Security over the top…

On 14/04/2012, in Battle stations, by krisztian

Our contributor krisztian is on assignment on a ship somewhere on the North Atlantic but he had time to find for us a real gem about how security can be misunderstood of we are not careful. This story was also published by its author on Facebook but we wanted to share it also with the readers of Roger-Wilco. Next time you go through security without too much hassle, think of this story and bless your luck…

“As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all o…f our bags searched, the whole nine yards. Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That’s where the stupid started.
First, everyone was forced to get off the plane-even though the plane wasn’t refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.

It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it re-inspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to re-inspect our Cargo-just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, re-inspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers.

Click here to read the full article

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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.

Click here to read the full article

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The advantages of not being American

On 17/10/2011, in Viewpoint, by cleo

Remember how we used to say to anyone willing to listen just how wonderful the FAA was and how happy they should be in the US for having just one big ATM organization to contend with?

This was of course before NextGen and the current reshuffle of the FAA to make it better suited to achieving the NextGen goals. We have now learned that David Grizzle, the COO of the Air Traffic Organization, is of the opinion that the FAA-wide changes will go a long way toward making them one FAA as opposed to independent and often feuding activities all housed at 800 Independence Avenue. I also read in Aviation Week with great surprise that two FAA guys will be used as “battering rams” to break down the cultural barriers inside the FAA… All this is of course set in the context of setting up a new Project Management Organization (PMO) within the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, to look after NextGen and improve the general management of that project.

Wow… we always thought the FAA was better.

 Of course this highlights immediately how lucky we are in Europe.

Our world is composed of EC and EUROCONTROL member states, the two sets not being identical. EUROCONTROL has more members but that organization is being made irrelevant albeit its final name (Network Manager) is something even the FAA can be jealous of. Then we have the FABs, composed of ANSPs but no real European organization that would oversee the FABs of which there are far more than anyone would ever need… The ANSPs in the FABs are forming alliances but those alliances do not align with the FABs. Then there is the SESAR Joint Undertaking with ANSP and industry members trying to realize SESAR, something that has never envisaged having to contend with the fragmentation represented by the FABs and the ANSP alliances. On top of all that, we have the European Commission who is actually responsible for the FAB idea in the first place (big mistake) but they are also laboring on what is called the Single European Sky (SES), something that almost died in trying to bring that jigsaw puzzle into a coherent whole… and the jury is still out on what will come of this all, SES or not.

Suppose, somebody somewhere discovers that there is a problem in Europe similar to what the FAA has faced and to which their reply was establishing the PMO. What would we do?

Wrong question. We can never discover a problem like that…

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1 August 2011 – 100 year anniversary of first US woman with a pilot’s license

On 01/08/2011, in Anniversaries, by steve

Harriet Quimby was born in Michigan in 1875 and lived on the family farm until it went bankrupt. Around age 25 she moved to San Francisco, California where she got the stage bug and dreamed about becoming an actress. This was not to be however but her superb writing skills made her into a journalist and screen writer.

Soon she moved to New York where she practiced her journalism and was frequently in the public eye becoming the sweetheart of the Big Apple.

She got her pilot’s license on 1 August 1911 and subsequently went to numerous air shows in the US and Mexico, wearing a unique, purple flying suit of her own design, fabricated from a satin material. She set another record in 1912 when she flew across the English Channel as the first woman having done so.

On 1 July 1912 she was flying over the bay near Quincy, Massachusetts. With her in the plane was the manager of the air meet she was attending. While pulling a publicity stunt, both she and the manager fell out of the plane as it suddenly pitched forward. The cause has never been reliably established.

So ended the career of the first woman pilot in US history. Had she been given more time, she would probably be there with the biggest and brightest among US aviation pioneers.

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6 July 2011 – 75 years of ATC in the US

On 15/07/2011, in Anniversaries, by steve

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration  marked the 75th anniversary of federal air traffic control ON 6 July as American aviation experiences its safest period ever. Since its inception with 15 workers operating in just three control centers in 1936, the agency has become a world leader, pioneering safety improvements and developing new technology to speed up flights, save fuel and improve safety.

