Ground Damage

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

roiJust reading with great interest in Ground Handling International (October 2013 issue) an article starting:
“Can we ever hope to rationalize the slightly surreal situation that sees a poorly-paid ramp agent driving an expensive unit of GSE around a multi-million pound aircraft? Alwyn Brice considers ground damage solutions”

Reading “[…] drew our attention to the fact that an insurer has no obligation to conclude a deal with a handler if he (the insurer) feels that the risk is poised too high.”
Just a reminder: Insurances are modern betting companies. Here, they bet that the ground damage stays long-term below the insurance fees. Insurance wins. If you mess up their risk-evaluation, they get rid of you as quickly as (in-)decently possible. Unfortunately, they rather frequently happen to tell their friends (the other insurances) about you. And yes, that’s the case for insurances anywhere.

That said: It is in the “common” interest to have experienced, reliable staff operating. One approach can be, to demand that in the contract. Just not yet part of any contract I’ve seen.

Ground Damage
Ground Damage

And every time (airline) managers tend to “outsource” existing business parts, they most times do know their new “partners” provide lesser quality for less money, safe on salaries and training quality – as the airline sure tweaked their operations already to cost effectiveness (within internal quality levels). The only the ground handler can become cheaper is to compromise quality. What worries me often, is the nonchalance with which security and safety are as such willingly put at stake by senior aviation managers “for the sake of business” (cash).

Not to misunderstand me. There are business cases that make outsourcing reasonable, I know General Sales Agents (GSAs) and Ground Handling companies serve a purpose when there is not enough “own business” to justify own staff. And in such cases they can provide better quality by consolidating business and having the advantages coming with the larger scale of operations.

Food for Thought
waiting for comments

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A-CDM, TAM and Changing Paradigms

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]
Winter Operations
Winter Operations

The last weeks I was traveling a bit more. And while I attended WinterOps Canada, my boss was at Inter Airport Europe to promote our solutions jointly with our partner UFIS Airport Solutions. Coming back from Canada, I attended the renowned international TAM Symposium, taking place in Braunschweig, where I currently live.

Making new friends in Vancouver, it was my pleasure to also strengthen my friendship with Etienne at TAM Symposium, meeting also wonderful people like Tom, Johan, Anne, Erica, Louise, Kris or Hamsa, just to name a few – you know who you are 😉

One of the core results of these past two weeks is quite frightening. After years of promotion of A-CDM in Europe, there is only a handful of people who understand what A-CDM is all about. Even the experts at TAM Symposium reduced CDM (Collaborative Decision Making) to the sending of DPI-messages (Departure Process Information) to the Eurocontrol NMOC (Network Manager Operations Center). “Eight Airports have established A-CDM”…

As we promoted lately in a press release, Zürich became Eurocontrol CDM compliant (number nine). After doing CDM for more than 10 years, that was newsworthy… Because only now, it counts…?
Though if that is true, if it only counts when the data is linked to the ANSP (Air Navigation Services Provider, Air Traffic Control) why is it always a problem to get the ANSP into the APOCs (Airport Operation Centers) being developed?

4-way tug-o-war

As I had expressed before, A-CDM is so much more than what most people, even the experts understand it to be. It is not just a concept to share data, but to work together for a common improvement, making sure everyone pulls on the same rope…

Now the makers of the TAM Symposium even add onto it, promoting TAM, Total Airport Management 😮

So what is TAM? Where CDM is mostly focused (so far) on the airside to improve airport processes, TAM adds the landside. Which is by the way, what Meta-CDM is all about as well, right Alison?
Again, if I search for “Total Airport Management” on the Internet, I get a ton of different explanations what TAM is… or is supposed to be? Even from companies who have been attending the TAM Symposium since it first started. Be it DLR, Eurocontrol, Wikipedia or Siemens. If I then turn it to a global scale and look at CDM or TAM, I could start crying.

“And discussing TAM and CDM, one of the key findings was that no-one understands what these developments are all about.”

As Etienne expressed in his short presentation, the main issue – and mostly the missing link – in the end is “The ‘C’ in CDM”. It’s about Change. Complexity. Cloud. Collaboration. Communication. Many things, but mostly not about Collaboration (as the definition says), but about Change.

© 2002, Richard Eastman

Change from a holistic data model with data residing in independent silos, towards a “cloud computing”, where you share the data and the players benefit from the collaboration of data, making sure everyone at any time has the same information at hand. Actually, that reminded me of a presentation of my dear friend Richard, who I quote in the header of this blog, which dates back into 2002 … The underlying concept he raised even as early as 1996!
It is frightening to think that in aviation, the airline, airport, ground handler and air traffic control work – to date – with different data. Supposedly the same, but there’s no guarantee for that…

So do we need to promote “TAM” or “CDM”? Or should we simply start to promote to use state of the art concepts such as “cloud computing” for the benefit of all players?

