Category: FIR (page 1 of 3)

North Atlantic 2018 Operational Changes – Shanwick, Gander, Iceland, Santa Maria, New York – and the NAT HLA

We’ll use this page for NAT changes, including EGGX/Shanwick, CZQX/Gander, BIRD/Iceland, ENOB/Bodo, LPPO/Santa Maria, and KZWY/New York Oceanic East.

2018

Here are the latest important changes for the NAT. These are also published in the latest edition of NAT Doc 007, August 2018.

  • PBCS From March 29th 2018, PBCS is a requirement for the daily mandated PBCS NAT Tracks (right now, that the 3 core tracks each day) between FL350-390.  PBCS for the NAT means having both RCP240 (4 minute comms loop) and RSP180 (3 minute position reporting). If you’re missing approval for either, then you can fly anywhere other than along the core NAT tracks FL350-390. Read more about PBCS in our article, and check out the NAT Circle of Change for an easier graphical representation.
  • RLAT  From January 4th 2018, Shanwick and Gander increase the number of RLAT tracks – most tracks between FL350-390 will now be RLAT – 25nm separation between them.

And there will be more! Keep an eye on this page, we’ll keep it updated.


The NAT used to be simple. Fill your flask, fire up the HF, align the INS and away you went.

Now, it’s a little more complicated. Basic Instruments are not enough. Use this quick and dirty guide from FSB to figure out where you are welcome on the NAT, depending on what equipment and training you have. Valid January 31, 2018.

Free for OpsGroup, or you can purchase a copy here.

 


2017

Lots of important changes in 2017

  • SLOP – Offsetting is now mandatory. Choose 0, 1, or 2nm right of track. We think 1 or 2 is best. Consider the recent A380 story.
  • TCAS 7.1: From January 1st, 2017, TCAS 7.1 is required throughout the entire NAT region.
  • Cruising Level: Effective 2017, you no longer need to file an ICAO standard cruising level in NAT airspace.
  • Gross Nav Error:  is now defined as greater than 10nm (used to be 25nm)
  • Contingency Procedure: Published January 2017, a new turn-back (180) procedure is introduced – turn back to parallel previous track by 15nm.
  • Datalink Mandate Exemptions: Phase 2B of the Datalink mandate started on December 7, 2017 (FL350-390). Exempt: Radar airspace, Tango Routes, airspace north of 80N, and New York OCA.

2016

  • Confirm Assigned Route Introduced August 2016, you will see this message when you enter NAT airspace with datalink, and you should reply with the planned route in NAT airspace. Designed to catch errors.
  • NAT HLA The airspace formerly known as MNPS. Changed February 2016. NAT HLA = NAT High Level Airspace. Now includes Bodo Oceanic, and aircraft must be RNP 4 or RNP10. Previous MNPS approvals good through 2020.

2015

  • RLAT Started December 2015, spacing on the NAT Tracks reduced to “Half Track” (30nm) for 3 core tracks. RLAT=Reduced Lateral Separation Minima. Next phase (ie. all NAT Tracks 350-390) now planned for December 2017.
  • SLOP Offsetting right of track by 1nm or 2nm became Mandatory.

 


Feb 1st, 2018: FSB updated the full NAT Crossing Guide “My first North Atlantic Flight is tomorrow“.

– What’s different about the NAT, changes in 2018,2017, 2016, 2015, NAT Quick Map
– Routine Flight Example #1 – Brussels to JFK (up at 5.45am)
– Non Routine-Flights: No RVSM, No RNP4, No HF, 1 LRNS, No HLA, No ETOPS, No TCAS, No Datalink – what you can do and where you can go
Take a look.

 


Great Australian Bight – RNAV/RNP only airways

Australian AIP flight plan requirements (GEN – FPR – 18 – section 7.4) have been updated to remind operators to file the right navigation specifications on their ATC flight plan or risk a re-route for flights over the Great Australian Bight (in the YMMM/Melbourne FIR).

