ATC Units in California, Oregon and Washington state sign cooperation agreement…

On 14/11/2013, in ATC world, by cleo

chgYou, my gentle reader, will be forgiven for thinking that the news in the title is total madness… And you would be right! This news is fake, I just made it up to illustrate the absurdity of such a move which, by the way, is absurdity only in the US. In Europe the same thing is part of eliminating fragmentation.

It is difficult not to smile and shake one’s head at the news that the air navigation service providers of the Central and Easter European “region” have signed a strategic agreement to make things better in Europe. Hm… The ANSPs concerned cover three FABs and on first sight one might even think that this is a shiny example of inter-FAB cooperation, the lack of which has long been a worry of the European Commission.

On second sight though…

There was a time long ago when Europe was dreaming. They dreamt that the old continent could have a single air traffic management organization that would run something like 3 ACCs to cover this not too big landmass and that we would end up with a system as safe and as efficient as that of the US. Unfortunately, some States woke up before the dream could be made reality and they did their best to kill the dream. What would have been a really European EUROCONTROL was left with a nice headquarters in Brussels and in the end only one ATC unit in Maastricht.

As traffic rose, delays skyrocketed but several attempts to start up programs to alleviate the situation all failed… not because EUROCONTROL was not up to the task but because the member States insisted on not upsetting the apple cart, never mind that the apples were rotting in plain sight of everyone.

Fragmentation was named as one of the most serious problems of the European environment.

Then came the European Commission and the Single European Sky… This was supposed to eliminate fragmentation once and for all. One of the pillars was the concept of Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB)… 3-4 such blocks organized around the main traffic flows… sound familiar?

Well, the 3-4 became 9 and organized along political lines… One of the first discoveries of the FAB era was that agreements that were difficult to reach on the European level were equally difficult to engineer on the FAB level. Surprise, surprise…

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Strategic agreement concluded by the air navigation service providers of Central and Eastern European region

On 14/11/2013, in ATC world, by steve

Gate One – the new professional cooperation platform of ten ANSPs of the Central and Eastern European region

The Air Navigation Services Providers (ANSPs) of ten countries comprising the region from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea signed on 6 November 2013 a strategic cooperation agreement on establishing a regional cooperation platform. The purpose of the strategic alliance titled GATE ONE, covering the area of three functional airspace blocks is to promote the efficiency of European Air Traffic Management through an enhanced cooperation among the participating service providers, moreover to ensure a more powerful and coordinated advocacy of the countries of the region in the European decision-making processes. The agreement has been signed in Sofia by the CEO’s of the ANSPs of Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The Parties agreed on the accession of Bosnia-Herzegovina ANSP at their next meeting in January 2014.

The airspace between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea is one of the most important gateways of the European continent: this region handles air traffic in the directions of North and South, East and West, sustaining links between the central and Nordic countries of the European Union as well as with the continent of Asia and the region of the Middle East.

The actual developments of the European Air Traffic Management industry point towards the assumption that the air navigation service providers of the region, operating under similar conditions, can only be efficient in attaining their interests in case they create a closer cooperation in the coordination of strategic issues (and the operative issues being meaningful at the regional level). Furthermore, they need to strive towards representing a consolidated position concerning common technical and economic issues affecting the region and vital to the Union-wide picture of the Air Traffic Management.

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American + US = what a combination!

On 13/11/2013, in Airline corner, by steve

photo_BLUSKYWith the all clear having been given for the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, the consolidation of the hub-carriers in the United States is just about complete. Any more merging and only one huge airline will be left, not counting the low-cost folks of course (who are not averse to doing a bit of their own merging here and there).

But this is not what I wanted to write a few words about.

The merger of American and US Airways touches a personal chord for me since I have had the good fortune of working with them both for the best part of two decades.

US Airways was one of the main promoters of collaborative decision making (CDM) and they were always ready to introduce new people into this simple but effective concept of doing what should have been the most normal thing in the world… something so evident, most people simply forgot about it. Talking to each other and sharing information before making decisions that affected all the partners. US Airways wowed to change all that. To a very large extent, they were successful too.

