Waking from a Nightmare

On 23/05/2016, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

Photo metadyne

Photo metadyne

Did I actually shoot myself in the foot? Is it possible that I will have no work in the future now that we have woken from a nightmare that has lasted several years? Since there is no more 4NM rule, no noteworthy tower incident has occurred that would have required an investigation. What will become of me? Of course these questions are meant to be ironic, but they are also food for thought.

One thing is sure, the nightmare has ended and for five months now aerodrome controllers work with the 3 NM rule instead of the earlier 4 NM one.  An outsider might be forgiven for asking what is the great difference between 3 and 4 nautical miles? Does that one small mile make such a big difference? I have to tell you the difference is far bigger than one might guess from only looking at those numbers. When the 4-miles rule was still alive for use between an arriving and a departing aircraft using the same runway, aerodrome controllers often grappled with the thought in their minds: I could still let this guy go without infringing the threshold-threshold separation rule. But they could not allow that unfortunate departure go because then the 4 NM rule would be infringed… If he or she tried anyway, he or she would either get lucky or not… If he was not lucky, us incident investigators had to open a ticket on the case and the controller got a dress-down of sorts. This had the result of binding controllers into a knot and they would refuse to let departures go even if there was still plenty of time to do so safely without infringing the 4 NM rule. Unfortunately, a lot of controllers were getting tied into such knots in the course of the past several years. I had an opportunity to review several incidents during which the voice of the colleagues held a clear indication of their stress and the cramped effort to remain safe… This kind of working brought with it a drastic reduction of the aerodrome control’s efficiency. Ample proof was supplied also by the remarks thrown in by some pilots who were of course used to how ATC works at other airports where they can on occasion see even the registration marks of the aircraft taking off as they themselves are landing.

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There’s More to Flying than That!

On 12/05/2016, in View from the left seat, by phil

Before the introduction of Crew Resource Management (CRM) courses, relationships on the flight deck were not always as harmonious as they should be. Most captains were excellent mentors of young pilots, but some were cold and distant, and some downright difficult. Many, had learnt their flying in a hard school during WW2 and were deeply suspicious of those who had not shared the same experiences. Some may even have been suffering from mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whatever the cause, sometimes as in Phil’s story here, new young pilots could find life difficult when flying with these individuals.

You can read here what actually happened to G-ARVB. But Chris Ditmas was a very much nicer man than Hamish Reid!

Hamish Reid came from a seafaring family in Dundee.  Rather than follow his elder brother into the navy he joined the RAF when he was barely nineteen and, after training, was posted to a Lancaster squadron in Lincolnshire.  That was in January 1944, a year before the end of the war.

He had been fortunate.  Merely to survive the thirty raids of his one and only tour of duty required a fair amount of skill and a huge dose of luck.  Half of all Bomber Command aircrew were lost before they completed ten missions.  Such losses had left him deeply fatalistic, with a tough, no-nonsense attitude to life.  After the war, like many of his colleagues, he found it difficult to return to normal life.

Demobilisation left him drifting aimlessly.  He was not academically inclined.  Had the war not intervened, he would probably have finished the engineering apprenticeship he had begun on leaving school.  He tried working in a garage but found it boring.  Despite the horrors in the night skies over Germany, he enjoyed the craft of flying.  Its precision, its discipline, the sense of achievement appealed to his self-reliant practical nature.  Besides, there was little else he was trained to do.  So when he saw an advert asking for pilots to join BOAC, he applied immediately and soon found himself flying Avro Yorks, a transport version of the Lancaster bomber he had flown in the war.

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NextGen Update 2016, now available

On 07/05/2016, in NextGen, by steve


In Europe it is SESAR, in the US, NextGen. The two mega projects aiming to bring much needed improvements to air traffic management in the biggest aviation markets of the world. As we all know, they are not without problems but there are also important developments that we all need to know about. Here is the NextGen update from the FAA.