“The United States has the safest air transportation system in the world. But as the last 75 years show, we will never stop working to make our system even safer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“As a pilot, I am in awe of the aviation safety and technological advancements that have been made in the last 75 years,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “NextGen represents the next milestone in aviation innovation. The FAA is committed to transforming our national airspace system so passengers can reach their destinations even more safely and more efficiently than they do today.”

Federal air traffic control began on July 6, 1936, when the Bureau of Air Commerce took over the operation of the first airway traffic control centers at Newark, N.J., Chicago and Cleveland. Faced with a growing demand for air travel, the 15 employees who made up the original group of controllers took radio position reports from pilots to plot the progress of each flight, providing no separation services. At the time, the fastest plane in the commercial fleet was the Douglas DC-3, which could fly coast-to-coast in about 17 hours while carrying 21 passengers.

Click here to read the full article

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Air France and Hungarian water-melons

On 13/07/2011, in Viewpoint, by steve

While Hungarians are being urged by their Minister of Agriculture to buy a few extra pieces of water-melons, thereby helping local growers, French politicians under the leadership of right-wing MP Bernard Carayon are proclaiming: “Air France is Airbus, not Boeing”. Excuse me?

Of course this incredible folly is a direct retaliation for the US Air Force’s decision to source their tanker aircraft from Boeing and not Airbus. At stake now is Air France-KLM’s fleet renewal involving the purchase or leasing of scores of long and medium range aircraft, a multi-billion euro investment decision.

I very much doubt that either Air France-KLM or Airbus is pleased by this ham-handed and totally uncalled-for political interference which, like all such interferences whether they concern water-melons or aircraft, ultimately will only hurt those it was supposed to help.

One can only hope that the French initiative will stop at being grand-standing and will not in any way influence the airline group’s purchasing decisions. Should this not be the case, the French MPs will have given an extra trump card into the hands of those who had opposed sourcing such a strategic asset as the US Air Force tanker fleet from a company under the thumb of a country known to have its own peculiar way of doing things.

In a post back in February this year, we commented: “I tend to agree with those who have said right from the start that a strategic asset like the tankers for the US Air Force should not come from anywhere else but the US. While from a commercial or even operational point of view an Airbus product may have its merits, having such a strategic asset being dependent on a foreign government (however friendly… ) is not a good idea.”

If (and I stress this is still a big if) Air France-KLM is “encouraged” by the French to buy Airbus rather than Boeing it would be easy to picture what might have happened if the US Air Force equipped with Airbus tankers and then found itself in a conflict somewhere in the world not to the taste of some French parliamentarians…

The French MPs should take the example of the Hungarians and if they feelt this urge to meddle, stay with water-melons.

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There are more planes in the ocean than submarines in the sky…

On 21/04/2011, in The lighter side, by steve

We have all seen pictures of witty sentences painted on aircraft fuselages or bombs and rockets but more often than not, we quickly forget them and when we too could insert a witty remark, they prove impossible to dig up from our memories. Krisztian, one of our contributors, has now provided a nice collection of such witty sentences coming mainly from the military. But they are true and applicable also in a non-military context.
Enjoy!

“AIM TOWARDS ENEMY.” – Instructions printed on US Rocket Launcher
“When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” – U.S. Marine Corps
“Cluster bombing from B-52s are very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground.” – USAF Ammo Troop
“If the enemy is in range, so are you.” – Infantry Journal
“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” – General MacArthur
“You, you, and you panic. The rest of you, come with me.” – U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.
“Tracers work both ways.” – U.S. Army Ordnance

Click here to read the full article

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Incredible story – or is it?

On 23/03/2011, in Shop floor talk, by steve

Imagine an American opening his daily paper and finding an article about Boeing Commercial Airplanes that ran something like this.