American Airlines was the biggest promoter of air/ground data link communications. At one point they were so upset by the FAA’s handling of the US data-link program that Russ Chew, who held various positions of increasing responsibility in American Airlines, came to Europe and asked us at IATA to help get AA on board the European data link trials project Petal, run by EUROCONTROL. It was a mild sunny day when IATA’s European Regional Director, Phil Hogge, Russ and myself were sitting in our little garden not far from Zaventem airport to discuss the best strategy for having AA join Petal with their 767s. They did and one of the most important consequences was that the FAA also woke up and got their act together. The rest is history…

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Busy October

On 13/11/2013, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

photo_lockheedThe first part of October turned out to be busier than we bargained for. Soon after the nostalgic visit to Riga I was once again on my way to the airport occasioned by a new incident investigation. It was not a big deal, only the usual silly 4 miles issue. This was not the point however. The points were the discussions I have had with the folks at the flight safety department and also their bosses. To be perfectly honest, I was rather pleased when they invited me to fill the post left vacant by the untimely passing away of my good friend Meaty. To be more precise, they asked me to move my base of operations from the tower to the flight safety department. I hesitated for a short time but all the while I was glad that my forecast had come in. No one applied to be a full-time incident investigator during the competition held in the summer and I was secretly hoping that I would get the job without having to take an interview. If that were to happen, I would not need to prove to the twentysomething HR gal that I actually know what I am about. In the end everything turned out according to my expectations and I said yes.

From then on the difficult part begins. It is still not sure when I might start. Problem is, the complement of the tower would not be reduced by only my departure. There are the five colleagues too who have applied for the Kosovo conversion course. Never mind the funny question: why did aerodrome controllers have to apply for a purely area control job? The answer to that question is blowing in the wind, as Bob Dylan would say.

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FAA Releases Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Roadmap Also Finalizes Privacy Policy for UAS Test Sites

On 07/11/2013, in UAS, by steve

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  released its first annual Roadmap outlining efforts needed to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace. The Roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as demand moves the country from today’s limited accommodation of UAS operations to the extensive integration of UAS into the NextGen aviation system in the future.


“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Roadmap is an important step forward that will help stakeholders understand the operational goals and safety issues we need to consider when planning for the future of our airspace.”

The Roadmap outlines the FAA’s approach to ensuring that widespread UAS use is safe, from the perspective of accommodation, integration, and evolution. The FAA’s main goal for integration is to establish requirements that UAS operators will have to meet in order to increase access to airspace over the next five to 10 years. The Roadmap discusses items such as new or revised regulations, policies, procedures, guidance material, training and understanding of systems and operations to support routine UAS operations.

“The FAA is committed to safe, efficient and timely integration of UAS into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are dedicated to moving this exciting new technology along as quickly and safely as possible.”

The Roadmap also addresses the evolution of UAS operations once all requirements and standards are in place and are routinely updated to support UAS operations as the National Airspace System evolves over time. The document stresses that the UAS community must understand the system is not static, and that many improvements are planned for the airspace system over the next 15 years.

The FAA plans to select six UAS test sites to begin work on safely integrating UAS into the airspace. These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into how best to safely integrate UAS systems into the national airspace over the next several years and what certification and navigation requirements will need to be established.

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Customers can now use personal electronic devices gate-to-gate

On 07/11/2013, in Airline corner, by steve

pedUnited Airlines is now offering its customers electronics-friendly cabins on all domestic mainline flights. The airline received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin allowing passengers use of their portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. United will immediately implement the benefit for its customers.

With this change, United customers can safely use their lightweight, hand-held electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers, games and smartphones – in non-transmitting mode from gate-to-gate, unless instructed otherwise by a crew member. Larger electronic devices, like laptops, must still be stored securely in an overhead bin or another approved stowage area during takeoff and landing.

“I want to thank the FAA and Administrator Huerta for working with us so quickly to offer this great benefit to our customers,” said Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer at United. “Safely expanding the use of portable electronic devices is one of the many ways United is working to deliver a more user-friendly travel experience for our customers.”

Currently, only United customers traveling on mainline flights arriving or departing within the 50 United States may operate portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet. However, the airline is working with its regional partners to extend the benefit, and expects to allow customers gate-to-gate use of their electronic devices across all United Express flights operating within the 50 United States by the end of the year as well.

Passengers may still be asked to turn off their electronic devices in certain situations, such as low-visibility operations, and are reminded to carefully follow crew member instructions at all times. Voice calls from cell phones or VoIP-enabled devices are also still prohibited during taxiing, takeoffs, landings and while the aircraft is in flight.



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