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Ep 21 – Sample Oceanic Checklist Part 2

CRM, Podcast | April 16, 2020

Welcome to Part 2 of Sample Oceanic Checklist. First off, I would like to say that this has been a crazy few weeks. I am recording this on March 21, and I have been in quarantine for 9 days due to a cold; however, my coronavirus test has come back negative. I wish everyone the best of health in these unprecedented times. I am recording at home, so the quality is a bit inferior to the normal, but it’s made better thanks to my great sound engineer.

Last time we reviewed preflight, flight planning and preparation steps as recommended by the North Atlantic Systems (NAT) Systems Planning Group checklist. Today we will continue with the taxi phase onwards. Thanks for joining me. If you missed Part 1 of the podcast, then you can go back anytime and have a listen. Go to the TrainingPort website and click on Podcast. The NAT OPS Bulletin is written very well, so in many cases I am reading directly from it.

This checklist applies to any oceanic flight including West Atlantic Route System (WATRS) airspace.


Groundspeed check

We are in taxi phase, and the checklist recommends a groundspeed check during taxi.

Is the groundspeed reasonable for taxi?

Present Position check

The Present Position check is conducted after leaving the chocks, according to the bulletin. Check for gross difference between this Present Position and the gate coordinates. This check will alert the crew to possible error in the navigation database that can be investigated and corrected prior to takeoff.

Climb Out

Verify ETAs

We are in the CLIMB OUT phase. After climbing above the sterile altitude, verify the ETA at destination. These should be noted on the Master Document. This is an excellent cross-check against ETAs computed by the Long-range Navigation Systems (LRNS).

Prior to Oceanic Entry

Obtain oceanic clearance

Obtain oceanic clearance airborne if required to do so.

Both pilots must listen to the oceanic clearance from the appropriate clearance delivery. Clearance via voice should be obtained at least 40 minutes prior to oceanic entry, and via data link 30 to 90 minutes prior to oceanic entry.  Oceanic clearances from Reykjavik centre shall be obtained 15-45 minutes prior to oceanic entry. The pilots should confirm among themselves the assigned routing, flight level and Mach number. Contact the ATS provider for clarification in the event of differences. Read back all waypoint coordinates to the ATS provider, and ensure a correct readback is acknowledged. Verify the route clearance is properly loaded into the navigation system.

It is important that both pilots confirm and ensure the aircraft enters the ocean at the altitude assigned in the oceanic clearance.

The flight level in the oceanic clearance may be different than the domestic cleared flight level. If it is different, crews should request a climb or descent from domestic ATC to comply with the oceanic clearance.

Crews should include their requested flight level in their initial oceanic clearance request, and the highest acceptable level which can be attained at the oceanic entry point. Crews should be confident that they are able to maintain requested flight levels based on aircraft performance capabilities.

Altitudes in oceanic clearances are not “when ready climb” instructions, and need to be coordinated with domestic ATC.

Navigation accuracy check before oceanic entry

The accuracy of the LRNS should be checked against a ground-based NAVAID. The results of the accuracy check should be recorded with the time and position. A large difference between the ground-based NAVAID and the LRNS may require immediate corrective action.

Operators should establish a navigation accuracy check tolerance based on the type LRNS installed.

It is not advisable for crews to attempt to correct an error by doing an air alignment or by manually updating the LRNS since this has often contributed to a Gross Navigation Error.

A latitude/longitude radar fix from ATC can also support a navigation accuracy check in lieu of a NAVAID.

HF communication checks

If the crew was unable to accomplish the HF and SELCAL checks on the ground, these checks should be accomplished before oceanic entry. Additional SELCAL checks should be conducted at each control area boundary, regardless whether CPDLC is working normally.

SATCOM data communication

Flight crews should check that SATCOM data link is operational, if applicable, before oceanic entry.

Log on to CPDLC or ADS-C

Operators approved to use Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) and/or Automatic Dependent Surveillance Contract (ADS-C) should log on to the appropriate FIR 10 to 25 minutes prior to the boundary.

Verify RNP value

Pilots should verify that the RNP value set in the FMS is at least as stringent as that required for the route of flight and reflects the RNP capability indicated in the filed ATS flight plan. Oceanic is generally RNP 4 or 10.

Revised clearance procedures

A re-clearance that is different from the oceanic route requested with the filed flight plan is the number one scenario which leads to a Gross Navigation Error. Therefore crews must be very cautious of their procedures when receiving a re-clearance.  Both pilots should receive and confirm the new routing and conduct independent cross-checks after the LRNS, Master Document and plotting/orientation chart are updated. Ensure the expanded coordinates for new waypoints are checked and confirmed. It is critical that crews check the magnetic course and distance between the new waypoints.

Brief all relief pilots on the new clearance prior to them assuming cockpit duties.

