Neither here nor there…

On 09/02/2014, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

LajosI must be out of my mind, no question about it. After just one week on my new job I had tears in my eyes when I was sitting once more in the tower, headset on my ears, I uttered the magic sentence: “Cleared to land, runway 31 right”. I also had this nice feeling… I have not gotten completely detached from the tower. Sure, the new job is an exciting challenge but you do not get over 30 years just like that. Luckily my voice did not betray my emotions and so I escaped being made fun of by my colleagues.

One thing is sure, it was strange going out to the airport every day for a week… well the airport? More like the ANS facility. The reception did help a lot and made me forget the strange feeling in record time. Slowly I made the acquaintance of the new colleagues whom I did know already from the time when I was just a visitor. This appears to be a nice little crew and luckily everyone have their place and tasks, so they were not looking at me with eyes that would say, now you were the last thing we needed.

So I slotted into my new position, poor Meaty’s old one that got all cold by now. My first act was that of a small remembrance, I wrote a message to Meaty up there, assuring him that I will try to fill the void he left as best I can. This will not be easy as I discovered the very first week. There were also a few hair raising moments when nobody knew where I actually belonged. I was no longer on the staff of air traffic control and I was not yet on the staff of the safety department. So? But matters sorted themselves out after a while. At least that is what I hope.


About my job… well there is not much to write home about, perhaps only to say that as a tower expert, I will keep track of events that concern the tower. If an incident occurs, I will investigate it, draw the conclusions and send the results to the appropriate people. We do have other tasks but I will not dwell on those. I want to continue writing the Tower Chronicles, something that is probably more interesting also for the readers.

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Busy October

On 13/11/2013, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

photo_lockheedThe first part of October turned out to be busier than we bargained for. Soon after the nostalgic visit to Riga I was once again on my way to the airport occasioned by a new incident investigation. It was not a big deal, only the usual silly 4 miles issue. This was not the point however. The points were the discussions I have had with the folks at the flight safety department and also their bosses. To be perfectly honest, I was rather pleased when they invited me to fill the post left vacant by the untimely passing away of my good friend Meaty. To be more precise, they asked me to move my base of operations from the tower to the flight safety department. I hesitated for a short time but all the while I was glad that my forecast had come in. No one applied to be a full-time incident investigator during the competition held in the summer and I was secretly hoping that I would get the job without having to take an interview. If that were to happen, I would not need to prove to the twentysomething HR gal that I actually know what I am about. In the end everything turned out according to my expectations and I said yes.

From then on the difficult part begins. It is still not sure when I might start. Problem is, the complement of the tower would not be reduced by only my departure. There are the five colleagues too who have applied for the Kosovo conversion course. Never mind the funny question: why did aerodrome controllers have to apply for a purely area control job? The answer to that question is blowing in the wind, as Bob Dylan would say.

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Coming and going and the 4 mile rule

On 23/08/2013, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

photo_marvanyiThe Summer of 2013 has been mainly a quiet, almost sleepy period at Ferihegy airport. Traffic was light and if we sweated it was due to the temperatures and not the number of aircraft vying for our attention. Incidents that came about were all of the kind that did not count as incidents in the past. Since the introduction of the 4 nautical mile between arriving and departing aircraft rule, it counts as an incident when an aircraft slips inside the 4 NM distance. The young titans (who have never actually controlled aircraft) sat down to puzzle out (they called it modeling…) that the old and many times proven separation minimum called threshold-threshold was not safe and they obliged us to introduce the 4NM rule… This means that a departing aircraft has to start its take-off roll at the latest by the time an arriving aircraft is at four miles on final. If the arrival gets closer than 4 miles, it has to be instructed to make a missed approach, otherwise the event qualifies as an incident. I am not sure there is another place on Earth where they have a totally mad procedure like this, but the fact is, traffic these days is so low at Ferihegy that even this madness could be introduced without visible consequences. Of course I can only recall with regret the good old times when I could simply inform the arrival that I would like to allow a departure to take off before them… This was enough for the pilots, they knew what to do, reduced speed and only in the rare cases where the threshold-threshold separation would be violated would we make them perform a missed approach. I have not had a single case like that in my 30 year career, hence my difficulty with swallowing this kind of new rules.

