Ocha and Proo and a banned book cover

Ocha - banned
This is one of those lovely Thai stories where the Junta gets all tied up in fear of a piece of light creative entertainment that none of us would ever have heard of until the site was blocked.

A cover design entitled “A Coup of the Heart with Mr. Ocha” featured on Ookbeecomics website was blocked on Monday.

“A Coup of the Heart with Mr. Ocha” was submitted to compete for the best book cover in the Jamsai Fanart competition.

The drawing depicts a military man with his arm around a woman whose wrists are shackled together while the background appears to depict Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

The cover displayed on comic community Ookbeecomics remains available online. However, clicking on the cover today leads to a message from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology saying that the link is blocked.

“A girl was controlled by her megalomaniac brother, so the general has to step in and revolutionize her life,” reads the tease on the book jacket.

With a plot featuring an army hero named Ocha and a heroine called Proo, some could be reminded of the junta chief’s last name and former Prime Minister Yingluck’s nickname, “Poo” (crab).

“Ocha, a hot-tempered general is ordered to keep his eyes on a girl with a pretty, pimple-free face called Proo, whose mind is controlled by her brother. Their family are billionaires. Proo is depressed because her brother keeps bossing her around to be the leader of the country. Ocha investigates the story and has to [save the situation],” states the synopsis on the Facebook page Hoidok.

Its just a bit of fun!

The fanart page explained that the cover was inspired by a soap opera “Kiattiyot Kabot Rak” (Honor, Love Rebel) which was broadcast on Channel 3 in 1999. The story centers around two soldiers who are enemies competing both at work and for the heart of the same woman.

Maybe a bit shy of the real truth – no one in Thailand would be unaware of the links between the fictional and the real names.

The competition has added new criteria requiring that artwork should not involve any institutions, politics or religion. Welcome to no fun Thailand.

You can read more on Khaosod English

 

The Panama Papers – just getting started!

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Most of us will have never heard of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm headquartered in Panama City, Panama, that has spent the past 40 years helping the world’s richest and most powerful citizens hide their money.

On Sunday we found out just what this firm does when the firm saw a massive leak of 11.5 million confidential documents which were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

So far, 72 current and former heads of state have been linked to offshore shell companies created by Mossack Fonseca. There are many perfectly legitimate reasons for why someone would want to create a shell company, but the arrangement is also used to skirt economic sanctions, evade taxes, and launder money.

Companies such as Mossack specialise in helping foreigners hide wealth. The main tools for doing so are anonymous shell companies (which exist only on paper) and offshore accounts in tax havens (which often come with perks such as banking secrecy and low to no taxes). These structures obscure the identity of the true owner of money parked in or routed through jurisdictions such as Panama.

The 2.6 terabytes of data in the documents are thought to contain information about 214,500 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions and name over 14,000 middlemen (such as banks and law firms) with whom the law firm has allegedly worked.

Setting up offshore companies is common practice…but how these companies are used is the issue: early examples of questionable motives include Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who promised to sell his business interests on taking office. He seems to have merely transferred assets to an offshore shell. Other heads of government, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iceland’s Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson are suspected of hiding ownership of offshore assets by putting them in the names of friends or relatives.

Mr Gunnlaugsson appears to have now resigned after protests in Iceland. The first, not not the last, casualty.

Relatives of China’s Politburo Standing Committee and President Xi Jinping were connected to offshore companies. Access to the Panama Papers is substantially blocked in China.

The Papers also reveal that the president of the United Arab Emirates owns London properties worth more than GBP 1.2 billion (USD 1.7 billion) through offshore companies revealed in the so-called Panama Papers.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was among numerous public figures named as owners of billions of pounds of central London real estate.

Owning British property through offshore companies is perfectly legal, but it is controversial because such holdings obscure the identity of the owners, allowing them to avoid scrutiny and tax.

While examples of the offshore industry enabling dictators, terrorists and drug cartels will (rightly) capture much of the attention, it would be a shame if other miscreants escape. The global industry of service providers, which sell financial secrecy to those who can afford it, have in some cases done more than just feast on poorly designed tax policies.

 

Pan​ama has long been known as a key jurisdiction for offshore corporations, because of its well-established legal system and banking infrastructure.

