Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB) – the EC’s biggest blunder?

On 30/04/2011, in FAB News, by pbn

That the EC meant well when they originally came up with the idea of Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB) is not in question. That they did not anticipate the monster they were creating can be put down to the engaging naivety of someone venturing into the jungle of European air traffic management for the first time. That IATA was blind enough to support the FAB concept shows how desperate they were for a solution, any solution, to the continued ills of ATM.

As we head towards a summer promising to be vary bad in terms of delays and in the midst of the general euphoria about FABs and ANSP alliances, it should be interesting to look into the history of the FAB idea and its present reality. If for no other reason then to learn why it will not bring the improvements the industry craves.

Those amongst you with the longest memory will recall EATCHIP and ATM2000+ the two European flagship air traffic management projects which dragged on for years and in spite of Ministers of Transport signatures on the ATM2000+ documents, they delivered very little. We suffered through meeting after meeting, all kinds of new groups were created but in the end, when it came to implementation the deadlines always seemed to slip to a date comfortably in the future. Comfortably for the service providers and frustratingly for the airspace users. Europe was treading water and the industry did not drawn but this was in spite of ATM2000+ rather than because of it.

The European Commission was taking an increasing interest in the problems of air traffic management and seeing that it was not possible to create a truly European project, they decided to take a pragmatic approach when they finally intervened. Enter the Functional Airspace Block or FAB. If you cannot get the whole of Europe to work on a harmonized system, have at least a few groups of ANSPs work together… A nice idea which unfortunately ignored the fundamental problems and realities of European ATM.

The FAB concept was met with a conspicuous lack of enthusiasm. Working together, giving up even a small bit of their independence was anathema to the ANSPs and any idea coming from the EC was suspect to begin with. The first round of the Single European Sky regulations was struggling to take off at about the same time and was kept firmly on the ground for the very same reason…

Then SESAR came along. This was a truly European undertaking working to define a truly European air traffic management system. SESAR’s definition phase was hard going but on that particular battle field it was no longer possible to go against the pan-European solution, so instead the proposed new paradigms and solutions were attacked with the usual gusto.

Click here to read the full article

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Aircraft turnaround made visible from a TBO/SOA perspective

On 29/04/2011, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

Trajectory Based Operations (TBO) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) are two concepts rather new to air traffic management (ATM) and apparently they continue to cause some head scratching when it comes to agreeing what TBO really means or how to define services in the ATM context. In this article I will attempt to explain a few relevant aspects of those concepts and will also try to visualize the concepts using the aircraft turnaround as an example.

Why the aircraft turnaround? Because we see that in spite of the original SESAR Concept of Operations having made clear that the trajectories of flights performed by the same aircraft are in fact always connected via the given airframe, some experts are now laboring to show that this is so and are trying to bring in new constructs to account for this “connection”. The trajectory does go through important metamorphoses during the turnaround and so using that phase of the operation gives us the opportunity to examine TBO and SOA in all their glory.
But first a few basics.

The concept of services.

“Service” is a word that can mean different things depending upon the context in which it is being used. In general, the context is based upon a consumer/supplier relationship. Further, a hierarchy of services can exist with, for example, a high-level service being made up of a number of lower level sub-categories of services. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that the nature, scope and detailed characteristics associated with each service are clear and unambiguous each time it is used, including defining who is supplying what to whom.

Services may be defined from a business perspective or an IT perspective.

Click here to read the full article

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100th Anniversary of US Naval Aviation

On 28/04/2011, in Events, by steve

The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation is running a year-long celebration in honor of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard’s 100th anniversary of flight. The Centennial of Naval Aviation Kick-Off Gala, held on Saturday, February 12, 2011,was part of the weekend-long celebration in San Diego, CA which initiated a year-long celebration across the United States. The sold out gala took place onboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, CA. Known as the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation,” the San Diego Bay is where the first flight of a naval aircraft, a Curtiss Wright seaplane built by Glenn Curtiss, took place in 1911.

A black-tie event, the Kick-Off Gala included guest speakers, special performance entertainment, and a video presentation paying tribute to the Centennial of Naval Aviation. Featured guest Brigadier General Payne, US Marine Corps (Ret), the oldest living Naval Aviator was in attendance, in addition to Naval Aviators from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and NASA, senior military leaders, elected officials, and other national figures.

