Florian Guillermet nominated as new Executive Director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking

On 25/02/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) has just announced that Florian Guillermet, Deputy Executive Director of the SJU, has been selected for the position of Executive Director. Florian’s appointment comes at a time when the SJU and its members prepare for the next phase of SESAR, Europe’s ambitious research and development (R&D) programme on Air Traffic Management (ATM).

Florian Guillermet (right) with RW Editor Steve Zerkowitz

Florian Guillermet (right) with Roger-Wilco Editor Steve Zerkowitz at ATC Global 2011

Commenting on his appointment, Florian said: “SESAR is Europe’s most ambitious research and development programme and I am extremely honoured to have been chosen to steer the programme.”

Since joining the SJU in 2008, Florian has spearheaded major strategic and operational shifts across SESAR’s R&D process. His expertise and knowledge of ATM and the SESAR Programme will be key as the programme continues to develop a growing number of SESAR solutions, mature enough to be taken on board by the industry.

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FAA Issues Final Rule to Improve Helicopter Safety

On 20/02/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve

foxnewshelicopterThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today issued a final rule that requires helicopter operators, including air ambulances, to have stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications, training, and additional on-board safety equipment. The rule represents the most significant improvements to helicopter safety in decades and responds to government’s and industry’s concern over continued risk in helicopter operations.

“This is a landmark rule for helicopter safety,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These improvements will better prepare pilots and better equip helicopters, ensuring a higher level of safety for passengers and crew.”

All U.S. helicopter operators, including air ambulances, are required to use stricter flying procedures in bad weather. This will provide a greater margin of safety by reducing the probability of collisions with terrain, obstacles or other aircraft.

Within 60 days, all operators will be required to use enhanced procedures for flying in challenging weather, at night, and when landing in remote locations. Within three years, helicopter air ambulances must use the latest on-board technology and equipment to avoid terrain and obstacles, and within four years, they must be equipped with flight data monitoring systems.

“This rule is a significant advancement in helicopter safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This rule will help reduce risk and help pilots make good safety decisions through the use of better training, procedures, and equipment.”

Under the new rule, all Part 135 helicopter operators are required to:

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Combined winglet technology will save United airlines $200 million a year

On 19/02/2014, in Airline corner, by steve

ScimitarA United Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft freshly retrofitted with new Split Scimitar Winglets took to the skies yesterday, marking the first commercial flight worldwide to operate with the advanced winglet technology. United flight 1273 on Tuesday took off from the airline’s Houston hub and flew to Los Angeles. The airline installed the innovative winglets on the Boeing 737-800 after the FAA approved the technology made by Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) earlier this month.

“We are proud to be the first airline in the world to fly with this unrivaled winglet technology that cuts our fuel consumption while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions,” said Ron Baur, United’s vice president of fleet. “We appreciate APB’s commitment to developing fuel-saving technology and look forward to realizing savings that come from the improved fuel efficiency.”

This new winglet design demonstrates significant aircraft drag reduction over the basic Blended Winglet configuration United uses on its current fleet. Using a newly patented design, the program retrofits United’s Boeing Next Generation 737 Blended Winglets by replacing the aluminum winglet tip cap with a new aerodynamically shaped “Scimitar”TM winglet tip cap and by adding a new Scimitar-tipped ventral strake. The new design will reduce fuel consumption by up to 2 percent per aircraft.

Last year, United served as the launch customer for the Split Scimitar winglet when it made a firm commitment with APB to retrofit its 737-800 and 737-900ER aircraft.

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Eugene Bullard, the World’s First Black Fighter Pilot

On 16/02/2014, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Larry Greenly
Publisher: NewSouth Books
ISBN: 978-58838-280-1

eugibeA generation to whom an African-American US President is a normal thing may have some trouble imagining an age where a young guy with top-notch credentials and abilities had to go to France to realize his true potential, becoming a fighter pilot in World War I and then being active in the French Underground in World War II. He was simply ignored in the United States when he returned home, his multiple decorations notwithstanding. At age sixty four in 1959 he was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, a fact showing clearly that the French had not forgotten him even after his return to America. Not only was he not forgotten, he was in fact fondly remembered so much so that General Charles De Gaulle personally invited him to a ceremony in New York where Bullard was embraced by the General himself.

NewSouth Books has brought to us the fascinating story of Eugene Bullard, written by Larry Greenly. Of course the name Bullard will not be unfamiliar to military history and aviation enthusiasts, his pioneering exploits have been chronicled before. However, this is the first time his life has been written up in a book meant primarily for the history-minded part of the general public.

In this time and age young people do not bat an eye if they have to cross several continents in pursuit of work or pleasure. When Bullard was in his way to France, it was a journey filled with hardship and being black did not help at all. He left behind racial discrimination as he headed for France, a country his father often talked about as the example of equality.