But it is the British compliance and use of these offshore regimes that is the most telling.

London is indisputably the global capital of the tax avoidance industry and many of the biggest tax havens are British dependencies like the Cayman
Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man.

It is no surprise that when, in 1987, Mossack Fonseca established its first overseas branch, it did so in the British Virgin Islands. Since then, about 40 percent of the world’s offshore companies — more than 900,00 entities — have been incorporated in the UK’s Caribbean territory. ICIJ noted that half of the companies that appear in Mossack Fonseca’s files were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands

Guess what – the British Tory party is heavily bankrolled by the same City of London financial sector that has built up a lucrative trade in hiding people’s cash overseas.So do not expect David Cameron to quickly organise a summit on combating tax secrecy.

 

Mossack Fonseca says they have done nothing wrong and is accusing those responsible for the leak of having “unauthorised access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company” and of presenting this information out of context.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper on Sunday, the company’s head of public relations threatened possible legal action over the use of “unlawfully obtained” information.

As these oligarchs and corporate empires hide their assets in tax shelters and offshore companies the tax burden on the working masses increases to pay for an aging population and for the effects of environmental and climate change.

The media know that their is a story here – a story that will embarrass some and anger many.

There is more to come.

 

Myanmar – where the army still determines the way ahead.

Lake Inle

Lake Inle

The Economist’s article is interesting – as this near fake democracy is a role model for other governments in South East Asia – including Thailand.

Yes, Myanmar does have a new President. The NLD does hold a commanding majority in Parliament.

But the army still has its hands on the steering wheel and will determine the path that the country takes.

From The Economist.

On March 30th in Napyidaw, Myanmar’s eerie purpose-built capital, Htin Kyaw was sworn in as the country’s first civilian president in more than 50 years. Parliament elected him president just over two weeks ago; in Myanmar’s hybrid electoral system, the people elect parliament, and then parliamentarians vote for president. His party, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), won commanding majorities in both houses of parliament last November, allowing them to elect their chosen candidate easily. Thein Sein, the outgoing president, handed over power peacefully. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the army, which ruled Myanmar either directly or through its fig-leaf party since 1962, said he supports the country’s democratic transition. This seems a triumph for Burmese democracy. The reality is more complex.

Mr Htin Kyaw was neither the NLD’s nor Myanmar’s first choice for president. They would have preferred Miss Suu Kyi, but the constitution bars anyone with a foreign spouse or children from the top job (her sons, like her late husband, are British; most believe the bar was specifically written to keep her out of office). Before last November’s elections Miss Suu Kyi said she would put herself “above the president”. She will run the country from the foreign ministry, while Mr Htin Kyaw, her longtime confidante and loyal placeholder, holds what looks like a nominal presidency. Installing a puppet president and subverting the constitution marks an inauspicious beginning for a party nominally devoted to democracy, transparency and rule of law.

But the larger threat to democracy comes from the expansive power Myanmar’s constitution reserves for the army. At a parade on March 27th Mr Min Aung Hlaing reminded Myanmar’s citizens that the army “ensure[s] the stability of the country” and “has to be present in a leading role in national politics.” The constitution was written to preserve that role. The army controls three powerful ministries: defence, border affairs and home affairs. The last gives it control of the state’s administrative backbone, right down to the village level. Through those ministries the army dominates the National Defence and Security Council, which can disband parliament, impose martial law and run the country. Changing the constitution requires a 75%+1 majority in parliament; since the army has 25% of seats reserved by law, it holds a perpetual veto.

So the civilian government and army will essentially control different parts of the government. The NLD’s top priorities are economic development and reaching a lasting peace with ethnic minorities along the country’s borders, some of whom have been fighting the central government for decades. These tasks are linked: unless Myanmar’s central government extends the state’s reach into the resource-rich borderlands, its economy will never reach full potential. But that may require the new government to make concessions that the army does not like, and the army’s control over the border-affairs and defence ministries—as well as its operational independence—give it an effective veto. How this conflict plays out will determine whether Myanmar keeps going forward on the road to democracy, or whether the army grabs the steering wheel for a quick U-turn

Shifting sands, moving dates

Dubai Opera
Picture: Emaar

Back in August 2015 the local Dubai media was excitedly reporting that the new Dubai Opera House would be completed in March 2016.

