Why is Airport CDM Struggling in Europe?

On 19/08/2016, in CDM, by steve

Have you had recently experience with your flight arriving at a European destination airport on time and then waiting for its gate to become available? Or waited in a queue of aircraft before the runway… Chances are, you did and most probably this was taking place at an airport which carries the title CDM Airport. You know, a CDM Airport is one that satisfies specific requirements, among them the sending of DPI (Departure Planning Information) messages. There are 20 of those in Europe and from daily practice it would appear that not all of them are equally “CDM”…

Talk to the airlines, and the picture they paint is even grimmer. The presentation IATA made at the Airport CDM forum in September 2015 contained a shopping list of problems, some of which were hotly contested by the ANSPs present but the fact remains (and is proven day in and day out), A-CDM in Europe is delivering results that are far from uniform across the airports concerned.

The picture is further colored by the contents of a document, published by EUROCONTROL in April 2016, entitled Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) Impact Assessment. This document brings an interesting set of data showing that A-CDM works. Unfortunately, the data is rather generic and it is not always possible to discern how different places perform. Even more to the point, there is nothing in this document to suggest that there is anything negative at all. One almost gets the feeling that any negative findings of the study forming the basis of the impact assessment got left out by some accident. Or, the study did not find any… Think what you want but with the IATA list of shortcomings in hand, it is difficult to understand how the study could have missed the same problems.

One thing is certain. The CDM concept is sound and it works if properly implemented and maintained. But then, what could be wrong? What is causing the differences between the results if the different CDM airports?

Click here to read the full article


NextGen Benefits at Salt Lake City International

On 16/08/2016, in NextGen, by steve

NextGen is bringing new benefits to Salt Lake City International Airport through a technology called Data Comm. Data Comm revolutionizes communications between air traffic controllers and pilots by replacing some traditional voice communications with digital information exchanges. 


Voice communication is labor intensive, time consuming and can lead to miscommunications known as “talk back, read back” errors. Data Comm, by contrast, enables streamlined, two-way data exchanges between controllers and flight crews for clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports.


By exchanging digital messages, air traffic controllers, pilots and airline operations centers can communicate more clearly and efficiently. Better communication improves controller and pilot productivity, improves safety, can reduce flight delays and can help aircraft fly more direct routes, which saves time and fuel while reducing aviation’s impact on the environment. Several U.S. carriers are benefiting from Data Comm capabilities at Salt Lake City, including Southwest, FedEx, UPS, American, Delta and various general aviation operators. 


The FAA began testing Data Comm capabilities and benefits in 2014 at Newark and Memphis with UPS, FedEx and United Airlines, as well as select international operators. The FAA started deploying Data Comm in air traffic control towers in the fall of 2015 and aims to have it in more than 50 towers by the end of 2016.  The technology will be installed in air traffic control facilities that manage high altitude traffic beginning in 2019.


For more information, visit the FAA NextGen site here or follow #FlyNextGen on Social Media.


About A-CDM Round the Coffee Table – Trajectory, Processes, Services and other Bits and Pieces for the Stout-hearted Only

On 16/08/2016, in CDM, by steve

This is the third part of the A-CDM high level series in which we dwell into some surprising detail and new interpretations of old things. You can find the first article here and the second here.

In the previous two articles we had a look at the history and overall principles of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM), a new way of working being introduced at airports world-wide. Now we will take a deep breath and dig a bit deeper into the intricacies of this concept and working method.

Please, do not stop reading here… I promise you this article is going to be interesting, even enjoyable, reading and quite possibly even bring a few new insights into the aviation world we all like to think we know so well.

I guess nobody will argue about the fact that as an airport or an airline we all work in order to facilitate the journey of the passengers who use our facilities and services. We are also businesses, meaning that we need to generate revenue and a decent profit, as the case may be. We have all kinds of business tools we use to achieve  this and perhaps the most spectacular and visible of these are the airport terminals and the aircraft around it. We tend to think that airlines are in the business flying aircraft, a perception that is of course true, but it is only a part of the whole picture.

If we take a helicopter view of an airline’s operations, we will discover that they are in fact running a carefully balanced network of flights which was constructed to make sure that passengers get the service they require… or something very close to it anyway. As long as aircraft in the network fly as planned, the service to the passengers is being delivered and the business is running smoothly. Disrupt the network and things go haywire in a very short time. Weather, mechanical problems, airport capacity, you name it, are all factors that can result in network disruption. This in turn means financial losses, poor passenger experience and a lot of extra workload to get things back to normal.

