Saturday, 24 January 2015

To keep planes from disappearing, NTSB urges constant tracking

In a response to recent incidents in which large commercial airliners have vanished into oceans, the National Transportation Safety Board is calling for new regulations requiring all passenger planes that fly over large bodies of water to be equipped with more sophisticated flight tracking technologies.

The NTSB recommendations come less than two weeks before international aviation authorities meet in Montreal to debate new flight tracking standards, in the wake of the disappearance on March 8 of a Malaysia Airlines jet.

Aviation authorities believe MH flight 370, a Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, turned dramatically off its course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and crashed somewhere in the south Indian Ocean. Searchers aided by 26 countries have analyzed and mapped 41,000 km of ocean floor, but still, no wreckage has been found.

To prevent such difficult searches in the future, the NTSB recommends planes be equipped with tamper-resistant devices that transmit a plane's location every minute via satellite.

The NTSB is also recommending that the Federal Aviation Administration also require all commercial airlines to equip every plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, the co-called "black boxes," with low-frequency underwater beacons with strong signals that are more easily detected by searchers.

The NTSB also wants the FAA to require longer lasting batteries on the beacons, so that signals can be detected for at least 90 days after a crash. Currently, batteries are required to last at least 30 days.

"Technology has reached a point where we shouldn't have to search hundreds of miles of ocean floor in a frantic race to find these valuable boxes," said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher Hart in a statement. "In this day and age, lost aircraft should be a thing of the past."

Among the other recommendations from the government agency that investigates plane crashes and other transportation disasters in the U. S., is that flight data and voice recorders, be designed so that they cannot be disabled. Among the theories in the disappearance of MH 370 is that a member of the flight crew or someone else in the cockpit disabled the devices before the plane veered off-course.

The NTSB also wants cockpit video recorders required on all planes, so that images of the cockpit in the last several minutes before an incident can be preserved.

NTSB investigators have been recommending video recorders for 15 years, citing a number of incidents in which pictures of the controls or video of the pilots' actions could have helped clarify what may have caused a crash.

But airline pilots unions have opposed video recorders in the cockpit, citing privacy concerns, and saying that that video images could be misinterpreted and misused.

Air Line Pilots Association President Tim Canoll calls the recommendation for cockpit video recorders "a premature overreaction ... that will not improve safety and could, in fact, impede it by diverting limited resources that could be used for more valuable safety enhancements."

And while the technology exists for the other NTSB recommendations, some airlines may balk at the cost of purchasing, installing and implementing such systems.

The NTSB recommendations go far beyond what an airline industry task force is recommending. Industry leaders and global regulators gather in Montreal next month for a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a agency of the United Nations, to debate and possibly adopt new worldwide standards for tracking passenger flights.

Saturday 24 January 2015

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Road accident in Arunachal Pradesh kills at least 11 labourers

At least eleven labourers were killed on Friday and several others got seriously injured, including three critically, when a vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge near Sessa along Bhalukpong-Tawang road of Arunachal Pradesh.

The incident occurred at 3.5 kms from Sessa when the driver of the vehicle failed to negotiate a sharp curve due to poor visibility and fell into the 150-feet-deep-gorge this afternoon, SP A Koan said.

While ten people died on the spot, one succumbed to his injuries at Bhalukpong while he was being taken to Tezpur in neighbouring Assam along with three others, he said.

The vehicle was on its way to Nafra in West Kameng district from Bhalukpong. While all the bodies have been retrieved, the vehicle could not be lifted, the SP said.

On 19 January last, 4 persons were killed near the same spot when their vehicle fell into a deep gorge.

Saturday 24 January 2015

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60 years on - eyewitness remembers Birmingham's worst train crash

Birmingham's worst train disaster happened on a wintry afternoon at Sutton Coldfield railway station 60 years ago.

On January 23, 1955, an express train carrying around 300 passengers derailed on a sharp bend shortly after 4pm.

Seventeen people, including the train crew, died and a further 25 were injured.

The train had rocketed towards the station at speeds of up to 60mph – twice the speed limit – with devastating results.

Stan Brown, a council lorry driver, was called in to help set up a temporary morgue to deal with the volume of bodies being taken from the wreckage.

“My wife Jean and I were walking down the Parade when we saw a fire engine come by and all the fireman had black faces,” says Stan, now 82 and from Sutton Coldfield.

“The next thing I knew my boss came and took me to the railway station.

“There I saw the terrible tragedy.”

The sight he beheld must have been horrendous.

The train had collided with platforms and nine out of the 10 carriages had derailed.

The first carriage was crushed between the engine and the second carriage.

Another was knocked into the air, causing it to drag along the station roof.

Seven bodies, including those of the two drivers, were trapped inside the train.

Stan, who was 22 at the time, recalls: “Dr Preston, the medical officer, was there as was the surveyor Mr Porter. There were half a dozen chaps helping.

“We went to Riland Road where there was a council yard depot shed we used to store the lorries, steam rollers and salt for the roads.

“The floor was greasy so we covered it with tarpaulin and put sheets up to the windows so people couldn’t see inside.”

