Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 – 15-17 March 2016, Cologne, Germany

On 28/12/2015, in Events, by steve

The 2016 edition of the Passenger Terminal Expo will be held in Cologne, Germany. The range of topics that will be covered in the conference part is truly impressive while the exhibition will bring to visitors the latest and greatest in passenger terminal equipment and services.

BluSky Services has once again been honored by being invited to speak on Day 1, this time on the subject of the relationship between Total Airport Management and Airport Collaborative Decision Making. Of particular interest is that we will be presenting together with an old friend and colleague, Velissarios Eleftheriou who is the A-CDM Implementation Manager at Dubai Airports.

In the same session with a special colleague...

In the same session with a special colleague…


When a Tower’s Next Door Neighbor is the San Andreas Fault

On 28/12/2015, in Towers of the world, by steve

I love San Francisco. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, it has a sphere that is unique and unmistakable. People say San Francisco is special also because it is surrounded by the US, referring to the fact that when you are in the city by the Bay, you are embraced by the sights, sounds, aromas and people of something that is a mixture of old and new but different from those of the US, the essence of why so many people, yours truly included, have left their hearts there and why we tend to come back time and again for a refill.

In San Francisco small earthquakes and big traffic jams are part of everyday life. Larger earthquakes also come and go and the fact that the “big one” might demolish the city one of these days does not seem to overly bother those who call ‘Frisco their home. The city has a building code that tries to make sure that newly erected structures withstand even a major quake but so far no real test of this has taken place…

San Francisco International Airport is every bit as special as the metropolis it serves. 13 miles south of the city center, it is the second busiest airport in California after Los Angeles, its elevation is 3.96 meters and the San Andreas Fault is just four miles away…


From a passenger perspective, it is an airport that is relatively easy to navigate. Take the Airtrain and it will pass by all the terminals, including the international terminal that is split in two for some reason. If you look closely, you will see that these buildings were designed with an eye to the slumbering danger just a few miles away.

SFO is an airport that poses special challenges for air traffic controllers also. Two sets of parallel runways, arranged perpendicularly, say a lot about the variability of the wind and its strength.



The parallel runways are too close together to be usable independently and the two sets cross each other in a way that makes simultaneous use even more fun!

Click here to read the full article


Smart Airports, Smart Apps

On 26/12/2015, in Life around runways, by steve

It is now official, most of the largest airports in the world get more revenue from indirect sources than they do from directly serving aircraft. In other words, the parking garage and the booze and food concessions, not to mention Victoria’s Secret, bring in more money for the airport than all the aircraft using it for the purpose it was originally invented. In fact, one of the reasons Berlin’s spanking new Brandenburg Airport is still not open is the fact that after the airport construction started, they realized that in the form planned it would never make money (too little space was left for concessions) and it had to be redesigned, adding a new floor which in turn resulted in a few major cock-ups in laying cables and the fire protection system.

Photo: Foster & Partners

Photo: Foster & Partners

In a way, we, the passengers, should be happy to know that it is us (or rather our credit cards) that the airports are after and we should expect to be pampered in all kinds of ways. The sad truth is, airports are still a way off from succeeding in making us feel relaxed and at home in their glittering offering… Most passengers fret and worry about getting to their gate on time or finding the gate at all. The practice of not letting you know what the gate number is until some 20-30 minutes before the boarding time is hated by most airport users yet airports insist on it in the mistaken belief that the longer you are left wondering and wandering in the concession area, the more you will spend. What airports should realize is that relaxed, happy passengers are likely to spend 45 % more in the concession area than stressed out ones are.
So, please make us relaxed and happy before you go after our money.

The billions being spent on turning airports into department stores and supermarkets tend to have a relatively low efficiency in opening our purses. As long as we fret and worry, we will continue to be reluctant to believe that those overpriced items are the things we need for this holiday (even if they can be had for less on high street…). Most experts agree that the fretting and worrying is due mainly to a lack of information.

This message is especially interesting for me, as I have spent the past 20 years or so on promoting better information management in the context of air traffic control and in a way, managing passengers is not that different from managing aircraft.

Click here to read the full article


SESAR SWIM Global Demonstration, 8-9 June 2016, Rome, Italy

On 26/12/2015, in Events, by steve

This SESAR Global SWIM Demonstration event aims to showcase the global interoperability capabilities of system-wide information management (SWIM) and in relation to the ICAO GANP/ASBU´s and the European ATM Master Plan. Throughout the event, SWIM-founding principles and building blocks of information sharing, service orientation, federation, open standards, and information and service lifecycle management will be tested with partners from across the globe.

The event will consist of a mixture of plenary sessions, interoperability demonstrations and specific workshops with global partners, including the United States, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Mongolia and possibly more. This collaboration between global partners will be based on the ICAO ATMRPP SWIM Concept Manual (Doc10039). Demonstrations will consist of a hybrid combination of shadow mode operations for a nominal scenario and simulations to demonstrate a non-nominal scenario. Information exchanges will use weather information, network information, aeronautical information including digital NOTAM, and flight information.