Here is Emirates 24/7 back on 20 August 2015:

Iconic Dubai Opera set for completion in March 2016

So as we approach the end  of March 2016 how was the opening?

No opening – just a change of date – to September 2016;

Emaar Properties said on Wednesday this week (23rd March) that “ts iconic Dubai Opera in Downtown Dubai will start to hold world-class performances later this year.

The developer’s website puts the completion date September 2016, revealing the concrete works are almost complete and the roof has been fully installed, while the electromechanical, façade, finishing and fit-out works are in progress at all levels.”

Here is Emirates 24/7 again: the same reporter but of course he does not mention that the date has slipped six months.

Target 2020: 10 amazing projects coming up in Dubai

The Opera House will be a very welcome addition to the city. It is a shame that it will be surrounded by high rise condominium and hotel construction for some years to come. More green space around the opera house would have been welcome. Think how much open space exists around the Sydney Opera House for instance.

But for Emaar there is too much money to be made around this site.

 

Fixing the maths on Dubai’s airport expansion plans

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A model of the future DWC on display at the 2015 Dubai Air Show

Dubai Airports have appointed a contractor, ALEC, to expand the existing, rather basic, terminal building at the new Al Maktoum International AIrport.

Al Jaber LEGT Engineering and Contracting (ALEC) was appointed by Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) to increase the built-up area of the passenger terminal from the existing 66,107 sq. m. to 145,926 sq. m. The work is set to be completed by June 2017.

It is the first phase of an expansion project that will see the airport handle up to 26.5 million passengers per year by 2025.

Now how does this number make sense? On its own it does not.

The existing DXB terminals have been expanded with Concourse D to a capacity of 90 million. Add 26.5 million at DWC for 116.5 million passengers by 2025.

But look at this chart from Anna.Aero which shows the passenger numbers over the last nine years at Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

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Passenger growth at DXB has exceeded 10% a year over the last nine years.

There is some slow down in 2016 with a possible full year number of 83.5 million. Then project forward at a conservative 6% per year for the following numbers. The trend is your friend and these must be the minimum numbers expected by DXB.

2016             83.5
2017             98.5
2018             93.8
2019             99.4
2020            105.4
2021            111.7
2022            118.4
2023            125.6
2024            133.1
2025            141.1

Any growth in excess of 6% per annum accelerates the need for rapid expansion at DWC.

With no further room for growth at DXB then DWC will need a capacity of at least 50million by 2025. If the existing LCC terminal can only accommodate 26.5 million then the proposed West terminal at DZC will need to be operational by the end of 2022.

The work on the existing terminal includes a new immigration hall with 55 counters. The departure building will see the expansion of the public hall, commercial areas and offices as well as the check-in hall which will house 64 check-in counters. An additional 10 counters will be specifically dedicated to business-class travelers.

The existing terminal has no airbridges and it appears that the expansion assumes that passengers will be bussed to their airplane. Effectively this is a LCC terminal. It is reasonable to assume that flydubai will be expected to move there after the expansion is completed in 2017. This will free capacity for some airlines at DXB’s Terminal 2 although moving there will not be popular for any airline.

Don’t worry, be happy

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Below is today’s editorial in the sycophantic Khaleej Times. Cloying. The very idea that the world should adopt the UAE model is just pandering to the theme.

The UAE cabinet has endorsed a National Happiness and Positivity Charter which aims to instill concepts of happiness and positivity in all aspects of life in the UAE. The program will feature several initiatives such as instilling happiness in government policies, programmes and services; promoting positivity and happiness as a lifestyle in the community; and developing benchmarks and ways to measure happiness.

The UAE’s happiness regime is less than a month old. It is far too soon to assess whether it is useful to the UAE; let alone whether it is relevant to other nations.

Ohood Al Roumi is Minister of State for Happiness of the United Arab Emirates. For International Happiness Day she wrote that “happiness is knowing that you and your family are safe; that there is opportunity open to you and your children; and that you can depend on a high degree of care, dignity, and fairness in your society. Happiness is not something that is bestowed from on high; we all must work to achieve it. But, as I see it, our role in government is to create an environment that enables happiness and a positive attitude toward life to flourish.”

