En-route in the track

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.



Position reports


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.