10/22/2012

Expect night flights this week

On the RTS radio programme "on en parle" this morning I learned that for (at least) the next two nights there will be very early morning flights.


The programme included a long interview with a spokesman for SkyGuide, which is responsible for Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Geneva airport. According to him, there will be calibration flights of a two-engine piston aircraft for about four hours after the airport operational hours. He specified that these calibration flight tests, which are done twice a year, would start around midnight and last about 4 hours. Of course, this could actually mean after half past midnight: the 30 minutes after midnight are still operational hours for any flights running behind schedule.

Why are these tests being done in the early hours of the morning? Apparently, because the aircraft approaches the runway at different angles. You might think that sounds entirely reasonable. However, the aircraft which is normally seen here doing these calibration flights is a Beech B300 Super King Air, belonging to Flight Calibration Services. Looking at the records for this year, this aircraft has been here for several days from 26 March, then again from 29 May, then again from 29 September. The trajectory plots for its flights do indeed show that it flies unusual paths.

We do not yet know if it will be the same aircraft doing the same things, so I will have to wait a couple of days before commenting. If, however, it is still the same aircraft then I could ask why SkyGuide state that these are only twice-yearly events, as well as when previously they have operated during the night.

20121022_Calibration.JPGTo find out more, I looked at the Geneva Airport web site pages in English. The initial home page is mostly filled with a warning (in French, including a reference to PAKINGS (sic) AÉROPORT) about problems of parking at the airport this week. Those of us that have enough savvy to look further down can get a short explanatory news message, again in French, which leads to a longer article (in French again, and you have again to move down the page to find it)) stating that the federal authorities have given permission for these night-time calibration flights. It does not say that they might last for four hours, but does add that there might need to be such flights all week!

I have stated (many times) that the Geneva Airport web site is, in my professional opinion, not fit for purpose: in this case it should have indicated on the initial home page that such flights will be taking place this week.

There is actually an explanatory articles in this paper today, Monday 22 October, entitled "Deux séries de vols de nuit ä Cointrin": it is tucked away at the bottom left hand side of page 20 (just under a fascinating headline stating that Genthod has been infested by zombies!). The article is, however, rather imprecise in a number of respects. The first sentence states that at Cointrin there are not any night flights

"A Cointrin, les avions ne s'adonnent pas aux vols nocturnes"

However, the normal, and airport, definition of "night flights" is flights between 10pm and 6am (there are, as we hear each night, more and more of these!), meaning that this statement is not actually true. The article also does not explain that these calibration flights will actually operate for up to 4 hours after midnight!

To be fair to the TdG journalist (Chloé), I suspect that she merely repeated the words of a carefully constructed (misleading?) communiqué from the airport or SkyGuide.

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