It is a sensible view; where the government creates a framework that allows positive change to happen.

The country’s vice president (and ruler of Dubai) Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid made clear that there are practical reasons for the campaign stating that “focusing on happiness is both feasible and fully justified. … Studies have shown that happy people produce more, live longer, and drive better economic development in their communities and countries.”

The trouble is we all have different things that make us happy; for instance, my happiness would be improved by people learning to drive with courtesy and common sense. But I doubt that is part of the program.

But the UAE is run by dynastic ruling families. Benevolent but still autocratic. Over 80% of the population are in the UAE on work permits and can be returned to their home nation at any time. The majority of the UAE’s population can have no official say in the governance of the nation.

Can people be happy in this context?

Can you truly be happy when you are working twelve hour shifts, six days a week in high heat and in working conditions that are barely tolerable?

Can you really be happy in a nation with such a massive gulf between those who have and those who have not; between the entitled and the rest?

Can you really be happy when ostentatious wealth buys happiness for many?

Yes the UAE is tolerant. But it is exactly that tolerance that also generates its wealth through the service and tourist sectors that are critical to the nation’s sustainable growth.

Tolerant yes. But open; not yet. In the 2015 press freedom index the UAE. ranked 120th of 180 nations. Just ten years ago it was in the top 70. Dissent or disagreement is not tolerated. And that is my problem; if you cannot have free speech; if self-censorship is a requirement of compliance; then can you truly be happy? Can you be happy where even writing this feels like a risk, albeit small.

I don’t know the answers. But I do know that the Khaleej Times would make me happier by debating how to achieve the government’s goal. One simple statement in the editorial says that the UAE wants a culture where there is an equal opportunity for all in society, and where merit and transparency rule. That is simply not possible in a society which allows long standing foreign workers no residence or status. It is society of un-equals which by its nature cannot provide equal opportunity for all.

So embrace the intent; welcome the initiative; but let’s see where it takes us before we hail its success and tell the rest of the world to follow us.

Khaleej Times Editorial – 22 March 2016

UAE’s happiness index is a role model – It is a doctrine for collective growth and security, and the world should emulate the UAE model.

The UAE believes in happiness and positivity as a lifestyle pattern, and this is what differentiates it from the rest of the world. With people from more than 200 nationalities living on its soil to realise their dreams for a better tomorrow, the credit goes to the visionary leadership of the country who have made coexistence, growth and transparency the fundamentals of an interactive society.

Which is why His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, endorsed the launch of corporate happiness and positivity initiatives as a corner stone of good governance. The goal is quite simple i.e., to usher in happiness, and create a culture of tolerance and forbearance.

It is, indeed, a phenomenon, which propels positivity in the right direction, and guides not only the individual, but also the public and private sectors to attain the hallmark of collective betterment. “We are at the beginning of our journey, learning day-by-day to achieve goodness and happiness for the individual. We wish happiness for all the peoples and countries in the world”, Shaikh Mohammed remarked, making it categorically clear that the sky is the limit for the UAE, as it believes in achieving the best for generations to come.

The path for the UAE is to strive for excellence. By inculcating the values of tolerance and mutual self-respect, the UAE is, in fact, rewriting a social contract for a pluralistic and heterogeneous society. This is no small achievement in an era when conflicts and discords are all around, and human values are rapidly being undermined. The Emirates wants a culture where there is an equal opportunity for all in society, and where merit and transparency rule. This aspect ultimately streamlines happiness, respect for law and a sense of commitment towards society as a responsible citizen. It is a doctrine for collective growth and security, and the world should emulate the UAE model.

RIP flydubai FZ981

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It is always harder when the accident is closer to home.

UAE airlines had not had a life-taking accident until this last week.

