On 31/08/2009, in Same time, same place..., by steve
As I said before, the fire extinguishers saw little use, but on the one occasion they were needed, they sure turned into an instrument of calamity.
In the old days, before computers became widespread even at airports as small as ours, the message switching center was of the torn-tape type. This noisy clearing house of thousands of aeronautical messages was in fact one, long room, with a few dozen clattering telex machines and the same number of harried operators, feeding perforated tape into their machines and tearing off messages arriving for local addressees. It was mostly women working here and their ages ranged from the ripe young to the definitely stale. As there was no air conditioning and the windows had to be kept closed even in summer to keep the aircraft noise out, the amount of skin exposed by the younger operators grew in step with the outside air temperature. Little wonder that some controllers spent an undue amount of their rest time checking messages…
On 29/08/2009, in Environment - Without hot air, by steve
Great news! I have invented a truly working perpetual motion machine. The perpetuum mobile is now reality! What? You do not believe it? Never mind. You are then one of those people who will not buy a Hybrid drive car and who also do not stand in awe in front of those aberrations ruining the countryside, wind turbines claiming to be THE solution for renewable energy.
But there are others, including governments, who believe in both, what is more, subsidize them to make the show even grander… Alongside Hybrid drive cars and wind turbines, my perpetual motion machine has a real chance. But what does this have to do with air traffic management?
On 28/08/2009, in Same time, same place..., by steve
The fire hazard at an airport is a fact of life one learns to live with very quickly. To overcome complacency, staff are regularly reminded of the need to observe fire prevention precautions and a further, constant reminder is also provided in the form of an abundance of red, hand-held fire extinguishers hung at strategic locations.
In view of the extremely expensive equipment housed on the floor occupied by the air traffic control operations room, these red bottles, with the funny, horn-like blowers, were to be found on the walls at every corner. Originally, they were of the CO2 type, the standard arrangement being with the horn facing downwards, nicely aligned with the bottle itself. In case of need, the horn could be turned towards the fire once the bottle was taken off the wall.
In time non-usage saw the joints of the horns become stiff enough to hold it unassisted in any direction, even straight upwards. One nice day controllers decided that the proper way for the horn to stand was straight up, like a …,well you know what. And so it became the sacred duty of each and every controller to coax the horn into an erect position, whenever they happened on a bottle with a drooping organ.
On 27/08/2009, in Viewpoint, by steve
When we say High Speed Train, we tend to think of France and Japan first and foremost. We also know that there is a kind of love-hate relationship between those fast train companies and the airlines. Love is in the air, or rather on the tracks, when some Thalys trains run with an Air France flight number between Brussels and Paris Charles De Gaulle airport or when several of Germany’s ICE trains carry a LH number… But when trains take passengers away from certain flights instead of feeding the airline network, love changes to hate…
The competition war between air and high speed rail travel is being fought in several areas, some of which make the playing field anything but level. City centre to city centre or airport to airport, the nightmares of airport security and the lack of it on the trains, public money in the infrastructure against full cost recovery for the airlines… No one has figured out yet how best to make these two great forms of transport live with each other.
In 2009, China is investing 50 billion US dollars in the construction of the world’s biggest high speed train network. What are the airlines in China thinking?
On 24/08/2009, in View from the left seat, by Alex1
If there’s one sure bet in this world it is that pilots and controllers will disagree about TCAS. Controllers believe it is an invention of the devil, pilots love it, if it is u/s, they feel naked. It is a remarkable technical achievement. I remember several UK CAA briefings in the very early 80s which declared flatly that an airborne collision avoidance system was just impossible, so it was something of a surprise to find working prototypes within a few years. The first versions were very limited in their ability to adjust the advisory, and would quickly announce ‘TCAS Invalid’ if the original RA no longer suited the situation.
Pilots vetoed that, and the first operational version was vastly more capable, with the ability to upgrade, downgrade, or even reverse the advisory. Later versions improved the coordination logic. The basic collision avoidance algorithm, however, is still recognisable, based on ‘tau’ (range/range rate) criteria.
