There is a revised NAT OPS Bulletin that was issued June 14. Bulletin 2020_001 is all about ACARS Data Link Oceanic Clearances.
It puts all the procedures for CZQX/Gander, BIRD/Reykjavik, ENOB/Bodø, EGGX/Shanwick and LPPO/Santa Maria into one spot, instead of having them spread between all the different individual ANSP NAT OPS Bulletins.
When we compared the old version of the Bulletin with this new one there aren’t really any big differences at all. Essentially none, in fact. But since we recently confused ourselves a lot over all things ACARS related, here is a refresher summary of what it says…
Have a read of the intro first
Point 2.2 of the introduction says this:
“The ACARS Data link oceanic clearance service is provided by means of VHF and satellite to ACARS equipped aircraft via communications service providers ARINC and SITA. It should not be confused with FANS 1/A CPDLC.”
(I totally confused these earlier, despite having used both.)
“Operators intending to participate in the ACARS data link process are required to contact their communications service provider and indicate they would like to receive the service.”
So that means the likes of ARINC and SITA.
The Procedures (in short)
1. Put the ACARS logon in, along with your flight number and the OCA facility.
2. Make sure you request your clearance at the right time (not too early, not too late). Here is the current table of timings:
(This is the only change we spotted from the old one – Gander used to say 90-30 minutes, now it says 90-60 minutes.)
3. Make sure your RCL has all the right stuff in it:
- The OEP (this means Oceanic Entry Point, not to be confused with OAPs which mean old person)
- Your ETA for the OEP
- The requested flight level
- The highest acceptable flight level you could reach by the OEP. This goes in the free text section by putting MAX F123
4. If you don’t get some sort of “RCL Received” message within 5 minutes of sending it then you’re going to have to use voice instead.
5. Once you get your clearance, check it well. That means checking the LATs and LONGs in your FMC. If the clearance doesn’t match your flight plan, then both pilots should independently confirm the coordinates and points. If you don’t like your clearance then negotiate by voice, otherwise send your CLA (clearance acknowledgement). If you don’t have that function, do it with your mouth.
Some peculiarities with each of the OCAs
- If you’re departing somewhere less than 45 minutes from your Gander OEP, then get your clearance 10 minutes before you depart.
- Sometimes you might get an ACARS oceanic clearance before you’ve even sent the RCL.
- If you fly an aircraft that is not able to send an RCL, then you can set yourself up for Gander’s special service but need to do it in advance:
- Get in touch with your comms service provider and NavCanada
- Put AGCS in item 18 of your flight plan
- Expect to receive your clearance automatically once you logon
- You must not enter Shanwick without a clearance.
- If you’re flying between and Irish and a Scottish airport, its not very far, so might want to get your clearance before departure.
- You get 2 chances with Shanwick. If at first you don’t succeed (you don’t get the RCL received confirmation) then try again.
- If you’ve left it too late and are within 15 minutes of your OEP, you ain’t going to get your clearance via ACARS.
- They don’t give clearances via ACARS if you’re departing from an airport in Iceland, Greenland or the Faroe Islands. Get it from whoever you’re talking to on the ground before you go.
- You don’t need an RCL if you’re departing from the Azores, you’ll get it through the (VHF) radio or possibly get a CPDLC route confirmation before you head out into the great blue yonder.
Other helpful stuff in the bulletin
Gander: Robert Fleming firstname.lastname@example.org
Reykjavik: Bjarni K. Stefansson email@example.com
Bodo: Kenneth Berg Kenneth.firstname.lastname@example.org
Shanwick: Iain Brown email@example.com
Santa Maria: Jose Cabral firstname.lastname@example.org
More on the topic:
- More: NAT Basics: An Unofficial Checklist For Pilots
- More: Aug 2022 NAT Doc 006 Changes
- More: NAT Conundrums Volume III: To GOTA and beyond!
- More: Updated FAA Oceanic Guides
- More: No SELCAL On The NAT?