Of course the most exciting event this summer was the arrival of the first aircraft of Solyom Airways. They landed on 18 August to applause and then left again to return who knows when? But they sure caused a bit of a commotion on this otherwise boring day.

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National Day Under the Snow

On 22/03/2013, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

708900Well, this has never happened before in my 30 years of service at Ferihegy airport. We have never had the occasion to open the National Day, 15 March with snow this big. In the past by mid-March winter was but a remote memory and the worst we would get was the occasional snow-shower thrown at us by the heavens, but those never lasted long. Now, however, we woke to what was arguably the hardest winter day ever.

Driving to the airport I was thinking about global warming in this mid-March morning and the minus 8 centigrade it was sporting but when I saw an early morning departure climbing out primly my thoughts switched to the snow clearing detail who must have worked extra hard during the night. We had a usable runway and that was much more than could be said of the country’s highways, but that was another matter. There was life at Ferihegy when we arrived to relieve the night shift.

Gale force wind was driving the snow horizontally the whole morning but this did not prevent the white stuff from falling also on the runway in prodigious amounts. As usual, the snow clearing detail was working on one runway while we used the other and then we switched. For two hours starting at nine a.m. I had the good luck of fencing with our traffic. The old-style single runway operation is always more of a challenge for us than the more comfortable dual-runway ops, so I approached things with a double portion of drive and adrenalin. There was no lack of aircraft to handle. There were a lot of delayed flights, some of them were late departing in the first place and we also had our share of birds diverting to Ferihegy… the weather was not much better in the neighboring countries either. My task was further complicated by the not insignificant detail that only the two taxiways at the ends of runway 31R were clean and usable, a circumstance that doubled the time aircraft spent on the runway. The time could be even more as pilots moved extremely carefully after landing and until they left the runway. With the next arrival on short final, there was no room to err. But good coordination and the work of the approach controllers ensured that aircraft were coming at a constant speed and the correct spacing, so nobody had to break off their approach.

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And the show goes on…

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


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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Ferihegy Airport – the beginning of the end?

On 27/10/2012, in Perspectives, by steve

Not many things seem to be working in Hungary these days. With a right wing government that seems to make a sport of creating enemies all around it, from the European Union to the IMF, the small Central-European country has now reached a point where the economy has nowhere to go but down. This of course has an impact also on air transport and the airport of Budapest.

Ferihegy Airport (which was renamed Liszt Ferenc International Airport by a name-change crazy city administration) was hit simultaneously by the crisis in the aviation world and the collapse of the Hungarian economy. The demise of Malev, the once-proud Hungarian National airline earlier this year left the airport with a huge gap in revenues. It also started a chain of events that is nothing short of amazing.

When long-loss making Malev disappeared from the scene almost overnight, they set a record as the only airline from former communist times to go bankrupt. The result of many years of mismanagement and a total lack of vision on the part of its various owners, the bankruptcy nevertheless opened up the field for other players, particularly low-fare companies, to take Budapest by storm.

Wizzair, Easy Jet and Ryanair were on the spot right away, ready to take up some of the slack left by the exit of the legacy carrier.

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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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Low-fare summer, low-fare Ferihegy

On 05/10/2012, in Tower chronicles, by lajos

Well, we are over one more summer. The sinking of Ferihegy took a new turn when after about ten years of operation, Terminal 1 once more closed its gates. Since traffic at Terminal 2 dropped precipitously following the sad demise of Malev earlier this year, this was an unavoidable step. Low-fare airlines were moved to Terminal 2, alongside Ryanair, who have been operating from there for some time already. There was some grumbling among the low-fare guys but in the end they made the move and have been using T2 ever since.

This has changed our work also, I could even say it was made easier with the runway usage becoming simpler. Almost everyone was landing on one runway and taking off from the other. The banking of the traffic also changed, the early morning incoming peak was replaced by an outgoing one, as practically all the low-cost flights departed between six and half seven in the morning. Mixed in with them were the few odd one outs who spent the night at Ferihegy, still operating to us in the old order. One thing is sure, the night shift did not have an opportunity to be bored during the last hour of their duty. They cleared out the airport for the incoming crew who, in the old times, would have started the day with the first departure peak. So, day shifts were off to an easy start and this provided an excellent opportunity to review the various work orders, which was there in abundance (but this is another story).

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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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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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