International Ops 2017

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Month: March 2017

This is what an Airbus 380 looks like when it’s coming to get you

  • New guidance issued to OpsGroup by Flight Service Bureau
  • New warnings to be issued by Air Traffic Controllers – EASA SIB to follow
  • Updated 2017 SLOP offset procedures


With the A380 vs Challenger 604 incident,
there is now growing concern amongst aircrews about the effects of the A380’s wake turbulence.

In this incident, reported by the Aviation Herald, a Challenger 604 at FL340 operating from Male-Abu Dhabi passed an A380 opposite direction at FL350, one thousand feet above, about 630nm southeast of Muscat, Oman, over the Arabian Sea. A short time later (1-2 minutes) the aircraft encountered wake turbulence sending the aircraft into an uncontrolled roll, turning the aircraft around at least 3 times (possibly even 5 times), both engines flamed out, the aircraft lost about 10,000 feet until the crew was able to recover the aircraft, restart the engines and divert to Muscat. The aircraft received damage beyond repair due to the G-forces, and was written off.

This is a recovery that is in the same category as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, and the DHL 757 A-300 recovery in Baghdad. Envision the alternate scenario, which was far more likely: Challenger 604 business jet missing in remote part of the Indian Ocean. Last contact with was a HF radio check with Mumbai. No recent satellite logons. Position uncertain. Search and Rescue attempt called off after 15 days. Nothing found. Probable cause: flew into CB.

Thanks to the remarkable job by the crew, we don’t have to guess. We know what happened. And now, there are questions.

We’ve seen this story before

Back in 1992/3, two back-to-back fatal crashes (a Citation, and a Westwind) were attributed to the unusual wake turbulence pattern of the Boeing 757. In fact, at the time, NOAA said it was the most intense wake they had ever seen. In December 1993, the FAA told controllers to increase the separation, and warn aircraft following a 757 of its presence.

This was 10 years after entry into service of the 757, which had its first revenue flight in 1983.

Sound familiar? The A380 had its first revenue flight in 2007. We are 10 years down the track, and it’s very tempting to apply the logic that because this degree of incident hasn’t happened before, it’s a one-off. An outlier. That the crew reacted erroneously to a small wake upset at the limit of their flight envelope. This is both unlikely, and, given the potential threat to other crews, a dangerous perspective.

The last review of A380 wake turbulence was done in 2006, primarily by Airbus. As a result, a new category was required – “Super“, in addition to the existing Light, Medium, and Heavy, for use by controllers when applying the minimum separation on approach and departure. However, no additional considerations were applied for enroute wake turbulence.

Most pointedly, the review concluded that the A380 did not need any wake turbulence separation itself, because of its size. The A380 is the only aircraft in the world to have this “out”. It’s a beast. Even an Antonov 124 or Boeing 747 needs 4nm from the traffic ahead.

New guidance

Given the incident, the similarity to the B757 story, and that quiet pointers towards a bigger risk, Flight Service Bureau has issued guidance to OpsGroup members, in Note to Members #24 (March 19th, 2017), which can be downloaded publicly here. The highlights are:

  • As Aircrew, use SLOP whenever you can.
  • As Controllers, be mindful of smaller aircraft passing underneath A380’s.
  • Avoid flying the centreline if you can. SLOP 0 is not an offset. Choose 1nm or 2nm.
  • Note the new SLOP rules from ICAO in the 16th edition of Doc 4444.
  • Expect guidance from EASA and the FAA to follow

With very recent updates to both NAT Doc 007 and ICAO Doc 4444, the rules for SLOP are a little different than before.

Download the OPSGROUP Note to Members #24 – Enroute Wake Turbulence.

 

A personal note about NOTAMs

I learned a lot this week.

On Wednesday, I published an article in our International Flight Ops Bulletin. Our normal readership is 40,000, and that usually results in 4,000 or so immediate looks at our blog website.

By Friday, a quarter of a million people had visited flightservicebureau.org.

My inbox overflowed. I’m still replying one by one, with a couple hundred still to go.