Sabre 1963

One of the questions that came up in the event was “Who owns the data”? And that is already the wrong question. No-one “owns” the data in a cloud. But by sharing, the quality of data is improved for the benefit of all – if you start of with an assumed value, whoever has the real value first, will amend the information, accessible seamlessly to anyone.

Once the pacemakers in global e-Commerce, enabling global flight booking in the 60’s long before “Internet”, the aviation industry has lost its bite long ago, stumbles behind.

To make CDM or TAM happen, we need to change. And change is (always and everywhere) a major problem. And we should start to think beyond our petty sandboxes, about the benefits of accurate data and how we can work together to a mutual benefit.

Adverse Weather
Adverse Weather

Another question that came up, was about the missing of airlines in CDM-development, they being the main beneficiary of the process. Which is right. If Zurich can now accurately forecast the delays and cancellations caused by winter operations, Zurich can inform the airlines operating flights inbound to Zurich in time to possibly cancel that flight, due to weather, ensuring this particular aircraft aside of that flight stays on-time in its rotation (its daily or weekly operations plan) and does not get stuck in Zurich with a three-hour delay. In reverse, easing the situation for the situation at Zurich.

As a result, the flight cancelled, no passenger compensation will be paid for it or the following flights the aircraft is planned to operate. The resulting cost is lower than if the flight would go without such warning and gets stuck at Zurich.

So yes, the airlines benefit from such development and it is a great pity that they do not understand that. Though as mentioned in my last post, when flying to Vancouver, BA and AA were unable to issue the boarding pass for the next flight segment. So even within the Oneworld Alliance, they seem incapable of sharing the necessary data.

Don Quixote

Now looking back at Richards presentation 2002 (and several before then) and comparing to what Hamsa Balakrishnan of the MIT said in her presentation at the TAM Symposium, I somehow feel reminded of good ol’ Don Quixote.

So let’s keep fighting those wind mills 😀

Food for Thought
(comments welcome)

Update: Following link failures, the files are now linked locally. The original links are:
delair Press Release on Zurich Airport A-CDM (2013)
Richard Eastman @ MIFNET 2002
Hamsa Balakrishnan @ TAM Symposium 2013
Etienne was hired by SITA in Spring 2015
UFIS A/S has been acquired by Amadeus in 2014

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My American Airlines Story

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

As many of you know, I started my career with American Airlines. That I left due to a mobbing supervisor was one of the “mistakes” I do happen to regret in my career. Though looking at American today, I am not so sure if I’d be a happy employee either.

As Air Transport News summarized World Low Cost Airline 2013 congress: “In the current cut-throat market conditions with the so-called legacy carriers cutting jobs, renegotiating staff contracts, the concept of customer loyalty to a brand is becoming obsolete as the lines between full service carriers and low cost ones are getting blurry and price has become the key factor for customers when it comes to choosing a short haul flight.”, they make a common mistake, as I strongly believe that brand is not becoming obsolete, just neglected.

AA logos during the times
AA. No question.
AA. No question.

When I started with American, it was the world’s largest airline. We were Proud to be American, we received frequent training to always smile at the customer and “customer first”. We also received monthly video updates from the senior management about strategic plans and news, we were a big family. Reminder: That was the World’s largest airline. In all those years, in fact in the past 80 years, the American aircraft was easily distinguishable by the eAAgle on the tail with it’s double A. In many movies, AA aircraft could be identified simply by the silver body with the blue/white/red stripe, even without the logo or the name on the body not being visible. From far away and even in bad weather, the aircraft was easily distinguishable by its prominent AA on the tail.

blank nose
blank nose

The new aircraft at that is a greyish color, reminded me on my first encounter too much of the U.S. Military Airlift Command, with bright colors being the name on the side of the body and the colors of the American flag on the tail, very similar to U.S. Airways and with very little profile. And the main identifier, the “AA” is gone for good…

American (new) - US Airways - American (traditional)
American (new) – US Airways – American (traditional)

