No more clearances, new loss of comms and more
Hold on to your (pilot) hats, folk
The North Atlantic Systems Planning Group met in Paris on the 27-29 June, and following this they posted a mega document entitled
‘FINAL SUMMARY OF DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSIONS OF THE FIFTY-NINTH MEETING OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC SYSTEMS PLANNING GROUP‘ (or SPG 59 for short.)
It’s a Megladoc of a document which you can find here if you want to see it for yourself.
It is a 419 page beast of proposals on things that are going to change, including our very favourite – the NAT DOC 007! So I spent the last few weeks reading it and have written up this summary of things I spotted. You can also find a little ‘Newstalker’ PDF summary of these for a handy and brief guide if you want it.
Before I jump into Doc 007 though, here is a pic from the List of Appendices, to give you an idea of everything else potentially getting updated as well.
The changes for NAT DOC 007 will be effective in 2024, and if we head to Appendix G, we will find the proposed new Doc 007 ready for a reading. Actually, if we start on page 57 you even get this wonderful suspense building page…
The SIGNIFICANT Two
There are some SIGNIFICANT (ICAO’s word) changes to know about:
- Requirement for Oceanic Clearances. Let me just say that again – THE REQUIREMENT FOR OCEANIC CLEARANCES. As in there will no longer be one!
- Scheduled to change on March 21 2024 when the new AIRAC comes in. There will also be a lot of NOTAMs warning about this and ATC are preparing themselves, so don’t worry, you won’t miss it.
- NAT Communication failure procedures
- Basically new a procedure, but really just a simplification to refer to ‘loss of two way communications’ where they can be by any means you have onboard (well, HF, VHF, SATVOICE, CPDLC)
The Smaller Few
The whole manual has been rearranged, and within it are some smaller changes (smaller in comparison to no more oceanic clearances) but still important to know about:
- OWAFS is out. Well, it isn’t out out, but because of the way the clearances (or lack of) work, reference to ops without a fixed speed is a bit redundant. All aircraft will basically be at ECON speed.
- Changes after the OEP. You will be able to request changes to level, speed and route.
- NOTA, BOTA and SOTA have changed. It used to be FL060 to FL600, now it is FL055 to UNLIMITED.
- Tango 290 and Tango 9 are no longer Tangos. They are just 290 and 9 now.
- CTAs are OCAS, OACC is just OAC. They have removed the reference to CTA (Control Area) and OACC, and instead have just OAC and HLA (although these are still oceanic area control centre and the HLA is still in the NAT).
The Tiny ones (for you)
A shifting of chapter numbers, deletion of references to things like the clearances etc are in most chapters.
The Explanation of Changes list is the easiest way to check all of these (although I did find the chapter changes hard to follow – they don’t match up with V2023-1).
The Full Detail
I figured the best way to do this would be Chapter by Chapter. If the chapter isn’t listed then the changes are minor (or I completely missed them).
Chapter 5 (Oceanic ATC Clearances) is deleted
Yep, gone. All crossed out. GO Straight to Chapter 6, collect 200.
Communications and Position Reporting Procedures… with a bunch of info that was in chapter 5 now here instead, and possibly some bits of old Chapter 8 as well chapter 8. Also it has bits of (also deleted) Chapter 7 (mach number stuff) added into it.
Not all of it has changed, but here is a summary of the new Chapter 6:
- If outside VHF coverage you still need 2 LRCS one of which must be HF, SATVOICE and/or CPDLC (and remember certain systems don’t work about 80°N)
- You can still get an HF requirement waiver for the standard reasons (HF is broken and you’re flying to get it fixed, ferry or delivery flights and special event flights)
- They have changed ‘oceanic CTA’ to ‘NAT OCA’ but other than that the procedures for HF, first contact, using SELCAL etc seem the same as before
- T9 and T290 are now 9 and 290 (minus the Tango bit, and remember to contact Shanwick Radio on HF voice).
- VHF voice comms are covered in 6.1.27 and the standard neon pinkish map of coverage is available there for you.
- 6.1.29 is your SATVOICE Comms section and as usual, more info in Doc 10038 and Doc 7030 on this if you need it.
- 6.1.32 is where Datalink Comms info begins. Again, no great changes that I spotted. You should head to Doc 10037 (the GOLD manual) for full info on all things Datalink.
- 6.2 is all about 121.5 and 123.45 usage with no great changes. They don’t want folk using 121.5 for relays, or 123.45 for general jibber jabber (no change, but a reminder)
- 6.3 is position reporting. There is no change to the initial part of this.
- 6.6 has had the ‘HF’ removed from ‘HF Communications Failure and there are some big changes in here.
6.6 IN MORE DETAIL
Chapter 6 discusses how and what causes HF communication issues, and the impact, and consolidates info from other chapters. Remember there is a whole manual on space weather and comms contingencies now – NAT Doc 006, and NAT Doc 003 (HF management guidance material for the North Atlantic Region).
However, 6.6 is now ‘COMMUNICATIONS FAILURE‘ (minus the ‘HF’). It does start by looking at HF and changes to the ‘General Provisions of HF blackouts’ have been rewritten more clearly.
For aircraft experiencing VHF AND HF blackouts with ATC have been amended, starting with a big bold ‘When so equipped, an aircraft should use CPDLC to communicate with the current controlling authority ATC’.
