F-35’s long litany of mishaps continues, after a number of in-flight oxygen deprivation incidents


A whole squadron of F-35 fighter jets has been grounded due to a dramatic increase in hypoxia incidents on board.

All F-35 aircraft attached to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US, have been grounded while an investigation into a number of ‘physiological incidents’ takes place.

Five pilots flying different F-35 jets based at Luke have experienced hypoxia symptoms on board since May 2, forcing the grounding of all aircraft at the base.

Hypoxia problems are relatively common in combat jet aircraft. Issues with the life support gear on board F-22 Raptors were identified and resolved back in 2012. And the F/A-18 Hornet’s fleet has also experienced similar problems across all its variants.

The current issue is of particular importance, as Luke Air Force Base is the pilot training hub for the F-35A variant. Pilots from several nations attend F-35 training programs a the location.

The aircraft, which has had a troubled development history, is manufactured in three versions: The F-35A is the Air Force model, and was declared airworthy and combat-ready in August 2016.

The F-35B is custom-made for the US Marine Corps (USMC). The F-35C, designed to be flown from carriers, is a ‘work in progress.’ 220 machines in total have been built, but none has seen combat yet.

The F-35 program is the most expensive military weapon system in history, having gone over $163bn over budget, and delivered seven years behind schedule.

The jet’s astronomical per-unit cost has caused heated controversy over the years, with experts citing that it delivers poor value for money when compared with older generation aircraft.

Wargames: Russian Su-27 ‘Flanker’ fighter aircraft intercepts US B-52 bomber flying over the Baltic Sea


Sources inside the Russian Defense Ministry have confirmed that a Su-27 jet was launched to intercept a long-range B-52 bomber flying over the Baltic Sea.

The Su-27 jet, codenamed ‘Flanker’ in NATO nomenclature, shadowed the US warplane on Monday morning until the B-52 left neutral airspace near the Russian border.

The Su-27, manufactured by Sukhoi, is a fixed-wing, twin-engine, air superiority war machine, designed to outmaneuver America’s fourth generation fighter aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat and the F-15 Eagle.

The incident is the latest is a series of wargames and mid-air interceptions that highlight the inherently dangerous cat-and-mouse game played by the major superpowers on contested airspace.

There has been a significant buildup of American and NATO forces across countries bordering with Russia in recent times, amidst heightened international tensions concerning North Korea, Syria, and their allies.



Search for missing MH370 flight reaches its end, main wreckage never found

The search for missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 is to be called off, almost three years after the aircraft mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, a Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing in March 2014, but never made it to its destination.

Radar screens recorded the aircraft executing a series of unusual turns before vanishing. Satellite data showed that MH370 flew on a straight southwest course out towards the farthest reaches of the Indian Ocean, until it presumably ran out of fuel and crashed into the water.

Several pieces of wreckage identified as MH370’s washed ashore as far a Madagascar in 2016, but despite extensive aerial and maritime search operations across large swathes of remote ocean, the main wreckage has never been found.

A number of theories exist as to what might have happened on board the fateful flight, but nothing can be proved conclusively.

The search has now been suspended indefinitely, so it is possible that the true fate of MH370 may never be known.

MH17 downing: Report concludes that airliner was shot down by anti-aircraft fire


A thorough investigation into the events surrounding the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has concluded that the aircraft was shot down by a missile launched from a ground-based weapon system.

Flight MH17 was lost over Ukrainian airspace on July 17, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The aircraft broke up in mid-air, killing all 298 on board.

The outcome of the investigation, which has been based on over half a million videos, photographs, and hundreds of thousands of other pieces of evidence, concludes that the jet was hit a a anti-aircraft missile launched from a Russian-made Buk weapon system.

Witnesses accounts also revealed that while the launcher was sited on Ukrainian soil, it was moved back to Russian territory shortly after the weapon was fired.

While the report conclusively states the method by which MH17 was destroyed, it falls short of determining which side of the conflict actually pressed the button. Fighting on the ground directly beneath MH-17’s flight path was fierced at the time of the disaster, and the authorities have not been able to pinpoint who fired the weapon that brought the airliner down.

The aircraft broke apart over rebel-held territory, and the wreckage field measured several miles wide.

The downing of MH17 was a pivotal fact in the imposing of sanctions on Russian over the Ukrainian conflict.

The search for MH370: Charred remains washed ashore in Madagascar handed over to investigators


A series of fire-damaged items, allegedly belonging to the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, have been found washed ashore in the island of Madagascar, thousands of miles away from the presumed crash site.

The items appear to show damage clearly done by fire or high temperatures, which may prove a breakthrough in the thus far stalled search for the truth of what really happened on board the fateful flight.

MH370, a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft with 239 on board, vanished on March 8 2014 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, in what proved to be one of the biggest mysteries of modern aviation.

The flight disappeared without a trace after veering wildly off course, and it is presumed to have crash landed somewhere in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel.

Though several theories and conspiracy stories have emerged since the event, no hard proof exists yet as to what really caused the accident.

If these latest remains are positively identified as belonging to MH370, it could provide investigators with a definite line of inquiry into the two-year long mystery.