Forty ambulances from across the Midlands were sent to the scene along with a mobile surgical unit from Birmingham Accident Hospital, 25 fire crews and 50 extra police officers.

Extra help was also provided by RAF servicemen who were based at Whitemore Common.

“I remember the ambulances carrying the bodies in,” says Stan, who has two children and four grandchildren.

“Then, once the bodies were cleaned up, we laid them out for their families to come and see them.

“We were there for two days. We couldn’t believe how many bodies there were.”

Stan had served with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers for three years in Germany, having been called up for national service as a driver.

“Even though I’d been in the army, I’d never seen a dead body before,” says Stan.

“But everyone was just doing anything they could to help.

“Arthur Anenborough, the ticket collector, had been travelling in the last coach that derailed. He ran to the signal box and managed to avert a further disaster.

“A lady who lived nearby could see what was happening and ran to stop another train from coming down the track.

“The trouble was the train had been travelling too fast. It had exceeded the speed limit and come off the rails. If it had travelled 10 yards more, it would have reached Park Road where there’s a 300-500ft drop onto the road below.

“It’s hard to come to terms with something like that but you just live every day the best you can.”

A passenger called Mr W Forrest, from South Shields, who had been travelling to Coventry and was in the fifth coach.

“The train had been swaying from side to side,” he told the Birmingham Mail at the time.

“Suddenly, there was a terrific rending noise and we were all thrown in a heap.

“Some of us were thrown up and struck the roof.”

The train was the 12.15 from York to Bristol via Sheffield, Derby, Burton-on-Trent and Birmingham, and it had been diverted from its usual route because of engineering works.

Most of the injured went to Sutton Coldfield Hospital, with Birmingham General and the accident hospital also taking casualties.

Although excessive speed was the major factor in the accident, the exact cause was never fully established.

It seems likely the driver knew he was exceeding the speed limit but did not realise the extent of the danger.

One theory was that he thought the train was running late and was making up time, another that there was a gradient to climb after the station which he thought was best approached at full speed.

The steam locomotive, like most at that time, was not fitted with a speedometer.

Following the tragedy, lineside speed restrictions were universally adopted and the Government announced a multi-million pound modernisation plan for the railways.

This included a £210 million programme to improve track and signalling.

Wolverhampton Wanderers player Bobby Thomson had been due to take the train that derailed in Sutton Coldfield that fateful day.

In his book, The Real Bobby Dazzler, he wrote: “Little did Cullis know that seven of his players were due to take that train.

“One of those was me. The others were Colin Tether, Dick Calvert, Harry Middleton, Stan Round, Cyril Bevan and Geoff Sidebottom.

“Cullis called a meeting for the Sunday and we travelled back on the Saturday instead.”

It was a decision that probably saved their lives.

So, could an accident like this happen today?

“It is much less likely,” says Sim Harris, managing editor of Railnews.

“The railways in Britain are now protected by a system called TPWS (Train Protection and Warning System). If a train is travelling too fast, the driver is warned. If the warning is disregarded for more than a few seconds, the brakes are applied.

“The next generation of signalling and train protection, the European Rail Traffic Management System, is now being tested. This includes various visual warnings if the permitted speed is exceeded at any time and, as with TPWS, the system takes over and stops the train if it is travelling too fast or does not have authority to proceed.”


November 5, 1967 – 49 dead after commuter train derailed near Hither Green, South-east London

February 28, 1975 – 43 killed in Moorgate Tube crash, the cause of which remains a mystery

November 23, 1984 – London tube fire traps hundreds – thought to be started by a cigarette

September 19, 1986 – 75 injured and driver dead following collision at Colwich Junction near Rugeley, Staffordshire

November 18, 1987 – 31 dead after Kings Cross Station fire, which began in machine room under a wooden escalator

December 12, 1988 – 35 dead in Clapham rail collision following wiring errors made by an overworked rail worker

October 5, 1999 – 38 people died in Paddington rail crash, resulting in a public inquiry into high speed train safety

October 17, 2000 – Four dead in Hatfield rail crash caused by a cracked rail

February 28, 2001 – Ten people died in Selby rail crash after the driver fell asleep at the wheel

May 10, 2002 – Seven killed in Potters Bar rail crash after the train derailed at high speed

Saturday 24 January 2015

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At least 14 people killed in highway accident in Mexico

At least 14 people died and 19 others were injured Thursday when a bus collided with a freight truck in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, authorities said.

The accident happened before dawn on the road connecting Ciudad Obregon with Guaymas, the state coordinator for emergency services, Carlos Jesus Arias, told Efe.

"So far there are 14 people dead," the official said, adding that the injured were taken to two hospitals in Ciudad Obregon.

The bodies recovered at the scene "are completely burnt" and will be difficult to identify, Arias said.

The crash was apparently caused by an attempt by the driver of the bus, en route to the border metropolis of Tijuana, to pass a cantaloupe-laden truck on a bridge, he said.

Some of the 19 injured survivors are in critical condition, authorities said.

Saturday 24 January 2015

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