Lessons learned during the demonstrations will be discussed during panel sessions, and will also be fed back into the ICAO Information Management Panel to allow for further maturing of the SWIM concept.

Click here for further information and to register.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

On 22/12/2015, in Events, by steve

To all our readers everywhere in the world… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!





On 19/12/2015, in View from the left seat, by phil

I often sit here gazing down the river. I find it soothing after the dreams. It’s quiet at three in the morning before the hubbub of the day. A few strands of mist lie along the opposite bank, obscuring the towpath. Temple Island glows dully in the moonlight. Summer is nearly over; the chill is beginning to seep into my old bones.

“You OK Bob?”

“Yes. But can’t sleep so easy these days.”

Harry, the night watchman crunches slowly away down the gravel path with Lulu, his large placid Alsatian. They patrol the grounds and we’ve grown used to each other since I started having these sleepless nights.

Perhaps I should explain. The club occupies a much extended Georgian mansion on the banks of the Thames. We moved into one of the apartments behind the main house when I grew too old to maintain the garden and Molly was still fighting cancer. It suited us well, she could play bridge; I enjoy the reading room and the meetings with old friends. It has a good restaurant, and a bar and garden room which serves light lunches. There’s always something going on – outings and special interest sections with talks on aviation, motoring, sailing, films, books and suchlike. It’s a good place for a lonely old man.

The dreams started soon after Molly died. They’re always the same. A man, his face swathed in rags, bursts into my room, points a gun at me and fires. There’s a flash of brilliant light and I wake shivering, bathed in sweat to find I’m still alive. I was never given to dreams before. I don’t hold with sleeping pills, I don’t want to see the doctor – what could he do, other than prescribe more pills or send me to a shrink? Instead, I make myself a cup of tea, watch television or go and contemplate the river until I feel sleepy again.

I’m in my mid-seventies now. I used to keep myself pretty fit – rowing, tennis and sailing, but soon after I retired my old injury came back to haunt me. I’ve been lame ever since. These days I walk the dog and play chess.

Click here to read the full article


Should an ANSP cozy up with an airline?

On 18/12/2015, in Perspectives, by steve

wizzThe press announcement that HungaroControl, the Hungarian Air Navigation Service Provider and WizzAir, the Hungarian low-cost carrier and an airline to be reckoned with in the European market, have signed a co-operation agreement “covering flight-safety, operations and operations planning, research and development, education, training, service quality and customer satisfaction” is not the usual kind of news one normally expects coming from an air navigation service provider.

Of course, there is nothing wrong in having pilots of WizzAir and controllers of HungaroControl getting to know each other better, learninghc about each other’s problems and discussing how to make things better. With some of the departure and arrival procedures at Budapest Ferihegy airport being rather weird, such co-operation can certainly do no harm. For HungaroControl to have access to the facilities and support of a dynamic low-cost carrier is a bog bonus and bidding for European Commission projects should also be helped if they can throw in a friendly airline to boost the deal.

Done right, this co-operation can indeed be very beneficial with no adverse side effects. If done right… and that “if” may in fact be a rather big one that might even become a thorn in the eyes of the other airlines using HungaroControl’s services.

Click here to read the full article


The new-old ATM Master Plan for Europe. Is anything ever going to change here?

On 16/12/2015, in SESAR's Palace, by cleo

Those of you who have been worrying about the future of Air Traffic Management in Europe can now sleep well once again. The 2015 edition of the European ATM Master Plan has now been formally approved by the members of the Administrative Board of the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

The corresponding press release informs us that the “…latest edition presents the SESAR vision of ATM – a critical element in the future air transport system – and details the development and deployment activities necessary to achieve this vision between now and 2035.” Furthermore, we learn that “Both pragmatic and ambitious in its design, the Plan provides a high level view of what is needed in order to deliver a high-performance aviation system for Europe.”

There is another quotation I would like to share with you.

“The EUROCONTROL Air Traffic Management (ATM) Strategy for the years 2000+ (ATM 2000+ Strategy) has been developed at the request of the Transport Ministers of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), to cater for the forecast increase in European air traffic which will demand a quantum increase in ATM and airspace capacity. The Strategy was adopted by the Ministers at their MATSE/6 meeting on 28 January 2000. The Strategy has been updated in 2003.

The Strategy describes the processes and measures by which the forecast demand may be satisfied while improving aviation safety.”

Comparing these two quotations, originating 15 years apart, one may be justified in sleeping worse and not better upon reading the SESAR JU announcement.


