• M-KATE: not the British Royal Family

    Over the past few weeks an Airbus A319 has paid several overnight visits to Geneva. I thought that this Isle of Man Registration might be related to Harry and Kate, but no!

    There are many private jet aircraft registered in the Isle of Man which come to Geneva, but very few are of the size of an Airbus A319, capable of carrying over 100 passengers. This one, registered as M-KATE, was one of the ones for which the registration might be personal (many of the M- registrations are personal), so I tried to find out more.

    It turns out that the aircraft belongs to a company called Sophar Property Holding BVI (British Virgin Islands, I believe). The history of this company is somewhat mysterious, because some years ago it was bought by the Russian potash mining company called Uralkali, the head of Uralkali being a Russian oligarch called Dmitry Rybolovlev. At the time that it was bought, its only assets were an option to buy two private jets: a much smaller Falcon and this A319.

    Somehow, when Dmitry lost his position in Uralkali, it seems that he was rather attached to these jets, so apparently he bought them back (effectively buying Sophar Property Holding at the value of the two aircraft). If this is so, then he can travel around in either of them.

    The three overnight visits of M-KATE to Geneva this year have been on 15/16 March, 20/21 March and 28/29 April. Data from an aircraft tracking web site appears to show that this last visit came from Zurich and then went to Nice. Not exactly long flights from an aircraft which is said to have installed extra long-range fuel tanks.

    Mr Rybolovlev appears to be another of the eastern European rich people who like to acquire Football clubs in Europe: he was at the head of a consortium which bought a controlling interest im Monaco FC last year. Another Russion, Roman Abramovich, has long owned Chelsea FC, and will have a prime seat for the European Champions League final shortly. Other East European adventurers have been less successful, including in Switzerland (Neuchatel Xamax!).

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  • Strikes will affect flights to Spain and Portugal

    Air travellers would be wise to check on days on which flights to and from Spain and Portugal will probably be affected by flights. Several Web sites gives details.

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  • TAP flight arriving around midnight

    My predictions of flights from Lisbon to Geneva arriving around midnight were rapidly confirmed last night, but other late flights should not have been allowed.

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  • International noise awareness day

    Today, April 25 2012, is International Noise Awareness day. The reports of the great and continuing increase in traffic at Geneva airport is very relevant to our noise awareness.

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  • Swiss air pollution is rising

    According to the Swiss federal environment office, Switzerland emitted more greenhouse gases in 2010 than in 2009. What happened in 2011 and will Kyoto targets be met this year?

    The report indicates that in 2010 the CO2 emissions equivalent for Switzerland was 54.2 tons, an increase of 3.4% over 2009 which was attributed to extra heating requirements because of low temperatures in the home heating season. The expressed hope is that the situation will be improved in 2011, because of more clement temperatures. However, the graphics on the federal web site do not exactly make this expressed hope obvious. I have to say that, in my experience, official figures usually tend towards the optimistic side. We will have to wait for some months to see any actual figures for 2011.

    According to the Kyoto protocol, Switzerland is required to reduce its emissions by an average of 8% relative to 1990, in order to drop to not more than 48.6 tons this year. The first indicator for the feasibility of this drop will be the figures for 2011, and one has to say that the drop in heating needs might be counterbalanced by the rise in other sectors due to the general economic improvements last year. As for this year, I wonder what effect the extremely cold weather of February (and the start of April) will have!

    One of the ways (somewhat artificial in my thinking) is to buy certificates from other countries via the "Fondation centime climatique". According to newspaper reports, the Federal Government, under its minister Doris Leuthart, has signed a contract to increase the certificates that it will buy for the period 2008 to 2012 from 12 millions to 17 millions.

    2011_NO2_Geneva.JPGSome figures that are already available for 2011 are that of air pollution in Geneva, as calculated by Geneva cantonal authorities. These do not make for particularly comforting reading, especially for NO2 emissions around Geneva centre and the airport. In 2010 there were two zones in which the year's emissions exceeded what is called the emission limit value (VLI : valeur limite d'immission) of 30 micrograms per cubic metre: one around the centre of town and one around the airport. Figures now issued for 2011 show that both of these zones have increased enough to be merged into a large single zone.

    This VLI zone is one inside which the NO2 emissions are said to have a harmful impact on people's health and the ecosystems. Thus, anyone resident in a very large area between the airport and the town centre is liable to this harmful effect. It is, of course, possible that other regions in Switzerland will all have less pollution in 2011 than in 2010, but I would not bet too much money on it.

