Why impact of Covid-19 less in Japan?

One wonders why Covid-19 has had less impact in Japan despite lockdowns that are not so strict and the government even giving subsidies for people in Tokyo to travel and stay at inns and hotels outside the city.

There does not seem to be a magic bullet apart from the hoped-for vaccine. However, it does seem that every little bit helps slow its spread and decrease its severity. What makes Japan so special?

Even before the Covid-19 outbreak the wearing of masks was a common sight, particularly in the ‘hay fever’ season–actually not caused by hay but by the pollen from two types of tree. So people are not shocked by wearing a mask or put out by the sight of someone wearing one.

However, countries that have been lightly hit by the virus include Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Hard-hit countries such as the US, Spain, and Italy do not. In the UK it is only given given to infants and babies likely to be infected in the family.
Of course, countries such as New Zealand and South Korea have taken special measures as well.

Perhaps because it is the custom for people to wash and rinse outside the bathtub and then soak themselves in it to relax afterwards going in one after the other in the family (and sharing the same water), there may be more chlorine in tap water than in other countries. (One can sometimes smell it.) Whether this is enough to help kill the virus when rinsing hands has not as far as I know been explored, but is a possibility.

When meeting socially in a bar or restaurant Japanese tend to talk rather quietly. Shouting is though vulgar, and often the most important person of all is the quietest. This might help limit the spread of the virus, unlike say in the British pub with the noise level going up and up with people forced to shout.

Many houses have ‘washlets’ –toilets that clean one with a jet of warm water rathe than toilet paper. This just possibly might help limit the spread of the virus in a household.

To explain how Japan can get away with fewer restrictions and crowding on transport I have tried to pick out areas where Japan is special. Of course, there is the general level of hygiene.

Comments would be welcome.

A Simple Way to help stop Covid-19 spreading

Every little bit helps, and this may be the simplest way ever, and I wonder why no one has suggested it!

Even when wearing a mask, stop breathing when passing someone, or someone is leaning over you, or you are leaning over someone else. (Wearing glasses may give you extra protection.)

Taking a breath before passing someone may be a good idea, so that when they have passed, you exhale freeing your mask (if you have one) and nasal passages from hanging air possibly with with the virus.

If going to the toilet on an airliner (with the way clear), this could stop you breathing on other passengers.

I would be interested in any comments on this, as might many others.

Our New Book

Our new book Aviation Inside Out will hopefully be published in November.

The aim of this book is two-fold: Firstly, and as originally intended, to be the Glossary and Updates for our classic book Air Crashes and Miracle Landings, and secondly, and now perhaps more importantly, to provide insights into all aspects of aviation and related topics.

IIncludes some little-known facts.

Updates to Air Crashes and Miracle Landings (including the 737 MAX ones)are at the end.

Operation Sunrise: Missed Opportunity?

According to the UK’s Economist Alan Joyce has said Project Sunrise for non-stop flights from Australia’s East Coast cities such as Sydney and Melbourne to London, New York and so on have been “shelved.”

Australia’s Business Traveller said Qantas had announced the project was “indefinitely postponed.”

However, there are currently (but intermittently) still the non-stops (QF9/QF10) from Perth to London. This may suggest non-stop flights could become especially popular as there would be much better control over with whom passengers come into contact en route.

It has been suggested that Project Sunrise non-stop flights could be a winner for Qantas, with them not only going to London and New York, but also to other perhaps safer cities, though it is understandable Qantas hesitate to take the risk when in “survival mode.” A crisis can be an opportunity with perhaps better conditions from Airbus.

It could be a wonderful feather in Alan Joyce’s retirement cap; even if not the case the efficient A350 could have many roles and not be a great loss.

Repatriation air fares & whiners


Before the big airline shutdown and there were flights back to the UK from Australia, one family wanting to return ‘home’ said the airlines were ripping people off. They said they had been quoted an incredible fare of some £60,000 for their family of six. One UK paper took this at face value with a “price-gouging” headline or something similar, as usual without looking into it.

Interestingly, Simon Calder, the well-known travel correspondent for the Independent and other news providers, as usual did his homework and found all was not all it seemed.

Calder found that while the total quoted was a genuine fare it was for First and Business Class seats on the day in question but a couple of days later day there were relatively cheap seats in Economy etc.

Empty Aircraft Outbound!

Furthermore, he pointed out that even where airlines might charge more than in normal times they were not profiteering because in order to bring people back there would have to fly an empty plane outbound with no revenue. So people could hardly complain if they tried to avoid losing money.

Situation Now

Now that there are hardly any flights and most normal flights banned there has obviously been justification for special repatriation flights arranged by the UK government say from countries like Peru.

However, where there are a few flights available one wonders whether some–including backpackers who are falling out of favour in Australia–are hanging on in the hope they will get a cheap or even free flight at the expense of the taxpayer.

Of course, there is a very great need for repatriation flights especially for people with problematic health conditions or nowhere to stay. Working out who deserves it or really needs help may have made the UK Government hesitate at times.

