September 19, 2008

Overtaking me

Ok, back to reality. It was busy yesterday, and there was a lot of in-trail spacing going on. I had a few instances that are my least favorite in terms of decision making...The back plane is going WAY faster than the front plane, but they're definitely not tied either. Do I let the back plane run fast and overtake the slower plane, or should I just slow the back one and keep it second? Sometimes its really obvious. These two times were not:

1 - Scandinavian heavy jet approaching HNK from the north. A Porter Dash 8 prop (and yet we have to space it with jets because they are capable of 250 knots)incoming from the west, both landing Newark. There is 20 miles in trail. The heavy jet from the north is going over the ground 150 knots faster than the Dash 8, but the Dash 8 is 4 miles ahead. I make my decision and stick to it. I tell the A330 from overseas to keep it going 310 knots of faster, and slow the Dash 8 to slowest practical (220 knots). I turn the Dash 8 left to follow the A330, but the wind is at the Dash 8's tail more now. I have an Albany lander in there that I get below both Newarks, and then a White Plains (HPN) comes screaming in from the high sector. I step the HPN down as the A330 is descending, but I'm not getting the spacing I was hoping for, as the A330 is loosing tailwind now that he's pushed down below the HPN. The next sector approved a shortcut for the A330, but that new heading gets in the way of the HPN. So we finally settle on a new shortcut, and the planes diverge a little more.

I have a little conversation with myself about whether or not those overtakes really are worth the effort. An hour later....back at DNY sector:

2 - This one involved TWO Dash 8s and an E170 jet. It starts off obvious. The first Dash 8 is about 6 miles in front of the E170, flying 120 knots slower. I'm going to gain 2 miles a minute, and I need to make up at least 11 miles to finish the overtake. I have more than 5.5 minutes to the end of my sector, so its settled then. I assign the Dash 8 slowest practical again and get a few more knots difference working for me. Then NY center flashes me another Dash 8, 5 miles in front of the first one, at 17000. Well well well. So I get control to turn both Dash 8s and I go to a 050 heading. The E170 is really making up ground now. So I turn the two Dash 8s back to HNK on course. Then I realize I STILL have 20 miles in trail to Newark. Crap. So I turn the two Dash 8s back to 050 headings. "I need a few more miles". Like 15 more on the first one, and 30 more on the back one. I couldn't turn that second one back due south like I wanted to because I had to push a TEB jet down to 15000 below the EWR arrivals. It didn't feel very pretty, but it ended up OK.

Today, I'm just gonna slow the back guy and vector to keep my spacing, I think. I was 0-2 for overtakes yesterday. I don't like those odds.


September 14, 2008


Summer traffic has gone from an unruly rolling boil down to a pleasant simmer. The union office is getting a new carpet. What do these two things have in common?

I have had some extra time to read what the FAA has to say on the intranet, especially last night on the midnight shift. As an American citizen and taxpayer, as well as a controller, I feel obligated to step in and add my two cents. This, and perhaps the next post or two, will be off track compared to the normal theme of this blog. Brace for impact.

A lot has been made of NextGen lately, mostly at the FAA's making. Other blogs and news sources have spent much more time and effort in cataloging the FAA's open ended plan to spend all of our money bringing the National Airspace System into the 21st century.

I've never been one to quote other sites and then run wild into the night pointing out inaccuracies. I almost took a few quotes off the FAA website, grabbed a bottle of water, and started running, but I changed my mind. I don't know where to start my marathon of wrath.

Wait! Lets just do this one:

"The next president needs to make the NextGen initiative a national priority, and ensure that it is given the resources, management attention, and sense of urgency that it warrants"
-- Chairman House Committee on Science and Technology, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn)

This was part of his closing statement after being given, what I consider, a few good one liners containing inaccurate, misleading, or irrelevant information regarding NextGen and the state of the NAS.

The article can be found here. Hopefully that works and you can access the employees page.

There were no specifics mentioned in the FAA article with this quote. All other quotes where as vague as the one printed above. And yet, as I look around the FAA website, and peruse other recent articles about the future benefits of NextGen, I see nothing but increasing efficiency, reducing emissions and fuel burn, and saving flying time for airliners. It sounds good in the context of today's green tinted social fabric, and to many airlines who can't buy a clue about how to make money, but none of this is going anywhere that will improve the NAS as a whole. I have seen NOTHING in regards to increasing SAFETY or CAPACITY. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe all the important subjects are being worked on so feverishly, no one has time to talk about them.

Maybe the next administration will have different priorities than what the current NextGen has to offer in the news column.


September 10, 2008


A few Novembers ago, Sam took these on his descent into Calgary, Alberta. "It was surprisingly smooth", he recalls. He has since moved on, from Dash 8s to E-jets.

September 5, 2008

Summer Finale

The weather has settled down out here in New England, though we're getting lined up for a left-over tropical storm or two. The end of August definitely left its mark upon our little air traffic world here at Boston Center. I'll fondly reminisce about it in the near future, I think. No one died, and we'll leave it at that. If I wanted to count the number of times I turned to my D-side with a frantic look on my face and said "Holy crap, that was close", I'd need another hand full of fingers.

Leaving the insanity behind for a week was tough to do........... I guess.

My buddy Erik flew into Logan on a Thursday night (ok, it was actually Friday Morning at 1am), so I swapped my shift to work until midnight. We left the next day for a 9 hour drive to Maryland. It was the weekend before labor day, the weather was perfect, and the entire world was driving west on the Mass Pike. We covered 7 new states that Erik had never been to on that one day alone, since we "deviated" around traffic on the NJ Turnpike and went through Allentown, PA. Saturday was action packed. We drove around DC for a few hours, ending up at Gravelly Point and watched planes fly the River Visual into National.

We skipped out of DC in time to catch the Yankees beating the Orioles at Camden Yards that evening.

The next day was spent touring Philly around lunchtime. We played some ball with my Cousin Dave, and then we all watched a great game as the Phillies beat the Dodgers in walk off style in the 11th inning.

It was late when we finally got out and drove up to Queens, NY. Yet, we had no trouble waking up for our tour of LGA tower the next morning. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Oh, and after that we saw two great baseball games at Shea and Yankee Stadiums...

More Air Traffic next time perhaps!