This advisory circular (AC) contains information and guidance to be used by operators and pilots planning oceanic flights.
RELATED READING MATERIAL.
Order 8400.10, "Air Transportation Operations Inspector's Handbook," Order 8700.1, "General Aviation Operations Inspector's Handbook," and documents listed in Appendix 3, Bibliography section, of this AC. The orders may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.
Presently there are several issues that are significant to the United States and civil aviation authorities of other countries relative to oceanic flight operations. The majority of these issues involve the large amount of air traffic over the North Atlantic (NAT) between Europe and the United States. Most air carriers plan eastbound flight departures in the evenings so that morning arrival in Europe will permit a full day's business or touring. Air carriers plan westbound flight departures for just the reverse reason, leaving in the morning so passengers arrive in the United States at a convenient local time. The westbound flights do not create a problem in air traffic congestion due to the breadth of the eastern coast of the United States. However, eastbound flights arriving in Europe from North America converge on the relatively small geographic area of the United Kingdom and have to be filtered onto extremely crowded European routes (ER). Because of this situation, traffic control across the NAT is strictly regulated by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules adopted following agreement between member states. Flights in the airspace designated as Minimum Navigation Performance Specifications (MNPS) airspace and/or (future) Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) airspace require aircraft to obtain a Letter of Authorization (LOA) to fly in this airspace. In the past, these letters were issued by FAA Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) in a manner and form determined by each office. There was no suspense date or numbering system required on the letters. This situation caused a great deal of international concern because letters stayed with aircraft for an indefinite period of time and were impossible to track. Pressure by ICAO member states has caused the FAA to reevaluate the process of issuing these letters, and to standardize the format and procedures for issuance.
Another area of concern in the NAT, as well as other areas, is that of general aviation oceanic navigation performance experienced by nonturbine light aircraft. Search and rescue missions conducted by ICAO member states for U.S. registered aircraft that have strayed off course have imposed a severe strain on those states. This situation has demanded action on the part of the U.S. Government. This situation had also had a negative impact on international relations between the United States and other ICAO member states. U.S. registered aircraft making oceanic flights and departing from the United States are not required to, have an LOA and/or an inspection unless they are to penetrate MNPS airspace. These aircraft are required, however, to submit to an inspection of both the aircraft and the flightcrew if departing from or overflying Canada.
Flights in the Northern Pacific (NOPAC) enroute to Asia do not have to contend with the same traffic density as NAT operations. Although navigation in the NOPAC once involved serious political implications if a navigation error occurred, this is no longer the case. However, the length of the overwater routes makes it imperative that aircraft flying in the Pacific have well trained flightcrews, high quality communication equipment, high quality long range navigation equipment, and more than adequate fuel supplies on board. The same requirements apply to U.S. west coast - Hawaii routes and Hawaii - Tokyo routes.
Flights in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico do not involve long distances over water, but they often encounter severe tropical weather, exceed the service volume of navigation facilities, and encounter the sensitivity of national defense agencies to the southern borders of the United States.
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