The staff is “just another airline”, I did not receive much of a smile at all, neither on the ground, nor in the air. Having been the pacemaker in aviation technology, inventing SABRE, enabling global bookings long before Internet, Frequent Flyer Program and Yield Management, technical problems found me at a loss. British Airways, partner of AA in the Oneworld Alliance was unable to issue the Boarding Pass for the connecting AA-flight – all being booked under AA flight number. Baggage being checked through to Vancouver, I received one boarding pass for HAJLHR, then in London the next one for LHRDFW and because the onward flight was beyond 24 hours (I made a 23hr-stop to meet friAAnds), I only got my third boarding pass to Vancouver in DFW. My baggage they could handle, but to issue the boarding passes for the entire trip was a technical problem? I’m at a loss, find that even questionable on a legal level…

Robert "Bob" Crandall
Robert “Bob” Crandall

Discussing my experience with friAAnds and stAAf I met during my trip, I found that the AA-spirit is gone. Ever since Bob Crandall left, the button-counters took over, who had no vision, but claimed they’d know how to make money. Trashing the high values I encountered in my time when Bob Crandall was in charge, staff is an expensive and expendable resource, service is a theoretical concept of questionable value, people just fear for their jobs and working for American competes with working for anyone else. And now AA is under Chapter 11, “restructuring”. Well, a good result to turn the world leader in aviation to a patient under Chapter 11, right?

Image by Wirtschaftswoche
Goodbye Lufthansa

What is my personal lesson about this? I believe that brand is underestimated. Be it American to drop a recognized, gradually developed brand of 80+ years, dropping the “AA” which was a core in 40+ years of AAdvertising, or be it Lufthansa, “outsourcing” European flights to “Germanwings”, with no visible relation to its mother. And wondering, why passengers show no longer any brand loyalty flying within Europe.

And it confirms lessons that I learned many years ago. My “boss” during business education in a large whole sale business told me: “There is always someone who can do it cheaper”. So price is not a differentiator for a sustainable business.

Richard Eastman
Richard Eastman

And my friend Richard taught me: “Price is psychological”. It is about what is the buyer willing to pay for what reasons. And “cheap” is mostly not the main value. Brand, service, loyalty, identification are very important drivers. Why would one buy an Apple iPad? There are cheaper tablets out there, some of them possibly even better. Why do I buy a Windows-based Ultrabook convertible replacing my Laptop and my iPad? Why do I choose brand X over brand Y? Believe me, I could buy “the same” for half the price, but my experience with the brand is good, why should I go “cheap” on something as important as my IT?

Airline Managers focused on the Return-of-Investment and the Shareholder Value but without a vision are followers, they do not make good managers.

Any good business started with someone believing in an idea and taking a risk. Once you loose that entrepeneural spirit, you become a follower and start loosing.

Food for Thought
(comments welcome)
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What is ‘Big Data’?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

A new hype shakes up the business world. Everybody talks about “Big Data”. But what is that all about?

Source: AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou

Basically it’s an utterly normal issue. More and more data is collected, increasingly larger amounts of data have to be analysed and made “usable”. And this is the crux of the matter, even NSA faces problems with. Because you can’t see the wood for the trees. And to call for the example of the Needle in the Haystack… As I showed years ago, that “problem” is none, but can be solved quickly with the right tool (a strong magnet)…

But what the “experts” try here, is to find from a randomly found pine tree needle from the forest, all the other needles that originally belonged to the same tree. And the forest grows!

Source: Microsoft, 123RF
Source: Microsoft, 123RF

The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal. It makes their life not any easier that I don’t work at German Mail in Bonn, neither being the treasurer of Kassel.

Big Data is simply a reality, no “hype”. But it remains a “problem”. To manage “big data”, I need the matching technology on the one side, on the other intelligent and fast fitering algorythms. And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable. Either I filter the large amount of data very rough, or I filter smaller amount of data very detailed. A question of width and depth of information. So what does NSA do with the data? First, filtering it by catch words and phrases. Then have a highly paid analyst try to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Two dangers:

George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013
George Orwell 1984, NSA 2013

1. False Positive. This defines information that is incorrectly assessed. I.e. in Spam an important message the computer considers Spam. Is it about people and the NSA, a “false positive” can have devastating repercussions, such as the denial for totally innocent people trying to enter the U.S. (such happening).

2. Privacy Protection. It’s being compromised and I keep lately quoting the former U.S. Presidents Franklin und Truman:

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” [Benjamin Franklin]

“we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”. Ersetze FBI durch NSA… Und was, wenn die “Teaparty” tatsächlich an die Macht kommt (vergleichbar bei uns der NPD)? [Harry S. Truman]
Replace FBI by NSA… And what, if the “Tea Party” in the U.S. really get’s to power (comparably our NPD)? We call it something falling into the wrong hands.

