On 09/03/2014, in UAS, by steve
Our multimedia operations has justifiably earned itself a reputation for innovative products and new interpretations of old practices. They are now taking things a huge step further by offering views from the sky to add special flavors to company video, training material or just your wedding in the garden.
The drone (which is still to be given a name in the BluSky family) is a quadricopter with an incredible amount of intelligence built in.
When switched on, she takes a GPS measurement of the exact position she is at before signaling being ready for work. This is a vital piece of information. Should she fly out of the ground remote control’s range, she simply turns back and lands safely at the exact spot she took off from. Same procedure if she notes that her battery is running down. She refuses to fly beyond the point-of-no return and comes back to land before the batteries run out. Pretty cute.
But that is not all. When she goes into this “coming home” mode, she looks around to make sure there are no trees, buildings or other obstacles higher than her present height and if she finds anything, she will climb until a clear path to home is found.
The machine itself is fully gyro stabilized and can hoover or fly without any dipping and heaving. She also knows how to hoover over a designated point and will stay there even if the wind tries to move her away from the target.
Then the camera…
On 09/03/2014, in Airline corner, by steve
If we are not careful, soon this type of announcement will be the most common thing we might hear while enjoying our plastic meal and zero-legroom comfort on most airline flights. This is about allowing you to use your phone for making and receiving calls on board.
A bit off topic, but I will say right for starters that the most important safety equipment I would make mandatory in cars is a little box that would render the voice and SMS functions of cellphones inoperative while they were in motion. Seeing all those idiots slowing down, speeding up, swerving from lane to lane on the motorways, one does not even have to think whether he or she is drunk or has fallen asleep. Quite the contrary, they are either chatting away happily with (if we are lucky) one hand on the wheel or, even worse, they are writing text messages as if they were at home in the comfort of their armchairs. I do not know what level of brain damage is necessary for this kind of behavior but just think of what such monkeys will do if they are allowed to use their phones in flight.
Making a call to mom or the kids while on the shuttle from Boston to New York is nothing new of course. Seat-back phones have been a feature on many aircraft in the United States but the price of the call meant people used them sparingly and there was also an unsaid code of conduct in operation, preventing those making a call from also waking up everyone around them. Even most important, you could not receive calls via that system.
For a time the travelling public was spared the pain of having to listen to cellphone ringtones and chit-chat by virtue of the, otherwise totally groundless, fear that electronic equipment could interfere with aircraft systems. With PED’s (Personal Electronic Devices) now being released from the shackles, the debate over whether or not phones may be used for making and receiving voice calls has broken out in all its ferocity.
In the US, the three federal institutions that had to state a position on this are the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).
On 08/03/2014, in Events, by steve
The 2014 World ATM Congress has just closed its doors and like in other years, it left me with a nagging question. What is this jamboree about? The question is especially relevant since this new-fangled congress, under the auspices of CANSO and ATCA, is now in its second year and a comparison with its predecessor, ATC Global (now having been chased to Beijing) is also in order.
Of course there is nothing wrong with the venue of the Congress. The conference center in Madrid is world-class and Madrid itself is a wonderful city, so it was a good choice. The news that the congress will take place in the Spanish capital for at least another three year was a welcome one for sure.
But if we put the gathering and its events under the microscope, an interesting and disturbing “deja vu” feeling emerges.
Sure, the presentations and speeches are all there but the problem is not with what they say but what remains unsaid. Just like at ATC Global.
Of course it is nice to hear the party line repeated for the hundredth time and for someone wanting only an upbeat view of the future, this is just a fare they want. The theme of this year’s congress was “Delivery”… how stakeholders can work better to deliver. In the opening address, CANSO boss Jeff Pool said: without better regulation that positively drives performance, without ANSPs being allowed to operate like normal businesses and without working together to break down current barriers to global harmonization, we will not get anywhere. Nice words and I could not agree more. The problem is, they have a horribly musty smell…
Here is an interesting piece of text:
“At the fifth meeting of ECAC Transport Ministers (MATSE/5) in Copenhagen on 14th February 1997, Ministers adopted an Institutional Strategy for Air Traffic Management (ATM) in Europe and decided that the revised Convention, which was signed later in 1997, would be the legal instrument for the implementation of the ECAC ATM Institutional Strategy.
In addition, the Ministers requested a proposal for a comprehensive, ‘gate-to-gate’ orientated ATM Strategy for the years 2000+ as a follow-up to the En-Route and Airport Strategies for the 1990s. The ATM 2000+ Strategy follows on from the ECAC Strategies for the 1990’s. “
If you read the book that was the consequence of the above decision (just Google ATM2000+ Strategy), you will find something very interesting. Although there is no talk about horrors like the FAB or SESAR, or the less horroristic ICAO ASBUs, everything that is being promoted to-day, including at conferences like this one, as new and the saving of the ATM world has in fact been included in that strategy…
As I mentioned, the problem is not what is being said in the presentation. The problem is what is being left unsaid and thereby create the impression that we are on the threshold of the brave new ATM world. Just wait a few more months or years…
On 25/02/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve
The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) has just announced that Florian Guillermet, Deputy Executive Director of the SJU, has been selected for the position of Executive Director. Florian’s appointment comes at a time when the SJU and its members prepare for the next phase of SESAR, Europe’s ambitious research and development (R&D) programme on Air Traffic Management (ATM).
