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Ep 28 – International Procedures

Regs, Podcast | August 10, 2021


Getting Back to Flying as The Pandemic Winds Down

There’s been a lot of talk about getting back to flying. Some of the more complex work that is done around flying are international procedures. Everyone in your operation must be on the ball for international flying, such as flight followers for different airport rules and approvals, and maintenance personnel for required operating equipment. I, for one, have expired for ETOPS flying, so I’m taking this opportunity to prepare for my return.

International flying may have training requirements based on where your operation resides, but, regardless, it’s always a good idea to get some international procedures training and, just as importantly, keep your skills fresh with recurrent training and, of course, regular oceanic and remote continental flights when you can.

Oceanic Errors

Now that flying is starting to return as the pandemic subsides, more oceanic flights are happening, but, unfortunately, the oceanic errors are way up. The most frequent errors are incorrect weather deviation procedure and lateral errors due to lack of plotting chart usage. The North Atlantic Operations and Airspace Manual (NAT Doc 007) states, “errors associated with re-clearances continue to be the most frequent cause of Gross Navigation Errors in the North Atlantic HLA.”

Plotting your route is critical and required. Also, the weather and non-weather contingency procedures changed for the globe in November of 2020. The good news is that there is only these procedures for the globe; however, when you are checking the AIP of the countries you will be flying through, it’s a good idea to verify that these countries have adopted ICAO’s new contingency procedures for their offshore operations. At this time, I don’t know of any countries that have not adopted the new 5-mile offset contingency procedures.

Take The International Procedures Training by

Other than international procedures training itself, another helpful tool is a Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) specifically for international procedures that resides on your EFB or in the cockpit or airplane library. Some crews have made their own, but will be providing a QRH as a part of the International Procedures Recurrent topic, which will be released later this year. A QRH could contain checklists for required aircraft equipment, preflight checklist, oceanic checklist, required radio verbiage, ETP procedures, waypoint passage procedures, SLOP procedures, contingency procedures, ditching procedures, communications failure procedures, WATRS or RNP 10 procedures, and more.

Spend some time before your next international flight to refresh your knowledge.

Key Considerations for International Flying

Let’s go over some points that may come up on an international flight and that we may not deal with in domestic operations.


Preparation is key with international flying as things can change frequently.

Any prohibitions, restrictions, or notices for destination countries can be found by consulting many different websites, but the FAA has a good page on its website.

Once destinations are selected, a route must be created considering the following:

  • Flight in oceanic airspace requires current and correct plotting charts, (a digital version may be acceptable for your operation).
  • If your route transits the polar areas, you may require training and special authorizations.
  • You must select suitable enroute and destination alternates and Equal Time Points.
  • Extended Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards (ETOPS) requirements are applicable to Part 135 in the U.S. if flying more than 180 minutes single-engine cruise speed from a suitable airport.
  • Consider terrain clearance based on planned altitudes and diversion airports. For example, Greenland has 29 mountains over 6000’.
  • Any volcanic activity.
  • Flight over or into countries that are not WGS 84 compliant may require specific procedures such as deselecting GNSS.  Have a look at your Aircraft Flight Manual.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as it were. Prep time can be time-consuming.

Aircraft Equipment

Flight crews must ensure that their aircraft is appropriately equipped for the route and airspace.  This includes the requirements listed in ICAO Annex 6 Part II. Check your MEL carefully if there are any deferred items.

Also check:

  • Mode S transponder.
  • TCAS II version 7.1 or later.
  • Emergency locator transmitter capable of transmitting on 406 MHz.
  • Any equipment required for Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) operations such as, HF, RNP 10 or RNP 4, RVSM, ADS-B, or ADS-C.


To operate in oceanic airspace, aircraft must be equipped with two long-range communications systems, one of which must be a fully functioning high frequency (HF) system for the NAT HLA.  Ensure you test your HF prior to departure as you may not enter the NAT HLA without a functioning HF. Make sure no one is near the antennae when you complete your HF test.

When initiating contact with an air radio station, pilots should state the HF frequency in use.

The VHF emergency frequency 121.5 (“guard”) should be continuously monitored so as to offer assistance to any other aircraft advising an emergency situation. Theoretical VHF coverage charts may be consulted for the particular area of operation.

123.45 MHz is the air-to-air communication frequency in all ICAO regions. This frequency is intended for pilot-to-pilot exchanges of operationally significant information. For example, pilots may contact other aircraft when needing to coordinate Strategic Lateral Offset Procedures.

Transition Altitude

Altimeter reference settings can vary between States and can be stated in terms of QNH, QFE, or QNE.

Transition altitudes/levels will vary between States as well as the altimeter reference settings.

  • QNH, when set on the altimeter subscale, indicates height above sea level.
  • QFE indicates height above ground (for that location).
  • QNE is standard pressure setting (29.92 inches of mercury or 1013.2 hectopascals/millibars) and causes the altimeter to read pressure altitude.

Transition altitude is the highest altitude after which flight levels are referenced.  Transition altitude and level will typically be listed on approach charts or occasionally will state “By ATC.”

When climbing through the transition altitude, flight crew are expected to switch from QNH to QNE, and, when descending, switch from QNE to QNH, unless the State uses QFE as a reference.