They have also repositioned and amended what was General Provision 1 all the way down to 6 – ‘The flight crew of an aircraft experiencing a total two-way communications failure (including VHF, HF, CPDLC and SATVOICE) should operate the SSR Transponder on identity Mode A Code 7600 and Mode C.’ This is a change to the previous provision which only said ‘The flight crew of an aircraft experiencing a two-way ATS communications failure should operate the SSR Transponder on identity Mode A Code 7600 and Mode C‘.
What this means (I think) is you should only set squawk to 7600 when you have genuinely lost two way comms on all systems, and that means all those now specifically listed. Loss of two way comms does not just mean loss of VHF and HF.
THE NEW LOSS OF COMMS STUFF
- Prior to departure, talk to the initial NAT OAC and sort one of those waivers
- In the air and before your OEP, talk to your NAT OAC and see if you’re eligible for ones of those waivers.
- Loss of Comms before entering the NAT. Note we are talking about a loss of comms, not specifically HF. You will still need to refer to State AIPs for more info on RCF procedures.
- Follow the loss of comms procedure for the airspace you are in
- If you decide to head on into the NAT, then enter at your filed OEP and at the speed and level ‘resulting from the execution of the adjacent airspace RCF procedures’
- Once in the NAT follow the next bit
- Loss of Comms in the NAT
- Stick to your cleared route, level and speed until you get to your exit point
- Don’t change your speed, level or route unless you have to for safety (follow the contingency procedures in that case)
- If you were on some sort of offset from ATC, or vectors, then get yourself back on your route by the next significant point
- Once out of the NAT follow the global PANS-ATM 15.3.3 loss of comms stuff.
They have deleted the ‘Summary of Operational Procedures Required following Loss of Air/Ground ATS communications in the NAT region’.
What this means (I think) is a far more simplified loss of comms procedure (because we are no longer restricted by a lack of ability to get a clearance, because we don’t need to anymore).
A question (I do not know the answer to): Does Shanwick still have stricter HF and loss of comm requirements? Answers welcome.
CHAPTER 7. Deleted.
This was the mach number technique bit.
NAT HLA Flight Operation and Navigation Procedures
OK, so the whole clearance chapter (and requirement for them) has been removed but 8.2.26 gets a little confusing because it talks about getting an RCL. Head back to the abbreviations page and you will discover that RCL no longer means ‘Request Clearance Message’ but now means ‘Voice, or data link message via ACARS, used to provide ETA at OEP, requested flight level, and Mach’.
If we refer to the oceanic checklist, it now says ‘If required, send an RCL message’. 8.2.26 covers when it is required:
- Gander OCA 90-60 minutes (or 10 mins to startup if less than 45 minutes flying time)
- Shanwick OCA 90-60 minutes;
- Santa Maria OCA at least 40 minutes;
- Bodo OCA at least 20 minutes;
- Reykjavik OCA no earlier than 20 minutes;
- New York OCA East no requirement for RCL
What you send it similar to before (OEP, ETA,Speed based on FMS CI (ECON), requested FL and MAX FL)
Once sent you will get an auto generated response: RCL RECEIVED BY [ANSP]. FLY CURRENT FLIGHT PLAN OR AS AMENDED BY ATC (in which case continue as you were) or RCL REJECTED (in which case revert to voice).
Previously, we had to consider loss of comms and not having a clearance.
ATC may still re-clear you and in this case the procedure for loading the new route and independently checking it is the same.
Entry conditions 8.2.37 says ‘Enroute aircraft shall enter the oceanic airspace in accordance with their current flight plan or as amended by ATC (what is loaded in the FMS). No oceanic clearance is required.‘
So we aren’t requesting a clearance, but we are sending an RCL.
This changed in 2023, but the new manual (10.2 Operation of SSR Transponders) will reflect the change – Set 2000 10 minutes after passing the OEP (except in the Reykjavik CTA).
The Rest of the SPG
NAT Doc 007 (or rather Appendix G and the proposed changes) takes up pages 57-256, so what’s going on in the rest of SPG 59?
Well, a lot, and a lot that is very useful, but I am just trying to spot the bits for pilots. So I recommend these if you are also a pilot:
- Appendix G – changes to Doc 007 (which I’ve done)
- Appendix J – changes to NAT SUPPs and Doc 7030 (which I briefly looked at and might have slightly given up on
- Appendix K – 008 Application of separation minima Doc 008.
- This is from July 2023 (so now)
- The main changes seem to be the removal of references to ‘turbojets’ (it just talks about all aircraft types now)
- The removal of the 30 minutes longitudinal separation (3.4.7)
3.4.7 Longitudinal separation between aircraft flying opposite direction tracks (and not laterally separated) cannot apply throughout. Vertical separation must therefore be ensured during a period equal to the appropriate minimum stated below prior to and after the aircraft are estimated to meet:
- 30 minutes is deleted. 15 minutes is the most restrictive. All the others remain the same below.
That’s (possibly) all, folks
Please let me know if I missed anything or misunderstood anything.
This is just to help folk wanting to get ahead of the changes, and I have tried my best to get it right but I am just a lowly pilot who happens to be able to read fast, I am no NAT HLA expert.