FAA Moves Forward on Standards for Supersonic Aircraft

By Frank Wolfe | April 3, 2020
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FAA, noise standards, notice of proposed rulemaking, Supersonic

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is moving forward on standards for future supersonic aircraft in announcing a notice of proposed rulemaking last week for noise levels for those aircraft. The proposed rulemaking follows a 2019 FAA proposed rule to update the requirements to apply for a special flight authorization for flying above Mach 1 in the United States.

“This action proposes to add new supersonic airplanes to the applicability of noise certification regulations, and proposes landing and takeoff noise standards for a certain class of new supersonic airplanes,” according to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on March 30. “There is renewed interest in the development of supersonic aircraft, and the proposed regulations would facilitate the continued development of airplanes by specifying the noise limits for the designs, providing the means to certificate the airplanes for subsonic operation in the United States.”

The design of avionics systems will have to factor in the cockpit effects of such supersonic flight by including such things as heat dissipation systems. Boom Supersonic is developing its $200 million supersonic airliner, the Overture, and has said that the company’s XB-1 supersonic demonstrator has controls and displays for the environmental control system that keep the cockpit pressurized and cooled and cool other vital aircraft systems in separate bays outside of the cockpit. The outside of XB-1, which is to perform flight tests at Mach 2.2, could reach temperatures above 300-degrees Fahrenheit, Boom said.

In addition to Boom, Aerion and Boeing are teamed on development of the 1.4 Mach $120 million AS2 supersonic business jet, which is to begin flight tests in 2024. In February, Aerion said that it had begun concept development for a family of high altitude supercruise aircraft for DoD by using the company’s AS2 experience.

FAA regulations prohibit civil aircraft from operating at speeds exceeding Mach 1 over land in the United States, and the new FAA proposal would not remove that prohibition, but instead establish procedures and noise levels for subsonic operation of those supersonic aircraft during landing and takeoff.

Supersonic commercial air transportation was introduced in the 1970s, and the proposed rulemaking “reflects the many technical advancements in aviation that have occurred since that time,” according to the FAA. “These developments include new noise-reduction technologies such as improved engine designs and materials available for airframe manufacturing.”

The only supersonic aircraft that has FAA noise regulations on the books is the European Concorde, which had its last flight in 2003, but the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-254), says that the agency administrator “shall exercise leadership in the creation of federal and international policies, regulations, and standards relating to the certification and safe and efficient operation of civil supersonic aircraft.” The act also sets a date of Dec. 31 this year, and every subsequent two years, for the FAA administrator to review available aircraft noise and performance data to help determine whether to amend FAA regulations “to permit supersonic flight of civil aircraft over land in the United States.”

The FAA wants to amend noise certification regulations in 14 CFR, parts 21 and 36, to allow new supersonic airplanes, and to add subsonic landing and takeoff (LTO) cycle standards for supersonic airplanes that have a maximum takeoff weight no greater than 150,000 pounds and a maximum operating cruise speed up to Mach 1.8.

The agency said that its proposal is based in part on the Supersonic Transport Concept Airplane (STCA) studies performed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), information provided to the FAA by U.S. industry, and ongoing work by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Committee on
Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP).

Can the B-52’s Upgrades Keep the Bomber Flying for 100 Total Years?

March 20, 2020 Topic: Technology Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: B-52MilitaryTechnologyWorldAir Force

Key point: The best way to save money is to build a good weapon and to keep it maintained for decades. That the B-52 has been useful since the 1960s is proof of just that concept.

The U.S. Air Force could get a new version of the iconic B-52 bomber. The “B-52J” designation might supersede the current “B-52H” moniker that the flying branch has applied to the eight-engine bombers since they entered service in the early 1960s.

Air Force magazine reporter John Tirpak has the story.

“The Air Force is likely to redesignate the B-52H as the B-52J once it receives a slew of modifications adding up to a ‘major modification,’” Tirpak wrote, quoting Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force’s program executive officer for fighters and bombers.

