United says cockpit door codes may have been published online

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines aircraft taxis as another lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, U.S., February 7, 2015. REUTERS/Louis Nastro/File Photo

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Codes to gain access to United Airlines cockpits may have been made public, the carrier said on Monday, but it stopped short of confirming a report that a flight attendant inadvertently published the codes online in a potential threat to air security.

The airline still could keep its flight decks secure through other measures, Maddie King, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Corp, said in an email. She declined to specify the other safeguards because of security considerations.

“We are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” she said.

Citing a pilot who was briefed on the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that United, the world’s third-largest airline by revenue, had alerted pilots that access codes to unlock cockpit doors were mistakenly posted on a public website by a flight attendant.

Cockpit security emerged as a top priority for airlines in September 2001, when hijackers took control of United and American Airlines planes and crashed them into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington. A third airliner commandeered by jihadists crashed in a western Pennsylvania field.

The United unit of the Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement that the accidental leak of information showed the need for stronger protections for flight deck doors.

The union has long backed secondary barriers, which it said would cost $5,000 each, and called on Congress to mandate them.

“The installation of secondary barriers on all passenger aircraft is a simple and cost effective way to bolster the last line of flight deck defense,” the union said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Trott)

Turkish cargo jet crash kills 37 in Kyrgyzstan

Plane debris of Turkish cargo jet crash

BISHKEK (Reuters) – A Turkish cargo jet crashed near Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport on Monday, killing at least 37 people, most of them residents of a village struck by the Boeing 747 as it tried to land in dense fog, Kyrgyz officials said.

According to the airport administration, the plane was supposed to make a stopover at Manas, near the capital city Bishkek, on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul. It crashed when trying to land in poor visibility at 7:31 a.m. (8:31 p.m. ET on Sunday).

The doomed plane plowed on for a few hundred meters (yards) through the Dachi Suu village, home to hundreds of families, shattering into pieces and damaging dozens of buildings.

Plumes of smoke rose above the crash site, with some mudbrick buildings razed to the ground and others pierced by parts of the plane.

The torn-off tail assembly, rotated upside down, towered above a one-storey house. A football pitch-sized area nearby was completely leveled and covered with twisted pieces of metal.

Locals said they had initially thought the area was struck by an earthquake.

“Around seven o’clock in the morning I heard a strong swat (noise) and after that all the nearest houses were shaken,” said local resident Andrei Andreyev.

“Of course, everyone got frightened and started to run out of the houses to the street. Nobody understood what was going on because there was a fog, the weather was not good.”

Initial estimates put the death toll from the crash at 37, said Kyrgyzstan’s emergencies ministry. Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev announced Tuesday would be a national day of mourning.

Turkish Airlines <THYAO.IS> said in a statement that the cargo flight was operated by ACT Airlines and neither the Boeing 747-400 aircraft nor the crew belonged to Turkish Airlines.

Turkish cargo operator ACT Airlines also said the jet was theirs.

“Our TC-MCL signed plane, flying on Jan. 16 from Hong Kong to Bishkek, crashed on landing at Bishkek at the end of the runway for an unknown reason,” ACT Airlines said in an emailed statement.

“More information will be disclosed concerning our four-person team when we get clear information.”

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Additional reporting by Marlis Myrzakul Uulu in Bishkek, Daren Butler in Istanbul and Venus Wu in Hong Kong; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Toby Chopra)

New computer glitch delays United Airlines flights

Computer glitch downs the planes

By Ingrid Melander and Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of passengers were delayed worldwide after a computer glitch temporarily halted departures at United Airlines, the latest in a series of outages to affect rival companies in the industry.

“Earlier tonight we experienced an issue with our weight reporting system, which caused system wide flight delays,” the airline said in a statement on its Twitter feed late on Thursday in the United States.

“We have resolved the issue and are working to get customers to their destinations as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Passengers said they had been forced to wait onboard planes or inside terminals as flights were delayed for several hours.

“On the plane for more than an hour, away from the gate and no communication. What’s happening?,” one passenger tweeted.

In Paris, passengers complained as check-in lines grew for a flight to New York, a Reuters reporter said on Friday morning.

The airline said the problem had been resolved as of 3 a.m. eastern time (0700 GMT) on Friday.

It is the third computer glitch to hit United’s owner United Continental Holdings in recent months and the latest in a series of problems that have tested the reliance on technology of some of the world’s largest carriers.

On June 2, software needed to dispatch United’s flight plan briefly lost functionality.

In July, the same airline’s flights were disrupted after a computer problem blocked access to reservations records.