Sad Irony if indeed Iran Shot Down Airliner

No one shoots down a civilian airliner knowing they are doing so though it might happen even in the US if it appeared another 9/11 was under way.

There is a sad irony (if indeed the Iranians did indeed mistakenly shoot down the Ukrainian airliner) after their experience of having one of their own airliners shot down by a US Navy missile cruiser.

This is described in great detail in our book Air Crashes and Miracle Landings. Initially there was a cover-up but finally the truth was revealed. It was partly a matter of a gung-ho captain chasing gunboats (speedboats) to be able to claim combat experience and a whole series of identification errors. The US Navy were in a quandary and had to treat him as a hero (for firing) lest other captains hesitate to save their vessels.

One wonders whether Iran might have been more forgiving had the US Navy had immediately apologized and offered compensation rather than attempted a cover-up. Might that have avoided the downing of the Pan Am 747 at Lockerbie?

There have been a number of cases where civilian aircraft have been shot down, and (with hindsight) mostly considered mistakes:

Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 (Feb. 21, 1973)

More than 100 people were killed when a Libyan flight traveling from Tripoli via Benghazi to Cairo was shot down by Israeli fighter planes and crashed into the Sinai desert.

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (Sept. 1, 1983)

A Soviet fighter shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which had been traveling from New York to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska. All 269 people on board were killed. The flight was more than 300 miles off course and ventured into militarily sensitive Soviet airspace.

Iran Air Flight 655: (July 3, 1988)

[Link to extract from our book]

U.S. Navy missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 traveling from Bandar-e Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, UAE, as it traveled over the Strait of Hormuz, a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. All 290 people on board died. The passenger plane, which was traveling in Iranian airspace, had been misidentified as a fighter jet, according to the United States.

While the U.S. asserted that the plane was outside the civilian corridor, this proved to be untrue. The U.S. government later apologized and after eight years said it would compensate the victims’ families, according to the Associated Press.

Siberia Airlines Flight 1812: (October 4, 2001)

Not all airliner shoot downs have occurred during times of war. The Ukrainian Air Force shot down Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 over the Black Sea in an apparent accident, killing 78 crew and passengers. The flight had been en route from Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia, and many of the passengers were Russian-born Israelis, according to the Associated Press.

Ukraine’s military initially denied responsibility for the incident, but later admitted that an errant missile from a military exercise on the Crimean peninsula could have cause the crash. Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksander Kuzmuk, admitted that Ukrainian forces were involved and apologized to the victims’ friends and families.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: (July 17, 2014)

In 2014, Ukraine was again the site of tragedy—this time, in the midst of conflict with Russia. Russian separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it traveled over the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard. A subsequent investigation found that the plane had been downed by a warhead launched in eastern Ukraine by a Buk missile system.

Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 (Feb. 21, 1973)

More than 100 people were killed when a Libyan flight traveling from Tripoli via Benghazi to Cairo was shot down by Israeli fighter planes and crashed into the Sinai desert. The aircraft was about 100 miles off course.

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (Sept. 1, 1983)

A Soviet fighter shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which had been traveling from New York to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska. All 269 people on board were killed. The flight was more than 300 miles off course and ventured into militarily sensitive Soviet airspace.

Iran Air Flight 655: (July 3, 1988)

U.S. Navy missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 traveling from Bandar-e Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, UAE, as it traveled over the Strait of Hormuz in Iranian airspace.

Siberia Airlines Flight 1812: (October 4, 2001)

The Ukrainian Air Force accidentally shot down Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 over the Black Sea killing 78 crew and passengers. There was no war at the time.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: (July 17, 2014)

In 2014 in a period of tension with Russia, Russian separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it traveled near the border in Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard. It was a Buk missile system from Russia able to reach great heights.

.The “Clincher” in Air Crashes and Miracle Landings

My tweet entitled “Determining Piloting Factor in Air Crashes and Miracle Landings” received a certain amount of interest and I am looking into the concept more deeply.

Now I think “Clincher” sums it up better.

While an accident or the avoidance of one is usually the result of a whole series of factors, both technical and human, a single factor or combination of factors at the end (or taken overall) is the clincher–something that makes all the difference. This is not necessarily related to responsibility. It can be just a matter of luck or bad luck.


I cited the case of the Air France Flight AF447 that dropped like a brick into the South Atlantic after the most junior of the copilots left in the cockpit put the aircraft into a steep climb and stalled it. There were many contributory reasons for the disaster but the clincher in my opinion was that he did not believe the aircraft could be stalling (despite some fifty warnings) because they had set the thrust for TOGA (take off go-around) which at ground level would pull them out of one. At high altitude all TOGA did was to push the nose up and stop the aircraft diving, gaining speed and recovering.

Miracle on the Hudson

The clincher in the Miracle on the Hudson was the coupling of Sully’s successfully ditching the aircraft without it breaking up with the presence of the calm river and rescue craft able to reach them within three minutes, not forgetting that (unusually for a domestic flight) the aircraft had life rafts.


For Qantas QF32, where an engine of an Airbus A380 disintegrated after taking off from Singapore with shrapnel impairing some 95% of the systems, the clincher was the superlative teamwork over the hour and a half prior to landing coupled with the deft landing of the greatly overweight super jumbo at just the right spot.