Specifically, for flights operating on the following airways: Q32, Y135, Q33, Q158, Y53.

Aircraft flight planning on these routes should meet the following navigation specifications.

  • RNP2; RNP4; RNAV5 with GNSS or IRS/INS RNAV10 or RNP10.

Aircraft flight planning on these routes without correctly indicating their relevant navigation specification will be re-cleared by ATC on a “more suitable route”.

One to check next time you’re flying through the area, especially for a flight to/from YPPH/Perth.

Further reading:

HLLL Tripoli FIR 2018 Operational Changes – Libya

UPDATE Friday 7 Sep 2018: HLLM/Mitiga Airport reopened on Sep 7, following a UN-mediated ceasefire between local militia. It had been closed since Aug 31 – the latest in a long string of closures due to heavy fighting in the area. We continue to advise against all ops to Libya, including overflights.

A number of countries already have blanket warnings in place against operating to Libya, and they all say pretty much the same thing: avoid the entire country – don’t overfly the Tripoli FIR, and don’t land at any Libyan airports.

Even the Libyan authorities have issued some guidance of their own, showing those areas that they believe to be active Conflict Zones – this type of notification from a ‘Conflict Zone state’ is rare.

HLLL/LIBYA A0067/18 
THE FOLLOWING AREAS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE CONFLICT ZONES WITHIN HLLL FIR:
AREA 1: 3116N01610E 3108N01707E 3030N01700E 3042N01605E
AREA 2: 3251N02240E 3243N02246E 3239N02218E 3247N02216E.
GND - FL195, 12 MAY 09:40 2018 UNTIL 12 AUG 12:00 2018 ESTIMATED.
CREATED: 12 MAY 09:48 2018

One of these areas is around the city of Sirte, including HLGT/Sirte Airport; and the other covers the city of Derna to the east of HLLQ/Labraq Airport:

Other than those two small areas, Libya is happily advertising the country as being open for business! In their updated Notam published in May 2018, they say their airspace is “available H24 for international traffic transiting the HLLL FIR”, and they outline their mandatory routing scheme. They also claim that HLLB/Benina, HLLM/Mitiga, HLLQ/Labraq, HLMS/Misrata and HLTQ/Tobruk airports are “available H24 for international flights and diversions”.

Don’t be fooled. Libya is still a desperately unstable country. There are still regular outages in the provision of ATC services – especially at the main airports due to security or technical failure issues. The main ACC in Tripoli is also subject to severe limitations with no radar service and limited provision of CNS/ATM services in most of the HLLL FIR airspace.

The situation at the country’s main airports is no better. Both airports in Tripoli are focal points for fighting. Given their strategic value, they periodically serve as headquarters for various local militias.

HLLT/Tripoli Airport has been more or less completely closed since mid-2014, when at least 90% of the airport’s facilities were destroyed in fighting between local militias. Since then, international flights to and from Tripoli have been using HLLM/Mitiga instead. Technically, HLLT/Tripoli is now only available for VIP, emergency and ambulance flights; but in reality, it should be avoided at all costs.

HLLM/Mitiga Airport is the old military airfield, which is now being used for civilian traffic, since the closure of HLLT/Tripoli. However, the airport has been plagued by violence over the past few years, and has been forced to close on a number of occasions.

Here’s a rough timeline of notable incidents at Libya’s main airports over the past few months:

April 2018: militants fired rockets at Mitiga, causing damage to the airport building, parts of the apron tarmac, and a parked Libya Airlines A320 aircraft (see picture to the right).

April 2018:  HLMS/Misrata Airport briefly suspended operations and redirected flights to Mitiga, when an armed group entered the airport, demanding the release of two members of a local militia.

Feb 2018: another closure at Mitiga related to ongoing clashes between local militia. This time, a mortar shell fell near the airport, and the ATC tower was evacuated, forcing flights to divert to Misrata.

