It seems the North Atlantic Systems Planning Group (SPG) likes to throw a curve ball every few years to keep us international operators on our toes. Every ten years or so, they like to completely change the game. The last time this happened was with the incorporation of the Performance Based Communications and Surveillance (PBCS) concept whereby we stuffed more airplanes into the same airspace and made our trusty High Frequency (HF) radios backups to datalink. Get ready for another game changer later this year: North Atlantic (NAT) Oceanic Clearance Removal (OCR) implementation.

— James Albright

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Updated:

2023-09-15

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NATS Prestwick Centre Scotland

The next edition of the veritable bible of North Atlantic Operations, NAT Doc 007, is due out around October 2023 and the chapter dedicated to oceanic clearances has been deleted in its entirety. The mad scramble to find the correct frequency and make the call prior to entering an Oceanic Control Area (OCA) will come to an end. Presumably, the trauma of a last minute reroute and the furious button pressing to get it all programmed prior to OCA entry will end too. Expect these changes sometime after the effective date of the new Doc 007, above March 2024.

In other words, it is sounding much like the oceanic clearance process in the rest of the world. Oceanic Clearance Removal will also spell an end to the Mach Number Technique / “Resume Normal Speed” requirement. “The norm becomes that aircraft enter the NAT Region on normal speed.” Expect more information following the October 24 – 25, 2023 NAT OPS Forum.

Another change you will no doubt be hearing about is the use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Height Monitoring as the sole source of data for NAT Central Monitoring Agency (CMA) height monitoring. Of note, is the direction to terminate the contract of the Strumble HMU as soon as possible. So, you no longer need to plan a flight over Strumble for RVSM credit.

Some changes that we’ve been anticipating may not happen for a while longer. A few years ago the SPG hinted that Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) altitudes could extend above FL 410, which came as shock to many of us. In 2022, Airbus and Boeing operators made up 78% of FL 410 traffic over the North Atlantic. At FL 430, the ratio almost inverts, with aircraft other than Airbus and Boeing making up 85%. Many of us in the business jet world use FL430 and above as our private domain, free from the crowded lower levels. But few of our aircraft are RVSM capable above FL 410. The SPG recognizes the benefit of expanding RVSM to at FL 420 and FL 440, but acknowledges the need for many of us to get operational approval first. So, the measure is tabled. (For now.)

Another change that isn’t happening now but may happen in the future is the decommissioning of Non-Directional Beacons (NDBs) supporting the Blue Spruce Routes. If you rely on the Blue Spruce Routes and you need the NDBs to crosscheck a single long-range navigation system, you should know that the SPG has asked provider States to consider the ramifications of decommissioning NDBs in the NAT region.

It is unclear how quickly international operations training vendors can catch up to these changes. Operators will have to educate themselves as best they can until then.

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References

(Source material)

Summary of Discussions and Conclusions of the Fifty-Ninth Meeting of The North Atlantic Systems Planning Group, Paris, France, 27 to 29 June 2023, Prepared by the European and North Atlantic Office of ICAO, June 2023