Crossing the Line

On 11/01/2014, in ATC world, by steve

One of the first decisions taken when we started Roger-Wilco was to identify our authors by first name only. This was done not to hide anything but to create a more family feeling for the whole thing. As in real families, in the Roger-Wilco family also there have been events to mourn and events to celebrate. The latest cause for celebration is the new job our regular contributor, lajos, has started in earlier this month. Regular readers will recognize his name as the one bringing us The Tower Chronicles, subjective but fascinating and revealing accounts from the life of Ferihegy Airport. Lajos has changed his air traffic controller hat for that of an incident investigator… crossing the line you might say.

lineMost pilots and air traffic controllers will spend their whole life doing what they had been trained for and they bear the brunt of the profession and are happy in what they are doing. Others will become restless and feel the urge to try something new and different… to cross the line into new territory and new challenges. Most of the time they stay near to their original profession, what is more, they might even continue to practice it if for no other reason than to keep their license valid, but crossing the line is not as simple as some, who have never done it, imagine. It is doable, but…

For both personal and professional reasons, I have been in such a “line crossing” situation several times and by way of celebrating lajos’ having taken the plunge, I would like to share some of my experience with you. Who knows, it may be of benefit to someone, somewhere.

Even if the new job is just one floor below the original, even if one has known the new colleagues for many years, the first few days in the new job feel weird and unreal. New tasks, new viewpoints, different customs and attitudes… it is like getting along with a new girlfriend. It is nice and exciting but full of surprises and unexpected turns. Settling into the new position is only part of the story… the real shock comes when one goes back to the original place to do a bit of air traffic control for old times’ sake. Friends and colleagues suddenly become remote and some may even be slightly hostile. Do they feel deserted? Do they think you are cheating on them? Whatever… get used to it. The familiar is familiar no more. It is an all new ball game!

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European states ignoring Commission Regulations?

On 15/12/2012, in Airline corner, by steve

It is only a few days ago that airlines in Europe blasted states and ANSPs for creating empty shells which are then sold as operating Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) and the European Commission sent an equally strong message expressing its displeasure.

The next round of fire aims at the UK, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Spain and France who have reported at the recent Project Steering Group meeting on Data Link Services, that they will not meet the deadline of 7 February 2012 for the provision of data link services in the core area of Europe as mandated by Commission Regulation EC No 29/2009.

“The decision of these member states to not comply with European regulation will not only undermine the financial investments made by airspace users, but will also damage the credibility of the Single European Sky of which achieving de-fragmentation of the ATM infrastructure is a key objective.” – says IATA and AEA in their common letter addressed to Matthew Baldwin, Director Aviation and International Transport Affairs at the European Commission.

What is more, they urge the European Commission to take the necessary legal action against non-compliant member states…

I have said many times that in the past that promising air traffic management programs like EATCHIP and ATM2000+ died premature deaths not because of mismanagement by EUROCONTROL as states like to claim. They went nowhere because some states and ANSPs chose to walk their own way even if it meant hitting the wall.

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Here is the IATA statement on FABs: FABs Need to Deliver Results

On 05/12/2012, in FAB News, by steve

It is IATA policy not to co-sign statements with other organizations. They have, however, issued their own statement concerning the FAB situation. Here it is:

Brussels, 4 December 2012 – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the European Commission, EU member states and Europe’s Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to ensure that Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) are delivering real results. The call came on the deadline date for European states to set up agreements grouping Europe’s 27 ANSPs into 9 FABs as a critical step towards creating the Single European Sky (SES).

“Whilst the FAB agreements are mostly in place, there are no signs of real consolidation or efficiencies of scale. EU member states have paid lip-service to European legislators and turned this key reform into an administrative box-ticking exercise and continue to operate their ANSPs in silos,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

The SES could help to restore competitiveness to the European air transport sector by generating EUR 5 billion in cost savings for airspace users and reduce CO2 emissions. “The SES savings are crucial for all airlines, especially those in Europe who are suffering through the economic crisis,” said Tyler.