Also part of the Centennial Kick-Off celebration was a Parade of Historic Aircraft at Naval Air Station North Island on February 12, 2011. The year-long National Centennial events include air shows, conventions, and festivals in 24 states. The 100th Anniversary celebration year will close with a gala at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC on December 3, 2011. The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation will also support the 2012 Marine Aviation Centennial Celebration which will culminate in a gala on May 19, 2012.

Click here to find out about upcoming events in your area.

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Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – EC White Paper

On 27/04/2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

For many years now aviation lived under the shadow of demands that envisaged solving environmental and congestion problems by capping aviation growth. Misguided and economically damaging as this idea was, it was getting traction in various fora in Europe, sending shivers across the industry.

With the publication of the EC White Paper entitled “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area”, for the first time a high level EC document refutes the capping idea, stating bluntly: “Curbing mobility is not an option”. Although a white paper is not law, it does send a powerful message about the thinking of the Commission.

The paper does provide the inevitable support to EU star projects like Galileo and SESAR but other than that, it does not go into detail on how some of the essential funding will be provided especially in terms of SESAR. This is crucial as SESAR’s success is viewed more and more as dependent on seed money coming from public sources.

While far from perfect and obviously missing a few important elements (like water-tight assurances that the regulatory burden on operators will not be allowed to unduly increase), the paper does bring a fresh and refreshing framework that is suitable for guiding the development of future policies. This fact is reflected by the generally positive reception of the paper in the wider aviation community.

Get your copy here.

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European ATM failing… again?

On 25/04/2011, in FAB News, by cleo

It is almost boring these days how every possible forum, from LinkedIn to Air Traffic Management Magazine, is full of awe-struck articles about the Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB) and ANSP alliances. Subtly or not so subtly they all seem to suggest that this is now what ATM needs and this is how problems will be solved.

Unanswered is of course the question: why could the very same ANSPs not work together in this wonderful new way while they had the chance under the leadership of EUROCONTROL? EATCHIP and ATM2000+ were about the same aims as these new fangled arrangements except that those programs were European while FABs and ANSP alliances are creating the kind of European fragmentation we have not seen since the 70s.

But there is more. At ATC Global in Amsterdam a short while ago, Davind McMillen, EUROCONTROL’s Director General was of the opinion that, all things considered, this looked like a bad summer for delay in Europe.

Excuse me???

In an article extolling the virtues of ANSP alliances, one of the benefits quoted was the examination of the potential for synergies and closer cooperation. Yes, you heard right!

So, after 15 years of EATCHIP and ATM2000+ and 3 years of relatively low traffic caused by the economic crisis we discover that ANSPs have wasted most of the time trying to figure out things and they have still not come to the all important conclusions… Castrating EUROCONTROL in the form of making it the “network manager”, ANSPs are now busy forming alliances and examining the potential for synergies. Oh yes, and they are also creating fragmentation on a level never seen before in the form of the FABs just to make sure things do not get away from them on the European level.

Click here to read the full article

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There are more planes in the ocean than submarines in the sky…

On 21/04/2011, in The lighter side, by steve

We have all seen pictures of witty sentences painted on aircraft fuselages or bombs and rockets but more often than not, we quickly forget them and when we too could insert a witty remark, they prove impossible to dig up from our memories. Krisztian, one of our contributors, has now provided a nice collection of such witty sentences coming mainly from the military. But they are true and applicable also in a non-military context.
Enjoy!

“AIM TOWARDS ENEMY.” – Instructions printed on US Rocket Launcher
“When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” – U.S. Marine Corps
“Cluster bombing from B-52s are very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground.” – USAF Ammo Troop
“If the enemy is in range, so are you.” – Infantry Journal
“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” – General MacArthur
“You, you, and you panic. The rest of you, come with me.” – U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.
“Tracers work both ways.” – U.S. Army Ordnance

Click here to read the full article

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Are Brussels Airlines and Brussels Airport loosing it?

On 20/04/2011, in CDM, by steve

I have written in the past about the curious happenings that seem to affect Brussels Airlines’ flights from Vienna. You can read about them here and here. Last Friday however I got proof that flights TO Vienna can also be jinxed… Sadly, the event I am about to relate to you also shows that collaborative decision making (CDM) as practiced to-day in Brussels needs to be improved substantially.

SN runs a very convenient service to Vienna, leaving Brussels at 0705 and arriving in the Austrian capital shortly after 0830. With the new train connection at the airport you can reach most meeting locations for a comfortable 1000 start.

