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.

ma2

 

ma3

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National Pride or Political Junkyard?

On 05/08/2013, in Airline corner, by steve

falconIt looks like the Hungarians will get themselves a new airline after all. For a time anyway…

Dubbed Solyom Hungarian Airways, where “Solyom” stands for Falcon in Hungarian, is an initiative by three Hungarian businessmen and Middle East investors. Expected to start operations with just six aircraft in the near future, the fleet is to grow to 25 units by 2014 and 50 by 2017. By then they will have wide-bodies serving North America too.

It is understandable that many Hungarians cheer this new airline and ex-Malev employees and others flock to answer the job offers published by Solyom. Who would not want to be part of such a re-birth? Who would want to miss such an opportunity?

Questions abound around this new airline and the chances of success they may have. It is true that all IATA figures seem to indicate that the airline industry world-wide is now entering the upward curve of the business cycle and this is going to help also the European market. However, the profit outlook of the big network carriers is predicated on the successful conclusion of the often painful consolidation process that saw the number of airlines reduce rather than grow…

It is true that the disappearance of Malev had left a gap in the market that was not completely filled by the airlines, both legacy and LCC, who were quick to pick up the slack, but this is hardly enough to sustain a new company. Especially one that offers premium service and is intending to focus on premium passengers. Of course “premium” is a relative term and we will see what they offer and for how much to charm people away from the established brands.

Another troubling aspect of this all is the fact that the major hubs in Europe are all struggling and the smaller ones are more or less dissolving as airlines strive to reshape themselves and their cost structure… Will Solyom succeed in turning Budapest into a thriving hub under such circumstances? A big question.

Click here to read the full article

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New Hungarian airline – What is all the buzz about?

On 11/07/2013, in Airline corner, by steve

Ever since the demise of Malev Hungarian Airlines, the people of this little Central European country have been mourning “their” airline and were hoping to get a new one soon. Hungary is in dire straights… three years of mismanagement by a far-right-leaning government has resulted in a stalled economy, poverty on a scale never before seen, rampant racism and a society split in the middle along political lines so one could understand why setting up a new airline was not on the agenda of investors at home or abroad. They do have a low-cost carrier, WizzAir which has taken advantage of the void left by Malev and which seems to enjoy government backing also. But most Hungarians seem to detest the low-cost formula and a “real” airline would be more to their taste.

It looks like they might get something… though it may be less than they bargained for.

This was an entry in an old Malev logo competition…

After the failed attempt to start an airline under the Hungarian World Airways name, here comes Solyom Hungarian Airways. It is not clear why the unpronounceable name of “falcon” was given to the airline, retaining the Hungarian word of the bird… but news talking about a red-white-green color scheme combined with keeping a Hungarian word in the name seem to hint at a bit of nationalism… not a good omen for an airline, old or new.

The founders claim that the company will be fully Hungarian owned but with investor money from the Gulf-states… They have big plans of starting with 5 aircraft and then growing to 50 in just a few years. Obviously, this sounds like music to the ears of old Malev employees and others who would of course be more than happy to see a Hungarian airline taking to the skies.
Are they finally getting what they want or is this going to be a big cock-up like so many things that have plagued the country recently?

Obviously, the world does not need a new airline. Certainly not in the premium category where Solyom is planning to operate. If anything, consolidation is the name of the game and with big names like Lufthansa and Air-France KLM in big trouble, how is Solyom going to survive? They are claiming to have developed an unorthodox business model that is sure to be a success. Well, we will see… may be they are indeed clever enough to one-up their competitors. Don’t hold your breath though.

Click here to read the full article

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Aviation’s Servants – Zsuzsa Frick Vereczi’s fascinating new book

On 09/04/2013, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Zsuzsa Frick Vereczi
Publisher: Civil Legiutak a Vilagra
ISBN: 978-963-08-5972-1

Untitled-1It is not often that Roger-Wilco reviews books written in any language other than English. However, every now and then a volume lands on my desk that is not (yet…) available in English but which is so unique and interesting that we are compelled to share the experience with our readers in the hope that one day the work gets translated and then it will be on the wish list of the Roger-Wilco family.