But in the early hours of 19th March a flydubai Boeing 737-800, registration A6-FDN performing flight FZ-981 from Dubai to Rostov on Don (Russia) crashed while landing. The airliner, which was carrying 55 passengers and 7 crew, had aborted its first approach to Rostov’s runway 22 at 01:41L (22:41Z) due to weather and entered a hold initially at 8000 feet After 30 minutes at 8000 feet the aircraft climbed to FL150. After about 2 hours of holding the aircraft commenced another approach to Rostov’s runway 22, winds from 240 degrees at 27 knots (14 metres/second) gusting 42 knots (22 m/s), the crew announced a go around.

However, the aircraft impacted the ground just off the runway at about 03:43L (00:43Z), broke up and burst into flames. There were no survivors.

The aircraft carried fuel for the trip, contingency, alternate, final fuel reserve (30 minutes) and additional holding for about 2:30 hours, total fuel for an endurance of about 8.5 hours. The aircraft had been airborne until time of impact for 06:02 hours.

The deep sense of sadness has hit everyone connected to Dubai’s economy driving aviation industry.

The airline’s CEO has asked that there be no speculation on the causes of the accident, saying that “we are aware that in the course of the past 24 hours there has been a great deal of speculation as to the cause of this tragedy. We share the desire to get answers as quickly as possible but at this stage we must not be drawn into speculation. We would ask that the investigating authorities are given the time and space they need to report definitively on the causes of the accident.”

But it inevitable that people talk about and try to find an explanation for the crash. It is also likely that the airline’s operating procedures will come under heavy scrutiny and this is something that airline management will seek to mitigate.

The captain was 38-year-old Aristos Sokratous, from Cyprus. It was his first flight to the airport of Rostov-on-Don. He had 5,965 hours of total flying time.

Sokatous had submitted his resignation to the airline, after accepting a job with Ryanair, which would allow him to be based with his family in Cyprus. His wife is due to give birth to their first child in the next few weeks.

The co-pilot, 37-year-old Alejandro Cruz Alava, was Spanish. He had 5,769 hours of flying time. He started his career with Flydubai two years ago having flown before for two regional airlines in the Spanish Canary Islands, Binter and Naysa.

At the time of the crash, wind speed in the vicinity ranged between 14–22 m/s (27–43 kn; 31–49 mph). Just before the crash, ATC reported to Flight 981 that wind direction was 230 degrees (more or less down the runnway), wind speed 12 m/s (23 kn; 27 mph) with gusts to 18 m/s (35 kn; 40 mph), and visibility was 3,500 m (11,500 ft).

Russia measures windspeed in metres per second.

Ten minutes before Flight 981 was cleared for its first attempt to land, two other flights landed successfully at Rostov: S7 Airlines Flight 1159 (at 01:23 local time), and Ural Airlines Flight 2758 (at 01:28). Twelve minutes after Flight 981’s first aborted landing at 1:42 local time, after which it went into a holding pattern, Aeroflot Flight 1166 from Moscow Sheremetyevo made the first of three unsuccessful attempts to land at Rostov within the next 35 minutes before diverting to the nearby Krasnodar Airport, landing successfully there at 02:59 local time.

According to ATC communications published online the pilots advised (in their second approach) that that they were established on the localiser and continued their descent. Then at 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) before the runway threshold, when the aircraft was at 1500 feet, the pilots announced a go-around and climbed to an altitude of 4,050 ft (1,230 m). At that point the airliner began a rapid descent with a vertical speed reaching more than 21,000 ft/min crashing close to the runway less than a minute later, at 03:42 local time.

The pilots reported their intention to abort the landing with “Going around, Skydubai 981”. ATC advised Flight 981 to switch to another air traffic controller (“Skydubai 981, contact Rostov Radar on 121.2”). Flight 981 acknowledged this with “121.2, bye-bye”, which was their final transmission.

