Space taxis? Boeing will build them in Florida

On 31/10/2011, in The aircraft we fly, by steve

Space Florida is an agency backed by the State of Florida established to advance space related business in the State, now that the retirement of the space shuttle fleet has left many major facilities unused. Boeing Co. has announced that they have reached an agreement with Space Florida to lease the old Orbiter Processing Hangar Bay 3 at the Kennedy Space Centre in Central Florida. The purpose? To build 7-seat space taxis, no less.

NASA is currently sponsoring four companies to build space vehicles that can be used to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The name space-taxi is an apt designation as the vehicles will in all likelihood be operated by commercial companies with the service being used by NASA and other customers on a rent-a-ride basis.

This is of course completely in line with the plans of the Kennedy Space Centre which wants to develop a state of the art spaceport that will be able to support NASA missions as well as serve the needs of commercial customers in the US and abroad.

Just an interesting aside… there was a time when the space shuttle was seen as the pinnacle of space travel technology and now, only a few decades later, state of the art means something totally different. Something that is not even in the same direction of development. Of course a lot have been learned from the shuttle development and many materials that are commonplace now in our homes were first used on the shuttle… But still, as a vehicle concept, it has proven a dead end.

Boeing’s taxis, called the CST (Crew Space Transportation)-100, is a 7 seat capsule that will be carried into space on an Atlas 5 rocket. Have we not seen something like that before?

In any case, you will have to wait until 2016 before you can whistle up a space-taxi.

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No Time for Tact

On 31/10/2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Larry Winget
Publisher: Penguin Group
ISBN: 978-1-592-40503-9

What about having your very own pocket advisor, a little book that contains a few wise words for every day of the week… A little book you open at the breakfast table and read that day’s advice which will amuse you, make you angry, set you thinking but will never leave you unimpressed.

Larry’s manner is anything but smooth (the title “No time for tact” is no accident) but what he says will make you come back for more. Each day, every day.

He holds a mirror to your face and at first you will think it is a mirror that distorts reality. After a time, you will realize that it was you who distorted reality to make it fit with your particular weaknesses.

Larry does not mince words and he calls a spade a spade. It is not his fault that you suddenly realize just how many things you have done wrong. Don’t blame Larry. Blame yourself.

What about this: Stress comes from knowing what is right and doing what is wrong. Or: You can never build yourself up by tearing others down.

Sounds simple? Yes, reading it now would, would it not. But if you were asked to come up with the same simple things before reading them here, would you have been able to? I thought so…

Here is one more, something that may be a little more contentious: Constructive criticism is a stupid concept. To construct means to build up. To criticize is to tear down. Pick one. You can’t do both at the same time.

And so it goes on and on, food for thought for every day of the year.

Whether you read this book day by day or in one go on a Sunday afternoon, you will put it down wiser and better prepared for whatever life will throw at you.

Highly recommended.

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Heads up – Sub-orbital flights are coming

On 28/10/2011, in The aircraft we fly, by steve

Curacao, Changi, Spaceport America, Zaragoza, Lelystad… What is common among these airports? Seemingly nothing but do not be misled by appearances. All these airports are getting ready to launch and receive sub-orbital flights in the not too distant future. While our industry is still trying to figure out how to integrate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into the civil air traffic management environment, private industry is throwing another challenge at us: sub-orbital vehicles.

Although sub-orbital flight may seem like the plaything of a few crazy bilioners, it is anything but. There is huge potential in this and it is not for nothing that so many entrepreneurs led by Richard Branson, as well as visionary airports, are getting on the band wagon. Even mighty KLM is involved, albeit only in a marketing capacity… for now anyway.

So what kind of aircraft or spacecraft if you like are we talking about and what do they mean in terms of air traffic management requirements?

A typical first generation sub-orbital vehicle is a kind of rocket powered machine that takes off from a runway and boosts itself to an altitude of around 330.000 feet at which space is commonly considered to begin. Skimming the top of the atmosphere the vehicle and all within it, experience a short period of weightlessness before it tips over and glides back to a runway to land. In a way this is reminiscent to what the Space Shuttle used to do but then on a much reduced scale.

Click here to read the full article

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NATS and Partner Ferrovial to Take Over Services at 10 Spanish Airports

On 26/10/2011, in Life around runways, by steve

British Airways and IBERIA consumated their marriage a while ago and now the UK air navigation service provider NATS has also moved in to get a Spanich partner.