Having run away from home at age 12 he ended up in the French Foreign Legion (a notoriously difficult organization to live in) and later joined the Lafayette Flying Corps.

Larry Greenly brings us the story of this hardy young man in a fast paced but thoroughly enjoyable narrative which is easily understandable even for someone who has never dwelt deeper in the strange world that was Bullard’s reality.

This book is a historically accurate account yet it is written as a novel so do not expect a dry history lesson. You are transported right to where the action is and the characters talk and feel and live their lives  in front of you eyes.

If you enjoyed the Tuskegee Airmen (also by NewSouth Books) you will love this book too! Thoroughly recommended.


Does European ATM know where it is going?

On 13/02/2014, in FAB News, by cleo

fabAlmost forgotten in the mist of European air traffic management history is an organization called EUROCONTROL. It was invented to be the FAA of Europe… or something like that. It would have been the provider of ATM for the continent using an efficient, correctly sized infrastructure and number of ATC Units.

Before it could become anything like it was intended, European States basically killed the idea and left EUROCONTROL with exactly 1.5 centers plus a bit of training and research facilities. The famous and often damned fragmented European ATM system was re-born.

When delays went through the roof and airlines raised hell about it, a series of pan-European projects were initiated (EATCHIP, ATM2000+) were initiated, only to fail miserably. Not because EUROCONTROL was not up to the job… but because States made sure the status quo was not disturbed. Then the European Commission joined the fray…

When the EC realized that even they would not be able to move Europe to work as one, they embraced the weird idea of Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB)… a concept that is a variation on the old fragmented scenario hidden under a fancy name. To say that the FAB’s were not exactly a success is the understatement of the century.

After plodding along for many years with mighty little to show for it, FABs are now consolidating.

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Reverse technology flow

On 10/02/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve

mapNot so long ago I punched an address into the navigation software of my smartphone and after pondering the information for a few seconds, the well-known female voice announced: Caution, your destination is in a restricted area. Mind you, the address was in a quiet, relatively new area of Budapest so her knowledge of such details was really impressive. In short order our 20 thousand Euro rental car with 4 people on board was led to the address… Compare this to what happened on 22 December 2013 at Johannesburg’s Tambo International Airport when a 350 million bucks 747 with 185 passengers punched a hole with its right wing in a building after the crew, using paper charts to navigate, failed to heed a warning printed on the chart about the presence of a narrow taxilane which they entered by mistake.

The taxi lane versus the taxiway...

The taxi lane versus the taxiway…

In 2011 an Airbus 380 struck a building while taxiing in broad daylight… during the Paris airshow of all places!

In May 2012, an Eva Air 747’s wing sliced through an American Eagle regional jet in Chicago…


But there is more.

Moving map ground navigation displays have been available in cars for several years when they first appeared in airliner cockpits but initially they carried a sticker, saying that the display was not be used for operational purposes. The reason? Most existing airport maps were so inaccurate, the plane would have been shown taxiing anywhere except on the taxiways. When I saw this, I was wondering: would I ever buy a car with a sticker like that?

Still more?

According to some statistics, on average there are 2 noteworthy runway incursion incidents per day… A runway incursion is an event when an aircraft or ground vehicle enters the runway and gets in the way of another aircraft. The problem has been long recognized and efforts are underway to reduce the incidence of such events. One system will generate a warning when an incursion is about to happen. The warning rings the bell… in the Tower!!!! Just think about it. A 747 is about to become a problem and someone thought the best place to start the shouting is in the tower… by the time the controller reacts and passes the warning to the pilots, it is probably all over… except for the shouting (sorry, no pun intended).


According to Flight Safety Foundation data, there are some 27 thousand ramp accidents per year world-wide resulting in a cool 10 billion bucks of damage.

Clearly, there is something very wrong here. How is it possible that multimillion dollar jets with hundreds of passengers on board are still lumbering around airports using technologies that date back to 30-40 years ago?

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Neither here nor there…

On 09/02/2014, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

LajosI must be out of my mind, no question about it. After just one week on my new job I had tears in my eyes when I was sitting once more in the tower, headset on my ears, I uttered the magic sentence: “Cleared to land, runway 31 right”. I also had this nice feeling… I have not gotten completely detached from the tower. Sure, the new job is an exciting challenge but you do not get over 30 years just like that. Luckily my voice did not betray my emotions and so I escaped being made fun of by my colleagues.

One thing is sure, it was strange going out to the airport every day for a week… well the airport? More like the ANS facility. The reception did help a lot and made me forget the strange feeling in record time. Slowly I made the acquaintance of the new colleagues whom I did know already from the time when I was just a visitor. This appears to be a nice little crew and luckily everyone have their place and tasks, so they were not looking at me with eyes that would say, now you were the last thing we needed.

