International Ops 2017

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Category: Special Report (page 1 of 8)

Inside the cabin – before and after the wake turbulence encounter

The Challenger 604 vs Airbus 380 story has gone once around the world.

But is it even true? Some have asked. Let’s do a reality check.

After our initial story was published in last weeks International Operations Bulletin, which we first monitored thanks to the great work of the Aviation Herald, it was republished in various versions in The Times of London, Flying magazine, AIN Business Aviation News,  Deutsche Welle, and NBC. The picture on the Flight Service Bureau facebook page was viewed 1.1 million times.

First, the picture.

The incident happened. This has already been confirmed by the German BFU, who have responsibility for investigating accidents. The Canadian TSB have assigned an accredited representative to the investigation, and Bombardier have assigned a technical advisor.

So to the cause. The crew reported that 1-2 minutes before the loss of control, at about 0840 UTC, an Airbus A380-800 had passed overhead, slightly to the left. The Aviation Herald’s reporting is of the highest standard, and we trust their source.

Like the Aviation Herald, we also deal in facts. Joining the dots to form the bigger picture doesn’t require Colombo on the job.

  • The incident happened on January 7th, since which time the German BFU have been aware of the case.
  • The story has been out in the aviation community since February 7th, when it was posted that: “A CL604 enroute Male to Europe, upset by opposite direction, 1,000′ above, A380’s wake. Several rolls, large G excursions. Diverted into Muscat.”

 

Since the authority, manufacturer, and operator are all aware of the story, it is reasonable to deduce that were a material part of the widely reported incident not true, then that would have been stated rather quickly.

The ultimate confirmation will come from the Germany BFU, hopefully on this Interim Reports page.

 

The Boeing 757 parallel

On Sunday, we reported the similarity between this A380 story, and the 10 years it took to determine that the Boeing 757 had a wake 1.5 times stronger than other similar aircraft.

Our primary interest here at Flight Service Bureau is keeping the International Flight Operations community safe and informed. Consider this opening line from the New York Times on Dec 23rd, 1993:

Nearly a year after being alerted to the problem, the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered air-traffic controllers to warn aircraft flying behind Boeing 757 jets of the potential for dangerous wake turbulence.

In the last year, two crashes that together killed 13 people have been attributed to turbulence caused by Boeing 757's. In the more recent crash, on Dec. 15, five people were killed when their private jet went down in Orange County during a landing approach" 

Wake Turbulence Enroute

The entire topic of wake turbulence is not fully understood by any of us. There is much more to learn. Truly innovative studies were last done back in the 1970’s. Some experienced crews have even questioned whether enroute wake turbulence even exists.  Flight school drills into us as pilots, that wake lives around the airport. “Heavy, clean and slow” are the dangerous ones. But “slow” means about about 150 knots for aircraft like the 380. In the cruise, that goes up to about 250 knots IAS at the higher altitudes. If 150 knots is slow, then 250 knots isn’t really “fast”.

Before the crash of a Delta Tristar at DFW in 1985, we didn’t know much about windshear and microbursts.  Maybe we have to learn the same lesson with enroute wake.

In Flying magazine, Les Abend has a very readable example of enroute wake in this article.


 

And here are some other examples of enroute wake turbulence encounters:

  • Air Canada, FL370, 55 degree roll at FL370 – wake from Boeing 747
  • Virgin Australia, FL350, 45 degree bank – wake from A380
  • American Airlines, FL220, bang – wake from B777
  • Air France, FL360, 25 degree bank – wake from A380
  • United Airlines, FL240, severe turbulence – wake from MD11
  • British Airways, FL320, 30 degree roll – wake from A380
  • Antonov 124, FL320, 15 degree roll, altitude loss – wake from A380
  • Vueling, FL320, sudden 40 degree right bank – wake from A340
  • Japan Airlines, E170 – uncommanded increasing roll to left – wake from A340
  • Armavia, A320 – A/P disconnect, steep banks – wake from A380

Note to Members #24 – Wake Turbulence Enroute

While the industry awaits further guidance from the authorities, Flight Service Bureau has made public its Note to Members #24 (normally restricted to OpsGroup circulation). Revised 22MAR2017.

