International Operations

 - September 15, 2006, 7:57 AM

When Charles Lindbergh single-handedly flew his airplane across the Atlantic in 1927, there was little for the not-yet-famous aviator to plan before the journey; his weather information was based on twice-daily reports from ships at sea and meteorological stations on land. Other than a passport, the French cared little about his papers. The most stressful part of the trip would be trying to stay awake long enough to notice the continually changing magnetic variation, or worrying the engine might quit.

Nearly 80 years later, international flying has evolved into an ever-expanding series of tasks that can busy a flight crew, schedulers and handlers for weeks before takeoff and sometimes end only when the flight arrives back at home base. Lindbergh looked out into the morning drizzle in May 1927, took off and simply headed east.
Today, some of the topics to keep international aviators and support people on their toes include RNP10, controller-pilot datalink communication (CPDLC) compatibility, 8.33 kHz operations, mode-S and satellite communications, visa and permit skirmishes between countries and a variety of governmental regulations and perspectives on not only aviation, but an ever-expanding “global” economy.

The ever-increasing cost of fuel, although not as much a concern to business aviation’s budget for Part 91 operators as some claim, nonetheless remains an issue to watch as a measure of the stability of the global economy business aviation serves. Jet-A at New York White Plains and La Guardia hit $5.44 and $5.83 a gallon respectively in late April, according to Globalair.com, while in the Middle East, Greg Turner, vice president of Royal Jet in Abu Dhabi, said a gallon of jet-A cost $2.10.

In China, where the government controls all fuel prices, jet-A is currently about $2.20 per gallon. But in late April, Chinese demand for oil helped rocket Asian prices past the $90 a barrel point. (For more on Asian fuel prices, see box page 31.)
In Tanzania, expect to pay about $2.70 per gallon. Even in East Africa, it is the trend’s effect on the overall economy that keeps folks up at night these days. The price in Tanzania is four times what it was just three years ago.

Security Measures
For U.S.-based flight crews as well as for crews attempting to visit the U.S., security has always been a concern. One European operator didn’t mince words, saying bluntly that flying into the U.S. has become a pain in the rump.

A recent Transportation Security Administration (TSA) notice warned, “On April 13, 2006, a message posted in Arabic on a Web forum explained how to identify private American jets and urged Muslims to destroy all such aircraft.”

The notice said, “Destroy private American aircraft…We call upon all Muslims to follow and identify private civilian American aircraft in all airports of the world…It is the duty of Muslims to destroy all types of private American aircraft that are of the types Gulfstream and Learjet and all small jet aircraft usually used by distinguished [people] and businessmen.”

The message also advised readers how to identify American aircraft and provided the tail number of a private aircraft allegedly used by the CIA.

There is concern in many parts of the global business community that U.S. security directives might be hindering investment from abroad. Some sources claimed to understand the U.S.’s concern with security since 9/11 but also find the American perspective difficult to swallow considering the other chaos in the world. “Every country has a legitimate right to protect itself,” one attendee said, “but [in the context of] a few decades of IRA bombings in London, the U.S. policy looks like a bit of an overreaction.”

The ports deal with Dubai also has not sat well with foreign investors. “If America doesn’t want investment dollars from overseas,” so the story goes, “that money can be sent elsewhere.”

Compared to the gauntlet of U.S. security issues confronting non-U.S. registered aircraft visiting the U.S., American flight crews have a relatively easy task when flying to other countries. Some non-U.S. charter operators have watched business evaporate while they wait as long as 10 days to gather the paperwork necessary to organize an aircraft charter flight, a time frame that makes the concept of on-demand service to the U.S. essentially impractical. One French charter company attempting to bring a critically ill patient to the U.S. got the word the paperwork was approved after the patient had died.

Bill Stine, NBAA director of international operations, said, “I think the potential for reciprocity [to U.S. business aviation] is higher every day. We are being overprotective, and much of the rest of the world sees us as overreacting.”

