There’s a big change happening November 5 2020 that affects all global oceanic traffic. For the past few years there have been two oceanic contingency procedures that have coexisted. This is the procedure to follow if you must deviate from your clearance in oceanic airspace and you cannot get a revised clearance.
The new procedure was put in place in 2019 for the North Atlantic and its tighter spacing and the old procedure currently remains for everywhere else in the world. WATRS was also included at the last minute for the new contingency procedure as well. Oceanic Control boundaries became very important as you could have to employ one of two different contingency procedures on the same flight based on which OCA you were flying in at the time of the occurrence. As of today until November 5th 2020 the OCA in which you are flying determines whether you offset 5 or 15 miles from the cleared track as does the angle of the initial turn which could be 30 or 45 degrees. This is for non-weather deviations.
However on November 5 2020 all oceanic contingency procedures will become the same world wide which is great. The FAA has posted this on it’s International Notice page in response to ICAO’s announcement. ICAO will release the new procedures in the PANS-ATM Doc 4444.
If a clearance cannot be obtained, the following contingency procedures should be employed globally. Leave the assigned route or track by turning a minimum of 30 degrees right or left in order to acquire a same direction track or course offset by 5 NM. If possible, maintain the assigned flight level until established on the 5 NM parallel. If unable, minimize the rate of descent as much as possible. The direction of the initial turn should be determined by the position of the aircraft relative to:
- – The flight levels allocated to the organized route or track system;
- – The direction to an alternate airport;
- – Terrain clearance; and
- – Any strategic lateral offset or SLOP implemented by other aircraft in the area.
Maintain a watch for conflicting traffic both visually and by reference to ACAS. Leave ACAS in RA mode at all times unless aircraft operating limitations dictate otherwise.
Turn on all exterior lights commensurate with any operating limitations.
Keep the transponder on at all times and, when able, squawk 7700 as appropriate.
Use whatever means is appropriate (i.e., voice, CPDLC, SATCOM) to communicate during the contingency procedure.
If voice communication is used, the distress signal (MAYDAY) or urgency signal (PAN PAN) spoken three times shall be used.
Establish communications with and alert nearby aircraft by broadcasting at suitable intervals on 121.5 MHz or, as a backup, on the inter-pilot air-to-air frequency 123.45 MHz. Broadcast the following:
- – Aircraft identification, the nature of the distress condition, intentions, position (including the ATS route designator or track code, as appropriate), and flight level.
Obtain a clearance as soon as possible.
ICAO used to say that descent below FL 290 is considered particularly applicable to operations where there is a predominant traffic flow or parallel track system where the aircraft’s diversion path will likely cross adjacent tracks or routes. This is not mentioned in the FAAs alert but is still good practice. A descent below FL 290 can decrease the likelihood of conflict with other aircraft, ACAS RA events, and delays in obtaining a revised ATC clearance.
Note that an Altimetry System Error may lead to less than actual 500 ft vertical separation when the procedure is applied.
If the crew has completed the 5 NM offset and still has no clearance, the following actions are to be taken:
If you need to descend, then descend below FL 290, and then establish a 500 ft vertical offset from the flight levels normally used and proceed as required by the operational situation.
If you are not descending, then establish a 500 ft vertical offset or 1000 ft vertical offset if above FL 410 from the flight levels normally used and proceed as required by the operational situation. If an ATC clearance has been obtained, proceed in accordance with the clearance.
**More good news. The weather deviation contingency procedure is also now a single global procedure which was the procedure being used in the NAT.
If a revised ATC clearance cannot be obtained and a weather deviation is required, then proceed as follows:
- If possible, deviate away from an organized track or route system.
- Establish communications with and alert nearby aircraft by broadcasting on 121.5 or 123.45.
- Watch for conflicting traffic both visually and by reference to ACAS.
- Turn on all exterior lights.
- For deviations of less than 5.0 NM from the originally cleared track, remain at the level assigned by ATC.
- For deviations greater than or equal to 5 NM from the originally cleared route, when the aircraft is approximately 5 NM from track, initiate a level change in accordance with Table 15-1 of the bulletin. A useful memory hook is the phrase “climb to the equator” for these altitude changes. For example, if you are flying eastbound in the northern hemisphere and you deviate to the right which is towards the equator, you would climb 300’. If you deviated to the left, it would be a descent of 300’. Watch for these new documents released by ICAO, the NAT SPG, the FAA, Transport Canada and EASA.