A simple timeline of events (times in UTC/Zulu):
17:45 FZ981 scheduled time of departure
18:22 FZ981 pushed back from Stand E18 at Dubai Airport
18:37 FZ981 commences takeoff from runway 30R at Dubai Airport
19:14 FZ981 reaches cruising altitude of FL360
22:16 FZ981 commences descent from FL360
22:20 FZ981 scheduled time of arrival
22:23 S71159 (an Airbus A319 from Moscow-Domodedovo) lands after it’s first approach to runway 22
22:28 U62758 (an Airbus A320 from Khudzhand) lands after it’s first approach to runway 22
22:39 FZ981 commences final approach to runway 22 at Rostov Airport
22:42 FZ981 aborts first approach at 1725 ft, 6.7 km short of the runway
22:49 FZ981 reaches 8000 feet and heads towards the northeast of the airport
22:54 SU1166 (a Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B from Moscow-Sheremetyevo) aborts the first approach to runway 22
23:07 SU1166 aborts the second approach to runway 22
23:17 SU1166 aborts the third approach to runway 22
23:20 SU1166 diverts towards Krasnodar
23:20 FZ982 scheduled time of return flight back to Dubai
23:27 FZ981 enters holding pattern at 15000 feet to the southeast of the airport
00:28 FZ981 leaves the holding pattern and descends for a second approach
00:36 FZ981 intercepts the runway 22 localizer at 10 NM from the runway
00:40 FZ981 aborts second approach at 1550 ft, 5.6 km short of the runway
00:41 FZ981 impacts airport terrain after a steep descent from 3975 feet

There are some revealing comments on PPRUNE that will no doubt be part of the Russian led investigation.

The trouble with the investigation is that a combination of powerful lawyers and influential figures and organisations will all be lobbying to deflect any liability or reputational damage.

One major question is why did the airliner not divert to its alternate airport?

On PPRUNE the suggestion is that “the 2 hours holding is standard FDB operations. We are routinely sent to somewhere we knew we couldn’t get into with little prospect of being able to get into it with boatloads of fuel and told give it a go. If you didn’t then you came under the scrutiny of the chief pilot who had a penchant for bullying crew and making careers untenable.”

This writer is clearly familiar with FDB operations and added that “the route they were flying was not one that more senior pilots would ever pick as it is known for crap weather, is captain only landing and its dark o’clock. It was just one of those places that you hoped to not get on your roster and if you did and if you couldn’t swap it then you hoped you had one of those nights where there was a break in the crap weather and you could get in. If not you rocked up with extra stuff as you knew you could easily end up in a hotel.”

For pilots flydubai is a stepping zone, not a career; this is where  you build up money, hours and left-hand-seat experience before moving to somewhere else.

Again details will emerge soon, but it appears that the captain flew to India the previous night, another long night flight. He would have certainly been tired.

One quick read of the flydubai thread on the middle east PPRUNE forum shows many posts addressing fatigue and rostering.

Commenting on FZ981 a former FZ pilot on PPRUNE noted that “the last 5 mins of the flight are indeed very important for many reasons but whatever those reasons be they act of god, mishandling, catastrophic failure they were made possible by the launch of the aircraft from base in weather in which they not only predicted not to be able to land but was predicted for the entire duration of their fuel to be highly unlikely to allow them to do so.”

This issue may not be so much why did the pilots not divert but why was the flight even dispatched in the first place?

Russia Today is the first media outlet to write in detail about fatique issues at flydubai. A former pilot saying that “It’s ridiculous that there’s been an aviation industry for so long and this stuff is still going on. And you hear about people being worked to death. I had some months at Flydubai where I really felt like I was being worked to death. And I just couldn’t do it. [People] buy an airplane ticket and they assume that they are safe on the airplane, but the way that an airline like Flydubai rosters their pilots, it’s not safe. It’s not safe at all.”

The full Russia Today report on pilot fatique at flydubai

It is desperately sad that so many people lost their lives that night. Families and friends, and anyone who cares about aviation in this region, have to hope that the investigation is swift and thorough; and that recommendations are comprehensive and get to the real core of operating procedures and the effectiveness of the regulators.

flydubai will never be the same again. My heart goes out to the families of the crew and passengers and to their friends and colleagues at flydubai who are trying to do their job as normal at a time when nothing is normal.

 

 

 

Germanwings – privacy or need to tell?

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Image from GQ magazine – see story link below

The French accident report into the crash of GermanWings flight 4U9525 was released on Sunday and it makes for some grim reading.

The report confirmed that Lubitz had deliberately set the Airbus A320’s autopilot to carry out a controlled descent over the French Alps where it ploughed into a mountain, after locking the flight captain out of the cockpit.

The investigation revealed that Lubitz had begun suffering a “severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms” in August 2008 and had made several “no suicide pacts” with his treating psychiatrist.

