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

 

 

New Eurostar Service Between London and Amsterdam

Eurostar, the company that operates train services between Great Britain and the European mainland through the Channel Tunnel, will start a new service between London and Amsterdam in April. The company has said that the new route is another step towards connecting major European capitals to the UK by rail.

Trains will travel twice a day between London and Amsterdam via Brussels and Rotterdam. The journey will take about three hours and 40 minutes.

Eurostar will offer tickets starting at £35 one-way, which is expected to compete with cheap budget airlines on the route between London and the Dutch capital.

The service especially targets businesspeople who prefer comfortable foot space and WiFi. In addition, Amsterdam has become increasingly popular among UK tourists. Over 4 million passengers travel between London and Amsterdam, one of Europe’s busiest air routes, every year.

Travel between the UK and Western Europe has increased strongly in the last two decadesSince the start of Eurostar services in 1994,  the number of travellers between London and Paris, Eurostar’s first route,  has doubled.

While passengers leaving London will be able to travel to Amsterdam without interruption, travellers from Amsterdam to London will be required to undergo passport and security checks in Brussels. This is only a temporary measure and only should only last until the end of 2019.

 

Eurostar high-speed train
Eurostar high-speed train – Image: Kabelleger / David Gubler

Words

  • budget airlines = airlines that offer cheap tickets, but not as many services as other airlines do
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • compete = here: to be able to attract as many passengers as airlines do
  • connect = link together
  • decade = ten years
  • double = to be twice as much
  • especially = above all
  • foot space = room for your legs when you sit
  • in addition = also
  • increasingly = more and more
  • interruption = to stop something
  • mainland = the European continent, without the islands that belong to it
  • major = very important
  • measure = law, action
  • offer = sell
  • one-way = only to a destination; not back again
  • operate = here: to run a service
  • popular = liked and well-known
  • prefer = like
  • require = need to; must
  • security check = here: officials check your passport and see that you don’t bring anything illegal into a country
  • service = here: a train that travels between two cities
  • step = stage, phase
  • target = aim at a certain group of people
  • temporary = only for a short time
  • twice = two times
  • undergo = here: you must do something
  • via = through; by way of
  • WiFi = wireless internet connection

SpaceX Launches World’s Most Powerful Rocket

SpaceX, a private space transport company owned by American billionaire Elon Musk, has launched the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy. It is the larger version of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has successfully been putting payloads into space for years. The booster is made up of three rockets strapped together for combined thrust.

The Falcon Heavy was developed over a period of 7 years and cost about $500 million. It is 23 stories tall and has 27 engines. The rocket’s thrust equals that of 18 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The new rocket is designed to send large satellites into earth orbit. It can carry 64 metric tons, twice the payload of other rockets, into space at a lower price. The rocket can also transport spacecraft to destinations further away from earth. In addition, its starting boosters are reusable.

The first flight was set to travel as far as the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The rocket had an electric sports car, Elon Musk’s privateTesla Roadster, on board.

SpaceX has been flying NASA cargo missions to the International Space Station for a few years. The company wants to compete with other business in carrying payloads to space. Musk’s company has several commercial customers and has been receiving contracts to fly government payloads. The first manned mission to space is planned for the end of 2018.

 

Space X rocket Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida

Words

  • asteroid belt = large rocks that move around the sun between Mars and Jupiter
  • billionaire = person who has a billion dollars, euros etc.. or more
  • booster = a rocket that gives you the power to leave the earth
  • cargo mission = here: a trip that carries goods and other products into space
  • commercial = here: private
  • compete = be as good as or better than others
  • contract = an agreement to do a job for someone
  • design = the way something should work
  • destination = place you want to go to
  • develop = to design and create a new product
  • equal = the same as
  • in addition = also
  • International Space Station = ISS = space station that was built by scientists from 16 countries; it is mainly used for scientific experiments
  • launch = to send an object into space
  • manned mission = here: trip that sends people into space
  • orbit = move around an object in a circle
  • payload = the goods or products that a machine transports to a place
  • receive = get
  • reusable = you can use it again
  • several = some, a few
  • stories = floors
  • strapped together = bind together so that it works as one
  • successfully = if something works the way it should
  • thrust = power of an engine that makes a rocket move upwards
  • twice = two times

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

Nepal Bans Solo Mountain Climbers

In an attempt to reduce the number of accidents and make climbing safer, Nepal has banned solo mountaineers from climbing Mount Everest and other peaks. In addition, beginning in January 2018, all foreign climbers will need a guide. The new law also prohibits blind and double amputee climbers from trying to reach the top peaks.

More than 200 people have died in an attempt to reach Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, since 1920. The majority of deaths have occurred within the last 40 years. Recently, an 85-year-old mountaineer died in an attempt to be the oldest human to reach the top of Mount Everest. Two Europeans died while making a solo climb last spring.

Although mountaineers die for a number of reasons, almost every fifth death is caused by acute mountain sicknessAuthorities have announced that they will check medical certificates of climbers to see if they are physically capable of such a demanding task.

In addition to more safety, Nepalese authorities hope that the new law will create more jobs for mountain guides in the country. The government will also give Everest climbing certificates to high altitude guides and workers hired by foreign climbers.

