Roger-Wilco – Five years young

On 22/07/2014, in Anniversaries, by steve

Untitled-1Roger-Wilco went on line five years ago, on 23 July 2009. It was not the first time that my writings appeared in print, every now and again articles were published over the years in various trade fora and they were well received.

From early on my aim in writing had been in part to bring our complicated little world to those who are not directly involved in air traffic management… whether that be the cleaning lady dusting the radar screens or the cabin crew sweating it out while waiting for endless ATC delays to be finally over. I wanted to help them understand the world around them and so make their days more enjoyable.

That the efforts were not in vain was proven many times. On one occasion a cabin attendant on a Malev flight recognized my name and she came to my seat to say how much she appreciated the little articles that made even ATC delays a bit more understandable from them also.

Of course writing a blog and keeping it humming for 5 years is no trivial undertaking. Keeping the readership growing is a major effort in its own right.

I am glad to say that we have managed to do both and the number of visitors on RW per day is very satisfying (around 100). I say we, because Roger-Wilco would not be where we are to-day without the support of our contributors who make sure we are interesting and have a broad swath of subjects covered.

On this anniversary perhaps it is worth recalling what the motivation for Roger-Wilco has been in the first place. There were actually two things that drove the project forward.

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No comment

On 19/07/2014, in Uncategorized, by steve

Let the text of this NOTAM stand here as silent testimony to the abyss into which humans can descend. Shame on those who have done this outrage. Look at the crash-site photo. It is not rescue workers and accident investigators who were on the scene but guys with guns slung on their shoulders…  After this, the world will never be the same.




Flying in the fireworks

On 07/07/2014, in Picture stories, by steve

I can still remember vividly how the customary 20 August fireworks in Budapest meant that we had to steer everyone clear of the area… Not that there was a lot of traffic at nine in the evening, but Swissair’s evening flight from Zurich did on occasion arrive to be treated to a fireworks display… from above. Of course nobody in their right mind would have wanted to fly into the fireworks display!

How times have changed. Now all it takes is a drone costing less than a 1000 bucks plus a camera on it that is even cheaper and you are all set. Fly with the sparks, as the video below demonstrates.

Many thanks Phil for sending this nice piece to Roger-Wilco.

fireworks and drone


Runway incursion caught on video

On 07/07/2014, in Life around runways, by steve

BluSky Services has been involved in the creation of various awareness raising material aimed at preventing runway incursions. Among those, we had to recreate on film four actual events. Of course the final product involved various tricks to show what had happened in real life as there was no way to film the “real thing”. Now however life has done one better and an actual runway incursion was filmed for all to see.

Click on the picture below to see it. This event is not one of the really scary ones. The approaching aircraft initiated the go-around in good time. In our synthetic examples things had gotten far more serious.

Photo Aerobarcelona

Photo Aerobarcelona


Remote Control Airport

On 06/07/2014, in Life around runways, by lajos

The writing is probably on the wall… the days of the control tower at Ferihegy Airport are in all likelihood numbered. It future had been in doubt for a long time, one might say right from the start. The original idea, that of moving all the air traffic control units into the tower building, was soon given up and tower was left to languish in the middle of the Ferihegy wilderness. I have written a lot about the reasons (location and small mindedness) and now I too would prefer to look towards the future and explore what may become of the tower.

Photo Saab

Following the disappearance of LRI, HungaroControl is only renting (for substantial amounts) a part of the space available in the tower. Management has been thinking about solutions to this problem and they have reviewed several possible options ranging from the outrageous to the acceptable. In one scenario, the aerodrome controller staff would have been transferred to the airport. This was probably the idea most decried by us. Luckily this wild idea was not pursued long…

However, in the recent past there were two cases of total tower failure and this, together with the lack of a contingency aerodrome control facility set the managers thinking once again.

With the commissioning of the new ATC center, all kinds of new possibilities opened up from one day to the next. Training in the tower simulator, with its 180 degrees view-screens, we have often thought about the fact that there was no real reason any more why we should be looking at things through the window of an actual building situated in the middle of nowhere. After all, when the weather socks in, we can’t see a thing while the ground surveillance radar can “see” even in the densest fog. This considered, having remote aerodrome control does not seem such an outlandish idea after all.

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Airport Cities (no, not the game) – What is this?

On 04/07/2014, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

airport city belgradeAt the risk of saying the obvious, I will start by claiming that airfields were invented for the purpose of aircraft landing and taking off. The definition of an “aerodrome” used to this day by the International Civil Aviation Organization actually says so. Of course as airfields evolved to aerodromes and airports, many things changed, some for the better, some not.