In February 2015, a private doctor diagnosed Lubitz with “psychosomatic and anxiety disorders” and referred him to a psychotherapist and psychiatrist.

On 9 March, another private doctor gave Lubitz a sick leave certificate. It was not forwarded to Germanwings. The following day, the first private doctor referred the pilot to a psychiatric hospital for treatment for a possible psychosis. The same doctor gave Lubitz a 19-day sick leave certificate on 12 March. It was not sent to Germanwings.

But there are strict privacy laws in Germany and Lubitz’s diagnosis could not be passed on to the airline. It was Lubitz’s responsibility to declare himself unfit to fly.

The investigators were hugely hampered in their work by the same doctors who confirmed Lubitz had “shown symptoms suggesting a psychotic depressive episode” just weeks before the crash, but who refused to speak to investigators, citing patient confidentiality.

“No action could have been taken by the authorities and/or his employer to prevent him from flying that day, because they were informed by neither the co-pilot himself, nor by anyone else, such as a physician, a colleague or family member,” it said.

Victims’ families have every right to be angry.

But angry at who – the airline; the medical profession; the lawmakers?

Lubitz had seen 41 doctors – many of them eye specialists – in five years, seven in the month before the crash.

“It is likely that breaching medical confidentiality was perceived by these doctors as presenting more risks, in particular for themselves, than not reporting the co-pilot to authorities,” the BEA stated.

The first officer had just 630 hours’ flying time. In reality this is low. The equivalent of about 8 months of a commercial pilot’s flying time (assuming 900 hours a year). My current IFR instructor has more hours.

Investigators recommended more frequent medical evaluations for all pilots showing any kind of psychological or psychiatric problems, however minor. The BEA said the medical secrecy rules must protect the patient, but should also take into account public safety, and that there should be greater support for pilots who have depression.

Markus Wahl, spokesman for the Cockpit union representing German pilots, said the BEA’s safety recommendations were a balanced package of measures and should be implemented in full.

However, Johann Reuss, of Germany’s air accident investigation agency, said it would be difficult to change the law regarding medical confidentiality. German doctors can be punished with a fine or up to a year in prison for breaching patient confidentiality.

But Lubitz was more than just ill. He was a murderer.

Flight recorder data showed that Lubitz was left alone at the controls of the Barcelona to Düsseldorf flight at 9.30am – 30 minutes after it had taken off. Half a minute later, Lubitz changed the altitude from a cruising height of 38,000ft to just 100ft and set the automatic pilot to descend. In the following seconds Lubitz changed the plane’s speed 10 times, according to the report.

He failed to respond to repeated calls from both civilian and military air traffic controllers and the crew of another aircraft.

He also ignored increasingly frantic signals at the door and cabin calls, and requests by the flight captain Patrick Sondenheimer to open the door. The final moments of the flight recorder suggest someone tried to break down the cockpit door.

Flight data from the outbound flight to Barcelona earlier that morning suggested Lubitz had reduced the altitude from 35,000ft to 100ft for three seconds before returning it to the original setting.

“Actions on the autopilot system during the first flight of the day may be interpreted as a rehearsal for suicide,” reported investigators.

The BEA report stated that Lubitz’s professional level was judged to be “above standard” by his flight instructors and examiners.

“None of the pilots or instructors interviewed during the investigation, who flew with him in the months preceding the accident, indicated any concern about his attitude or behaviour during flights.”

Those same pilots must be thanking their own gods that he did not choose their flights for his murderous act.

Lubitz had been denied a medical certificate enabling him to fly in 2009 because of his depression and the medication he was taking to combat it. He was granted permission, with conditions, in July 2014, which was valid until August 2015.

The BEA’s report said “the limited medical and personal data available to the safety investigation did not make it possible for an unambiguous psychiatric diagnosis to be made. In particular an interview with the co-pilot’s relatives and his private physicians was impossible, as they exercised their right to refuse to be interviewed.

“On the day of the accident, the pilot was still suffering from a psychiatric disorder, which was possibly a psychotic depressive episode and was taking psychotropic medication. This made him unfit to fly,” the BEA report states.