    What is very annoying (to put it mildly) to many environmentalists is that the calculated CO2 emissions for Switzerland do not include any contribution from international aviation. This is one of two exceptions stated in the Kyoto protocol, the other one being shipping: not too much of that emitted by the steam-powered lake steamers on Geneva lake. It is another demonstration of how the airline lobby has succeeded in retaining enormous privileges, always claiming that air traffic only adds a few percent to global emissions.

    In England I am sure that one would be able to do spread betting on the final 2011 and 2012 emission levels. What would your predictions be?

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  • How a Virgin Atlantic problem affected Geneva

    Most Geneva-Gatwick flights yesterday were delayed because of an emergency on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida. Details are hard to establish.

    20120417_Virgin.JPGThere have been quite a few emergencies, often involving an aircraft turning around shortly after takeoff and returning to the departure airport. I recently blogged about two of these which occurred on Friday 13 April, and there have been several since then, as reported on the tweets page of flightradar24.com. Of these, the most recent one has made headlines on the newspapers because it resulted in Gatwick airport having to close down for 90 minutes. Apparently, it then reopened using a back-up runway: one which is seldom used because it is only 1.8 km long, as against the 2.5 km runway normally used.

    One report on this comes from the well-known site "huffingtonpost.com" (for which DSK's wife, Anne Sinclair, is now running the french language edition), and even includes a short video of the aircraft after landing and with the emergency exit slides down.

    On Tuesdays, as is generally the case on other weekdays, the only flights between Geneva and Gatwick are run by easyJet, so it was no surprise to see that most of their flights had been subject to delays between 1 and 4 hours, though none was cancelled. Incidentally, this is one of those occurrences where I feel that the Geneva airport web site should have a daily bulletin board announcing this sort of problem!

    What happened to thes Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida, is actually somewhat of a mystery still. The first reports talked of a small fire in the aircraft, but these reports were later contradicted when, according to press articles, "a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic told The Associated Press the flight crew had been debriefed and said they did not see or smell smoke on board". However, these same press articles state that "The airline declined to provide details of what exactly caused the emergency". Of course, that is hardly a surprise, is it?

    The incident was apparently serious enough to cause the aircraft to be evacuated in an emergency manner: passengers being pushed down the emergency slides. This resulted in injuries to 15 of them, with some having to go to hospital with suspected fractures.

    20120417_path2.JPGVia the list of tweets on the flightradar24.com site, a quick click shows the path taken by the aircraft. This raises some interesting issues. A normal great circle route to Florida would require the aircraft to fly slightly north of due west, passing over parts of Wales: this path would be used from Heathrow. However, flights from Gatwick follow a path slightly south of due west, so that is how the flight started. Then, when over Southampton, the pilot turned south-west in order to do a wide loop over the English Channel. I assume that this was when the problem occurred, and the aircraft needed to dump fuel (over the sea) before being able to land again.

    By a curious coincidence, just over 10 years ago, on January 19 2002,  the very same Virgin Atlantic VS27 flight from Gatwick to Orlando had to make an emergency landing in Keflavik airport, Iceland, because of a bomb threat!

    Perhaps I will not book that flight in 10 years time!


  • Hot air balloon disrupts flights

    The poor weather prevented any balloon flying during the 6th Montgolfiades weekend here in Geneva. Somewhere near London Gatwick airport one did fly and cause trouble.

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  • Palestinien militants to Tel Aviv this weekend

    Today, Sunday 15 April, the web site of this newspaper says pro-palestinien militants refused boarding on EZS1525 to Tel Aviv. How about  other flights to Tel Aviv this weekend?

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  • Air France emergency near Geneva

    An Air France flight from Paris to Madagascar, when passing West of Geneva, issued an emergency transmission detected here today, Friday 13 April (!) , then turned back to Paris.

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  • Night flights to nowhere

    A rich person wishing, for tax reasons, not to be considered resident in Britain regularly slept overnight in his private jet. Each flight reduced his residence by 2 days!

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  • Jetman Rossy and Wingman Connery

    When Swiss Jetman Yves Rossy flies, his flying suit is jet-powered. The Brit, Gary Connery, has been training in Switzerland to fly without power and land without a parachute.

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  • Delayed and cancelled flights: why?

    Yesterday, 2 April, many flights to and from Geneva were cancelled and many others delayed by hours, and today looks bad also. So far I have seen no reasons given.

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  • Earth Day: a planned lights out

    Last Saturday evening many lights went out for an hour to mark Earth Hour. In the past few days some also went out because of power problems linked to the airport.

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