The Single European Sky high-level 2020 targets are to (1) increase safety performance by a factor of 10; (2) reduce the impact of flights on the environment by 10%; (3) provide air traffic management services at 50% less cost; and (4) increase capacity 3-fold. Delivery of these targets is behind schedule. IATA calls for two concrete actions to put SES back on track:

The European Commission must act to hold non-compliant member states to account for failing to deliver on this and other key SES measures. Additionally, it has become clear that the regulatory framework must include a strong and independent economic regulator.
The member states and their service providers must be required to consolidate into the 9 FABs as agreed and make the real-world changes to their operations that will fulfill the requirements of the regulation; namely to optimize airspace along air traffic flows and to optimize their use of human and technical resources.
“Reaching the SES targets, while challenging, is technically feasible. Only a lack of political will is getting in the way. Cost efficient air transport infrastructure is important to the 7.8 million jobs and EUR 475 billion in European business that is supported by the air transport industry. To push SES forward, EU member states and ANSPs need to make the FABs work—delivering real savings and emissions reductions.” said Tyler.

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Airline industry condemns EU Member States on lack of progress on FABs to date

On 04/12/2012, in FAB News, by steve

The Association of European Airlines (AEA), the European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA), the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the International Air Carrier Association (IACA) are united in condemning EU Member States for their reluctance to properly implement Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs), a key ingredient for the successful delivery of Single European Sky II (SES II).

Member States have failed to honour their obligations under the Single European Sky Regulation to properly implement FABs by the stipulated deadline of 4 December 2012. They have had eight years to comply with the Regulation, yet they have not moved much further than the mere creation of FABs.

The intent of the legislation with respect to FABs was to drive defragmentation of European airspace, enabling significantly enhanced efficiency, while delivering cost-effectiveness improvements. The current situation of individual Air Navigation Service Providers in the 27 Member States around Europe operating as independent service providers is extremely inefficient – to the extent that inefficiencies alone cost the industry over €5 billion every year. Such fragmentation and resultant inefficiency further cause an unnecessary 13 million tonnes of CO2 to be emitted per year, equivalent to 10% of current aviation emissions in EU airspace.

The Heads of the airline associations stated:

“The current situation is scandalous. It is not enough to create Functional Airspace Blocks in name only. FABs must be demonstrably business-driven, generating tangible operational efficiencies, significant cost savings and environmental benefits.”

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JOINT DECLARATION URGES GOVERNMENTS TO DEVELOP AIR TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

On 22/11/2012, in ATC world, by steve

Last week during the 9th ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Panama City, Panama, aviation associations

signed the Joint Declaration on Airport and Air Navigation Service Infrastructure. The Civil Air

Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), came together with the Airports Council International

(ACI), the Airports Council International – Latin America and Caribbean (ACI-LAC), the Latin

American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), and the International Air Transport

Association (IATA) to urge Latin American and Caribbean Governments to develop air transport

infrastructure to adequately meet the needs of the industry, now and in the future.

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CANSO’S NEW DIRECTOR GENERAL LISTS TOP INDUSTRY PRIORITIES

On 22/11/2012, in ATC world, by steve

In his first public address, the newly-appointed Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services

Organisation (CANSO) Jeff Poole called on the international aviation community assembled at the

12th ICAO Air Navigation Conference to embrace change and collaboration in order to achieve the

long-held vision of a globally harmonised and interoperable air navigation system. Jeff Poole told

guests attending a CANSO-hosted lunch during this once-in-a-decade ICAO event, that he will drive

positive and urgent change to bring about more seamless and efficient management of the airspace.

More than 1,000 delegates are anticipated during the 10-day event that will run from the 19th to the

30th November to agree a new Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) that will guide industry planning

and implementation activities over the next decade. For the first time, a new framework called the

aviation system block upgrades (ASBUs), and a series of technology roadmaps, will guide the

planning of ATM modernisation initiatives and synchronise development of air traffic management

infrastructure globally. CANSO played a key role in identifying these operational improvements and in

gaining commitment for them prior to the Conference.

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An Air Traffic Management Master Plan with Question Marks

On 27/06/2012, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

If you follow European air traffic management developments, you will have noticed in the news that the ATM Master Plan is undergoing a significant update and the SESAR ATM Master Plan portal promises to have new information on this by mid-2012. About now that is…

There was less discussion about interesting events surrounding the Master Plan update. The original draft updated ATM Master Plan was so poor, the airlines at first proposed that IATA should not support this new version.

As we all know, flatly refusing to support such a cornerstone document does not happen lightly and there must have been serious shortcomings to upset the airspace users so much. Of course it says a lot about the current environment that a Master Plan update, even if only as a draft, can be released at all while containing information that has the potential to rattle the airspace users to this degree.

But what were the real problems as seen by the users?

