Friday, February 25, 2005

Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000

Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000
By Ben Webster
Turning back after engine failure would have left airline liable to pay out for delays under new rules on compensation
A BRITISH AIRWAYS jumbo jet carrying 351 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after an 11-hour transatlantic flight with a failed engine.

The fault occurred on take-off from Los Angeles but the pilot declined all opportunities to land in the US and instead continued on three engines for 5,000 miles to Britain.

The incident happened three days after a European regulation came into force requiring airlines to compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations. Under the new rules, if the pilot had returned to Los Angeles, BA would have been facing a compensation bill of more than £100,000.

Balpa, the British Air Line Pilots’ Association, gave warning last night that the regulation could result in pilots being pressured into taking greater risks for commercial reasons.

The regulation requires airlines to refund passengers the full cost of their tickets as well as flying them home if a delay lasts longer than five hours. Passengers must also be put up in hotels if the delay continues overnight.

The BA flight departed at 8.45pm on Saturday and the airline admitted that the delay would have been well over five hours if it had returned to Los Angeles.

BA initially claimed that the engine had failed an hour into the flight. But the airline admitted yesterday that the problem had occurred a few seconds after take-off when the Boeing 747 was only 100ft above the ground.

Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles spotted streams of sparks shooting from the engine and immediately radioed the pilot. He attempted to throttle the engine back but was forced to shut it down after it continued to overheat. The plane then began circling over the Pacific while the pilot contacted BA’s control centre in London to discuss what to do. They decided the flight should continue to London even though it would burn more fuel on just three engines.

The Boeing 747 was unable to climb to its cruising altitude of 36,000ft and had to cross the Atlantic at 29,000ft, where the engines perform less efficiently and the tailwinds are less favourable. The unbalanced thrust also meant the pilot had to apply more rudder, causing extra drag.

The pilot realised as he flew over the Atlantic that he was running out of fuel and would not make it to Heathrow. He requested an emergency landing at Manchester and was met by four fire engines and thirty firefighters on the runway.

Philip Baum, an aviation security specialist on board the flight with his wife and three daughters, said he had heard two loud bangs shortly after take-off. “The pilot came on to say we had lost an engine and he was negotiating about whether or not we should land back at Los Angeles.

“A few minutes later, I was amazed to see from the map on the TV screen that we were flying eastwards towards Britain. I would be disgusted if the issue of compensation had any bearing on the decision.”

BA said financial concerns had played no part in the decision. Captain Doug Brown, the senior manager of BA’s 747 fleet, said the only consideration had been “what was best for passengers”.

“The plane is as safe on three engines as on four and it can fly on two. It was really a customer service issue, not a safety issue. The options would have been limited for passengers [if the plane had returned to Los Angeles].” He said the pilot would have had to dump more than 100 tonnes of fuel before landing at Los Angeles. “The authorities would have had words to say about that.”

Captain Brown said pilots always took the final decision on any safety issue and would never choose to put themselves at risk. “Even without 350 passengers behind you, you are always going to be concerned about your own neck.”

But David Learmount, safety editor of Flight International, said: “It was a very odd decision to continue to London. Even if the pilot didn’t want to dump so much fuel, he could have diverted to Chicago.

“You are not as safe on three engines as you are on four and I suspect that, given the choice, most passengers would have opted to return to LA.”

Some airlines are trying to avoid paying compensation for delays involving technical failures of an aircraft. They are citing a clause in the regulation which excludes delays “caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.

But the Air Transport Users Council, which advises passengers on how to obtain their rights, said airlines would still be liable in cases involving engine failure because the cause was likely to be poor maintenance. Simon Evans, its chief executive, admitted that the regulation could lead to airlines taking greater risks. “We recognise there is a possibility that an airline might take a decision to fly in order to avoid paying compensation.”

Captain Mervyn Granshaw, Balpa’s chairman, said: “The EU regulation is poorly drafted and increases the pressure on pilots to consider commercial issues when making judgments in marginal safety situations.”

US woman sues over ink cartridges

A US woman is suing Hewlett Packard (HP), saying its printer ink cartridges are secretly programmed to expire on a certain date.

The unnamed woman from Georgia says that a chip inside the cartridge tells the printer that it needs re-filling even when it does not.

The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone in the US who has purchased an HP inkjet printer since February 2001.

HP, the world's biggest printer firm, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

HP ink cartridges use a chip technology to sense when they are low on ink and advise the user to make a change.

'Shut down'

But the suit claims the chips also shut down the cartridges at a predetermined date regardless of whether they are empty.

"The smart chip is dually engineered to prematurely register ink depletion and to render a cartridge unusable through the use of a built-in expiration date that is not revealed to the consumer," the suit said.

The lawsuit is asking for restitution, damages and other compensation.

The cost of printer cartridges has been a contentious issue in Europe for the last 18 months.

The price of inkjet printers has come down to as little as £34 but it could cost up to £1,700 in running costs over an 18-month period due to cartridge, a study by Computeractive Magazine revealed last year.

The inkjet printer market has been the subject of an investigation by the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which concluded in a 2002 report that retailers and manufacturers needed to make pricing more transparent for consumers.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Serial burglar caught on webcam

A house burglar was caught after a webcam on the owner's computer recorded images of him carrying out the raid.

Stills of serial raider Benjamin Park, 19, of Cambridge, were sent to an email address so even when he stole the computer, the images could be found.