It was announced to-day that Boeing’s VP for Customers was leaving the company even before its CEO and COO are to swap places later this year as called for by the agreement between the State of Washington and the State of Illinois. The place swapping is taking place for purely political reasons since both men have performed in their current positions to the satisfaction of shareholders and employees alike. The departure of VP Customers is especially painful for a company which had to survive the departure of two CEOs within a hundred days in 2006. It was the now departing VeePee who kept the company’s customers from giving up on them…

As if this politically motivated change of guard was not enough, Chrysler, one of the aircraft maker’s biggest shareholders has indicated that they want to get rid of their part in the company. The automaker has the same share in Boeing as the US government. The rest is held by a consortium of banks and the State of New Mexico. But, to add insult to injury, the banks also want to sell and this would leave the US government the biggest shareholder, something that will never be accepted by New Mexico. Not surprisingly, the Democrats and the Republicans are divided over the issue with the Republicans not exactly charmed by the idea of the government owning even part of an aircraft maker.”

Without a doubt, the guy reading this would call his broker and sell his shares in the Boeing Company…

Do you think this nightmare scenario could ever come to pass in the United States? No, I do not think so either.

And in Europe? What did you say? No? Wrong!

Replace Boeing by Airbus, The US Government with the France, Chrysler with Daimler and the political agreement as being between Germany and France… and forget about New Mexico. The rest is true. It is happening as you read this. It is happening because of the peculiar company Airbus still is. Compared to Boeing, Airbus is still very much a political football and their decisions are heavily influenced by the power plays of the big European states.

In the circumstances it is a wonder that they manage to build such great airplanes…

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Jamming GPS – No bad guys needed, the FCC will do it for you!

On 16/03/2011, in Satellite Navigation, by steve

Whenever a discussion is started about whether or not we should entrust aircraft navigation to GPS, there will be at least one person raising the issue of jamming. This is the specter of a single bad guy with a little black box purchased on eBay for a few bucks creating havoc in air navigation by jamming the signals of the GPS satellites. As you know, these signals coming from space are extremely weak and the system disengages and stops guidance the moment there is even the slightest doubt about their integrity. Hence the possibility of mischief with just the simplest means.

Losing GPS will not make any aircraft fall immediately from the sky but not having the precision guidance on which the new GNSS procedures rely is akin to having the ILS pulled from under you in Cat III conditions. It is survivable but traffic will be severely handicapped until the service is restored.

It looks now that we will not have to worry about the bad guys. A much bigger threat comes from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a company called LightSquared. Worse, if LightSquared has its way, scores of other companies rushing to satisfy mobile broadband services might all become potential threats to GPS. So what is the problem?

Companies like LightSquared provide mobile satellite services and there is of course big money in this. In order to increase the capacity of its service, LightSquared is planning to set up a huge number of terrestrial base stations that will operate in the part if the L-band just adjacent to the L1 frequency used by all GPS receivers. These ground stations (effectively a kind of cell-phone operation) transmit at powers that can effectively overload most GPS receivers.

How could something like this come to pass?

Click here to read the full article

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Women in ATC – Echoes from the past

On 20/02/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

The subject of women in air traffic control is dear to my heart for several reasons one of which is that I did play a small role in setting the scene for girls to be eventually accepted as ATC cadets in Hungary. The real achievement belongs to the ladies themselves who completed the fight but I do have fond memories of the first steps we took and which were anything but easy.

Anyway, with this background it was only natural that my blog should also take up the subject and it is with real pleasure that I noted just how much interest there is for it amongst you.

This time I would like to share with you some material kindly provided by one of our readers, Evon Russell, who is distinguished by being the daughter of one of the first women air traffic controllers while her dad was also a controller!

Her mom, Marian McKenna flew west several years ago and she was recently followed by another woman controller, Mary Elizabeth Chance VanScyoc who passed away on 9 February. These two ladies are special because they were the first and second female controllers in the US. It is commonly thought that Mary was the first but Marian often said to her daughter that she was in fact the first, even if the difference had only been a few days or weeks. I have no means to ascertain the facts and in a way this is probably not too important anyway. Or is it?

Click here to read the full article

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