BizAv Flight Planning Tips: Crossing the Atlantic – Part 2: Equipment & Certification Mandates

PT 3 M minute read

This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week entitled “BizAv Flight Planning Tips: Crossing the Atlantic – Part 1: Airports & Routings.

Business aircraft operators with limited Performance Based Navigation (PBN) capabilities and certifications will encounter increasing limitations when transiting North Atlantic Tracks (NATs). While certain options and exemptions are available for operators without all the latest mandated equipment, operational efficiency will be impacted, and the most direct routings may not be available.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. NAT equipment and certifications

HF radios and MNPS are required for operating within most of the NAT region. For example, if you’re not HF– and MNPS–equipped/certified, you’ll not likely be able to fly eastbound out of Goose Bay (CYYR) within the track system.

2. Operating without HF

When crossing the North Atlantic with non–HF equipped aircraft, perhaps an older or lighter business jet, you’ll face operational limitations. Be mindful that SATCOM is not an acceptable substitute to HF in this region and is not approved for use in the NATs. And, there’s no consistent VHF coverage below FL310 across this region. Currently, the only approved routing without HF, other than flying below FL290, is to cross from Iqaluit (CYFB) to Kangerlussuaq (BGSF) and then on to Iceland. However, this involves a significant flight diversion from Goose Bay (CYYR) up to CYFB before crossing over to Greenland.

3. ADS–B and CPDLC requirements

Effective November 2015, ADS–B and CPDLC mandates went into effect for all NATs between FL350 and 390. In 2017 this requirement expands to cover all North Atlantic airspace between FL350–390, whether you’re on a NAT or not. By January 2020, ADS–B and CPDLC requirements become effective for all published NATs.

4. Gross navigational errors

When flying the NATs it’s important to check and verify that what’s in your FMS is what’s on your flight plan and is the filed route. If, for example, you forget to enter one waypoint between Shannon (EINN) and Gander (CYQX) you’re essentially on a random route and not flying the NATs you’re approved for. Penalties are associated with these sorts of gross navigational errors (GNE), and this is something you want to avoid. It’s also important to avoid descending through the tracks or slowing down without permission. If you don’t tell air traffic control (ATC) you’re slowing down, and don’t make your next reporting point on time, this can be considered a GNE.

5. Operating exemptions

If you’re crossing the Atlantic in an older business jet without up–to–date navigation technology, there are certain operating allowances and exemptions available. For example, you may fly designated Blue Spruce routes and obtain exemptions from 8.33 MHz radios for entry into European airspace. With prior notification ATC may give you an alternate frequency to use. If you’re not RVSM qualified/equipped it may be possible to cross the Atlantic in NAT airspace so long as you remain in radar contact. Radar coverage exists between Scotland and Reykjavik (BIRK), and you’ll often be able to operate above FL290 within radar coverage. The only potential issues are likely to be if you need to climb/descend through the NATs out of radar coverage.

6. New certification requirements

Beginning Nov 2016 RNP4 requirements begin to go into effect, and by 2017 these mandates will cover the entire NAT region. So, it’s best for operators to be proactively RNP4–equipped and certified. Over time, CPDLC mandates will expand to cover the entire NAT region. Upgrading aircraft with CPDLC is recommended if you’ll be flying the NATS routinely. The good news is that the CPDLC approval backlogs are down from what they had been, and certification applications are being processed much faster over the past three to four months.

7. Reduced lateral separation

While we don’t anticipate NAT coverage descending below FL290 there will be reductions in lateral separation over time, from 1 degree separation down to ½ a degree. This reduced separation will require operators to have RNP4 and ADS–B certification in order to use the tighter tracks. In the South Atlantic region, but we do not envision an organized track system materializing over the foreseeable future.


Roll out of reduced lateral separation within the NATs will greatly increase availability of preferred tracks across the North Atlantic. To take best advantage of these opportunities, however, PBN equipment and certification should be reviewed and system upgrades considered.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip, contact Jason Davidson jasondavidson@univ–

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