Bright sunshine from historic Ferihegy

On 30/05/2011, in Flashback, by steve

I guess young people to-day are enjoying their days working at Budapest Ferihegy Airport as we did when we were young and felt that the whole world was ours. There was bright sunshine in those narrow corridors even on rainy days, making even the government-issue gray office doors look somehow inviting.

Of course the sphere came not from the building but the people working there, the people who often did not feel the need to take a holiday because they liked their work so much! We were an enthusiastic lot that is for sure.

It is difficult to pick any one person to write about and not worry that I hurt the others, after all, they all had a story to tell that would deserve a place on Roger-Wilco. Come to think of it though, there are a few who were so well liked and so completely part of the scenery that writing about them would feel natural to everyone else.

The story of Istvan Toth (nickname in Hungarian Totyi) will no doubt bring back memories for most of us old-timers and perhaps give some guidance to those belonging to the younger generation.

Totyi, in the middle up front, circa 1972

Totyi was hired by Malev on 17 December 1969 and he started work in the department that provided the air traffic control service in Hungary. Yes, back then the national airline was running ATC… When the Air Traffic and Airport Administration (LRI) was set up in 1973, he continued there and finally retired on 1 February 2008 from HungaroControl, the ANSP that was formed from the ATS parts of LRI in 2002.

He has spent 40 years and 155 days in aviation and I think that he was one of the best known people at Ferihegy Airport. You know, the kind of guy who, if seen standing next to the pope, would have visitors asking: who is that guy next to Totyi?

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The final minutes of Air France Flight 447

On 28/05/2011, in Safety is no accident, by steve

There are few things in aviation more nightmarish than an unsolved, major accident. When, on the night of 1 June 2009, an Air France Airbus A330-203 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on its flight from Rio to Paris it was easy to feel that such a nightmare was about to unfold.

The plane went off the air with only a few cryptic ACARS messages being transmitted but not a word from the pilots. Although part of the wreckage was located relatively soon after the accident, there was no sign of the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.

The search for those vital sources of information was re-launched earlier this year and with success! Both recorders were found and both yielded their secrets to investigators in spite of having been submerged at a depth of around 3000 meters for such a long time.

Although full analysis of the data will take more time, on 27 May the French Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) published an update to its earlier preliminary reports, based on the data recovered from the recorders.

The update describes in a factual manner the chain of events that led to the accident while also presenting newly established facts.

This is a thought provoking story of the last minutes in life of a very advanced aircraft and its masters who seem to have lost touch with each other…

Download the  latest report here.

Earlier BEA reports are available on EUROCONTROL’s SKYbrary here and here.


From leather to electronic – the evolution of the flight bag

On 27/05/2011, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

This article was written using in part material kindly provided by Mr. Dave Allen

The gems in my collection

Among my travel gear accumulated over the years, I have two items that are really iconic and which are both on the way out. They are two leather flight bags, one from Jeppesen in the traditional shape and form that pilots have hauled with them for decades. The other is a flight bag created for Finnair in the 70’s and it has a peculiar shape, with the top narrower than the bottom. This bag was designed to fit between the pilots’ seat and the wall of the cockpit on the DC-8’s then flown extensively by the Finish carrier. The bag was a gift from one of their pilots who doubled as an IFALPA representative in some of the meetings we attended together. Although the Finnair bag shows its age, it is probably indestructible and will stay with me for many more years.

Pilots carried flight bags filled with charts and operating manuals, circular slide rules, headsets and other stuff, often representing a load item of 40 pounds or more. It was easy to recognize a pilot even if he or she was not wearing their stripes, the flight bag was a dead giveaway.

The utility, and possibly the aura, of this roomy but otherwise simple device was not lost on travel gear manufacturers and a flight bag shaped case is no longer an almost certain guarantee that its hauler is an aircraft driver.

But no problem, leather is being replaced by electronics and the traditional flight bag is slowly but surely giving way to the EFB or Electronic Flight Bag.

What is an EFB?

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TITAN – New category on Roger-Wilco

On 26/05/2011, in TITAN, by steve

Our readers will have noted that Roger-Wilco regularly reports on developments in the field of Collaborative Decision Making (CDM), a subject that has its own category on the blog.

One of the most interesting new developments in CDM is cooking in the EU 7th Framework project TITAN. Building on basic CDM, TITAN brings added value by integrating the aircraft turnaround process into the business trajectory and the ATM network.

