Updated June 30, 2020
The North Atlantic Datalink Mandate (NAT DLM) has been suspended by the FAA and its partners in ICAO’s North Atlantic System Planning Group to expedite the flow of traffic over the Atlantic during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A NOTAM released on June 23 suspended the mandate until September 30, 2020, while the initial agreement waived the NAT DLM from April 1 to June 30 for aircraft previously restricted from Flight Level 290 to FL 410 because they lacked FANS-1/A, controller-pilot data link communications and automated dependent surveillance-contract equipment.
“Whilst acknowledging that the level of FANS 1/A data link equipage in the NAT is very high (around 95%), due to the current significant reduction in traffic levels, most of the aircraft fleets are currently grounded, it is also recognized that there may be situations where, due to this crisis situation, aircraft operators may need to dispatch non-DLM compliant aircraft to operate in the NAT,” stated ICAO in a notice.
“The objective of this proposal is to offer more flexibility to aircraft operators when planning their NAT operations in the evolving COVID-19 crisis,” the notice continued.
ICAO added that because air traffic has declined dramatically due to the pandemic, there is a substantially higher chance of a flight being cleared as requested. “Therefore, dispatchers and pilots should be encouraged to file and request their optimal profiles at all stages of the flight, including, for example, optimal route, flight plan step climbs, pilot-requested cruise climbs and ‘ECON’ speeds, which has been enabled by the recent NAT implementation of operations without assigned fixed speed,” the organization said.
“NBAA is grateful to the FAA and the North Atlantic System Planning Group for recognizing the urgency of the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, for facilitating the movement of essential cargo across the Atlantic, and for ensuring that those who need to get home to the U.S. can do so quickly and safely,” said Brian Koester, CAM, NBAA’s director of flight operations and regulations.