The B-52 is slated to receive new engines beginning in about 10 years, and “that probably would be enough” to warrant a letter change, but the venerable bomber will also be getting new digital systems, communications, new weapons and a new radar, as well as a variety of other improvements.

Collins also said that Air Combat Command is considering the possibility of reducing the number of aircrew on the B-52, now that certain functions requiring weapon systems officers can operate autonomously. No decision has been made in that regard, Collins said.

“If Air Force plans hold up, the B-52 will be approaching nearly a century of service by 2050,” Tirpak wrote in that issue. “To keep the airplane flying, the service plans to equip each B-52 with new engines, which are expected to be so much more maintainer-friendly and efficient that they’ll pay for themselves in just 10 years.”

In 2018, the Air Force announced it would retire its 62 1980s-vintage B-1Bs bombers and 20 newer B-2 stealth bombers no later than the 2040s, while the updated B-52Js would continue to operate alongside at least 100 new B-21 stealth bombers.

The Air Force twice in recent years has pulled old B-52Hs from storage in Arizona and refurbished them in order to replace bombers that have crashed. The regeneration efforts have allowed the flying branch to maintain a force of 76 B-52s.

“Despite their age, the B-52s have high mission-capable rates, can carry a huge diversity of weapons, and can perform effectively—as long as the enemy lacks elaborate air defenses,” Tirpak wrote. “Even in a higher-end fight, the B-52 can still launch missiles from well outside enemy air defenses. It is the only U.S. bomber that can launch nuclear cruise missiles, and it will be the initial platform for the new Long-Range Stand-Off missile.”

It took two decades of debate for the B-52 upgrade plan to reach this point. Since 1996 the Air Force has conducted no fewer than 13 studies examining options for new motors for the 240-ton bomber. As of early 2019 the B-52H still flies with the same Pratt & Whitney-made TF-33 engines that have powered the type since 1962.

A 2018 Air Force briefing cited the TF-33’s “inefficient and limited capability relative to modern commercially-available engines.” The Pratt & Whitney motors are “costly and manpower-intensive to maintain [while] facing obsolescence of parts.”

“Modern engines are so much more reliable than the TF-33s that were once installed, the new engines will probably never have to be removed,” Tirpak wrote. “The meantime between overhauls for that class of engines is typically around 30,000 hours—greater than the number of hours the service plans to fly the bombers for the rest of their service lives.”

The goal in replacing the engines is to improve the B-52’s fuel-efficiency by at least 20 percent while maintaining its ceiling and take-off performance. A B-52H with TF-33 engines can carry 35 tons of bombs and missiles as far as 4,500 miles without aerial refueling at a top speed of 650 miles per hour.

“Despite rumors to the contrary, Isabelle said the Air Force is not looking for substantially better physical performance from the new engines—for example, in time-to-climb or top speed—although that may turn out to be a welcome by-product,” Tirpak explained.

The Air Force in 2018 estimated the cost of B-52 service-life extension—including the re-engining other capability improvements—at around $32 billion, according to Tirpak.

Between 2011 and 2016 it cost the Air Force around $1.2 billion annually to operate 76 B-52s, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2018.

More efficient engines could save $10 billion in fuel and maintenance costs through the 2040s, Tirpak reported, citing Air Force documents. The service wants 608 engines — eight for each “new” B-52J.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad. ​This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

U-2 spy plane pilots have watches that let them use Russian and Chinese systems as backups for GPS

American spy plane pilots use China’s satellite navigation system as a backup to GPS on their missions, according to a US Air Force general.

The second generation of the Chinese system, known as Beidou, began providing global services at the end of 2018 and a third phase, featuring more satellites, is expected to be fully functional later this year.

While the Global Positioning System (GPS) is the first choice for pilots of U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance aircraft, Beidou, along with Russia’s Glonass and Europe’s Galileo, serves as an alternative in the event of GPS being unavailable.

“My U-2 guys fly with a watch now that ties into GPS, but also Beidou and the Russian system and the European system,” US Air Combat Command Chief Gen. James Holmes said at a conference in Washington on Wednesday.

“So if somebody jams GPS, they still get the others.”

