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More On and Off Ramps Added To The Western North Atlantic Tracks

February 2015

When Interstate-94 expanded near my home in Michigan, I was happy to see that an additional lane to the on ramp was added. This allowed a lot more room for merging traffic to get up to speed and make a smooth entrance that did not slow down the traffic already on the interstate. Currently a similar effort is being put forward on the Canadian side of the North Atlantic by Nav Canada relative to air traffic entering and exiting the North Atlantic Tracks (NAT).

From a Maintenance and Planning Perspective

Now more than ever, Future Air Navigation System (FANS 1/A) Controller Pilot Datalink Communications (CPDLC) will be critical to not only North Atlantic Operations as a whole, but also to the Oceanic Transition Areas. Airlines have responded positively to the changes in the North Atlantic, due to the reduction in fuel costs. You should expect continued pressure from Air Transport to result in the accelerated evolution of CPDLC in the Gander Oceanic Transition Area (GOTA) with little regard for business jet activity. Similar plans are starting to take shape on the European side of the NATs.

From an Operational Perspective

Expect expanded implementation of Reduced Lateral Separation Minimums (RLatSM) and expanded implementation of CPDLC-only routing in Oceanic Transition Areas such as GOTA.

Also be on the lookout for alterations in CPDLC routings to be released by Gander on NOTAMs. These CPDLC routings will need to be included in your flight plan to avoid getting your entire flight plan rejected. It is also recommended that crews carefully review all the waypoints for CPDLC routings to ensure that each point is represented properly to the flight plan. The full implementation of these CPDLC only routings will eventually allow RLatSM to be the norm within the NATs and its transition areas.

Nav Canada is also currently making incremental software changes as required within the Gander Automated Air Traffic System (GAATS) as the program progresses. The expanded CPDLC operations are expected to shift domestic airspace another 180nm east. The effect of this shift in airspace will be less time in the tracks and better routing entering or exiting the tracks.

The Skinny

If you want to fly to Europe in five years, you will need FANS 1/A CPDLC. Implementation of RLatSM and CPDLC automation is not going to slow down due to pressure for full implementation from the air transport side. In the very near future, non-compliance will result in a flight altitude of fl290 to Europe. You will not be allowed to fly above the NATs without CPDLC. The availability of random routes to Europe will likely be restricted due to increasingly restricted access to Oceanic Transition Areas. As we speak, Nav Canada is adding 'on ramps' to this highway in the sky with FANS 1/A CPDLC and RLatSM.

Are your aircraft and crews ready to use Nav Canada's new 'On' ramps?