International Ops 2017

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

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Passenger cabin device ban – what it means for non-scheduled flights

Just the facts:

– The US has banned devices larger than a smartphone in the passenger cabin from 10 departure airports:

  • HECA/Cairo International Airport (CAI),
  • OJAI/Amman – Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
  • LTBA/Istanbul – Ataturk International Airport (IST),
  • OEJD/Jeddah – King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
  • OERK/Riyadh – King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
  • OKBK/Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
  • GMMN/Casablanca – Mohammed V Airport (CMN),
  • OTBD/Doha – Hamad International Airport (DOH)
  • OMDB/Dubai International Airport (DXB)
  • OMAA/Abu Dhabi (AUH)

– The TSA has published a Q&A

– The United Kingdom followed with a similar ban, specific to airlines. Read the BBC article.

– The nine airlines affected by the U.S. ban were notified of the procedures by the Transportation Security Administration at 0300 ET Tuesday and must comply within 96 hours, ie by 0300 Saturday morning.

– Intelligence showed credible evidence of a development of a bomb hidden in portable electronics.

– Two additional American officials, speaking anonymously, said the explosives were designed to be hidden in laptop batteries.

For non-airline/non-scheduled operators

  • Private flights: no impact
  • Charter flights (by Airline): unless operated from the points of departure listed, by the airlines notified, charter flights are not impacted.
  • Charter flights  (Business Aviation): not impacted. Closed-charter flights where passengers are known to each other are a much lower risk, and a small aircraft with 10 people on board falls outside the primary target threat area.
  • Ferry flights: no impact

 

We’re from the FSB, and we’re here to help you (with some First Aid)

We’re from the FSB, and we’re here to help you.

Comforting, right? We hope so! Our middle name is Service (did you spot that?), and what motivates us most is helping you. So let us. We have a team of super-smart International Flight Operations Specialists (except for Dave, who likes to hold Alligators).

We’ll give you the smartest person from FSB, and they’re all yours.

These are the same folks that manage delivery flights for American Airlines, move helicopters through Antarctica, and figure out routings for every new DHC-6 delivery. They also publish the weekly International Ops Bulletin (Take a look at one here). They monitor the worlds airspace for dangers (See safeairspace.net). They answer thousands of Ops questions a year from Pilots, Dispatchers, and Controllers in the amazing OpsGroup.

It’s an extra pair of hands in your ops department whenever you need it.

What might we help you with?

That’s entirely up to you. Here are some things we’re good at:

  • Figuring out the best routes for ad-hoc flights
  • Taking a look at your trip plans and telling you what you missed
  • Advising on airspace entry requirements
  • Telling you what places to avoid because they are dangerous or a rip-off
  • Running test flight plans for new aircraft
  • Answering questions about International Ops in depth
  • Talking to ATC, CAA’s, ICAO, or Government Agencies on your behalf
  • Organise weird permits
  • Clear up confusion over regulations
  • Tell you why to use slack instead of email.
  • Get stuff done where it’s difficult because of procedure or language. 
  • We can speak Spanish in Nicaragua or Dutch in Suriname. Russian in Russia. German. French. Whatever it takes.
  • Help you plan routes around unsafe airspace.
  • Finally get that Flight Plan accepted by the Eurocontrol computer.
  • Cross check your ambitious Pacific crossing plans
  • Dig into the extensive network of FSB contacts
  • Resolve those unpaid Nav Fees for you
  • Get info on that out-of-the-way airport you’re thinking about going to
  • Help with Aircraft Importation

But, ultimately, you decide what you want us to do. We’ll do research for you. Cast a second set of eyes on your plans. Do the filing. Pick up your laundry. Whatever.

If you like, ask us first before you buy our time. But we can do almost anything you ask. Except for an Australian TSP. You’re on your own with that. We love not doing TSP’s.

Now for a radical idea:

Here’s the normal way:

  1. Find a consultant. Turns out to be the wrong one.
  2. Find another consultant. Tell them what you want done.
  3. Rephrase what you want done, so that they understand.
  4. Get your wishes converted into complex-speak. (Keywords: Deliverables, Project Outline, Value Proposition, Customer Focus, Scope, Deadline)
  5. Navigate through the jargon overload.
  6. Get a big contract to send off to legal. Remind legal. Remind legal again.
  7. Widen eyes at the asking price. Negotiate. Settle for reducing the fee from ridiculous to extortionate.
  8. Some months and Hows it all going?’s later, get started. Maybe.
  9. More likely – return to Step 1 and continue from there.

If you want to take that route, get started with Google Search: Aviation Consultants. See you in a few months.

 

Here’s our way:

  1. The price is $200 per hour

  2. You tell us what to do

  3. We do it.

Radical!

How, when, what if

Pick your plan. 5 hours or 10 hours. Place the order above. We’ll email you to say hi. You tell us what needs to be done. We’ll pick the best person and we’ll get started. When? Probably today. Maybe tomorrow. After the time is up, you can buy some more, if you need more work done.

And, if you’re not happy with our work, or we can’t help, we’ll send you a full refund, right away.

Welcome to Flight Service Bureau! Questions? firstaid@flightservice.org

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Week-long ATC Strike announced: France

This is different to last years Summer of Strikes – where we had 12  French ATC strikes, but almost all were for 48 periods. This new strike is posted for a Monday-Friday, starting at 6am on Monday 6th March and running through to Friday evening, taking out the LFRR/Brest and LFBB/Bordeaux FIR’s.

Brest and Bordeaux FIR’s cover the west of France, meaning this will squeeze the offloaded traffic into Paris, Reims, and Marseilles FIR’s. As usual, our advice is to avoid overflying France if possible. We look forward to the day we can announce French Strikes are over (like the joy that Iceland brought us) but for now … no end in sight.

So, if you want some different options for getting around the Bordeaux FIR:

  • For north-south flights The Tango Routes – via Shanwick
  • For east-west flights try to file further north, into Belgian/Eurocontrol/German airspace, or come south into Barcelona/Marseilles
  • Read the Eurocontrol NOP for any relief routes accepted by other ACC’s
  • And, here’s a map :

Reroutes via Tunisia, Algeria

Tunisia and Algeria regularly open up their airspace to reroutes during French ATC action – and will likely do so again for this strike.

  • Tunisia (DTTC FIR): Overflight permit is required (AFTN direct DTTVYAYX)
  • Algeria (DAAA FIR): Overflight permit not required during this strike but copy FPL to DAAAZQZX and DTTCZQZX

Reroutes via Shanwick Airspace

Read our earlier post on this: http://flightservicebureau.org/the-three-sisters-shanwicks-tango-routes/

A teleconference will be held by DSNA (in French) on Wed 1st March at 1400 UTC.

Login details:
Call: +33 1 48 50 50 80
Pin Code: 34835821#

Keep an eye on the Eurocontrol NOP for updated info.

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.

 

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