- 1 Introduction
- 2 Selecting the NAT
- 3 Domestic Routes
- 4 The Route
- 5 Ocenaic Clearance
- 6 Entering the NAT
- 7 En-Route
- 8 Level Changes
- 9 Leaving the NAT
- 10 Random Route
- 11 Flight Planning Procedures
- 12 Concorde Procedures
A brief example flight is laid out below to aid with the comprehension of Oceanic procedures from the pilot's seat. We also have an oceanic planning chart with sample information for crossing the North Atlantic.
Pilot training sessions are available after a registration into the IVAO UK Training System.
These step by step instructions will show you how to file an oceanic flight plan correctly, using the example flight of BAW188 from Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR) to London Heathrow (EGLL).
Selecting the NAT
The NATs change twice a day, at 0100z and 1130z, which makes planning on the day of the flight essential. Updated NATs are available at https://www.notams.faa.gov/common/nat.html.
For this example let's say the following eastbound NATs are current:
Which track to choose? Well it all depends on where you are flying from, and where you are going. Generally the most favourable winds are situated along the "middle" track, so unless this causes a gigantic detour it's a good idea to plan to use it. If however using this track would cause a rather large increase in distance you should consider a more southern or northern track.
Weather information is available at https://aviationweather.gov/iffdp/fdwndh.
We will take track Whiskey as it is the best one according to the weather situation and does not cause any detour.
Now that we have chosen our NAT we know where we join it (COLOR) and where to leave it (DOLIP). We now move on to plan how to get to and from these NAT end-points.
Now as we know our NAT entering point we need to work out the best way of getting there, the first thing to consider is any preferred routing mentioned in the America ATCSCC Advisory.
The preferred IFR routing (High altitudes) from Newark to the coastal fix are:
Looking above at the routings we know now our initial routing from Newark Airport to our entry point COLOR. We also know already our NAR (North American Route): N43A, which goes from KANNI to COLOR. Finally we append the requested mach speed and flight level for the crossing. This must be filed as well if the flight level and/or mach speed doesn't change.
So now we have our complete route on the Canadian side: MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT KANNI N43A COLOR/M081F380
We now have to plan the route from the end of NAT W to Heathrow Airport (EGLL). So all we need to find now is our arrival route into Heathrow.
2 STARs are available for western arrivals:
We will enter the European Airspace west of the coast of Ireland so the choice is clear: We will use the OCK2F arrival via BEDEK, so all we have to do is plan the route via the available airways: UN523 CRK UL607 NUMPO Y3 BEDEK OCK2F
All we need do now is join the departure, NAT and arrival routes to create a complete ICAO Flight Plan which can be decoded by the FMS, and filed in IvAp:
N0457F370 MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT KANNI N43A COLOR/M081F380 NATW DOLIP/N0489F390 UN523 CRK UL607 NUMPO Y3 BEDEK OCK2F
It is also essential to put the Track Identification number (TMI) in the remarks of your flight plan (RMK/TMI068).
When you departed you received your IFR clearance from Newark Clearance Delivery. However this clearance does not allow you to enter Oceanic Airspace. A separate oceanic clearance must be obtained from the Gander OCC. You must have this clearance no later than 30 minutes before your planned ETA at the entry fix of the track. This can be obtained on voice, or via our datalink system.
Pilots intending to operate in the Gander OCA + Shanwick OCA should note the following:
Whether received via datalink or voice, the oceanic clearance to enter the Gander OCA has the following meaning the clearance is valid only within oceanic airspace, and details the route, altitude and speed at which the flight is to enter oceanic airspace. The flight crew is not immediately authorized to change the route, altitude or speed in order to comply with the oceanic clearance.
The frequency is 128.450 (primary), or 135.450 (secondary) - Callsign is Gander Center (CZQX_OC_CTR). If this station is not online the clearance has to be requested from Gander Radio (CZQX_FSS) or ultimately Gander Domestic (i.e. the radar controller you are already talking to).
ATC will not initiate the communication. It is up to the Pilot to call ATC, not the other way around. If the pilot is on text only, clearance requests and position reports should be made via private chat, this is to ensure that even at peak flow the relevant data reaches the controller.
Below is the transcript of a typical Oceanic clearance:
The datalink clearance can, 8 times out of 10, replace vocal clearances and expedite the process of obtaining oceanic clearance. If all goes well and you obtain clearance via datalink you still have to read it back verbally to clearance to validate it, and confirm estimate over entry point. Typically the clearance message will give you a time when you must do this.
Below is the transcript of a datalink readback:
Note: If your ETA for the entry point changes by more than 3 minutes, advise Gander Oceanic Clearance of your new ETA.
The procedure for aircraft departing Europe is very similar, except that if you are at an airport west of 03°W you receive your oceanic clearance on the ground, after receiving your normal airways clearance.b If you are at an airport east of 03°W you will get your oceanic clearance passing 03°W - that is, you are already airborne.
Entering the NAT
Although the NAT W track starts at COLOR, Oceanic's airspace does not start till just before coordinate 49°N 50°W (49N050W). This is the same for all the other eastbound NAT's.
We have now left any sight of land behind us, and we won't see it again until we reach Ireland. However as a pilot you have a lot more things to worry about than watching the waves or the stars.
Due to the limited amount of radar in the Atlantic the only way for the controller to know where you are is to ask for a position report. These are done:
These give the controller an idea of where you are, where you are going next, how high you are, how fast you are, etc. These are invaluable to the controller to keep you clear of conflict, however, they are a whole new skill to many pilots.
