Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lights on Lagos Streets as an antidote for fear

Flying into Lagos at night, you would never know there are up to 21 million people down there. There is no orange glow, as you see on approach to cities such as New York or London (both with about eight million inhabitants). Waiting for you on the streets of Lagos is darkness. And with it, fear. I spent days and nights following electricity crews who are trying to change that. They are building big generators and installing lights that bypass what Nigerians call the "epileptic" offerings of the national power grid. At night the crews work with a security detail. On Lagos Island, the man in charge of it is called Mr Omo. He is short and beefy, not sculpted, like a body-builder, more rounded and somehow solid, like a large refrigerator.

"You are the tough guy," I said when we met by the side of a darkened road. Above, the street lights were out. Below, an electrician was on his knees with a torch in his mouth and a nest of cables in his hands. "I am not the tough guy," Mr Omo said, with a shrug, but he said it with a demeanour that suggested he was not someone who would back away from trouble.

I liked him immediately. And not just because I had already been in dark neighbourhoods where shouts and noises and people come from every direction; and when you walk you cannot see the ground, so you almost trip over children, or fall into storm drains; and you have no idea why that crowd of young men over there are yelling and fighting, or where to go if they come any closer.

"Just a second," Mr Omo said. He raised a phone to his ear. "Go ahead," he said. Then, to me: "Soon the lights will come on." They did and there was a collective "Aaah". I looked around and was surprised. I had no idea there were so many people around me. The crew started to pack up and I asked Mr Omo why they needed a security detail in the first place. The big problem, he said, was the "area boys" - gangs of young men who hassle the crews for money. They are a scourge across Lagos.

I had once stopped to record the sound of children crowded under a street light. They were dressed in creamy white clothes, singing prayers with an imam. I was there maybe five minutes before a group of area boys came up and started demanding money from my guide. They spoke heatedly in Yoruba, the local language. My guide sounded firm, but soon he said to me in English: "Let's go."

We did not give them any money, but I spoke with street traders who said they regularly paid 10% of their daily take to area boys, who would threaten to beat them up or wreck their stalls. The government in Lagos hopes light will change that. At the Iyana Ipaja market - a major trading centre in the north of the city - it has spent £750,000 ($1.2m) to install and restore lights. I met a man there named Mr John, who sells alcohol from a small stall. He told me about the moment the lights came on, a week earlier.

"There was a jubilation along this street - ask anyone," he said, waving his arm. "We opened drinks for people because of the light." He and the other traders used to close when the sun set around 6.30pm. "Now they stay open as long as they like," he said gleefully. Mr John says the area boys have vanished and profits are up. Others in the market say the same thing. On Lagos Island, Mr Omo is also starting to see change.
"As more light comes, it is getting easier," he says. "The tension is going down, little by little." Electricity crews have yet to come to the street where Mr Omo lives. The plan is to do the main roads first, then work into neighbourhoods. So far, they have lit about 120 miles (190km) of road, in a place where there are more than 8,000 miles.

Standing in the dark outside his house, Mr Omo and I began to hear shouts from the other end of the road, then crowds of men began to run past looking over their shoulders. "Come to the back," Mr Omo said, as he put himself between me and the street. "Maybe they are fighting. They might be throwing stones or bottles." We had been talking about Lagos's reputation as a dangerous place. "You now, do you feel safe?" he asks. Of course I do, I say, I'm with Mr Omo.

Source: (Neal Razzell)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Aviation Ministry in BMW soup

Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu has debunked media reports on the circumstances surrounding the procurement of two BMW 760 LI armoured series cars by the agency.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, Captain Akinkuotu says the cars are operational vehicles used in the varied operations of the NCAA including transporting the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah and aviation-related foreign dignitaries.

Captain Akinkuotu who announced that the purchase of the two cars worth two hundred and fifty-five million naira followed due process added that the NCAA remains focused on enforcing standards and promoting safety in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAA).
Nigeria’s embattled Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, could have easily bought an Eclipse 500 private jet with the whopping $1.6 million (about N255 million) used to buy her two BMW bullet-proof cars, investigations have revealed.
Each of the two bullet-proof BMW 760 Li cars bought for Oduah by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, is also more expensive than the car used by British Prime Minister, David Cameron. While Oduah’s cars go for $800,000 (about N127.5m) each, Cameron’s armoured Jaguar XJ X351 car costs £200,000 (about N52m).

Oduah could have also bought at least five presidential limousines used by United States President, Barack Obama, at the cost of $300,000 each. Oduah could have also bought as many as 1231 cars, the type used by Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, who drives a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle worth $1,300. 


The Worlds Longest Flights

Let's start with the king of nonstop flights: Singapore Airlines Flights 21 and 22 between Singapore and Newark, New Jersey. The route is the longest both in distance -- about 9,500 miles -- and in time -- about 19 hours. All 100 seats aboard the flight are business class. Add hundreds of in-flight movie choices, and long-haul travel isn't so bad for this Discovery Channel executive.

His long-distance travel tips for surviving 19 hours aloft: "Walk around. Explore the cabin. Don't force yourself to sleep. "You should try on the day before to get on the same clock as your destination," "For long west-to-east flights -- a day or two before you leave, start moving your bedtime earlier in the evening. For long east-to-west flights, try to delay sleep until late at night. Planning ahead makes you a lot more productive when you hit the ground." Uriarte should know. He logs more than 200,000 flight miles a year.