Key points from our Note:

  • We might be wrong! Like we said above, there is much still to learn about enroute wake. Read the note, but make up your own mind.
  • Consider the wind. The danger point is roughly 15-20nm after the crossing point, as this is when the wake will have drifted down 1000 feet. In stronger winds, the wake may have drifted well away from the centreline. A turn away may not be necessary.
  • SLOP where possible. It may not prevent all situations, especially crossing traffic, but if you’re 2nm right of track you’re a lot less likely to be directly underneath another aircraft.
  • Read the note for the full guidance, and tell us if you have any further thoughts.

 

 

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 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

NOTAMS and the E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post

 

We’re hot on NOTAMs at the moment. Our OPSGROUP member Eddie (who’s just rebuilt the famous code 7700.com – take a look) has this great story for us from his early days flying the E-4B.

“The NOTAMS are a mess,” Major Tom Stevens said, “instead of the three pages of specific airports twice a day, we are now getting every single airport in the world big enough to handle a 747. The paperwork is immense.”

“How many pages a day?” I asked.

“Don’t know,” Tom said. “I just toss them on the bunks in the upper rest. But don’t tell Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson that. His edict from on high says we have to read every page of them.”

 

Photo: E-4B from the squadron (Eddie’s Camera)

 

I boarded the airplane and caught up with the flight engineer in the forward galley, just aft of the spiral staircase that led to the cockpit. He handed me the aircraft forms and the crew read file. “Welcome to the new world,” he said.

“What world is that?” I asked.

“Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson’s world of course,” he said. “You got ten pages of his view of the world in the read file and then when you get upstairs, you got some more reading to do.”

The airplane was in good shape and in less than a minute the aircraft belonged to me. The read file was another matter. I took the nearest seat and read for thirty minutes how Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson wanted me to do my job. I scribbled dutifully into my notebook and quickly discovered there were three categories of Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson edicts. A lot of it made sense and pretty much put into writing techniques we had been using for years. A good portion of it was silly but harmless. The third category, however, was pure idiocy. We were required from this day forward to hand-fly the airplane from the takeoff to cruise altitude in an attempt to keep our stick and rudder skills sharp. Approach callouts were forbidden so that the pilot flying the jet could better concentrate on keeping the needles centered. I would have to get engaged on these.

But I didn’t know which category to place the strangest bit of news, our newly acquired fetish for having Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMS, transmitted directly to the operational bird. We were accustomed to getting them for the twenty or so airports tasked with supporting us on a regular basis. It was a convenience to have them delivered to the cockpit twice-a-day rather than having to hunt them down at base operations or having to call the nearest FAA flight service station. But now we would have to sort through every airport in the world with a runway able to support a Boeing 747. Was this just another harmless ruling from on high, something General Patton disciples would call “chicken shit,” because they made life harder but really didn’t matter in the end. Or was this in the idiocy category, elevated to the Patonesque level of “bullshit,” something that was as stupid as chicken shit but had a negative operational impact. I drew a large question mark next to the entry, closed my notebook, and made my way up the spiral staircase.

The upper deck of a Boeing 747 started out as an afterthought, just extra space behind the cockpit. Various airliners tried to put a lounge up there but soon figured out revenue-paying seats made more sense. The Air Force version had three beds in a small room, three bunk beds with curtains in a common area, a worktable, and several passenger seats. When the bird was operational, we tended to give up the entire space to our crew chiefs and security guards. For seven days and nights they lived on the airplane and needed a place to unwind, out of view from our passengers. I was used to seeing a bit of a disorderly mess up there and tried to restrain every urge to insist on a little more cleanliness.

On a scale of upper deck clutter, one to ten with five being the average, I was greeted with nothing more than a six. Unusually, there were no mechanics or guards asleep in the bunks. The head crew chief greeted me, as per normal, and I handed him the aircraft forms.

“Good bird?” I asked.

“Good bird,” he answered.

“Any personal squawks?” I asked.

“Just one, sir.” He pointed to the bunks on the right side of upper deck where two of the bunks were filled with reams and reams of silver-backed paper, thousands of pages of paper.

“What?”

