Flashback – Part 1. Margaret

On 21/06/2015, in Flashback, by steve

BluSky Services is a successful consultancy that looks back on a history of more than a decade. It is customary to look back on the history of a company by listing the most important events that formed its shape over the years, to present old and not so old photos showing how the company premises and its products evolved. This flashback about BluSky will be unusual. We will look at the people who built the company and who continue to be the spirit of our undertaking. It is a family story as you will see. I have selected photos which capture moments from our lives, moments both special and run of the mill… but all of them significant in one way or the other. Welcome to our world!

At first there were just the three of us… then Daniel came along, although on this photo he is not yet part of the outside environment. In case you are wondering, that license plate is a French consular plate that I was using as an ICAO officer… except that it should have silver letters. I liked the orange letters (reserved for diplomatic plates) better and a few franks in the shop where they made the plates worked wonders to change the colors.



At a certain point in those old old times we had to move house. Something like this is best left to the experts but we did it ourselves. The result? We did look like a bunch of refugees…


We will come back to the story of the kids but first I would like you to meet Margaret. She is currently running a beauty salon in Brussels that is hugely popular and an important profit center in the company. She has always been one of the mainstays of our efforts to go forward while also keeping the family going… and 2extraordinary girl if ever there was one. She is beautiful, smart and kind. Being able to put up with me all these years is an achievement in itself. This photo was taken during a visit to St. Tropez. She was actually invited to visit one of the big yachts tied up in the port but she refused… Some time later we were on a boat but it was just a regular scheduled run to one of the island near the French coast. The engines sent a very nice buzz all through the body of the boat…









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FAA, EU Plan to Extend, Expand NextGen Pact

On 19/06/2015, in NextGen, by steve

The FAA and the European Union have announced their intention to extend and expand their cooperative work toward providing seamless air traffic services for aircraft flying between the United States and Europe.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and the EC’s Director General for Mobility and Transport, Mr. Joao Aguiar Machado, signed a Letter of Intent on air traffic management modernization at a  ceremony in Paris.

“I’m extremely proud of our partnership with the European Union,” said Administrator Michael Huerta. “Today’s signing validates the collaborative work that began three years ago and confirms our commitment to enhance our relationship even further.”

“Modernizing air traffic management is vital for the future of European aviation,” said EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc. “We need to invest in innovation in order to improve ATM performances. This means cheaper flights, increased safety, a lower impact on the environment, and better capacity to manage traffic. We share these objectives with the U.S. We are already doing a great job with the FAA by cooperating on SESAR and NextGen. Now that we are both heading towards deploying new systems, I fully support the idea that we should explore the possibility to extend this excellent cooperation to all phases of ATM modernization. That’s the change in culture that will take global ATM systems into the future, and will help cope with the expected traffic increase.”

The extension and expansion of the current agreement would help to ensure that passengers will enjoy safer, on-time flying over the Atlantic thanks to the benefits of NextGen and its European counterpart, the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR).

The Memorandum of Cooperation, which was originally signed in March 2011, would be expanded to enhance collaboration on the deployment and implementation of NextGen activities. It would also maintain ongoing research on the interoperability of avionics, communication protocols and procedures, as well as operational methods under NextGen and SESAR.

The Letter of Intent reflects the strong commitment from the United States and the European Union to harmonize air traffic technologies and procedures involving NextGen and SESAR. This supports the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Global Air Navigation Plan, which aims to harmonize air traffic systems throughout the world.


FAA Implements New Airport Safety Program

On 03/06/2015, in Life around runways, by steve

riaThe FAA has made significant progress in improving runway safety at U.S. airports over the past 15 years by working with other members of the aviation community on education, training, marking and lighting, standard runway safety areas, new technology and airfield improvements.

The FAA plans to build on that success by working with airport sponsors over the next 10-15 years to further reduce runway risks through risk-based decision-making. A new FAA national initiative known as the Runway Incursion Mitigation (RIM) program will identify airport risk factors that might contribute to a runway incursion and develop strategies to help airport sponsors mitigate those risks.

Runway incursions occur when an aircraft, vehicle, or person enters the protected area of an airport designated for aircraft landings and take offs. Risk factors that contribute to runway incursions may include unclear taxiway markings, airport signage, and more complex issues such as the runway or taxiway layout. Through RIM, the FAA will focus on reducing runway incursions by addressing risks at specific locations at the airport that have a history of runway incursions.

Risk-based decision-making builds on safety management principles by using a consistent approach to proactively address emerging safety risks. The FAA already has collected and reviewed data to identify specific airport areas with risk factors that could contribute to a runway incursion. The FAA has developed a preliminary inventory of airport locations where runway incursions have occurred. The FAA will work with the airport sponsors to develop strategies to mitigate runway incursions at these locations.

The FAA has kicked off the new initiative as it is wrapping up an extremely successful 15-year program to improve and standardize runway safety areas at the nation’s top commercial service airports.


Am I my Brother’s Keeper?

On 01/06/2015, in ATC world, by steve

Ever since air traffic control was invented in the previous century, the roles of pilot and air traffic controller had been clearly defined and (most of the time…) also adhered to. The pilot flies the aircraft and the controller issues clearances to ensure separation between aircraft. While this is a bit of an oversimplification, it correctly reflects the gist of the operation. In the past, neither the pilot nor the controller felt inclined to look into each other’s kitchen though no doubt they both wondered at times what the hell exactly the other was doing.

In the old days when traffic was low, pilots were able the form a pretty good mental picture of the traffic around them and it was not unheard of for a pilot to point out to the controller that a clearance he just received would create a conflict with another aircraft in the vicinity. However, as traffic grew both in sheer numbers and complexity, it was no longer evident that pilots would know what was going on around them. Then ACAS came along and pilots once again were able to figure out where most everybody else was.
The ability of the pilots to have traffic situational awareness via synthetic means like ACAS and ADS-B-in did spawn various ideas like free flight where separation would be provided by the pilots themselves without the benefit of an air traffic controller, but this is not what I am planning to write about here.

Air traffic control took a step forward with the introduction of Mode S radar which acts also as a data link and it is possible to send certain parameters from the aircraft into the ground system and eventually display some of this information to the controller.

Of particular interest has always been information on the level selected by the pilot in response to a clearance issues by the controller. Level busts happen everywhere but the problem was particularly acute in the London TMA and hence the Brits were pushing for this Mode S capability for a long time.

In case you are not familiar with how this works, here is a brief recap kindly provided to me by an expert. Although level-bust usually refers to a case where an aircraft goes right through the cleared level (whether climbing or descending), there is another, though possibly less serious, case to be considered, namely when the pilot fails to initiate the climb or descent after receiving a clearance.

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