The numbers game

On 28/02/2011, in Picture stories, by steve

I would like to share with you a video that is not about air traffic management but its message is extremely relevant for global ATM as well as for many other fields.  Although the video is apparently not completely new, its numbers are a revelation and very thought provoking.

Click here to watch.


Chinese airlines – corruption to the rescue

On 28/02/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

That high speed train lines are a direct threat to air services between city pairs within an hour from each other is no big news and a good example is the almost total disappearance of air connections between Paris and Brussels for example. The biggest assault on air services by high speed trains has been seen in China which embarked on a massive project to build a network of some 25 thousand kilometers of trackage on which trains swish along at up to 380 kilometers an hour. Airlines are already feeling the pain with as much as 50 % of their passengers deserting to the trains on some routes where both services are available.

Roger-Wilco has written about this subject a while back. Read that article here.

While in most countries the rail system is managed by the Ministry of Transport, in China this privilege was given to a separate Ministry which grew all powerful over time, until it is a state unto itself with almost unlimited funds and little interference from other parts of the Chinese government.

While the idea of competing with the airlines head-on with a high speed train network has its merits, the economic viability of the Chinese rail project was often questioned. However, with funding apparently never facing a problem, the very term “economic viability” assumed an all new meaning.

Now however the airlines affected may sigh with relief.

Click here to read the full article


Interim managers: ”corporate nomads” of the 21st century.

On 28/02/2011, in Managers' corner, by andras

An ash-cloud from an Icelandic volcano disrupts flights throughout Europe. Deliveries of new aircraft from major producers are seriously delayed causing customers to re-write their fleet-replacement programmes. Unexpected engine-problems lead to the grounding of several aircraft, disrupting timetables and making would-be passengers furious. Sky-rocketing fuel-prices force major airlines into mergers with competitors – if they don’t want to disappear once and for all. Overcrowded air-routes in the US and most of Europe cause severe stress to flight-crews; meanwhile, fierce competition among carriers results in increased work-hours and less time for mental re-generation and much-needed rest. On the ground, ATC- and other airport-staff are reduced to a minimum as airports struggle to remain profitable in crisis-struck times.

The list could go on and on – events which create unexpected challenges to airlines, service-providers and various members of the aviation-industry, demanding firm and fast decision-making in a rapidly changing environment. And behind all of these events, there is one single, fundamental element that never changes: the enormous task of carrying out the steps needed to re-structure, save, keep on track, control the individual company involved lie on the shoulders of key executives, top managers, CEO’s, CFO’s, Directors and Presidents who carry the responsibility of making these decisions. Decisions, the rightfulness of which can never be judged before-hand. Decisions, which will always be the subject of in-depth analysis and harsh criticism after their effects are known. From this aspect, every company is the same, no matter what business it pursues. Every company is made up of people, and having said that, there are general rules and lessons that can be applied on a universal basis.

Click here to read the full article


Boeing wins $35 billion tanker contract

On 25/02/2011, in The aircraft we fly, by steve

It looks like the longest running and possibly most controversial procurement process in US Air Force history has finally come to an end with Boeing being awarded the $35 billion contract to build the USAF’s next generation airborne refueling platform. Boeing is basing this on the 767 and the contract has given the 767 line a new lease on life with future maintenance tasks adding more icing on the cake.

As you will remember, the first round was won by Airbus who bid with their A330, an aircraft larger than the 767 and as such, better meeting the air forces’ requirement for general cargo capacity. Boeing attacked the decision and a protracted new round was initiated with Boeing being the winner this time.

Mobile, Alabama would have profited handsomely if Airbus were chosen as the European aircraft maker was planning to build the tankers there. This is now not going to happen.

Interestingly, defense analysts and even some lawmakers in the US were expecting Airbus to win this time also but the decision went the other way. Some say that with an ex-Boeing board member running the White House staff and the president having been helped to office by the aerospace giant the final decision could not be anything else but Boeing winning.

Click here to read the full article


ISAP’11 International Summer School on Aviation Psychology: 3-8 July 2011, Graz (Austria)

On 25/02/2011, in Events, by steve

ISAP (International Society for Aviation Psychology) Summer School combines an affordable training for graduate and undergraduate students in the field of Aviation Psychology and Human Factors with continuing education of professionals in the aviation sector such as psychologists, air traffic controllers, pilots, engineers or crew members. Professionals, researchers and students come from different places all over the world to profit from this opportunity and deepen skills and competencies in this area.

The ISAP 2011 will cover standard topics and pay special attention to ‘Training and Future Challenges in Aviation’ providing theoretical background and concepts in morning lectures and a platform to exchange research and best practice in afternoon workshops and a broad variety of social events.
For more information, the latest program and online registrations please visit the ISAP’11 website.



Interesting people, unusual flight plans…

On 25/02/2011, in Interesting people, by steve

Eric Platteau – A gourmand communicator

Eric is the communications chief of the SESAR Joint Undertaking

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

I wanted to become a cook, a chef. I am quite a gourmet and greedy. It is also linked to a family habit of long and friendly family dinners. Everyone was and is still cooking in my family: grand-mothers, father, mother, sister, brother in law, etc. I was surrounded by gourmets! My specialty as Belgian is of course Chocolate cakes…

If it was not aviation, what moved you to become part of the aviation family?

