Proposed route from San Francisco hub would be first service by a U.S. carrier to mainland China beyond Beijing, Shanghai

On 29/08/2013, in Airline corner, by steve

United Airlines has  applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for authority to begin nonstop service linking the airline’s San Francisco hub with Chengdu, China, the fourth-largest Chinese city, effective June 9, 2014.

787United intends to use the world’s most advanced passenger airplane, the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, to operate three-times-weekly service to Chengdu. If approved, Chengdu will be the ninth destination United serves in the Asia/Pacific region nonstop from San Francisco, from which United offers more nonstop trans-Pacific flights from the United States than any other carrier – nearly twice as many as any airline from any West Coast city.

Flight Schedule
The proposed flights, subject to government approval, will depart San Francisco International Airport at 1:35 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and arrive at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport at 6:50 p.m. the following day (all times local). Service from Chengdu will depart at 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 8:50 a.m. the same day. Flying times will be approximately 14 hours, 15 minutes westbound and 13 hours, 50 minutes eastbound. This new nonstop flight will shave nearly four hours off the typical travel time between the two cities.

About Chengdu
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China, is the country’s fourth largest city, with a population of approximately 14 million in the urban area. In recent years, Chengdu has been one of the country’s fastest-developing cities economically, and more than 200 Fortune 500 companies have a presence in the city. Sichuan is famous as the natural habitat of the giant panda and home to one of China’s most popular cuisines.

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National Airline or Airline of Nationalism?

On 26/08/2013, in Airline corner, by cleo

solyomWe do not normally associate airlines with political parties or sides or whatever… not at least in the normal part of the world. But things are anything but normal in Hungary these days. Into the fourth year of the reign of a right-wing government that is busy dismantling democracy on the one hand and hating the rest of the world and Europe in particular on the other, strange things are quite commonplace these days in this little country that once had earned the moniker “the happiest barracks” in the old Soviet camp. Now happiness is scarce while winks to the far right, tolerated if not actually encouraged by the government, are rife. But how does this relate to an airline?

Ever since the collapse of Malev, the Hungarian national airline, people in all walks of life have been craving a comeback, convinced that a country without an airline would automatically be relegated to second rung status. This is not true of course but the fact remained that it was less easy to reach Budapest this past year even though other airlines had picked up most of the slack. Low cost carriers, including Ryanair and Hungary’s own WizzAir filled a good part of the vacuum left by Malev but of course their service, in the opinion of a lot of the Hungarians, is nothing to write home about… So, an own national airline is a must.

When the news broke that on the back of mysterious investors from Arabia a new airline, fully owned by three Hungarian businessmen, was about to appear, the cheering had no end. Those who cautioned that starting a new airline in the current aviation market climate was a risky business were pronounced unpatriotic and agents of the left-liberal communists… Yes, this is how things are done there nowadays.

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Coming and going and the 4 mile rule

On 23/08/2013, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

photo_marvanyiThe Summer of 2013 has been mainly a quiet, almost sleepy period at Ferihegy airport. Traffic was light and if we sweated it was due to the temperatures and not the number of aircraft vying for our attention. Incidents that came about were all of the kind that did not count as incidents in the past. Since the introduction of the 4 nautical mile between arriving and departing aircraft rule, it counts as an incident when an aircraft slips inside the 4 NM distance. The young titans (who have never actually controlled aircraft) sat down to puzzle out (they called it modeling…) that the old and many times proven separation minimum called threshold-threshold was not safe and they obliged us to introduce the 4NM rule… This means that a departing aircraft has to start its take-off roll at the latest by the time an arriving aircraft is at four miles on final. If the arrival gets closer than 4 miles, it has to be instructed to make a missed approach, otherwise the event qualifies as an incident. I am not sure there is another place on Earth where they have a totally mad procedure like this, but the fact is, traffic these days is so low at Ferihegy that even this madness could be introduced without visible consequences. Of course I can only recall with regret the good old times when I could simply inform the arrival that I would like to allow a departure to take off before them… This was enough for the pilots, they knew what to do, reduced speed and only in the rare cases where the threshold-threshold separation would be violated would we make them perform a missed approach. I have not had a single case like that in my 30 year career, hence my difficulty with swallowing this kind of new rules.