“NOTAMS,” he said. “I don’t know what they are for but I wish you pilots wouldn’t leave your junk in our beds, sir.”

I took a handful for the top bunk and carried it forward to the jump seat in the cockpit. After ten trips I filled the jump seat and got one out of three bunks clear. I plopped myself into the pilot’s seat and started to read. “What the hell is Burkina Faso,” I muttered to myself.

“Ever hear of Upper Volta,” I heard as the copilot lowered himself into the right seat.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well same country,” he said, “new name.”

 

 

Soon the rest of the flight crew joined me and we four came down with a system to speed things along. “Most these are days old,” the navigator said, “just look at the date time group on the top left and move on.”

“Good idea,” the engineer said. “But I gotta get me some gloves, this silver shit can’t be good for you.”

It can’t be harmful, I thought, but it certainly was messy. I took a break and went downstairs to learn why our NOTAMS were printed on the strange silver paper. Our 747 had the VIP bedroom in the nose, under the cockpit, and as you went aft there was the galley, a progression of conference rooms, passenger seating, a communications suite, and more seats. I entered the comm suite was immediately handed another stack of silver paper, maybe two hundred pages in all.

“I wish you pilots could get your news on T.V. like the rest of us,” the communications officer said. “That T3500 runs full time these days just for you guys. We hardly use it for our secrets any more.”

He explained that they had all sorts of printers but when the message came from the Department of Defense, as was true with our NOTAMs, they had to be printed on a printer rated at Top Secret or higher. That meant the T3500 on our airplane.

“So why does it have to be on this awful paper,” I asked, rubbing two fingers together and showing off the silver ink rubbed onto each.

“Because that’s what the T3500 uses, major.” As he spoke the printer came to life and I spotted the message header revealing another round of NOTAMS. “And it ain’t cheap either,” he added.

“How much?” I asked.

“Five hundred smackers a box,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not paying for it.”

“Somebody is,” I said while leaving with my new stack of paper, probably three hundred dollars of taxpayer money.

“Executive decision,” I said as I entered the cockpit. “Let’s throw all of the old stuff away and start worrying about the new NOTAMS as we get them.”

“Good idea,” the engineer said, “but we got a problem. Look at this.” He handed me about ten pages of silver paper, about half with a message header that began TOP SECRET and the other half with the code words that meant their security clearance was even higher.

“Whoa,” I said, “this stuff was in our NOTAMS?”

“Yeah,” the navigator said, “and it’s worse. You can be halfway through a set of NOTAMS and a page of this will be sandwiched between. It’s like the printer is in the middle of a hundred pages of NOTAMS but throws in a secret message as soon as it gets it. The comm team doesn’t bother checking all hundred pages so we get their secrets with our NOTAMS.”

I told the flight crew to go through the rest of the NOTAMS while I took the classified stuff with me off the airplane and straight to Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson’ office, where I found him attacking his own mountain of paperwork.

“Sir,” I said, “can I have a minute?”

“You got sixty seconds, major,” he said, “make them count.”

“We found five code worded messages in our NOTAMS this morning and we aren’t even ten percent into the stack. This has got to stop.”

“No,” he said, “this means you still have ninety percent left and you better get to it. I’ll put out a memorandum that makes sure all pilots do a better job of screening their NOTAMS. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, dismissed.”

“Sir,” I said, “why don’t we just discontinue the NOTAMS? I don’t mind going to base operations every day, it would certainly take less time. And then there’s the cost . . .”

“You got your orders,” he said, cutting me off.

“All I want,” I started to say but stopped as he rose his hand in front of his face.

“All I want,” he said, “is for you to shut up and color.”

“Sir,” I said, “yes, sir.”

With that I left his office, returned to the cockpit, collected ten more code worded messages and gave those to our Whamo passengers. While downstairs I was handed a set of flight orders and a few minutes later we were airborne headed east.

Four days later we came back with about 5,000 sheets of NOTAMS from which we had pulled over 200 pages of classified message traffic. I was walking into the squadron as Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson was walking out, on his way to fly the daily training sortie.

“Lieutenant Colonel Larson,” I said, thinking the full proper address might get a better reception. “Can we discuss the NOTAM situation.”