In aviation, we also work daily with “big data” and not just British Airways develops ideas to merge their customer profiles with the public profiles of their clients from the Social Networks… We also have to think about how far we want to go. Or if there are other areas of “big data” of interest, such as operations management.

Food for Thought
comments welcome

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“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

Writing last week’s blog, I was confronted again with my criticism of church. For the ones of you who don’t know: I believe in God. Being maybe not what church tells us, but “some higher entity”.

geocentric-theoryResearching on “heresy”, I sure stumbled over Galileo Galilei. Church-accused of heresy and put under house arrest for the remainder of his life, we nevertheless all know today that church was wrong and our world is not the center of the universe.
Galileo’s approach taking Augustine’s position on Scripture, can be interpreted today as the reminder that the bible was written by people who never heard of contraception, Internet or space flight … Trying to interpret things they could not understand they used metaphors.
So I believe the Bible and especially the life of some Jesus of Nazareth to have a good ethic and moral message, but written and rewritten in centuries after Christ lived, from hearsay, tales and songs, church only declared Christ to be son of god a good 435 years later.

I also deny to condemn people with other believes to hell, as it was Christ who died on the cross to take the sins of humanity until the final day of judgement at the end of the world. Being a Jew himself, I doubt that he made or wanted any differentiation between confessions: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing”.

And he might have known of some religions, but I am sure the people later interpreting his life never imagined Australia or the Americas. Though isn’t it important to believe in God? Looking at the different churches and religions that raised from the Old Testimony and believing in the same God, they are their worst enemies. Thinking about Manitou as the god of the Indians, his “ghosts” as the angels, I don’t see, why it should not simply be a different understanding of God and his angels, stemming “naturally” from a different history. And in fact, they understood their position as a caretaker of nature, not rulers and destroyers (what blasphemy).

It’s not about church, or the Bible, it is about being a good man. If you interpret the Bible (or the Koran or any other religious foundation) to justify murder, war or theft, you are evil and have a sick understanding of what Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or whoever you believe in wanted.

Is it heresy to question interpretations of church? Is it heresy after millenia of proven mistakes they made? Didn’t church fall in with the Third Reich and condemn Jews happily to death? Did they not enrich themselves by stealing their money? Did they not commit murder and sanction war – in history to date? Are they not accused through time and again to abuse children? No, I do not believe in church. I believe there are many decent people in the churches. About the system I agree with Lazarus Long:

“The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history.”

And yes, by the way: “The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.”

Food for Thought
comments welcome

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Expanding the Situational Awareness Horizon

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

“The high accuracy of the tactical forecasting of the de-icing demand by arosa de-icing allows us to pro-actively prepare for upcoming delays or flight cancellations with the ground handling companies, airlines and other involved partners. Our partners have come to understand this high accuracy to give them a tactical advantage compared to other airports working without such tool, allowing them to prioritize their flights and manage not just the current situation, but to prepare for it.”
Urs Haldimann, Head of De-Icing Coordination, Zürich Airport

“arosa PMS is a vital tool to early identify capacity constraints, we have it usually on the ACC’s center screen. Its identification of upcoming delays allows us and our partners in the ACC to take preliminary action, minimizing the real delays and their impact to our travelers.”
Thomas Hansen, Head of Airport Control Center, Düsseldorf International Airport


One of the issues I keep discussing and explaining these days is the necessity to expand the situational awareness horizon in operations (aviation).

Today, most experts in operations are working based on “experience”. Though in stress, errors and misconceptions are likely. Where the traffic normally is ambitious, it is worse when all flights are full in high season. Taxiway constructions has impact to runway capacity, more ad hoc traffic than normal and then there is that weather front that might worsen the situation. The weather front? Which weather front. Ooops, missed…

“Pre-tactical” my colleagues call it, as “forecasting” in operational terminology is used for seasonal forecast. That you could imply to forecast traffic development or de-icing delays for the upcoming hours? Heretical!

Is it? Or did aviation simply loose it’s bite in embracing technological possibilities? One hyped word today is “Big Data”. If you embrace “Big Data”, why would you recoil from the idea of mathematically sound forecasting of several hours of flight planing?

Food for Thought
comments welcome
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Weather Whims

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]
Composite Photo (JB)
Composite Photo (JB)

Air Berlin reports 86.6% load factor only for July, thanks to the weather, the last minute passengers were missing.

Ryanair and Easyjet report “only” 1-2% growth in ticket sales for July

Norwegian growth – I am sure they did not have as much “impact” of the hot summer weather as we had in Central/West Europe.

