MH370 – A Plane That Went Missing 4 Years Ago

One of the greatest mysteries of aviation history happened on March 8, 2014. Four years ago Malaysia Airlines MH370 went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane left its programmed flight path and headed south towards the Indian Ocean. During the last four years, several search teams have tried to locate the missing plane, but up to now, it hasn’t been found.

The Malaysian Boeing 777 with 239 passengers on board disappeared from ground station radar screens but flew on for another six hours.  Nobody knows what happened during this time. The last known location of MH370 was somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean near Australia. A few parts of the plane were washed up on Africa’s east coast and on islands in the Indian Ocean

Australia, China and Malaysia have taken part in hi-tech search operations that covered a total area of 120,000 square kilometres and cost  $200 million. Now, another search is being conducted by an American firm.

Investigators speculate on what may have happened on board MH370. Some experts state that there may have been some kind of mechanical failure while others consider a sudden loss of oxygen in the cabin and cockpit. Officials do not rule out the possibility of the pilot crashing the plane deliberately in unknown waters.

Aviation inspectors say that it is important to find out what happened to MH 370 in order to prevent such an accident from happening again.

 

Search operation for MH370
Search operation for MH370 – Image: US Navy

Words

  • aviation = the science of flying an airplane
  • conduct = carry out
  • consider = think about
  • cover = stretch = reach from one place to another
  • deliberately = on purpose; if you really want to do something
  • disappear = here: to be lost; not seen
  • firm = company
  • flight path = the course an airplane takes
  • ground station = here: building that watches and has contact with planes
  • head = to go in a certain direction
  • inspector = person who checks to see if something is done the way it should be
  • investigator = person who has the job of finding out what caused the accident
  • hi-tech = with the best and most modern technology
  • locate = to find out where something is
  • loss = to lose something
  • mechanical failure = an object or a machine on board the plane did not work the way it should have
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • oxygen = element that is in the air and which we need to breathe
  • possibility = here: something may have happened
  • prevent = stop from happening again
  • programmed = here: the course it should have taken, according to flight computers
  • radar = machine that uses radio waves to find where something is and watch its movements
  • several = some
  • speculate = to guess about the possible causes or effects of something without knowing all the facts and details
  • sudden = something happening quickly
  • unknown = not known
  • wash up = when something drifts from the open sea to the coast

German Cities Plan To Start Free Public Transport

German cities are planning to start free public transport services. The German government has suggested this action after the country, together with 7 other EU member states, have not met EU air quality standards. Pollution, especially in large cities, has become a major problem.

Free public transport will be introduced in five cities including Bonn, Essen and Mannheim by the end of the year.

Some major cities have already experimented with free transport services.  In Estonia’s capital Tallinn, residents have been able to use buses, trams and trains in the city for free since 2013. Paris and Seattle have tried offering free public transport, but only for a short time.

Germany’s decision to provide free public transport could prove to be expensive for its taxpayers. Many transport services get up to half of their money through ticket sales. Thus, the federal government would have to subsidize free transport in cities heavily. Experts claim that it may cost up to 12 billion euros in extra money to run the system for free.

Critics of the proposal say such a measure could put too much burden on public transport systems in large cities. Berlin, Hamburg and Munich already have major problems during rush hours and experts state that inviting more people to use public transport would overload existing systems. As a result, even more money would be needed to expand the country’s public transport services.

In addition to making cities as car-free as possible, car-sharing schemes, low emission zones and incentives for buying electric cars are also measures that are being considered.

City bus in Leipzig
City bus in Leipzig – Image: Christian A. Schröder

Words

  • action =here: something that someone does or wants to do
  • burden = here: to cause problems for …
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • car-sharing scheme = plan in which two or more people travel to places using the same car
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • consider = think about
  • especially = above all
  • expand = make larger and better
  • federal = here: the central government of a country
  • government = people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • incentive = something that makes you want to do something
  • including = also
  • introduce = here: start
  • low emission zone = here: an area  in which dirty cars or trucks are not allowed to enter because they produce too much pollution
  • major = very important
  • measure = action, law
  • offer = give someone to use
  • overload = here: not manage
  • pollution = making air, water etc.. dirty
  • proposal = suggestion or plan
  • provide = give
  • public transport = buses, trains, trams etc.. that everyone can use
  • resident = here: a person who lives in a city
  • run = operate
  • rush hour = time of day when buses, trains and trams are full because people are travelling to or from work
  • service = here: help or work that a country gives to its people
  • standard = the level that you have to reach
  • subsidize = to pay part of the costs
  • taxpayer = person who pays money to the government according to the income he/she gets  from working
  • thus = that is why

 

 

Ford To Invest $11 Billion in Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Company has revealed plans to invest over $11 billion dollars in the development and production of electric cars by 2022. The announcement was made public at the Detroit Motor Show.

