The tower with a soul… 4

On 29/01/2010, in The tower with a soul, by lajos

Wrestling with the “furniture”

The huge control panel for the various ground lights, like the taxiway lighting, was next to the ground controller’s console. The control panel was teeming with various switches used to turn various sections of taxiway lights on and off. The panel was variously nicknamed Christmas tree and railway shunting-yard. The multitude of small LED’s presented an impressive picture when night fell. There was only one problem with this panel, and also the panel used to switch the runway lights… you could operate the switches only through a very specific movement of your hand, something that needed to be learned separately. Not infrequently, the first attempt had to be followed by a second one… For some colleagues the frustration was too much with the result that we had to call the maintenance crew to restore certain broken parts…

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Safety briefing – the missing element

On 28/01/2010, in Battle stations, by steve

This blog is about air traffic management. But, by the nature of our business, we tend to travel more than the average citizen and the pilots among us spend half their life strapped to the aircraft that carry us around. So it is appropriate to say something for once as a passenger rather than the ATM expert I often claim to be.

I am one of those passengers who actually follows the safety briefing, checks the location of the emergency exits and who has actually studied the operation of the damn things. I would hate having to read the opening instructions with smoke filling the cabin… I never take off my shoes until we are at cruising level. And yes, I do check that my life vest is under my seat and yes, I did find an empty container once and complained before we were airborne.

Recently however I started missing something from the safety briefing. If you look at the statistics, the likelihood of needing my life vest is distinctly lower than the need to know what I should do in case the chap or gal sitting next to me turns out to have explosives in his or her pants and decides to use it too.

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Blogs, aviation and the rest of the social media

On 27/01/2010, in Viewpoint, by steve

When we started Roger-Wilco, a lot of people questioned the format. For some, a blog was not the right format for dealing with the serious questions of air traffic management. I could see the point in as much as a lot of blogs are indeed little more than a place for certain individuals to air their grievances about all kinds of subjects, many of which are of little interest to the world at large. But who can deny that they too have the right to publicize what is on their minds?

We simply had to make a better blog…

It would be easy to claim that I was always open to things like Twitter or FaceBook, but I was not. Especially Twitter appeared to me the epitome of uselessness right alongside the male breast. FaceBook was something I could almost like but when they introduced the new “features” enabling users, among other things, to become “computer experts” by answering four or five ridiculously simple questions, I felt like running away. Seeing some of my most respected colleagues becoming such experts left me puzzled but no less determined to avoid FaecBook whenever possible.

LinkedIn was a different proposition right from the start. There one’s professional qualifications, work experience and other “real” things rule and people have actually found work when they were discovered by recruiters of major companies. LinkedIn actually reversed the switch in my mind…

But back to our blog…

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The transition from AIS through AIM to IM – What is this?

On 26/01/2010, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

A global congress with this title will make even the aficionados of abbreviations shiver… AIS, AIM, IM… What is next? UR? Well, the funny thing is, the title is perfectly correct and abbreviations or not, it reflects one of the most profound changes ever in the way information is collected, promulgated and used in international aviation.

Let’s have a look at what is meant by those abbreviations and what their significance really is.

What is AIS?

AIS is of course the abbreviation of Aeronautical Information Service. This is the traditional, product based service concept that brings you vital information in the form of Notices to Airmen (NOTAM), the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), Aeronautical Information Circulars (AIC), the AIRAC system of information publication and of course the loads of standards and practices that come with them.

Over the years, AIS has grown into a worldwide system of aeronautical information provision that is both indispensable and for a long time was also a hindrance to progress in aeronautical information management.

How come? Well, let’s state right here and now that AIS is a wonder of global cooperation. It went global and worked well decades before the term “globalization” was invented (albeit in a different context). So, as far is it went, AIS was and still is in many respects an example to be followed. The problems came as a result of its product based nature. Raw data is collected, checked and collated, then published in “products” that represent a best-guess of what users of aeronautical information want most. In the simpler world of yesteryear, those guesses were not even so bad.

In to-day’s much more complex environment an AIS that serves everyone does not in fact fully satisfy anyone. OK, there are some really simple operations that are exceptions but they are really a minority.

Why was AIS a hindrance to change? As you can imagine, global AIS was not built overnight and they had had their share of troubles. Also, being State monopolies, AIS offices were not exactly reared to embrace change, even necessary change. So, even when the need for change was staring everyone in the face, AIS in some parts of the world pretended that everything was just fine. Change this well balanced system and face the consequences, they seemed to suggest…

Enter AIM…

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Global AIM Congress – 22-24 June 2010, Beijing, China

On 25/01/2010, in Events, by steve

The Global AIM Consortium is pleased to announce that the 2010 Global AIM Congress entitled “Building the Future – The transition from AIS through AIM to IM” will be held in Beijing on the 22-24th June 2010. As usual, workshops will be held on the Monday ahead of the Congress, 21 June 2010. The Consortium is working closely with the Air Traffic Management Bureau of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China which has generously agreed to sponsor this event.

