Happy New Year!

On 31/12/2012, in Anniversaries, by steve

We wish all our readers a happy and prosperous 2013!

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Electronics creeping up on me…

On 29/12/2012, in Viewpoint, by steve

One way of dividing the world population might be to form two groups: readers of Time and readers of Newsweek. I have been an avid reader of Time magazine ever since my English reached a level good enough to peruse the publication in the mid-sixties. Arrival of the magazine has been the highlight of the week every week since then. I did pick up the odd copy of Newsweek also when they had something interesting to say but have never had a subscription.

Now Newsweek is stopping with its print edition and will only be available in electronic form. Of course with the proliferation of electronic readers and general purpose tablets, reaching a very wide audience in the developed world vie electronic means is not such a big deal any more. So, while Newsweek’s step may appear to be rather bold, it is not so outlandish… unless of course if we consider those countries where the print edition would still be the main, if not the only, way to read Newsweek. So, they are effectively vacating those markets…

One cannot ignore the fact that more and more newsmagazines and professional periodicals include a digital version with a subscription to their paper editions. The digital versions are being promoted quite extensively and I suspect some of them have already placed a mark in their calendars for some time the future when they will announce the termination of the print edition…

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Merry Christmas!

On 24/12/2012, in Anniversaries, by steve

We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas!

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At the tail end of the darkest year

On 23/12/2012, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

Luckily, the failure of Ferihegy tower did not last long. But it was nevertheless long enough to cause misery to thousands of travelers. A few of them tried to find alternative means of transport, like taking a bus to Vienna and trying to secure a seat on planes there. Others, resigned to their fate, just went home and I am not sure they will ever try flying again. In any case, the experts reestablished power to the tower using a portable generator so at 7 am on the 8th of December operations could resume. Colleagues on the night shift told us that they awaited the “miracle” in the control centre as there was not much logic in going out to the tower. The supervisor acted as messenger, bringing news of how the works were progressing. In the early hours of the morning came the information that they should now return to the tower, set up the systems and be ready for the morning departures to leave on time. It must have been some night!

Not that our night shift was any better. On the night of 11 December, we switched from the generator to normal power. I was one of the lucky ones who could watch the screens go dark as the generator was switched off. A scary sight! It would have been nice to make a video of this event but these days the price you pay for something like this is being shot in the head, so it is not worth it. When all went dark and on the emergency lights twinkles forlornly in the whole building, we too moved to the rest area. Luckily, it did not take long before we could return to the control room and it was time to restart the systems. Then we watched expectantly… what would happen? Would it all work? But once again our technicians had done an excellent job and the morning peak could go ahead without any problem. Everyone was happy, some may even have had a few champagne bottles popped… Of course people at the airport company were also eagerly awaiting the news from us… but that is another story.

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The world 20 years ago and 11 years ago

On 22/12/2012, in Anniversaries, by steve

Twenty years ago, on 22 December 1992 a Libyan Airlines Boeing 727 crashed after a midair collision with a MiG fighter, killing all 157 people on board as well as the two pilots in the MiG. The 727 was on approach into Tripoli airport at an altitude of 3500 feet when the collision occurred.

Eleven years ago, on 22 December 2001 Richard C. Reid, also known as the Shoe Bomber, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, tried to ignite explosives in his shoes, but was subdued by flight attendants and fellow passengers. Reid is serving a life sentence in federal prison.

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TITAN Final Workshop

On 20/12/2012, in TITAN, by steve

Those of you who have followed the evolution of the TITAN project on the pages of Roger-Wilco will be familiar with the aims and development methodology of this trend-setting EC 7th framework project. Building on the achievements of Airport Collaborative Decision Making systems (A-CDM), TITAN had set out to show how aircraft turnaround can be further optimized to the benefit of all partners concerned. TITAN was special also because its results were considered as important input for the airport collaborative decision making related projects of SESAR itself.

After three years of intense activity, TITAN has come to an end in November, marking this milestone with a final workshop that was held in Palma de Mallorca. Before you get funny ideas about the choice of location for the workshop, I hasten to add that this beautiful Spanish resort island was picked mainly in recognition of the valuable and voluntary contribution of Palma de Mallorca airport throughout the project.

The workshop was very well attended and it was nice to see that in addition to the customary airport and handling agent experts, industry and research establishment representatives were also in evidence, a clear indication of the significance of what TITAN was aiming to achieve.

This must be an interesting presentation!

In the course of the workshop, the main features of TITAN were presented. Participants could learn how service orientation was implemented, an absolute first in European CDM, how the TITAN model was developed and validated, providing a perfect basis for checking out and shaking down the TITAN concept of operations. The development of the TITAN tool represented a partial implementation of the concept which was however plenty enough to show what a full-fledged TITAN can do to make turnarounds even more predictable and an integral part of the aircraft trajectory.

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When the (tower) roof falls in…

On 17/12/2012, in Life around runways, by steve

Ferihegy airport was shut down recently for the better half of a day as the result of a complete failure of the control tower. According to news reports, a heating pipe failed and this resulted in the electric installations being soaked. No electricity, no play.

Many years ago I did work in the control tower of Ferihegy, albeit not in the spanking new one which went belly up this time but in the old one adorning Terminal 1. We did have failures involving our radios (we had a battery powered reserve set) and the control panel of the runway lights (which were subsequently operated from the airport’s central power station)… Once we even had approach control talk to the aircraft normally worked by the tower and we gave approach the clearances to be passed to the pilots via telephone. It was not easy but closing the airport because of a technical glitch like this was not something any supervisor in their right mind would have proposed back then.