NBAA’s Steve Brown, vice president of operations, added, “We are all trying to make sure that global practices are as seamless as they can possibly be. The U.S. government thinks that we have a security problem much different from that of other countries, that our risk profile is different and that we’ve been targeted differently. The question of the most effective method of screening people attempting to enter the United States is still unsolved.”

Security concerns are not solely the realm of the U.S. At this point, there are somewhere between 12 and 15 separate conflicts brewing in Africa, according to one source. Then, of course, there are the conflicts in the Middle East, the instability in Indonesia and even trouble in the streets of France and the hills of Colombia. The buildup to some sort of standoff with Iran over the potential for nuclear weapons is also fueling tensions.

If continuing global security concerns are the bad news, the good news is that most sources AIN spoke to agreed that business aviation in most parts of the world is improving.

A Strong Case for Business Aviation Around the World

Anecdotally, some of the increase in business traffic has been due to airline inefficiencies that translate into congestion delays, high costs and onerous security procedures that increase the cost of travel. However, Greg Thomas, CEO of charter and management company PrivatAir, explained that it is not always accurate to tie airline ineptness to increased business traffic.

“There were times right after 9/11 that we had easily 10 times as many calls about charter,” Thomas said. “The trouble is that only a few evolved into new business. Now, though, business-jet charter has never been stronger. Some of that is due to the heavy marketing drive by NetJets that has raised the awareness of business aviation with the public in Europe.” NBAA’s Brown said, “Members tell us consistently that demand for our U.S.-based operators is going up 15 to 20 percent a year.”

Adalberto Febeliano, executive vice president of the Brazilian general aviation association, the Brazilian equivalent of NBAA, reported that in Brazil, “In 2005, business aviation here grew considerably and continues at about 5 percent per year. Brazil has added about 35 business aircraft over the past year and fields a civil helicopter fleet of nearly 1,000.”

Chuck Woods, vice president of the Asian Business Aviation Association, said, “Despite the fact that it’s more difficult to plan and run business aircraft trips in Asia than in other markets, the Asian business aviation landscape is changing rapidly. Some outside operators may not realize the improvements to infrastructure and regulations made by a number of Asian countries that are making everyone’s job a bit easier. Having said this, there is still much improvement that needs to be made.” Woods said Asian business association membership is also up and stands at 30 companies.

Brian Humphries, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association, said, “Business aviation is definitely on the increase after the stagnation of the 1990s. Part of the reason is the difficulty of commercial airline travel here and, quite honestly, the loss of Concorde as a high-end business aircraft. Quite a few of our members have begun trading in short-range aircraft for longer-range ones as the global nature of business emerges.”

Tanzania, once considered an out-of-the-way tech stop, according to Susan Mashibe, president of Tanzanite Jet Centre, is also experiencing an increase in traffic. “Business flights to Dar Es Salaam are quite strong, especially since the runway and taxiway resurfacing work was completed. Overflight traffic was a bit slow though during the construction because the airport was closed from midnight until 8 a.m. each day. “We seem to have quite a bit of tech stop traffic now on the way to South Africa, the Middle East and Asia, partially, I think, because our fuel costs here are much lower than at many other airports in the region. Until May 2004, BP held a monopoly contract on fuel here. We are now working closely with a second fueling company as well.”

Global Airspace Issues
Brown said discussion continues about whether Europeans or Americans are ahead in the quest for air traffic airspace superiority. “Europeans are doing some aggressive R&D and are moving ahead faster on some things such as datalink but are nowhere near as efficient at creating capacity at major airports. Similar airports in the U.S. will easily handle more airplanes than the Europeans.

“For better or for worse, European airspace put a number of new technologies on the road that have not appeared [in the U.S.] yet, advanced RNP, for example, and mode-S elemental and advanced to be out by March, 8.33-kHz communications and CPDLC. If you’re going to Europe, equipping your aircraft with Fans, for example, might not be the best datalink operation, but at least they have something there.”

On other worldwide ATC issues, Brown said, “Traffic going westward is growing faster than eastbound and driving the need for global airplanes. What we need in Asia is different from Europe, however. We want more business aviation access in Japan, and we do that by helping them gain capacity. China is transitioning from military control of ATC to civilian, so it is still highly restrictive.