Had the landing been too hard or delayed, the undercarriage could have collapsed either on touchdown or on the grass beyond the runway. In either case fire would very likely have broken out.

Worst-ever Multi-aircraft disaster (Tenerife)

In the worst multi-aircraft accident ever, the collision of two 747s in fog on the runway at Tenerife, the clincher was the rush to take off coupled with simultaneous radio transmissions making one warning of the other aircraft being still on the runway being unintelligible. (A clincher preventing the disaster could have been the the flight engineer being forceful in saying the other 747 was very possibly still on the runway, though admittedly his position was difficult.)

Amelia Earhart

Our book starts with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart on her attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937. The clincher there was her failure to ensure she could receive (and determine the direction) of radio transmissions from the Coast Guard cutter Itasca waiting beside minuscule Howland Island on which she was supposed to land.


Not every crash or miracle landing has a clincher but it is something worth trying to identify, even though the essential cause and responsibility often lie elsewhere. It can lead to a better understanding of the event.



The recent New to Sydney extra-long-haul test flight by an almost empty Qantas 767 garnered a lot of publicity. It was actually only an hour and a half longer than the regular SIA Singapore to New York flight with an Airbus A350.

No doubt lessons were learnt regarding how the monitored 40 passengers and crew found the experience. It would also have been a first step in trying get the pilot and cabin crew unions to agree to terms.

One thing that seems to have been overlooked amidst all the hullabaloo is that Qantas were talking about what they call “Operation Sunrise” (Non-stops from Australia’s East Coast to London and New York) starting–subject to them being considered financially profitable–starting in 2022. However, they now seem to be talking about them starting in 2023, if they do.C

Could this be because they are determined to keep Boeing in the running? Airbus with their A350 would surely be ready for a start in 2022.

One reason for Qantas’s hesitation may be the Rolls Royce engines on the A350, though these seem to have been performing well unlike many on 767. Qantas were not happy with that engine maker’s response to the disintegration of one of their engines that had it not been for the outstanding performance of the crew might well have resulted in the loss of an A380 superjumbo.

As we say in the piece in our book on QF32, Rolls Royce initially did not say much about the possible cause because BP had got into a lot of trouble through saying too much after the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster. Qantas retorted that it was not that BP said too much they said the wrong things.

Whatever the truth, it is is difficult to see how Qantas can come to a decision about the choice of aircraft as promised before the end of the year. What is certain, Boeing will be offering great prices.

Boeing Lawyers & MIA


Very illuminating Article by Scott Hamilton in Leeham News the replacement of McAllister by Deal mentioned that many of the problems over the 737MAX and other Boeing programs came about before McAllister’s time. However he has been accused of being MIA when it came to dealing with them.

I wonder whether Boeing people prefer to be MIA because they cannot talk sensibly having been warned by the company’s not to admit anything–even things that are patently obvious.

For example, at an early press conference given by Muilenburg he ungraciously left without comment to avoid answering questions that deserved an answer.

The Determining Piloting Factor in Air Crashes and Miracle Landings–737 MAX & AF447

When one looks at the an air crash or the miraculous avoidance of one you can sometimes pick out a key factor or rather combination of factors that was the determinant. Of course, as usual, had many other factors been different it would not have happened.

For instance, in the case of the 737 MAX crashes it seems to be–as the NTSB and Sully Sullenberger (in a letter to to the New York Times Magazine) just pointed out–it was the confusing cascade of alarms and strange behavior of the aircraft with virtually no time to work out a solution that was the determinant.

Take the case of AF447, the Air France A330 that crashed into the South Atlantic after the captain (who had only had an hour’s sleep the night before) left two first officers in the cockpit when he went for his routine rest–seemingly not in his bunk next to the cockpit but in the cabin where his female companion was sitting.

The aircraft then flew into a storm. The computer could not make sense of the airspeed data because the pitot tubes had iced up. The autopilot disengaged with the systems passing into alternate law meaning the computer would not stop the pilots doing something stupid.

Manual control had passed to the most inexperienced of the first officers, who for some reason put the aircraft into a steep climb causing it to eventually stall and “drop like a brick”.

The captain did eventually return but only realized too late what was happening when the junior copilot said he had been “pulling back all the time”.

Our book Air Crashes and Miracle Landings details all the contributing factors, both technical and human. However, the determining factor seems to be that the pilot in command (the most junior) believed they could not be stalling because as he said on the CVR, “We are in TOGA (TakeOff Go-Around, aren’t we?”. However, TOGA only gets one out of a stall at low altitude not high up in thin air.

Had the engines situated low under the wings not been at a such a high TOGA setting, the nose of the aircraft would have dropped and in a dive with plenty of height they would have regained enough speed for the aircraft to begin flying again rather than mulching downwards.

Nowadays, all pilots will know how to recover from a high-altitude stall.

To sum up, in the case of AF447, TOGA made the pilot wrongly believe they could not be stalling despite 50 warnings, and TOGA stopped them recovering.