In the US, under certain conditions you can get away with not having to select an alternate – as long as both ends of one runway are suitable and available, you have two runways. In Europe, there’s a similar rule, but the key difference is that there has to be separate runways – not one runway which you could land at either end of.
EASA recently issued this reminder letter to Third Country Operators:
For a flight to be conducted in accordance with the instrument flight rules, at least one destination alternate aerodrome shall be selected and specified in the operational and ATS flight plans, unless the duration of the flight from the departure aerodrome, or from the point of in-flight re-planning to the destination aerodrome is such that, taking into account all meteorological conditions and operational information relevant to the flight, at the estimated time of use, a reasonable certainty exists that:
1. the approach and landing may be made under visual meteorological conditions (VMC); and
2. separate runways are usable at the estimated time of use of the destination aerodrome with at least one runway having an operational instrument approach procedure.
In accordance with the ICAO definition, separate runways are two or more runways at the same aerodrome configured such that if one runway is closed, operations to the other runway(s) can be conducted.
Several ICAO contracting States have filed a difference to ICAO with regard to this standard, because their national regulation does not contain a requirement for separate runways at the destination aerodrome when opting to file a flight plan without a dedicated destination alternate aerodrome.
Please be informed that EASA expects TCOs to plan their flights in compliance with the ICAO standard. This means that an alternate aerodrome has to be listed in the ATS flight plan where required in accordance with standard 220.127.116.11.1 of Annex 6 Part 1 to the Chicago Convention, even though your national regulation is less restrictive in this aspect.
The respective destination alternate fuel shall be included in the pre-flight calculation of usable fuel in accordance with standard 18.104.22.168 of said Annex.
EASA will verify compliance by means of sampling flight documents during the initial authorisation and during continuous monitoring of TCO authorisation holders.
Furthermore, ramp inspections performed under SAFA/RAMP inspection programme will serve as an additional source of information for non-compliance.
Where a non-compliance is found, EASA will raise a level-2 finding in accordance with Part-ART of the TCO Regulation (EU) No 452/2014.
We therefore, encourage you to review your flight planning procedures and where necessary to align those to ensure full compliance with the respective above-mentioned standards.
So can I plan a flight in Europe without an alternate?
Yes, but only in certain circumstances. EASA CAT.OP.MPA.182 has the details:
Or if you want to keep it simple, just file an alternate airport in your flight plan.
A Cautionary Tale
Here’s a recent report from an OPSGROUP member on this:
We were doing flights all over the EU without an alternate, when the weather didn’t require one as per our rules. Then we got SAFA ramp checked in EGSS/Stansted, and the ramp inspector took umbrage that we were coming in without an alternate on a clear day. We now carry an alternate for all single runway ops in the EU, with a realistic routing.
A Realistic Routing?
This is another thing to watch out for in Europe. You have to make sure your route to alternate is computed and included in your flight plan, that it’s realistic, and that it doesn’t break any rules. Let’s tackle those in order:
Computed and included in your flight plan:
It should look something like this:
This means you’ve included a proper route to alternate like the one shown above, not just one big DCT. The routing doesn’t have to be fully Eurocontrol compliant, it just has to be realistic. That means making sure you have enough fuel for a missed approach, climb, and descent to alternate. If you use a SID from your destination airport and join it up with a STAR for your alternate, that’s probably a safe bet.
Doesn’t break any rules:
The French DSAC recently partnered up with IS-BAO to take a look at hundreds of de-identified ramp check findings in order to analyse the most frequent CAT 2 and CAT 3 findings in business aviation. A common one was flights planned to unavailable alternates – usually those that cannot be used as per AIP or Notam, or those where you need PPR.
Common ones to watch out for:
LFTH/Toulon – can’t be used as alternate without PPR.
LFMD/Cannes – can’t be used as alternate as per French AIP.
LFMQ/Le Castellet – this sometimes gets used as an alternate for LFMN/Nice and LFML/Marseille. But LFMQ rarely publishes TAF/METAR reports, so if you want to use this, you need to make sure you select at least one other alternate with a weather report!
Do you know of any more? Let us know!
Head here to download the latest ramp check guidance straight from the horse’s mouth.
More on the topic:
- More: Ops to Mexico? Prepare to get ramp checked!
- More: EASA: New Ops Risks in Europe
- More: SAFA Ramp Checks: The Top 5 Offenders
- More: EASA Fuel Rules: A Picture Book
- More: EASA All Weather Ops Changes: Part I