A taxiway will do, take 2 – Aeroflot Airbus takes off from taxiway in Oslo

On 28/02/2010, in Life around runways, by steve

EUROCONTROL’s Preventing Runway Incursions Portal has a quiz designed to test the knowledge of pilots, air traffic controllers and vehicle drivers about, among others, the runway and taxiway environment. One of the questions shows a concrete surface with white markings in a limited visibility environment, seen from the cockpit window. The question: are we on a taxiway or on a runway? Another question shows a similar picture but with yellow markings on the concrete. Same question: are we on a runway or taxiway. Well, I am sure our readers will not have a problem answering something this simple. The white markings are on the runway, right? Are you sure? A large proportion of those we tried the quiz on did fail this simple test!

I was reminded of this fact when news reached us of yet another scheduled flight taking of from a parallel taxiway. This time it was an Aeroflot Airbus A320-200, VP-BWM performing Flight SU 212 from Oslo to Moscow.

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Continuous Descent Operations (CDO) Manual from ICAO now available

On 26/02/2010, in Bookshelf, by steve

ICAO has made available an unedited, advance version of the Continuous Descent Operations (CDO) Manual as approved, in principle, by the Secretary General. Although the final, edited version may still undergo editorial alterations, the substance should stay the same.

The purpose of this Manual is to provide guidance and harmonize the development and implementation of continuous descent operations (CDO). To achieve this, airspace and instrument flight procedure design and air traffic control techniques should all be employed in a cohesive manner. This will then facilitate the ability of flight crews to use in-flight techniques to reduce the overall environmental footprint and increase the efficiency of aircraft operations.

The generic term “continuous descent operations”, has been adopted to embrace the different techniques used to maximize operational efficiency while still addressing local airspace requirements and constraints. These operations have been variously known as, continuous descent arrivals, continuous descent approaches, optimized profile descent, tailored arrivals, and 3D/4D path arrival management forming part of the business trajectory concept.

Continuous descent operations (CDO) is one of several tools available to aircraft operators and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to increase safety, flight predictability, and airspace capacity, while reducing noise, controller-pilot communications, fuel burn and emissions. Over the years, different route models have been developed to facilitate CDO and several attempts have been made to strike a balance between the ideal fuel efficient and environmentally friendly procedures and the capacity requirements of a specific airport or airspace.

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Flying the Boeing 747

On 26/02/2010, in View from the left seat, by phil

I came relatively late to the Boeing 747, first flying it in 1981 long after all the early teething problems with the PW JT9D-3 engines had been solved. We had two versions of the aircraft in British Airways, the 747-100 series with the more powerful PW JT9D-7 engines and the 747-200 with RR RB211-524 engines. The -200 version had the longer range but both variants were a delight to fly.

The first 747 delivery

Previously the two jet types I had flown were the Vickers VC10 and the Boeing 707, both excellent in their way but not as magnificent as the 747. It was not just its size that made it so. In contrast to the various earlier types of jet transports, which all had some handling vices, the 747 had none. And, again, in contrast to the earlier types it had more system redundancy than any of them. The only handling vice that I could find (if it was a vice at all) was that the nose wheel could skate along the surface if one tried to turn when taxiing at too fast a speed.

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Latest edition of SITA’s “Air Traffic Management Highlights” now available

On 25/02/2010, in Bookshelf, by steve

The latest edition of SITA’s newsletter, Air Traffic Management Highlights, dedicated to the ATM community is now available.

In this publication, you will learn more about two major initiatives undertaken by our industry in 2009:
• The Data Link Services Implementation Rule adoption by the European Commission and
• SITA’s selection by EUROCONTROL to deliver the Pan European Network Service (PENS).
This newsletter will also provide you with a high-level overview of the different air traffic management activities that SITA has been involved in recently.

Get your copy here.



On 25/02/2010, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Joe Sutter with Jay Spenser
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-088241-9

For some time now we could read a lot about the development problems afflicting the latest big aircraft types. Just think of the Airbus A380, the 787 or the A400M military transport. Proud projects yet they started life with what appears to be more than their share of setbacks. Perhaps it is now the time to read something about the 747, the “Queen of the Skies”, the aircraft on which at one time Boeing had bet the future of the whole company… Was her birth any smoother?

There is no better guide to lead you through those exciting years than Joe Sutter, one of the most celebrated engineers of the twentieth century and the person who had spearheaded the design and construction of the 747.

747 size aircraft are commonplace today but when Boeing started building the first 747, it was bigger than anything ever built before and needed the world’s largest workshop just to be put together. Everything about the 747 was big including the larger than life personalities who were involved in or influenced this magnificent project.

It was far from smooth sailing and tensions between people as well as technological challenges all added up to make the project leader’s life difficult.

But Joe Sutter and his brilliant team of engineers carried on, never faltering, never doubting, pushing and pulling and even performing the odd miracle when that was called for.