Jan 2018: heavy clashes across Tripoli left at least twenty people dead and forced Mitiga to close for five days, from Jan 15-20. Gunfire at the airport damaged multiple aircraft, including a few A319s and at least one A330:

Oct 2017: a Libyan Airlines A330 at Mitiga airport was hit by gunfire during an exchange of fire between local militia in the district directly south of the airport:

Given the current security concerns, it may be prudent to ignore whatever the Libyan authorities decide to publish on the HLLL FIR Notams about the country’s airspace and main international airports being “available H24”. We continue to list the entire country as “Level 1 – Avoid” at safeairspace.net.

More:

Frustration with new Curacao FIR billing system

We have previously reported on TNCF/Curacao FIR denying airspace entry if you haven’t prepaid your navigation fees.

Since then, more of our members have reported that the Dutch Caribbean – Air Navigation Service Provider (DC-ANSP) have been charging navigation fees for flights filed but not operated. If there was a mistake on the flightplan or a new one needed to be filed the DC-ANSP has charged the fees for both and refused to issue refunds. To make matters worse, it’s been reported that they are charging $50 to review the matter! Poor form!

From 1 Jan 2018, DC-ANSP switched billing systems – from direct payment to IATA to a new online system provided for by IDS. It’s pretty high tech and fancy. Maybe too fancy if they are charging for flights that didn’t happen….

High tech new billing system!

DC-ANSP’s motto is “We guide you home safely!” – maybe they should add …. “but only when you prepay.

Have you had a similar experience? Let us know!

Updated communication procedures for Hong Kong FIR

AIP SUP A09/18 details new communication procedures for air traffic entering the VHHK/Hong Kong FIR.

The key points:

  • Aircraft shall comply with the following communication requirements to obtain an air traffic control (ATC) clearance:
  • Pilot shall report the aircraft callsign, position (with reference to reporting point), level (including passing and cleared levels if not maintaining the cleared level), transponder code, and other pertinent information (e.g. speed assigned by last ATC, tracking if it differs from the flight plan route) in the initial call before entering Hong Kong FIR.

Also a small change: the requirement for pilots to report the estimate time exiting Hong Kong FIR on first contact with Hong Kong Radar as stipulated in AIP Hong Kong ENR 1.1 paragraph 2.2.4 will no longer be applicable and is hereby cancelled.

Don’t forget to file MACH number in NY Oceanic Airspace

KZWY/New York Oceanic FIR last month published a NOTAM requiring Flight Plans to be submitted with MACH crusing number, rather than TAS in Field 15A for the flight plan. So far, most operators are not doing this. But you should!

This includes flight departing TXKF/Bermuda.

A0178/18 – ALL ACFT ENTERING THE NEW YORK OCEANIC FIR (KZWY), INCLUDING THOSE DEPARTING BERMUDA (TXKF) , MUST FILE A MACH NUMBER INSTEAD OF A SPEED OF KNOTS IN THE EXPECTED CRUISE SPEED FIELD (FIELD 15A) OF THEIR FPL. 03 MAY 17:08 2018 UNTIL 31 MAR 23:59 2019. CREATED: 03 MAY 17:09 2018

Reports are that compliance so far has been low.

So why do it?

NY ARTCC tell us:

This minor adjustment enables the ATC computer system to effectively probe flight plans and proactively offer more favorable routes and/or reroutes.

Help ATC out! Thank you.

 

Expanded Canadian ADIZ

As of May 24, Canada has expanded its ADIZ to include all its national territory in the Arctic Archipelago.

 

Requirements for operations in the ADIZ remain the same. You’ll need a transponder with altitude reporting and a working two-way radio. Remember, you’ll need to include the time and location of ADIZ border crossing in your flight plans RMK section.

Full AIC 2/18 for the detailed lat/long of the expanded area here.

Europe squawks 7600 on ops in the Eastern Med

As we reported last month,  Eurocontrol published a ‘Rapid Alert Notification’ on their website regarding imminent air strikes into Syria.

“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and / or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR area.”

