) is definitely about lessons learned.” (Eye on Arctic)

La prima volta italiana del passaggio a Nord Ovest

Nessuna barca italiana era ancora riuscita nel tentativo. Best Explorer ce l’ha fatta, ha percorso il passaggio a Nord Ovest, la ‘rotta più difficile del mare’, che collega l’Atlantico al Pacifico passando a nord del continente Americano, tra i ghiacci dell’Oceano Artico. Il primo ad affrontarla fu il norvegese Roald Amundsen dal 1903 al 1906.

Attraverso immagini e video inediti, dialoghi e avvincenti letture dal diario di bordo, i componenti della Arctic Sail Expeditions Italia, alla loro prima uscita pubblica nazionale, hanno rievocato oggi, in occasione del festival ‘‘Viaggiando il mondo” in corso a Genova, le emozioni di quell’impresa compiuta l’estate scorsa: 140 giorni di navigazione attraverso tre oceani, 8.181 miglia in totale di cui 5.000 oltre il circolo polare e 2.500 fra i ghiacci, 21 membri di equipaggio suddivisi in otto tappe. Ad accompagnare le immagini, i brani composti appositamente dall’Extemporaneo Trio, una nuova formazione jazz.

La spedizione, guidata da Nanni Acquarone, torinese di origine ligure, è partita il 1 giugno 2012 da Troms›, al nord della Norvegia, per arrivare a Sand Poit (Popof Island Aleutine Usa). Ha toccato l’Islanda, risalendo la costa occidentale della Groenlandia, inoltrandosi poi nel labirinto dell’arcipelago del Nunavut, a nord del Canada, proseguendo lungo la bassa costa dell’Alaska. Per l’impresa velica eccezionale e per le attività di interscambio culturale effettuate lungo la rotta l’equipaggio ha ricevuto un telegramma di apprezzamento del Presidente della Repubblica.

Ma oggi l’equipaggio ha voluto anche rendere omaggio alla propria barca, che dal Mediterraneo, dove con il nome di ‘Bestiaccia’ veniva utilizzata per il Whale watching, è finita in un’impresa nell’Artico. ”Best explorer, lo dice la parola stessa, non è nata per lo struscio a Cala Volpe” dice Nicoletta Martini, Romagnola di Cesenatico, classe 1958, ingegnere chimico, navigatrice esperta e anche ottima cuoca di bordo. Lunga 15 metri e con uno scafo in acciaio fatto per le lunghe navigazioni e l’incontro con i ghiacci, Best Explorer è diventata una ‘vecchia signora del Nord’ : ”non si muove come un cigno, non si può dire che abbia l’eleganza leggera di un uccello ma quando incontra il ghiaccio scalpita come una puledra da corsa e si infila decisa”.

Tanti i momenti di tensione: dalla ricerca di un varco fra i ghiacci alla tempesta durata sette giorni, ma anche le sorprese: ”Sono lì a poche miglia da noi – ricorda Salvatore Magri -. Due isolette che si fronteggiano al centro dello Stretto di Bering: la Big Diomede e la Little Diomede, russa la prima, americana la seconda. Tra di loro un canale largo solo un miglio ma così distanti nella realtà. Due date diverse alla stessa ora passi da una all’altra e vai dall’oggi al domani. Qui l’Alaska è il nostro Oriente e la Siberia il nostro occidente. Un mondo rovesciato: ovest e non più ovest”. (Ansa)

Transito segreto al largo della Norvegia di un cargo “nucleare”

La Mikhail Dudin al largo di Murmansk

Il piccolo cargo “Mikhail Dudin” è salpato questa sera per il suo viaggio di ritorno da Murmansk, dopo aver scaricato, nelle precedenti 48 ore, il suo “potenzialmente letale” carico ad Atomflot, la base di servizio dei rompighiaccio a propulsione nucleare situata nella città russa.

Il cargo, battente bandiera maltese, trasportava infatti materiale di scarto nucleare provenienti da una ex base sovietica in Polonia; il tutto come parte di una cooperazione USA-Russia per organizzare trasporti via nave di materiale altamente ricco di uranio, al fine di riportarlo in Russia per evitare che cada nelle mani di organizzazioni terroristiche.

Il cargo ha navigato lungo le coste norvegesi, tuttavia senza mai entrare nelle acque territoriali di questo Stato. Il materiale nucleare, da Atomflot è già in viaggio, attraverso le ferrovie, verso Mayak, negli Urali meridionali, dove verrà riconvertito per gli impianti nucleari: 2000 chilometri attraverso alcune delle zone più densamente popolate della Russia.

Il direttore del Norway’s Radiation Protection Authorities, Ole Harbitz, ha dichiarato di non essere stato a conoscenza del transito del cargo con il suo pericoloso carico. Nel 2009, la stessa organizzazione, apprese del primo trasporto di questo tipo dalla stampa. (Barents Observer)