Disneyland or Cattle Ranch?

On 18/05/2012, in Airline corner, by steve

When Malev collapsed earlier this year, Budapest Ferihegy Airport saw a lot of its traffic disappear. Ryanair was quick to fill the vacuum but they ran into a number of unexpected problems. Downgrading quality is apparently as difficult as upgrading it…

Budapest Ferihegy Airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is the old terminal and was used lately by the low-fare airlines. Terminal 2 A and B is the new facility, one of which was used exclusively by Malev and which was left vacant after the failure of the Hungarian airline.

When Ryanair arrived, they drove a hard bargain with the airport company and ended up using the former Malev part of Terminal 2 but! Ryanair does not use airbridges and passengers are supposed to walk to their aircraft wherever the low-fare airline operates. But those are typically second tier airports where the walking distance is limited. Not so at Ferihegy where the airport was built to use buses for the remote stands which are located quite some distance from the building itself.

I guess the managers of the airport and the security folks were breaking out in a cold sweat for several days when they imagined a 737 planeload of passengers trotting in the rain from the exit to the parked aircraft… some of them straying, others trying to come back… horrible! Clearly, something had to be done.

Well, the solution they came up with is what you see on the picture above. Depending on your temperament and experience, you might say this makes you feel like you were in Disneyland waiting to get on a new ride… or you will say this is not for people but only  for cattle.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi!

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Viewfinde View 7 – Desperation

On 03/02/2012, in Viewfinder view, by steve

On her knees looking after the fast receding figure of her mom… this tired little girl will probably remember Madrid airport with less than enthusiasm.

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Integrated Robot Loading at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

On 25/01/2012, in CDM, by steve

With CDM starting to look increasingly towards the land-side of airports to optimize passenger flow processes in order to have a more predictable aircraft turnaround, it is not surprising that hitherto less visible processes, like baggage handling, are also coming under increasing scrutiny to find opportunities for improvements. Long labor intensive, baggage handling is taking important strides towards higher levels of automation, something that will fit nicely into the information managed environment of the future collaborative decision making environment.

The Integrated Robot Loading concept that was implemented at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s South baggage hall to create a smarter baggage system, was implemented by Vanderlande Industries and Grenzebach Automation The “Baggage on Demand concept” or pull-concept using batching and automatic baggage loading robots gives airports the ability to manage the growing amount of baggage in an ergonomic and cost efficient way.

Baggage make-up is the loading of ramp-carts and containers, which are driven to an airplane just before departure. In the Baggage on Demand concept, all baggage from check-in and transferring bags are first buffered in a storage facility, and then sent to a robot on demand. The robot loads the ramp-carts and containers automatically. The LTM (Logistics Transport Manager) manages the baggage flows in the system, and the robot replaces the muscle power of the workforce. This concept has first been deployed as part of the 70MB program at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, is future-proof, and is intended primarily to raise efficiency and reduce heavy manual labor. The Baggage on Demand operation handles the bulk of the daily baggage volume.

Click here to read the full article

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EUROCONTROL cancels CDM group meeting

On 12/10/2011, in CDM, by steve

When the mail arrived announcing that EUROCONTROL was cancelling the upcoming CDM group meeting due to severe cuts in their budget, I was not really surprised. This was almost expected as part of what appears to be the killing off of EUROCONTROL. That the CDM group was one of the more successful activities was of course not enough to save the meeting.

Since the announcement, scores of posts appeared on various LinkedIn groups, most of them critical of the decision and regretting this short-sighted action. At least one commenter “reassured” us that this was the way the future will go, the stakeholders want to scale back EUROCONTROL and the ANSPs will take over the coordination of things.

In all the rightful indignation we should not forget a few additional interesting facts that all have a bearing on what is happening to EUROCONTROL to-day. Since I have been there from pretty early on, sharing the time as an ANSP rep and later as an IATA rep, I do have a peculiar perspective which I would like to share with you. Why are these facts important? Because by recognizing them we can hopefully design more effective remedies. So here goes:

1. EUROCONTROL was not perfect. BUT it had many excellent projects, truly forward looking initiatives most of which were consistently slowed down or killed by the stakeholders. I have been in many high level meetings where things got hammered for no other reason but that one or more big ANSPs were not ready to do “it”. Believe it or not, air/ground digital link work in the early phases would have been killed had we not organized a very strong protest… There are more examples.

2. There has been a wrestling match between EUROCONTROL and the EC for a long time. Things got a bit more balanced when the EC burned their fingers in the initial FAB and SES activity caused by the same reluctant stakeholders who were keeping EUROCONTROL from performing properly.

