On 27-05-2010, in The tower with a soul, by lajos
9/11 and other events of consequence.
11 September 2001 started like any other late summer day. Unlike most people, I do like September. The stifling heat of August is gone, allergens are also mostly gone, and so I breathe easier. So, for me fall is not a reminder of passing but of a new beginning. May be there are others who think the same… Anyway, on that fateful day we were on day-shift. One half of our group was working in the tower from 7 to 9, the other was downstairs having breakfast or just drinking coffee. Switching TV channels, they happened on a channel showing one of the World Trade Center towers in New York belching smoke from a gaping hole in its side. At first they thought they were watching an action movie, except that this was a news channel… Paying more attention they soon realized that this was no action movie, they were watching the real thing! A passenger aircraft flew into the very building I too had visited a few years back. Soon the news arrived also in the tower cab and it gave me the creeps followed by a feeling of emptiness in me. After 9 it was us who watched the news and saw the second plane crashing into the other tower. We were not even surprised… But in each of us the question arose: what now?? Aircraft were still coming and going at Ferihegy airport but the news spread like wildfire and was soon everywhere. With this, a new chapter was opened in the life of the airport. A very dark chapter.
The years since have convinced me that the whole story was not what we at first thought it was, or rather how others tried to make us see it. I have been to the part of the world where they thought the enemy was hiding and getting to know the people there, I started having my doubts. I am afraid that behind this whole horrible event one will find capitalist interests and the push for world hegemony. What better proof do you need than the fact that since the change of leadership in the US, there are far fewer terrorist acts in the world.
Whatever was in the background, these events were a great excuse for bureaucrats and security people to take control. A whole bunch of new rules were created, most of them stricter restrictions. Our new democracy was a scant 10 years old and we were suddenly in the middle of a new kind of dictatorship. It was not exactly easy to get to the tower before 9/11 but after the tragic events in New York, it became pure torture. But the measures introduced were so hopelessly bureaucratic that one could only laugh… or rather cry. For instance, a bomb exploded in Kuala Lumpur, the next day there were sharpened security checks at Ferihegy. A few days later the danger was past, apparently, since security checks returned to the normal level. Then came the bomb explosions in Madrid and we were once again subjected to sharper controls. We could never figure the logic of this. Another nice detail: when the weather was good, the security people started to swarm all over the field, checking everyone. We were often stopped on the service road leading to the tower with a security guy wanting to know what we were doing there. “Nothing you asshole, just trying to get to work…” It was at that time we discovered the connection between the weather and the threat level. With bad weather, not a security person was visible anywhere and what else could have been the reason for this other than there was no danger when the weather was bad. Terrorists only attack in sunshine… Well so much for that ominous day and it security implications. I can still not understand though why the authorities tend to see us, folks working at the airport, as the potential number one enemy.
The year 2000 brought an important milestone in the life of Hungarian air traffic control. The new building of the air traffic control centre was handed over. After some initial “hesitation” the area control center and approach control, as well as the office staff, moved in. The “hesitation” was caused by disagreements between management and the unions. Unfortunately I have no information on the nature of the disagreement but the fact remains, the union boss was sent packing not long afterwards by the membership. He then proceeded to found a new union using his followers which progressively moved towards the far right and made it their duty to make trouble wherever they could. They even organized a totally uncalled-for strike in support of their unreasonable demands. In the tower this had the result that those who were on strike were sent to one of the resting areas (we called it the “grumbler”) where they remained for the duration of their shift while we had to work also in their place. But there were not too many of them, so finding replacements was not a big deal.
As I said, in the new building ACC and APP had to co-exist in the same ops room and this was a hard thing for some to digest. But they had no choice but to co-operate, after all, aircraft were still streaming in from all directions. We, tower people continued our remote existence in the middle of the prairie and had the feeling that from then on we would be even more neglected. It looked like they had completely forgotten the tower when the new control system was designed… we were told often enough that it worked well until they had to connect the tower.
We started work with the Eurocat 2000 system which was a huge step forward compared to the original system. This required that we each attend a training course before the new system was commissioned. Afterwards for a while the old and new systems were running in parallel and this led to a lot of extra workload. Finally we cut over to the sole use of the new system and this marked the start of a new era and new transformations.
In January 2002, Hungarocontrol was born.
To be continued…