The NextGen Update is all new for 2016! We’ve completely refreshed the site to bring you the latest news and information on how we’re collaborating with our aviation community partners to deliver NextGen. In this year’s Update, you’ll find:

  • The latest on how NextGen’s top programs, including Data Comm, ADS-B, and PBN, are delivering a better travel experience for the flying public
  • An overview of NextGen’s environmental and safety initiatives
  • Updates on the tools controllers are using to help inform their decisions
  • Information to help the general aviation community prepare for the 2020 ADS-B Out mandate

In a new series of videos, you’ll hear directly from aviation community leaders who are reaping the benefits of NextGen today, as well as an overview of NextGen progress from FAA Chief NextGen Officer Michael Whitaker.

There’s never been a more exciting time to learn about NextGen. The NextGen Update: 2016. It’s all you need to know.

Source: FAA


Mirror mirror on the wall… who is the best ANSP overall?

On 05/05/2016, in ATC world, by steve

Photo: HungaroControl

Photo: HungaroControl

A few months ago an email dropped into my inbox containing a survey initiated by the Hungarian air navigation service provider HungaroControl, seeking feedback on how they were perceived in the air traffic management community.

News from HungaroControl are always welcome here, after all most of what I learned in the world of aviation comes if not from HungaroControl, but the long line of predecessors, including Malev and the Air Traffic and Airport Administration (LRI) where I spent my early, and most enjoyable, years. So I checked out the survey with interest and was pleased with the way it was set up and the width of the questions being asked. My only negative feeling came from the fact that there was a question which appeared to be politically motivated and was trying to puzzle out how the image of Hungary as a country was reflecting on HungaroControl. You will be excused if you admit that you are not following events in Hungary too closely but it is still worthwhile to recall that being associated with some of the political directions there these days may not be something an ANSP would desire to happen. I did write an article here expressing my concerns about that question.

Anyway, a few days ago another email arrived from HC, this time containing the results of the survey. Of course I was very pleased with being given the privilege of getting a look at the results, especially with the knowledge that the survey results were meant primarily for internal consumption.

I will not go into the details, instead here is a summary of the results condensed into a few words. The famous “question” seems to have passed without noteworthy comments. In other words, the image of Hungary has little or no reflection on their ANSP. This is very good and the way it should be. Air traffic management and politics should not mix.

Click here to read the full article


Quote of May

On 01/05/2016, in Quote of the month, by steve

The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.

Oscar Wilde

Photo: sproutentertainment.com.sg

Photo: sproutentertainment.com.sg


User Driven Prioritization Process (UDPP)…

On 25/04/2016, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The User Driven Prioritisation Process (UDPP) came to life in an exercise which took place in March 2016. Before we go into the details, it is worth mentioning that the idea was born during the SESAR definition phase (anyone still remembering what that was all about?) and it took only 9 (NINE!!!) years for SESAR to reach this point… I wonder how many more years will pass before UDPP is actually implemented. Of course, as some have pointed out, 9 years is not so bad after all. Micro Offsets needed  15 years and Time Based Separation 23 years… so what is 9 years compared to that? Anyway, in case the SESAR folks happen to read this, a small thank you note to Alex would I am sure be appreciated!

UDPP aims to provide more flexibility to airspace users in case of delays on departure, en-route and arrival in capacity constrained situations (for example due to adverse weather or industrial action). It takes place in a Collaborative Decision Making context. The UDPP Step 1 process (including slot swapping) covers flight exchanges within a sequence list at a point of congestion (departure, en-route, arrival), and is now being progressively deployed. The UDPP Step 2 concept provides an additional layer of flexibility by allowing an anticipative management of airspace user flight schedules in delay situations.

The project aims to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different actors collaborating in UDPP (airspace users, Network Manager, FMPs, airports); ensuring a smooth integration with other Demand and Capacity Balancing measures; and further validating performance.

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BluSky Services Turned 13

On 04/04/2016, in Anniversaries, by steve

logo NEWLast Friday was 1 April and it was not the 13th… but for us, it still held special interest even though we are not in the business of witchcraft and other silly beliefs. It was Friday and the 13th birthday of BluSky Services!

