Flying AIRE – the pilot’s view

On 30/04/2010, in Environment - Without hot air, by eric

AIRE (Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions) is a joint initiative between the European Commission and the FAA. It is the green component of the SESAR programme. In 2009, 1,152 flight trials in operational conditions were carried out on the European side.

Claude Godel was the Pilot in Command of the first complete green transatlantic flight, operated by Air France on 6 April from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Miami.

Captain Godel and part of his crew on the green transatlantic flight

In a first reaction after this green flight, Captain Godel describes it from a pilot’s perspective, “The AIRE flight is the almost perfect flight for a pilot. On a normal flight you never know how you will be incorporated in the traffic but you are sure that you will fly level at non optimal altitudes, have to beg ATC for better speed, better lateral track. In one word, you spend your time in negotiating or accepting non optimal compromises. The AIRE flight needs more pre-flight preparation but, once off-block, the pilot can expect to fly the best track from end to end, at the best speed and the best altitude. Isn’t that the pilot’s dream?”

He further describes the principle of green flights as a virtuous circle as an optimised flight path leads to shorter flight time, less fuel burn and CO2 emissions which in return reduces costs and leaves fewer place for contingencies. The pilot can thus satisfy the aspirations of modern passengers and himself finds new pleasure and satisfaction in his job.

During the approximately nine hours flight, enhanced green procedures were used to improve the aircraft’s energy efficiency. These procedures, applied at each flight stage and coordinated among all project participants, reduce fuel consumption (and hence carbon dioxide emissions) throughout the flight, from taxiing at Paris-Charles de Gaulle to arrival on the parking stand in Miami. Air France estimates that applying these optimisations to all Air France long-haul flights to and from North America, would result in a cut of CO2 emissions by 135,000 metric tons per year, with fuel savings of 43,000 metric tons.

For more information on AIRE, click here.

This article is reprinted with the kind permission of the author, Eric Platteau, Senior Communication & Public Affairs Specialist at the SESAR Joint Undertaking.


Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

On 29/04/2010, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Bill McKibben
Publisher: Times Books

Although the recent disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano was not connected to global warming as such, it did demonstrate to all who cared to stop and consider the event just what nature in a bad mood can do to our way of living. Although aviation was hardest hit, the consequences rippled through society and hit kiwi growers tens of thousand of miles away as well as car makers in Europe who ran out of parts normally delivered by air in a just-in-time operation.

The normal posture of environmentalists, and politicians lusting for the votes of the environmental lobby, is that we must restrict things now, change the light bulbs to the eco variety and change to bicycles in order to reduce carbon emissions which will, hopefully, start having an effect in a couple of decades.

In all the hot air scant attention (and even less money) is being expended on getting prepared for, and mitigating the effects of, climate change that is already upon us. This is a big mistake and the cost of the certain damage will be many times the amount of possible and uncertain savings three decades down the road.

Click here to read the full article


What would Adam Smith advise to modern airlines?

On 28/04/2010, in Viewpoint, by cleo

Adam Smith as we all know was an 18th century Scottish scholar with a number of famous books to his name, among them The Wealth of Nations. In this tome, Smith argues that self-interest and free, competitive markets are powerful forces for prosperity and the common good. But he does, for good measure, also demand the regulation of interest rates and laws to protect workers from their employers. No doubt all this reflects the times in which Smith lived and wrote, although many of his theses are current to these days.

When reading about the recent industrial actions at Lufthansa and British Airways I started wondering. If by some magic Mr. Smith were to come back to this world and face the predicament of many airlines (and other companies for that matter) would he demand laws to protect companies from their employees?

Mind you, I am not saying that workers should not get their due and if an employer mistreats them, there should not be proper remedies. But having this kind of rights is not the same as having unions that organize actions and set limits and demands that result in many of the workers losing out in the end.

When Boeing outsourced a lot of the 787 work, there was an outcry and even if some of the criticism was correct, opposition coming in the wake of the longest and most costly strike ever did not sit well with the management of a company that is not known for mistreating its people. The result? The second 787 assembly line was set up in a right-to-work State, clearly a loss to the Seattle area but a big win for the South.