Before TCAS entry, I took part in a number of controller briefing sessions. People came up with all sorts of ingenious scenarios that they were convinced TCAS could not handle. Almost without exception TCAS passed those tests. But there is a flaw in TCAS that those controllers, and to be honest most of us working closely on the project, either ignored or under appreciated. It is the boring old problem of the human in the loop.
On 22/08/2009, in SESAR's Palace, by steve
The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) has just announced that they are launching a specific initiative on flight tracking in oceanic and remote areas. The call for tender (OPTIMI) is meant to select contractor(s) for the performance of a study and flight demonstrations – co-funded for a maximum amount of € 360.000 -aimed at demonstrating the feasibility to implement oceanic tracking services in the Atlantic at a reasonable cost and within a limited timeframe (2010).
The SESR JU was tasked to analyse the issue and provide recommendations on the way forward in response to the apparent lack of appropriate tracking over remote areas that came to light following the recent tragic accident over the South-Atlantic.
As I read this news in my office, one of the several computer screens was focused on the Pacific Ocean, showing the Western Coast of the US and the Hawaii Islands. All traffic was clearly visible and by pointing on any of the blips, I could immediately bring up corresponding, real-time flight data, including heading, level, speed, departure and destination aerodrome and the filed track was also presented.
Scrolling the map to the North Atlantic, as I briefly looked at traffic in and out of Paris, two questions came to mind.
On 20/08/2009, in Viewpoint, by steve
One of the surprising and possibly unexpected early recommendations coming out of the investigation of the recent Air France Airbus 330 crash is that training in certain basic piloting skills and the handling of unusual situations must be strengthened and improved. Excuse me? Have we already reached the stage where the pilots of a sophisticated aircraft like the 330 are left wondering what to do when the screens go blank or numbers no longer add up?
One accident, however tragic, is probably not enough to draw far reaching conclusions on this thorny issue. But it does pose a question in a different context: is the training of air traffic controllers any better and is it keeping up with developments in the cockpit?
On 19/08/2009, in Battle stations, by krisztian
Strolling through the center of Brussels today my mind wandered off as my wife was shopping. I started an incognito surveillance of the security staff present in the mall, the different stores and the public areas. Of course, it was not all that hard to pick them out of the crowd, as they all wear clothing portraying the company they work for. This of course is done deliberately, if only to show the competition who is working where. More importantly, the clothing shows possible ‘threats’ that security is present and that somebody is keeping an eye out.
With the law on security being very strict in Belgium, everybody is aware of the fact that security officers can not do much in case of a crime… Nevertheless the men and women in the field do a good job. They show the public that somebody cares, that somebody is there to assist and in this they do succeed.
On 18/08/2009, in SESAR's Palace, by steve
Twelve renowned scientists have been signed up to create the new Scientific Committee of the SESAR Joint Undertaking. The Committee will deal with all scientific aspects of the work programme and will focus on:
• the scientific analysis of SESAR from different angles: economics, human factors, statistics, mathematics, computer science, physics, technology;
• the liaison between SESAR and the academic and scientific communities across Europe including education of the future “SESAR interested engineers & scientists”; and
• the scientific value of the SESAR results.
The list of personalities is impressive and covers institutions situated all over Europe.
On 17/08/2009, in Life around runways, by steve
Flying is several orders of magnitude safer than road travel, we all know that. Yet there is a curious element of commonality between those two modes of transport, representing a serious danger in both. Drivers who manage to get onto the wrong side of a motorway and aircraft or ground vehicles that blunder onto the runway creating a collision hazard…
Runway incursions make it into the news only if an accident ensues. This does not happen often but a few notable cases, like Tenerife in 1977 and Milan in 2001 will sound familiar to all of us. But the problem is real and much bigger than one would think at first sight.
On average there are two runway incursions of varying severity in Europe every day!