Position reports shall include the reported position, the next reporting point and estimated time, and the succeeding reporting point as per the cleared route. If the estimated time over the next reporting point is found to be in error by three minutes or more, a revised estimated time shall be transmitted as soon as possible to the appropriate ATC unit. When making position reports, all times shall be expressed in UTC, giving both the hour and minutes.
Our British Airways Triple Seven (B777) is just reaching the first of its position report waypoint now, a typical transcript is below:
After reporting 40W (20W if flying Europe-North America) the controller will instruct you to "report 30 west to Shanwick on 127.900 (12790.0 kHz)". This means you switch frequency at 30 west, not right away. If you do change frequency you'll just be sent back.
Continue with position reports until leaving the NAT.
Do not expect to be able to change level in oceanic airspace, the separations involved are just to enormous. It is strongly recommended that you ask for your clearance at the highest level you can possibly achieve on entering Oceanic airspace, as you burn off fuel the aircraft will be at optimum flight level about half way across.
You should not expect to get initial descent for your destination while within oceanic airspace. Domestic (radar equipped) airspace starts far enough away from all destinations that this is not necessary. Descents in oceanic airspace will only be given in the event of an in flight emergency such as engine failure, decompression, or for separation issues.
For all altitude changes, either climbs or descents, pilots should report “reaching” the new level/cruising altitude to ATC.
Leaving the NAT
We have now finished the Oceanic stage of our flight as we pass over DOLIP and begin to route towards London Heathrow. Once again there is no special procedure for leaving the NAT. You will just be handed over to the appropriate controller, the same way as you were handed off within oceanic airspace. In this case it is Shannon control – Shannon will assign you a squawk code and identify you.
You do not need to give positional reports to this controller as he will offer radar service.
Short example for a random routing: N0450F330 SEBBY7 DAG DCT LAS KD45Q DVC DCT PWE DCT BDF DCT GIJ DCT CRL DCT DKK DCT SYR TOPPS DCT YYT DCT NOVEP/M083F330 48N050W 49N040W 50N030W 50N20W LIMRI DCT XETBO/N0450F330 DCT EVRIN UL607 SPI UT180 PESOV T180 UNOKO UNOKO1B
All other procedures are the same as "normal".
Flight Planning Procedures
For flights operating predominately in an east-west direction:
|Flight Level Allocation|
|FL430||May be flight planned for both eastbound and westbound non-RVSM certified aircraft - 24 hours a day|
|FL410||Eastbound level - 24 hours per day|
|FL400||Westbound flight level - except within eastbound OTS|
|FL390||Eastbound flight level - except within westbound OTS|
|FL380||Westbound flight level - except within eastbound OTS|
|FL370||Eastbound flight level - except within westbound OTS|
|FL360||Westbound flight level - except within eastbound OTS|
|FL350||Eastbound flight level - except within westbound OTS|
|FL340||Westbound flight level - except within eastbound OTS|
|FL330||Eastbound flight level - except within westbound OTS|
|FL320||Westbound flight level - except within eastbound OTS|
|FL310||Eastbound flight level - except within westbound OTS|
|FL300||Westbound flight level - 24 hours per day|
|FL290 & Below||Even levels westbound - 24 hours per day||Odd levels eastbound - 24 hours per day|
There are three NATs which are used exclusively by Concorde crossing the Atlantic. Track SM is normally used for Westbound flights, SN for Eastbound and SO as necessary. Unlike the tracks for the subsonic aircrafts which change from day to day these tracks are fixed as there is little wind at supersonic cruising levels.
In normal operations, SM and SN are the only two tracks used. However traffic levels may vary and Concorde becomes more popular on Flightsim again. As there is little possibility to otherwise separate Concorde aircraft, be prepared to re-route via SO if needed.
N.B. SP is an odd one, it has a standard routing through Shanwick and Santa Maria FIR, but flights to TBPB for instance will follow a random routing after 40°W, therefore all flights routing SP will be treated as random routings.
Due to the restrictions that Concorde aircraft face fuel wise on speed and climb restrictions, Concorde aircraft must request their clearance while on Ground, quoting their estimated departure time instead of an estimate for the Oceanic Entry. This should be done approximately 30 minutes before your estimated lift-off time.
This will enable the oceanic controller to facilitate and expedite the flow of traffic for Concorde, enabling it, in turn, to climb and accelerate in the most optimum manner.
The clearance phraseology is therefore slightly different, as this example will point out using a British Airways Concorde departure from EGLL to KJFK:
Note: the Mach number is omitted as all aircraft fly at the same speeds and thus no separation occurs that way. At this point you will return to delivery and report when you are fully ready for push and start.
After departure climb and initial acceleration will be granted by the domestic Controller.
Upon reaching LESLU you will be transferred to Shanwick Radio and you will report positions as subsonic aircraft do, you will not need to say the Mach number and you only need to report your current passing level.
The waypoints on SM and SN may be reported as SMxxW(substitute the x for the digits):
Please note that position report intervals are considerably shorter than what they are while flying subsonic.
You have a block clearance in which you can climb/descend without further clearance. If, due to ISA deviations, you are unable to achieve the bottom level of the clearance by LESLU that should be not too much a problem, just advise the oceanic controller concerned. Deceleration and descent requests should not be made on Oceanic frequencies, there should be plenty of distance to landfall in order to do so with domestic ATC.