UPDATE Nov 23, 2020: The North Atlantic datalink mandate rules will most likely remain suspended until 25 Feb 2021. They might bring that forward if traffic levels on the NAT reach 50% of those seen in 2019. What does the “suspension of the North Atlantic datalink rules” mean? Basically, this means that aircraft which do not have CPDLC and ADS-C can continue to flight plan and operate across the North Atlantic between FL290-410. All the North Atlantic FIRs have published Notams with different end dates for this in their own individual chunk of airspace – but we can now expect a bunch of new ones to get published soon, all showing 25 Feb 2021 as the end date.

So the rules are currently suspended. Great. But when they come back in, how will they work?

As per the final phase of the North Atlantic Datalink Mandate (NAT DLM) which came into effect on 30 Jan 2020, datalink will be required between FL290-FL410 throughout the entire NAT region. Simply put, you must be equipped with CPDLC and ADS-C if you want to fly between these flight levels.

There are a few exceptions to this:
– Everything north of 80°North
– New York Oceanic East FIR (was previously all of NY Oceanic)
Tango Routes T9, and new route T290 that will be introduced on the same day the mandate goes into effect. The other Tango routes (T213, T13, T16) will all require datalink.
– ATS Surveillance airspace, where surveillance service is provided by means of radar and/or ADS-B, coupled with VHF. These areas are shown below in green, although note that if any of the NAT Tracks go into these, you won’t be exempt while on that Track!

The Blue Spruce routes over Greenland are not fully contained in the exempted airspace – they route too far south. So if you flight plan the Blue Spruce routes you will have to meet the NAT DLM requirements or fly outside of the vertical parameters of DLM airspace (i.e. below FL290 or above FL410).

The relevant ICAO NAT Ops Bulletin sets out the exempted airspace over Greenland and Iceland where you can still fly if you don’t have datalink. This area is bounded by the following:

Northern boundary: 65N000W – 67N010W – 69N020W – 68N030W – 67N040W – 69N050W – 69N060W – BOPUT.

Southern boundary: GUNPA (61N000W) – 61N007W – 6040N010W – RATSU (61N010W) – 61N020W – 63N030W – 62N040W – 61N050W – SAVRY

The southerly Blue Spruce Route between Canada and Iceland routes south of this area. So to say that again – to fly on the Blue Spruce routes between FL290-410 you will need CPDLC and ADS-C.

It’s worth noting that aircraft without datalink can request to climb/descend through datalink mandated airspace, but will only be considered on a “tactical basis” by ATC.

Flights that file STS/FFR, HOSP, HUM, MEDEVAC SAR, or STATE in Field 18 of the FPL, will continue to be permitted to flight plan and fly through datalink mandated airspace, but may not get their requested flight levels.

For more details about the datalink mandate, check out the ICAO NAT Bulletin in full here.

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David Mumford

David Mumford

Opsgroup team member. International flight ops news hound.

One Comment

  • Michael says:

    We just (1st of February 2020) made a ferry flight with an old C550, not CPDLC and ADS-B equipped on the blue spruce route. Planned routing has been Keflafik – Narsarsuaq – Goose Bay. We tried to get FL430 for cruise – no chance. It will be refused by Gander and you will be forced to stay at FL270 or below.

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