July 14, 2020

Operators traveling between the United States and Europe will want to pay close attention to recent changes impacting flight procedures in the North Atlantic Track (NAT).

Operations in this busy oceanic airspace have been impacted by a series of bulletins and document revisions in recent years. Expert guidance on how these changes will affect business aircraft users, including a detailed look at the impact of Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system, was the focus of the latest NBAA GO Virtual International Operators Conference 2020 session, “Regional Review – NAT/NAM Update.”

The full session is available at 11 a.m. (EDT) on Thursday, July 16, and is followed by an interactive Q&A session.

Many of these NAT changes are related to enhanced avionics technology, such as ADS-B, and are intended to provide a more consistent user experience when interacting with controllers. Shawn Scott, founder of Scott IPC, said that Gander Center (CZQX) has been increasingly successful in delivering oceanic clearances to operators based on what they requested.

“Due to space-based ADS-B along with PBCS, expected service delivery went from 64% – 71%,” he said, meaning that only 29% of operators did not receive full oceanic clearance (in routing, Mach and altitude) as expected and filed.

One notable change has addressed issues regarding ocean controllers’ visibility on altitude change requests. To take advantage of ADS-B, the controllers’ systems have undergone a software update designed to always provide an operator’s flight level and step climb requests to the current controller.

“Now the controllers continually see that operator’s altitude requests, providing visibility on that need and allowing them to offer that altitude automatically,” said Scott.

Another notable change is to “Confirm Assigned Route” messages, which in the past have been sent to operators five minutes after entering oceanic airspace. Starting in January 2020, this message is now delivered while the operator is still in Ganders or Shanwick domestic airspace – allowing time for any interventions, if needed, before entry.

‘This results in a significant reduction in loss of separations laterally,” noted Scott.

A change from 2019 that operators should be aware of relates to “operations without an assigned fixed speed.” Though more common for airline traffic, a “Resume Normal Speed” message means that operators are no longer bound by the assigned Mach number, but rather enables them to fly at a Cost Index speed.

For more information on current and upcoming changes to NAT operations, read the March/April 2020 Business Aviation Insider article, “North Atlantic Operations Evolving.”