A Kid in the Tower, A Pilot Without a License and Other Things

The unprecedented success of the air transport industry is due mainly to the spectacular improvements in safety booked overt the years. True, the convenience of being able to travel to the other end of Europe for a meeting and back the same day count for a lot, but without the safety factor, few passengers would accept the hassle of endless security queues and legroom appropriate for the shortest 10 % of the population only.

The exemplary safety record is the result of constant vigilance, safety management systems and the responsible attitudes of those working with or around aircraft.

Any disturbance that could negatively affect safety or even the perception of safety would be a disaster to the industry on a scale that would dwarf the effects of the recent financial meltdown in the world.

In a well running system complacency is one of the biggest dangers while it is also one of the most basic treats of the human character. Fighting complacency must be one of the most important items in any safety manager’s kit.

Recently however we seem to be seeing signs of a disturbing trend.

Look at this list:

• The FAA fines certain airlines for not carrying out mandated repairs
• A Delta 767 lands on a taxiway at their home base Atlanta
• A Northwest Airlines Airbus overshoots their destination by more than a hundred miles with the pilots never noticing
• A KLM 737 takes off from a taxiway at their home base in Amsterdam
• An Aeroflot Airbus does the same just a few days later in Oslo
• An air traffic controller is suspended by the FAA in New Your for bringing his kid to the tower and allowing the kid to actually talk to aircraft there
• A pilot is arrested by police in the cockpit of his aircraft in Amsterdam for having faked being a pilot for 13 years. He flew all this time without a license

If the above anomalies had been spread over several years, one might be tempted to shrug and say, well, bad but these are flukes… But they all happened within the last 6 months or so.

Irregularities are like icebergs. When they are discovered, very often investigators find that there were scores of other events that never made it into the news or even incident reports. One cannot but wonder what may be lurking under the surface in the iceberg the tip of which is represented by these seven incidents.

Is complacency catching up with us? Are safety regulators looking at the wrong things or not looking at all the things they should be looking at?

Of course it is easy to blame some faceless regulator or authority for failures in the system. At the end of the day it is the failure of the human in the system, a pilot, an air traffic controller or a technician that precipitates an incident.

But humans need help in operating the extremely complex air transport system and avoiding complacency must be part of that help on all levels. It is difficult to devise rules or technology that would prevent kids turning up in air traffic control towers but a healthy dose of common sense would probably work wonders. On the other hand, ground navigation errors can be prevented by modern technology if only more people could be convinced to spend money on such things. New business class seats and entertainment systems are of little use if the aircraft they are bolted to hits a car while accidentally taking off from a taxiway. But outdated airport surveillance technology with alarms sounding in the tower rather than the cockpit is of little help either.

Perhaps we should call ourselves lucky for having spotted this particular iceberg in time with no metal bent…yet.

Now if we could make sure that instead of just arranging the deck-chairs nicely, effective avoiding actions are initiated…

Current Technology For AM Tower Collocation

Today, equipment is available from several AM antenna system manufacturers which will provide the ability to co-locate communications transmission systems on both single antenna and multiple tower AM antenna systems. Companies have equipment which once installed, insures that the wireless antenna and coaxial cable installations have virtually no effect on the host AM tower(s), and the AM signal has no effect on the wireless antenna. Moreover, additional antennas and transmission lines can be added to the tower in the future without re-engineering the AM isolation. This means the owner can lease additional space to other wireless carriers, limited only by the tower structural capability.

On non-directional towers, an advanced folded unipole isolation system is typically used. This results in direct grounding of the AM tower. Wireless antennas and transmission lines are mounted and bonded directly onto the structure. The folded unipole uses a unique wire cage impedance transformer. In one implementation, lower portions of the cage are heavily insulated and spaced away from the tower to allow ready operational access to the wireless antenna system by tower climbers, even while “hot.” Such folded unipole tower collocation systems benefit the AM station with improved efficiency, “air sound”, and lightning protection, thus enhancing the tower collocation experience for the station. Conversion to an advanced folded unipole type tower collocation system may entail replacing the station’s ATU (antenna tuning unit) and some “on tower” construction.

Directional stations use multiple towers to form an FCC licensed radiation pattern crucial to protecting other stations from interference. This licensed pattern may not be disrupted by tower collocation. The cost-effective approach to this end is to employ specially designed isolation systems between the base station equipment and the AM tower.

Church Cell Towers – Talking on Holy Ground

Cell towers and cellular antennas have been popping up on church owned properties throughout the United States for many years and many articles have been written about the topic. As a wireless consultant I am pro-cell tower for a number of reasons. Cell towers improve public safety. Most emergency services including police, rescue and fire departments communicate through wireless technology. Cell towers also improve the quality of life of people not even subscribing to wireless services. Having a world-class wireless network in a town or municipality attracts business and is a key component of any city infrastructure.

Church properties make great locations for Flagpole cellular towers and stealth steeple sites or traditional towers. Look, God doesn’t need the money that a cell tower lease generates, but chances are your congregation’s budget could benefit from a blessing from above.

Churches need to carefully examine subleasing language proposed by the wireless carrier in the cell tower lease. They must control the ground space. Also, before signing a cell tower lease churches need to find out exactly how leasing to a wireless carrier relates to their tax status, and also make sure that the lease includes language that protects the organization. In fact, since cell phone tower leases are extremely specialized churches should “Make plans by seeking advice;” (Proverbs 20:18a) especially since leasing to a cellular carrier is a long-term commitment. However, carriers are looking for a quick deal in most cases, so don’t waste too much time in committee because the paralysis of analysis will cause the cell phone company to look at another location.

It’s funny that some people get flustered over the fact that Churches allow cell phone towers to be built on their properties. Just because an organization is tax exempt or non-profit, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need to pay their utility bills, facility overhead, youth programs and ministry staff. Talking to a church deacon recently he confirmed what I already suspected, their weekly collections have declined significantly in 2009 due to the financial downturn.

My advice for those in the congregation who are against the use of leasing church owned land for the development of cellular towers is to convince thy brethren to give their tithe and to shut off their cell phones during the Sunday service.