“Major I’ve been through this with all the other aircraft commanders,” he said. “You are the only one who has a problem with it. Why can’t you just salute smartly and press on?”

I saluted smartly and pressed on into the squadron. The mission planning room was packed with pilots, navigators, and flight engineers working on the next big trip. They all turned to look at me, expectantly.

“What?” I said.

“We thought if anybody could change his mind it would be you,” came from one corner of the room.

“You know somebody is going to jail,” I heard from another corner. “One of us is going to miss a code worded message and then it is off to Leavenworth.”

We all sat, quietly, realizing our fates were sealed. I decided the least I could do was get the mess off the airplane so I found a handcart in the steward’s kitchen and made my way back to the airplane.

As soon as the crew chiefs realized I was purging the upper deck of the dreaded silver paper they volunteered to help and we had the cart loaded up in just two trips up and down the three flights of our 747. The head crew chief volunteered to steady the cart as I pushed it back to the squadron.

“How much do you reckon all this paper cost the U.S. taxpayer,” he asked.

“A lot,” I said, “the commo said it was five hundred for a box.”

Once in the squadron we wheeled our way to the ready room. “Now what?” he asked.

“Let’s see if we can reach the ceiling,” I said.

We piled them in a single stack against the wall to steady it. As the stack grew in height we drew a crowd. When we were done it was taller than me and was pretty impressive.

“What good is that going to do?” I heard. He had a point. In the end I decided to use Post It notes to delineate each $500 of wasted paper and topped it all with a banner revealing that all this was just from five days. In retrospect, I think what really capped it off was adding the subtitle, “Fraud, Waste and Abuse.”

That work done, my two-way radio came to life announcing I was needed at the airplane and a few minutes later I was headed for the west coast. Two days later I was back, the NOTAM stack was gone, there was another letter to the crew force announcing that the daily NOTAMS were no longer being provided and that it was up to us pilots to get them by alternate means, and there was a big red line drawn through my name on the scheduling board.

“Thanks for taking one for the team,” I heard over and over again. But I had to wonder, was it worth the price? Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson did not want to talk to me and he did his best to avoid me. But there was the scheduling board filled with trips without me.

“At least you went out in style,” I heard.

I didn’t want to go out at all, of course. After two weeks the drought was over and I was flying to Europe. We had a double crew on board so while one team flew the other was in the upper rest playing cards, reading, or trading vicious gossip.

“So you are resurrected again,” the navigator said. “You are like a cat.”

“More than a cat,” the engineer said. “I think this makes an even ten lives for the good major.”

“I owe it all to clean living,” I said. “Besides, not even Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson can hold a grudge forever.”

The crew looked at me in silence. Finally the navigator spoke. “You don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?”

“Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson was going to have you thrown out of the squadron when this trip came up,” he said. “Whamo asked for you by name and when they were told you couldn’t do it they blew a gasket. They said you were the only aircraft commander they would fly to Europe with.”

“Ah, so,” I said. It made perfect sense, I thought, they would want a pilot who got things done reliably and that would obviously be me. The last few Europe trips got botched up and Whamo was pretty upset. In retrospect, I think the smug grin on my face let the wild dogs know it was time to attack.

“I guess all that suck up time pays off,” the navigator said.

“Yeah, he’s just like Eddie Haskel,” the copilot said, everyone nodding.

“What do you mean?” I didn’t like the way this was going.

“No offense,” the navigator said. Of course that always meant offense was intended. “But you spend a fair amount of time downstairs with the pax, you invite them to the cockpit more than any other pilot, you go out of your way to make them happy.”

“Why that is a lovely dress, Mrs. Cleaver,” the copilot said.

The look on my face must have portrayed my hurt feelings. “No offense,” they all chimed in.

“The major is also one of only two aircraft commanders who doesn’t get Whamo nasty grams,” the engineer said. “I’d rather be on a crew that makes the pax happy than one that doesn’t. Life is easier that way.”

With the engineer’s two cents worth, my hurt feelings went away and pretty soon everyone forgot about the holy crusade against NOTAMS. Everyone, that is, except Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson.