The reason? I called a spade a spade, and used a profanity to describe what has become of the International NOTAM System. My own frustration forged the narrative. For many, I tapped into a channel of visceral agreement. For some, however, the word bullshit is not acceptable.

For me, this is not a question of whether or not it was the right word to use. This is not a question of free speech or the First Amendment. It’s not a question of ‘being polite’, or remembering our ‘professional audience’.

It is a question of not holding back. Not having a public and private persona. Not bowing to the stifling rules of Corporate Comms. Not assessing how this might impact ‘the business’. And not being afraid to get it wrong.

We have a voice here at Flight Service Bureau, and we’re going to use it. And sometimes, we might get it wrong. Sometimes, we might cross lines that make people uncomfortable.

In fact, we do that every week. We routinely receive government requests, demands in fact – from Aviation Authorities, from Foreign Affairs Ministries, Company Lawyers – to remove information from our bulletin, to say less, to not call their airspace ‘unsafe‘, not report on incidents at their airports, not voice airlines and pilots frustrations, lest others turn away their business.

And by very definition, sometimes we have to get it wrong. If we craft and control every bit of information, every warning, and every article, editing the life out of the story and the truth, then we’re failing. We’re not being brave enough. Maybe we could have said it differently, but that’s not the point.

This week, when I got 400 emails in an amazing show of support, it made me realise that we are doing this for a large community that love what we do, and that makes me very proud to serve you. Going above 2,000 members in OPSGROUP is major milestone.

We have a clear mission: keep the International Ops community – Pilots, Dispatchers, Controllers, Airlines, Organisations – informed and safe, in an ever-increasing web of bureaucracy, complexity and litigation.

We’ll fight the fight for you, and we’ll tell it how it is.

Mark.

 

 

Enroute A380 wake flips Challenger 604 upside down

 

New Guidance to Crews and Controllers issued March 19th, 2017

We normally don’t report on individual aircraft incidents here, because the causal factors are related to a very narrow set of unique circumstances.

This instance is different, and should be of concern to all operators.

A Challenger 604 at FL340 operating from Male-Abu Dhabi passed an A380 opposite direction at FL350, one thousand feet above, about 630nm southeast of Muscat, Oman, over the Arabian Sea.

A short time later (1-2 minutes) the aircraft encountered wake turbulence sending the aircraft into an uncontrolled roll, turning the aircraft around at least 3 times (possibly even 5 times), both engines flamed out, the aircraft lost about 10,000 feet until the crew was able to recover the aircraft, restart the engines and divert to Muscat. The aircraft received damage beyond repair due to the G-forces, and was written off.

An official report is to be published by the German BFU. In the interim, the complete set of circumstances can be read at Aviation Herald.

The current synopsis is copied here:

An Emirates Airbus A380-800, most likely registration A6-EUL performing flight EK-412 from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Sydney,NS (Australia), was enroute at FL350 about 630nm southeast of Muscat (Oman) and about 820nm northwest of Male (Maldives) at about 08:40Z when a business jet passed underneath in opposite direction. The A380 continued the flight to Sydney without any apparent incident and landed safely.

The business jet, a MHS Aviation (Munich) Canadair Challenger 604 registration D-AMSC performing flight MHV-604 from Male (Maldives) to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) with 9 people on board, was enroute over the Arabian Sea when an Airbus A380-800 was observed by the crew passing 1000 feet above. After passing underneath the A380 at about 08:40Z the crew lost control of the aircraft as result of wake turbulence from the A380 and was able to regain control of the aircraft only after losing about 10,000 feet. The airframe experienced very high G-Loads during the upset, a number of occupants received injuries during the upset. After the crew managed to stabilize the aircraft the crew decided to divert to Muscat (Oman), entered Omani Airspace at 14:10L (10:10Z) declaring emergency and reporting injuries on board and continued for a landing in Muscat at 15:14L (11:14Z) without further incident. A number of occupants were taken to a hospital, one occupant was reported with serious injuries. The aircraft received damage beyond repair and was written off.

Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority had told Omani media on Jan 8th 2017, that a private German registered aircraft had performed an emergency landing in Muscat on Jan 7th 2017 declaring emergency at 14:10L (10:10Z) and landing in Muscat at 15:14L (11:14Z). The crew had declared emergency due to injuries on board and problems with an engine (a number of media subsequently reported the right hand engine had failed, another number of media reported the left hand engine had failed).

According to information The Aviation Herald received on March 4th 2017 the CL-604 passed 1000 feet below an Airbus A380-800 while enroute over the Arabian Sea, when a short time later (1-2 minutes) the aircraft encountered wake turbulence sending the aircraft in uncontrolled roll turning the aircraft around at least 3 times (possibly even 5 times), both engines flamed out, the Ram Air Turbine could not deploy possibly as result of G-forces and structural stress, the aircraft lost about 10,000 feet until the crew was able to recover the aircraft exercising raw muscle force, restart the engines and divert to Muscat.

The Aviation Herald is currently unable to substantiate details of the occurrence, no radar data are available for the business jet, it is therefore unclear when the business jet departed from Male and where the actual “rendezvouz” with the A380 took place. Based on the known time of the occurrence at 08:40Z as well as the time when the CL-604 reached Omani Airspace declaring emergency and landed in Muscat, as well as which A380s were enroute over the Arabian Sea around that time The Aviation Herald believes the most likely A380 was EK-412 and the “rendezvouz” took place 630nm southeast of Muscat, which provides the best match of remaining flying time (2.5 hours) and distance for the CL-604 also considering rather strong northwesterly winds (headwind for the CL-604, tailwind for the A380s).

On Jan 7th 2017 there were also other A380-800s crossing the Arabian Sea from northwest to southeast: a Qantas A380-800, registration VH-OQJ performing flight QF-2 from Dubai to Sydney, was enroute at FL330 about 1000nm southeast of Muscat and about 400nm northwest of Male at 08:40Z. An Emirates A380-800 registration A6-EDO performing flight EK-406 from Dubai to Melbourne,VI (Australia) was enroute at FL350 about 470nm southeast of Muscat at 08:40Z. Another Emirates A380-800 registration A6-EUH performing flight EK-424 from Dubai to Perth,WA (Australia), was enroute at FL350 about 350nm southeast of Muscat at 08:40z.

The Aviation Herald received information that Air Traffic Control all around the globe have recently been instructed to exercise particular care with A380s crossing above other aircraft. The Aviation Herald had already reported a number of Wake Turbulence Encounters involving A380s before:

Incident: Virgin Australia B738 near Bali on Sep 14th 2012, wake turbulence from A380
Incident: Air France A320 and Emirates A388 near Frankfurt on Oct 14th 2011, wake turbulence
Accident: British Airways A320 and Qantas A388 near Braunschweig on Oct 16th 2011, wake turbulence injures 4
Report: Antonov A124, Singapore A388 and Air France B744 near Frankfurt on Feb 10th 2011, wake turbulence by A388 causes TCAS RA
Report: REX SF34 at Sydney on Nov 3rd 2008, wake turbulence injures one
Incident: Armavia A320 near Tiblisi on Jan 11th 2009, turbulence at cruise level thought to be A380 wake

MHS Aviation told The Aviation Herald, that they can not provide any further details due to the ongoing investigation, Germany’s BFU is investigating the occurrence (which confirmed The Aviation Herald’s assumption, that the occurrence was over international waters, Germany as state of registration of the accident aircraft thus being responsible for the investigation).

Authorities in Oman have so far not responded to inquiries by The Aviation Herald.

In response to our inquiry summarizing the known information so far as described above (however, mistakenly assuming the date of the occurrence was Jan 8th 2017 based on the information thus far) Germany’s BFU confirmed that they are leading the investigation. The occurrence happened already on Jan 7th 2017 at 08:40Z. The BFU is unable to provide further details at this time (in particular to which A380 caused the wake turbulence) because these details are subject to investigation. By Mar 8th 2017 no safety recommendations have yet been issued by the BFU. A preliminary report is estimated to be included in the January 2017 bulletin (which according to “tradition” should be released by mid of March 2017, however, the release of the Jan bulletin can currently not be estimated because so far only the August 2016 bulletin has been released by the BFU, the remaining 2016 bulletins are still being worked on).

