An old enemy – radiation fog

On 29/10/2010, in SKYbrary News, by steve

News from EUROCONTROL’s aviation safety knowledge base SKYbrary.

As winter approaches in Northern Europe, the risk of Radiation Fog, on a cloudless night, especially within a high pressure system, is increasing. Close monitoring of Dew Point and Temperature difference, and trends over previous days will give an insight into the likelihood of fog which may affect both destination and primary alternates.

Although these days the disruption caused by fog is far less serious than it used to be, it is a good idea to refresh our understanding of this natural phenomena.

Read more here.


THALES setting up ATM research center in Australia

On 27/10/2010, in Just to let you know..., by steve

The Australian arm of THALES is busy setting up a brand new research and development center in Melbourne, Australia to work on advanced air traffic management systems. The new center called CASIA (Centre for Advanced Studies in ATM) will concentrate the firm’s work on new air traffic management systems for Australia as well as the rest of the world. It will start cracking early in 2011.

“CASIA is the result of long term investment in our ATM business, which has grown from just a few employees 15 years ago to a global centre of excellence employing 400 people in highly skilled jobs,” said Chris Jenkins, Thales Australia’s CEO. “Thales Australia is ideally placed to offer local, regional and global customers the most innovative ATM solutions in the world today, building on our success with the Eurocat system and enabling effective airspace management in an era of increasing air traffic and technological complexity.”

For several years now we have witnessed how new and advanced ATM systems and technologies were proliferating in that part of the world while Europe was still trying to decide which way to go… In fact, during SESAR’s definition phase, THALES supported the work with an expert who came from Australia and who was the voice of reasoned vision. If he and others like him will take part in CASIA, it will be a very nice place to work at.

This is a very important and forward looking step from THALES but I cannot escape a nagging question.

Why not in Europe…?


AIXM 5.1 arrives in operational service

On 25/10/2010, in SWIM, by steve

You can be excused if the abbreviation AIXM does not ring any bells… I mean, to fly or control aircraft, you do not need to know what AIXM is… just enjoy its benefits.

Of course if you are a regular reader of Roger-Wilco, you will have seen our articles on System Wide Information Management and in them, several references to the exchange models that are essential for standardizing the way information is shuttled back and force between producers and consumers of information. AIXM is the exchange model for aeronautical information and as such, it revolutionizes one of the oldest but still most important areas of air traffic management.

That the traditional Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) is able to make the transition to Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) is due in no small part to the development and implementation of this particular information exchange model. AIXM 5.1 is significant because it is the version that has matured to the point where it can cater even for the most exotic requirements the world of AIS… oops, sorry, AIM can throw at it.

It is now on the threshold of being in operational service with the Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS), following their site acceptance of an eAIP solution using COMSOFT’s aeronautical data base and Synclude’s AIP production system.

This is the first system in the world running an eAIP production tool based on AIXM 5.1. It also meets the ADQ regulations specified in EC 73/2010 and it features an EAD System Interface (ESI) supporting automatic upload of AIXM data and eAIS packages to the European AIS Database (EAD).

EANS will take the system into full operational service at the end of the year by which time all approvals from the Estonian CAA are expected to have been received. Full operational service will set the scene for the introduction of Electronic Input Forms (eIF) which enable data originators to digitally encode information for publication by the NOTAM Office.

Clearly, EANS is taking the transition from AIS to AIM seriously and they are setting an example for others to follow. It is important to note also that COMSOFT is offering an AIM product line that supports this kind of transition in a seamless and secure manner.


New engines for old favorites?

On 21/10/2010, in The aircraft we fly, by steve

There used to be a time when the big aircraft makers were churning out new types with astounding regularity. In the wide-body arena, there was a choice between the Tri-Star from Lockheed, the DC-10 from McDonnell Douglas and of course the 747 from Boeing. Narrow-bodies also came in a nice variety from the DC-9 through the MD-80 and the 727 to the 737. But let’s not forget that in those days a few legacy, long-range narrow-bodies were still plying the skies, just think of the DC-8 and the Boeing 707. Airbus joined the fray at the top end with the A300 which was a short-to-medium range wide-body and the first twin-engine wide-body as such. That was in 1971…

One thing was sure. Each new type brought something revolutionary, some novelty for which the airlines wanted to buy them. Safety and efficiency increased, noise decreased, passenger comfort improved…

In the meantime, the world went through a number of oil crises, stock market crashes, deregulation, 9/11 and the birth of low cost carriers and the market for narrow-body, short-to-medium range aircraft altered radically. The result? Only two types, the Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320 family survived and these days if you travel chances are you will find yourself in one of those, no matter where you are in the world.

Not that those types have not evolved over the years. In particular, the Boeing 737 had several versions with the biggest improvements coming with the New Generation (NG) series. But the 320 also improved if in less visible ways.

In spite of the improvements, the basic design of both the 737 and the 320 family has stayed much the same to this day.

When the 737 started sprouting winglets, bringing fuel efficiency improvements in the low single digits, the discussion was already going on: should the manufacturers design new aircraft to replace the existing types or should they think about re-engining the existing ones?

Click here to read the full article


20 October – ATCO day

On 20/10/2010, in Anniversaries, by steve

The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) was founded on 20 October 1961 by 12 European national ATC associations. On its 20th anniversary on 20 October 1981 IFATCA decided to name the day “the day of the controller” and ever since member associations have celebrated 20 October as the International Day of the Air Traffic Controller.