It is also good practice for relief pilots to independently check the currently effective route clearance against the flight management computer, Master Document and chart.  If the oceanic clearance differs from the flight planned or filed route, the new oceanic clearance must be activated in the FMS for the entire length of the oceanic crossing, prior to responding to a “CONFIRM ASSIGNED ROUTE” CPDLC message, which is typically sent shortly after passing the oceanic entry waypoint.

Track and distance tables are available commercially for every ten degrees of longitude.

Altimeter checks

Crews are required to check the two primary altimeters which must be within 200 feet of each other. This check is conducted while at level flight.  The stand-by altimeter should also be noted. The altimeter readings should be recorded along with the time.

Perform a compass heading check if using Inertial Navigation Systems (INS). It is recommended to conduct a compass heading check and record the results when inertial systems are the only means of long-range navigation. The check can also aid in determining the most accurate compass if a problem develops over water.

After Oceanic Entry

We are in the Oceanic segment.

Squawk 2000

Normally, thirty minutes after oceanic entry, crews should squawk 2000. There are some regional differences—for details, see the relevant AIP and/or NAT Doc 007. This is where an oceanic checklist developed by the operator is handy.

Maintain assigned Mach

Most oceanic clearances include a specific Mach. The increased emphasis on longitudinal separation requires crew vigilance in a separation based on assigned Mach. The requirement is to maintain the true Mach which has been assigned by ATC and, if you cannot within .02 Mach, you must inform ATC. The NAT is in the midst of a variable speed trial, so if you hear “RESUME NORMAL SPEED” or receive the CPDLC message, then fly the flight planned speed, which could be “COST INDEX,” or “LONG RANGE CRUISE” in your airplane. The trial is ongoing, so watch out for a NAT Ops Bulletin for more. The first variable speed bulletin was 2019-001, issued in July 2019.

VHF radios

After going beyond the range of the assigned VHF frequency, crews should set their radios to the air-to-air (123.45) and guard frequency (121.5).

Strategic Lateral Offset Procedures (SLOP)

The SLOP should be SOP for all oceanic crossings. This procedure was developed to reduce the risk from highly accurate navigation systems or operational errors involving the ATC clearance. SLOP also replaced the contingency procedure developed for aircraft encountering wake turbulence. Depending upon winds aloft, coordination between aircraft to avoid wake turbulence may be necessary.

This procedure, which distributes traffic between flying centerline, 1 NM or 2 NM right of centerline, greatly reduces collision risk in the airspace by virtue of the randomness, which operators ensure by diligent application of SLOP. Operators that have an automatic offset capability should fly up to 2 NM right of the centerline. Aircraft that do not have an automatic offset capability (that can be programmed in the FMS) should fly the centerline only.  Left offsets are not authorized.

Micro-SLOP is now an option in the North Atlantic FIRs of Gander and Shanwick. Micro-SLOP is offsetting to the right by increments of 0.1 of a mile between 0.1 and 2 NM. This is a new procedure for Atlantic crossings as of August 7 2019, but should only be employed if your FMS is micro-SLOP capable. In other words, you must be able to program offsets to 0.1 of a mile.

These changes can be found in the ICAO NAT Document 007 rev2019-3. (I briefly touched on this in the last podcast.)

When employing SLOP, crews should make sure the “TO” waypoint is correct after entering SLOP. With some avionics, when executing an offset near the active “TO” waypoint, the FMS can sequence to the “next plus 1” waypoint—therefore skipping a point. Gross Navigational Errors have resulted.

Hourly altimeter checks

Crews are required to observe the primary and stand-by altimeters each hour. It is recommended that these hourly checks be recorded with the readings and times. This documentation can aid crews in determining the most accurate altimeter if an altimetry problem develops.

Effective routine monitoring

Operators should specify which FMS pages, or other appropriate displays of the navigation system are assigned to specific flight crew for monitoring. FMSs should rest on a designated page for the pilot flying and the pilot monitoring.

If the FMS provides a predicted ETA capability, pilots should take advantage of that function in order to track the accuracy of ETAs and provide reminders for performing the “approaching waypoint” and “10 minute after” procedures. Ensure there is an active CPDLC connection with the proper current data authority.

Approaching Waypoints

Confirm next latitude/longitude

When approaching waypoints, confirm the next latitude/longitude.

Within a few minutes of crossing an oceanic waypoint, crews should cross-check the coordinates of the next and subsequent oceanic waypoints.  This check should be done by comparing the expanded coordinates against the Master Document based on the currently effective ATC clearance. Verify the course/heading and distance in the FMS to the next waypoint matches the Master Document. (Where I work, we set the next track that the aircraft should fly after the waypoint using the course selector knob.)

Confirm autopilot steering is engaged in the proper mode.

Overhead Waypoints

Confirm aircraft transitions to the next waypoint

This can be confirmed by noting the magnetic heading and distance to the next waypoint compared to the Master Document.

