Oct. 12, 2017

The dynamic environment surrounding international operations always poses challenges for business aviation flight crews. A packed session at NBAA-BACE addressed several urgent topics confronting these operators as identified by NBAA’s International Operators Committee.

Craig Hanlon, chief pilot for Dupont, began the session with a review of strategic lateral offset procedures (SLOP) intended to maintain adequate separation between opposite direction RVSM traffic along busy flight routes. An incident earlier this year in which a German-registered Challenger jet encountered severe wake turbulence from a passing Airbus A380 jumbo airliner over the Arabian Sea – forcing an emergency landing and airframe damage severe enough to write off the business aircraft – highlighted the importance of this procedure when it’s allowed.

“SLOP was not authorized along [airway] L894 at the time of this incident, although it now is,” Hanlon added. “I’d encourage you to put into your cruise planning procedures the question of where SLOP is authorized, and keep in mind you can also request an offset [from the airway] from ATC.”

Navigational errors are another concern, particularly when operating along the North Atlantic Track (NAT) system with long periods out of voice communication with ATC. Air Training International instructor Mitch Launius revealed that in 2016, business aviation aircraft made up 5 percent of all operations across the NAT but were responsible for 12 percent of recorded gross navigational errors.

“That’s not a number to be proud of,” he continued. “It’s disproportionate, but we can make a difference and improve this.”

Most of those errors, he continued, were assigned altitude deviations of 300 feet or more, and in many cases were due to aircraft unable to climb to the assigned altitudes or maintain altitude due to low fuel temperatures, loss of aerodynamic authority or prevailing meteorological conditions like turbulence.

“If you find yourself at an altitude that is not sustainable, it’s imperative to coordinate a re-clearance with ATC,” Launius emphasized. “If a descent must be made without clearance, you should also apply the 15-nautical mile lateral offset procedure to mitigate some of the risk. Perform the contingency correctly, and there will not be a root cause analysis of that event.”

Another common issue facing operators flying to Europe is the implementation of Part NCC, which has revealed differences between FAA and EASA interpretations of International Civil Aviation Organization standards regarding deferring aircraft discrepancies against its master minimum equipment list, or MMEL.

“When the FAA does a ramp inspection they ask if anything is broken or deferred, and at that point they’ll investigate,” explained Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “Europe approaches ramp checks from the perspective of, ‘show me your MEL,’ regardless of status of any equipment on the aircraft. It’s a different mindset.”

To avoid issues, Part 91 operators should have onboard the complete, aircraft-specific MMEL; Policy Letter 36 preamble addressing MEL approval; operator-specific M&O procedures; and the D095 LOA. Carr also encouraged operators to ensure they’ve properly accounted for any STC equipment on the MMEL, as well as the aircraft’s performance-based communications, navigation and surveillance capabilities.

Having this documentation ready will help crews avoid safety assessments that may impact their continued travel plans throughout the EU. “They may not ground you, but before you return to Europe, it had better be fixed or there could be some more significant consequences,” Carr continued, “and that data also gets back to the FAA.”

Additional presentations addressed U.S. Customs and Border Protection procedures on southern border overflights, including the agency’s transition to a more streamlined reporting system and the matter of reimbursements for additional requested inspection services, and proper procedures when operating to regions afflicted with the Zika virus.

The 2018 NBAA International Operators Conference will take place March 26-29 in Las Vegas, NV. Check the IOC2018 website for event details in the months preceding the event.

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