“On polar routes we would like to see Russian airspace available at lower cost.” Current polar fees there help subsidize the Russian airlines. “When the price of polar flight goes down, the volume goes up and that gives them more money to invest in the transportation system. And depending on the extent to which they do that they become more predictable, respected and taken more seriously.”

Flight departments new to international flying must understand myriad topics to be efficient and safe. And not all of that information is easy to research or comprehend. “One of the most important issues everyone should understand about leaving the U.S. is that there is no central clearinghouse for information about international flying for business aviation,” said Dave Stohr, president and co-owner of Dallas-based Air Training International (ATI).

ATI and its competitors, companies such as FlightSafety International and SimuFlite, train Part 91 and Part 135 flight crews to safely navigate airspace around the globe. Stohr regularly reminds audiences that, “There is no international operations training requirement of any kind for U.S. operators. All the FAA requires is that a company proves knowledge of international topics. How they get proficient is up to them.”

Airspace issues never go away, and Stohr seems intent on repeating his PANOPS mantra until everyone gets it right. Flying a PANOPS instrument procedure using U.S. TERPS techniques could prove fatal because of significant differences in protected airspace. PANOPS is often about learning to operate in a non-radar environment as well. “Giving a position report is all new to many U.S. crews,” Stohr noted. “People need to realize they are sometimes taking a step backward in time…but that will change.

“Execution, not recitation of procedures, is important. Many pilots can recite the techniques but have never practiced international procedures in the simulator. When operators head for the training centers they are reviewing systems, not procedures for instrument flying. We encourage clients to ask FlightSafety and SimuFlite about trying these things when it is safe to make a mistake…in the simulator.”

Stohr reminded crews, “There are limitations on instrument approaches outside the U.S. using automation, as well as the WGS-84 differences. Sometimes the GPS is the wrong thing to rely upon once you learn that some countries use different reference systems.”

Operators often turn to handlers during times of confusion, especially for initial forays outside the U.S. While handlers are normally familiar with all of the required documents for overseas flights such as permits, visas and passport requirements, they are not always prepared to answer questions about operational flight regulations such as the required Letters of Authorization needed to operate to, from or over the airspace of a foreign country. That leads back to organizing a trip that conforms with a properly formatted international training course and a considerable amount of research long before the flight.

Although the NBAA International Operators Conference, held this year in Tampa, Fla., in late March, is a fine primer on international operations, it is not an independent training course.

ATC Changes
More than 10 percent of the Earth’s oceanic airspace sits over the Pacific Ocean. In addition to ATC services provided by the U.S. from Oakland and Anchorage Centers, additional FAA control facilities are located in Honolulu and Guam. Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Japan are among the countries responsible for the remaining airspace. With millions of square miles of airspace, not surprisingly, very little is under direct radar control although the face of ATC is changing as ADS-B adheres.

The goal of ATC systems worldwide is to cram more airplanes into the same airspace while maintaining adequate safety margins. Technology leads the way to efficiency, as RVSM has demonstrated. RNP10 (10 miles separation) as well as RNP4 (four miles of separation), revised Mach-number separation techniques and reduced horizontal separation are also on the way.

Trials in the far South Pacific to reduce total separation to 30 miles laterally and longitudinally (about 4.5 minutes) are ongoing. Previously, oceanic lateral separation standards could require as much as 200 nm between aircraft. And if you’re traveling to or from the western U.S., RNP10 navigation is already required in much of the Oakland and Anchorage FIRs when operating between FL280 and FL390.
Besides allowing more aircraft to use Pacific airspace, new procedures will allow for more fuel-efficient trajectories and faster approvals for planned and unplanned route changes. Acronyms such as Fans A/B and the business aviation equivalent, when it is built, as well as ADS-C and CPDLC will be common.

The question is whether the industry will drive changes to the airspace, or will airspace changes drive the industry? There is currently no general aviation version of CPDLC widely available. In the future, without some form of datalink installed to deliver accurate position reports, aircraft will begin to find themselves shut out of airspace in much the same way non-RVSM-certified are today. The problem is that no one knows exactly when the mandate will arrive, who will begin the process and how long users will have to implement the technology before restrictions begin.