Your seating position on the plane is "absolutely key," to a good longhaul, Uriarte says. Singapore uses Airbus A340 with a spacious 1-2-1 seating configuration. The back two rows are even better with 1-1-1 seating. In general, Uriarte recommends aisle seats in the center section. Sleeping is easier when "there's no one climbing over you," he says. Seats behind the plane's four wing-mounted engines will be louder, but some travelers enjoy.

Try to sleep at the time when your body is asleep, he says, although "that's not always possible." And avoid eating a heavy meal. For the traveler, avoiding exhaustion is nice if you can swing it. For pilots, it's critical.
Every three hours, the two crews will switch off command of the cockpit until about 90 minutes before landing, when the captain and first officer will land the aircraft.

So, those are some of the ultralonghaul challenges for humans. As for the machines -- they have their own hurdles. Obviously over vast oceans it's critically important for airliner engines to be reliable and powerful. But hey, it's a business, so the engines also have to be efficient enough to keep airline fuel costs low. Decades ago, that meant ultralonghaulers were likely four-engine planes, like the 747. In the unlikely event that an engine failed, the other three engines could power the plane the rest of the trip, no problem.
The downside: Four engines guzzle a lot of fuel. Now, engines are way more reliable. They're also more powerful and fuel-saving. That's why Boeing's twin-engine 777 Worldliner flies so many of the world's longest nonstop routes.

In the coming years look for newer wide-bodies to fly more longhaul routes, like Boeing's twin-engine 787 Dreamliner and the twin-engine Airbus A350 XWB. Both aircraft are made with superlightweight materials which also cut down on fuel costs.

The FAA requires twin-engine planes to fly within close reach of a safe landing spot, in case of engine trouble. Some travelers seem intrigued by the idea that an airliner can fly in a straight line with only one engine. "Wouldn't the thrust from the engine be unbalanced and make the plane fly in circles?" they ask.
If a 777 lost one of its two engines, the plane has a computer that automatically adjusts the aircraft's controls to compensate for unbalanced thrust. Pilots flying other airliners may have to manually adjust the plane to compensate.

How reliable are those engines?
"We've never seen an issue where a twin-engine plane has lost one engine during a transoceanic flight and can't make it somewhere with the other engine," says Snyder. "And engines almost never fail. With high reliability, airlines are free to look at economics and say, 'Why would we have aircraft with four engines when we can have one that performs the same mission with two and save us money?'"
What killed the longest flight in the world? In fact, money is exactly what's being blamed for killing the longest flight in the world.

That's right -- after nine years of service, Singapore Airlines Flights 21 and 22 are scheduled for cancellation. Snyder and most other experts suspect the airline got tired of dealing with poor profit margins on the fuel-guzzling four-engine Airbus A340. "They do use a ton of fuel, and that's always painful," says Snyder. "But the schedule advantage isn't that great either when you fly so far."
Also, the world's second-longest nonstop -- a Singapore Airlines 18-hour flight between Singapore and LAX -- is scheduled to be canceled this month.

That will leave Qantas Flight 7, a Boeing 747 from Sydney to Dallas, atop the list of world's longest nonstops by distance, at 8,600 miles. The longest nonstop by time will be Delta's Flight 201 -- a 777 from Atlanta to Johannesburg which clocks in at about 17 hours.
Fans of the Singapore-Newark flight say they'll miss its spacious seats and well-trained flight attendants. On a Singapore passenger website, commenter Buster CT1K -- tongue firmly in cheek -- called the airline's decision to cancel the flight a "very sad day in the history of aerospace and aviation. First, man stops going to the moon. Then the space shuttle stops flying. Then Concorde stops flying

--> Source: CNN

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lagos: Plane Plunges to the Ground Shortly after take-off; casualties reported

A plane carrying 27 people has crashed shortly after take-off from Lagos airport in Nigeria, officials say. Authorities say at least 11 people are feared dead. The Associated Airlines plane was bound for Akure, which lies about 140 miles (225km) north-east of Lagos. The plane's engine appeared to fail and the aircraft plunged to the ground and burst into flames, officials said.

Reports indicate that the aircraft was conveying the body of late Dr. Olusegun Agagu, former Governor of Ondo state, with several members of his family when it crashed at Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
The politician died suddenly at his home in Lagos on 13 September. He was due to be laid to rest on 4 October at St Paul's Anglican Church in the district of Iju-Odo.

On board the ill-fated aircraft were also Agagu’s only son, Feyi, the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr Deji Falae and a staff in the Protocol Department of the Governor’s office, Mr Layi Daji.
Also on board were Mr Tunji Okusanja Jr and his father, Tunji Okusanja. However, while Okusanja senior is said to have sustained injuries and unconscious, his son is believed to have been among those that died. The Okusanja family owns the MIC Caskets, popular funeral undertakers in Lagos Island.
An employee of MIC Caskets, identified as Chijioke, was also among those that died in the crash

The Nigeria National Emergency Management Agency said that the aircraft crashed after taking off from Lagos. It had been bound for the city of Akure, about 170 miles away. At least 11 people were confirmed dead and at least one passenger survived the crash, the agency said. "The plane couldn't lift properly so it just came down," says an eyewitness.

Agency reports