Yes, it is hard to believe, but for 13 years this company has paid our breakfast and dinner while keeping us busy and growing steadily in recognition as a center of knowledge and professional excellence.

BluSky Services was born in the middle of one of the deepest crises the aviation business had ever seen. The aftermath of 9/11 was still with us very much, airlines were fighting for survival and only one thing was certain, the world we had known would be no more. What would follow was anybody’s guess.

Into this uncertain landscape landed BluSky with a mission that was as clear as it was simple. There was and always will be a future for aviation and the best way to forecast that future was in actually making it! Thinking out of the box, defining new concepts and driving new technologies were the tools BluSky was going to employ to help create the future others would not even dare to forecast.

Lofty aims indeed especially for a new company nobody had heard of.

Luckily, the company name and the name of its founders were quickly associated and this brought a certain initial patina to the brand… Let’s just say we did not have to start building from square one!

My network of friends and colleagues was a big help in the initial phase but also in later years. Of course falling back on the glory of previous achievements would never have cut it and we had to work and fight hard to prove to the world, again and again, that we did believe in what we preached and that quality and timely delivery were not empty promises but the rules we lived by.

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Quote of April

On 01/04/2016, in Quote of the month, by steve

When you jump for joy, beware that no one moves the ground from beneath your feet.

Stanislaw Lec

Photo: Dreamatico.com

Photo: Dreamatico.com


Quote of March

On 01/03/2016, in Quote of the month, by steve

I know of no manner of speaking so offensive as that of giving praise, and closing with an exception.

Richard Steele

Photo: Praiseacademy.com

Photo: Praiseacademy.com


Someone was Holding My Hand

On 25/02/2016, in View from the left seat, by phil


When accidents happen, sensational stories are splashed all over the popular press, ‘someone must be at fault, something must be done,’ shout the headlines.  Justice, whatever that may be, is demanded in a form that satisfies the simple man’s sense of public retribution.  Unfortunately, this is a very primitive response that does little to help the cause of air safety.  The real issues are usually far too complicated for the media and even, sometimes, for many professionals to understand fully. 

Air accident investigation is a painstaking process – it takes time.  Even after exhaustive analysis, it is often impossible to reach definitive conclusions, and even harder to learn and apply the appropriate lessons. 

But when death and injury occur, the misery extends not only to the innocent victims and their families but also to the professionals who bear the responsibility for maintaining a safe operation.  Where is the dividing line between malpractice, negligence, a genuine mistake – or – totally unforeseen circumstances?  Spare a thought too for these victims of sheer happenstance, who, even when totally blameless, may be left with a hideous sense of guilt, sometimes with tragic results.   

Phil’s latest story explores some of these issues.

“Yes, I knew him well – and his wife.  I was at school with him.”

Malt whisky, candlelight, cigars, a good dinner, and five men around the table after the ladies had withdrawn.  The conversation had been rather more stimulating than usual – Iraq, the Falklands War, did military interventions ever do any good?  Some hospital stories (de-identified of course) from the medics, and a fund of intriguing insights into human foibles from our host, the judge, told with wit and relish.  He was long retired having served in the High Court, and liked the old-fashioned ways.  The others were still working; a surgeon in a big hospital near Heathrow, a local doctor (not mine but a good friend) who had worked in Africa before settling into a quiet country practice near Beaconsfield.  A businessman, I can’t remember what in but also a town councillor, a solicitor in a well-known London firm, and me, a pilot with British Airways.  Our wives were women to be reckoned with too.  The surgeon’s wife taught classics at a leading girls’ school, the doctor’s was an investigative journalist for a national newspaper, the town councillor’s was a vet, though rather too full of the importance of her husband’s position, and the solicitor’s wife worked with mine on various charities.

The conversation had drifted onto the difference between accidents and negligence.  Had Maggie’s government been negligent in not foreseeing Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands?  When might a surgeon be deemed negligent if a patient died?  Was the council negligent in not erecting notices near a weir before a small boy fell in and drowned?  When should individuals exercise common sense to avoid obvious danger?  What is obvious and what is not?

Click here to read the full article


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