IFATCA is one of the oldest such organizations on the planet and they have represented their members through years of fundamental change that altered not only the industry ATCOs are required to serve but their job and tasks as well. What did not change is the importance of this silent army of professionals who, day in and day out, do their best to keep air traffic flowing safely and efficiently.

We at Roger-Wilco have a particular soft spot for controllers since yours truly started his professional career as an air traffic controller… And you know how it is. Once a controller, always a controller!

Happy Controllers’ Day everyone!


Air Traffic Management déjà vu

On 19/10/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Reading Henning’s article and with my up-close-and-intimate involvement in the SESAR definition phase (and the 20 or so years leading up to it) I could not escape a terrible feeling of déjà vu. This was only strengthened when I read the news about ANSP CEOs rumbling that the performance targets of the EU’s Single Sky Package were unrealistic and airlines rumbling that the costs arising from the proposed ADS-B implementing rule were placing an inordinate share on them compared to the burden to be borne by the ANSPs.

These are signs of a toxic mix well known from the past and they bode ill for ATM developments in Europe.

But there is more.

One of the airline associations is very vocal about the need to get financing support for the airlines as they consider the price of SESAR prohibitively expensive. This is all very well, but apparently little is being done to actually find and organize such financing.

IATA, the one organization that in the past successfully influenced ATM development directions by being present everywhere down to the working level, has now basically drawn back and seems to believe that things in the ATM world can be influenced equally successfully by simply issuing policies. This is a fallacy that will cost the airlines dearly. Policies are fine but in practice they are often ignored or interpreted in ways favorable to interests other than those of the airlines. By the time this is discovered, all kinds of binding agreements and decisions will have been made and airline protests will be met, in most cases, with a shrug. You missed the boat folks…

Click here to read the full article


Take off from wrong intermediate position – report now available

On 18/10/2010, in SKYbrary News, by steve

News from EUROCONTROL’s aviation safety knowledge base SKYbrary.

The UK AAIB has recently published its final report into the incident at St Kitts on 26 September 2009, when a Boeing 777-200 unintentionally began and completed take off from a different intermediate position on the departure runway than the one intended. The aircraft just succeeded in becoming airborne before the end of the paved surface was reached.

Read more about this incident here.

Read the full report here.


Is SESAR doing what the airlines intended?

On 14/10/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Exclusive interview with Dr. Henning Hartmann

Today we bring you an exclusive interview with Dr. Henning Hartmann, who was, during the SESAR Definition Phase with Lufthansa German Airlines and representing the Airspace Users, he was also the person responsible for the development of the SESAR Concept of Operations (ConOps). He will give us his views on what SESAR is to-day as he sees it and explains why there is cause for some concern.

Henning can you give our readers an impression of what you are feeling today when looking at SESAR and the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) as they are now?

In order to understand my arguments concerning today’s situation, I’ll first have a closer look at the situation as it was during the definition phase.

The SESAR Definition Phase was a multi-stakeholder project consisting of 6 milestones which delivered 6 documents each of which was subject to agreement by the stakeholders. The SESAR Concept of Operations was part of deliverable 3, entitled “The ATM Target System”. It was seen as the driving engine of the future system and consequently to some extent the development process of the concept was THE culmination point of the diverging views of the different stakeholders. Obviously, in the end all stakeholders had to compromise to some extent.

Why did these different views come up?

It makes a huge difference “how” a system is operated and since I was representing the Airspace Users, the Airspace Users operational concept vision did not come up just by accident. It was the result of a structured process reflecting all types of Airspace Users.
Before going to the different views, it is essential to understand how the vision of the Airspace Users was constructed: we looked 15 years ahead, we did analyse different passenger segmentation forecasts and their needs and preferences and how the airlines could respond (in terms of the operational context) to those passenger needs.

Click here to read the full article


CANSO joins ACI-Europe and EUROCONTROL to accelerate A-CDM roll-out

On 13/10/2010, in CDM, by steve

The threat of climate change, the global economic crisis and the resulting changes in the structure of the European aviation market have led to a renewed focus on efficiency and performance for Europe’s airports. In October 2008, ACI EUROPE and EUROCONTROL signed a collaboration to increase operational efficiencies at European airports.

This collaboration revolves around the implementation of an innovative operating practice called Airport Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM) which allows airports into the Air Traffic Management network and vice versa. This gives users access to a range of operational data allowing them to make their operations more efficient.

Successful implementation of A-CDM leads to significant reduction in CO2 emissions, which in turn helps airlines save fuel.

At the 5th Annual ACI EUROPE Airport Exchange, CANSO – the global trade body for Air Traffic Management – joined this partnership, giving the initiative even more momentum.

Over the last 2 years, the A-CDM program has made great progress with more than 30 airports so far engaged in implementing it.

Click here to read the full article


Visual illusions – check this out and you will never believe your eyes again

On 12/10/2010, in Couch and hammer, by steve

We often say on seeing something surprising “I could hardly believe my eyes”. Of course we know from countless little tricks from childhood onwards that our eyes, those vitally important sensors of visual information, are far from infallible. Of course it is no so much the sensors, our eyes themselves, that are at fault. They usually send the data without corruption to our brains which then is responsible for the images that we actually see. It is in this processing phase that things can get out of whack and we end up seeing things that are anything but an accurate reflection of reality.

In everyday life, we tend to compensate pretty well for those shortcomings and experience in most cases simply overrides the more egregious interpretations our brains come up with.

But in the more synthetic environments of the cockpit and ATC centers, extreme care is needed from designers and operators alike to avoid the tricks our eyes and brains can play on us.

Follow this link to find out just how unreliable our visual perceptions are.


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