But it is now… there must have been an overriding reason for shutting down the field rather than coming up with a nice solution.

Apparently, the folks in Budapest did not really have a well thought out contingency procedure to use in such cases. May be they thought something like this could never happen…

Anyway, Roger-Wilco went around some of the airports in Europe to see what they have up their sleeve in case the roof falls in. We will start with Brussels National and London Heathrow and Gatwick. They are not really comparable with Ferihegy but are nevertheless similar, since they all have new towers with the old facility still intact.

BRU Tower with two control rooms below each other…

At Brussels, the new control tower has two control rooms, at different levels in the control tower building, with basically the same equipment in each. If the whole tower needs to be evacuated for whatever reason, the old control tower cab, atop the main terminal, is the designated “contingency” tower. This is equipped with more or less the same equipment, tools and interfaces as the new tower. So, any service interruption will not last longer than what is needed to get the controllers from the old tower to the new one. The “Belgocontrol Contingency Plan” contains the details of the Brussels Tower Contingency Plan, all of which is published in the Belgocontrol Contingency Handbook. When things go sour, everyone takes the Handbook and follows the detailed guidance contained therein to perform their individual, pre-assigned duties.

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Transition

On 17/12/2012, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

Following our late-autumn holiday, returning to our dearly loved capital city’s even more beloved airport, we once again struck the strings in the thick of life. There was no time to get bored, in part because of the frequent foggy weather but even more, since air traffic control’s history had entered a new phase. Apparently all obstacles have been removed and the second part of November saw work starting in the new air traffic control centre, ANS III.

For starters, we were given a short orientation course that covered the process of transition. We then went to gape at the new control room. My first impression was that the place had become much more colorful. The red wall to wall carpeting did cause some differences of opinion among the colleagues however. There were those (among them myself) who liked it, while others though the color was too bright.

The room does not appear to be substantially bigger but there is more light a fact approach controllers will not like much since the windows cause reflections on their screens. I guess curtains will make sure that the Sun will not shine often in this new room either. We did not get to see the other areas and one can only hope that the colleagues will have plenty of space also for relaxation and rest.

Obviously, with all this going on, the Tower is not left unaffected. We too are getting new software and this will be phased in as the transition progresses. We have two additional monitors… two more things to watch! The various offices under our feet are also evolving to line up with the new requirements. One of our rest areas was moved into an office previously belonging to the boss… I wonder whether his ghost will be watching over our heads as we slumber and rest.

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Shame on you Airbus

On 16/12/2012, in Viewpoint, by cleo

I have never particularly liked Airbus. For decades, a political football parading as a real company, they were always just a tad too aggressive and self-important for my liking. Some of our airline colleagues related just how different it was to accept new aircraft in Seattle and in Toulouse. The Airbus personnel always acted like they were some kind of superior beings with the customers lost sheep needing direction. The initial debacle with the proposed A350 was a good example of what happens when a company thinks they know everything better and try to rape their customers with their ideas.

When they created the A380, there was a brief period when they were in the limelight, after all, that fat lady is huge, the biggest there is. But other than that, it is not a revolutionary aircraft in any way.

When Boeing, very wisely, decided to forego creating a similar behemoth and went instead for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, they also made a number of design decisions that did result in a trendsetting product. With the fuselage constructed of composite barrels and most of the hydraulics replaced by electrics, the 787 is like a beacon showing where the future is. Whatever Airbus does to the A350, it will be second fiddle, no doubt about that.

Of course the next big battle will be the replacements for the 737 and 320 family aircraft. Both manufacturers have decided to offer re-engined versions of their current bestsellers, resulting in the Boeing 737MAX and the Airbus A320NEO. Both are interim solutions with a shelf life of less than a decade, serving as the mainstay of the industry until engine and aerodynamic innovation matures enough to warrant the expense of completely new designs. But with fuel prices heading North, airlines are eager to get their hand on aircraft offering fuels savings and the MAX and NEO will both deliver that.

They are selling well and it is therefore difficult to understand why Airbus has felt it necessary to run a series of double page ads trying to throw mud on the 737MAX. Unless they are truly afraid that the MAX will put the NEO to shame…

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European states ignoring Commission Regulations?

On 15/12/2012, in Airline corner, by steve

It is only a few days ago that airlines in Europe blasted states and ANSPs for creating empty shells which are then sold as operating Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) and the European Commission sent an equally strong message expressing its displeasure.

The next round of fire aims at the UK, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Spain and France who have reported at the recent Project Steering Group meeting on Data Link Services, that they will not meet the deadline of 7 February 2012 for the provision of data link services in the core area of Europe as mandated by Commission Regulation EC No 29/2009.

“The decision of these member states to not comply with European regulation will not only undermine the financial investments made by airspace users, but will also damage the credibility of the Single European Sky of which achieving de-fragmentation of the ATM infrastructure is a key objective.” – says IATA and AEA in their common letter addressed to Matthew Baldwin, Director Aviation and International Transport Affairs at the European Commission.

What is more, they urge the European Commission to take the necessary legal action against non-compliant member states…

I have said many times that in the past that promising air traffic management programs like EATCHIP and ATM2000+ died premature deaths not because of mismanagement by EUROCONTROL as states like to claim. They went nowhere because some states and ANSPs chose to walk their own way even if it meant hitting the wall.

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