Another major factor pushing the implementation of CPDLC in the Pacific is the simplicity of the technology versus the current high-frequency communication system. The FAA reports, in fact, that maintenance to keep the HF communication system operational represents the single highest oceanic cost to the agency and hence makes it a top priority for replacement. Satellite systems will also allow for faster messaging, as well as much increased bandwidth over HF.

Another priority for all ATC systems in the Pacific–and worldwide–is the increased safety margin CPDLC offers because there is no room for interpretation of clearances based upon the controller’s local accent.

Slop and ATOP
The strategic lateral offset procedure (Slop) is new to oceanic airspace in many parts of the world, especially the North Atlantic. Essentially a safety net for a crew that’s 1,000 miles from land in the middle of the night, the system allows the crew the option to decide to offset their position relative to the oceanic tracks by one or two nm to the right of their intended route.

Why? Slop adds an extra margin of safety to prevent head-on collisions and gives crews, at their own discretion, relief from the wake turbulence of a larger aircraft in front of them. In the North Atlantic Slop requires no communications to execute. The crew merely decides which offset–if any–they’ll use and inputs the correction to the FMS. It is currently in use in the New York and San Juan FIRs.

ATOP describes new technologies that connect directly to the FMS, if an aircraft is Fans capable, in the form of a single-satellite-based, integrated communications system for all three oceanic ATC centers. ATOP integrates flight and radar data processing, enhances conflict probes, and provides CPDLC and ADS capabilities. More pilots are making airspace and route requests using ATOP because their chances of being approved have increased significantly. One new Atlantic route between South America and New York–live for approximately 18 months–is saving 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of fuel per flight.

Staying Awake: A primer for flight crews
Few people understand better than pilots the physiological issues related to operating high-performance machinery when their situational awareness is impaired. Unfortunately, few pilots realize when they’ve lost situational awareness, especially when they’re sleepy. “Lack of sleep affects a pilot’s critical decision-making abilities just when they need them most,” said Dr. Carol Ash, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and the sleep doctor on duty at the 2006 NBAA International Operators Conference in Tampa.

She explained that in a 1999 NTSB report, “Fatigue was mentioned in 21 percent of reports sent to the Aviation Safety Reporting System.” A lack of sufficient rest means more than the possibility of an operational error. In an April report, the National Institute of Medicine claimed an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans already chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness.
on and sleep disorders to a wide range of health consequences, such as “increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke.”

Despite such huge societal consequences and costs, the National Institute of Medicine finds that the cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders are “under-recognized” and “awareness among the general public and health-care professionals is low given the magnitude of the burden.”

Ash believes pilots are among the people least likely to seek treatment for anything that resembles a sleep disorder. “The FAA terrorizes pilots about most every kind of disorder to the point that they are afraid to stand up and say, ‘I need help.’ They’d rather die first. They are risking their own lives and the lives of their passengers if they do nothing, though.”

“Today a sleep disorder is easily identified and easily treated,” Ash said. “Most of all, the treatments today can keep a pilot’s license intact. All the FAA cares about is that the pilot stays awake.”

Other forms of transportation may well be pointing to a direction the FAA might head if pilots don’t do a better job of managing their own health, once they get past their fear of the agency, that is. In 2003 New Jersey enacted legislation that defined “driving while fatigued as recklessness under the vehicular homicide statute.” Interestingly, the New Jersey law applies to any vehicle or vessel operated within the boundaries of the state. Any person who violates this law “will forfeit [at least] the vehicle or vessel used to commit the violation.”

“Despite the 24-hour society we’ve created, we are still in our infancy about understanding sleep,” Ash added. “If a company wants to remain ahead of its competition, it must understand its most limiting factors. It is not the technology; it’s the people.” Research shows that sleepy people simply don’t perform as well as well rested people, no matter how they feel.

“Sleep should be a restful place in a 24-hour day. Sleep should rejuvenate a person. It’s restorative when it’s normal,” Ash said. “For some people, though, sleep is a battleground, where a person’s body is at war with itself.”