EgyptAir Flight MS804: Search for missing jetliner enters second day


The search for missing Flight MS804 has entered its second day.

After earlier reports that wreckage had been found just off the Greek island of Karpathos, it was later confirmed that this was not the case. As of this morning, the final resting place of Flight MS804 has not yet been located.

66 people were on board the aircraft, an Airbus A320, when it departed from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris, bound for Cairo. The plane disappeared from radar screens while flying over the Mediterranean Sea, in what would have been the last leg of its journey.

Reports later emerged that the aircraft executed two radical manuevers inconsistent with controlled flight, and dropped about 22,000ft before vanishing from radar.

Officials are now working on the theory that the aircraft was taken down by an explosive device.

Terrorist action most likely cause of downing of EgyptAir airliner


EgyptAir Flight MS804 disappeared from radar screens over the Mediterranean Sea earlier today, minutes after its last communication with air traffic control.

The flight, an Airbus A320 model, was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew on board at the time of its disapperance. Authorities have now confirmed that the plane likely crashed into the sea, after satellite images revealed that the aircraft made a sudden 90-degree turn to the left, then an almost 360 turn to the right, thus reversing direction, and subsequently plunged about 22,000ft.

The quick and dramatic nature of these actions suggest that the aircraft was struck by a sudden event, which almost rules out a mechanical failure, pointing instead to foul play.

While nothing has been confirmed, Egyptian authorities have now suggested that terrorist activity may have brought the airliner down.

Search and rescue teams have now spotted debris floating around the area of possible impact.

Earlier reports said that a fisherman had witnessed a ‘flame in the sky’ around the area where the plane is thought to have crashed.

The Candy Bombers – A reflection on one man’s will to give hope


In early 1945, the combined air power of the Allied forces had laid waste to Berlin. Tens of thousands of tons of allied ordnance had fallen on the crippled city, turning the once majestic German capital into a smoldering pile of ruins.

The wrath of RAF Bomber Command first, and the American Eight Air Force during the latter half of the war pounded the city mercilessly, exacting fiery retribution against the Nazi regime.

By May 1945, Nazi Germany had finally capitulated, after a long and costly 6 year struggle for dominance in the continent. Representatives of the decimated German Army sign an unconditional surrender on May 7. The war has officially ended. The arduous task of rebuilding Berlin, and Germany as a whole, would take decades.

In the immediate aftermath of the conflict, few buildings remained standing. Much of the city had been turned into rubble. Well over 600,000 dwellings had been flattened, and from an estimated 4.3 million population, only 2.3 could be accounted for. The rest, either dead, or missing. The entire civilian infrastructure was largely gone. Water, electricity, and other facilities had pretty much been obliterated in an effort to paralyze the German war effort.

The victorious factions soon begin slicing the German capital. Berlin is divided into British, American, French, and Soviet sectors of occupation, effectively establishing an East/West border and sowing the seeds of the Cold War.

In 1946, the Soviet sector of occupation and East Berlin become unified, a move which sparks outrage among the other three nations.

By 1948, Berlin simmers with hostility between the Western powers and the Soviet-controlled territory. A dispute over currency reforms sparks a Soviet blockade of the Western sectors, the first of many major crises of the impending Cold War. The rationale behind this blockade was to deny the Western powers vital rail, canal, and road access, thus granting the Soviet nation effective control over the entire city of Berlin. Food and supplies soon become scarce.

The Allied nations respond by organising Operation Vittles, also known as the Berlin Airlift. Its goal: to supply the Western sectors with food, coal, and other necessities. Aircraft from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand air forces take part in this operation. Over 200,000 sorties take place, and more than 4,700 tons of supplies are airlifted into the Western sectors of the city.

The airport at Tempelhof district would become the logistical hub for Operation Vittles. Pilots soon realized however that the grass runways, typical of German airports at the time, clearly could not handle the heavily laden aircraft landing there. A perforated steel matting runway was built in an attempt to solve the issue, but it soon began crumbling under the weight of the gigantic Allied transport planes. Engineers were forced to build a proper 6,000 feet runway to meet the demand.

During Operation Vittles, USAF Col. Gail Halvorsen would give rise to one of the most poignant and endearing (and also, little known) stories of World War II.

Col. Halvorsen, aged 27 at the time, piloted C-47 and C-54 transport aircraft as part of the Berlin Airlift effort. When landing at Tempelhof, Halvorsen often noticed children lingering at the airport’s perimeter fence, watching the aircraft and all the airport activities. Soon, he came up with an idea, and put it forward to his commanding officer, Lt. General William Tunner. The idea? To drop candy from his airplane to the children below, using parachutes. Tunner approved, and christened it Operation Little Vittles.

Halvorsen was well aware that German kids had next to nothing in the post-war era. The Soviet blockade had severely limited access to supplies, and while the airlift that he and so many others were part of was slowly balancing the situation, the German population -and kids in particular- living in the Western sectors were suffering deprivation. Thus, he hoped his actions would at least help to raise morale a little.