Commenting on his appointment, Florian said: “SESAR is Europe’s most ambitious research and development programme and I am extremely honoured to have been chosen to steer the programme.”
Since joining the SJU in 2008, Florian has spearheaded major strategic and operational shifts across SESAR’s R&D process. His expertise and knowledge of ATM and the SESAR Programme will be key as the programme continues to develop a growing number of SESAR solutions, mature enough to be taken on board by the industry.
On 20/02/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today issued a final rule that requires helicopter operators, including air ambulances, to have stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications, training, and additional on-board safety equipment. The rule represents the most significant improvements to helicopter safety in decades and responds to government’s and industry’s concern over continued risk in helicopter operations.
“This is a landmark rule for helicopter safety,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These improvements will better prepare pilots and better equip helicopters, ensuring a higher level of safety for passengers and crew.”
All U.S. helicopter operators, including air ambulances, are required to use stricter flying procedures in bad weather. This will provide a greater margin of safety by reducing the probability of collisions with terrain, obstacles or other aircraft.
Within 60 days, all operators will be required to use enhanced procedures for flying in challenging weather, at night, and when landing in remote locations. Within three years, helicopter air ambulances must use the latest on-board technology and equipment to avoid terrain and obstacles, and within four years, they must be equipped with flight data monitoring systems.
“This rule is a significant advancement in helicopter safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This rule will help reduce risk and help pilots make good safety decisions through the use of better training, procedures, and equipment.”
Under the new rule, all Part 135 helicopter operators are required to:
On 19/02/2014, in Airline corner, by steve
A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft freshly retrofitted with new Split Scimitar Winglets took to the skies yesterday, marking the first commercial flight worldwide to operate with the advanced winglet technology. United flight 1273 on Tuesday took off from the airline’s Houston hub and flew to Los Angeles. The airline installed the innovative winglets on the Boeing 737-800 after the FAA approved the technology made by Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) earlier this month.
“We are proud to be the first airline in the world to fly with this unrivaled winglet technology that cuts our fuel consumption while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions,” said Ron Baur, United’s vice president of fleet. “We appreciate APB’s commitment to developing fuel-saving technology and look forward to realizing savings that come from the improved fuel efficiency.”
This new winglet design demonstrates significant aircraft drag reduction over the basic Blended Winglet configuration United uses on its current fleet. Using a newly patented design, the program retrofits United’s Boeing Next Generation 737 Blended Winglets by replacing the aluminum winglet tip cap with a new aerodynamically shaped “Scimitar”TM winglet tip cap and by adding a new Scimitar-tipped ventral strake. The new design will reduce fuel consumption by up to 2 percent per aircraft.
Last year, United served as the launch customer for the Split Scimitar winglet when it made a firm commitment with APB to retrofit its 737-800 and 737-900ER aircraft.
On 16/02/2014, in Bookshelf, by steve
A generation to whom an African-American US President is a normal thing may have some trouble imagining an age where a young guy with top-notch credentials and abilities had to go to France to realize his true potential, becoming a fighter pilot in World War I and then being active in the French Underground in World War II. He was simply ignored in the United States when he returned home, his multiple decorations notwithstanding. At age sixty four in 1959 he was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, a fact showing clearly that the French had not forgotten him even after his return to America. Not only was he not forgotten, he was in fact fondly remembered so much so that General Charles De Gaulle personally invited him to a ceremony in New York where Bullard was embraced by the General himself.
NewSouth Books has brought to us the fascinating story of Eugene Bullard, written by Larry Greenly. Of course the name Bullard will not be unfamiliar to military history and aviation enthusiasts, his pioneering exploits have been chronicled before. However, this is the first time his life has been written up in a book meant primarily for the history-minded part of the general public.
In this time and age young people do not bat an eye if they have to cross several continents in pursuit of work or pleasure. When Bullard was in his way to France, it was a journey filled with hardship and being black did not help at all. He left behind racial discrimination as he headed for France, a country his father often talked about as the example of equality.
Having run away from home at age 12 he ended up in the French Foreign Legion (a notoriously difficult organization to live in) and later joined the Lafayette Flying Corps.
Larry Greenly brings us the story of this hardy young man in a fast paced but thoroughly enjoyable narrative which is easily understandable even for someone who has never dwelt deeper in the strange world that was Bullard’s reality.
This book is a historically accurate account yet it is written as a novel so do not expect a dry history lesson. You are transported right to where the action is and the characters talk and feel and live their lives in front of you eyes.