The following month, Delta Air Lines canceled hundreds of flights and delayed many others after a power outage hit its computer systems.

And in September, a system-wide computer problem at British Airways caused significant delays.

After the two previous incidents, United Continental Holdings said in July it had invested in backup plans.

But multiple recent outages have prompted some experts and passenger groups to question whether the airline industry has invested enough in technological infrastructure, given new profits from baggage and cancellation fees.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander, Tim Hepher; Editing by Keith Weir)

EgyptAir hijack ends with passengers freed unharmed, suspect arrested

By Yiannis Kourtoglou and Nadia El Gowely

LARNACA, Cyprus/CAIRO (Reuters) – An EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday but the passengers and crew were freed unharmed and the hijacker, whose motives remained a mystery, was arrested after giving himself up.

Eighty-one people, including 21 foreigners and 15 crew, had been onboard the Airbus 320 flight when it took off, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.

Conflicting theories emerged about the hijacker’s motives, with Cypriot officials saying early on the incident did not appear related to terrorism but the Cypriot state broadcaster saying he had demanded the release of women prisoners in Egypt.

After the aircraft landed at Larnaca airport, negotiations began and everyone onboard was freed except three passengers and four crew, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fethy said.

Soon after his comments, Cypriot television footage showed several people leaving the plane via the stairs and another man climbing out of the cockpit window and running off.

The hijacker then surrendered to authorities.

“Its over,” the Cypriot foreign ministry said in a tweet.

Speaking to reporters after the crisis ended, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the hijacker was an Egyptian national but that his motives remained unclear.

“At some moments he asked to meet with a representative of the European Union and at other points he asked to go to another airport but there was nothing specific,” he said, adding that the man would now be questioned to ascertain his motives.

Cypriot foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon told reporters during the crisis that the hijacker appeared to be “unstable”.

Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger who claimed to be wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to divert the plane to Larnaca.

Photographs shown on Egyptian state television showed a middle-aged man on a plane wearing glasses and displaying a white belt with bulging pockets and protruding wires.

Fethy, the Egyptian minister, said authorities suspected the suicide belt was not genuine but treated the incident as serious to ensure the safety of all those on board.

“Our passengers are all well and the crew is all well… We cannot say this was a terrorist act… he was not a professional,” Fethy told reporters after the incident.

In the midst of the crisis, witnesses said the hijacker had thrown a letter on the apron in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his ex-wife, who is Cypriot.

But the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) said the hijacker had asked for the release of women prisoners in Egypt, suggesting a political motive.

EgyptAir also delayed a New York-bound flight from Cairo onto which some passengers of the hijacked plane had been due to connect. Fethy said it was delayed partly due to a technical issue but partly as a precaution.

The plane remained on the tarmac at Larnaca throughout the morning while Cypriot security forces took up positions around the scene.


While the reasons for the hijacking were not entirely clear, the incident will deal another blow to Egypt’s tourism industry and hurt efforts to revive an economy hammered by political unrest following the 2011 uprising.

The sector, a main source of hard currency for the import-dependent county, was already reeling from the crash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai in late October.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said the Russian plane was brought down by a terrorist attack. Islamic State has said it planted a bomb on board, killing all 224 people on board.

The incident has raised renewed questions over airport security in Egypt, though it was not clear whether the hijacker was even armed. Ismail said stringent measures were in place.

There was also some confusion over the identity of the hijacker. Egypt’s official state news agency MENA initially named him as Egyptian national Ibrahim Samaha but later said the hijacker was called Seif Eldin Mustafa.

The Cypriot Foreign Affairs Ministry also identified the hijacker as Mustafa.

Passengers on the plane included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, an Italian, a Syrian and French national, the Civil Aviation Ministry.

Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decades, despite its proximity to the Middle East.

A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijacked airliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.

In 1988, a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day siege had a stopover in Larnaca, where two hostages were killed.

Egypt said it would send a plane to Cyprus to pick up stranded passengers, some of whom had been traveling to Cairo for connecting flights abroad.

(Additionaly reporting by Michele Kambas in Athens and Mostafa Hashem, Ahmed Mohammed Hassan, Amina Ismail and Lin Noueihed in Cairo, Writing by Lin Noueihed, Editing by Michael Georgy and Angus MacSwan)

Moscow Bans Egypt National Airline from Flying into Russia

After Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s decision to suspend all Russian flights to Egypt after the Oct. 31 crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt that killed all 224 people on board, the Russian state aviation agency announced on Friday that it is banning Egypt’s national carrier from flying to Russia.