At the height of the airlift, aircraft would land at Templehof every 3 minutes, hence children would have no way of knowing which airplane Halvorsen was piloting. To resolve this problem, he promised the children that he would swing the wings of his aircraft on approach, so they would know candy was about to be parachuted their way. This would earn Halvorsen the nickname “Onkel Wackelflügel” (“Uncle Wiggly Wings”).

The American pilot’s initiative took off. When word of what he was doing got around, other aircrews began imitating him. Soon, candy was landing all over Berlin, thus giving children a very sweet indeed ray of hope. All the participating aircrews became collectively known as The Candy Bombers. School pupils all over the United States also began contributing to the effort by packing candy, rations, and other much needed supplies for the German kids. All in all, over 18 tons of candy would be dropped on Berlin.

Gail Halvorsen, still alive today, would go on to become an iconic figure in post-war Germany, and far beyond. He single-handledly improved the German population’s perception of the American army, and of the United States in general, after the bitter animosity displayed between the two nations only a few years earlier. Even today, the original candy bomber is still dearly remembered and sporadically mentioned in German media as a symbol of American-German relations.

Some of the children who received Halvorsen’s candy gifts appeared numerous times on German TV as adults, along with Halvorsen himself, celebrating the anniversary of the life-changing airlift, and the experience as a whole. Much later, other aircrews airdropped teddy bears and other toys to Iraqi children during the first Gulf War, honouring Halvorsen’s far-reaching legacy.

Russian Airbus crash: Investigators “90% certain” airliner was brought down by an explosive device


Just over a week on from the incident that tragically cut short the lives of 224 people, investigators are now almost certain that a bomb planted on board the aircraft is the cause of the disaster.

A sudden, loud noise heard on the plane’s Cockpit Voice Recorder just before the recording abruptly ends is believed to be an explosion on board.

The Airbus A321 came down without warning 23 minutes after taking off from the Sharm al-Sheikh tourist resort eight days ago. 224 people lost their lives as a result of the crash.

The plane’s wreckage was located scattered over a wide area, which is consistent with a mid-air breakup.

A group associated with ISIS claimed responsibility for bringing down the airliner, though Russian authorities have consistently refuted these claims.

A number of European airlines have suspended all flights over the area in the wake of the disaster.

If it is conclusively proven that an ISIS operative or supporter planted the bomb, security measures at airports worldwide are bound to become even tighter.

Bede BD-5 jet; the little aircraft that could


If you are Bond fan, you may remember the opening of 1983’s hit movie Octopussy. In a fantastic aerial sequence, 007 skillfully flies a small jet aircraft out of danger, managing to destroy an enemy hangar in the process. The aircraft used for this scene was a Bede BD-5, a little aeronautical marvel that still today holds the Guinness record for the world’s lightest single-engine jet aircraft.

Yesterday, a veteran pilot and engineer named Howard Cox sadly lost his life when his plane came down in a field near Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Cox was flying his own BD-5 plane at the time of his death. Himself and his classic machine were due to take part in the Foynes Air Show the following day.

The history of BD-5 model is quite notorious. It was created back in the late 60s by American aircraft designer Jim Bede, and it was marketed in kit form by the Bede Corporation early in the following decade. Its rather attractive sleek, fighter plane-like looks and relative low price made it an attractive proposition for aeronautical enthusiasts the world over. More than 5,000 kits were sold, but few were actually completed because Bede Corporation went bust in the mid-70s.

A few hundred kits did get built, however. The kit’s manual claimed that the aircraft could be built by a single person without any particular knowledge of aircraft design or knowledge, in a few hundred hours. Made mostly out of fiberglass, once built, the aircraft could be ferried around in a small trailer.

After flight testing of the prototype aircraft, production of the final model began in 1973. Over 4,300 pre-orders had been taken at this point, with a mere $200 deposit (in 70s money) required to guarantee delivery. However, there was a problem. No suitable engine could be found in time for production, so Bede took the step of offering to ship the kit without it, with the engine to follow. This option proved popular, and thus many would-be aircraft owners purchased BD-5 kits, expecting their engines to be received as soon as September 1973.

Then, in early 1974, after shipping out only 500 engines, Bede Corporation suddenly went out of business. Many of its clients were left with useless kits of an aircraft without an engine.

While bankruptcy proceedings got underway, many disappointed buyers either discarded or sold their incomplete kits. However, a few did not give up, and managed to finish their aircraft with engines designed by third parties and former Bede dealers.

But those who managed to secure an engine soon faced another problem; the construction time for the BD-5 turned out to be substantially longer than boasted by the sales leaftlet. A minimum of 3,000 – 3,500 hours were required to finish the model properly. And besides, despite claims by the company that anyone could build the aircraft in a garage, without any particular skills, the general consensus was that doing so was a recipe for disaster. It would be some time before the first consumer-build BD-5s flew.

Throughout the years, and after a few fatalities, modifications to the aircraft’s design were introduced by enthusiasts, making the BD-5 a nimble, if somewhat demanding, machine.

Several still fly, today, and Mr. Cox’s was one of them. He had spent some time building and modifying his model to make it safer.

While the causes of the crash remain unknown at this point, the BD-5’s enduring legacy as a “mass” consumer jet aircraft will surely earn it a rightful place in aviation history.