The privacy laws are a double-edged sword. In this case it would seem obvious that there should be a mechanism to alert the airline that one of their employees is undergoing psychotic evaluation. On the other hand if there is no confidentiality then no pilot or industry professional will ever visit a doctor for treatment.

What is clear is that the airline industry has to establish a reviewed and coordinated ‘best practice’ strategy to mental health that reflects relevant key stakeholder concerns in a workable way may offer a solution balancing effective and practical requirements. We can never manage risk away entirely, but a combined policy, best practice and technology-enabled approach may give us a viable route into managing the level of risk faced as a consequence of aircrew mental health issues, and a balanced approach to mitigating that risk which meets the need of all the key stakeholder groups.

This is the final report from the French investigator (In English)

This is a detailed GQ magazine investigation into the crash. The Real Story of Germanwings Flight 9525

The UAE’s delicate balance


Last month, the United Arab Emirates made headlines when its rulers announced they were appointing a ‘Minister for Happiness’. Sceptics scoffed that it was little more than a publicity stunt in keeping with a nation probably best known for Dubai’s brash ostentation.Human rights groups which have long documented violations – from abuse of migrant labourers to crackdowns on political dissent – behind the UAE’s glossy facade were scathing.
“You can be happy [in the UAE] as long as you keep your mouth shut,” Nicholas McGeehan of Human Rights Watch told the ‘New York Times’. “That is the sort of social contract that is in place there.”

The creation of the minister of happiness post, along with a minister of tolerance, is part of the biggest government revamp the Gulf state has experienced in its 44-year history. It was announced on Twitter by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who also serves as the country’s prime minister.


The UAE, with a population of 10 million, most of whom are expatriates, has weathered several storms over the past decade. Of its component parts, Dubai was the worst affected by the 2008 global financial crisis. Many expatriate workers fled and the emirate’s construction frenzy ground to a halt. Dubai has since bounced back albeit with its wings more clipped.

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, now towers above a cityscape where building continues but at a more modest pace than before, particularly as the drop in global oil prices begins to bite.
“People have become a bit more realistic, a bit more cautious,” says one long-term resident.

“The overweening ambitions of a decade ago have been checked to a degree and you could say that was perhaps a good thing.”


The wave of revolutions and uprisings that swept across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 left the UAE untouched.

But the turmoil it left in its wake, particularly in places like Syria, Libya and Egypt, has prompted many young Arab professionals to move to the Emirates to seek their fortunes. They are drawn by a relaxed immigration regime and an economy more robust than most in the region.
“There are more opportunities in the UAE and many of us think it is better to hunker down here and progress in our careers until our home countries stabilise a little more,” says one Libyan, who moved to Dubai two years ago as his country descended into a civil war which continues today.

“Life is pretty good here but of course it is not home.”


Other UAE denizens continue to fret about the economy. A local newspaper recently reported on market research that showed 53pc of residents polled at the end of 2015 believed that they were in recession, a 10-point increase from the previous quarter. Optimism about job opportunities was also found to be declining, with only 58pc saying they feel positive about employment prospects.

Plummeting global oil prices mean the UAE’s economy is predicted to grow at a much slower rate this year and its rulers have had to slash their budgets accordingly.
The emergence of Isil in different parts of the Middle East has also caused jitters in the UAE. Security has been stepped up at Dubai’s luxury hotels and gigantic shopping malls which draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. There are fears that Emirati military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Yemen could result in some blowback.

Mariam al-Mansouri, the UAE’s first female fighter pilot, has become a cause celebre in her homeland, feted by Emirati officials at the Dubai Women’s Forum last month as a symbol of empowerment. Al-Mansouri has been among the coalition forces taking part in US-led airstrikes against Isil in Iraq. But not everyone is happy with al-Mansouri being held up as a role model. “I’m uneasy with the idea of a fighter pilot being seen as the best example of an Emirati woman,” one young woman from Dubai told me. “We need to have a range of role models.”

The UAE has always struck a delicate balance between its broadly conservative indigenous population and its much larger cohort of expatriates who range from Asian construction workers to professionals from across the world. Maintaining that equilibrium amid falling oil prices and rising security threats will be key to its future.