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DDS News- MAP: Every Dangerous Place Where Airplanes Aren't Supposed to Fly

DDS News- MAP: Every Dangerous Place Where Airplanes Aren't Supposed to Fly

By Jessica Schulberg and Josh Kovensky

New Republic

The Malaysia Airlines flight shot down Thursday in eastern Ukraine, likely by a BUK missile launcher operated by pro-Russian separatist rebels, raises an obvious question among American travelers: How often do passenger airplanes fly over conflict areas where there are anti-aircraft systems?

The answer is frightening.

To make civilian air travel safe and avoid yesterday’s catastrophe in Ukraine, the Federal Aviation Administration maintains a list of Notices to Airman (NOTAMs) that place restrictions on commercial flights operated by U.S. carriers in potentially hazardous airspace. Airspace may be considered hazardous if it is over an active volcano, near a weapons testing site, or over an active conflict zone.

But until Thursday night, after the 298 people aboard MH17 were killed, there was not a NOTAM in effect for eastern Ukraine.

Jeffrey Price, an aviation security analyst, said that the incident is nearly without precedent: “People just weren’t expecting a military-grade radar from a surface-to-air missile to be launched at a commercial flight.”

And yet, passenger jets regularly fly over areas with active surface-to-air missiles. While the FAA sets the rules for U.S. jetliners, the United Nations-affiliated International Civil Aviation Organization is responsible for regulating international airspace.

“At all times, MH17 was in airspace approved by the ICAO,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement, adding, “The route over Ukrainian airspace where the incident occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights. A flight from a different carrier was on the same route at the time of the MH17 incident, as were a number of other flights from other carriers in the days and weeks before.”

In April, the FAA issued a NOTAM restricting American carriers from traveling at any altitude over the Simferopol region of Crimea, about 350 miles from eastern Ukraine. Thursday night, in response to the downed Malaysia Airlines flight, they expanded the warning to include the Dnepropetrovsk flight region covering the contested area. In addition to new FAA restrictions, both U.S.-based and international airlines have voluntarily rerouted many their flights around eastern Ukraine and Crimea; some flight activity continues to trickle across western parts of the country.

Several of the restrictions in the map above only apply to flights below a certain altitude—usually under 24,000 feet. This varies according to the situation on the ground. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, where rebels possess less advanced rocket technology, the minimum operating altitude is 15,000 feet, whereas planes flying over ISIS-controlled regions of Iraq must remain above 20,000 feet.

But less than two weeks ago, the Ukrainian government declared it unsafe to fly over eastern Ukraine at an altitude below 32,000 feet, because of the presence of anti-aircraft weapons. MH17 was at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet when it was shot down.

Jacques Astre, a pilot and FAA inspector for more than 30 years, flew over the same airspace on Sunday on a business trip to New Delhi. “To be honest with you, I was feeling insecure because I knew what was going on down there," Astre said in a phone call from the Indian capital. "There was no guarantee that such weaponry wouldn’t go above 32,000 feet. There’s no shield that would protect you at 32,000 feet.”

While the FAA now prohibits flights at any altitude over eastern Ukraine, yesterday’s crash calls into question the utility of FAA warnings in other conflict zones where planes are restricted from flying at cruising altitudes below 24,000 feet.

According to Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian military analyst at CNA Corporation, BUK systems "are in just about every country that bought anti-aircraft weapons from Russia.” He added that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia sold these weapons systems “to anybody who wanted them,” with the exception of countries under sanctions from the international community.

The missiles on the BUKs have a range of up 82,000 feet, well within reach of commercial jets flying within FAA regulations.

Former aircraft engineer Peter Marosszeky told the New York Times that “airlines have not typically worried until now about surface-to-air missiles reaching planes at cruising altitude, because only a very large missile with a lot fuel could ascend such a distance.” While these weapons systems are known to have proliferated among state actors, it is extremely rare for a rebel group to acquire the technology and capability to shoot down a plane at cruising altitude.

The fact that it is so rare for non-state actors to possess this kind of weaponry explains why the FAA's flight-restriction altitudes over conflict zones are often set below both cruising altitude (32,000-40,000 feet) and the range reached by anti-aircraft missiles (up to 82,000 feet). When asked how they determine a safe altitude, the FAA declined to comment.

Keith Mackey, a former pilot and current aviation safety consultant, says the FAA could do more. “They don’t give you enough information so that you could actually do anything positive to react to threats. Most of the time [the NOTAMs] are a cover-your-butts deal, so that they can say they warned you.”

Mackey said that like all bureaucracies, the FAA is not known for its efficiency. For example, they have yet to lift restrictions over northern Ethiopia, even though the civil war there ended in 1991. The fact that restrictions were not imposed over eastern Ukraine until after the Malaysia Airlines disaster may be indicative of a larger agency-wide problem.