Police said it was a "brilliant idea" of software engineer Duncan Grisby, who set it after a previous burglary.

Park was given an 11-month jail term by magistrates in Cambridge on Tuesday after admitting burglary.

"It was an absolutely brilliant idea of Mr Grisby's," said Det Sgt Alan Page, head of Cambridgeshire Police Burglary Squad.


"The webcam was set up in his computer and began filming once it registered motion. It captured every movement Park made.

"At one point he stared into the computer as if it might be making a noise or something to make him suspicious.

"He then stole the computer but it didn't matter because Mr Grisby had set it up so that as it was recording it was sending the images to an email address.

"When the break-in was discovered Mr Grisby simply gave us the email address and we were able to watch several minutes of footage and say, `That's Ben Park'.

"Mr Grisby is an extremely bright man. He'd set this up because he'd been burgled some years ago and the quality was superb.

'Better than alarm'

"It was better than a burglar alarm and when Park initially denied breaking in to the property we were simply able to show him the footage."

Magistrates heard Park, who has more than 13 previous convictions for theft, had stolen computer equipment and other property with a value of nearly £4,000 from Mr Grisby's study.

He committed the offence in February while on bail after being charged with an attempted burglary in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in August.

"The webcam made our job really easy," added DS Page. "It was a pleasure to show him the pictures and see his expression when we interviewed him."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/02/16 22:26:26 GMT


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Asia Times: US Arming Militants To Overthrow Iraq Gov't

Don't rub your eyes, this is not a story from two or three years ago.

According to this article from Asia Times, the United States has begun quietly arming small militias in the Ba'athist regions of Iraq to overthrow the just-elected government, should that government ignore US pressures and attempt to form a theocracy.

Asia Times Online has learned that in a highly clandestine operation, the US has procured Pakistan-manufactured weapons, including rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry. Consignments have been loaded in bulk onto US military cargo aircraft at Chaklala airbase in the past few weeks. The aircraft arrived from and departed for Iraq.
Taken from Linkfilter

Monday, February 07, 2005

Fresh attacks target Iraqi police

At least 12 policemen have been killed and four injured in a suicide bomb attack near a hospital in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, police say.

Another 13 people died in a car bomb attack on a police station in Baquba, north-east of Baghdad.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories

Intense Grief and Fear in Northern Uganda
No End in Sight to Devastating Conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)r
Civilians Caught in Colombia's Crossfire
Tuberculosis Spiraling Out of Control
Somalia Shattered By Anarchy and Chaos
The Trauma of Ongoing War in Chechnya
User-Fee System Excludes Burundi's Poorest From Basic Health Care
North Koreans Endure Massive Deprivation and Repression
Constant Threat of Hunger and Disease in Ethiopia
The War is Over, But Liberians Still Live in Crisis

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

GPs dial in to the great 0870 scam

GPs dial in to the great 0870 scam
by SEAN POULTER, Daily Mail

The Health Service has been accused of trying to cash in on the sick by introducing rip-off 0870 numbers for local doctors' surgeries.

Calls to the numbers are charged at just under 8p a minute, more than double the amount most people pay for phone calls.

Banks, utility companies and government departments are generating massive windfalls from what are effectively premium-rate lines because most large organisations which use 0870 numbers take a slice of the call cost.

Daily Mail readers reacted with fury to the revelations about the 0870 scam. It now appears the NHS has jumped on the gravy train at the expense of patients trying to contact their GP.

An estimated 300 doctors' surgeries across the country have introduced 0870 numbers in recent months in partnership with a company called Network Europe Group.

NEG supplies telephone systems to surgeries in return for a slice of the call charge imposed on patients.

The net effect is that doctors and the NHS get a 'free' or cheap phone system while NEG makes money from call charges. However, all of this is effectively paid for by patients.

Labour MP Dr Howard Stoate, the only practising GP in the Commons, said: "This is a very worrying trend. We are effectively looking at charging for the NHS by the back door.

"Patients who need an appointment or advice don't have any alternative but to pay this charge.

Campaign to bypass 0870 and 0845 numbers

"Doctors will say this is a good way of them improving their phone systems but I don't believe this should be subsidised by patient call charges."

Most Britons currently pay a maximum of 3p a minute for national or local calls under discount packages. However, calls to 0870, and 0845, numbers are excluded from these packages.

The Lib Dem MP for Cornwall North, Paul Tyler, said government departments and agencies were generating huge amounts by using 0870 numbers. It appears the Home Office has 19 such lines while the DVLA makes £1.1million a year from its 0870 prefixes.

Mr Tyler said: "It is a rip-off. Those who ask for information they are entitled to as citizens are facing very high charges. These are effectively premium rate phone lines."

Mail readers from across the country yesterday complained about the 0870 rip-off. One said: "It is disgraceful that I should have to pay 8p per minute for a questioning session from the NHS if I become ill."

A second said: "At least with a commercial firm you can chose to deal with them or not. This is not possible for doctors' surgeries." Another said: "Lets get this disgusting rip-off halted."

NEG said those dialling the system it uses in surgeries are generally on the line for less time than in the past. So while the call charge per minute was higher, they did not pay much more.

A campaign has begun among consumers to bypass 0870 and 0845 numbers.

The website offers alternative, cheaper, numbers for major organisations.