Last month NATS and Spanish partner Ferrovial has been awarded a contract to provide air traffic control services at Alicante, Valencia, Ibiza, Sabadell, Sevilla, Jerez, Melilla, Madrid Cuatro Vientos, Vigo and A Coruña airports in Spain.

The partnership, named ferroNATS, is one of only two bidders to be selected by Spanish Airport Authority, AENA, to take over air traffic control provision at 13 airports across Spain. These contracts represent the first step in the process of liberalising the provision of air traffic control at AENA’s airports, announced by the Spanish government last year.

AENA and ferroNATS are already in dialogue to understand the specific needs of these airports, and how best to transition service provision from the State to ferroNATS over the next several months. ferroNATS will become responsible for staffing and safe service provision at these towers. AENA will retain accountability for maintaining their technological and physical infrastructure.

“I’m delighted that ferroNATS has been selected in recognition of NATS’ world class air traffic control expertise as well as Ferrovial’s leading position in Spain’s services industry and its deep roots in Spanish airfield operations,” said Paul Reid, Managing Director, NATS Services. “The ten airports ferroNATS have been entrusted with represent some of the busiest and most technically complex of the 13 airfields being liberalised. The focus from here will be to deliver a smooth transition from AENA to ferroNATS over the coming months.”

I am not sure who came up with the name of this joint organisation but spelling ferro in all lower case and NATS on all capitals looks… well strange to say the least. Hopefully in real life the relationship will be more balanced.

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A fat lady visiting Ferihegy Airport

On 24/10/2011, in Picture stories, by steve

It is not so rare any more that one comes face to face with an Antonov An-124 but she remains an impressive bird nevertheless. Here is a series of pictures kindly shared by our contributor Lajos: An-124 arriving.

  Click here to read the full article

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Aviation theme Christmas cards

On 22/10/2011, in Just to let you know..., by steve

Do you like this greeting card? If yes, visit Kersten Cards where you will find plenty more like this with an aviation theme as well as others with more traditional themes.

Kersten probably has the widest choice of really nice cards, so go ahead and order from them to surprise your loved ones this Christmas with cards of exceptional quality.

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Emergence – Chapters from the history of Hungarian air traffic control

On 21/10/2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Jozsef Torocsik
Publisher: Athenaeum
ISBN: 978-963-293-123-4

We usually only review books written in English but every now and then an exception is warranted as in the case of Jozsef Torocsik’s wonderful book about air traffic control in Hungary. I hope an English translation will be available soon because it is simply unfair that non-Hungarian speakers should be denied the pleasure of reading what is arguably the most enjoyable account of ATC in Central Europe.

The beauty of this book is that whether you have an aviation background or not, you will understand every detail Jozsi is talking about as he takes you to the secret world of air traffic control and the wider pastures of ATC training in Hungary.

His own background in air traffic control comes vividly alive and we travel with him to Riga for training and get tears in our eyes when he relates the inevitable tragedies that are also part of life in this otherwise superbly safe industry.

The title of the Hungarian version of the book is of course not Emergence… this is just my attempt to translate the cute play on words the original Hungarian title represents. They took the Hungarian equivalent of “Emergency” (Veszhelyzet) and removed the V whereby it became Eszhelyzet, something that could best be translated as a “Mindful Situation”.

I know the environment Jozsi is writing about well and I can tell you, his stories are spot on.

If you are a Hungarian speaker, get a copy. If not, check back often, we will tell you when the English version becomes available.

In the meantime, why not read some more stories from Hungarian ATC in the Same time, same place… category of Roger-Wilco.

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Technologists vs. Economists

On 21/10/2011, in Managers' corner, by steve

It is not a secret that some people considered Boeing’s decision to forego the New Small Aircraft and follow Airbus’ lead in re-engining their existing product a poor one and something that will delay the appearance of a really novel aircraft by a decade if not more. I must confess that I am one of those who would have loved to see the two airframers rush to bring the single-aisle of the future to market.

Commenting on the same subject in a recent issue of Aviation Week, Richard Aboulafia , VP for analysis at the Teal Group, while approving the Boeing decision, divided the world in two groups of people. There are the Technologists and the Economists.

For Technologists, “aviation is a technology driven business, with new equipment stimulating demand and therefore creating its own market”. Economists on the other hand “view technology as a means to an end: profit”. He also points out that most airlines and aircraft companies are run by Economists.

