Jan. 31, 2018

Starting March 29, operators flying in the North Atlantic Tracks (NAT) and certain other international regions are encouraged to have a revised letter of authorization (LOA) or revised operations specification for performance-based communication and surveillance (PBCS) because a new reduced-separation standard for aircraft may become available on that date.

The FAA recently published an international NOTAM advising Part 91 operators of the need to obtain a revised data link LOA, and Part 135 operators to obtain a revised operations specification to fly in the NAT data link mandate airspace, which is between FL350 and FL390. It was formerly known as minimum navigation performance specification airspace.

In November 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published a new PBCS reduced-separation standard. This standard replaced the reduced lateral separation minimum trial program. On March 29, reduced separation between PBCS-equipped aircraft may become available based on the number of PBCS-equipped and authorized aircraft flying in those NAT tracks at a given time. As a result of the revised ICAO standards, the FAA is requiring individual aircraft to demonstrate compliance with the new PBCS performance standards in order to use reduced separation tracks based on PBCS capabilities.

For some aircraft, the original equipment manufacturer may issue a statement of compliance, indicating the PBCS is in compliance with ICAO requirements. For aircraft without this statement, it is not yet clear how the FAA will determine demonstration of compliance.

“Inspectors will have a significant number of LOAs and operations specifications to modify before the March 29 deadline,” said Mitch Launius, instructor pilot and owner of 30 West International Procedures. “Aircraft operators need to watch for FAA guidance on methods to demonstrate compliance and submit evidence as soon as possible to prevent operational limitations in the NAT after March 29.”

The revised LOA or operations specification will list the PBCS equipment, communications network the operator uses, along with additional details. Once the operator is issued a new LOA or operations specification, the operator must add the appropriate PBCS filing codes to flight plans for aircraft that fly through the affected airspace.

Tracks separated by half a degree will be available to PBCS-equipped and authorized aircraft. The number of tracks separated by a half degree will depend on demand, which will be determined by the number of aircraft using the appropriate flight-plan code, indicating PBCS authorization. Aircraft not properly demonstrating PBCS capability will use the standard track system with normal separation criteria.

NAT contingency procedures were also revised earlier this year. Pilots operating in or near the affected airspace should be familiar with the revised procedures.

In addition to reduced separation availability on certain North Atlantic tracks, many flight information regions in Asia, including Pacific oceanic airspace, will begin applying reduced separation standards for PBCS-equipped aircraft after March 29. A recent ICAO meeting in Bangkok confirmed the regional PBCS implementation date while also acknowledging that some states need additional time to finalize policies to approve aircraft for PBCS operations. Additionally, it is expected that most airspace will continue to accommodate both PBCS-compliant and non-compliant aircraft.

“NBAA will provide members with updates as more information regarding acceptable demonstration of compliance becomes available,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “In the meantime, we encourage operators to contact their FAA inspectors for information on approval timelines.”

Review the FAA’s international NOTAM. (Section 2, page 3-INTL-18)