Speaking in a new environment

On 18/03/2015, in Shop floor talk, by steve

speakerIn my long and varied aviation career I have had the extraordinarily good luck of working in practically every niche and corner of this wonderful industry. Air traffic controller, ATC system builder, ICAO officer, IATA assistant director, consultant… you name it. Over the years this meant a slow but very effective accumulation of knowledge and experience in air traffic management and airline operations with the added flavor of both the private and the government parts of the industry.

I was thinking about this last week when gingerly approaching a new area yet again… The Passenger Terminal Expo in Paris. Being invited as a speaker to this event is an honor in itself but the chance of meeting the folks whose business it is to make sure millions of passengers pass through the airports safely and comfortably felt like an additional special treat, as it was indeed.

The subject of my presentation was something that took form in a brainstorming session in Germany last year after having languished in an amorphous but insistent form in my mind for some time. Were the lesson learned and the methods used in aircraft trajectory based operations (TBO) applicable in the passenger terminal? Or putting it differently: do passengers have trajectories that could be managed to increase capacity?

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European Commission Signs Memorandum of Cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

On 23/05/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

When I arrived in Paris in 1983 as a freshly hired ICAO Technical Officer RAC/SAR, the relationship between EUROCONTROL and ICAO was tense to say the least. ICAO, this all-important world-wide body, a specialized organization of the UN, was becoming ever more cumbersome and a thorn in the eye of some European states who back then believed that Europe’s aviation needs would be better served by something like EUROCONTROL. They were not aiming to replace the basic rule-making functions of ICAO but when it came to things like flow management, Europe was flexing its muscles… There was a group dealing with ATFM in Brussels and at ICAO in Paris for example and though the people attending both were usually the same, the things they said were often widely different.

I recall several meetings in Brussels that I attended as an ICAO expert and the position we had to represent was far from being helpful to the cause of EUROCONTROL.

As the budget of ICAO diminished year after year and their processes slowed to a crawl, the significance of EUROCONTROL grew at the same rate. Significantly, EUROCONTROL had never had the same low opinion of ICAO as was the case in the reverse direction. Right from the start EUROCONTROL accepted that changing certain rules required action from ICAO and they also sought to work well with ICAO’s regional bodies like the EANPG (European Air Navigation Planning Group). True, some of the changes proposed by EUROCONTROL did not pass muster by the more formalistic ICAO process but in time a rather well functioning cooperation came into being.

Soon, the ICAO member States also realized that without money ICAO could not function so at first resourcing was brought back to the required level and thereafter they set out to reform the creaking old machinery to create the new, more business efficiency oriented ICAO we know to-day.
ICAO had to face another difficult “client”, namely the US, where the FAA has always been a bit of its own master. This was an interesting thing since some of the most fundamental ICAO documents (including DOC 4444) had been originally been based on material developed by the FAA’s predecessor. Anyway, I guess the Americans were not too keen in subjugating their aviation system to rules some of which were arrived at within ICAO as the result of agreements reflecting not what was the best but what could be agreed on the world-wide podium. American airports have only started to use the ICAO standard markings and signs a few years ago…

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Incredible story – or is it?

On 23/03/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

Imagine an American opening his daily paper and finding an article about Boeing Commercial Airplanes that ran something like this.

It was announced to-day that Boeing’s VP for Customers was leaving the company even before its CEO and COO are to swap places later this year as called for by the agreement between the State of Washington and the State of Illinois. The place swapping is taking place for purely political reasons since both men have performed in their current positions to the satisfaction of shareholders and employees alike. The departure of VP Customers is especially painful for a company which had to survive the departure of two CEOs within a hundred days in 2006. It was the now departing VeePee who kept the company’s customers from giving up on them…

As if this politically motivated change of guard was not enough, Chrysler, one of the aircraft maker’s biggest shareholders has indicated that they want to get rid of their part in the company. The automaker has the same share in Boeing as the US government. The rest is held by a consortium of banks and the State of New Mexico. But, to add insult to injury, the banks also want to sell and this would leave the US government the biggest shareholder, something that will never be accepted by New Mexico. Not surprisingly, the Democrats and the Republicans are divided over the issue with the Republicans not exactly charmed by the idea of the government owning even part of an aircraft maker.”

Without a doubt, the guy reading this would call his broker and sell his shares in the Boeing Company…

Do you think this nightmare scenario could ever come to pass in the United States? No, I do not think so either.

And in Europe? What did you say? No? Wrong!

Replace Boeing by Airbus, The US Government with the France, Chrysler with Daimler and the political agreement as being between Germany and France… and forget about New Mexico. The rest is true. It is happening as you read this. It is happening because of the peculiar company Airbus still is. Compared to Boeing, Airbus is still very much a political football and their decisions are heavily influenced by the power plays of the big European states.