Zhou Chenming, a military analyst in Beijing, said that as Beidou was an open system, it would be easy to integrate a receiver chip into a watch and be able to access it.

“Beidou has positioned itself as a commercial global positioning service provider,” he said.

Also, unlike GPS, which was operated by the US Air Force and sometimes restricted services to commercial users, technically the Beidou system did not control the signals from its satellites, Zhou said.

China developed the satellite navigation system primarily for use by its military, the People’s Liberation Army, which had previously relied on GPS.

However, it has since been expanded for commercial use around the world, and once fully functional – with the launch of the new satellites – is expected to have an accuracy of 10cm (four inches) compared to the GPS’s 30cm.

Another feature that distinguishes the Chinese system from GPS is that Beidou incorporates a short messaging service, enabling mass communication between individuals and groups of users.

Within China, the central government has ordered the operators of all passenger buses, heavy trucks and fishing vessels to install Beidou so that their movements can be monitored and tracked in real time.

According to the latest figures available, as of 2017, 22 million vehicles and 50,000 boats had been fitted with Beidou terminals.

However, Zhou said that it was unlikely that Beijing would be able to identify or track the Beidou chips in the U-2 pilots’ watches.

“For real-time tracking, special transponders have to be installed like those used in the AIS [automatic identification system] on ships. A simple chip does not have that,” he said.

Flying Missile Defense? The F-35 Stealth Fighter Can Do Everything

by Michael Peck

Key point: Missile defense is expanding the repertoire of F-35 missions.

Add another mission to the F-35.

On top of being a stealth fighter, bomber and airborne quarterback coordinating other aircraft, now it’s a missile defense sensor. The U.S. Army recently incorporated Air Force F-35s into its missile defense system.

“Two U.S. Air Force F-35s were integrated with the U.S. Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), providing an airborne sensor capability to successfully detect, track and intercept near-simultaneous air-breathing threats in a test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico,” according to an announcement by Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-35 and a member of the multi-company team working on IBCS. “The December 2019 test marked the first time F-35s were used as sensors during an IBCS live-fire test against multiple airborne targets.”

“Linking F-35s to IBCS via the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) provided enhanced situational awareness and weapons-quality track data to engage airborne targets. The proof of concept demonstration used experimental equipment developed by Lockheed Martin, including the Harvest Lightning Ground Station and IBCS adaptation kit (A-Kit).”

“This test represents a major milestone for multi-domain operations by leveraging airborne assets to detect and track threats that can then be countered with ground-based effectors. This demonstrates a tremendous capability to defeat threats that are terrain masked or beyond ground-based sensor detection capabilities due to terrain and curvature of the earth,” said Jay Pitman, vice president, Lower Tier Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

The December 2019 test follows an August 2019 Air Force exercise in which an F-35 transmitted tracking data to IBCS.

However, while the F-35s detected airborne targets, it’s not precisely clear what they detected. Lockheed Martin referred to “air-breathing targets,” which suggests drones or cruise missiles with air-breathing engines, rather than ballistic missiles.

Nonetheless, there are four key points here. The first is simply the idea of using aircraft as elevated radar stations. They can peer down to detect low-flying missiles and drones whose approach would otherwise be masked from ground-based radar by terrain or the Earth’s curvature.

But using fighters as airborne sensors for ground-based defenses against drones and missiles is an intriguing idea. That’s the sort of mission meant for the big E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS airborne early warning aircraft, which can use their powerful radars to detect cruise missiles. But there are only a few dozen of these flying radar stations, they’ll be prime targets for the enemy, and they’re likely to have more pressing tasks in wartime than spotting drones.

While their radars are less powerful than those on the AWACS, the F-35 will be the backbone of American tactical airpower: with 2,400 or so potentially on order, there’s bound to be one available as an airborne spotter for ground-based air defenses. Interestingly, the Air Force is also mounting new radars on old F-16s that will enable them to detect drones and cruise missiles.