The only airline flying between the two countries is EgyptAir and this move was to ensure that it meets safety requirements, Russian media reported.
Sinai Province, a group affiliated with the Islamic State, has repeatedly claimed it brought down Metrojet Flight 9268, flying from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
News reports state that Western officials believe there is a strong possibility that a bomb exploded on the plane, but Russia and Egypt say it is too early to draw conclusions.
Many have speculated that a bomb was placed on the plane in Egypt by a worker or workers at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport.

Several countries, including the UK, have halted flights to and from the resort due to intelligence concerns.

According to Reuters, an airport official said the ban on EgyptAir flights would take effect on Saturday.

Plane Skids Off Icy LaGuardia Runway

The winter storm that shut down most of the eastern United States almost resulted in a horrific tragedy at New York’s LaGuardia airport.

A Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta slid off a runway and smashed through a fence.  The plane, with 125 passengers and five crew, slid to a stop feet from landing in the water.

Authorities reported at least 3 people were hospitalized for their injuries and many other suffered minor injuries.

The airport closed because of the “aircraft incident.”

Authorities on scene said that two planes landed just before the Delta flight without any problems.  The pilots reported “good braking action” for the flight.

The closure of the airport further hampered a day of travel crushed by winter storms.  The Dallas/Fort Worth airport, one of the busiest in America, was shot down because of ice covering the airport.

TransAsia Plane Crashes In Taiwan On Takeoff; At Least 26 Dead

Local officials say it’s a miracle anyone survived the crash of a TransAsia flight in Taiwan on Wednesday that left at least 26 people dead.

A man driving on Taiwan’s National Freeway No. 1 captured the crash on video which made it appear the engines failed causing the plane to fall out of the sky.  The plane barely missed the main highway before clipping a taxi and the edge of a bridge on the way into a river.

Officials say that 18 people are still missing in the river but that 15 people were rescued and rushed to hospitals including a toddler.  The driver of the taxi and passenger were also injured in the incident.

Local Taiwan broadcasters played a recording of the plane’s last contact with the control tower where the pilots repeat “Mayday” three times.  The pilots offered to details as to what may have caused the crash.

TransAsia director Peter Chen told reporters that plane was one of the newest in their fleet and had been in service for less than a year.  The pilot reportedly had 4,900 hours of flight experience, leading officials to say it’s likely mechanical failure was the cause over pilot error.

Rescue Agency Admits Air Asia Flight “Likely At Bottom of Sea”

Search and rescue officials were admitting to the press what AirAsia officials have been trying to avoid:  that flight QZ8501 is at the bottom of the sea.

“Based on the co-ordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea,” Bambang Soelistyo, Indonesia’s search and rescue agency head, told reporters at a news conference in Jakarta.

The plane disappeared on Sunday carrying 162 people.  Officials say that the pilots requested a change in course due to bad weather but then disappeared without a distress call.

A spokesman for the Indonesian air force says that they have spotted an oil slick but they have not confirmed that is the location of the downed plane.

We are very devastated by what’s happened, it’s unbelievable,” AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes said.

Justice Department Uses Fake Cell Towers On Airplanes

The Justice Department has been spying on millions of Americans through the use of fake cell phone towers attached to airplanes.

The Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of the U.S. Marshals Service program, which reached full functionality in 2007.  The Marshals fly Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan area airports.  The flights can cover most of the U.S. population.

The devices on the airplanes mimic cell phone towers and allow the Marshals to trick cell phones into reporting registration information.  Tens of thousands of cellphones have their data captured during a single flight.

Justice Department officials would not confirm to the Journal the existence of the program.  An official said that to discuss it would allow criminal suspects or foreign powers to determine ways U.S. officials collect intelligence.  He said nothing is done that does not meet federal law including gaining a court’s approval.

The system reportedly can collect a phone’s information even if you have a phone with encryption capabilities, such as the iPhone 6.

Myles Munroe Killed In Plane Crash

The senior pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries International Fellowship is dead after a plane crash in the Bahamas.

Myles Munroe was killed along with his wife, daughter and six others when their plane struck a construction crane in a shipyard next to the airport and crashed into a junkyard.  No one on the plane survived.

Munroe was leading a Global Leadership Forum that included world leaders such as ambassadors to the United Nations.

“He was indisputably one of the most globally recognizable religious figures our nation has ever produced,” Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie said of Munroe. “His fame as an ambassador for the Christian ministry preceded him wherever in the world he traveled, whether in the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Europe or Africa.”

The Associated Press says that severe weather had an impact on the crash.