The American carmaker plans to produce 16 fully battery-driven vehicles and 24 hybrid cars by 2022. At the moment the Focus is the only Ford car that can be driven by batteries alone.

Apart from producing electric-driven cars for the North American market, Ford also aims at increasing sales to China, the largest growing car market in the world. In addition, it wants to become the world’s leader in fuel-efficient trucks. The car producer also plans to bring a battery-driven SUV on the market by 2020.

Instead of creating completely new electric vehicles from scratch, Ford wants to electrify cars that are already popular because people will know what they get and buy more easily.

Automobile manufacturers around the world are under pressure to develop electric cars because many large countries, including China, India, France and the U.K. have said they would phase out vehicles powered by internal combustion engines within the next two decades. They also face fierce competition from companies like Tesla, a car-maker that specialises in innovative technologies.

As battery costs are going down rapidly, carmakers may find it easier to produce electric cars with higher mileage and at cheaper prices.

 

The electric version of the Ford Focus at an Amsterdam automobile show
The electric version of the Ford Focus at an Amsterdam automobile show – Image: Overlaet

Words

  • aim = target , plan
  • announcement = official statement
  • apart from = other than
  • battery-driven = run by a battery
  • billion = a thousand million
  • competition = trying to be more successful than other companies
  • decade = ten years
  • development = working on a new product
  • electrify = make electric
  • fierce = here: strong
  • from scratch = to start something from the beginning without using anything that has existed before
  • fuel-efficient = car that burns fuel in a more effective way than usual; it does not need as much fuel as others do
  • fully = completely
  • higher mileage = here: to make an electric car that can travel more miles or kilometres before you have to recharge it
  • hybrid car = a car that has both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor
  • in addition = also
  • innovative = new way of doing something; often better than existing methods
  • instead of = in something’s place
  • internal combustion engine = engine that produces power by burning petrol or diesel; it is used in most cars
  • invest = spend money on …
  • make public = to say something for everyone to hear
  • manufacturer = producer
  • phase out = to slowly stop using or producing something
  • popular = well-known and liked by many people
  • production = here: making cars
  • rapidly = quickly
  • reveal = announce to many people
  • sales = selling cars
  • SUV = sport-utility vehicle = car that is bigger and is made for travelling over rough ground; mostly with a 4-wheel drive
  • under pressure = to make someone do something  by using arguments and threats
  • vehicle = a machine with a motor that is used to take people or things from one place to another

2017 Safest Year in Air Travel

According to world aviation officials, 2017 was recorded as the safest year in air travel.  There were no deaths caused by commercial plane crashes last year.

However, the total number of people killed on civilian aircraft and cargo planes has increased slightlyThe deadliest incident occurred in January 2017 when a Turkish cargo jet crashed into a village in rural Kyrgyzstan as it tried to land in foggy weather. All four crew members and 35  people on the ground were killed.

Over the past 20 years, fatalities caused by commercial jetliners have sunken steadily. In 2005, for example, over a thousand people were killed on board commercial flights.

Air travel has become very safe. It is estimated that the accident rate is at 0.06 per one million flights or one fatal accident every 16 million flights.

According to flight experts, chances are that the zero death toll on commercial airlines will not be repeated. Because there are over 37 million flights every year, some kind of accident involving the death of passengers is bound to happen in the near future.

The decline in passenger deaths is due to increased safety measures by the airline industry. Airplanes are becoming more robust and airlines tend to buy newer, more modern aircraft. But aviation officials are worried about the risk of in-flight fires caused by an increase in lithium-ion batteries that are being brought on board, mostly through smartphones and notebooks.

Among the world’s largest countries, the UK has the best air-safety record .  Since the end of the 1980s, there has been no fatal accident involving a British plane. In contrast, African countries have the worst safety records.

