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 (© www.planningcharts.de) with sample information for crossing the North Atlantic.
Pilot training sessions are available after a registration into the IVAO UK Training System. For further details have a look here.
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).
1. Selecting the NAT
2. Domestic Routes
2.1 Domestic Departure
2.2 Domestic Arrival
3. The complete route
4. Oceanic clearance
4.1 Voice clearance
4.2 Datalink clearance
5. Entering the NAT
6. En-route in the track
7. Level changes in Oceanic airspace
8. Leaving the NAT
9. Random Route
10. Flight Planning Procedures
Pay attention: The times you report to oceanic ATC have to be in actual UTC time!
The NATs change twice a day, at 0100z and 1130z, which makes planning on the day of the flight essential.
Updated NATs are available here.
For this example let's say the following eastbound NATs are current:
Track U -- VIXUN LOGSU 49/50 51/40 53/30 54/20 DOGAL BABAN
Track V -- YYT NOVEP 48/50 50/40 52/30 53/20 MALOT BURAK
Track W -- COLOR RONPO 47/50 49/40 51/30 52/20 LIMRI DOLIP
Track X -- BANCS URTAK 46/50 48/40 50/30 51/20 DINIM GIPER
Track Y -- RAFIN VODOR 45/50 47/40 49/30 50/20 SOMAX KENUK
Track Z -- SOORY 43/50 46/40 48/30 49/20 BEDRA GUNSO
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.
You can check the wind and weather conditions here.
We will take track Whiskey as it is the best one according to the weather situation and does not accour 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:
TRACK U/ EWR DCT MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT TUSKY N63B VIXUN TRACKU
TRACK V/ EWR DCT MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT BRADD N53B YYT TRACKV
TRACK W/ EWR DCT MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT KANNI N43A COLOR TRACKW
TRACK X/ EWR DCT MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT WHALE N35A BANCS TRACKX
TRACK Y/ EWR DCT MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT BOS DCT VITOL N27A RAFIN TRACKY or
EWR DCT DIXIE V276 PREPI DCT OWENZ DCT LINND DCT KENDA DCT LACKS DCT VITOL N27A RAFIN TRACKY
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:
- The Ockham 2 Fox-Trot (OCK2F) STAR, which starts at BEDEK, near CPT on the Y3 airway, and
- The Bovingdon 1 Bravo (BNN1B) STAR which starts at NUGRA, near Birmingham then descends south to BNN via Wescott NDB (WCO).
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:
- Clearances for VFR climb or descent will not be granted.
- The Mach number to be maintained will be specified for turbojet aircraft.
- ATC will specify the full route details for aircraft cleared on a route other than an organized track or flight plan route. The pilot is to read back the full details of the clearance, including the cleared track.
- ATC will issue an abbreviated oceanic clearance to aircraft that will operate along one of the NAT organized tracks. The abbreviated clearance will include the track letter, the flight level and the Mach number to be maintained (for turbojet aircraft). The pilot is to read back the clearance including the TMI number. ATC will confirm the accuracy of the readback and the TMI number.
- If the aircraft is designated to report meteorological information, the pilot will be advised by the inclusion of the phrase “SEND MET REPORTS” in the clearance.
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:
- Pilot: "Good evening Gander Center, Speedbird 188"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188, Gander Center, Good evening, pass your message"
- Pilot: "Speedbird 188 requesting clearance to London Heathrow via track WHISKEY, Flight Level 380, Mach .83. Estimating COLOR at 0246z"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188 cleared to London Heathrow via COLOR, Track WHISKEY, FL380, Mach .83, cross COLOR latest at 0248z"
- Pilot: "Speedbird 188 cleared to London Heathrow via COLOR, Track WHISKEY, FL380, Mach .83, crossing COLOR latest at 0248z, TMI 068"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188, your readback is correct, return to previous frequency."
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:
- Pilot: "Good evening Gander Center, Speedbird 188, datalink readback"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188, Gander Center, Good evening, pass your message"
- Pilot: "Speedbird 188 clearance number Zulu 468 estimating COLOR 0244z, TMI 068"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188 your readback is correct, return to previous frequency."
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.
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.
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.
- ATC: "Speedbird 188, contact Gander Radio now on 127.100 (12710.0 kHz)"
- Pilot: "Speedbird 188, Contact Gander Radio on 127.100 (12710.0 kHz)"
Our aircraft has now just been handed off to the Gander Oceanic controller by the Gander domestic controller, this therefore means we must just be coming up to 49 North 50 West. When entering a track (or contacting any Oceanic controller for the first time) there is no special procedure, you just give a standard position report.
One thing to remember: Set your transponder to squawk mode C(S) / code 2000 latest 30 minutes after entering the NAT.
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:
- At every waypoint (lat/lon) you fly over;
- 45 minutes has passed since your last report which ever is earlier;
- Whenever you wish to change speed or altitude;
- If the ETA for your inbound waypoint changes by more than +/- 3 minutes from your previous reported time.
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:
- Pilot: "Gander Radio, Speedbird 188 with a position report"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188, Gander Radio, pass your message"
- Pilot: "Speedbird 188, passed 47 North 50 West at 0246z, Flight Level 380, Mach .83, estimating 49 North 40 West at 0329z, next is 51 North 30 West"
- ATC: "Speedbird 188, Gander Radio, passed 47 North 50 West at 0246z, Flight Level 380, Mach .83, estimating 49 North 40 West at 0329z, next is 51 North 30 West"
- Pilot: "Speedbird 188, readback correct" - Note: correct the controller if he reads something back wrong.
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.
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
- Pilot: "Good evening Gander Center, Lufthansa 451"
- ATC: "Lufthansa 451, Gander Center, Good evening, pass your message"
- Pilot: "Lufthansa 451, requesting clearance to Frankfurt/Main via random route YYT, NOVEP, 48 North 50 West, 49 North 40 West, 50 North 30 West, 52 North 20 West, LIMRI, XETBO, Flight Level 330, Mach .83. Estimating YYT at 1723z "
- ATC: "Lufthansa 451, roger, standby"
- ATC: "Lufthansa 451, clearance available, ready to copy"
- Pilot: "Lufthansa 451, affirm"
- ATC: "Lufthansa 451, cleared to Frankfurt/Main via random route YYT, NOVEP, 48 North 50 West, 49 North 40 West, 50 North 30 West, 52 North 20 West, LIMRI, XETBO, FL330, Mach .83, cross YYT not before 1730z"
- Pilot: "Lufthansa 451, cleared to Frankfurt/Main via random route YYT, NOVEP, 48 North 50 West, 49 North 40 West, 50 North 30 West, 52 North 20 West, LIMRI, XETBO, FL330, Mach .83, crossing YYT not before 1730z "
- ATC: "Lufthansa 451, your readback is correct, return to previous frequency."
All other procedures are the same as "normal".
For flights operating predominately in an east–west direction:
- south of 70°N, the planned tracks shall be defined by significant points formed by the intersection of half or whole degrees of latitude at each 10° of longitude (60°W, 50°W, 40°W). For flights operating north of 70°N, significant points are defined by the parallels of latitude expressed in degrees and minutes with longitudes at 20° intervals
- For flights operating predominately in a north–south direction, the planned tracks shall be defined by significant points formed by the intersection of whole degrees of longitude with parallels of latitude spaced at 5° (65°N, 60°N, 55°N).
North Atlantic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum
The following flight level allocation scheme (FLAS) should be used by operators for flight planning purposes:
May be flight planned for both eastbound and westbound non-RVSM certified aircraft
|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 and below
|Even levels westbound - 24 hours per day||Odd levels eastbound - 24 hours per day|
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