Of course the airports and the airlines are in this together and a network disruption at a given airline will quickly impact the airport also since the airport’s resources are used by several clients and the planning of those resources is as finely tuned as the airline network itself.

Let me introduce here something we call the aircraft trajectory.

Click here to read the full article


About A-CDM Round the Coffee Table – Where did it come from and how does it work?

On 16/08/2016, in CDM, by steve

This is the second part of the A-CDM series in which we will look at its history and get some more insight into how it works. You can find the first part here.

In the previous article we explored the essence of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) and what it means for an airport that decides to implement it. Now it is a good time to go back in history and look at the origins of collaborative decision making. History is a great teacher and this is true also for the history of A-CDM.

A bit over two decades ago, airlines in the United States were increasingly dissatisfied with the way air traffic management worked or rather, failed to work as they saw it. Representations to the FAA did not bring the improvements they sought, so they got together and under the leadership of US Airways they started looking into the various problems they encountered in daily operations, determined to dig up the root causes and do something about them.

Although a lot of people expected to find things that would fault the FAA for the less than satisfactory state of affairs, what they found was very different. Sure enough, there was plenty that the FAA could have done better, but that venerable organization was by far not the only one contributing to the problems. To a surprisingly large extent, the behavior of the airlines themselves needed to be improved if the problems were to disappear. Airports were also found to be one of the causes of the operational difficulties.

Before we look more closely at two actual and very typical early cases of collaborative decision making success, it is worthwhile to highlight that in general, the airline investigation revealed that the aviation industry was generating prodigious amounts of information but very little of that information was being shared among the partners while most of the information was in fact essential if good operational decisions were to be made. The world appeared to be composed of silos, each partner working in their own closed environment irrespective of the fact that decisions in the silos impacted all the siloes individually and together. To illustrate the point, let me quote Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher (1788-1860) who had famously said “You can compare ordinary society with Russian horn music, where each horn has only one note to play, and only the punctual coinciding of all results is music.” Now replace “society” with “air traffic management decision making” and you will see what I mean. The silos of old produced very little music and a lot of noise… it was this noise the airlines noticed when they set out to improve things wishing to hear more music and less noise.

Click here to read the full article


About A-CDM Round the Coffee Table – The High Level Principles

On 16/08/2016, in CDM, by steve

I have written about A-CDM quite a lot on these pages. However, time is passing and I see that there is a complete new generation of experts who have not been exposed to the peculiar convolutions that gave birth to Airport Collaborative Decision Making or A-CDM. There are experts in the young generation who are of course familiar with A-CDM, some of them are actually working in or with it… but there are others who may have seen the acronym but did not progress beyond wondering what it really meant. So, I decided to share with you three articles that look at various aspects of A-CDM, strictly on a high level and without looking at specifics like how A-CDM works in Europe using the message exchange with the Network Manager. We will come back to that at some future date, but for the time being here are the three articles that help you understand the concept itself and shed some light on how it brings its benefits. Enjoy!

We all know the feeling… something untoward happens and we sigh: if only I had known! Although we plan everything to the last detail, even the life of an airport is not free from events that happen and which could have been avoided or at least mitigated… if only we had known.

The keyword here is predictability. If the operation of an airport, and in particular the predictability of the aircraft turnaround is improved, impending problems become visible earlier and there is more time to agree action together, to mitigate the problems or avoid them altogether.

The other keyword is together. All too often in the existing environment partners scramble to address problems alone or only with minimum contact with each other when in fact everything they do is part of a common effort and when it is time to solve a problem, acting together is even more important.

Airport Collaborative Decision Making, or A-CDM, is a new way of working. Extensive sharing of information, acting on the shared information and making decisions together, mindful of the impact the decisions have on the operation of the partners, substantially improves the predictability of the airport’s operation while decisions made together are of a much better quality, resulting in a quantum leap of efficiency.

Who are these partners? The airlines, handling organizations, air traffic control and  the airport operator are the main players in A-CDM, a concept being introduced, or in operation, at several airports world-wide.

Click here to read the full article


Quote of July

On 01/07/2016, in Quote of the month, by steve

People who look down on other people don’t end up being looked up to.

Robert Half

Photo: fineartamerica.com

Photo: fineartamerica.com


Quote of June

On 01/06/2016, in Quote of the month, by steve

The superior man is slow in his words and earnest in his conduct.


Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Aviation Week and Space Technology – 100 Years’ Young

On 23/05/2016, in Events, by steve

AWEstablished 13 years after the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, the magazines stated goal in 1916 was to aggregate vast amounts of information about the fledgling aeronautical industry “and make it useful to the constructor, the engine maker, the aviator and the sportsman… in accurate, scientific and unbiased form”. This text is on the opening pages of the 100th Anniversary Issue, in the Letter form the Editor and President.

