On 11-05-2010, in The tower with a soul, by lajos
Finally, real progress
For this chapter I had to solicit a bit of outside help. It looked like I too remembered old memories better than recent ones. Misi Kurucz was kind enough to help me by sketching the most important events in the life of the tower that came to pass during his tenure as tower chief. My heartfelt gratitude goes to him for this.
Misi was appointed tower chief in 1997. He took the room once occupied by professor SGY and set out alone (!) to fight an uphill battle. It was clear even then that getting all the red-tape done would not be an easy task. He could count on the tower shift supervisors but in turn he had to wrestle with his management to force a bit of progress. That his efforts were not in vain is amply demonstrated by the tower cabin as it is now. A lot of things had to be changed and modernized so that we may work in a more up-to-date environment. The renovations brought months of noise and dirt so our life was not easy either. But we survived and so did the aircraft we handled during this difficult period and work in the new cabin was much more pleasant. For example, the consoles were lowered so we had a much better view of the field. We got new, flat panel monitors on which we could follow traffic much better. When the image processing of the ground control radar was digitized, all movements on the airport became easily visible. For example, at the tower control position both runways were shown simultaneously on two separate images.
The control positions were also reversed. The tower controller moved to the position previously nicknamed the shunting yard, this position is the best when both runways need to be watched, there is only a minimum of neck stretching required. The Supervisor console became a nice little “hut” and we were no longer sitting with our backs to the colleagues. In this arrangement it is much easier to watch them work. The supervisors were also given scores of new monitors and soon the tower cab looked like Best Buy’s monitor boutique. The old ATIS system was also ripe for change and we had to say good-by to our favorite telephone booth which we used to shield the recordings from outside noise. With the new ATIS machine we edited the broadcast on the computer and the text was read by a male machine voice to the great joy of everyone who cared to listen. The voice sounded like a UFO with an attitude and many a pilot had problems with understanding what it was saying but there was no going back, we had to move with the times. Transferring the control of the lighting system to a computerized console took several more months. Technicians were working behind the consoles for such a long time that we started to call them a puppet show, what with their heads popping up and down all the time. Experts arrived also from the Austrian company SAT and we kidded them with the German words “SAT kaput!”… it took a very long time for the system to start working properly. But in the end it was ready and with more flat panels added, we could finally switch the runway and taxiway lights via the new displays.
Misi’s life was made easier later by the arrival of Adrienne, his secretary. She was also the duty officer for us and from that moment onwards, we no longer had to go to the main building for all kinds of things…. She took care of them for us.
We also made progress in the professional sense during those years. For instance, discussions started to develop Letters of Agreements with the other services around us, like the fire brigade. This was necessary as a result of an accident on one of the taxiway where a fire truck run into a service vehicle after crossing the taxiway without looking. With the LOA signed, they were allowed to cross only after getting the approval of the tower even in cases when they are responding to an emergency. In return, we were given cute breathing apparatus. This was necessary because on one occasion the fire suppression system started up and almost drowned the tower crew in foam. Initially there was total chaos and it took some time before the colleagues who had escaped from the tower could return.
An important task was the handling of an ever increasing population of VFR traffic. With the publication of the new VFR approach procedures, such aircraft were no longer required to fly the long final designed for the big boys. They could come in on an abbreviated track, landing on 31L without getting in the way of bigger aircraft landing on 31R. This was a big help as previously small aircraft on final represented a substantial delay for the rest of the traffic. Especially during the Formula 1 Budapest Trophy days, when a lot of small aircraft came, the new procedures were a blessing.
Misi had some tasks also in dealing with discipline. One of the shifts got to the point where the discipline problem could only be solved by a major reshuffle of shift members and so Misi moved just about everyone. For me this meant transfer to a group I have never worked in. This brought me the distinction of being the only person in the tower who has worked in every one of the shifts. So, again new faces, new working style but it was something we developed together and in the process we made it clear also to the approach control colleagues that this was a completely new group and we would not accept the old style of dealing with us. Luckily for all concerned, they accepted this with grace and an excellent working relationship developed. But common programs, like in the old times, were not on the agenda any more. The distance between us grew even further when the new control centre was handed over. Here area control and approach control were under one roof while the tower remained alone out in the wilderness. Further proof of our lowly status was provided by the fact that the new air traffic control systems treated the tower as not much more than a necessary evil.
I guess after a time Misi had also had enough of always being treated as a second thought and slowly he lost his drive. At the end of 2000 he passed the helm to the current leadership. A separate chapter will be dedicated to them…
I almost forgot… it was in this period, on 8 December 1998, that Ferihagy Terminal 2B was inaugurated in the midst of long and bitter political battles. Foreign airlines moved to the new terminal, leaving Terminal 1 (the old airport as it were) for general aviation and the cargo guys.
To be continued…