Echoes from the past

On 07/02/2014, in Picture stories, by steve

ma13 February 2012 was a black day in the history of civil aviation in Hungary. Malev, the national airline of the country stopped operations that day after it was placed under bankruptcy protection the day before. The causes are many, both political and economic, and one unexpected result is that a lot of people in the Hungarian aviation family came to hate low cost carriers, kinda giving them the blame for what had happened. Ryanair was one of the airlines that picked up the slack left by Malev and their aggressive attitude and oft criticized service was the perfect opening for directing Hungarian frustration against the company. The other, much hated, outfit is WizzAir. Some people give the blame to its director who, they claim, was instrumental in helping Malev go bankrupt. The fact that WizzAir has in the meantime become one of the biggest low cost carriers in Europe does not seem to compensate the haters.

Passing through Ferihegy Airport just a few days before the second anniversary of the Malev failure, a strange sight caught my eyes. Apparently the past is still very much in evidence… Airstair with the Malev logo on it against a Wizzair aircraft and a van of MGH… Malev Ground Handling  seem to keep the memories of happier days alive. I can just hope nobody will have the bright idea of repainting/renaming those things! Sure, they are not your usual ads for a great company but they warm one’s heart nevertheless.

I can imagine that in a few year’s time a little kid will ask his dad what Malev means on the side of the airstair… and even that his dad might teply, I do not know.

Well, there is a task for all of us. Remember… and help others to know about Malev, no matter how far into history things have sunk.

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And the show goes on…

On 17/03/2013, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

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Ferihegy is a beautiful, magical world…

When the split took place and Budapest Airport (BA) Ltd and Hungarocontrol were created, the airport was left adrift… The most important activity of BA was divesting itself from all manner of activities and, as the saying goes, they managed to throw out the baby with the bath water. This way, the managed to successfully get rid of their ground handling operation.

When they realized that they were unable to turn a profit even in this slimmed down state, a second historic blunder was made. Hoping for a miracle, the operating concession of the airport was sold to a foreign company. May be the idea was not so bad but the way it was realized haunts us to this day. I have no idea who the original bidders were but we heard a lot of promising stories about the British company which won in the end. Possibly they excelled in operating other airports but it is certain they did not send their best people to run Ferihegy. Their only legacy is the memory of the many trees they had chopped down by reason of avoiding birds nesting on the airport’s grounds. Yes, the British had indeed cut the airport down in more ways than one.

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One of Europe’s most modern Air Traffic Control Centres inaugurated in Budapest

On 27/02/2013, in ATC world, by steve

hc_logo_enThe new Hungarian air navigation centre was inaugurated in Budapest on 27 February 2013, bringing the complex investment programme of the Hungarian air navigation service provider to a conclusion. The high tech centre will further advance the air transport infrastructure of both Hungary and Central Europe as a whole, contributing to the continued competitiveness of the Hungarian air navigation services. The opening ceremony was held in the presence of representatives from the European Commission, EUROCONTROL, the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T EA) and the Hungarian government.

The project, called ANS III, is a key component of the complex development programme sponsored by HungaroControl to strengthen Air Traffic Management (ATM) efficiency and to ensure that the Hungarian air navigation service provider meets the European Union’s performance objectives.

It involved building a state of the art ATM control centre with the potential to implement cutting edge technologies and to provide efficient services to civil aviation. The European Union supported the project via its TEN-T Programme and with a €6 million grant managed through the TEN-T EA.

The new ATM centre is equipped with high quality innovative equipment and software, such as the MATIAS air navigation and communication system – recognised across the world and developed with the participation of Hungarocontrol, the Hungarian air navigation service provider (ANSP). The opening of ANS III provides the opportunity for HungaroControl to centralise its research and innovation efforts at a single location, thus creating a state-of-the-art air navigation research, development and simulation knowledge centre.

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Painful regrets… The Transformation of Ferihegy in Words and Pictures.

On 25/10/2012, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

Very possibly I am risking my job by broadcasting my pain, but I am unable to keep myself from doing it. I guess any reader would do the same thing if he were to be stripped of his home but still forced to continue living there. This complicated frame of mind is exactly what I feel about to-day’s Ferihegy. There used to be a time when I liked coming to the airport more than going home. When the first fire-arms appeared on the field under the guise of security, I started to worry. What will become of my home? In the past, we had peace, now constant threats. To-day I rarely set foot outside of the tower when we are on duty to avoid having the so-called security services jumping on me from all manner of unexpected corners.