It is interesting to note that Flight International, Aviation Week’s main competitor, first appeared in 1909 and one may wonder what kept the Americans from coming with something similar much earlier. We will probably never know. One thing is sure, to-day these two magazines represent the best and most trustworthy source of aviation information in the world. They both come in printed as well as electronic versions and they both have archives with a treasure trove of information on aviation history.

The fact that both magazines are still with us after all this time is of particular interest in itself. It shows the need for information among the members of the aviation community and also that the editors have succeeded in finding the right formula for delivering that information. I also have the feeling that in spite of the understandable move towards digital media, the print versions of the magazines are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. We are a traditional bunch, that is for sure.

Personally, I do have a slight preference for Aviation Week and will always put Flight International in the second place. This is purely subjective and is not a scientific judgement. At the same time, I must say that for being fully informed and to get the complete picture, reading both is a must.

So…. Happy birthday Aviation Week!


Waking from a Nightmare

On 23/05/2016, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

Photo metadyne

Photo metadyne

Did I actually shoot myself in the foot? Is it possible that I will have no work in the future now that we have woken from a nightmare that has lasted several years? Since there is no more 4NM rule, no noteworthy tower incident has occurred that would have required an investigation. What will become of me? Of course these questions are meant to be ironic, but they are also food for thought.

One thing is sure, the nightmare has ended and for five months now aerodrome controllers work with the 3 NM rule instead of the earlier 4 NM one.  An outsider might be forgiven for asking what is the great difference between 3 and 4 nautical miles? Does that one small mile make such a big difference? I have to tell you the difference is far bigger than one might guess from only looking at those numbers. When the 4-miles rule was still alive for use between an arriving and a departing aircraft using the same runway, aerodrome controllers often grappled with the thought in their minds: I could still let this guy go without infringing the threshold-threshold separation rule. But they could not allow that unfortunate departure go because then the 4 NM rule would be infringed… If he or she tried anyway, he or she would either get lucky or not… If he was not lucky, us incident investigators had to open a ticket on the case and the controller got a dress-down of sorts. This had the result of binding controllers into a knot and they would refuse to let departures go even if there was still plenty of time to do so safely without infringing the 4 NM rule. Unfortunately, a lot of controllers were getting tied into such knots in the course of the past several years. I had an opportunity to review several incidents during which the voice of the colleagues held a clear indication of their stress and the cramped effort to remain safe… This kind of working brought with it a drastic reduction of the aerodrome control’s efficiency. Ample proof was supplied also by the remarks thrown in by some pilots who were of course used to how ATC works at other airports where they can on occasion see even the registration marks of the aircraft taking off as they themselves are landing.

Click here to read the full article


There’s More to Flying than That!

On 12/05/2016, in View from the left seat, by phil

Before the introduction of Crew Resource Management (CRM) courses, relationships on the flight deck were not always as harmonious as they should be. Most captains were excellent mentors of young pilots, but some were cold and distant, and some downright difficult. Many, had learnt their flying in a hard school during WW2 and were deeply suspicious of those who had not shared the same experiences. Some may even have been suffering from mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whatever the cause, sometimes as in Phil’s story here, new young pilots could find life difficult when flying with these individuals.

You can read here what actually happened to G-ARVB. But Chris Ditmas was a very much nicer man than Hamish Reid!

Hamish Reid came from a seafaring family in Dundee.  Rather than follow his elder brother into the navy he joined the RAF when he was barely nineteen and, after training, was posted to a Lancaster squadron in Lincolnshire.  That was in January 1944, a year before the end of the war.

He had been fortunate.  Merely to survive the thirty raids of his one and only tour of duty required a fair amount of skill and a huge dose of luck.  Half of all Bomber Command aircrew were lost before they completed ten missions.  Such losses had left him deeply fatalistic, with a tough, no-nonsense attitude to life.  After the war, like many of his colleagues, he found it difficult to return to normal life.

Demobilisation left him drifting aimlessly.  He was not academically inclined.  Had the war not intervened, he would probably have finished the engineering apprenticeship he had begun on leaving school.  He tried working in a garage but found it boring.  Despite the horrors in the night skies over Germany, he enjoyed the craft of flying.  Its precision, its discipline, the sense of achievement appealed to his self-reliant practical nature.  Besides, there was little else he was trained to do.  So when he saw an advert asking for pilots to join BOAC, he applied immediately and soon found himself flying Avro Yorks, a transport version of the Lancaster bomber he had flown in the war.

Click here to read the full article


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