If you think the 380 or the 787 had problems, what about reading that the third 747 in the flight test program actually crashed in Renton two weeks before the FAA was scheduled to certify the 747? Ok, it was pilot error and there was little damage but still… As it turned out, the FAA was actually very impressed by the crashworthiness of the aircraft and the incident had no adverse effect on certification.

With so much in Seattle hanging on Boeing’s future, the Sutters’ friends kept bugging Nancy Sutter, Joe’s wife, whether she believed her husband knew what he was doing… When the 747 first flew on February 9, 1969 Nancy was standing near the runway’s edge at the calculated unstick point, rewarded for all her patience with the best view of this historic event.

After reading this book, you will see big aircraft in a totally different light. Highly recommended.

Order your copy here.


Watch the weather with pleasure – a must have weather gadget

On 24/02/2010, in Just to let you know..., by steve

Other than recommending interesting books, we do not usually call our readers’ attention to other merchandise. However, every now and then we do find things that are so interesting or innovative that they simply must be recommended. In the jungle of weather gadgets, YoWindow 2.0 is such a product.

I am sure you have seen weather gadgets before and they are usually very functional and are even nice with their carefully crafted graphics. However, YoWindow brings that bit of extra that sets it apart from the crowd.

You can download a free but slightly limited version or cough up $9.99 for an unlimited version (instant download) and enjoy 8 day forecasts, an unlimited number of favorite locations and also automatic update of the weather. There are no ads in the paid version. The free version might have ads in the future. There is even a widget version for inclusion in your web site and it is free!

So what is the big difference?

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Is there a lesson for SESAR in the A400M?

On 24/02/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by pbn

In case you do not know, the A400M is the military transport Europe has been trying to put together for a few years now and which has recently managed to get airborne. In body anyway because the future of its spirit is far from assured. Why the military needed a new propeller driven heavy transport when they had Boeing’s C-17 already up and running is something of a puzzle… I guess someone somewhere must have thought a big collaborative project like this would be good for European industry.

The Airbus Military A400M

Well, they were absolutely right. The A400M project, beset by delays, incredible cost overruns and government meddling on an unprecedented scale, has shown all the weaknesses current European co-operation can master when States set their minds to it. True, this time the scenery was provided by the military but many of the parties involved have a civilian “face” also, so the outcome is of general interest.

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British Airways Boeing 777 Heathrow accident final report issued

On 23/02/2010, in View from the left seat, by steve

G-YMMM was executing British Airways Flight 38 Beijing-London Heathrow on 17 January 2008 when it crash landed just short of the runway at its destination airport. Several people were injured but there were no fatalities.

The UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) has now released its final report on the accident.

The 777 was 720 feet above ground level (AGL) on final approach to Heathrow runway 27L when an un-commanded power reduction occurred first in the right then 7 seconds later in the left Trent 800 engine. The resulting loss of airspeed caused the aircraft to touch down prematurely and skidding on the grassy surface, it came to a stop near the threshold of the runway.

The cause was identified as ice in the fuel system which impeded fuel flow to both engines.

Click here to read the full article


The tower with a soul… 7

On 22/02/2010, in The tower with a soul, by lajos

The great escape and some unintended consequences

With the future of the tower work no longer being really promising, a lot of the younger guys “escaped”, some of them going all the way to Canada! When three of them left within weeks of each other, we had no other choice but to reorganize the shifts so that each still had the required complement of bodies. I had to move to another shift, the first such move which was followed by no fewer than ten shift changes in the following 25 years.

I spent three years in the original shift when the orders came to move. This meant saying good-bye to my friend Geza with whom we weathered the difficulties of the first few years. It also meant starting in a new group composed of people I had never met before. But I tried to look at the bright side of things: new group, new people, new customs, things that can actually make such a change exciting in everyday practice. And excitement there was aplenty. I saw the sour faces of the others who were also forced to change shifts and this made me even more determined not to make the same mistake. In the end I found myself settling in quite well into what was then Shift B. I was glad to see that there were also humans in that group and even while the days passed with a bit less merriment than before, it wasn’t so bad at all.

As it turned out, my settling in was even more successful than I realized… I met my future wife in Shift B. She was a Flight Data Assistant in the Approach Control Unit. I will not dwell too long on this part of the story, let me juts say that I experienced first-hand the wisdom of the saying: don’t ever hunt domestic rabbits. The only joyful outcome of that particular exercise is my daughter who is now 22 and with whom we continue to have a very close father-daughter relationship.

Everyone and no one in charge

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Wishing them into the air…

On 19/02/2010, in Life around runways, by steve

In one of my favorite books about the US Air Force in the WWII there is a chapter in which the author describes how the crew in the control tower “wished” the heavily loaded bombers into the air as the planes struggled to get airborne and clear a line of trees not far from the end of the runway.

A lot has happened since and it is rare indeed that tower controllers need to land a hand and “wish an aircraft into the air”. It looks though that this DC-10 of Arrow Cargo had needed all the help it could get. That runway is 3700 meters long…

Wishing them into the air...


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