So I slotted into my new position, poor Meaty’s old one that got all cold by now. My first act was that of a small remembrance, I wrote a message to Meaty up there, assuring him that I will try to fill the void he left as best I can. This will not be easy as I discovered the very first week. There were also a few hair raising moments when nobody knew where I actually belonged. I was no longer on the staff of air traffic control and I was not yet on the staff of the safety department. So? But matters sorted themselves out after a while. At least that is what I hope.


About my job… well there is not much to write home about, perhaps only to say that as a tower expert, I will keep track of events that concern the tower. If an incident occurs, I will investigate it, draw the conclusions and send the results to the appropriate people. We do have other tasks but I will not dwell on those. I want to continue writing the Tower Chronicles, something that is probably more interesting also for the readers.

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Echoes from the past

On 07/02/2014, in Picture stories, by steve

ma13 February 2012 was a black day in the history of civil aviation in Hungary. Malev, the national airline of the country stopped operations that day after it was placed under bankruptcy protection the day before. The causes are many, both political and economic, and one unexpected result is that a lot of people in the Hungarian aviation family came to hate low cost carriers, kinda giving them the blame for what had happened. Ryanair was one of the airlines that picked up the slack left by Malev and their aggressive attitude and oft criticized service was the perfect opening for directing Hungarian frustration against the company. The other, much hated, outfit is WizzAir. Some people give the blame to its director who, they claim, was instrumental in helping Malev go bankrupt. The fact that WizzAir has in the meantime become one of the biggest low cost carriers in Europe does not seem to compensate the haters.

Passing through Ferihegy Airport just a few days before the second anniversary of the Malev failure, a strange sight caught my eyes. Apparently the past is still very much in evidence… Airstair with the Malev logo on it against a Wizzair aircraft and a van of MGH… Malev Ground Handling  seem to keep the memories of happier days alive. I can just hope nobody will have the bright idea of repainting/renaming those things! Sure, they are not your usual ads for a great company but they warm one’s heart nevertheless.

I can imagine that in a few year’s time a little kid will ask his dad what Malev means on the side of the airstair… and even that his dad might teply, I do not know.

Well, there is a task for all of us. Remember… and help others to know about Malev, no matter how far into history things have sunk.





Do you need proof of just how broken European air traffic management is?

On 05/02/2014, in ATC world, by cleo

atmWhen Unions and militant air traffic controllers air their ire over the aims of the Single European Sky (SES) or when they sit back contentedly to discuss just what a great job they are doing, they usually fail to take stock of the very real shortcomings that SES is aiming to address. The list is long and I will not go into each of them here… that could be the subject of a longer article. Neither am I saying that air traffic controllers as such are to blame for the shortcomings… let’s just say that the system as a whole is broken and it is high time something was done about it. Not the way it was tried in EATCHIP and ATM2000+ (both of which failed because of recalcitrant States and monopoly ANSPs). No, this time we need something more effective.

But back to what is probably the most pregnant example of the ills of the fragmented and inefficient European ATM.

Even as passengers one cannot fail to notice how many times a flight that had departed on time gets held up at destination, going into a hold or being vectored all over the place or landing to find that there is no free gate and so the plane has to wait with engines idling… Why could they not slow the guy down while still en-route so that the wasteful delay at destination was avoided?

Arrival managers were invented to help controllers arrange inbound traffic in such a way that the capacity of the runways was used to the maximum while aircraft still operated on efficient trajectories.

The idea was nice but there was a fatal flaw in the concept.

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Should Air Traffic Controllers hold strikes over the Single European Sky?

On 03/02/2014, in ATC world, by cleo

strikeI do not know whether somebody has written a book about the history of industrial action but no problem, we all know what this means. Workers unhappy with their pay, hours, perks or whatever “strike” their employer by laying down the hammer, wrench and so, refusing to work until the employer agrees to their demands or they meet somewhere half way.

It is trade unions who normally orchestrate strikes and the right to strike has been one of the most important victories of the “working class”, back in the early (and not so early) days of capitalism. Of course those were simpler times and a strike, while painful for the employer, was unlikely to affect in a serious way large sections of the general population.

To-day is different. It is still true that a strike at Boeing or a steel-mill will not cause headaches for the average citizen but a strike at a major airline, train company, or of air traffic controllers will by definition result in untold aggravation and pain to the travelling public who are, after all, paying the lunch of the striking workers.

Without questioning the right of any group of people to assert their needs and bring forward their grievances so that their employers will listen, I do not think anyone should have the right to pull the carpet from under people who have absolutely nothing to do with the conflict at hand. I am saying this even knowing full well that the Unions will counter that without the extra aggravation, their industrial action is not effective enough. Totally wrong thinking. They should settle their differences without climbing on the backs of innocent travelers.

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