Of course the most exciting event this summer was the arrival of the first aircraft of Solyom Airways. They landed on 18 August to applause and then left again to return who knows when? But they sure caused a bit of a commotion on this otherwise boring day.

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FAA Issues Policy to Improve Workplace Safety for Aircraft Cabin Crewmembers

On 22/08/2013, in Uncategorized, by steve

cabin-crewThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), working with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), today issued a final policy for improving workplace safety for aircraft cabin crewmembers.

While the FAA’s aviation safety regulations take precedence, OSHA will be able to enforce certain occupational safety and health standards currently not covered by FAA oversight.

“Safety is our number one priority – for both the traveling public and the dedicated men and women who work in the transportation industry,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It’s important that cabin crewmembers on our nation’s airlines benefit from OSHA protections, including information about potential on-the-job hazards and other measures to keep them healthy and safe.”

“This policy shows the strength of agencies working together and will enhance the safety of cabin crewmembers and passengers alike,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “It is imperative that cabin crewmembers have the same level of safety assurances they provide the public.”

Aircraft cabin safety issues that fall under OSHA standards include information on hazardous chemicals, exposure to blood-borne pathogens, and hearing conservation programs, as well as rules on record-keeping and access to employee exposure and medical records. The FAA and OSHA will develop procedures to ensure that OSHA does not apply any requirements that could adversely affect aviation safety.

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Point Merge – A new art form for streaming arriving traffic

On 12/08/2013, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

point_mergeWe were out in our garden with colleagues from Austria and Slovenia, enjoying Hawai’ian Loco-Moco and my special, home-made pineapple cake, debating the limits of automation in the cockpit and in air traffic control centers. I ventured to say that 100 % automation in an aircraft is within our reach while automating more than 80 % of the tasks of an air traffic controller will probably never happen. We all agreed that the last 20 % of a controller’s job is a kind of art form that will never be taken over by computers.

This art form is very much evident when a controller is vectoring aircraft for approach. The busier it is, the more the art comes into light. Now it is this prime example of the controller’s art that is coming under pressure to give way to a new procedure, dubbed point merge. Already in use at places like Seoul and Oslo, point merge seems to deliver on its promises. Less traffic on the radio, more continuous descents, predictable trajectories, fuel saving and reduce environmental effects and all this for almost zero investment… too good to be true?

But what is point merge?

In the traditional scheme of things, aircraft coming from all directions are picked up by the approach controllers on radar and are instructed to descend in a step by step fashion while being radar vectored to a position from which they can intercept the ILS localizer. Controllers pride themselves on being able to vector arriving traffic in a way that keeps the distances flown as short and the descents as “seamless” as possible. There is no doubt they make an admirable job of this most of the time. However, once traffic reaches a certain level, the task grows beyond human capability and some aircraft will inevitably end up holding until it is their turn to be vectored in.

If we want to be perfectly honest, we must also admit that even when traffic levels are well within human capabilities, radar vectoring of arriving traffic has a number of drawbacks. Among these is the inescapable fact the whole procedure is very unpredictable that carries a certain risk and also complicates the job of the pilots who cannot use the aircraft capabilities to the best advantage and hence fly the most efficient trajectories. Sure, radar vectoring is much better than having to fly rigid, pre-cooked procedures, but still…

Enter point merge, a procedure that aims to combine the best features of both worlds.

The following drawing illustrates the principle of point merge, which is simple and brilliant at the same time.


The first elements in the point merge procedure are the sequencing legs which are in fact arcs placed at suitable distances from the merge point. The radius of the arc and the distances from the merge point are determined for each location and are optimized for the type of traffic that will have to be handled.