The Army tests also highlight what’s supposed to be the F-35’s strong suit: its sensors – including AESA radar, infrared and cameras – and sophisticated networking capabilities. If the F-35’s numerous current bugs can be fixed, then it should be capable of serving as early warning for ground-based missiles and lasers, or jammers to stop enemy drones.

Finally, missile defense also expands the repertoire of F-35 missions. It’s not uncommon with controversial weapons for the military to find tasks to justify their cost. The F-35 wasn’t designed for missile and drone defense, but this task will likely be used as one more reason to continue the procurement of the aircraft.

Remote ATC Testing to Begin at Northern Colorado Regional Airport

New mobile tower is first phase of eventual remote tower service.

By Dan Pimentel February 25, 2020

Pilots who are used to flying into Northern Colorado Regional Airport (KFNL) near Fort Collins/Loveland—and operating there like they would at any non-towered airport—will need to take careful note of major air traffic control changes coming soon to the airport. Beginning in mid-March, KFNL becomes a “towered” airport with the addition of a mobile ATC trailer (MATCT) providing on-site services. The trailer and local controllers will eventually give way to a remote ATC facility as part of a test being conducted at the airport.

Initially, local controllers in the trailer will handle the traffic, while evaluators employed by Searidge Technologies of Ottawa, Ontario, will conduct “passive” operations from a remote facility. This summer and fall, a second phase of testing begins when ATC services will be provided by the remote tower, with local controllers in the MATCT acting as back-up. As testing progresses, full-time ATC services will eventually be through the remote tower only as Searidge pursues certification of the technology from FAA.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Remote Tower Project is a “first of its kind” design that integrates both satellite-based aircraft surveillance technology with ground-based video technology. For the tests to be conducted at KFNL, there will be three 360-degree panoramic video and static cameras securely mounted atop steel masts that will rise between 22 and 56 feet above the ground, simulating the same view one would expect if looking from a physical air traffic control tower. The camera and satellite-based surveillance data will then be fed to a remotely-located control center. During the test and assessment phase of this project, the control room will reside on airport property, but will accurately simulate a remote scenario. Future control centers can be located from a remote location.

KFNL was chosen as the test airport for the Colorado Remote Tower Project after a thorough site selection process in 2015 conducted in collaboration with FAA’s Nextgen office. The airport is jointly owned and operated by the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland and sees approximately 85,000 to 95,000 takeoffs and landings per year. A total of nearly 265 aircraft are based at the airport, which serves users ranging from privately-owned aircraft, commercial airliners, military aircraft, pilot training, and helicopters. The airport is home to three flight schools, specialized aircraft maintenance services, and a 24/7 fixed base operator (FBO)

In July of 2017, following significant efforts to develop the project requirements and scope, the FAA selected Searidge Technologies to design, install, test, and certify the remote tower equipment being tested at KFNL. Other partners in the project include William E. Payne & Associates, FAA, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Northern Colorado Regional Airport administration, and the Colorado Division of Aeronautics.

Northern Colorado is one of the most rapidly developing regions of the state, according to CODOT, with the Colorado Division of Local Affairs and State Demography Office projecting that populations for the area are expected to more than double by the year 2050. “A growing population of this magnitude will result in increased demand for all modes of transportation, including air transportation. The Colorado Remote Tower Project is a proactive measure designed to address the future increase in aircraft operations at KFNL with dramatically reduced costs compared to constructing, maintaining and staffing a physical air traffic control tower,” CODOT said.

The mobile tower’s hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time effective March 16, handling traffic on 118.4 MHz. Other frequencies include 121.65 MHz for ground, 135.075 MHz for ATIS, and 122.95 MHz for unicom. The common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) of 122.7 MHz will be eliminated when ATC services begin being provided by local controllers in the MATCT.

US bomber to feature in Warbirds Over Wanaka 2020

An iconic US bomber plane is set to grace this year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow in a first for New Zealand.

Organisers have confirmed a United States Air Force B-52 Strotofortress bomber will feature in the April event.

The American B-52 Stratofortress bomber is scheduled to feature in Warbirds Over Wanaka 2020.
Warbirds Over Wanaka general manager Ed Taylor said it was a coup for the airshow.

