What is in a name?

On 30/03/2011, in Perspectives, by pbn


Liszt Ferenc...

It is not often that Hungarians manage to get into the news though they have been improving lately. Their antics in the European Parliament and at home recently have resulted in a lot of raised eyebrows and few friends. Now the parliament in Budapest as well as the city fathers have embarked with unusual zeal on a campaign to rename squares and streets with even Elvis Presley likely to get a small park named after him. What exactly is driving this zeal is not really clear but one thing is sure: it has now reached Budapest’s airport which has been called Ferihegy since it opened in the early 50’s.

From now on Ferihegy is (or should be) called Liszt Ferenc International Airport. Do you know who Liszt Ferenc was? I have asked a few people among my contacts and none of them have ever heard of him. If they had to guess, they said he was probably some kind of Hungarian aviation pioneer…

In fact Liszt Ferenc was a 19th century Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso who, by the way, did not speak a word of Hungarian. This did not prevent him from becoming the most technically advanced pianist of his time. He is certainly a more prominent figure in Hungarian history than Mayerffy Ferenc who was the owner of vineyards in the area where the airport now stands.

It is an understatement to say that the name change was not received with cheers in the country. Most people were simply asking the question: why? What the hell was wrong with Ferihegy?

Click here to read the full article


In praise of encyclopedias – Wikipedia is 10 years old

On 30/03/2011, in Anniversaries, by steve

I will not deny it, I love encyclopedias. Whether it is the general kind or focused on a given subject like aviation or information technology, I am fascinated by these works, the way they bring knowledge like a thick syrup just waiting for your mind to add the fluid of understanding to reveal their secrets.

This fascination dates back to the 1960s when we were living in Cairo, Egypt and as a student I was granted a pass to the British Library, just off Tahrir Square. There it was of course the Encyclopedia Britannica that ruled the scene and I remember how often I dreamed about having it on my bookshelf at home.

As it turned out, I had to wait until almost 1990 before that happened, but it did! In the end, EB wasn’t even the first of the big encyclopedias that I managed to acquire. During my time in Paris, first I bought the Encyclopedia Universalis, which is in fact the French version of the Britannica. A year or so later I was seduced by the wonderful dark red volumes of Encyclopedia Larousse which is the iconic French interpretation of what an encyclopedia should be like. It is wonderful by the way.

So, to-day all three of those wondrous encyclopedias are on the shelves in our living room and I continue to love them, even in the face of the funny expression my kids reserve for paper encyclopedias.

They prefer Wikipedia… of course!

10 years old on 15 January 2011, Wiki has become something of an icon not unlike Encyclopedia Britannica used to be, although there are some important differences.

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Federal Airways Manual of Operations 1941 – Chapter C, Airway Traffic Control Section

On 28/03/2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

The Manual...

I do not know about you but I love old books. If nothing else, thinking about the many people and many hands that have owned and touched such an old volume feels like a travel back in time. But reading some of them and comparing the style and content to our contemporary reality is also an exercise worth undertaking.

It is a pity that so few professional books that were not sold in general bookstores remain. FAA forerunner CAA and other such organizations had many manuals and other interesting publications right from the start but it is rare indeed to find one these days that you can also obtain for your own collection.

It is for this reason that I was so happy when Virginia Volk kindly agreed to share with Roger-Wilco and the readers of our Bookshelf section a real and unique gem, the 1941 edition of the Federal Airways Manual of Operations. You can download the Manual here.

If you are familiar with the ICAO provisions applicable to-day and in particular ICAO DOC 4444, PANS-ATM you will no doubt find this Airways Manual of Operations familiar. This book dates from 1941 and the first edition of ICAO DOC 4444 (at the time called PANS-ATC) saw the light of day in 1946. One of the main inputs had been the material already used extensively in the USA and which you can now add to your treasured relics and ATC mementos.

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New ACAS II Bulleting from EUROCONTROL

On 25/03/2011, in SKYbrary News, by steve

The 12th issue of EUROCONTROL’s ACAS II Bulletin is now available for download from the SKYbrary here.

This issue focuses on pilot training, featuring a number of events based on real-life incidents, and also presents a summary of the findings of  recent research into how pilots react to RAs.


SWIM – One size does not fit all?

On 24/03/2011, in SWIM, by steve

Whatever the context, this is a very true statement. And I hate it from the bottom of my heart.


Because in the area closest to my heart, air traffic management, it has been used over the years as the (rather lame) excuse for not harmonizing things, be it implementation dates, system functionality or the working position user interface. The results were inevitably increased costs, missed project deadlines, unachieved goals or goals achieved that were different from what the ATM community needed.

When the concept of a Single European Sky first surfaced, even its name was refreshing as it suggested a departure from the old buzzword and a bright new future where things would finally work to the same gauge everywhere. What a naïve thought…

At the ATM Global conference in Amsterdam recently, the top guy of DSNA, the French air navigation service provider, talking about the Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB), informed his audience that no single FAB would fit all and that FABs were bringing European diversity to SESAR.

It was rather disappointing to hear him use this well worn excuse for Europe’s inability once again to set up a truly single sky! One would have hoped for a more modern (digital?) excuse but that was probably expecting too much…

I got another jolt last night when the SWIM thread on LinkedIn directed my attention to new information on SWIM posted on the SESAR web site. There I found another echo of this hated claim.

Click here to read the full article


Incredible story – or is it?

On 23/03/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

Imagine an American opening his daily paper and finding an article about Boeing Commercial Airplanes that ran something like this.

