North Atlantic Routes: I eat beef, you eat fish
by Aviationer || Category: Airlines, Regulations
Every single day, hundreds of commercial airplanes cross the north atlantic, flying transcontinental routes linking North America and Europe basically, the NAT (North Atlantic Tracks). The performances of these flights are much different and complex due to its distant routes from any kind of airport.
The twin-engine aircrafts operating these flights (usually big ones) must have the ETOPS rating, explained in other post. That is because the nearest alternative airport when flying above the atlantic is 180 minutes far. If an engine failure happens (or any other system), this aircraft should divert to the closest airport immediately.
Another huge problem is the radar coverage. As a matter of fact, this radar coverage does not exist. Radars must be set up on ground or close (not floating over the sea). The main Air Traffic Control facilities (Shanwick Oceanic for European side and Gander Oceanic for US side) are equipped with air traffic management systems that by means of pilot manual position reports, they have some sort of “radar-like” screen with all the airplanes’ positions.
The third and big problem as well (but solved anyway) is about communications. The communicacions between pilots and controllers use VHF (Very High Frequency from 30 MHz to 300MHz) frequency range. VHF waves only reach “line-of-sight” spaces. So, in that case they must use HF (High Frequency from 3 MHz to 30MHz) that bounces off the ionosphere and give coverage to greater distances. Nevertheless, even this advantage, sound quality is much poor.
The NAT routes are designed and published daily. They are defined with an entry waypoint, an exit waypoint and between, waypoints are defined with coordinates (there are no navaids to define them). Early in the morning, westbound routes are published. Then late at night, eastbound routes are published. Europe incoming routes are usually defined at higher latitude, to take advantage of the Jet Stream (high speed wind, will post about this).
By the way, pilots flying these routes cannot eat the same meal.
Here we can appreciate North Atlantic Routes all the day long
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[…] from the U.S. west coast to Japan and Honolulu. These are a set of predefined routes (it works like NAT routes), that start within US airspace (a fix) and they finish within Japan airspace (another fix). […]