Local citizens have welcomed the new law, but some officials fear that banning physically handicapped people from climbing could get them into conflict with human rights organisations.

According to statistics, 4,800 climbers have reached the top of Mount Everest since Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic climb in 1953.

Mountaineer in Nepal -
Mountaineer in Nepal – Image: McKay Savage

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • acute = an illness that comes very quickly
  • although = while
  • announce = to say officially
  • attempt = try to do something
  • authorities = organisation in a government that controls and decides certain things
  • ban = stop; forbid
  • capable = able
  • create = make
  • demanding task = activity that is very difficult to do
  • double amputee = someone who has lost both legs or both arms
  • foreign= from another country
  • guide = a person who shows you the way
  • high altitude = very high place
  • hire = to pay money to a person for a job they do
  • historic = when something important happened in history
  • human= person
  • human rights organisation = organisation in which people fight for the basic rights that everyone should have, like the right to vote or freedom of the press
  • in addition = also
  • law = rule, regulation
  • local citizen= person who lives in the region
  • majority = most of
  • medical certificate = piece of paper you get from a doctor or hospital that shows you are fit to do something
  • mountaineer = person who climbs high mountains in their free time
  • occur = happen
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • peak = the highest part of a mountain
  • physically handicapped = person who cannot use parts of their body because of an accident or illness
  • prohibit = not allow
  • recently = a short time ago
  • reduce = lower
  • sickness = when you are ill
  • welcome = to be in favour of

Australia Bans Climbing Uluru

Authorities at Uluru National Park have announced that tourists will no longer be allowed to climb up to the top of Australia’s most famous landmark. The ban will take effect at the beginning of 2019.  Officials say that  Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock,  is not an entertainment park, like Disneyland.

About 250 000 people visit the large red monolith in central Australia every year. However, only about  16% want to climb the rock.

Although Australia’s government  wants to keep the site open for hikers to climb, the decision was made out of respect to the native Australians who consider Uluru as a sacred place. In 1985 the government returned it back to the aboriginal people of the region. For a long time , local residents have asked visitors not to climb the rock out of respect.

National park authorities are worried that hiking to the top of 1,100 ft high rock will damage the UNESCO World Heritage SiteTour operators are now in search of other ways to show the monolith to its visitors, including camel rides around it.

Uluru National Park  is open all year round, but climbing is only allowed on certain days because of strong winds and other weather conditions. Climbing the rock is not always safe. In the last 70 years , 35 people have died in climbing accidents.

Not all locals, however, are in favour of the ban. Some say that hiking should only be allowed  with  a guide  and on special pathways.

Uluru
Uluru – Image: Thomas Schoch

Words

  • Aboriginal people = people who have lived in Australia from the earliest times on
  • although = while
  • announce = to say officially
  • authorities = an official organisation that controls or is in charge of something
  • ban = order that stops something from being done
  • consider = think that…; look at something as …
  • damage = cause harm to something
  • entertainment park = area where you can go to in order to have fun, ride on roller coasters etc..
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • guide = person who shows you around a place
  • hiker = someone who walks long distances in the mountains
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • including = also
  • landmark = something that is easy to see , even from far away
  • local = a person who lives in the area
  • monolith = a large tall block of stone
  • native Australians = the people who have been in Australia before Europeans came
  • official = a person in an organisation who is in charge of something
  • pathway = track that is made for walking
  • resident = a person who lives in a place
  • sacred = holy , religious
  • take effect = put into effect, become a law
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site = place that has been selected by the United Nations  because it is very valuable ; it should be protected by all countries

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

 

Google Maps Navigates Through Solar System

In addition to finding any place on Earth,  Google Maps now lets you navigate through space too.  It has recently added two dwarf planets, Pluto and Ceres, as well as some of the moons of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter  to its service.

Users can now explore the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon . You can see lakes and rivers of methane beneath its clouds . About half a million images  come from the Cassini mission ,which  explored Saturn and its moons for  15 years before it burned up in the planet’s atmosphere.

Other highlights include close-ups of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus , where water was discovered beneath the surface. Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede are also included in Google Map’s new version. A total of 16 planets and moons can now be explored by users.

Exploring space  works like any place on Earth would.  Just choose a planet or moon and zoom around. Google Map offers the most important physical features of each celestial body as well as corresponding names.

Google Maps started out as a service that let users navigate land . In the past, years the world’s oceans have been added to the map service and in 2014 Google added images of our moon and Mars. Since 2017 users can take a tour of the International Space Station. Most of the material comes from various explorations carried out by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

 

Artist's drawing of how Titan's surface may look like
Artist’s drawing of how Titan’s surface may look like

 

Words

  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • celestial = about the sky or heaven
  • close-up = film or picture in which the camera is very close to an object
  • corresponding names = names that are connected to the objects in the map
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • dwarf planet = object in space that is too large for a moon and too small to be planet
  • explore = to travel around a place in order to find out more about it
  • offer = give to the user
  • in addition = also
  • include = to contain; have in it
  • methane = gas that you cannot see or smell; it can be burned to give heat
  • navigate = to find your way around from one place to another
  • physical features = the landscape with mountains, rivers etc..
  • recently = a short time ago
  • service = here: something that the company lets users do
  • surface = top part of a planet
  • various = many different
  • zoom = to move very quickly