Touring skyguide Facilities At Geneva Airport

When I was considering going to Switzerland, I remembered listening to an episode of Airplane Geeks podcast in which Peter interviewed an air traffic controller trainee from Geneve. I emailed them to ask to be put in touch with Etienne and a few hours later I had a response from him. Etienne has also recently obtained his private pilot license and offered me to go along for a ride with him when I get in town as well as to show me around the air traffic control facility he was working at. Unfortunately, the weather and aircraft availability did not work out in my favor so we were unable to go for a flight, but we did meet up for a quick tour of skyguide facilities one afternoon.

Geneva Center

After a quick train ride from the central station to the airport, I walked over to the entrance to Geneva Center where Etienne was already waiting for me. We grabbed a visitor badge for me and headed in.

If anyone has ever been to air traffic control facilities in US, the difference with European ones is literally night and day. In the US, controllers work in almost total darkness while in Europe the facilities are all brightly illuminated. Each has its drawbacks and benefits and I knew it coming in, still it was interesting to see this setup.

The airspace above Switzerland is divided between Geneva and Zurich centers, both controlling low and high altitude sectors in their area. In one big room, there were a few areas where the stations for each of the different areas were collocated plus another corner for Geneva TRACON. Each station is equipped with multiple huge screens, each display myriad of information that can be configured to each controller's likings.

It was not a very busy time when I was there so there was not much activity, except for the fact that French controllers were on yet another strike so it was amusing to see some Speedbird (British Airways callsign) flights coming from Germany, having to go around France instead of direct.

That made me chuckle thinking of all of these new air traffic control technologies that are being deployed to streamline flightpaths and save fuel/reduce emissions by shaving off a few miles here and there from the current flight paths. None of these potential savings would come even close to matching the extra thousands of miles aircraft have to fly around the areas that go on strike... Go figure.

More pictures from the center:

Geneva Tower

After we finished up with the center tour, we headed outside to the tower. Passing through another set of security, we got up to the tower cab for some awesome views of the airport as well as the scenery around.

Boy, those folks have a tough life!

I was a bit surprised to see quite a few heavies at the airport but, thinking a bit more about it, it kind of made sense. Even though the airport seems pretty small with only one large runway and modestly-sized terminal, Geneve is still an important european hub with UN headquarters, CERN, and lots of other organizations maintaining presence here.

Later on we grabbed some food inside the terminal and sat outside chatting about Etienne's training, my plans for this trip, the Airplane Geeks podcast and a few more things until it was time for both of us to go catch the train back to the city. Fun times!