Most airports to-day are competitive companies that edge out a living from the fact that there is an increasing propensity among people to fly. Fly for business, fly for leisure… millions take to the skies every year and they all need to go through an airport. The opportunity to make money from this is there for all to see and take. Of course there are also aircraft still in the picture but, with a bit of exaggeration, we could say that they are more a pain in the six o’clock for an airport than anything else. Aircraft need a lot of space, they make a lot of noise and dirty the environment while their willingness to pay for all that is famously low. I guess airports would just love to have a world where passengers would just come to the airport, eat, shop and then go home again…

Of course this world is not realistic but airports nevertheless try to get as close to it as possible. You cannot have failed to notice how the part of the airport seen by the passengers has turned into shopping centers at many places. You cannot get to the boarding gate unless you walk through the shopping and dining areas… It is a bit like hotel lobbies in Las Vegas… the only way in and out is through the swarm of one armed bandits and roulette tables.

With some airports earning close to 60 % of their revenue from non-aviation sources, it is easy to guess where their investment priorities are.

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Happy Birthday America

On 04/07/2014, in Anniversaries, by steve

Although the 4th of July is not particularly significant in most countries of the world, it is a day that has an import and far reaching significance well beyond the borders of the United States. Independence Day marks the birth of a Nation that has done more to make democracy shine than any other in the history of humankind. No words express this significance better than those of Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers, in the last letter he wrote before he flew West into the glorious sunset.

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be…the signal of arousing men to burst the chains….and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man…For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

Happy Birthday America!



UTM – What is this?

On 02/07/2014, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

uasThe controversy about operating UAS or Unmanned Aerial Systems in airspace also used by traditional aircraft has been raging for some time and different States have come up with different solutions, ranging from a total ban to cautious co-existence. Most experts fret however that the longer comprehensive and acceptable rule making takes to materialize, the more of a jungle this whole affair will become and the more difficult it will be to put things back to a semblance of order.

Come to think of it, however, one cannot fail to realize that most of the UAS in fact operate in an airspace not typically used also by commercial aviation. Low altitude airspace is there for all to use and except for areas close to aerodromes, it can be the ideal playground of various UAS services. Amazon wants to deliver packages, others bring your pizza via quadcopters… There is no reason this should not be allowed, however, it cannot be a free-for-all scene. Those machines, even the small ones, pack a substantial punch if they collide or fall from the sky and without proper management, they can soon become an insurance nightmare or simply just kill this new and promising industry.

NASA in the United States is now working on developing a system that will prevent this from happening.

UTM stands for Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management.

Yes, you heard right. NASA wants to develop an ATM system for the low altitude airspace that will ensure the safe and efficient operation of UASs of all kinds in that airspace. We are primarily talking about Class G airspace here… at least to begin with. Once the concept is validated and operationally proven, it can be gradually extended.

For us, old hands who had fought hard to bring things like SWIM and trajectory based operations to traditional air traffic management, it is extremely satisfying to see that the birth of a totally new dimension in air traffic management, that of low altitude unmanned system operations, is in fact being envisaged with all those advanced concepts taking center stage.

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Quote of July

On 01/07/2014, in Quote of the month, by steve

Nothing tells more about the character of a man than the things he makes fun of.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



New flagship for BluSky

On 26/06/2014, in Just to let you know..., by steve

It is now official. After 9 years of service and 230 thousand kilometers on the clock, our trusty Chrysler Grand Voyager (Town and Country in the US) is retiring. She has seen a lot of airports in Europe, some even from the inside, has carried everything from filming equipment to people to luggage… She has survived a hailstorm that left the metal bumpy like a disease but which was fully repaired… Recently she started to show her age by becoming less reliable. A sensor here, a wire chafed there and the computer deciding it was not safe to “fly”. The divorce became inevitable.

The new flagship is a close relative, a Lancia Voyager, S-type. As you probably know, Fiat took over Chrysler a few years ago and the brand name disappeared in Europe. Chrysler products are now sold under the Lancia name.


The Lancia Voyager is based on the latest model Town and Country in the US, however the Italians have performed a few clever miracles on the original van and turned it into something both chick and superbly functional. The second and third seat rows still disappear in the floor as if by magic and the all-electric sliding doors and tailgate make getting in and out and loading easy. If you liked Boeing’s sky-blue interior in the new 737s, you will feel right at home in this mini-van. Interior lighting is hidden and blue, with individual aircraft type reading lights for each passenger. The parking radar in the rear is combined with a TV camera and on the driver’s display the TV picture and the sensor imagery are cutely combined to help ease the 5.24 meter beast into a slot along the curb.


Lancia has put everything on the line to make the Voyager the best in its class.

With a powerful 2.8 l commonrail diesel engine humming away behind a 6-step automatic gearbox, she is ready for any mission… and will feel also right at home parked alongside a Dreamliner.

She will be joining the BluSky family next Saturday.



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