In general, I hear that many travel agencies complained about the lowered interest during this record hot July – do we call it a centenary summer again?

Despite the fact, I currently work on Winter Operations again, preparing for my presentation at And I just happen to think about the Eyjafjallajökull and its impact to European flights in 2010.

What this shows again (in my believe) is the impact of weather to airline flight management.

Airports operate at the limits of their slots. But what are those slots based on? Good weather? Seasonality? Winter Season (in Europe) goes from End October to March, just covering the worst period and enabling the airports to reduce their flight movements. Though why people would fly less in winter remains beyond me, I appreciate to leave the ugly rainfall at home for a week in the sun – and business travel is mostly reduced during July/August – the summer holidays.

All it does tell is the missing understanding of airline management. No matter if summer or winter, if sunny or cold, the aircraft has to fly. Preferably fully booked at good prices. If you only sell in summer, you need to ask higher prices as you have to cover your losses during fall, winter and spring… If you need to do that, your prices are likely not competitive.

Sky Airlines started first to build a German subsidiary with the original idea to utilize the fleet from Germany to the Canary Islands or Egypt in Winter, when travel between Germany and Turkey is low. Whereas the same question about utilization sure also applies to the hotels in the regions.

Image ©2010 Flughafen Zürich
Image ©2010 Flughafen Zürich

So yeah, that’s why I do address WinterOps and see tools such as the one developed by delair as important for airlines. To increase the “throughput” during “adverse weather”.

Zurich Airport reported a record season last winter: 75% more de-icing than in the previous winter season. 33% more than in the last record winter 2003/04.  At the same time worse snow, the usage of “type 4” increasing from 30 to 41% (compared to type 1). And punctuality dropped only marginally to 75.3% from 79.1% in the previous year. This should be a major wake-up-call not as much for the airports as for the airlines! Because it reflects that hundreds of flights less had to be cancelled or delayed. Given the ability of Zurich to forecast the development by several hours, giving the airlines time to prepare, inform the passengers and thus minimize the impact. The airlines should be demanding such technology at the airports they fly to and from of even finance it themselves.

But WinterOps aside, the recent reports also show how dependent airlines to date are on the weather. Given the little profit margins they control, a “hot summer” can be hopp or topp for a route or even an airline. All yield management can fail when weather is involved. And yes, doesn’t that remind me of the “fog hole” at Stuttgart-Echterdingen…

Just some

Food for Thought

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What is A-CDM?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

As many ask(ed), the blog might be the best to address your questions, about my new life @delair… And beyond.

As a student lately quoted to me, she expected airlines and airports to be on the forefront of technological development and integrated processes. She was surprised to find the truth being (mostly):
Nobody speaks with anybody.


I have been aware of FAA NextGen before, but you may already see the shortcoming of it: It only addresses the time from a departure to the arrival at the airport…

Now A-CDM (theoretically) takes care of the processes from the arrival to the departure and starts to develop the concept of an integrated solution beyond the airport itself. A-CDM stands for Airport-Collaborative Decision Making. So the reality at most airports today is that the different companies servicing and serving the airport are communicating by telephone, fax, telex or other inefficient means with each other and the level of automatism at airports is simply devastating.

But this addresses two parts of a process, largely ignorant of the other. To solve this, the ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) organizing the “air space” need to interface with the ground handling processes of the airports, involving airlines, ground handlers, government bodies, etc., etc.!

In reality, the two approaches should interface to each other in a collaborative approach too, so far, the ANSP pushes data to the airport: “Eat This”…


Airlines think in “rotations”, usually on a “weekly” basis. An aircraft takes off Monday Morning, flies all day to different airports, overnights, flies again, until it’s Sunday and the aircraft is back home where it started for another weekly rotation. And there are technicals (i.e. aircraft grounded due to engine failure or a warning light malfunction), weather (such as caused by an ice-rain or thunderstorm), or other operational delays, making the live of an airline network planner and the operations control center (airline department trying to cover the afore-mentioned problems) not any easier. Now add the complexity of inefficient ground handling processes and air traffic control and you wonder that any flight takes off “on-time”…

DUS ACCAs my first “job” in delair, I happened to be at the Dusseldorf Airport Control Center (ACC), where the airport created an operations center, bringing together intentionally the different stakeholders in the ground-handling process, being the airport’s own departments, the airlines, ground-handlers, but also the government bodies – not the ANSP (yet) I am afraid. And with a worldwide unique tool by delair, they not only react “on-the-fly” to the operational situation, but the software forecasts the traffic development for the next 12 hours (arosa PMS, Performance Management System). Enabling the ACC to see bottlenecks before they hit them and take pro-active counter-measures to minimize their impact or even avoid such completely. At all other airports, these bottlenecks are handled, when it hits you in the neck. Not very professional in my eyes. Predictive chaotic and uncontrolled situations is the opposite of situational awareness and it adds to the incurring delay.