A year later the base was looking for volunteers to go to Air Command and Staff College but didn’t want to nominate anyone who wouldn’t make the Air Force selection process. It was a problem for our base. Everyone on base who wanted to go wouldn’t be chosen by the Air Force; anyone who could make the Air Force cut didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go and did not submit the required application.

“Sign here,” Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson said, handing me the application. “I had it filled out and I made a few phone calls. They say you are a shoe-in.”

“I don’t want to go, sir.”

“You need to go,” Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson said. “I told you to sign.”

“No, sir.”

I pushed the incident out of my thoughts until six months later I was selected. I rushed over to the personnel office to see the application was signed but not by me. The handwriting looked exactly like that of one Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson.

I thought about making a mess of the incident but realized that would ruin two careers instead of just one. A few months later I was in Air Command and Staff College writing an underground newspaper called “The Penguin Gazette, a newspaper for flightless birds.” The Gazette’s editor needed a pseudonym and Eddie was as good a name as any. So began the literary adventures of one Eddie Haskel.

Oh yes, the rule. The holy crusade against NOTAMS taught me that not every battle is worth fighting, sometimes you need to take a few losses along the way. I accepted orders to Air Command and Staff College as my first application of the rule. As it turns out ACSC was a great learning experience for me, got me promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and eventually led to command of my very own flying squadron. There I vowed to face every difficult situation wondering what Lieutenant Colonel Rodney G. Larson would do, and then do the opposite.

 

JFK Runway 4R closure for the summer

We got a couple of reminders that we hadn’t covered this in our weekly bulletin, and … you’re right. So, here’s the details.

So, Runway 4R/22L will be fully out from today until June 1st, and then it will be out overnight until Sept 4th, at which time it will be fully out again.

So, first up:

Phase I – 1st Full Runway Closure – 94 Days (Feb 27- June 1, 2017)

  1. Runway will be fully paved after this
  2. Runway will be returned to operations on June 1 with edge lights only

Because NYC Tracon is so tight, the 4R closure also impacts La Guardia and Teterboro, so we expect to see some delays and restrictions there as well.

For your reading pleasure, we’ve bundled all the documents about this into 1 PDF.

Oh and yes, that’s Central Park and not Runway 4R, but it’s prettier than some concrete.

Reference:

 

Fresh warnings as FAA clarifies weapons risk in Kenya, Mali airspace

Feb 27th, 2017: The FAA has issued fresh warnings for Kenyan and Malian airspace, warning US operators of the potential dangers in operating through both the Nairobi and Malian FIR’s.

Published on Feb 26th, the new advice also adds new language with clarification of the type of weapons and phases of flight that the FAA is concerned about, specifically:

  • fire from small arms,
  • indirect fire weapons (such as mortars and rockets), and
  • anti-aircraft weapons such as MANPADS.

The scenarios considered highest risk include :

  • landings and takeoffs,
  • low altitudes, and
  • aircraft on the ground.

The FAA uses the same wording for both Kenya and Mali. Additionally for Mali, the Algerian CAA has concurrently published airspace closures along their southern border due to the conflict, and the FAA’s background notes on the Mali conflict still stand.

The updated guidance is intended for US operators and FAA License holders, but in reality is used by most International Operators including EU and Asian carriers, since only four countries currently provide useful information on airspace security and conflict zones.

The Notams both use FL260 as the minimum safe level, though we would suggest, as usual, that a higher level closer to FL300 is more sensible.

These updates have been notified through SafeAirspace.net, a collaborative and information sharing tool used by airlines, business jet operators, state agencies, military, and private members of  OPSGROUP.

This is the new wording in the latest FAA Notams on Mali and Kenya:

POSSIBILITY OF ATTACKS ON CIVIL AVIATION BY EXTREMISTS/MILITANTS.
AIRCRAFT MAY ENCOUNTER FIRE FROM SMALL ARMS; INDIRECT FIRE WEAPONS,
SUCH AS MORTARS AND ROCKETS; AND ANTI-AIRCRAFT CAPABLE WEAPONS,
INCLUDING MAN-PORTABLE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS (MANPADS).SUCH WEAPONS 
COULD TARGET AIRCRAFT AT LOW ALTITUDES, INCLUDING DURING THE ARRIVAL
AND DEPARTURE PHASES OF FLIGHT, AND/OR AIRPORTS AND AIRCRAFT ON THE
GROUND.