A total coincidence. During my studies, I had to make a traineeship in a company and I managed to get a 6 weeks traineeship in the press office of SABENA, the former Belgian national airline. When I finished my studies in 1995, my ‘previous boss’ informed me that they were recruiting a French-speaking press officer. I was not totally interested as I wanted to go abroad to improve my language skills but I registered to do the recruitment tests. I thought that it was a good exercise for me as a fresh graduat. After the 3 rounds of tests, I was selected… and decided to join Sabena! Spokesman at 23 years old of a 12.000 employees company was an amazing challenge as you can imagine.

What were the most significant sideways jumps in your professional life?

Click here to read the full article


The Great SID/STAR Phraseology Fiasco

On 24/02/2011, in View from the left seat, by Alex1

ICAO HQ, Montreal

Most of us find the workings of ICAO pretty strange. The constant repetition of States’ sovereignty, with its assumption that they actually know what they are talking about, is quaint, rather than obviously dangerous. The glacial speed of progress, with timescales measured in years for quite minor textual changes, can be exasperating, but nothing is quite as baffling to me as this extraordinary saga of the change to the SID /STAR phraseology.

It may be that there are some out there who have not come across this piece of upside down logic, so here is a quick summary. For years (since Pontius was a pilot) the basic rule concerning clearances involving a change of level, was that the new clearance cancels the old. So if the previous descent clearance was to, say, ‘FL150 level 20 miles south of X’ and the next clearance received was just ‘FL 100’, this cancels the requirement to be at FL 150 20 miles south of X. If ATC still want you to observe that restriction, they must repeat it with the new clearance. The exact wording is (note the six levels of paragraph nesting!):

Clear? You’d think so. You might also think that this was a rather important understanding. So what are to make of the following in the current version of Doc 4444, PANS ATM, Amendment 15 dated November 2007, which given ICAO’s normal pace must have been discussed for a solid three years previously?

Translated into everyday speak, this means that if you are flying a SID with say an initial cleared level of 6000ft (you can tell I am familiar with London…) and ATC clear you to FL 110, under this rule you have to maintain 6000ft,  until the end of the SID profile, wherever that is, unless you are told otherwise. This is of course the opposite of what you would do at any other time. What the ATCO meant you to do was to climb immediately to FL110

Click here to read the full article



On 23/02/2011, in Picture stories, by steve

A while ago in a previous article I wrote that airports were “dream factories”. I still think that to be the case but on occasion they can also be the cause of extreme frustration.

I caught this little girl crying desperately as she sunk exhausted to her knees in Madrid Airport last night. Help was close at hand and her mom rushed to set her back on her feet again but I guess the damage was done.

Airports are such horrible places was what her tearful little eyes said…

I hope in time she will learn otherwise!


Flightpath – A great tool for better communications in aviation

On 23/02/2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

For most of us, Cambridge University Press needs no introduction. Their name is synonymous with innovation and quality. When they decide to publish a book to improve aviation communications you can be sure it will be something special.

Roger-Wilco was granted an exclusive opportunity to review a pre-production version of Flightpath, Cambridge University Press’ brand new take on a communications study course that will be published around May 2011. Flightpath is comprised of a Student’s Book with audio CDs and DVD and a Teacher’s Book. Our review now covers the Student’s Book without the electronic material. We will bring you a supplementary review of the complete package once it is on the marker, so stay tuned. In the meantime, this is what we think about this pre-production gem.

First of all let me say that as a former air traffic controller who has also done quite some work on analyzing the causes of runway incursions, I am especially sensitive to the importance of using proper phraseology in all circumstances. Many incidents and serious accidents could have been avoided had the pilots and controllers concerned adhered to the prescribed way of expressing things. It is therefore always welcome when I come across a publication that tries to improve the communications scene on both sides of the cockpit/control unit divide.

The task is not easy! People can learn to express themselves in the formal way ICAO has prescribed but in order to continue using the proper phraseology and avoid falling back on colloquial speech, they need two things: first and foremost, they must understand the deadly danger inherent in not using correct phraseology. Second, proper communictions must be the subject of constant supervision via official means as well as via peer pressure.

Click here to read the full article


Women in ATC – Echoes from the past

On 20/02/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

The subject of women in air traffic control is dear to my heart for several reasons one of which is that I did play a small role in setting the scene for girls to be eventually accepted as ATC cadets in Hungary. The real achievement belongs to the ladies themselves who completed the fight but I do have fond memories of the first steps we took and which were anything but easy.

Anyway, with this background it was only natural that my blog should also take up the subject and it is with real pleasure that I noted just how much interest there is for it amongst you.

This time I would like to share with you some material kindly provided by one of our readers, Evon Russell, who is distinguished by being the daughter of one of the first women air traffic controllers while her dad was also a controller!

Her mom, Marian McKenna flew west several years ago and she was recently followed by another woman controller, Mary Elizabeth Chance VanScyoc who passed away on 9 February. These two ladies are special because they were the first and second female controllers in the US. It is commonly thought that Mary was the first but Marian often said to her daughter that she was in fact the first, even if the difference had only been a few days or weeks. I have no means to ascertain the facts and in a way this is probably not too important anyway. Or is it?

Click here to read the full article


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