However, this is all nothing compared to what is being done to my “home” in the name of cost-efficient airport operations. On an impulse I decided to record it all in the hope that in a few years’ time this will be but a bad dream. I made a few photos to show you how Ferihegy is turning into “third class”… how we are transitioning from airport to fish-market.

I always though this apron was going to be teeming with aircraft…

 

…then the first barriers appeared and the corral started to take shape.

 

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New Airline for Hungary… Dreamers or Lunatics?

On 28/09/2012, in Airline corner, by steve

Hungary is in dire straights these days. A government with two-thirds majority in parliament having declared a fight for freedom and the desire not to be a colony of the European Union (yes, there are such weirdoes in the world), the economy in ruins and capital fleeing the sinking ship, their national airline, Malev was only one of the many casualties of this march to annihilation.

In the circumstances, anyone thinking of establishing a new Hungarian airline would probably be seen by the business community as ready for the lunatic asylum from which the current government has so obviously escaped in a moment of voter inattention.

Yet, this is exactly what a small group of enthusiastic folks seem to be doing. They have now established a company under the name Hungarian World Airways Inc. which boasts a five member board of directors and a three member supervisory board. There is not much else to the company yet and as such it may feel like a bit top heavy, but hey, before the incorporation of this new company, there was even less in the way of a new airline for this spectacularly unsuccessful former socialist country.

But what is this new airline initiative about? The figures they keep presenting at various meetings designed to attract also small investors are enough to make the mouth of any existing airline water while they will also shake in fear of this new competition. 10 million passengers in the first year with 9 billion bucks of revenue and a profit of 260 million from the third year… These guys must know something that has totally escaped the big network carriers who are, as we all know, perennially loss making.

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HungaroControl’s New Air Traffic Control Center Building Commissioned Today

On 30/08/2012, in ATC world, by steve

ANS III to go live in February next year

HungaroControl’s new air traffic control center building, commissioned on 30 August 2012, marks a new important milestone of ANS III, the complex development plan for the Hungarian air navigation service provider. After installing the software, moving into the new facility, and completing a successful pilot operation, Hungarian air traffic controllers will control the airspace from the new hi-tech air navigation center.

As part of its ANS III complex development plan, HungaroControl Plc. is establishing a new high-tech air traffic control center in Budapest, Hungary. The purpose of the investment is to extend the existing capacities of the Hungarian air traffic control and maintain its high level of efficiency, technological standards and reliability in line with the EU’s integration plans and performance objectives. Built with EU funding of EUR 6 million in the framework of the TEN-T (Trans European Network – Transport) plan, the new air traffic control center has a total floor space of close to 10,000 square meters on three levels.

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ATCO Turned Passenger

On 14/06/2012, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

I can hardly believe it myself, but although I flew for the first time 35 years ago, I still feel the thrill and excitement of an upcoming trip. I think this will remain as long as I live. Getting ready at home, packing, hauling the luggage down to the car and then heading to the airport… At that point I start to calm down a little even though one still has to arrive on time, deposit my better half and the bags at the curb of the departure level and drive the car to the airport employee parking. Luckily, we controllers still have the privilege of being able to leave our wheels when needed in this special parking using a temporary pass. In the early days the fact that I could park free of charge at the airport looked like a big deal with which to show off to my partner and my daughter (and her partner of the moment) but by now it has become commonplace.

The above scenario played out in exactly the same way on the evening before our holiday in Tunisia. I searched out a shady place for my little four-wheeler, gave her an encouraging caress and left her behind for the next seven days. I made it back to my partner who had in the meantime managed to drag the bags into terminal 2B. Once at the check-in desk, my “airport family” feeling can no longer be kept suppressed and I play out the well-informed… a trick that sometimes pays off, sometimes does not. But all in all we usually manage to grab good seats on every flight we take. Next comes my all time favorite among tortures invented for travelers, the security check, something I have the honor of enduring also in my daily professional life. However since I started to put a good face on it all, somehow I pass the test with less pain. There was an exception last year when an alert security guard spotted my airport ID and started to make a fuss… But now I make sure this dangerous “state secret” is safely hidden on the bottom of my bag and nobody seems to care any more.