The collapse of Malev Hungarian Airlines in February 2012 has spawned many words in many different publications, most concerned with the reasons and the chances of starting again. While the human element was part of those discourses, it was not center stage.

Zsuzsa Frick Vereczi’s book, “Aviation’s Servants” is different. Coming a little over a year after the Malev tragedy it is firmly in the slipstream of the emotional storm left by Black Friday, this book opens up a totally different world, takes a totally different perspective and even introduces a totally different, fascinating format.

Zsuzsa went out and chatted with the people who have been, and in a way continue to be, the essence of Malev and the operation of aircraft and the required infrastructure, bringing their thoughts, views, opinions, feelings, hopes and frustrations to the reader in a questions and answers format that is impossible to put down once you start reading it.

Flip open the book at any page and listen to the words… Soon, you will hear the whining of the engines, smell kerosene, see the gray paint on the metal cabinets, feel the emotions of the people giving you their heart while talking about the job they loved.

Zsuzsa has been an employee of Malev for decades and what I admire in her work is the trust she had in what her fellow aviation servant’s had to say and the conviction that this would be of interest to us all… I think this book is a must have for the big aviation family as well as those who have ever experienced the wonder of flight and now would like to meet, truly meet, those who made/make it happen.

As I said, the book is presently only available in Hungarian but hopefully one day an English translation will also see the light of day. When that happens, aviation’s servants the world over will get a chance to see just how alike and yet wonderfully different, we all are.

An absolute must have in your aviation library.

By the way, the book’s public presentation will be on Wednesday, 10 April 2013 at 3 p.m. in the STEX-House Coffee and Restaurant in Budapest (VIII. district, Jozsef Blvd. and Barross street corner). There you can meet not only the author but also some of the stars of the book!

To order the book, write to Zsuzsa at vereczi60@gmail.com

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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.

Click here to read the full article

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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.

Click here to read the full article

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Goldtimer Birthday Party with a LI-2 and Other Beauties

On 24/04/2012, in Anniversaries, by krisztina

Crystal clear skies with just a few fluffy cumulus clouds above Budaors Airport provided the perfect setting for this special day, the 20th Anniversary of the Goldtimer Foundation. The sun was shining down on the participants of this flying jamboree which quickly evolved into a real family event.

The only airworthy LI-2 in the world

The LI-2, shiny as new, was waiting impatiently for the first take off which was followed by 12 additional ones. People were eager to get on board this unique aircraft, the world’s only airworthy LI-2 which saw service originally as part of the MALEV fleet. Each flight had a full house and hundreds of people were made happy in the course of the flights which lasted until late afternoon. Being a passenger on a LI-2 is the kind of experience aviation enthusiasts are unlikely to forget.

58 years old and still going strong... the PO-2

Added color was provided by the 58 years old PO-2 military trainer which was also on duty the whole day, taking passengers, wishing to fly exposed to the elements, beyond the clouds.

Click here to read the full article

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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.

Click here to read the full article

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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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Old engine starts for Malev anniversary

On 31/03/2012, in Anniversaries, by steve

Last week marked the 66th anniversary of the establishment of MALEV Hungarian Airlines. Although the national icon has not survived the hurdles of to-days airline world (it went bankrupt two months ago), her people gathered for what may be the last birthday party for the airline to lament the past and express hope for the future.

The party took place at the outdoor aviation museum near Budapest Ferihegy airport and one of the special treats was the coming to life, after more than 20 years of silence, of the left engine on one of the exhibits, an IL-14 in the original Malev livery.

These photos are from one of the organizations dedicated to keep the Malev dreams alive.

Have a look at the video made of this special event here.

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