Example: If the country faces heavy snow, the de-icing process reduces the airport’s capacity to take aircraft into the air. If you see that coming, you may be aware hours before, that you will have to cancel at least 50% of your flights. But which ones? In the current environment at most airports, it is ad-hoc decisions. In a controlled “predicted” situation, the airlines may select a short-haul return-connection to be cancelled, but a flight where the aircraft is needed at the destination airport to be prioritized. Say the airport needs to run with 50% reduced capacity for three hours – predicted two hours before. To have the shuttle flight leaving to the nearby airport, likely to face same weather problems, does not make sense. The flight to the (warm) South though, does make sense, as until it comes back, the weather should be back to normal…

Hear me at De-Icing Swiss style (a case study)

[Updated: Link to presentation added]

Keep in mind, thinking about this dilemma: Only an aircraft that flies makes money. Cancel the flight and see your hardly accumulated profit margins evaporate like butter in the summer midday sun! By paying passengers compensations applied by government legislations beyond reasonable scope. Sure the airline calculates such into their prices. Making tickets more expensive. An airline looses not only by less flying in winter, but a large sum by paying for cancellations and delays resulting from bad operational support from airports and ANSPs. And so far, the airline pays. Though I heard of first examples, where the airline sues the airport or ANSP for inefficiency-caused expense. Though even those cases do not claim the cost on the entire rotation, but on the individual flight. So far. I truly believe that will change soon!

All that more or less nice and smooth so far, right…? It does not help anything, as long as the ANSPs stay out of the development loop or develop their own ideas without any “collaborative” approach. Sure, there are people there who do think beyond their own, but the feedback I got during the last months shows an extreme level of neglect of the overall situation. Go back to the airline rotation… I could cry.
Consider the weather situation again… Thanks to the snow-storm, several routes have airborne capacity problems. As have the destination airports. But the approach is always local! Even Dusseldorf is largely unaware of the situation in the airspace or at the destinations. As the ANSPs remain ignorant of the needs of the airlines, airports or the rotations. They get the aircraft delivered to the runway and then we face a break. Good luck… And given the weather: The ANSP will handle the flight, no matter if the destination airport can handle it back. So aircraft may be brought in to an airport, when it would be reasonably known that the airport will close soon due to weather development. Ignorance instead of situational awareness! And another likely break in the rotation of that aircraft, causing a ripple down the line.


So after that introduction, a quick excursion to my new world (as the blog topic of the day)… As mentioned, A-CDM defines the ground-based process enhancements. The “arrival manager” (AMAN, mostly on the ANSP-side) organized the delivery of incoming aircraft, prioritizing the runway capacity – unfortunately, largely unaware of the airport’s capacity or processes. Based on the scheduled and planned arrival information, the airport now struggles to handle the ground-based processes. From organizing the Follow-Me-vehicles, to deciding where to park the aircraft (stand), could be at the gate or on the apron with bus-transfer, mobile staircase and additional time needed for transfer apron-terminal (and back out). Oh yes, and the airport and ground handlers usually have a limited number of “bridged” gates where the aircraft stand is right at the terminal, limited number of staircase-vehicles, follow-me’s, busses, etc. At Erfurt Airport, there are four gaterooms (and four aircraft stands at the terminal), but only one baggage belt. So you better schedule your arrivals to not have four aircraft like A320s arriving within 30 minutes… Luckily, they don’t have the traffic to use A-CDM or need it, but it is the same at many larger airports that such bottlenecks exist.

So you also manage the baggage belt, staff rosters to assure you not only have the technology, but also the people to do the job. And the customs/immigration counters (and staff) to manage the arriving aircraft.