Make no mistake, the current Master Plan has exactly zero news in it compared to the ATM 2000+ Strategy (with the possible exception of the remote tower concept that is totally irrelevant from an ATM performance perspective)… Yes, we have the Single European Sky (basically a failure so far) and the Functional Airspace Blocks which are probably the biggest impediment to repairing European ATM. What we do not have any more is a EUROCONTROL that would focus the expertise needed to really make things happen.

It is an open secret that in the 15 years since ATM2000+ no real structural change and certainly no paradigm change has come to the European ATM system. That it has not collapsed completely is due solely to the fact that traffic demand has not grown as expected but the powers that be did not use this welcome respite to put in the changes described already in ATM2000+.

Click here to read the full article


Introduction to the upcoming story “Nightmares”

On 12/12/2015, in View from the left seat, by phil

Terrorism, bombings and shootings are nothing new. I remember well the 1970s which was one of the worst decades for Middle East hijackings. In September 1970 there was a near simultaneous hijacking of five aircraft by the PFLP.


It started with the attempted hijack of an El Al 707 from Amsterdam which was foiled by a sky marshal who shot dead one of the hijackers, while the other was overpowered. The aircraft made an emergency landing at Heathrow. This was followed on the same day by a Pan Am 747, also out of Amsterdam, which was hijacked first to Beirut and then to Cairo where it was blown up minutes after landing. Simultaneously, a TWA 707 out of Frankfurt and a Swissair DC-8 out of Zurich were hijacked to Dawson’s Field. All that one day – 6 September!

Then, three days later, a BOAC VC10 out of Bahrain was hijacked first to Beirut, where it was refuelled before also going to Dawson’s Field. The passengers on all three aircraft were held hostage and all three aircraft where blown up on 12 September, fortunately without loss of life.

If that was not enough, two Lufthansa aircraft were hijacked in 1972 – a 747 to Aden and a 727 to Zagreb, again without fatalities. But, also in that same year, the Black September group massacred the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games – 17 people died.

In 1973, a KLM 747 bound from Amsterdam to Tokyo was hijacked to Malta and on to Dubai. Shortly afterwards, in 1974, two more BOAC VC10s were hijacked, one to Amsterdam where it was destroyed after landing, the other from Dubai to Tripoli and on to Tunis where the hijackers murdered a German passenger and threatened to murder more passengers every two hours if their demands were not met.

Then, in 1976, an Air France A300 was hijacked to Entebbe. Eventually the passengers were rescued by the Israeli army who famously stormed the aircraft with many casualties. Finally, a year later, a Lufthansa 737 from Palma bound for Frankfurt was hijacked near Marseille. There followed a terrifying flight first to Rome, then to Larnaca, Bahrain, Dubai, Aden and finally to Mogadishu, where the captain was murdered and the passengers finally rescued by German commandos. Thus ended a bloody decade of Middle East hijackings.

Phil’s next fictional story is based on the accounts of people he knew. It will appear next week and is told in flash-back by a retired pilot who, in his old age, is suffering from mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The time-line is deliberately out of sequence as his memories are triggered by minor events in an ordinary day.

But see first this documentary about hijacks to Dawson’s field.


Understanding Controller Pilot Digital Link Communications (CPDLC)

On 08/12/2015, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

Reading this article, you may have spotted already that I prefer to talk about digital link rather than “data” link. This comes from an old debate where we tried to find a term that covered any type of digital link between the ground and the air, i.e. digital voice as well as data in the traditional sense of the word. In the end, it was agreed more or less that the D in CPDLC should stand for digital as opposed to data.


Anyway, all this does not change the basic fact that CPDLC is a method of communication between the pilot and air traffic controllers where spoken word is replaced by what are essentially text messages, addressed individually to the aircraft or air traffic control unit concerned. While it is possible to send free text (like you do in an SMS…), most of the messages exchanged in CPDLC are composed of pre-defined elements so that controllers and pilots do not have to type everything letter by letter or even word by word.

Communicating like this has several advantages. Misunderstandings due to language issues or improper use of the phraseology are eliminated, the stuck microphone phenomenon or wrong frequency selection disappear and the legacy linear way of talking to aircraft is replaced by a capability where messages can be sent in rapid succession to several aircraft, with more than one conversation open at the same time. All in all, more information can be sent in a given unit of time than is the case with the legacy, voice based system.

CPDLC lines up nicely with the modern graphical user interface of the air traffic controller. In a voice based system, issuing a new level clearance involves feeding the information into the ATC system by the appropriate manual input (via the keyboard or the screen) and then telling the pilot about it. With CPDLC, the input to the ATC system can generate the corresponding CPDLC message that is then sent to the cockpit automatically. Depending on the level of avionics integration, the new clearance may arrive to the pilot in the form of a command to be approved and once this has been done, the aircraft will climb or descend to the new level, as appropriate. With fewer opportunities to mistype things, safety is enhanced and overall workload is decreased.

Click here to read the full article


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