 

The problem of Bullshit Notams

 

This article created a firestorm of engagement – several hundred emails and 127,000 people that visited the blog. Most of it was overwhelmingly positive. Some of it wasn’t. Please read my follow up in response.

 

It’s absolutely ridiculous
.

We communicate the most critical flight information, using a system invented in 1920, with a format unchanged since 1924, burying essential information that will lose a pilot their job, an airline their aircraft, and passengers their lives, in a mountain of unreadable, irrelevant bullshit.

Yes CASA Australia, that’s you. Yes, Greek CAA, that’s you. And you’re not alone.

In an unintended twist of irony, the agencies seeking to cover their legal ass are party to creating the most criminal of systems – an unending flow of aeronautical sewage rendering the critical few pieces of information unfindable.

This is more than just hugely frustrating for each pilot, dispatcher, and controller that has to parse through it all; it’s downright dangerous.

If you’re a pilot, you’ll either have already experienced this, or you’re going to – you stuff something up, and then be told: “but there was a Notam out about that”. Sure enough, there it is in black and white (and in big capital letters). Do you think that “but there were 100 pages of them” is going to be a valid defence?

 

Well, it should be. The same agency conducting your post-incident interview is busy on the other end stuffing the system full of the garbage that prevented you from seeing it in the first place.

There are three parts to the problem: the system, the format, and the content. The system is actually quite amazing. The AFTN network connects every country in the world, and Notam information once added is immediately available to every user. Coupled with the internet, delivery is immediate.

The format is, at best, forgivable. It’s pretty awful. It’s a trip back in time to when Notams were introduced. You might think that was the 1960’s, or the 50’s. In fact, it’s 1924, when 5-bit ITA2 was introduced. The world shifted to ASCII in 1963, bringing the Upper and Lower case format that every QWERTY keyboard uses today, but we didn’t follow – nope, we’ll stick with our 1924 format, thank you.

Read that again. 1924. Back then, upper case code-infested aeronautical messages would have seemed impressive and almost reassuring in their aloofness. But there weren’t in excess of 1 million Notams per year, a milestone we passed in 2013. The 1 million milestone is remarkable in itself, but here’s something else amazing: in 2006, there were only 500,000. So in seven years, Notams doubled. Why? Are there twice as many airports in the world? No. Twice as many changes and updates? Possibly. But far more likely: the operating agencies became twice as scared about leaving things out.

And so onto the culprit: the content. The core definition of a Notam is ESSENTIAL flight information. Essential, for anyone tasked with entering information into the Notam System, is defined as “absolutely necessary; extremely important”. Here’s a game you can play at home. Take your 100 page printout of Notams, and circle that ones that you think can be defined as essential. See how many fit that bill.

So why is all this garbage in the system? Because the questions that the creators of Notams ask are flawed. The conversation goes like this:

– “Should we stick this into a Notam?”
– “Yeah, we’d better, just in case”.

How many are actually asking, “Is this essential information that aircrew need to know about ?”. Almost none. Many ‘solutions’ to the Notam deluge involve better filtering, Q codes, and smart regex’s. This overlooks the core problem. It’s not what comes out that needs to be fixed, it’s what goes in.

Even in 1921, we had much the same problem. Obstacle, 18 feet high, several miles from the runway.

Nobody cares. Unless you’ve parked the Eiffel Tower on the threshold, leave this stuff for the AIP. And nobody cares about kites either. Nor about goat-grazing times. We don’t care if your bird scarer is U/S. We don’t care if there’s a cherry-picker fixing a bulb somewhere. We don’t care when you’re cutting your grass.

Nor do we care about closed taxiways. The only way I can get onto a taxiway is with an ATC clearance, and ATC will not clear me onto a closed taxiway.