It was announced to-day that Boeing’s VP for Customers was leaving the company even before its CEO and COO are to swap places later this year as called for by the agreement between the State of Washington and the State of Illinois. The place swapping is taking place for purely political reasons since both men have performed in their current positions to the satisfaction of shareholders and employees alike. The departure of VP Customers is especially painful for a company which had to survive the departure of two CEOs within a hundred days in 2006. It was the now departing VeePee who kept the company’s customers from giving up on them…

As if this politically motivated change of guard was not enough, Chrysler, one of the aircraft maker’s biggest shareholders has indicated that they want to get rid of their part in the company. The automaker has the same share in Boeing as the US government. The rest is held by a consortium of banks and the State of New Mexico. But, to add insult to injury, the banks also want to sell and this would leave the US government the biggest shareholder, something that will never be accepted by New Mexico. Not surprisingly, the Democrats and the Republicans are divided over the issue with the Republicans not exactly charmed by the idea of the government owning even part of an aircraft maker.”

Without a doubt, the guy reading this would call his broker and sell his shares in the Boeing Company…

Do you think this nightmare scenario could ever come to pass in the United States? No, I do not think so either.

And in Europe? What did you say? No? Wrong!

Replace Boeing by Airbus, The US Government with the France, Chrysler with Daimler and the political agreement as being between Germany and France… and forget about New Mexico. The rest is true. It is happening as you read this. It is happening because of the peculiar company Airbus still is. Compared to Boeing, Airbus is still very much a political football and their decisions are heavily influenced by the power plays of the big European states.

In the circumstances it is a wonder that they manage to build such great airplanes…


BLUE MED FAB Newsletter Number 2 now available

On 21/03/2011, in FAB News, by steve

BLUE MED is the Functional Airspace Block (FAB) being put together by the States in the Mediterranean Sea area and their naturally sunny disposition is amply reflected in their newsletters, of which the second is now available.

FABs are exciting because the idea pre-dates SESAR and when we created the SESAR Concept of Operations it was designed to work in a true single European sky and not in what is essentially a larger scale fragmentation of that European sky. The participants in the various FABs are doing a lot to harmonize their operations but harmonization between the FABs themselves is another cookie… It is on that scale that things were always derailed in the past so it remains to be seen how they will be handled this time round.

Another aspect to think about is that SESAR uses a trajectory based paradigm while FABs continue to be based on the legacy, airspace based paradigm. A lot of work will have to be done (and little or none of it is visible so far) to move the FAB concept away from airspace orientation and towards the trajectory based concept that is the only viable future.

It would be good to hear from FAB experts how they are approaching the above issues.

In the meantime, read the second BLUE MED Newsletter here.


We are all equal in the face of nature’s fury

On 18/03/2011, in Picture stories, by steve

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan was a tragedy of biblical proportions and our hearts and prayers go out for victims and survivors alike. They will prevail but their suffering is great and they need all the help they can get.

This picture shows the scale of the devastation and also that we are all equal in the face of nature’s fury.


There is life beyond aviation

On 18/03/2011, in Interesting people, by steve

It is often said that aviation is a bug… once you get it, there is no cure. Of course those of us who have been bitten by this particular bug do not really mind and bear the consequences happily. The momentum often takes us further down the well trodden path even after retirement… A lucky few will however finally have the time to realize projects, even dreams that had to take second place while they were fully committed to aviation’s demands.

One of those lucky individuals is Mike Russo. Mike retired from ARINC after a life-time of engineering work that demanded as much knowledge of and sensitivity for the human aspects of aviation as it did for radars and other electronic wizardry.

He moved to Florida and loves it there, not least because of the weather. While temperatures can and do drop below freezing even in the Sunshine State, there is no snow and the cold spells tend to be short lived.

Mike’s particular dream has been to work with horses and he is now realizing this with dedication. He is practicing the Parelli technique of natural horsemanship. If you are interested, check out Pat Parelli’s videos here. But more to the point, click here to watch a Clint Anderson demo of what Mike is up to with his horses.

Click here to read the full article


Jamming GPS – No bad guys needed, the FCC will do it for you!

On 16/03/2011, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

Whenever a discussion is started about whether or not we should entrust aircraft navigation to GPS, there will be at least one person raising the issue of jamming. This is the specter of a single bad guy with a little black box purchased on eBay for a few bucks creating havoc in air navigation by jamming the signals of the GPS satellites. As you know, these signals coming from space are extremely weak and the system disengages and stops guidance the moment there is even the slightest doubt about their integrity. Hence the possibility of mischief with just the simplest means.

Losing GPS will not make any aircraft fall immediately from the sky but not having the precision guidance on which the new GNSS procedures rely is akin to having the ILS pulled from under you in Cat III conditions. It is survivable but traffic will be severely handicapped until the service is restored.

It looks now that we will not have to worry about the bad guys. A much bigger threat comes from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a company called LightSquared. Worse, if LightSquared has its way, scores of other companies rushing to satisfy mobile broadband services might all become potential threats to GPS. So what is the problem?

Companies like LightSquared provide mobile satellite services and there is of course big money in this. In order to increase the capacity of its service, LightSquared is planning to set up a huge number of terrestrial base stations that will operate in the part if the L-band just adjacent to the L1 frequency used by all GPS receivers. These ground stations (effectively a kind of cell-phone operation) transmit at powers that can effectively overload most GPS receivers.

How could something like this come to pass?

Click here to read the full article


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