Ignoring the idea (just here in the blog, not in reality) to taxi the aircraft to maintenance or park it for overnight or … we then go into the “outbound process”. The passengers want to check-in, so you allocate the check-in-counters. As well as you need to make sure, you have the aircraft positioned to a fitting gate – there are usually domestic and international ones (where for the sake of ease, I do consider “Schengen” as “domestic” in the process). So you send the passengers to the gates. And you better understand that airports mostly do not make much income on the flight handling, today they make money on the “non-aviation-business”, such as the shops between check-in and aircraft. You need to manage the lounges, assure the border security, baggage control and passenger screening to be efficient. See my article about Check-in 2015 for ideas on that…

ATCThen another fun part comes… They are in time checked-in, they are at the gate. But due to ATC-constraints, there is no slot. There might be one at your airport, but at the destination…? Do you board the passengers and stick them into the plane if you know there’s a 30 minute delay? Very likely, if the delay is at the remote airport, you will… Thank you. If it is at your airport and they use A-CDM and a “Departure Manager” (DMAN), they do organize the departure based on the runway capacity. Did I mention that usually a runway is not used for departures only? Sorry, aircraft also arrives and uses capacity… But I only know of one working AMAN/DMAN combination in use. And you do need to consider not only the ATC-slot of the aircraft, but now need to take into account parameters such as taxi-times, maybe de-icing, the flow of aircraft on the taxi-way (you don’t like to have an outgoing aircraft on the same taxiway of an opposite directed incoming one)…

So considering all that data, based on the ATC-slot, you specify the TOBT and the TSAT, the “targeted off-block-time” and the “targeted (engine) start-up-time”… Then you deliver the aircraft to the runway and … pray.

What is my scenario for an efficient operation of air services?

Yeah, right… First of all, the ANSPs need to harmonize their problems. Because in most economies (maybe not that much in North America), there are a number of national ANSPs and there are projects to work with “block spaces”, which is another way of a work-around to inefficiencies… An optimized process should not start with the ANSP or the airport or the ground handler, but with the airline. What does it help the airline to have a “slot” at an airport, if it does not fit the rotation needs. Or if the airline must calculate a “planned delay” in the process as the aircraft will not be efficiently “turned around”, but handled on the apron instead of the gate, as the airport sold beyond capacity. Or worse, held in holding pattern on approach due to excessive demand. And every winter, you add the weather problems, that sure take everyone by surprise… Again…

Aircraft Rotation Planing

Why IATA does handle “slot conferences“, but does not address a neutral slot optimization for complete rotations is simply beyond me. Yes, it is complex, but using flight plan data, IATA could develop software to suggest improvements to slots for all involved airlines at a neutral level, taking the rotation as a basis and not – as is today – an individual flight! Today, the airline as the operator struggles to match the available slots to their aircraft operational planning on rotations basis. A common complain by airports is, that airlines have slots assigned, but the aircraft is always early or late, interfering with slots assigned to other airlines. To call that efficient? And the reason is known as soon as you have a closer look: The rotation. A “planned” difference from the assigned slot… Because the “needed” slot wasn’t offered…
Ahh, isn’t the “buzz-word” at the moment in IT? Big Data…

You cannot do such a cross-airline rotation based slot optimization by hand. And rotation may include the airline’s wish to meet certain “waves”, the transfer-windows at hub airports. But I believe, IATA could and should invest into a solution that takes the rotation planning into account and enable improvements to capacity. And the airports should not consider capacity only on the maximum good-weather capacity and wishful thinking, but they should consider bad weather and make contingency plans together with the airlines in the early stage – if flights are being cancelled frequently, the business traveler will reject them as unsave and plan pro-actively on alternate transportation – with severe impact to the airline’s financial calculations. And the airline will be faced with the compensation to the customers and the missing profit from the flight! So at this time, the “looser” is (and remains) the airline. But I heard in the last A-CDM task force meetings, only one airline attended. Which I believe is the cause of the dilemma. You got to involve yourself as an airline and voice your needs. Another nice example by Dusseldorf. Air Berlin as a key stakeholder (hub carrier) at Dusseldorf, has been a key driver in the ACC’s development there. But talking to Route Planners at many large airlines, there is neither “vision”, nor “concept”, that and how the dilemma can be solved. And without receiving the necessary top-level corporate support, this is likely to stay as is. A planned (and accepted) inefficiency.

Yeah, I hope, I trigger quite some (controversial) feedback with this blog post, as yes, such can only scratch on the surface of things. Or cut deep on a single aspect, though there is a whole picture out there. I know the complexities of route (rotation) planning, as I know unmentioned complexities at airports and ANSPs. But

Food For Thought
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Alexei Navalny vs. Edward Snowden

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

NavalnySnowdenTo make this very clear… This is not against U.S. or Russia or Germany, we have enough problems everywhere. It is a case to point the mirror to the U.S. and Russia.