We care if the airport is going to be closed when we get there. If we’re going to have to divert because the runway is shut. If someone might shoot at us. If there are new rules. We care about the critical items, but we won’t see them as things stand.

And so, about here is where a normal editorial piece might end with “we hope that the authorities improve the system”, and sign off.

 

But not here.

We’re in the business of doing things here at FSB, not just talking about them.

Last year we wrote a few pieces about the Greece vs Turkey Notam battle. This month we did a group look at Briefing Packages, and it was astonishing to see how many pages of this diplomatic drivel still appeared in all our members’ Briefings. All in all, on average 3 full pages of every briefing for a flight overflying Greece or Turkey contained this stuff.

So, we sent Greece a polite AFTN message on behalf of all of us.


That’s just one piece of a thousand-piece puzzle, and it would be nice to think that one piece at a time we could fix the sytem. Let’s get real. It’s a monster, and it’s out of control.

We don’t think that we can fix the Notam system.

But, we can think about a different solution. And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in OpsGroup. With almost 2000 members, we can make a difference. Watch this space. Or, if you want to help take action, send your thoughts to goatams@ops.group.

 

 

 

China updates: ZBAA, ZBTJ, ZSAM

1. From now until the end of June, ZSAM/Xiamen airport will closed daily between 0010-0610 local time, and business flights will not be allowed to land or take-off between 0700-0900 local time daily as per the CAAC’s regulation (the same regulation applies to over 20 other airports in China including ZBAA, ZSSS, ZSPD, ZGGG and ZGSZ).

 

2. China’s “two sessions” begins this week – two big political conferences (CPPCC and NPC) that are held every year. ZBAA/Beijing gets busier than ever.

Even at the best of times, ZBAA only allows 24 hours maximum parking time for foreign GA, so expect to get sent to ZBTJ/Tianjin for parking: an Airport of Entry that regularly takes overflow traffic from Beijing.

As the nearest airport from ZBAA, ZBTJ is also accepting more ferry flights at the moment – the ZBTJ airport authority has been told to continue to do so until 30th April.

 

3. Be aware it’s going to become more and more common this year for Chinese immigration to record fingerprints of foreign travellers who enter China via international airports.

Big changes to US Border Overflight Rules

There are multiple changes to the US Border Overflight Exemption process effective 2017. Unusually, there is no official notification of the changes from either CBP or DHS, and so you may find that even the Customs Officer on arrival does not know about them.

New US Border Overflight Exemption rules March 2017

The March 2017 changes may be the start of the end for the Border Overflight Exemption, since most requirements from the CBP perspective are transferred to eAPIS: notably, the fact that individual aircraft are no longer listed on the Approval Letter.

We were first alerted to the changes by an OpsGroup member, and have spoken with a lot of different DHS and CBP officials. From these conversations, we’ve put together our summary of the situation below.

Noteworthy is that at many Airports, the front line CBP officers were not aware of the new rules. CBP have said: “This is new not only to you but to most of the Officers in the field. Your pilots need to know what it says because they will be getting questions when they land.”

What is a Border Overflight Exemption?

  • If you operate a flight to the US from south of the 30th parallel, you must land at the first airport you come to.
  • To avoid this, you can apply to CBP for a Border Overflight Exemption (BOE)
  • With that in hand, you can fly to any airport with customs.
  • So, on to the changes:

Effective March 1st, 2017 :

  • A full list of the changes to the process is in Notes to Members #23 in your OPSGROUP dashboard.
  • We recommend you carry this in the aircraft as well, for any CBP official not aware of the new rules.

 

 

 


You can request membership of OPSGROUP to receive the full version delivered every Wednesday, along with all OPSGROUP member benefits: Members Questions, Group Discussions, Slack, free maps and charts (normally $25),  Full access to aireport for group reviews of handlers and airports, regular alerts for critical international ops info,  complimentary Airports Database (normally $375), Full access to safeairspace.net including updated risk alerts,  and guidance and help when you want it on any International Operations topic (that last one is really useful!). Read 125 different member reviews.

 

 

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