“This is absolutely brilliant news for us and will quite possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our visitors to see one of these magnificent aircraft display here in our own backyard,” Taylor said.

The United States Air Force (USAF) earlier announced it would also be bringing a C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft to the show.

The Royal Australian Air Force would be bringing its F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets to Wanaka 2020 with a four-ship display, while the Royal New Zealand Air Force confirmed it would be having as many of its aircraft types as possible at Wanaka.

Ed Taylor said this year’s event would also feature the return of a Polikarpov I-16 Russian fighter, two Spitfires and the newly imported Yak-3 “Steadfast” making its Wanaka debut.

The Boeing B-52, informally referred to as the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fella), made its maiden flight in 1952.

It celebrated 60 years of continuous service with the USAF in 2015 and after undergoing upgrades around that time it is expected to still be serving into the 2050s. That would make it the longest-serving bomber aircraft in history.

Superior performance at high subsonic speeds and relatively low operating costs have contributed its longevity, despite the introduction of more advanced aircraft such as the Mach 2+ B-1 and the stealth B-2 Spirit.

The B-52 was originally designed to drop nuclear weapons, but it has only dropped conventional weapons in the several conflicts it has been used in.

The aircraft will not be carrying any weapons for the New Zealand flyover.

Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is being held at Wanaka Airport on April 10th, 11th and 12th.

For F-22 and F-35 demo pilots, aggressive manoeuvres are just part of the job

By 13 February 2020

For US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B demo pilot Captain Taylor Zehrung, and US Air Force (USAF) F-22 demo pilot Major Joshua Gunderson, aggressive flight manoeuvres, such as the ones displayed at the Singapore air show, are just part of the everyday job of combat aviation.

Both pilots say what was asked of them could be performed by any members of their squadrons.

F-22-Raptor-003

Source: BillyPix

The Lockheed Martin F-22.

“Our demos are designed to demonstrate what the aircraft can do in a combat scenario,” says Gunderson. “Everything is very specific in terms of airspeed, altitudes, [and] parameters, because I’m making sure it’s repeatable and executable and safe. But you can take any pilot in the F-22 community, give them a couple rides in this and they’ll be proficient at doing it.”

In particular, the pilots say the manoeuvres are something that are practiced regularly in combat exercises.

“The minimum radius turn we definitely use in basic fighter manoeuvres against other aircraft,” says Gunderson. “What’s great about the F-22 is our thrust out of the back end. The flight control computers allow us to turn very quickly in a very tight space, which gives us an advantage in the fight.”

The Lockheed Martin F-22 has two Pratt & Whitney F119 engines which each produce 35,000lb-thrust (156kN).

Gunderson also highlighted the J-Turn, a manoeuvre where the F-22 rockets upward at a high angle of attack, stalls and then pivots in a new direction while falling back to earth using its fly-by-wire flight controls and thrust-vectored jet engines.

F-35-Lightning-004

Source: BillyPix

A US Marine Corps F-35B at the Singapore Airshow 2020.

“That’d be an example where you can quickly change your nose position, whether you want to get weapons on something, or just continue to get an offensive position really quickly,” says Gunderson.

For F-35B pilot Zehrung learning short-take-off-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) manoeuvres, including the in-flight hover, took some getting used to. The F-35B can hover and complete STOVL manoeuvres using a shaft-driven lift fan system in its body and thrust-vectored tail exhaust.

“The very first time I ever did it, it was very weird being in fighter jet and not moving,” he says. “But it’s become pretty normal now.”

F-22 pilot Gunderson is the USAF F-22 Demonstration Team commander and is based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. F-22 pilots perform aerial displays as part of two-year rotations.

F-35B pilot Zehrung is part of the USMC’s F-35B Lighting II aerial demonstration team, which is part of attack squadron 121 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. F-35B pilots are asked to fly at air shows on an ad hoc basis.