3. It is an open secret that there are certain ANSPs in Europe who have maintained for a long time that they could do a better job of ATM than EUROCONTROL does, being especially critical of the CFMU. The current financial squeeze is not the first initiative to kill EUROCONTROL (but is probably the most effective yet).

4. Giving EUROCONTROL the role of Network Manager is a smokescreen and an incredible affront to the industry. Since EUROCONTROL does not get any additional powers to make things happen (so it will be nothing like the Command Centre in the US), it will be a toothless tiger… Possibly in a few years time it will be established that EUROCONTROL is not being very effective as the Network Manager, so it can disappear completely. Clever… Click here to read the full article

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New airport in Hungary will become reality after all?

On 24/06/2011, in Life around runways, by steve

According to information leaked to the Hungarian media, the visiting Chinese premier during his stay in Hungary will raise the issue of the Szombathely cargo airport to Hungarian prime minister Orban.

Building a cargo airport to serve as China’s main port of entry into Europe has been on the table for some time and the location had been selected several years ago. In the vicinity of the West-Hungarian town of Szombathely, the new, single runway airport would provide excellent rail and road connections to the rest of Europe.

If the decision is indeed made, this airport will be the only completely new facility of this size being built in Europe, bringing major benefits to Hungary as well as Austria which is just a few miles West of the field earmarked for the new airport.

Check out the SIA-Port web-site here.

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Are Brussels Airlines and Brussels Airport loosing it?

On 20/04/2011, in CDM, by steve

I have written in the past about the curious happenings that seem to affect Brussels Airlines’ flights from Vienna. You can read about them here and here. Last Friday however I got proof that flights TO Vienna can also be jinxed… Sadly, the event I am about to relate to you also shows that collaborative decision making (CDM) as practiced to-day in Brussels needs to be improved substantially.

SN runs a very convenient service to Vienna, leaving Brussels at 0705 and arriving in the Austrian capital shortly after 0830. With the new train connection at the airport you can reach most meeting locations for a comfortable 1000 start.

I was at Brussels airport early last Friday, 15 April because exceptionally I was planning to entrust my little trolley bag to the care of the “system”. As you will see, this was an exceptionally bad idea. Having checked in at home, baggage drop-off was a breeze and in no time at all I was through security and on my way up to the gate area.

Brussels Airport is one of those places where they use the totally idiotic and counter- productive idea of posting the gate numbers at the last possible moment believing that leaving passengers clueless about the gate would generate more revenue at the shops… In fact they are only “punishing” those who check in at home and who do not have bags to drop off since they will indeed not learn the gate number until the airport decides to disclose this closely guarded secret; all others get the gate number scribbled on their boarding pass by the helpful airlines (who probably hate this selfish attitude of the airports as much as I do).

This morning I was among those happy souls “in the know” and I walked straight to the gate, casting a sad eye at the group of imptient passengers milling around in front of (and NOT inside) the bar waiting for their gate to be posted. At the gate itself a sad sight greeted me. There was no aircraft at the other end of the air-bridge.

Click here to read the full article

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Headache

On 06/04/2011, in Perspectives, by steve

Every so often I wake with a splitting headache which is bad enough as it tends to persist the whole day… Even worse however is the rather somber view I have at times like that of our beloved aviation world.

When I think of airports, I see not the runways and the aircraft parked at the gates… I see expensive supermarkets where finding your gate is difficult not because there are so many of them but because you have to wade through shops selling stuff at “tax-free prices” that are still double of what you would pay on Main Street and because the airport will not post the bloody gate numbers until the last minute to keep you in the shopping area that much longer. Very naughty because passengers sometimes forget that they are there to travel and not to make the airport richer with the consequence that they will be late at the gate and possibly delay the flight (or have their baggage unloaded and be left behind). With more and more of their revenue coming from the concessions, who could blame the airports for often concentrating more on selling to the passengers while giving only the minimum they can get away with to their supposedly main customers, the airlines. It is remarkable that one of the main achievements of SESAR will be the full integration of airports into the air traffic management system. I could have sworn aircraft departed from and arrived on runways at airports for decades and that this integration had taken place many years ago. No Sir, that was not the case. Airport operating companies are profit oriented and very competitive and until recently they very successfully kept out of the ATM fold lest their peculiar ideas about operating aircraft be corrupted by “outside” influences. The ideal airline for an airport would be one with no aircraft… The passengers would come to the airport, shop and dine and shop some more and then go home… Aircraft are such a pain in the six o’clock. They are noisy, need a lot of space and their operators are in constant financial stress so the prices the airport can charge is limited. Walking through some airports these days I get the feeling these guys are transforming the facility into a shopping mall and the flying bit is becoming almost incidental.

