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.

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.

Voice Position Reports

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.

Datalink Position Reports

If you have requested your clearance through datalink, you are also able to send position reports via the datalink system. This can be accomplished here.

When using Datalink, you must ensure that you do not leave your flight deck for more than 20 minutes, as this is against the IVAO Rules and Regulations.

Operations Without An Assigned Fixed Speed (OWAFS):

Recently, a new trial has been running over the Atlantic called “Operations Without An Assigned Fixed Speed”, OWAFS for short. Before this trial, you needed to pick a speed within .01 of Mach and stick with it. This new operation allows you to fly the ECON speed in your FMC, which varies over time, usually reducing before increasing again after a step-climb.

To request this:

  • First request and obtain a clearance as per normal, this clearance will include a fixed speed as a back-up.
  • Then indicate to the controller at the end of the clearance conversation that you request OWAFS.
  • After your first position report, if OWAFS is possible, the controller will instruct you to “resume normal speed”, then you can fly the ECON Speed.
  • If OWAFS is not possible, the controller will say “Operations Without an Assigned Fixed Speed unavailable“, which means you need to fly the cleared Mach number.

IMPORTANT: IF YOUR OWAFS speed changes by more than 0.02 Mach, it is your DUTY to inform the controller.