The NOTAMs in full are on our Kenya and Mali pages respectively.

References:

  • Kenya country information page at safeairspace.net
  • Mali country information page at safeairspace.net
  • OPSGROUP collaborative project

 

 

The NOTAM Goat Show

We’re on the hunt for prize Notams. 

In every definition of a Notam that exists, including the ICAO one, it includes these words: “the timely knowledge of which is essential“. Unfortunately, many Notam-creators’ sense of the essential shows a clear failure to understand the term . This is CNN’s version of fake news at it’s worst.

Now, we recently found one that listed peak goat-grazing times near the airport, so we thought we’d run a NOTAM Goat Show. And there will be prizes. We’re looking for the worst: the most irrelevant, the most useless, the most boring, the most unreadable. All those crappy Notams that are part of the 100 page print out you get in your flight briefing.

Send us your worst! goatams@fsbureau.org

 

Big change: Russia finally moving to QNH

If you have a Russia trip coming up soon, then keep a close eye on those charts. The whole feet-meters conversion/QFE/”Descend to height” carry on is going to start disappearing effective February 2017.

Way back in 2011, we told you about Russia’s transition to using Feet instead of Meters, for enroute traffic – above the transition level. Ever since then, we’ve kind of been waiting for the same change at Russian airports.

And now, it’s happening.

  • As of February 2017, ULLI/St. Petersburg will be the first Russian Airport to start using feet and QNH – chosen because it’s pretty close to sea level. And one of the more ‘western’ Russian airports.
  • Descent clearances will be to an altitude in feet, based on QNH
  • The ALT/HEIGHT conversion chart will disappear from charts
  • You’ll get “Descend altitude 3000 feet QNH” instead of “Descend Height 900 meters” from ATC.
  • After the St. Petersburg ‘trial’ is complete, the rest of Russia will slowly follow suit. We don’t yet have a firm date for further airports within Russia, but will update this page when we do (or we’ll tell you in the bulletin).

 

Quick example for ULLI ILS 10L, so you get the idea:

  • The ALT/HEIGHT conversion box is gone
  • The “Alt Set” or Altimeter Setting box shows hPA (Hectopascals) instead of MM (millimeters), which means a QNH-based approach
  • Previously charts showed QFE in bold which meant that was the preferred altimeter setting, now it’s QNH.

 

 

 

References:

 

 

2017 Edition: NAT Doc 007 2017 – North Atlantic Airspace and Operations Manual

The 2017 version of NAT Doc 007, North Atlantic Airspace and Operations Manual, was published in January 2017 by ICAO/NAT SPG.

Download the original document here (PDF, 5mB), and see also:


Feb 15th, 2017 In the first six weeks of 2017 there have been some important changes on the NAT/North Atlantic. These are published in the latest edition of NAT Doc 007, January 2017.

  • TCAS 7.1: From January 1st, 2017, TCAS 7.1 is required throughout the entire NAT region.
  • Cruising Level: Effective 2017, you no longer need to file an ICAO standard cruising level in NAT airspace.
  • Gross Nav Error:  is now defined as greater than 10nm (used to be 25nm)
  • Contingency Procedure: Published January 2017, a new turn-back (180) procedure is introduced – turn back to parallel previous track by 15nm.
  • Datalink Mandate Exemptions: Announced January 2017, new exemptions for Phase 2B of the Datalink mandate, which will start on December 7, 2017 (FL350-390). Exempt: Tango Routes, airspace north of 80N, and New York OCA.

Feb 15th, 2017: FSB published the full NAT Crossing Guide “My first North Atlantic Flight is tomorrow“.

– What’s different about the NAT, changes in 2017, 2016, 2015, NAT Quick Map
– Routine Flight Example #1 – Brussels to JFK (up at 5.45am)
– Non Routine-Flights: No RVSM, No RNP4, No HF, 1 LRNS, No HLA, No ETOPS, No TCAS, No Datalink – what you can do and where you can go
Take a look.


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