“There’s gonna be an awakening for sure,” noted Astre. “I think you’re gonna see airlines be more wary and civil aviation authorities reacting more immediately then they were before.”

Red Zones:

Dnepropetrovsk—Planes Not Allowed to Fly at any Altitude

Iraq—Planes Not Allowed to Fly Below 20,000 feet with Exception of Immediate Arrivals and Departures from Erbil International Airport

North Korea—Planes Not Allowed to Fly at any Altitude

Northern Ethiopia—Planes Not Allowed to Fly at any Altitude

Libya—Planes Not Allowed to Fly at any Altitude

Simferopol—Planes Not Allowed to Fly at any Altitude

Yellow Zones:

Afghanistan—Operators Warned Against Attack From Small-Arms Fire and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADs)

Democratic Republic of the Congo—Operators Warned Against Flying Below 15,000 Feet

Iran: Operators Warned That Iran and the United States do not Maintain Consular Relations

Mali—Operators Warned Against Flying at or Below 24,000 Feet

Kenya—Operators Warned Against Attack from Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADs)

Sinai—Operators Warned Against Flying at or Below 24,000 Feet.

Syria—Operators Warned Against Flying at any Altitude

Yemen—Operators Warned Against Flying at or Below 24,000 Feet

Copyright 2014 © The New Republic. All Rights Reserved.

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DDS News- Map: Where Bikers And Pedestrians Of Northeast Los Angeles Are Getting Hit By Cars

DDS News- Map: Where Bikers And Pedestrians Of Northeast Los Angeles Are Getting Hit By Cars

A new map put out by the Los Angeles Times today shows a distressing trend: traffic on Figueroa Street in Northeast Los Angeles is deadly.

This isn't news, of course. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition put out a similar map showing all the deaths and injuries suffered by pedestrians and bikers on the street from 2002 to 2011. And LADOT formally recommended that the city make improvements to the street to make it safer. Last week L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo quashed one of the most significant plans: putting a section of the street on a "road diet" that would remove a lane for motorists and add in bike lanes for cyclists.

Cedillo claimed that he was doing it in the name of safety—he argued it would deter firefighters and police though neither LAFD or LAPD have officially objected—but today's map from the Los Angeles Times is a good reminder that Figueroa Street has a pretty significant safety problem that needs addressing. This map shows traffic collisions that involved pedestrians and bikers all over Northeast Los Angeles from 2002 to 2012 based on data from the CHP. Figueroa sticks out as a particularly dangerous street. Altogether there were 221 collisions and nine deaths between Avenue 26 and York Boulevard.


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The stunning black and white maps that reveal just how many human settlements there are on the planet

The stunning black and white maps that reveal just how many human settlements there are on the planet

Researchers developed new technology to be able to spot individual houses - and say the resulting images show we have vastly underestimated the number of human settlements on the planet.

Scientists from the German Aerospace Center created the images using data acquired by the German radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X.

The black and white maps taken from an altitude of over 500 kilometres show the world's cities, villages and groups of houses wiggling along the course of rivers, following the lines of roads and rail tracks or spreading out into the arable countryside - and are the most accurate ever produced.

  • The black and white maps are taken from an altitude of over 500 kilometres
  • Algorithm used to find the human settlements
  • Resulting images show we have vastly underestimated the number of human settlements on the planet

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Free Oil and Gas Basin Wall Map at the AAPG

Free Oil and Gas Basin Wall Map at the AAPG

Stop by Digital Data Service’s booth at the AAPG Rocky Mountain Section meeting (booth #36) and pick up your free basin wall map.  While you are there, take a peek at Maperture®, a powerful way to manage and view mapping data.   

Maperture® allows you to:

  • query oil and gas data
  • generate reports
  • print maps
  • from desktop browser or mobile device

Maps play an important role in planning and decision making in the petroleum industry.  The success rate of a project is partly determined by the accuracy of your spatial information.  Digital Data Services' GIS and mapping consultation services provides for a better understanding of your organization through the identification of your current objectives, workflows, datasets, and needs.  We work closely with you to develop the perfect solution to push your company forward while many are standing still.

Whether you are in need of oil and gas map data, digitizing and scanning services, cartographic services, software, or a customized web mapping application, DDS has the right solution for you.  

Learn more about Digital Data Services at the AAPG's Rocky Mountain Section annual meeting at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado, July 20th through the 22nd.  DDS will be exhibiting in booth #36 and distributing the basin wall maps for free while supplies last.

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Map shows biggest bank headquartered in each state

Map shows biggest bank headquartered in each state

A recent survey shows that public opinion of big banks has improved significantly over the past few years, prompting GOBankingRates to create a map displaying the biggest bank headquartered in each state.  GOBankingRates compiled the data for the map by surveying the biggest bank headquartered in each state. The data included the accessibility and technology of each bank's branches including how many branches and ATMs were offered in the state and if online and mobile banking was available. Read more

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