High-flying fare planned for air show

Teams from Navy, Army are among attractions

LANCASTER — Demonstrations of the Navy’s newest fighter, an Army parachute team, an aerobatic pilot fresh off of the Top Gun sequel and World War II pilot training — all these attractions have been added to the bill for the Los Angeles County Air Show “Aerospace Valley USA” arriving next month.

The air show, on March 21 and 22 at Gen. William J. Fox Field in Lancaster, will also feature as the headlining act the Navy’s precision flight team, the Blue Angels.

“This year’s goal is to knock the socks off the aviation enthusiast, and that’s not an easy task here in Aerospace Valley,” Los Angeles County Air Show Board President Mike VanKirk said. “For those of us who live here, we’re blessed to see some of the world’s top aircraft fly on a regular basis, but I’m thrilled to say the 2020 show is shaping up to be one of the most exciting air shows in the country.”

In addition to the Blue Angels, the Navy’s F-35C demonstration team from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, will showcase the service’s latest fighter. The F-35C is the Navy variant of the joint strike fighter, which also has versions for the Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as several international partners.

This is the first year the Navy has fielded a F-35C team for air shows.

Another first for this year’s show is an appearance by the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, made up of demonstration and competition parachutists drawn from all parts of the U.S. Army.

Aerobatic pilot Chuck Coleman returns to the Los Angeles County Air Show this year. The local pilot has performed throughout the country and has been involved most recently in making the upcoming “Top Gun” sequel.

Coleman served as the aerobatic flight instructor for the “Tom Cruise School of Flying” in his Extra 300L airplane and performed in more than 140 flights with the actors.

These performers are in addition to the previously announced Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” warbirds, Alabama Boys, Rob Harrison The Tumbling Bear and Vicky Benzing flying her Stearman biplane.

On the ground, a new display will tell the story of War Eagle Field, the World War II flying school for Royal Air Force pilots in Lancaster. The display, a joint effort with the Antelope Valley Rural Museum, will detail the Polaris Flight Academy and its cadre of British and Canadian fliers.

The popular Heroes and Legends history panels will feature discussions on subjects as varied as the U-2 spy plane, women in aviation and War Eagle Field.

The interactive STEM Expo continues to expand, offering hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering and math.

“For the first time in the Air Show’s history, we’re offering public premium seating, so folks will be able to get a fence line view, seating and other amenities,” VanKirk said. “It’s not just the ‘In the Sky’ show, but our ‘On the Ground’ static displays, Heroes and Legends History panel, interactive STEM, and great food that make a perfect recipe for an amazing event. Our robust line-up including the 2020 is an exciting year for all aerospace enthusiasts.”

SUPER BOWL ’19 – Excitement Builds For Those Viewing USAF Flyover From Inside Closed Dome!

Hotlanta, GA – It’s football time in the U.S.A and we can’t think of anything to compliment beer, pizza and ball better than a totally badass flyover of the event by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds!

This year’s Super Bowl takes place inside the Mercedez-Benz Stadium, a closed dome perfect for observing the big moment. While part of the roof can be retracted for optimal flyover viewing, Erik Tinkelstein, NFL senior director of event operations, says – why bother!

“We would love to have it open,” Tinkelstein said (actual quote), before listing all of the reasons they probably aren’t going to do that (true story).

His decision hasn’t dampened the excitement of fans, though, who all eagerly anticipate watching the half million dollar demonstration from inside the closed-roof dome.

“This is going to be awesome!” said Mark Fartonelli, 63. “I’m a huge aviation buff and former USAF, so I really can’t wait to witness this moment through the ceiling.”

Sally McMallen, 45, said that this is actually one of the main reasons she caved and bought tickets for her family. “I mean, I’m sure the game will be fun and all too, but you don’t get to see something like this from inside of a completely encapsulated building every day!”

Her husband, Nathan McMallen, 46, added, “We have two boys and I’m guessing when they see the performance happening on the other side of the roof it will inspire them to become pilots themselves.”

One man we met with, obviously suffering from early onset dementia, seemed a bit confused by the whole thing. “I’m sorry, what?” said, Jack Johnson, 28. “How does that even work? Are they going to be handing out special wall-penetration glasses or something?”

