Sunday, December 28, 2014

162 passengers feared dead after AirAsia flight QZ8501 goes missing

An AirAsia plane with 162 people aboard went missing en route from Indonesia to Singapore on Sunday morning shortly after the pilots requested a change of flight plan because of weather, the third major aviation incident this year involving a Malaysian carrier.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 with 155 people on board -- including one British, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, three Koreans, -- and seven crew members lost contact with air traffic control at 07.24 am local time Indonesia.

Sixteen children and one infant were among the passengers on board the AirAsia Airbus A320-200 that went missing on the flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore.

At a press conference this morning, Indonesian officials said the plane was several hours past the time when its fuel would have been exhausted.

There were unconfirmed media reports that a aircraft crashed in the waters of East Belitung, off the east coast of Sumatra.

The exact location of the crash site has not been identified, media reports said.

The aircraft was in the Indonesian flight information region, more than 200 nm southeast of the Singapore -- Jakarta FIR boundary, when contact was lost, civil aviation authority of Singapore said.

Contact with the plane was lost 42 minutes after takeoff. There were no Indian nationals on board.

The plane took off from Surabaya (Indonesia) at 5:20 am local time and was scheduled to land at Singapore's ChangiAirport at 8.30 am.

A statement on AirAsia's Facebook page said: "AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07.24 am."

"At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available," the Malaysia-based carrier said in a statement.
The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC.
"At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service," the statement said.

Indonesian Transport Ministry official Hadi Mustofa said the plane had asked for an unusual route before it lost contact, local media reported.
Air Asia said the pilot had requested "deviation" from its flight plan because of bad weather.
"The aircraft... was requesting deviation due to en route weather," it said.
Indonesia's national search and rescue agency bangka belitung said it has dispatched one vessel to search for AirAsia flight QZ8501.
"We received information from Basarnas in Jakarta that contact had been lost with an AirAsia flight over Bangka Belitung waters...We then dispatched a vessel with a search and rescue team of 22 members to check the information," Febi Imam Saputra, an information official at Basarnas Bangka Belitung, was quoted as saying by the Indonesian Antara news agency.
"If we look at the map, these coordinates refer to an area around 20 nautical miles from East Belitung," said Febi.
Search and rescue operations have been activated by the Indonesian authorities from the Pangkal Pinang Search and Rescue office.

Indonesian authorities have mobilised search and rescue operation near BelitungIsland, deploying five ships and a surveillance aircraft carrying 15 Indonesian Air Force personnel.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has confirmed that it is linking up with Indonesian authorities to help locate the missing plane. Australia and Malaysia have also offered assistance.

A massive search is underway for the missing plane. The last detected position of the missing AirAsia Indonesia Flight QZ8501 is believed to be between Tanjung Pandan on BelitungIsland and Kalimantan, Indonesia, according to Indonesia's Director of Air Transport, Djoko Murjatmodjo.

"The position where contact was lost was between Tanjung Pandan and Pontianak, about 100 nautical miles south-east of Tanjung Pandan," said Djoko.

The pilot Captain Iriyanto has an experience of 6,100 flying hours.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has asked his company to stay strong. "Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We must stay strong," tweeted Fernandes, an ethnic Indian, who set up the budget airlines which now flies to several countries.

Fernandes has said that he is heading to Indonesia.

Malaysia has also offered assistance in the search operation.

AirAsia is popular in the region as a budget carrier. It has about 100 destinations, with subsidiaries in several Asian countries.

The loss of contact with the AirAsia plane comes nearly 10 months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8.

Searchers are yet to find any debris from Flight MH370, which officials believe crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

Another Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ferrari 458 Speciale A is Italy's most dangerous spider


A stands for aperta, which, if you know your Italian (or your old Ferrari specials), translates as open. No prizes for guessing it's the long rumoured Speciale spider, then, and despite having no fancy hybrid tech or dihedral doors, it looks set to steal a chunk of the Paris headlines.

It follows the same, simple recipe as the Scuderia 16M it effectively supersedes, taking the Speciale coupe – arguably the greatest supercar of the last decade – and lopping off its roof. Unlike the 16M, though, it doesn't have a fabric roof, instead employing the same folding hard-top setup as the regular 458 Spider, which adds 50kg to the coupe's curb weight. The Speciale A tips the scales at 1445kg.

Underneath the skin, the Speciale's mesmerising mash-up of screaming naturally aspirated power and mind-bogglingly clever electronics remains intact. That means a 4.5-litre V8 with 597 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque: enough for 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds, which is unchanged from the tin-top Speciale, despite the weight penalty. It also boasts an identical lap time to the coupe around the circuit in Ferrari's back garden (known more glamorously as Fiorano).

Complementing one of the more glorious engines on sale is a snappy seven-speed twin-clutch paddleshift gearbox and a host of driver-flattering acronyms, the most interesting being SSC (side slip angle control) which assists the driver in carving artful black lines around corners. The stability control can all be turned off, of course.

Being based on Ferrari's most extreme V8 berlinetta, the Speciale A is naturally its fastest, most aerodynamic spider, too.

Prices haven't yet been divulged, but with the 458 Spider commanding a £20,000 premium over its base car, we'd wager an entry point just shy of £230,000 for the Speciale A. That's a largely irrelevant of course, as it doesn't take an awful lot of options list surfing to crank Ferrari prices up considerably. You can probably save yourself a bit of cash by avoiding the lurid blue carbon in the shots above, though...

The 458 Speciale looks set to be the last naturally aspirated V8 road car to roll out of Maranello, with the 458's replacement – which could arrive as early as next year – set to gain a pair of turbos, like this year's California T. With the ability to fold its roof and take in every one of its screaming decibels, the A could be the ideal way to sign things off.

You'll have to be quick if you want to titillate your eardrums, though – unlike the coupe, this one's limited. Just 499 will be sold, making it as scarce as the LaFerrari.