Reading this very interesting article, I stopped to do some soul searching. Which camp did I really belong to?

Some years ago, still as an assistant director infrastructure at IATA, I was called to hold afternoon-length sessions for ATC supervisors at EUROCONTROL’s school in Luxemburg with the aim of outlining to them what the airline industry wanted from air traffic management in the future. I usually started out shocking them by the statement: airlines were just a business and air traffic management must behave in a way that facilitates that business. By proxy, ATC was just a part of a complicated business environment.

I have also often argued for having a business case for just about everything… New channel spacing? Business case. Air/ground digital link services? Business case. Mode S Enhanced Surveillance? No, I did not want that even if there was a business case (there never has been, not a credible one anyway).

Click here to read the full article

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EU to invest 32 billion Euros to improve European transport – SESAR is one of the beneficiaries!

On 20/10/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to transform the existing patchwork of European roads, railways, airports and canals into a unified transport network (TEN-T). The new core network will remove bottlenecks, upgrade infrastructure and streamline cross border transport operations for passengers and businesses throughout the EU. It will improve connections between different modes of transport and contribute to the EU’s climate change objectives.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: “Transport is fundamental to an efficient EU economy, but vital connections are currently missing. Europe’s railways have to use 7 different gauge sizes and only 20 of our major airports and 35 of our major ports are directly connected to the rail network. Without good connections Europe will not grow or prosper.”

The new policy follows a two-year consultation process and establishes a core transport network to be established by 2030 to act as the backbone for transportation within the Single Market. The financing proposals published today (for the period 2014–2020) also tightly focus EU transport funding on this core transport network, filling in cross-border missing links, removing bottlenecks and making the network smarter.

The new core TEN-T network will be supported by a comprehensive network of routes, feeding into the core network at regional and national level. This will largely be financed by Member States, with some EU transport and regional funding possibilities, including with new innovative financing instruments. The aim is to ensure that progressively, and by 2050, the great majority of Europe’s citizens and businesses will be no more than 30 minutes’ travel time from this comprehensive network.

Taken as a whole, the new transport network will deliver:

• safer and less congested travel

• as well as smoother and quicker journeys.

The 31.7 billion euros allocated to transport under the Connecting Europe Facility of the MFF (Multi-Annual Financial Framework) will effectively act as “seed capital” to stimulate further investment by Member States to complete difficult cross-border connections and links which might not otherwise get built. Every 1 million euros spent at European level will generate 5 million from Member State governments and 20 million from the private sector.

Background:

The new policy sets out a much smaller and more tightly defined transport network for Europe. Its aim is to focus spending on a smaller number of projects where real EU added value can be realised. Member States will also face more rigorous requirements in terms of common specifications which will work cross-border, and legal obligations actually to complete the project.

Click here to read the full article

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The crystal ball of surface movement analysis

On 19/10/2011, in Life around runways, by steve

We have all heard of the so called airport hot spots… places where extra caution is required to avoid nasty incidents like runway incursions. Until now, hot spots were discovered the hard way. Usually the dangerous places were identified as such following several incidents that made the situation clear: this is where danger lurks, extra caution advised. For the same reason, it is difficult to engineer out hot spots even in green field projects as it is not easy to establish before the start of operations just where things will consistently go wrong.

The Airport Viewer being developed by the FAA and Saab Sensis Corporation will change all that. A system originally developed to collect operational data to be used to judge the effects of various NextGen elements on airport operations is turning out to be a powerful tool to assess otherwise hard to notice operational anomalies which can lead to serious ground movement incidents.

Like in so many other areas, the key to this potential safety improvement is the harvesting and processing of ground movement data that has always been there albeit in a form that did not lend itself to easy interpretation. ASDE-X, the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (which is also a Sensis product) is being deployed across the US at all major airports. It monitors and records live traffic which the FAA can review like data from any other of their surveillance systems.

In the past, the recorded data was reviewed usually only when an incident was being investigated. After the fact as it were. Yet the circumstances that led to many incidents were there also in the past, possibly hiding in the mass of data. Even if things came very near to being an incident, if it did not happen, the almost-event went unnoticed.

Sensis is now creating a few clever algorithms which, let loose on the ASDE-X data, are able to discern movement patterns and behaviors which represent anomalies and which may indicate problem areas. Possible hot spots!

Click here to read the full article

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