Thursday, February 28, 2008

Satellite imagery reveals damages to Iraqi ancient sites

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 the archaeological and historical sites (indeed one of the cradles of civilisation) have suffered from neglect and looting. There have been many reports of sites and museums looted for artifacts, some later recovered but many gone for good and destroyed. Analysis of new satellite imagery covering over 10,000 square kilometres covering 1900 sites and comparing to older images reveals the extent of the looting and damage.

Archaeologist Elizabeth Stone at Stony Brook University in the USA was able to identify holes made by looters at the various sites and see if they were new or existed before the Gulf War. Stone identified 213 sites which had been extensively looted.

Reference :

"Satellite images reveal extent of harm to Iraq's archaeological sites" - Thaindian News (03/03/08)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not Classic Jetliners (2) : VFW Fokker 614

The VFW 614 is unusual for a couple of reasons. It was a German designed and built jetliner (though not the first) and also had it's engines on top of the wings instead of underneath like everyone else. The VFW 614 was designed to be a small regional jet and the engines were mounted above the wings to allow usage from rough airstrips. The first VFW 614 took off in 1971.

Picture from Flug Revue

Sales were slow however, glacially slow for a number of reasons. The VFW 614 was born into the early 1970s oil shock and also was affected by Rolls-Royce's troubles at the start of that decade. By the time of the first delivery to a customer in 1975 only 10 had been ordered. In the end only 13 were bought by 3 airlines and 3 were also bought by the Luftwaffe, 21 being built in total though only 19 flew. The VFW 614 programme was cancelled in 1977. Those in airline service apparently did not last very long though the Luftwaffe examples remained in service until 1999. One remains in service with the German Aerospace Centre as an "in-flight-simulator" and has been fitted with Fly-by-Wire control systems though is it due for replacement by an Airbus A320.

Picture from Friends of the VFW 614 website

It is a shame the cute little VFW 614 was not a success, in many ways it was ahead of it's time. The market it was intended for did not really take off (pardon the pun) until the 1990s. The programme was a costly failure for VFW Fokker but it did in the end prepare VFW for working on the Airbus project and we all know how well that has gone. A number of these good looking airliners are on display and one has been restored and cleaned up by the Friends of the VFW 614!

Public domain image

Monday, February 18, 2008

Drug smuggling using a submarine

For some reason the Penguin's submarine in the original Batman movie sprang to mind when i read this. For some time now there have been rumours of drug smugglers off the coast of the U.S.A. using mini-submarines or semi-submersibles to evade detection and capture by the U.S. Coast Guard and other naval units. Now one has been captured.

The submarine nicknamed "Big Foot" by the USCG was able to carry 4 tons of cargo travelling mostly underwater. Its said that other submarines in the cartel's fleet can carry 15 tons of the white stuff.