Click here to read the full article


The tower with a soul… 12

On 27/04/2010, in The tower with a soul, by lajos

From shared lunches to more restrictions

As the years passed and we approached the tenth anniversary of being on the job, contact with other colleagues of my age group tapered off. Some of them went to other shifts or even other control units and this did not help of course. But on the few occasions we met, talk was no longer about girls or the pub but our respective aptitude in using Pampers properly. In other words, each of us was busy building a family and this left little time for anything else. Folks in the same shift tended to stick together though and common programs only strengthened this unity. For example (and this was back in the times before the political changes took place) we were members of a so called “brigade”. Sometimes we attended the May Day parade together but the common outings and excursions were the most memorable. One of the most successful trips was to Ocseny. Eight of us crammed into two small Polski Fiat’s, no mean feat! An old friend, VK welcomed us at the Ocseny airport where after we took turns to fly in a small plane above the Gemenc forest. After each of us consuming a huge portion of “marhaporkolt” (beef prepared in a not quite goulash mode) and some excellent wine from the Szekszard region, it was even more difficult to get into the little cars… but we made it home safely.

On another occasion we were helping at the building site of one of our colleagues. Back then people built their own houses with help from friends. We got immersed in shifting bricks so much that we clean forgot that the group, in its totality, was due for night shift. In the end we reported two hours late and inserted the plugs of our headsets to the loud and forceful cursing of the day crew finally released to go home.

Click here to read the full article


Brussels Airlines 737 starts take-off roll with flaps retracted

On 24/04/2010, in Life around runways, by steve

Last Thursday, 22 April was notable for the fact that after the long disruption caused by the volcanic cloud over Europe, traffic was finally getting back to normal.

Brussels Airlines flight SN2901 Brussels-Vienna was still at the gate shortly before 0710a, its schedules departure time, with both the aircraft door and the cockpit door still wide open. Especially this latter is usually bad news and bodes ill for an on time departure. Then a pilot, complete with his flight bag, scrambled up the outside steps of the air bridge and scampered into the cockpit, closing the door behind him. Shortly thereafter we pushed back and taxied toward the runway at a brisk clip.

I have this thing about being an interested passenger… I always check whether I actually have the life preserver “in a pouch under my seat” as promised (was missing only once) and I always listen to the reassuring thump of the wheel coming down on final, mentally ticking off my own checklist as it were.

The 737’s electrically operated flap system produces a peculiar sound when it is operating, the characteristic whine of electric motors moving something via high gearing. This morning, as we taxied nearer and nearer the runway, this sound was completely missing! From the speed at which we turned onto the runway it was clear that the pilots were planning to make a rolling take-off and indeed, once aligned with the runway centerline, power was applied and we started rolling down Brussels’s runway 25L… with the flaps and slats still fully retracted!

Click here to read the full article


Making the ATM infrastructure cheaper will also cost money

On 23/04/2010, in Viewpoint, by steve

Few other parts of the air traffic management infrastructure come in for so much criticism these days than surveillance. To be precise, the hopelessly obsolete, rotating antenna based radar surveillance. Those rotating monsters are not only expensive to buy but they cost and arm and a leg to maintain too. It is no accident that companies in the business of making and selling them are keen to push new and replacement radar projects. The higher the price, the nicer the margin of course.

Places like Europe are teeming with radars and some areas have triple and quadruple coverage, quite unnecessarily one may add. It is a wonder birds don’t get fried in the air as they fly in what must feel like the insides of a microwave oven.

The airspace users have been complaining for a long time about the cost of this infrastructure, urging its elimination and replacement with cheaper and equally effective alternatives.

There are alternatives. ADS-B and multilateration both enable surveillance equal or better than conventional radar in all environments except the airport surface where, for now, only multilateration seems to provide the required precision.

Australia, Canada and the US have shown conclusively what can be done with ADS-B. Considering the price tag, which for ADS-B is 12 times less than conventional radar, making the business case is not that difficult.

Click here to read the full article


Volcanic Ash, an awesome danger

On 21/04/2010, in Environment - Without hot air, by phil

Despite the great beauty of many things found in nature, some also present a great danger to mankinds’ activities. The unprecedented closure of so much of Europe’s airspace highlights the problems caused by volcanic ash. This is not just an issue for airlines and the travelling public, but also affects the whole economy and all those industries that rely on air transport.