Around this time LCCC/Nicosia FIR released this vague (and now deleted) NOTAM:

A0454/18 – INFORMATION TO AIRSPACE USERS

THE DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AVIATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS IS CONTINUOUSLY MONITORING THE GEOPOLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE REGION AND WILL NOTIFY THE AVIATION COMMUNITY IF AND WHEN ANY RELEVANT AN RELIABLE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE THE DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AVIATION IS TAKING ALL APPROPRIATE ACTION TO SAFEGUARD THE SAFETY OF FLIGHTS. 12 APR 15:25 2018 UNTIL 12 JUL 15:00 2018 ESTIMATED. CREATED: 12 APR 15:26 2018

Beyond this alert and NOTAM though; nothing else happened. A few days later, the conflict escalated.

Very few commercial flights operate over Syria, and authorities in the US, UK, France and Germany have all previously issued warnings for Syrian airspace.

But many airlines regularly transit the LCCC/Nicosia FIR: there are frequent holiday flights to the main Cypriot airports of LCLK/Larnaca and LCPH/Paphos; overflight traffic from Europe to the likes of OLBA/Beirut, OJAI/Amman and LLBG/Tel Aviv; as well as traffic from Istanbul heading south to the Gulf and beyond.

What has happened in the few weeks since then?

Normal Eurocontrol protocol is (during expected ATC strike for example) – regular teleconferences with operators, active re-routes and removal of certain overflight approval requirements. So did that happen this time? No.

Essentially just radio silence on Syria and operations in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Right now, it’s a busy place. With all the normal holiday traffic in the region, there is also a large number of military surveillance aircraft from numerous nations patrolling the region. United States assets operating from Greece and Italy. UK air power from Cyprus and the French from bases in Jordan. Add to that the normal Israeli defense air frames and even the odd Swedish gulfstream surveillance flight!  Then there are the Russians conducting aerial operations and defense exercises in and around Syria.

Cyprus has activated a litany of “temporary reserved/segregated areas” inside of Nicosia FIR.

On May 3rd, Cyprus issued this vague information, to ‘exercise caution’.

A0580/18 – NAVIGATIONAL WARNING TO ALL CONCERNED. EXTENSIVE MILITARY OPERATIONS IN NICOSIA FIR PILOTS TO EXERCISE CAUTION AND MAINTAIN CONTINUOUS RADIO CONTACT WITH NICOSIA ACC. 03 MAY 12:00 2018 UNTIL 31 MAY 23:59 2018. CREATED: 03 MAY 11:25 2018

There is also a current warning about GPS interruptions.

A0356/18 – RECENTLY, GPS SIGNAL INTERRUPTIONS HAVE BEEN REPORTED BY THE PILOTS OF THE AIRCRAFT OPERATING WITHIN SOME PARTS OF NICOSIA FIR. AIRCRAFT OPERATORS OPERATING WITHIN NICOSIA FIR ARE ADVISED TO EXERCISE CAUTION. 20 MAR 10:04 2018 UNTIL PERM. CREATED: 20 MAR 10:05 2018

It may be unfair to blame the authorities completely. At the end of the day, due to the lack of appropriate communication from the various security agencies it’s hard to get accurate information out there. Still, there was enough warning to alert civilian operators of imminent strike – but then nothing else. Shouldn’t airspace customers and users expect more?

So what to make of all this?

Let’s end it with this great 2009 (and still current) NOTAM from the Cypriots.

A0687/09 – NAVIGATION WARNING TO ALL CONCERNED.

15 SEP 09:30 2009 UNTIL PERM. CREATED: 15 SEP 09:34 2009

 

Saudi – Yemen Airspace Update

In Short: Avoid Yemen & Southern Saudi airspace, and monitor risk for OERK/Riyadh. The armed conflict continues with regular ballistic missile launches from Yemen.

Once again there is increased missile activity in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, with a reported 35 missiles launched from rebels in Yemen this year. 14 of these were in April – about the same amount as August 2016 and December 2015, but most are now being shot down by Saudi Patriot missiles; only 3 have struck Saudi soil this year.