There are a number of key objectives for the Congress. It will review the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Madrid Congress of 2006 and then it will begin to explore the future direction of the provision of aeronautical and other information essential for the implementation of the ICAO Air Traffic Management Concept. The aim is to identify the key requirements for the future system which will draw heavily on the work of the European SESAR and US NextGen programmes. Senior managers from ICAO, ATMB, Europe and the FAA have already agreed to speak.

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SESAR and multimedia

On 22/01/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The personal level visual communications facilities brought to us by modern technology have changed how we as individuals express ourselves and to an even higher degree how big companies talk to us. Traditional ads now sometimes resemble animated feature films and the on-screen safety briefing on some aircraft make us wonder whether we were watching a Pixar release and candidate for the aviation golden globe…

It is not surprising then that SESAR, the big European air traffic management research program, also makes full use of what multimedia has to offer…

Go to their multimedia gallery and you are greeted with video interviews (the latest just added is with Florian Guillermet, the Chief Program Officer), cute screensavers and even a number of wallpapers! These latter have also been added to recently so check them out if you fancy having the SESAR logo (and that of the EC and EUROCONTROL) lurk in the corner of your screen. To their credit, the logos are small and discreet.

I have heard people question the reasoning behind this multimedia drive. Personally I find it a new, refreshing way of keeping everyone aware of this important project, an approach to communications that is right where it should be these days.

SESAR will have plenty to communicate and they might as well do it in an enjoyable way.

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Interesting people, unusual flight plans…

On 22/01/2010, in Interesting people, by steve

Guenter Martis – The humanist among us

Guenter is Director of European Affairs at CANSO (Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation)

What were you dreaming of becoming when you were a kid?

I wanted to become an inventor, like Marconi. I wanted to invent things with which I could contribute to the well being of mankind. In more concrete terms I wanted to be a communications officer on a big ocean liner. No ideas about airplanes back then.

So what made you become a member of the aviation family after all?

The actual trigger was a job opportunity at Austrian Airlines but the main driver was something else. I hated the idea of becoming electrical engineer number xyz in a big company. I wanted to be different and the airline job seemed to offer that chance.

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So you think you understand… Descent.

On 21/01/2010, in View from the left seat, by Alex1

Continuing my theme that all is rarely as it seems with how aircraft work, particularly when pilots are equipped only with half truths peddled in early training. And pity the controllers who are typically left even more in the dark about such things.

Let’s think about how fast aircraft descend. The ab initio trainers pilots first encounter operate at pretty much the same weight day in, day out. The biggest change is when the instructor gets out for that nail biting first solo, but he (she?) typically accounts for less than 10% of the aircraft mass. The student, if not too terrified to notice, will appreciate a much better rate of climb, and may spot that the aircraft glides a little further than with two on board. Those trainers typically climb and descend at much the same speed which isn’t very far from their best glide or minimum drag speeds. The student doesn’t encounter really large weight changes and wide speed variations until getting into a real airliner for the first time. At some point, perhaps after the descent planning has gone badly wrong yet again, it dawns that at high speeds, light aircraft descend faster than heavy ones.

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2010 ICNS Conference – Call for participation

On 20/01/2010, in Events, by steve

The 2010 Integrated Communications Navigation and Surveillance (ICNS) conference will take place on May 11-13 2010 at the Westin Washington Dulles Airport Hotel in Herndon, VA. The conference this year is by-lined as “The challenged of NextGen, new issues for aviation’s future”.

The Conference, jointly sponsored by government, civil and military, and industry, addresses long term research and development and early implementation of integrated CNS technologies needed to Enable NextGen.

The Conference is focused on providing understanding of CNS programs, longer term plans, standards development (RTCA, etc.), research, ICNS technologies, and the New Issues for Aviation’s Future that accompany NextGen.

Each day begins with a plenary session. Tuesday morning is all about Accelerating Implementation and Integration (I&I). Wednesday morning will focus on Interagency Systems Transformations, addressing multi-agency (DoD, DHS, and FAA) information sharing, and policies and procedures needed to insure airspace security while improving the support for each agency’s primary mission. NextGen Beyond 2018 is the topic for Thursday’s plenary.

Every afternoon, parallel technical sessions will be held on specific ICNS topics.

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Is the industry ready for this?

On 19/01/2010, in Environment - Without hot air, by steve

The northern hemisphere has just gone through its snowiest January days in 40 years and polar temperatures reached as far South as Orlando in Florida. Sure, this is not abnormal some may say… but what if we do not have to wait forty years for the next episode?

An Air France flight en-route from Brazil to France encountered so severe turbulence that they issued a Mayday call but subsequently they completed the flight without incident. As we all know, AF447 was less fortunate.

Over the past 18 month or so, there were several incidents where unexpected severe turbulence caused passenger injuries…

And now the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says, as reported in Aviation Week, that “climate change could be contributing to more extreme weather conditions at high altitudes that have not previously been encountered by aircraft”.

Make no mistake, although the current investigation of the crash of AF447 talks a lot about the problems with pitot tubes prone to freezing, there is a much more sinister implication here. Pilots are trained to handle situations where pitot tube data is lost or is unreliable… You cannot however train pilots to fly an aircraft with a wing or stabilizer gone. This is the point… who says extreme weather can only come in the form of extreme cold and not also as extreme turbulence?

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