In order to give more visibility to TITAN on Roger-Wilco, we are launching an all new category dedicated to the project under the name… well, what did you think? TITAN.

It is our hope that this TITAN space on Roger-Wilco will encourage our readers to comment, ask, explore, criticize or just read about developments in this interesting project.

Of course the official web site of TITAN will continue to be the formal repository of project related information.




When Titans speak

On 25/05/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Mid-March Aviation Week published a double interview in which Canso director general Graham Lake and Air Traffic Control Association president/CEO Peter F. Dumont spoke their minds about air traffic management developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

The interviews were refreshing and revealing. They both spoke about the prospects of SESAR and NextGen frankly and eschewing the usual bluster and we-have-won type of text so frustrating in the “formal” communications.

Mr. Lake tells us that it is not yet clear where the 4 billion euros implementation funding needed by SESAR will come from… With SESAR well into its 8-year life-span and 2.1 billion euros being burned through as you read this, such an uncertainty about the future is cause for concern to say the least.

He also makes the point that the new ATM system will still need people to operate it. He then goes on to say that some 70 % of the typical ANSPs costs are staff related, expressing surprise that parts of the ATM network face disruptions as a result of labor disputes and demands for unsustainable labor agreements. As an industry, we cannot allow this to continue he states. There is a strong message here and one is almost tempted to compare the number of pilots and other airline stuff who lost their jobs because of the economic crisis with the number of ATC staff who had been handed the pink slip for the same reason…

Click here to read the full article


European Commission Signs Memorandum of Cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

On 23/05/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

When I arrived in Paris in 1983 as a freshly hired ICAO Technical Officer RAC/SAR, the relationship between EUROCONTROL and ICAO was tense to say the least. ICAO, this all-important world-wide body, a specialized organization of the UN, was becoming ever more cumbersome and a thorn in the eye of some European states who back then believed that Europe’s aviation needs would be better served by something like EUROCONTROL. They were not aiming to replace the basic rule-making functions of ICAO but when it came to things like flow management, Europe was flexing its muscles… There was a group dealing with ATFM in Brussels and at ICAO in Paris for example and though the people attending both were usually the same, the things they said were often widely different.

I recall several meetings in Brussels that I attended as an ICAO expert and the position we had to represent was far from being helpful to the cause of EUROCONTROL.

As the budget of ICAO diminished year after year and their processes slowed to a crawl, the significance of EUROCONTROL grew at the same rate. Significantly, EUROCONTROL had never had the same low opinion of ICAO as was the case in the reverse direction. Right from the start EUROCONTROL accepted that changing certain rules required action from ICAO and they also sought to work well with ICAO’s regional bodies like the EANPG (European Air Navigation Planning Group). True, some of the changes proposed by EUROCONTROL did not pass muster by the more formalistic ICAO process but in time a rather well functioning cooperation came into being.

Soon, the ICAO member States also realized that without money ICAO could not function so at first resourcing was brought back to the required level and thereafter they set out to reform the creaking old machinery to create the new, more business efficiency oriented ICAO we know to-day.
ICAO had to face another difficult “client”, namely the US, where the FAA has always been a bit of its own master. This was an interesting thing since some of the most fundamental ICAO documents (including DOC 4444) had been originally been based on material developed by the FAA’s predecessor. Anyway, I guess the Americans were not too keen in subjugating their aviation system to rules some of which were arrived at within ICAO as the result of agreements reflecting not what was the best but what could be agreed on the world-wide podium. American airports have only started to use the ICAO standard markings and signs a few years ago…

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BUD Welcomes the EU Presidency

On 20/05/2011, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

If, based on my earlier writings, my esteemed readers have come to the conclusion that I am a grumpy old man, I am afraid I will have to largely agree with them. But believe me I would love to talk also about the nice things in the life of Ferihegy Tower, except that there are far fewer nice things than those that make one mad. So, I will now write about a good thing, then another thing that might be good and, to be true to form, about something strange.

As you probably know, since 1 January 2011 Hungary is fulfilling the rotating role of EU Presidency, a honor bestowed for six months. This circumstance meant lots of delegations, state aircraft and other VIPs coming and going during the six month period. Already last fall the doomsayers were crowing about how everything at the airport will sink into chaos, how it will be impossible to get to the airport, whether as a passenger or someone working there. Things however have turned out to be very different. Even we were surprised how efficiently the VIP movements were being handled both inside and outside the airport. I am not sure who came up with the excellent idea of moving most of the meetings to Godollo, a town just a few miles outside of Budapest. This meant that most delegations leaving the airport headed towards the M0 ring-road instead of towards downtown Budapest driving to Godollo on M0 which, on that stretch anyway, has plenty of capacity to handle such things. With this arrangement the increased diplomatic activity went almost unnoticed and Budapest was able to carry on with its already hectic life that was not made even more hectic by the road closures usually accompanying the movement of VIPs.