Crewman inspecting an Airbus 320 before takeoff
Crewman inspecting an Airbus 320 before takeoff – Image: Kristoferb

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • air-safety record = here: facts about how safe travel has been in the past
  • aviation = everything that is connected to flying  an airplane
  • bound to happen = probably will happen
  • cargo plane = plane that transports goods, but not passengers
  • civilian aircraft = private airplanes
  • commercial airplane = an airplane that flies on a regular schedule with passengers on board
  • decline = when something is reduced or goes down
  • due to = because of
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is based on the information that you have
  • fatal = deadly
  • fatality = death in an accident
  • foggy = cloudy air on the ground which is difficult to see through
  • however = but
  • in contrast = on the other side
  • incident = here: accident involving an airplane
  • increase = go up
  • in-flight = during a journey; when a plane is in the air
  • jetliner = modern, passenger airplane
  • lithium-ion = modern, rechargeable battery type used in smartphones, tablets etc..
  • occur = happen
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • record = write down
  • repeat = happen again
  • robust = strong; not likely to have any problems
  • rural = in the countryside
  • safety measures = something you do which helps to make things safer
  • slightly = a bit
  • zero death toll = here: situation in which no people are killed

Singapore Bans Additional Cars

The government of Singapore has announced that it will ban further cars from its streets and roads starting in February 2018 . Authorities in the island state want to avoid the country from being clogged up in traffic as space is running out.

Singapore has already limited the number of new vehicles that are allowed to drive every year. It has also increased registration fees and import taxes on private vehicles. In Singapore it is four times more expensive to own a car in than elsewhere.

Singapore, which is even smaller than New York, is the most densely populated country in the world. 12 % of the land is taken up by roads. Since 2000, the population has risen by 40% to 5.6 million. Currently, there are 600 000 private cars  in operation.

Citizens need a permit to own a car. They can get them at regular auctions that are held in the country.  Fees for a ten-year permit cost  at least $30,000 .

In addition to banning the registration of new cars, the government is spending 28 billion dollars  on public transport projects in the next five years. It is expanding its rail network  and has added new bus lines. 

Traffic in Singapore
Traffic in Singapore – Image: Jacklee

Words

  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • auction = here: event where people who offer the most money can buy permits
  • authorities = people or organisations that are in charge of certain things in daily life
  • avoid = stop something from happening
  • ban = forbid
  • billion = a thousand million
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • clog up = to become blocked
  • currently = at the moment
  • densely populated = many people live on a small area of land
  • elsewhere = in other countries
  • expand = to make bigger
  • fee = the money you pay for  a service
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to become bigger or more
  • limit = to stop from becoming  more and more
  • permit = document that allows you to do or have something
  • public transport = busses, trains, subways etc.. that everyone can use
  • registration fee = the money you pay for officially owning a car
  • run out = to become less and less
  • vehicle = machine or engine that is used to take people from one place to another, such as a car, bus or truck

 

End of Australia’s Car Industry

The last car , a General Motors Holden, has come off the production line in Adelaide, Australia.  It ends a 90-year long era of car manufacturing in Australia.  At its peak, the Adelaide factory built almost 800 cars a day .

GM Holden is a subsidiary of GM . The closure of Australia’s last car factory will not only leave almost a thousand workers without a job, but also endanger industries that produce parts for Australian-made cars.

Holden has been an Australian national symbol for many decadesThe company, which started out as a family business in the mid 19th century, was bought by General Motors  in 1931. In 1948 the FX Holden became the first car to be  mass-produced in Australia. By 1960, every second car manufactured in Australia was a Holden.  The company’s most popular car was the Commodore,  which was introduced in 1978.

Since World War II a number of foreign auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Mitsubishi have opened and closed car production plants in Australia. Ford shut down its last plant a year ago.

There are many reasons behind the decline of Australia’s car industry.  Through free trade agreements automobile makers no longer have benefits when producing in Australia. Other reasons are high wages and production costs   as well as  a small domestic market of 24 million.

As the  Australian dollar became stronger  the country’s exports became  more expensive. Holden cars became less competitive , while imported foreign cars were cheaper . Since 2001 Australia’s government has been pouring in  $ 5.5 billion into the car industry.

Even though Australia’s car industry has come to an end , the GM Holden will still be available from other manufacturing plants around the world.

GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007
GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007

Words

  • agreement = when people, companies  or countries promise to do something
  • available = it can be bought
  • benefit = advantage, help you do or get something
  • century = a hundred years
  • competitive = to be more successful than others
  • closure = to be closed
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = when something becomes less important
  • domestic = home
  • foreign = from another country
  • endanger = to put something in danger
  • era = period of time
  • foreign = from another country
  • manufacture = produce, make
  • mass-produce = to make something in large numbers so that it can be sold cheaply
  • peak = when it was most successful
  • plant = factory
  • pour = here: give
  • production line = products move along  a line of workers who make or check each part
  • subsidiary = company that is owned or controlled by a larger company
  • wages = money a worker gets every week or month

 

Sidewalk Toronto – City of the Future in Canada

Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, has announced  plans to build a futuristic city in Toronto, Canada. The new urban area, called Sidewalk Toronto, aims at turning the waterfront of Lake Ontario into a playground for city development and a testing site  for new technologies.

The project wants to make cities cheaper, healthier and even more exciting to live in .  The new city will offer its residents ultra-fast WiFi connections, lanes for self-driving cars and sustainable energy sources.  Thousands of sensors will report pollution and noise levels, as well as monitor traffic and levels of carbon monoxide.

Planners of Sidewalk Toronto want to find new solutions for  overpopulation, waste management , traffic , pollution and other urban problems. Several companies have said that they will make their services  available to the new city. 

Planners estimate that the project will cost around 1 billion dollars. However, it will also offer tens of thousands of people a place to live, work  and have fun. Eventually, similar projects may spread to other parts of the world, helping to build smarter and greener  cities.

Google has also announced that it plans to move its Canadian headquarters to Sidewalk Toronto.

 

 

 

Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario
Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario – Image: George Socka

Words

  • aim = wants to , plans to
  • announce = to officially say something in public
  • available = here: something that people can use
  • carbon monoxide = poisonous gas that produces carbon when it is burned
  • development = to become bigger, more modern and advanced
  • estimate = think about how much something will cost
  • eventually = as time goes on, slowly
  • futuristic = something  that looks unusual and very modern
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • however =  but
  • lane = one of two or many areas on the road that keeps cars apart
  • monitor = watch, observe
  • overpopulation = too many people live on a small area of land
  • resident = here: a person  who lives in a city
  • services = work or help that a company gives you
  • similar = almost the same
  • solution = way of dealing with a problem
  • spread = move to another place
  • sustainable = something that can be used without causing danger to the environment or nature
  • urban = about a city
  • waste management = way of getting rid of unwanted materials and dirty water
  • waterfront = part of a city or town that is next to the sea or lake
  • WiFi connection = connecting computers and other machines to the Internet by using radio signals

 

Diesel Cars Cause Thousands of Premature Deaths in Europe

According to a new report, diesel cars have caused  thousands of premature deaths in Europe in the past few years. These deaths could have been avoided if countries had met anti-pollution standards. The recently published paper comes almost two years after the Volkswagen scandal, in which the German car maker was caught cheating  on emission tests.

Europe is a continent with  about a hundred million diesel-driven vehicles, almost twice as many as  in all the other countries of the world  combined. Years ago governments and car makers encouraged consumers to buy diesel cars because they were cheaper, used less fuel and produced less carbon dioxide. Many governments also offered tax reductions if people bought diesel cars. What has not been known until now is that diesel cars produce more nitrogen oxides, which may cause lung diseases.

Italy, Germany and France were the countries that recorded the most premature deaths from diesel-polluted vehicles. Especially diesel trucks that drive in densely populated areas contribute to the high level of pollution.

The Volkswagen scandal also shown that emission tests are not accurate and that in some cases diesel vehicles emit up to 4 times more substances than they do when tested in a lab.

Since the scandal broke , governments in Europe and elsewhere have been trying to get people to buy more  petrol-driven cars. They have become more efficient than diesel vehicles and the difference in prices are not not as high any more.

diesel-powered car
Diesel powered car – Image by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • accurate = detailed; exact
  • anti-pollution standards = laws that are made to keep pollution levels in a country low
  • avoid = stop ; not happen
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animal or people breathe out or when carbon is burned in the air
  • cheat = here: to trick people and not tell them the truth
  • combined = together
  • contribute = to help make something happen
  • densely populated = when many people live in a small area
  • efficient = if something works well
  • emission test = testing how much gas or dirty substances are sent into the air
  • emit = send into the atmosphere
  • encourage = to say that people should do something
  • especially = above all
  • fuel = liquid used to produce energy and make a car drive
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • nitrogen oxide = combination of nitrogen and oxygen
  • paper = report
  • petrol-driven = run with normal petrol, not diesel
  • premature = something that happens before the natural time
  • record = write down information
  • substance = material
  • tax reduction = to pay less tax than you normally would
  • vehicle = machine with an engine that is used to transport people or products