We tiptoed away from mentally unwell Johnson and moved on to someone able to explain exactly how this would work, the operations officer charged with planning the flyover, Lt. Col. Erik Garney.

“The trickiest part is getting the timing just right,” Garney said in regards to ensuring that fans can see the planes through the ceiling. “The first thing to remember is we’re going 400 mph. So we can’t just stop and hover.”
(real quotes)

Mikael Arnoldo, veteran football director, chimed in. “That flyover happens in about two seconds, so you better be on it because they’re not going to circle around the stadium and do it again for you.” (also a real quote)

In other words, look up fast inside the dome or you’ll miss the whole thing!

We aren’t worried about missing anything, though. With enough booze in us, Aviation Daily not only sees through walls, we stumble right through them.

Amsterdam Air Traffic Control

AMSTERDAM AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL VISIT

Amsterdam is Europe’s busiest airport in terms of movements and top 3 in terms of passenger numbers; in 2018, it handled over 70 million passengers with over 500,000 movements. I visited the Air Traffic Control Tower and Approach Centre in Amsterdam, to find out how the air traffic is managed in one of the busiest European Airports.

At 101 meters above ground, this impressive air traffic control tower is the tallest one in the Netherlands. The team ensures that safe traffic flows within a 15 kilometre radius around the Amsterdam Airport of Schiphol, on a daily basis.

Actually, there are two towers in operation due to the lay out of the airport and its runways; one at Schiphol-Centre and one near the Polder Runway (runway 18R/36L).

The newly upgraded control tower at the Schiphol Centre has 15 positions. During my visit, there were 6 controllers working at one time:

  • 2 controllers working on ground (North and South)
  • 1 working as departure clearance delivery
  • 1 working as runway planner
  • 1 working as tower
  • 1 working as tower assistant
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Control Tower
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Control Tower
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Control Tower
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Control Tower

Amsterdam Schiphol has 6 runways in total

  • 18L/36R
  • 18C/36C
  • 18R/36L
  • 06/24
  • 09/27
  • 04/22 (used by general aviation but mainly for private aviation)

The wind and weather are the biggest challenges at Schiphol and there could be many runway changes during one day. Due to noise probation, only 3 runways are used at any one point.

During departure peak, 2 runways will be assigned for departure and 1 runway for arrival. Inversely during arrival peak, 2 runways will be assigned for arrival and 1 runway for departure.

Runway 18R/36L is located far away from the centre, hence why there is another control tower dedicated for this runway.

The ATC planner does a good job at optimising the runway usage, ensuring that planes do not hold too long on the taxiway; thus reducing fuel burn on the taxiway. However, if runway 18R/36L is in use (Polder runway) taxi time can be 15 minutes from the terminal.

Schiphol handles around 1500 traffic movements on an average day, it was quite intensive during peaks of inbound and outbound. The capacity is about 110-120 planes per hour.

There are 6 concourses in Schiphol, they are Concourse B, C, D, E, F, and G. You can get a good 360 degree view from the tower to all the concourses.

Schiphol Concourse B
Schiphol Concourse C and D
Schiphol Concourse E
Schiphol Concourse F
Schiphol Concourse G
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Control Tower
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Control Tower

I also visited the Schiphol approach (Radar) centre in Schiphol East, which directs departing aircraft from Schiphol to the air routes. It also directs approaching aircraft to the immediate vicinity of Schiphol. In other words, the approach centre works together with the tower and they handover traffic to each other.

In the approach centre, there is an approach section and an area control section.

For an outbound aircraft, after departure, the tower will hand over the plane to the approach section, then to area control (up to 24,500 ft) and then finally to Euro Control, which sits above in Maastricht.

For an inbound aircraft, area control will guide the plane to one of three fixes. The approach centre will then guide the plane for approach and hand over to the tower for final landing.

Although they have the name “approach” the center works on both arriving and departing traffic.

Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Approach Center
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Approach Center
Amsterdam Schiphol Air Traffic Approach Center
Area Control working on Radar Screen
Approach section on radar center
Approach section on radar center