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Big brother in the sky

On 18/05/2011, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) is only now starting to make inroads as a surveillance means more accurate and cost-effective than traditional radar. With the ground infrastructure slowly being built, someone has already come up with a new idea: why not put the ADS-B receivers on satellites and start a surveillance service that covers every nook and cranny of the planet, oceans and the deepest mountain valleys included, and sell the service to Air Navigation Service Providers? Whether as a second layer of surveillance or as the primary one, the satellite based solution promises to be much cheaper in deployment and cost of usage than the already not too expensive ground ADS-B network.

This is a very innovative and absolutely market oriented approach that is of course not without some risk. That surveillance data is essential is not in question. Whether ANSPs will be ready to relinquish their hold on the surveillance infrastructure and go for a more efficient and cheaper solution that is as good as or better than the existing heavy iron is the big question of course.

In any case, Iridium thinks the risk is worth taking. These are the same folks whose first attempt at bringing us satellite telephones was a flop but who have risen from the ashes offering more interesting and viable solutions.

Of course the idea is logical and the timing is good. With both Europe and the USA heading towards all aircraft being equipped with ADS-B, broadcasting their GPS derived position and other information for everyone who cares to listen to hear, a system not limited by geography or topography to pick up and forward the broadcast information makes perfect sense, especially if the cost of its deployment and operation is comparable or less than that of a ground based ADS-B network.

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Amsterdam’s SARA – an important step towards the future

On 16/05/2011, in The future is now, by steve

If you read the current SESAR documentation, you cannot fail to notice one of the more serious misunderstandings that still prevail in the project. In SESAR terminology, ATM progress goes from time-based operations to trajectory based operations (TBO) and then to performance based operations. This reveals the, oft bemoaned, confusion between TBO and performance based operations. Under PBO we will still be using the TBO paradigm… But never mind, that will be the subject of another article.

This time round I would like to introduce to you a new development, a true time-based operations gem that goes under the name SARA (Speed and Route Advisor) and which will be implemented in the Amsterdam FIR starting in 2012 with the functionality expanding stepwise in the following period.

So what is SARA and what does it do?

One of the big capacity guzzler in busy TMAs is the unpredictability and instability of the arriving stream of aircraft. The numerous conflicts require constant radar vectors and radio traffic, resulting in high workload for both pilots and controllers as well as often inefficient trajectories. Developing an effective arrival management system is a real challenge.

The objective of SARA is to give advice on speed and/or routing to (Upper) Area Controllers in order to achieve the planned arrival time(s) of the aircraft over fixes (and implicitly via the Inbound Planning (IBP) function over the runway threshold).

Click here to read the full article


Margaret Sanders, ATCO – An example to follow

On 13/05/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

When I first embarked on our project to collect information about women in air traffic control in general and then about the first women air traffic controllers in the US, I did not think about a fact of life that is the other inevitable thing besides taxes… Many of those first pioneering ladies have flown West now and I am almost too late for collecting their stories to share with you for the enjoyment and education of us all. Luckily there are still many controllers who have worked with them or met them later in life and I am getting a lot of support from them in the form of written accounts and relics of all kinds.

This time I am bringing you the story of Margaret Sanders as told by our contributor Virginia. She in turn used Margaret’s obituary for some of the detail. Margaret passed away in June 2009 but if you read her story you will see just how resilient and flexible controllers really are.

Margaret Arlene Sanders was born in Canton, Kan., to parents Laura and Joe Anderson on Nov. 16, 1910. As her older brother, Curtis, used to say, “She is much smarter than I am, so she too must go to college.” Her father relented and Margaret graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism.

After graduation she began a series of careers writing. She wrote a column for a newspaper under a man’s name, wrote advertising for department stores and the newspaper. She wrote a national award-winning ad campaign for the Kansas State Fair in the early ’30s, but when it came time for the award to be presented in Washington, D.C., her boss, a man, was sent to receive it. Margaret was the first woman to work as a “utilization specialist” for the Rural Electrification Administration, “selling” farms on the idea of using electric appliances in their homes.

Click here to read the full article


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