In the circumstances it is a wonder that they manage to build such great airplanes…

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Chinese airlines – corruption to the rescue

On 28/02/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

That high speed train lines are a direct threat to air services between city pairs within an hour from each other is no big news and a good example is the almost total disappearance of air connections between Paris and Brussels for example. The biggest assault on air services by high speed trains has been seen in China which embarked on a massive project to build a network of some 25 thousand kilometers of trackage on which trains swish along at up to 380 kilometers an hour. Airlines are already feeling the pain with as much as 50 % of their passengers deserting to the trains on some routes where both services are available.

Roger-Wilco has written about this subject a while back. Read that article here.

While in most countries the rail system is managed by the Ministry of Transport, in China this privilege was given to a separate Ministry which grew all powerful over time, until it is a state unto itself with almost unlimited funds and little interference from other parts of the Chinese government.

While the idea of competing with the airlines head-on with a high speed train network has its merits, the economic viability of the Chinese rail project was often questioned. However, with funding apparently never facing a problem, the very term “economic viability” assumed an all new meaning.

Now however the airlines affected may sigh with relief.

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Airbus now also an air traffic management company

On 05/01/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

Several years ago, Boeing was so worried about the sad state of air traffic management in the US and Europe that they actually thought it would adversely impact their customers to the point where they would end up buying fewer aircraft… This was the stated reason for the establishment of Boeing ATM, a new division that was supposed to bring the needed medicine for air traffic management world wide. The initiative was never the success story it could have been, in no small part because of the industry crisis that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Now it seems that Airbus has decided that there was money to be earned in air traffic management and they launched a new subsidiary company, called “Airbus ProSky”, dedicated to the development and support of modern air traffic management (ATM) systems. Airbus ProSky will become the channel through which Airbus will interact and develop ATM programs such as “Single European Sky ATM Research” (SESAR) in Europe, as well as NextGen in the US. In particular, for these two ATM programs, the new company will help accelerate and support the process of their implementation, and link them together by capitalizing on the technological, operational and commercial synergies.

Airbus ProSky will also contribute Airbus’ aviation expertise further afield for other nations by working with their Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), airworthiness authorities and airlines. This will help them achieve the common goal of transforming their ATM systems with the latest technologies and procedures, to achieve the highest operational efficiencies with more direct routings resulting in around 10 percent less aircraft fuel consumption, and significant reductions in CO2 and noise emissions.

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Incentives for Early Airborne CPDLC Equipage

On 13/12/2010, in Shop floor talk, by steve

The LINK 2000+ programme has been working on the definition of incentives schemes for early airborne equipage since 2005. Various creative schemes were explored with stakeholders, such as reduced route charges for those that equip early. However, it proved impossible to get stakeholders to commit to such schemes even though the principles of the route charge system were modified to accommodate them.

Following an economic analysis by the industry consultation body for the Single European Sky, several short-term projects were recommended for funding to accelerate early ATM benefits and to provide the launch pad for SESAR.

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Air/ground digital link and CPDLC – Airworhtiness and compliance

On 19/11/2010, in Shop floor talk, by steve

Stakeholders have expressed some uncertainty about how to comply with EC 29/2009, the Data Link Services Implementing Rule.

In partnership with the European Commission and EASA the EUROCONTROL LINK Programme has been working to address those  concerns. A stakeholder workshop was held in March 2010 to address the issues and a brochure is now available on the LINK website explaining how Certificates issued by EASA will be accepted as an EC Declaration of Conformity or an EC Declaration of Verification. It also lists and answers frequently asked questions.

You can find the brochure here.

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Progress in the Russian skies

On 12/11/2010, in Shop floor talk, by steve

The former Soviet Union was known for many things but in aviation circles it became notorious for two things: their insistence on using metres standard instead of flight levels and the radio failure procedures applicable to aircraft heading into Soviet airspace. While the ICAO rules said that an aircraft unable to communicate should proceed to its destination, flying in accordance with its flight plan, the Soviets solved the problem with elegant simplicity. They insisted that such aircraft turn back before crossing the Soviet border and go anywhere but into Soviet airspace.

When the Soviet Union disappeared, Russia and the other states that replaced it did a lot to align their procedures with the rest of the world and this was a change for the better, no doubt about it.

Now Russia has taken one more important step towards alignment, introducing new rules for operations in their lower airspace.

The new rules came into effect on 1 October 2010 and affect mainly business and general aviation aircraft. Analysts say the new rules represent a “historic relaxation” of Russia’s airspace regulation.

For one, you can now notify your flight intentions by submitting them on the web site of the Federal Air Transport Agency and, guess what, fly an hour later! Previously the pre-notification period was 24 hours!

Under the new rules Class G airspace will be open for the use of light airplanes and helicopters. Particularly welcome will be the Agency’s stated intention to reduce the number of prohibited airspaces in the country although Moscow will remain one of them.

Unruly flyers will have to face tougher measures as Russia tries to put order back into its skies following a series of incidents caused by aerial cowboys.

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