If you enjoyed the Tuskegee Airmen (also by NewSouth Books) you will love this book too! Thoroughly recommended.
On 13/02/2014, in FAB News, by cleo
Almost forgotten in the mist of European air traffic management history is an organization called EUROCONTROL. It was invented to be the FAA of Europe… or something like that. It would have been the provider of ATM for the continent using an efficient, correctly sized infrastructure and number of ATC Units.
Before it could become anything like it was intended, European States basically killed the idea and left EUROCONTROL with exactly 1.5 centers plus a bit of training and research facilities. The famous and often damned fragmented European ATM system was re-born.
When delays went through the roof and airlines raised hell about it, a series of pan-European projects were initiated (EATCHIP, ATM2000+) were initiated, only to fail miserably. Not because EUROCONTROL was not up to the job… but because States made sure the status quo was not disturbed. Then the European Commission joined the fray…
When the EC realized that even they would not be able to move Europe to work as one, they embraced the weird idea of Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB)… a concept that is a variation on the old fragmented scenario hidden under a fancy name. To say that the FAB’s were not exactly a success is the understatement of the century.
After plodding along for many years with mighty little to show for it, FABs are now consolidating.
On 10/02/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve
Not so long ago I punched an address into the navigation software of my smartphone and after pondering the information for a few seconds, the well-known female voice announced: Caution, your destination is in a restricted area. Mind you, the address was in a quiet, relatively new area of Budapest so her knowledge of such details was really impressive. In short order our 20 thousand Euro rental car with 4 people on board was led to the address… Compare this to what happened on 22 December 2013 at Johannesburg’s Tambo International Airport when a 350 million bucks 747 with 185 passengers punched a hole with its right wing in a building after the crew, using paper charts to navigate, failed to heed a warning printed on the chart about the presence of a narrow taxilane which they entered by mistake.
In 2011 an Airbus 380 struck a building while taxiing in broad daylight… during the Paris airshow of all places!
In May 2012, an Eva Air 747’s wing sliced through an American Eagle regional jet in Chicago…
But there is more.
Moving map ground navigation displays have been available in cars for several years when they first appeared in airliner cockpits but initially they carried a sticker, saying that the display was not be used for operational purposes. The reason? Most existing airport maps were so inaccurate, the plane would have been shown taxiing anywhere except on the taxiways. When I saw this, I was wondering: would I ever buy a car with a sticker like that?
According to some statistics, on average there are 2 noteworthy runway incursion incidents per day… A runway incursion is an event when an aircraft or ground vehicle enters the runway and gets in the way of another aircraft. The problem has been long recognized and efforts are underway to reduce the incidence of such events. One system will generate a warning when an incursion is about to happen. The warning rings the bell… in the Tower!!!! Just think about it. A 747 is about to become a problem and someone thought the best place to start the shouting is in the tower… by the time the controller reacts and passes the warning to the pilots, it is probably all over… except for the shouting (sorry, no pun intended).
According to Flight Safety Foundation data, there are some 27 thousand ramp accidents per year world-wide resulting in a cool 10 billion bucks of damage.
Clearly, there is something very wrong here. How is it possible that multimillion dollar jets with hundreds of passengers on board are still lumbering around airports using technologies that date back to 30-40 years ago?
On 09/02/2014, in Tower chronicles, by lajos
I must be out of my mind, no question about it. After just one week on my new job I had tears in my eyes when I was sitting once more in the tower, headset on my ears, I uttered the magic sentence: “Cleared to land, runway 31 right”. I also had this nice feeling… I have not gotten completely detached from the tower. Sure, the new job is an exciting challenge but you do not get over 30 years just like that. Luckily my voice did not betray my emotions and so I escaped being made fun of by my colleagues.
One thing is sure, it was strange going out to the airport every day for a week… well the airport? More like the ANS facility. The reception did help a lot and made me forget the strange feeling in record time. Slowly I made the acquaintance of the new colleagues whom I did know already from the time when I was just a visitor. This appears to be a nice little crew and luckily everyone have their place and tasks, so they were not looking at me with eyes that would say, now you were the last thing we needed.
So I slotted into my new position, poor Meaty’s old one that got all cold by now. My first act was that of a small remembrance, I wrote a message to Meaty up there, assuring him that I will try to fill the void he left as best I can. This will not be easy as I discovered the very first week. There were also a few hair raising moments when nobody knew where I actually belonged. I was no longer on the staff of air traffic control and I was not yet on the staff of the safety department. So? But matters sorted themselves out after a while. At least that is what I hope.
About my job… well there is not much to write home about, perhaps only to say that as a tower expert, I will keep track of events that concern the tower. If an incident occurs, I will investigate it, draw the conclusions and send the results to the appropriate people. We do have other tasks but I will not dwell on those. I want to continue writing the Tower Chronicles, something that is probably more interesting also for the readers.