A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300
Cathay Pacific Flight CX250 from London Heathrow to Hong Kong was forced to make an emergency landing in Novosibirsk, Russia after the crew received warning of a fire in the aft cargo hold 6 hours into the flight. The aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER, registration unknown. The crew made a safe landing at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport with 214 passengers and 18 crew on board. The flight took off from London at 6:02pm local time (GMT) and landed in Novosibirsk at 7:20am local time (GMT+7). There was no fire detected in the cargo compartment after landing. The passengers of the flight were accommodated in hotels for the night and a replacement aircraft has been dispatched to shuttle them to Hong Kong.
A Delta Connection Bombardier CRJ-900 with two rear-mounted engines. Photo by Andrew Cohen CC 2.0
Ever noticed that some airliners have a sleek-looking T-tail and engines mounted at the rear? This design is found most commonly on smaller aircraft such as regional and private jets. Some people hate it, while others think it looks sleek and stylish. Now you may be wondering why some aircraft have engines at the back and others don’t. There are actually several reasons why aircraft manufacturers would place engines at the rear on aircraft like the Boeing 717, 727, McDonnell Douglas MD-80, and Bombardier CRJ series to name a few.
In light of what happened the other day with Virgin Atlantic flight VS25, I’d like to talk about lasers and the special relationship they seem to have with aviation. On February the 14th 2016, Virgin Atlantic flight VS25, an A340-600 carrying 267 from London to New York, was forced to declare a pan-pan and return to LHR as the co-pilot felt sick after being hit by a laser during take-off. Now if you’ve been following aviation news it would appear as though incidents involving pilots and lasers are curiously commonplace. Often times pilots are hit by lasers shone through the cockpit window from a source on the ground. This seriously endangers the safety of the aircraft as studies done by the FAA have shown pilots can be temporarily blinded or distracted by such lasers. Permanent damage to the eye is also possible. Most incidents involving pilots and lasers take place during the crucial takeoff and landing phases of the flight, where smaller mistakes have larger consequences and aircraft are at their most vulnerable stage. It begs the question, of all things that can distract pilots or hinder the safety of a flight, why do laser strikes seem to be the most common? Most of the time, laser strikes such as the one that was likely experienced by the crew of Vs25 are the result of people on the ground with little concern for aviation safety or a crude and irresponsible sense of entertainment pointing basic non-military-grade lasers at departing or arriving aircraft. It seems as though there are quite a handful of such people around the world, as lasers have become a serious danger to aviation safety. Of course other sources of lasers such as weather observatories, buildings, and temporary shows/concerts pose an equal threat, however these sources are usually marked in aeronautical charts or posted in NOTAMS so that pilots are aware of their presence. Most of the issue still lies in irresponsible people on the ground shining lasers on aircraft. Aerial police units are sometimes used to locate the source of these lasers, however until serious action is taken against offenders, it is unlikely that police will be able to deter future incidents. Although it may sound cliché, the only way to do so is to educate people on the effects that lasers can have on aviation safety.