Let’s first start with a bit of history. As you will see, the background facts are slightly more somber than the rather upbeat news communicated over the official channels during the Master Plan update process.

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BluSky Services is 9 Years Old

On 01/04/2012, in Anniversaries, by steve

BluSky Services, the company also behind Roger-Wilco, was born on 1 April 2003.

The aviation world was in turmoil following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and IATA member airlines were pushing the organization to reduce its costs. One result was that they cut lose some of their personnel, in particular those who were dealing with longer term, strategic issues.

The original logo...

There were lots of rumors and lots of maneuvering but it was not until October 2002 that we heard who would have to go and who would be allowed to stay. I was among the former… The cease and desist order was supposed to be effective immediately but I managed to convince my boss that there were so many running issues that dropping them just like that would cause even more damage and so we should move the date of separation to 31 December 2002. This would at least give time to arrange for a controlled crash landing.

I looked around for other possibilities but the prospects were bleak to say the least. Most companies were shedding people instead of hiring and in the crisis situation even my long experience in civil aviation counted for little.

Of course IATA was only the latest example of crisis-damaged companies. SABENA had gone bankrupt the year before. In the circumstances it was quite normal that I should also consult with a pilot friend who used to work for SABENA and who was sure to be bale to offer good advice. After all, he had been in a very similar situation only a short time earlier.

To cut a long story short, the idea of starting our own company and the motivation to get rid of all hesitation came from him and so he will forever remain the honorary father of BluSky and our thanks go out to him on this anniversary.

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The EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) – why the fuss?

On 11/03/2012, in Environment - Without hot air, by steve

All matters environmental are sensitive and aviation has been in the cross-hairs of the environmental lobby for a long time. Somehow the substantial improvements already made and those in the pipeline have not generated the level of interest they deserve. The fact that the still hopelessly inefficient air traffic management system in places like Europe is one of the biggest potential sources of new emission reduction has also been more or les ignored.

Not so the ETS… So what is the ETS?

This scheme makes it possible for companies that produce harmful emissions like CO2 to buy credits that allow them to continue their activities and continue spewing out the bad stuff up to the level of the credit they have purchased. The idea is that by making you pay for your bad habits, you will be motivated to mend your ways, i.e. improve your technology so that your activity becomes less polluting.

The airline industry, responsible for a mere 2 % of all industrial emissions, has been exempt from this scheme until 1 January 2012 and for good reason. After some initial hesitation and misunderstandings, the aviation industry did get its act together and in fact became one of the most ardent supporters of emission reduction. In fact, aviation was set by many experts as an example to follow by other industries in recognition of its worldwide efforts and common action plan.

One thing the airlines did not want was regional solutions to emission reduction… For companies flying essentially all over the world, diverging regional requirements and administrative regimes would be a nightmare that increased costs unnecessarily.

The natural forum to develop a worldwide solution for the reduction of aviation emission would have been ICAO but like so often in the past, progress was glacial, to say the least. The European Union lost its patience and announced that they would extend the ETS, already operational though of questionable effectiveness in other industries, to aviation also if no ICAO solution was forthcoming. This was the last thing the airlines wanted.

Not only is the ETS a purely regional solution, the way it was going to be applied to aviation would distort the market in all kinds of ways. I have written about this in the past so will not go into the details again here.

One thing is certain, the whole issue is turning into a perfect, albeit world wide, mess.

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Are Airspace Users Really the Centre of ANSP Attention?

On 22/01/2012, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

More than a decade ago I was in the thick of a war raging between airspace users and air navigation service providers. At stake was the forced implementation of Mode S Enhanced Surveillance (ES), something some ANSPs considered to be vital while the airspace users in general considered to be an expensive folly. The business case developed by EUROCONTROL was at best dodgy and the promised benefits were seen as of questionable value.

At the time, Mode S elementary surveillance looked like a done deal. In the end, after having held back the Mode S ES for two years or so, three big ANSPs banded together and went ahead anyway… costing the industry millions without having realized measurable benefits to this day!

But now, Mode S Elementary Surveillance is rising from the ashes, more specifically the problems associated with the SES Implementing Rule (IR) on Aircraft Identification for Surveillance (Regulation (EU) No 1206/2011).

Two Members of the European Parliament have submitted questions for written answer (ref. E-000312/2012). You will find the text of the questions, as published, below in full.

I wonder what the answers will be. The questions paint a sad story indeed….

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