Sleep Apnea
Ash says the most common battle on the sleep disorder front is with sleep apnea. Most people believe sleep apnea is about snoring, but the issue and its effects go much deeper. Her example of the body’s physiology during an apnea episode is chilling and should convince anyone to consider an appointment with their doctor for a simple screening.

“As you fall asleep, the muscles in the throat relax,” she said. “A person’s breath pulling down on the diaphragm creates a negative pressure as the airway relaxes. For most people, sleep follows easily. But for some, this point in the sleep process is not a restful place. Sleep becomes a battle for life. The person with apnea simply doesn’t know it.

“In some people, the airway narrows much more than normal. The negative pressure grabs the tissues of the upper airway and pulls them closed. Hotwired to protect itself, the body senses it is being choked. The brain actually sends signals to get the diaphragm to pull even harder, which only makes the situation worse.
Knowing it is about to die, the brain finally releases the muscles in the throat and air returns as breathing begins again. The process continues over and over during the night.”

The two major threats from apnea are reduced situational awareness during the day as a result of these disruptive sleep patterns and the regular adrenaline surges triggered by the brain and the immune system when it thinks it is choking. As a result, heart rate and blood pressure increases.

This stressful fight-or-flight mode also regularly taxes blood vessels and internal organs just when the needed oxygen count is lowest. Ash said, “Living with sleep apnea is like doing a stress test on your heart every 30 seconds with a plastic bag over your head.”

A clinical diagnosis of sleep apnea requires only five apneas per hour. Ash said she’s heard of as many as 109 per hour. That’s the equivalent of someone shaking you almost awake every 30 seconds all night long. Consider just 20 or 30 apneas an hour over the course of eight hours of sack time and the result might be just a few hours of restful relaxation. The result is daytime sleepiness, which is cumulative and worsens as you jump time zones.

The result is that, left on his own, without some sort of stimulation, such as on a long international leg, the pilot easily nods off.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Now for the good news. In the past, a diagnosis could be confirmed only with a sleep test conducted in the hospital overnight, with pilots wired to machines in Frankenstein fashion. The pilot was required to report the stay on his medical application. That’s when most pilots simply said no.

“Today, technology has made a significant breakthrough in screening a pilot for apnea. A small device, called the Apnea Link, can be hung around a pilot’s neck at night like an iPod.

“Overnight, in the privacy of a hotel room, the device gathers sleep data. The next morning, the Apnea Link is connected to a laptop and delivers a near instantaneous, accurate assessment of a pilot’s risk for apnea. Low risk and you’re home free. At least now you know the problem is something else. High risk and it’s time to ’fess up and maybe save your life.”

Operating without adequate sleep is like driving under the influence, according to Ash. “Society has told us drinking and driving is unacceptable and we’re changing how we behave because of that concept. It should be [considered] irresponsible to fly while you’re sleepy, too.” For Ash, pilots who fly when they are sleep-deprived “are missing out on their lives and don’t even know it. Their lives are being stolen from them.”

Business Traffic in Latin America
Although Brazil’s Varig Airlines is teetering between a complete shutdown or a severe service reduction, business aviation there is benefiting from the increasingly strong economy. Last year and the year before were good periods for growth. This year business aviation appears to be on track for a solid recovery, according to Adalberto Febeliano, executive vice president of the Brazilian Business Aviation Association. Investment by Brazilian companies is also on the upswing, and the nation’s corporate aircraft are visiting a range of international destinations.

Brazil seems ripe for growth of business aviation. The nation represents nearly 50 percent of the total territory of South America, as well as nearly half the continent’s population. In 1999, Brazil’s bottom line showed $48 billion in exports. By last year, that total had zoomed to nearly $119 billion.

Long delivery times have made growth difficult, but Brazilian companies have still managed to increase utilization. While short- to medium-range aircraft have been the norm, a number of larger international aircraft have begun operating in the country as Brazil seeks new foreign investment around the world. New Brazilian business aircraft include six Falcon 900s, two G550s, two Challenger 604s and three Embraer 600 Legacys.