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Let’s make a new airline… A business plan for BlueSky Air?

On 17/04/2012, in Managers' corner, by steve

It did not take long after Malev, the Hungarian national airline stopped operations a few months ago that experts started to think about making a new one. An airline that would carry on the Malev tradition but be more of a commercial venture, hopefully able to stand on its own in the cut-throat environment of to-day’s aviation world.

Of course with even the strongest network carriers like Lufthansa and Air France-KLM scrambling to cut costs and looking at the future with wary eyes, even dreaming about a new airline may seem like audacity. On the other hand, there are new ventures and some of them are succeeding too.

I have written about what I thought were the most important considerations in setting up a successor to Malev and I continue to believe that those items are still valid.

However, investors are unlikely to give you their money without a good, convincing business plan. Writing a business plan is not easy but it has the added advantage of being a brutally honest reality check. Before you even approach the investors, the business plan will tell you in no uncertain terms whether your dreams have any reality at all.

You will notice that this write up is much more about business than flying. This is not a mistake. An airline, like it or not, is connected to aviation only by the incidental fact that it uses aircraft to carry people and goods. Other than that, it is a business… or should be if it wants to survive.

There must be many among our readers who have written numerous business plans and who are better qualified to do the job than I am. Nevertheless, I thought it might be useful to put together a straw-man of a business plan which could be used as first step in the creation of a real plan for the new airline I decided to call BlueSky Air.

A few general considerations

BluSky Air’s Business Plan is special in as much as it is aiming to prove that this initiative will be better than what was there before it… in other words, very soon one has to face up to the political aspects of the Malev failure and there is no place for obfuscation here. One has to assume that the investors will be aware of the details or if not, they will make sure that they get the relevant (and correct…) information and we should not find ourselves in a situation where they are asking questions to which we do not have the answer… It is much better to have all the answers there right from the start so that people don’t have to ask.

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Memories of another day.

On 09/04/2012, in Picture stories, by steve

One of the consequences of Malev’s bankruptcy and disappearance from the European airline scene is the raft of old pictures and other memorabilia that people, former employees, passengers and enthusiasts, suddenly pull from their drawers and hard disks to share them with a community that is still reeling from the shock of the disappearance of this 66 year old company that was a national icon for most everyone except the politicians who could have saved it.

I have written enough about this sad story on this blog and now I will bring you every now and then copies of the photos so that we may also contribute to keeping Malev’s memory and spirit alive.

The first item is a rare picture of the Malev Operational Control Center (OCC) from 1985 or 86. As befits the times, a nice combination of analog and digital…

By the way, if you have something you would like us to post in this series, please send your picture in any format to steve@bluskyservices.com with a short description of the picture and its source.

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How the engines of an IL-14 came out of retirement after 25 years

On 02/04/2012, in The aircraft we fly, by steve

If you ever have the occasion to fly from Budapest Ferihegy airport Terminal Two, make sure you leave some time to visit the aircraft museum just off the airport loop-road on the right-hand side. Mind you, if you are used to the pristine exhibits of transport museums in Germany or Switzerland, you will need to relax your expectations somewhat. The aircraft in this little museum show clearly the desperate need for money… On the other hand you will witness something no money can buy: the wonders enthusiastic volunteers can perform.

Before works started...

This is the story of the IL-14 in the park and its left engine which roared back to life last week to commemorate the 66th birthday of Malev, the now defunct Hungarian national airline.

The magic started with this little crew, led by Mr. Endre Zsaludek, transforming the park’s old, military IL-14, tail number 04 into an aircraft with 60’s Malev livery and registration HA-MAL. Mr. Zsaludek is more than just the leader of the group, he is the moving force, the real motivation that makes things happen. Not every member of the group is an aircraft maintenance technician but their love for aircraft has brought them together and made them a team to be envied.

Ready....!

They all contributed in their own way and the results speak for themselves. The IL-14 has become one of the gems in the collection.

But this was not the end of the story… of course.

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