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SAA flights operating normally, despite bailout delays
20 January 2020, 2:21 PM

South African Airways (SAA) says its flights to all destinations are operating normally, after talks on a bailout plan for the state carrier ended without a solution at the weekend.

Government officials are scrambling to work out how they can provide R2 billion of funds it has promised SAA when the airline was placed under voluntary business rescue last month.

The airline’s business rescue practitioners held talks with government at the weekend to try to find a solution to SAA’s funding gap.

Last week, unions said SAA might suspend some flights and delay salary payments if government didn’t come up with a plan to provide the money soon.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the Public Enterprises Department said it was talking to the National Treasury to raise funds for SAA.

The airline is one of several South African state entities, including power company Eskom, that is mired in a financial crisis after nearly a decade of mismanagement.

State companies’ financial problems are seen as the single greatest threat to South Africa’s economy and have been largely responsible for pushing the country’s credit rating down to the brink of junk status.

Palace held by 10-man Arsenal as Aubameyang sees red
11 January 2020, 6:18 PM

Crystal Palace were held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired the visitors ahead and was sent off after Jordan Ayew scored a fortuitous equaliser for the home side.

Aubameyang struck in the 12th minute, steering a low shot past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita after he was put through by Alexandre Lacazette, with Arsenal dominating an uneventful first half at Selhurst Park.

Ayew levelled in the 54th minute with a heavily deflected shot which left keeper Bernd Leno stranded after it came off defender David Luiz, as the visitors failed to clear a tame-looking low cross from the right.

Aubameyang was shown a straight red card midway through the second half after a VAR check, following a rash tackle on Max Meyer which forced the Palace forward to limp off injured.

Palace, who gained the upper hand in the closing stages with their numerical advantage, missed their best chance to grab a winner when Sokratis Papastathopoulos cleared a James Tomkins header off the line in the 78th minute.

They were let of the hook three minutes later at the other end as Guaita tipped Nicolas Pepe’s fierce low shot on to the post and then smothered Lacazette’s close-range follow up.

China launches gigantic telescope in hunt for life beyond earth
11 January 2020, 4:01 PM

China on Saturday officially opened operations of the world’s largest radio telescope, which it will use for space research and help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is the size of 30 football fields and has been hewed out of a mountain in the southwestern province of Guizhou. It is also known by the name “Sky Eye” in China.

Xinhua reported that the telescope had received national approval to start operations. It finished construction in 2016 and has been undergoing debugging and tests in the years since.

FAST’s Chief Engineer Jiang Peng told Xinhua that the telescope’s trial operations had so far been reliable and stable, and that its sensitivity was more than 2.5 times that of the world’s second-largest telescope.

The project has also obtained some valuable scientific data over that time and is expected to help lead to some breakthroughs in areas such as low-frequency gravitational wave detection and interstellar molecules in the next three to five years, Xinhua said.

Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, and the country has set a target to catch up with Russia and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.

Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

Ukraine airline says plane had no warning of threat before Iran crash
11 January 2020, 3:50 PM

Ukraine International Airlines said on Saturday that its plane that crashed in Iran this week had received no warning from Tehran airport about a possible threat to its safety before it took off en route for Kiev.

At a briefing by its president and vice president, the airline also denied the aircraft veered off its normal course after an Iranian military statement said the plane flew close to a sensitive military site of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The airline officials bristled at what they said were hints from Iran that the crew had not acted properly. Iran said earlier that its military mistakenly shot down the plane, saying air defences were fired in error while on high alert in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.

All 176 people on board were killed. The airline officials called on Iran to take full responsibility for the crash and said the Iranian authorities should have closed the airport. “If you play at war, you play as much as you want, but there are normal people around who you had to protect,” Vice President Ihor Sosnovsky said. “If they are shooting from somewhere to somewhere, they were obliged to close the airport. Obliged. And then shoot as much as you want.”

He added that the plane had turned 15 degrees to the right after it had reached 6 000 feet, in accordance with the instructions of the airport dispatcher. Eleven Ukrainians, including nine crew, died in the crash, according to Ukrainian government figures. Yevhenii Dykhne, the president and chief executive of the airline, made an emotional opening statement to reporters saying the airline had not done anything wrong in terms of following security procedures.

“At the time of departure from (Kiev’s) Boryspil airport, the airline had no information about possible threats,” he said. “At the time of departure from Tehran airport, it was exactly the same.” The airline said Tehran airport was operating normally at the time its aircraft took off. Asked why there had been a delay in take-off, Dykhne said the captain had decided to offload some luggage because the plane was too heavily loaded.

SA military plane crash lands in DRC
9 January 2020, 4:05 PM

A South African C130 military transport plane has crash-landed at Goma airport in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Videos on social media show smoke rising from the four-engined aircraft.

However, two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, say there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.

The plane was returning from the city of Beni.

It was carrying soldiers. We’ll have more details as they become available.

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