Other Latin American nations are getting involved in business aviation as well. Chile is building the nose assembly for the Eclipse, while Argentina is involved in some significant military training work.

On the topic of aviation security, Febeliano says Brazilians see things differently from Americans. “We are far less concerned about security in South America than is the U.S. We would find the kind of security inspections Americans are used to at commercial airports intrusive.”

Leveling the Playing Field in Europe
ATC still reflects national boundaries in Europe, and that will likely continue until the single European sky system becomes effective. When that will happen is unclear, but with Eurocontrol predicting air travel will double by 2020, the work should be chugging along nicely. “We want to create functional blocks of airspace,” Humphries noted.

“With that said, Eurocontrol still works pretty well but it is much more expensive than operating in the United States.” Crews operating on the Continent can expect, as in many other parts of the world, that they’ll need not just an ATC slot to fly, but an airport slot as well.

“One of the problems we still regularly face here are very slow economic clearances for charter flights to the United States. It can easily take a week initially and longer right now. Five days for initial application and 48 hours for subsequent ones would certainly be great. Although there is a big approval variation across Europe, Americans coming here get a pretty quick OK most of the time.”

“We also need to better align ourselves with business aviation in the U.S.,” Humphries acknowledged when asked again about charter approvals. “I know [FAA Administrator] Marion Blakey wants that, but from here, we say, “Great, let’s get on with it. The key theme is that business aviation is a global business and will work much better if we have a level playing field.”

PrivatAir CEO Greg Thomas reflected on the changing landscape of American influence in aviation. “The TSA makes things very difficult on European charter operators because it takes so long to approve a charter. That pretty much defeats the purpose of on-demand. Every country has a legitimate right to protect its borders. But this has had a huge deterrent effect on travel.”

Middle East Poised for More Business Aviation
In Dubai, where cash never seems to be scarce, capacity at the main airport is limited. The government has taken a long-term view of improving aviation there by building a new airport on the western side of Dubai City where land is still readily available. Called Jebel Ali Airport City, the airport will be interconnected with the Port of Dubai and eventually linked to the main Dubai Airport by high-speed rail.

“Here though, we mean high speed rail,” said Greg Turner, vice president of Royal Jet. “We mean connecting the new airport to the current Dubai Airport in about 15 minutes.” The airport complex will be built south of the ports with a mechanism to connect the two through a duty-free zone.

The master plan provides all the services to support these facilities such as shopping, factories, hotels and the like. It will cover about 56 sq miles and be as big as Old Dubai City, with six parallel runways of about 12,000 to 14,000 feet each. They’ll be needed too since summertime temperature there can climb past 113 degrees F. The first runway is slated to open next November.

Ten years ago, the UAE was essentially closed for investment. As development on Jebel Ali Airport begins, Turner said, the government will be inviting competition to establish one, if not two major FBOs to service business aviation, one of the first customer groups at Jebel Ali Airport City.

Dubai is also encouraging intellectual and scientific investment at Jebel Ali with additional areas of excellence integrated within the airport, such as an investment district, a logistics city, science and technology park and a media district to mention a few. It will also have a large medical facility.

Healthy Sleep Habits
The life of a pilot can make good sleep habits as difficult to achieve as great landings. Unfortunately, sleepy pilots seldom realize how severely their performance suffers when they operate while tired. If you find yourself dozing off in flight, it might not simply be the time-zone jump that’s at issue.

There are several things pilots (and anyone else) can do to help ensure a good night’s sleep. They can:

• maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including on weekends;
• establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine such as a warm bath, a good book or listening to soothing music;
• create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool;
• sleep on comfortable mattress and pillows;
• use the bedroom for sleep–not for work, computers or television;
• finish eating at least two or three hours before regular bedtime;
• exercise regularly, being sure to complete a workout at least a few hours before bedtime;
• avoid caffeine close to bedtime;
• avoid nicotine close to bedtime;
• avoid alcohol close to bedtime; and
• use a sleep diary to track their behavior and find a physician who understands sleep issues if necessary.

Source: National Sleep Foundation