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Performance Based Navigation (PBN) – a refresher

On 12/08/2013, in Buzzwords explained, by steve


Performance Based Navigation (PBN) is seen as an essential supporting capability of the modern air traffic management system. In general, PBN offers the following benefits:

• Safety – Lateral and vertical track-keeping is much more accurate and reliable due to new three dimensional guided arrival, approach and departure procedures that cannot be defined by conventional navigation aids. For all controlled flight- into-terrain accidents, 60 percent occur on non-precision approaches using conventional navigation aids. PBN also reduces the flight crew’s exposure to operational errors.
• Capacity – Delays, congestion and choke points at airports and in crowded airspace can be reduced because of new and parallel offset routes through terminal areas, additional entry/exit points around busy terminal areas, more closely spaced procedures for better use of airspace in general and reduced or eliminated conflicts in adjacent airport flows.
• Efficiency – Enhanced reliability, repeatability, and predictability of operations lead to increased air traffic throughput and smoother traffic flow. Enhanced reliability, repeatability and predictability of operations have been demonstrated by PBN based operations primarily in difficult terrain environments. The same or very similar aims have been defined also for other advanced features of the future air traffic management environment, like for instance Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) where improved predictability is one of the most important benefits. Interpolating the effects of PBN into high traffic density areas shows clearly that the industry level expectations of increased traffic throughput and smoother traffic flows are well founded. Of course the actual level of the benefits is likely to vary by location.
• Access – Obstacle clearance and environmental constraints can be better accommodated by applying optimized PBN profiles. Click here to read the full article


A brief SWIM tutorial

On 12/08/2013, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

Before we start… ever wondered where the name SWIM comes from? Click here to find out.

It has been a while since I last wrote about System Wide Information Management (SWIM). In case you are new to this game, here is a brief tutorial that you may find useful.


The management of aeronautical information has developed along two main axes. On the one hand, aeronautical information was being “packaged” as prescribed by ICAO Annex 15 with separate provisions being applicable to meteorological data; on the other, flight plan data being exchanged in accordance with Doc. 4444; and the communications layers being covered by Annex 10. The whole environment reflected the era when paper was the output of most transactions and teletype machines were the means of sending data around.

ATC systems were put in place with little attention to the need for them to talk to each other and airspace user systems grew up on a more or less proprietary basis, with little or no ability to exchange information with ATC systems.

This fragmented and mostly incompatible environment has resulted in a situation where not only efficiency but on occasion even safety is compromised. It is not unusual to have several copies of the same flight plan exist in different ATC systems, each slightly different from the other and neither one correctly reflecting the airspace user’s intentions. Incompatible flight plans across transfer of control boundaries can lead to serious problems.

The implementation of the CFMU did bring some improvement in both standardisation of flight data and the availability of information but many problems remain. ATC systems still do not talk to each other properly, and the standard which is supposed to regulate such transactions is in fact more a collection of options than a standard.

Click here to read the full article


National Pride or Political Junkyard?

On 05/08/2013, in Airline corner, by steve

falconIt looks like the Hungarians will get themselves a new airline after all. For a time anyway…

Dubbed Solyom Hungarian Airways, where “Solyom” stands for Falcon in Hungarian, is an initiative by three Hungarian businessmen and Middle East investors. Expected to start operations with just six aircraft in the near future, the fleet is to grow to 25 units by 2014 and 50 by 2017. By then they will have wide-bodies serving North America too.

It is understandable that many Hungarians cheer this new airline and ex-Malev employees and others flock to answer the job offers published by Solyom. Who would not want to be part of such a re-birth? Who would want to miss such an opportunity?

Questions abound around this new airline and the chances of success they may have. It is true that all IATA figures seem to indicate that the airline industry world-wide is now entering the upward curve of the business cycle and this is going to help also the European market. However, the profit outlook of the big network carriers is predicated on the successful conclusion of the often painful consolidation process that saw the number of airlines reduce rather than grow…

It is true that the disappearance of Malev had left a gap in the market that was not completely filled by the airlines, both legacy and LCC, who were quick to pick up the slack, but this is hardly enough to sustain a new company. Especially one that offers premium service and is intending to focus on premium passengers. Of course “premium” is a relative term and we will see what they offer and for how much to charm people away from the established brands.

Another troubling aspect of this all is the fact that the major hubs in Europe are all struggling and the smaller ones are more or less dissolving as airlines strive to reshape themselves and their cost structure… Will Solyom succeed in turning Budapest into a thriving hub under such circumstances? A big question.

Click here to read the full article


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