Going to a country you've never been?
Bring along someone who has. Failing that, talk to another pilot who has been. Failing that, have a good handler with inside information about the ins and outs of the airports you are visiting.
With or without this kind of help, you should still do some homework:
If you haven't been to a region in a few years, it really pays to talk to someone who has. If you don't speak the language it pyas double to have a contact at the airport to make things run smoothly for you, a good trip handler can be invaluable.
Keep in mind things are constantly changing, but I've included notes about navigation performance, RVSM, altimeter procedures, and ICAO differences for the various regions in a list below.
While things are definitely becoming more standardized, there are still very big differences between many countries on how airplanes are expected to fly. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) sets out a game plan for all to follow, then allows everyone to change whatever they please, provided they publish the differences in their own Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). How is your Nepalese? You would have to be able to read it to find out the flight levels in Nepal are based on quadranteal altitudes below 13,500 feet. What's an international pilot to do?
Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.
An AIP is a requirement levied upon a country as price of membership to the ICAO; they have to publish one.
[ICAO Annex 15, Chapter 4]
Note 1.— AIP are intended primarily to satisfy international requirements for the exchange of aeronautical information of a lasting character essential to air navigation. When practicable, the form of presentation is designed to facilitate their use in flight.
Note 2.— AIP constitute the basic information source for permanent information and long duration temporary changes.
Knowing what is supposed to be inside an AIP can help you find what hyou need to know before using a country's airspace or airports.
[ICAO Annex 15, ¶4.2]
Note.— If it is necessary by reason of bulk or for convenience, to publish an AIP in two or more parts or volumes, each of them will indicate that the remainder of the information is to be found in the other part(s) or volume(s).
Most AIPs are organized into three parts that will help you target your search.
[United States Aeronautical Information Publication, ¶3.1] The AIP is made up of three Parts; General (GEN), En Route (ENR), and Aerodromes (AD); each divided into sections and subsections as applicable, containing various types of information subjects.
Ah, that is the important question, isn't it? You can just type the country's name followed by "Aeronautical Information Publication" and hope for the best. The best source I've found, as of early 2017, is: http://gis.icao.int/gallery/ONLINE_AIPs.html
One of the problems with having an exhaustive list of anything that has anything to do with international operations is that they quickly become out of date. The link for the U.S. AIP on that list, for example, is out of date. The correct link is: https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/media/aip.pdf
ICAO Doc 7030 Regional Supplementary Procedures and ICAO Doc 7030 Amendment 1 , are the official publication of regional differences between individual countries and the ICAO standard. In theory this should be your "go to" source, but it is woefully out of date. Nonetheless, there is good information to be had here.
Figure: ICAO Doc 7030 Cover Page, from ICA Doc 7030.
The Jeppesen Airways Manuals should give you everything you need before visiting or overflying another country and have the added advantage of being written in a language you can understand. Even with an AIP at my side, I always give the State Pages a look for those countries I am visiting or overflying. I'll also look at the airport pages for those I am visiting.
Figure: LFPB State Pages, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, France, Various.
The "State Pages" in the Jeppesen airway manual refers to the following tabs:
While they aren't always perfectly up-to-date, they often present your only source of need to know information.
Figure: LFPB Airport Pages, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, Le Bourget, 30-1P through 30-9C
The Jeppesen airport pages are a must read, for starters. While for many airports there is little to learn there, for others the information is critical and you won't find it any place else. At Paris Le Bourget, for example, this is the only place you have access to, unless you have a French AIP, where you will find out the normal landing runway, the reverse thrust rules after 2215L, and a unique rule that allows you to intercept an ILS localizer without ATC instructions under some circumstances. Since these pages are updated frequently, every time you go to a particular airport you need to look at every page!
Of course there are many Internet sources that you can use, I've listed some of them here and you can find a few more under the Links tab, above.
ICAO Doc 7030 should tell you how the rules and procedures in a particular region differ from the ICAO standard. It is a good place to start, especially if you don't have access to a country's AIP. I've tried to pick up on many of the differences and have organized them using the ICAO Doc 7030 system.
ICAO Annex 15 - Aeronautical Information Services, International Standards and Recommended Practices, Annex 15 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 15th Edition, July 2016
ICAO Doc 7030 - Regional Supplementary Procedures, International Civil Aviation Organization, 2008
ICAO Doc 7030, Amendment 1, International Civil Aviation Organization, 8 January 2009
Jeppesen Airways Manuals
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