I was at Brussels airport early last Friday, 15 April because exceptionally I was planning to entrust my little trolley bag to the care of the “system”. As you will see, this was an exceptionally bad idea. Having checked in at home, baggage drop-off was a breeze and in no time at all I was through security and on my way up to the gate area.

Brussels Airport is one of those places where they use the totally idiotic and counter- productive idea of posting the gate numbers at the last possible moment believing that leaving passengers clueless about the gate would generate more revenue at the shops… In fact they are only “punishing” those who check in at home and who do not have bags to drop off since they will indeed not learn the gate number until the airport decides to disclose this closely guarded secret; all others get the gate number scribbled on their boarding pass by the helpful airlines (who probably hate this selfish attitude of the airports as much as I do).

This morning I was among those happy souls “in the know” and I walked straight to the gate, casting a sad eye at the group of imptient passengers milling around in front of (and NOT inside) the bar waiting for their gate to be posted. At the gate itself a sad sight greeted me. There was no aircraft at the other end of the air-bridge.

Click here to read the full article

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War effort

On 18/04/2011, in Picture stories, by steve

One of the biggest industrial efforts ever undertaken was that of the United States during World War II. Aircraft and other materiel was being produced at prodigious rates and with most of the men gone to the battle front, women took their places working day and night to keep the war fighters supplied. Here is a nice set of archive photos, re-mastered in glorious HD, to give to-day’s young generation a feeling of what was involved.

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Spreading my wings

On 15/04/2011, in The lighter side, by gabesz77

Airport Blagnac (LFBO), Toulouse, France. A historic place. This is where the first Concorde took off on 2 March 1969 commanded by Andre Turcat. The biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380 flew for the first time also from here on 27 April 2005. These days, Blagnac is Airbus’ main base, all new-born aircraft built in Toulouse take to the air for the first time from here.

This time, there is an A320 rolling on taxiway Sierra. On board is a very enthusiastic little troop whose hard work over the previous six days is about to bear fruit. In the left seat is our Technical Captain, in the right seat your’s truly! I am being honored by being part of a “delivery flight”, the taking home of a freshly produced Wingair airplane.

For most of the team the story started already on Wednesday. The technical acceptance (requiring 8-10 hours of work per day) and delivery test flight as well as the official certification of the aircraft have been completed. I joined the others only on Monday, arriving late in the evening from London on an EasyJet flight. I dropped my gear at the hotel, went to our favorite restaurant to grab a bite and afterwards took a nostalgic walk around the inner city. I sought out the places I discovered and came to like a year earlier when we were there for the type conversion course. Toulouse is a livable town. It is characterized by little streets, nice red brick buildings, special micro-climate, the nearness of the River Garonne, a navigable network of channels and extremely friendly people.

Around nine this morning we are going out to the aircraft plant. The Delivery Center is housed in a dedicated group of buildings about the size of Terminal 2 at Budapest Ferihegy airport. At the reception a three dimensional computer generated graphic shows the facility on a big TV screen, complete with the aircraft waiting to be handed over. There are 3 round satellite buildings around the main concourse enabling the simultaneous hand-over of 11 aircraft. Of the A320 alone 470 units are produced per year which means that on average 1.3 aircraft will be in hand-over every day.

Click here to read the full article

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When Technology Overtakes Obfuscation

On 13/04/2011, in Viewpoint, by steve

Not so long ago the hottest topic of discussion, and a major item of contention, was the idea of Free Flight. In case you are not sure what that was all about let me just say that free flight is an air traffic management concept under which the responsibility for providing separation is transferred to the fight deck and pilots do a part of what air traffic controllers normally do. And this happens with IFR flights in controlled airspace and not only for the odd crossing maneuver we have long used it in visual conditions.

No, I have not gone off my rocker, every research project on the subject has shown that this is eminently possible, is safe and does bring capacity and efficiency benefits. Of course it was not surprising that controllers were not exactly charmed by the idea. The arguments ranged from the purely technical through the operational to the social… Admitting that you were a believer in Free Flight was likely to earn you few friends.

Headwind or not, the idea of Free Flight has persisted sufficiently that it is in fact part of the new air traffic management paradigm albeit being pushed more and more into the future with the opponents no doubt fervently hoping that it will go away…

While this uproar about free flight grabbed most of the attention, another revolution, much more critical, has been slowly shaping up quietly reaching the point where it is not possible to open an aviation journal without stumbling on multiple articles discussing the subject.

Click here to read the full article

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