OERK/Riyadh continues to be on the radar for the Houthi’s. Of most concern, an F-15 was hit by a SAM over Yemen on 21 March, fired from OYSH. There is definitely a risk to operations in Saudi airspace, even outside the Scatana area.

So far the only missile attack known to have resulted in any casualties was on Mar 25, when seven ballistic missiles were fired toward Saudi Arabia from within Yemen. Yemeni forces said they were targeting OERK/Riyadh Airport and other sites in the capital. The Saudi government said that all seven missiles were intercepted and destroyed, although one person died and two more were injured by falling fragments of one missile over a residential neighbourhood in Riyadh.

Much of the information comes from state media and cannot always be independently verified. As the propaganda campaign continues, a New York Times investigation suggested that at least one of the most high-profile attacks from 2017 may not have been “shot-down” or intercepted by Saudi defense systems at all.

 

The conflict and insurgency on the ground remains complex and volatile. Safeairspace continues to provide up-to-date information for both Saudi and Yemen airspace.

Yemen is still at FSB Risk Level: One – DO NOT FLY – We strongly recommend avoiding this airspace entirely. The FAA and several other agencies have amended their advice and the current airspace advice map looks like this at present:

SCATANA rules are active in the southern part of Saudi Arabia, due to the current Saudi-led Intervention in Yemen.

This NOTAM, published by authorities in Yemen for the OYSC/Sanaa FIR, can definitely be taken with a grain of salt:

A0026/17 – ALL YEMEN AIRPORTS EXCEPTS TAIZ HODEIDAH AND MUKALLA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS ARE AVAILABLE AND READY TO HANDLE ALL FLIGHTS INTENDING TO FLY TO OR FROM YEMENI AIRPORTS ALSO SANAA ACC IS COMPLETELY READY TO PROVIDE ATC SERVICES TO ALL FLIGHTS OVER FLY SANAA FIR AND BASED ON THE DECLARATION OF DECISIVE STORM TERMINATION WE CONFIRM THAT SANAA FIR AND YEMENI AIRPORTS ARE SAFE EXCEPT THOSE MENTIONED ABOVE. 03 APR 18:00 2017 UNTIL PERM. CREATED: 01 JUL 15:24 2017

Extra Reading:

Japan scrambles record number of jets as tensions rise with China

In Short: Japan scrambled a record number of fighter jets in the past year. The number rose to an all-time high of 1,168 in the year to March 2017, easily beating the previous record of 944 set at the height of the cold war in 1984. Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace prompted 851 of the incidents, an increase of 280 over the previous year.

According to official figures released on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self Defense Force is scrambling fighter jets in record numbers as Chinese military activity escalates. Interceptions of Chinese planes rose by half in the year to March 31, in response to increases in the communist country’s activity in and around the East China Sea.

Japan worries that China is probing its air defences as part of a push to extend its military influence in the East China Sea and western Pacific, where Japan controls an island chain stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) south towards Taiwan. The figures highlight China’s growing assertion of military power in East Asia as it expands and modernises its armed forces in line with rapid economic growth.

For the first time, Chinese jets recently began flying through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan, and through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean.

But it’s not only China that Japan is worried about. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned North Korea may be capable of firing a missile loaded with sarin nerve gas towards Japan. “There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to deliver missiles with sarin as warheads,” he told a parliamentary national security committee.

And then there’s Russia. Scrambles by Japanese aircraft were high throughout the 1980s in response to flights by Soviet aircraft during the cold war. They fell back to 100-200 incidents a year during the 1990s and 2000s, but began to pick up again a decade ago as both China and Russia grew more assertive.

Mr Abe has been trying to negotiate with Russian president Vladimir Putin over the future of four disputed islands in the Kuril chain to Japan’s north, but has made limited progress, with the jet scrambles showing Moscow’s determination to make its presence felt on its eastern border. There were 301 scrambles to intercept Russian aircraft during the year, 13 more than the previous year, including incidents where Russian jets circumnavigated the Japanese Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands to the south.

Extra Reading:

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