Is it truly necessary to prosecute Edward Snowden and to mess internationally (not just with some South American President) on all diplomatic levels to catch someone who has done what he believes to be right at the risk to never see his home again? “Exile” was a punishment in the past and exile is what Snowden chose.
Snowden obviously had a point, even in the United States, many citizens think he did “the right thing”. And is that not what America claims to be all about? Spying friends is certainly not what it is all about and even as a historic friend of the United States and it’s people, I don’t like the witch hunt I see here.

Now comes Alexei Navalny and the United States, in the midst of a global diplomatic crisis expresses their disgust with the court ruling? As wrong as it is, I think the United States currently has to start looking into a mirror. Dear Michael McFaul, Ambassador of the U.S. in Moscow: “We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of @Navalny @Snowden (and @Manning) and the apparent political motivations in this trial.”
What did become of that “Land of the Free and the Home to the Brave” I love so much? Big Brother? I liked Tom Clancy’s “NetForce”. But Prism goes far far beyond it!
A country that supports such control of citizens and friends alike has to allow the warning cries from Germany – we have a history that tells stories about abuse of information and publicity. Not just Gestapo, the East German Stasi has tried just the same. What makes you better? The government? The Weimar Republic was not a bad government, but do you know what comes tomorrow? There are stories about one J. Edgar Hoover, about whom Wikipedia says:

Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover
Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI NSA is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.

In the wrong hands, who knows what might have become of the United States? Listen to Truman. Mr. Obama, today you are the president.

On the other side, we have some Alexei Navalny who dares to threaten Putin and to research and make public illegalities in Russia. It takes a lot of bravery and civil courage to do so in Russia, even more unfortunately in a Russia of some Vladimir Putin. Whatever good he may have done for the country in his past, he sticks to power too much to my liking at the risk to not end up an icon just as one Nelson Mandela (as he still could I believe), but closer to one Joseph Stalin. At the same time ruining what one Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of Russia had achieved with Glasnost. Though with greedy politicians and industry managers in the “West”, there is not much danger, anti-democratic countries may suffer from commercial repercussions, right? And Putin might have a “good reason” for his doing, though even with good motives, I think he’s in danger of messing it badly.

The question is also more of a Christian dimension: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”


Who is the United States, with a war in Iraq based on the lie of “weapons of mass destruction”, with Guantanamo and witch hunts against Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, with an NSA mass-trampling on privacy concerns that the illegal attempts of data collection by Google, Microsoft or others become a child-game in comparison?

Who is Germany, recently having delayed again ratification of the signage of the United Nation Convention against Corruption? The country that does not take a stand for what’s good but who’s government yields to the lobbies?

But being “bad kids on the block”, we are still democratic countries. The ones who can make a stand is us. The people. I can decide to dislike and talk about Edward Snowden. I can condemn the NSA, no matter how much I do believe Barrack Obama to be a “good man” or how much I do love America. We have the saying: Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. But we, the people still can raise our voice, we can blog and talk and discuss and stand for what we believe in. And in the end of the day, we make mistakes as anyone else. But at least I can look into the mirror and say: “I like this guy”. And if we are lucky, we do what you Barrack Obama said you would want to become the President for: To make a Change.

And I don’t think Angela Merkel is in a good position to do that right now. Slave to the lobbies, pampering Putin for Russia’s natural resources and wealth and, as she does for China, not any more democratic than Russia these days. Neither is Obama, for what I am immensely sorry!
But I am. And not throwing any stones, I can beg: Obama: Stop the Witch Hunt! And I can beg: Putin: Don’t end up the man who reinstated dictatorship in Russia!

You’re both good, decent men! Show it!

This article today calls me to pull out my favorite Lazarus Long-quotes once more:

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare–most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Flight Delays and Flight Clearing

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

DFS Verspätungsgründe EuropaGerman DFS (Air Navigation Services Provider) published the DFS Mobility Report (German). No translation needed, I find page 14 of great interest to the airlines…

Where the first (such; most important) graph shows 54% of delays “caused” by the airlines, some airports working collaboratively with their partners (CDM) do a “flight clearing”, reviewing and correcting the delay reasons. Just focusing usually on the flight pair in question (incoming/outgoing flight), Frankfurt and Munich show only 39% and 44% delay “by the airline”.

Having discussed the issue with several airports doing flight clearing, the reality is even more to the airlines’ advantage.

What if an aircraft leaves Munich, with heavy snowfall and one hour delay in the morning. In the evening, it is to fly Hamburg-Paris (no snow at all). Will Hamburg understand the inbound delay and resulting outgoing delay as “weather” or will they simply assign it to “airline”? Guess my believe…

This is a nice example of a statistic without any value as it is compiled from systematically incorrect compiled data.

Food for Thought
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