A few years ago I was crossing the plaza in front of Amsterdam Airport and a guy with a big suitcase approached me with desperation in his eyes: Sir, he asked, where is the airport here? Where indeed!

Click here to read the full article

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Flightpath – A great tool for better communications in aviation

On 23/02/2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

For most of us, Cambridge University Press needs no introduction. Their name is synonymous with innovation and quality. When they decide to publish a book to improve aviation communications you can be sure it will be something special.

Roger-Wilco was granted an exclusive opportunity to review a pre-production version of Flightpath, Cambridge University Press’ brand new take on a communications study course that will be published around May 2011. Flightpath is comprised of a Student’s Book with audio CDs and DVD and a Teacher’s Book. Our review now covers the Student’s Book without the electronic material. We will bring you a supplementary review of the complete package once it is on the marker, so stay tuned. In the meantime, this is what we think about this pre-production gem.

First of all let me say that as a former air traffic controller who has also done quite some work on analyzing the causes of runway incursions, I am especially sensitive to the importance of using proper phraseology in all circumstances. Many incidents and serious accidents could have been avoided had the pilots and controllers concerned adhered to the prescribed way of expressing things. It is therefore always welcome when I come across a publication that tries to improve the communications scene on both sides of the cockpit/control unit divide.

The task is not easy! People can learn to express themselves in the formal way ICAO has prescribed but in order to continue using the proper phraseology and avoid falling back on colloquial speech, they need two things: first and foremost, they must understand the deadly danger inherent in not using correct phraseology. Second, proper communictions must be the subject of constant supervision via official means as well as via peer pressure.

Click here to read the full article

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Brussels – CDM airport daylight hours only??

On 13/12/2010, in CDM, by steve

Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) is a vital element of the new air traffic management paradigm (you can read more about CDM in Roger-Wilco’s CDM category). Some airports in Europe are leading CDM implementation, among them Brussels. One would expect that operations at a CDM airport do not have to contend any more with such basic problems as waiting at a gate with no operator for the airbridge… Arrive late in the evening at Brussels and CDM airport or not, you will be treated to this kind of legacy problem.

Last Friday though they have given us a taste of the good old times, before CDM…

SN 2908 from Vienna was not only on time for its 23.10 arrival but it was actually some 15 minutes early. Landing on 25L the plane taxied to a remote position beyond the satellite terminal (see sketch below) where Brussels Airlines parks their aircraft for their week-end rest. Passengers were happy. 15 minutes may not be such a big gain in time but getting home 15 minutes earlier on a Friday night is a nice thing for everyone.

The plane came to a halt, engines fell silent and the doors… remained closed. Five minutes later the captain announced that we were a bit early and the stairs and bus were not yet available. It was then that some passengers started to ask the age old question, the one that started CDM as a concept more than two decades ago: do they not know it when a plane arrives early?????

Click here to read the full article

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Classifying Homo Sapiens Traveleris

On 15/11/2010, in The lighter side, by steve

I don’t know about you but whenever possible, I like to be at the airport early. Once you are through security, airports can be such fun places! I am not talking about the shops and restaurants, they are there to take your money while in fact there is much better fun close at hand… and it is free. It is watching the constant ebb and flow of people, the endless variety of humanity that, watched closely, will give you a profound experience of togetherness and fun. When waiting for a flight, we all are the same (well, business lounges apart…), will go through the same doors, have the same experience… but before getting there, people constitute a live movie, a live podcast and watching them beats any shop or restaurant and most Hollywood movies too.

Writing about people, about passengers in an air traffic management blog is appropriate. After all, we all have dedicated our lives to serving them according to our own means and capacities. They all belong to Homo Sapiens but they can still be categorized into distinct sub-genres and, perhaps not unexpectedly, they come in standard shapes and sizes that bear easy cataloguing no matter which airport you are at.

Let’s now see what my watching session came up with one early evening waiting at Vienna airport recently.

The first thing that strikes one is that we no longer dress for flying. True, there are places in the world where you can go to the opera in blue jeans but there used to be a time when taking a flight was an occasion to put on our best Sunday clothes as if we were going to the opera (where blue jeans were still a definite no-no). But no longer. Passengers milling around wear everything from formal to casual and below… I wonder how many of them know (or cares for that matter) that ages ago, there was an airline in the US, called Eastern, which actually published in their timetables the color of the upholstery in the plane so that passengers could dress accordingly. I am not joking… And if there was a change of equipment and a lady found herself wearing the wrong color skirt? “Mrs. Jones, please hurry changing the color of your skirt, you are delaying the flight!”.

It is also noteworthy to observe that practically everybody, men, women even kids, seem to be hauling a computer of some kind. Yes this is the digital age but still…

Click here to read the full article

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