Confirm time to next waypoint

Crews must be vigilant in passing an accurate ETA to ATC for the next waypoint. When transmitting waypoint position reports via voice, a change of three minutes or more (for the NAT Region) requires that ATC be notified in a timely manner. Inaccurate position reports adversely affect ATC’s ability to safely separate aircraft.

Position reports

After passing over the oceanic waypoint, crews that give a position report to ATC must use the standard format. The standard format can differ from Pacific to WATRS to Atlantic and elsewhere.

Crews should also note and record their fuel status at each oceanic waypoint. This is especially important if the cleared route and flight level differ significantly from the filed flight plan.

10 Minutes After Waypoint Passage

Cross-check navigational performance and course compliance

Cross-check navigational performance and plot the latitude/longitude on the chart being used to track flight progress.  It is advisable to plot the non-steering LRNS.

A 10-minute plot can alert the crew to any lateral deviation from their ATC clearance prior to it becoming a Gross Navigation Error. A good cross-check for the position of the 10-minute plot is that it is approximately 2 degrees of longitude past the oceanic waypoint.

In FMS-equipped aircraft, the flight crew may use the “nav display” method of navigation cross-checking, which is to confirm the aircraft symbol is ON the programmed route on the navigation display. Set the navigation display to the smallest scale for this check.

You can also check the system-generated cross-track deviation or similar indication to confirm there is NO deviation from the programmed route of flight. An example is the ND displaying XTRK is 0.0NM. Using the steering LRNS, verify the “TO” waypoint is consistent with the currently effective route clearance.

Again, verify the autopilot is in the desired steering mode.

Midway Between Waypoints

Cross-check winds

It is good practice to cross-check winds midway between oceanic waypoints by comparing the Master Document, LRNS and upper millibar wind chart. This cross-check will also aid crews in case there is a need for a contingency procedure such as dead reckoning.

ETA monitoring

During the midpoint wind check, you could also confirm the ETA to the next waypoint.

When transmitting waypoint position reports via voice, a change of three minutes or more requires that ATC be notified. I’ve also seen pilots use the baro bug as a constant reminder of the ETA given to ATC.

Coast In

Compare ground-based NAVAID to LRNS

Compare a ground-based NAVAID to your LRNS when departing oceanic airspace and acquiring ground-based NAVAIDs.

Remove Strategic Lateral Offset

Any SLOP used during the oceanic crossing must be removed prior to exiting oceanic airspace.

Confirm routing beyond oceanic airspace

Confirm routing beyond oceanic airspace before entering the domestic route structure. Crews must confirm their routing to include aircraft speed assignment. If you experience a communications failure leaving oceanic airspace, you should follow the State’s AIP.


Navigation accuracy check

At destination, the bulletin recommends that the crew performs another navigation accuracy check. It’s not a bad idea especially if you fly the same airplane a lot and you are doing another crossing in a few days.

A GPS Primary system normally should not exceed 0.27 NM for the flight.

Some inertial systems may drift as much as 2 NM per hour.

LRNSs are highly accurate, therefore operators should establish a drift tolerance which if exceeded would require a write-up in the Maintenance Log.

RNP requirements demand that drift be closely monitored.

In The News is a segment of the podcast where I talk about other happenings in aviation. This one is for Canadian operators who fly in the North Atlantic. This is from the CBAA forum post of January 23, 2020, with their authorization. The previously issued Civil Aviation Safety Alert or CASA is not clear and will be reissued. Transport Canada says their previously issued CASA 2019-10 Issue 01 was too vague and difficult to understand therefore they will reissue the CASA. However, Canadian operators need to know what they have to do to be authorized to fly in the NAT HLA airspace and with what equipment.

For Canadian operators as of January 31, all current NAT MNPS special authorizations will no longer be valid for flights operating across the North Atlantic NAT HLA airspace between FL290 and FL410. In its place, a new special authorization called NAT HLA MNPS will have to be added to the operator’s PORD or AOC. The NAT HLA airspace includes the NAT Organized Track System and the Blue Spruce Routes. Airspace ABOVE FL410 or BELOW FL290 is not affected by this new SA.

 How do you apply for this new SA?

The operator emails their POI at Transport Canada applying for the new NAT HLA MNPS special authorization. TC will provide a compliance guide to request compliance with equipment and training requirements.

 If you wish to operate in the Organized Track System, there are 4 Special Authorizations that an operator must hold: 

  2. RVSM
  3. RNP 4 or RNP 10
  4. PBCS which is ADS-C with proof of contract

 What if you don’t have PBCS or compliant PBCS? Where can you operate?

If you hold NAT HLA MNPS, RVSM, and RNP 4 or RNP 10; and the ADS-B SA, you may operate on the Blue Spruce Routes only. That’s ADS-B for Broadcast.

Talk to your POI to get this done.

Thanks for listening, and stay healthy.

aviation professional

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