I am now retired, but with many friends knowing that I worked in aviation, I have been asked over and over again what the fuss is all about. So, I have trawled a number of aviation and science websites and have put together the following layman’s guide. Back in 1982, when I was the Flight Training Manager of the British Airways 747 Fleet, one of our Boeing 747-236 aircraft flew into a volcanic ash cloud over Indonesia. The incident occurred at night, the crew couldn’t see the ash cloud either visually or on the radar, and the forecast had given virtually no information. At that time the aviation industry knew relatively little about the effects of volcanic ash on jet engines. The crew did a magnificent job after all 4 engines stopped and managed to get back on the ground at Jakarta. Wikepedia has a good account of what happened here.

Click here to read the full article


ICNS 2010 Technical Program Announced

On 21/04/2010, in Events, by steve

ICNS has announced the 2010 Technical Program. 

Included is everything you need to know to stay in sync with the newest topics in NextGen.

There will be 91 technical papers in 11 information packed sessions led by noted experts.

Session A – Data Communications: Dr. Michael Schnell, DLR German Aerospace Center and Mr. Brent Phillips, FAA ATO

Session B – Surveillance and Navigation Technologies: Mr. Lance Sherry, George Mason University

Session C – Safe and Secure Transportation Systems: Mr. Kevin Harnett, Volpe National Transportation Sys Center

Session D – CNS Systems and Architectures: Ms. Denise Ponchak, NASA Glenn Research Center

Session E – Performance Based ATM: Mr. Ben Levy, Sensis Corporation

Session F – Aeronautical Spectrum: Ms. Izabela Gheorghisor, The MITRE Corporation

Session G – Air Ground Integration: Mr. John Gonda, The MITRE Corporation

Session H – ICNS Analysis – JPDO Study: Mr. Robert Kerczewski, NASA Glenn Research Center

Session I – Air Traffic Management (TBO): Mr. Chris Brinton, Mosaic ATM, Inc.

Session J – Aircraft/Airline Operations for NextGen: Dr. Chip Meserole, Boeing

Session K – Information Sharing and SWIM: Mr. Mike Hritz, FAA and Nikos Fistas, Eurocontrol

Session L – NextGen Surveillance: Mr. Anastasios Daskalakis, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

Session M – Topics in Next Generation Air Transportation: Mr. Chris Wargo, Mosaic ATM, Inc.

Session K, on Thursday afternoon, is one of the highlights of the conference as it takes on the format of a SWIM Industry Day.



Is it nice to work for an airline?

On 20/04/2010, in Viewpoint, by steve

When I started my life in aviation, air traffic control was part of the corporate structure of the local airline, Malev. A bit like having the police department integrated into the taxi company and with no less interesting situations that arose when the owner airline was not given the priority they desired.

So, yes I have worked for an airline and it was not bad. We were even entitled to free travel and this was being granted long after IATA had decided that controllers were not really worthy of the privilege.

Good. But all that was long ago and we are now interested in what it is to be working for an airline today.

Around February each year, Fortune magazine publishes an article describing the 100 best companies to work for. I browsed the list with interest. Google is number 4, Cisco number 16, Intel 99 and Colgate-Palmolive 100. So, who are the first 3? Are there any airlines up there? Nope! Other than FEDEX at the 90th position, there is no airline or even aircraft manufacturer mentioned at all.

Click here to read the full article


A propos volcano – Are we preparing for the wrong things?

On 18/04/2010, in Environment - Without hot air, by steve

It is amazing how easy it is to bring aviation to its knees. An errant volcano on Iceland, winds blowing in the wrong direction and air transportation in Europe and beyond comes to a grinding halt as country after country closes their airspace to protect the traveling public. Volcanic ash is very bad news for aircraft engines and instruments… We are now into the third day of the almost total ban on flying with the skies over Europe empty and airports eerily silent. This is like a bad horror movie. Or is it?

Of course one may argue about the wisdom or indeed the need for such a total ban on flying on account of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. Test flights by KLM and Lufthansa conducted to check the theory have not shown any damage to the engines (when I first heard about these test flights, I was really surprised… who would risk a multimillion dollar set of engines to test such a theory… but then with their fleet all but grounded, the price of a few engines would be small change compared to the loss they were already making).

Whether the ban was justified or not, there is an important message here for the industry and the aviation business and it ties in with an article I have written recently, discussing how we are preparing, or rather, failing to prepare, for possibly catastrophic changes in the atmosphere. My focus was changes that may come about as a result of global warming and the current situation is the result of an old-style volcano, but the end result is the same: by assuming that the atmosphere in which we fly remains essential the same and a known quantity we ignore the need to prepare for the times when this assumption is no longer true.

And that time is to-day.

Click here to read the full article


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