Risk Assessment

Prior to commencing an international fight, a formal risk assessment should be completed that addresses at least the following:

  • Potential fatigue issues based on departure times, time zone crossings, duty time, and consecutive flight days.
  • Flight crew experience, and currency.
  • Area of operations including security threats and health threats. International NOTAMS are a good resource for up-to-date information.
  • Airspace search and rescue options.
  • Required onboard survival equipment.
  • Airspace-appropriate contingency procedures. They are global now, but check the AIPs to be sure.
  • Vaccination and quarantine requirements, if applicable.

Participate in your operation’s SMS, if you have one, for the safety of everyone.


What if you have to ditch? A cargo aircraft did just that recently in Hawaii, and I doubt the crew had much time before they were in the water. The total flight time was 23 minutes, and they were on base when they chose to ditch.

Information about ditching can be found in the Aircraft Flight Manual.  For example, procedures for the Global 6000 include determining the ditching heading based on wind speed and direction.  The Global manual says:

  • If the wind speed is less than 15 kts, aircraft alignment should be parallel to the swells.
  • If the wind speeds are between 15-45 kts, pick a landing heading between the wind and swell directions.
  • If the wind speed is greater than 45 kts, land into wind.

Operators conducting oceanic operations are encouraged to be familiar with the Automated Mutual-assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) system.  AMVER is a computer-based voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by Search and Rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea.  In the event of a ditching, all merchant vessels registered with AMVER and within 100 nautical miles (NM) of the aircraft’s predicted ditching position will be notified.

ARINC Naming

Oceanic waypoints are named according to the ARINC 424 navigation database specifications.

It is important to note that due to the likelihood of errors arising from using the ARINC 424 method, especially when entering half-degree coordinates, Transport Canada, the FAA, and ICAO suggest entering the entire 13-character latitude and longitude coordinates when loading waypoints into an FMS, and using procedures that provide for adequate mitigation of display ambiguity. Ensure you are familiar with your FMS and the 13-character waypoint entry.

The World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS-84)

ICAO specifies the WGS-84 or equivalent as the geodetic reference datum Standard for defining air navigation latitude/longitude coordinates.  Most aircraft use the WGS-84, therefore it is important that navigation and approach charts use the WGS-84 reference datum.

Operators must be aware of their aircraft limitations when in non-WGS-84 airspace.  Refer to your specific Aircraft Flight Manual for more information on specific procedures.


Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS-OPS) and Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) are rules for designing approach and departure procedures to provide minimum obstacle clearance. PANS-OPS are the ICAO standard used in Europe and many other countries worldwide. TERPS are used in the United States, Canada, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and others.

What are some key differences?

Circling is one. The radius of the circling area used in PANS-OPS is larger than that used in U.S. TERPS because the IAS used for the True Airspeed calculation is greater and the assumed bank angle is lower. This means that an obstacle within the circling area using PANS-OPS might fall outside the obstacle area calculated using TERPS. This is believed to be a major factor in the fatal accident in 2002 in Korea in which a Boeing 767 crashed while circling.

Other differences are:

Unit(s) of Measurement SM, NM, Feet. Meters.
WGS-84 Compliance Yes. Not always.
Climb Gradients 3.3% (200 ft/NM) from TERPS-defined departure end of runway. 3.3% (200 ft/NM) from PANS-OPS-defined departure end of runway.
Airspeed on approach 200 kts over initial approach fix. Initial and intermediate segments are designed for maximum of 240 kts.
Descent Rate on approach 250 ft/NM is the optimum descent gradient. Maximum descent rate is 1000 ft/NM outbound.
Max Holding Speeds are the same but at different altitudes 0’-6000’ = 200 kts

6000’-14000’ = 230 kts

14000’ = 265 kts

0’-14000’ = 230 kts

14000’-20000’ = 240 kts

20000’-34000’ = 265 kts

Procedure Turns on approach Specific procedure turns are mandatory unless otherwise cleared. Procedure turn type is pilot’s choice, unless prohibited in the approach procedure.

It’s a good idea to review TERPS and PANS-OPS differences in detail.

Time Keeping Enroute in Oceanic Airspace

Historically, the use of multiple time sources on aircraft in oceanic airspace has led to inconsistencies in reporting times to ATC and resulted in a loss of longitudinal separation.

A time source synchronized to UTC or GPS time must be designated as the master clock. Typically, this is the FMS. This time source must be used for all estimated times of arrival and actual times of arrival.  

In The News

Let’s switch gears for a moment. In The News is a section of the podcast where I talk about other happenings in aviation.

New Technology Converts Waste Plastics to Jet Fuel

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a process for turning waste plastics into jet fuel and other hydrocarbons.

Polyethylene is the most common plastic used worldwide and a very low percentage of polyethylene is recycled. Most finds its way to landfills. The researchers, using their new process, were able to convert 90% of the plastic material into Jet-A or other hydrocarbons. The team hopes to continue trials and use other types of plastics. Check out this very technical write-up of the process at their website.

Thanks for listening, and have a great day!

Brent Fishlock, Technical Advisor Team Lead,

aviation professional

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