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Atlantic Crossings Using GPS Tracks NOT NAT Tracks  
User currently offlineBALandorLivery From UK - England, joined Jan 2005, 360 posts, RR: 1
Posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3228 times:

A few years back whilst traveling LGW to Puerto Plata on a Britannia 767 I visited the flight deck. When I asked which North Atlantic Track (NAT) we were on the captain said that we were not on one.

Instead the crew had suggested THEIR OWN route and that this had been approved. He said it was a GPS track.

I was under the impression that all north Atlantic crossings routed via the NAT tracks e.g. Track A, B, C, D etc westbound and Track U, V, W, X, Y, Z eastbound.

Any other pilots out there have any answers?

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinePhilsquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3216 times:

There is no requirement to use the NAT system. During the winter months, it's not uncommon to go fairly far north, out of the NAT system. By doing that you are now on a random track. Some airlines use that system to minimize headwinds westbound during the winter months.

In addition, flights westbound to southern destinations don't have to follow the NATs either. In some cases it's quicker to just go on a random track.

However, there is no real thing such as a GPS track.


User currently offlineGeoffm From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2111 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3198 times:

Puerto Plata = Dominican Republic (ok, I had to look it up!). Isn't this too far south for the NAT tracks?

How do the planes keep apart if not flying NAT, and out of radar contact? I thought the whole purpose was to force separation of aircraft... TCAS hasn't always been around.

Geoff M.


User currently offlinePhilsquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3185 times:

Separation is accomplished by two methods, first altitude and secondly by lateral spacing.

Aircraft on the same route and altitude are 15 minutes in trail, otherwise, they're separated by 1000' increments. No real big deal at all.


User currently offlineGeoffm From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2111 posts, RR: 6
Reply 4, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3180 times:

Yeah, but who controls it - pilots, ATC? I know Gander and Shanwick do the NATS stuff - are there similar centres for non-NATS stuff?

Geoff M.


User currently offlinePetazulu From United States of America, joined Jan 2003, 701 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3169 times:

On a recent flight in December on LH (FRA-JFK), there were really strong headwinds. The plane crossed the ocean farther south than I have ever seen. In fact, we can in straight off the tip of long island into JFK. Normally, we would have come down through Maine, VT, Newfoundland, etc. This time, we were never even close to those places the whole time. The flight was really long and bumpy (people were throwing up behind me and in front!). The pilot seemed to have a lot of vertical mobility in that he changed our altitude by many thousands of feet in an attempt to find clearer air (no luck btw!). My guess was that were on a unique track that day due to the unusual headwinds. It was clear that there were no other planes to tell us where the turbulance was or wasn't because the pilot seemed to have no clue.

We were probably outside of ETOPs range at times, but obviously, this was not a concern. Trailblazing across the Atlantic!


User currently offlinePhilsquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3166 times:

Both Gander and Shanwick would cover northern random tracks. To the south Santa Maria and New York would provide oceanic atc.

Beleive me, it's no real big deal.


User currently offlineLemmy From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 258 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3156 times:

Probably a dumb question, but if you can choose your own route, what's the incentive to use NAT tracks? Also, roughly what percentage of transatlantic crossings actually use the published tracks?




I am a patient boy ...
User currently offlineBALandorLivery From UK - England, joined Jan 2005, 360 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3145 times:

That makes sense. Whilst in the cockpit the captain was communicating with Santa Maria. We did go a lot further south than the usual NAT tracks. Thanks for the help Philsquares.

User currently offlinePhilsquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3134 times:

In commercial aviation, the reality is Dispatch chooses the route. At most large carriers, the computer flight planning system looks for a minimum time track and goes with that. Theoretically, the NAT system should accomplish the same thing, but sometimes the data used by the airlines is a little more up to date than the NAT.

By far, the overwhelming majority of the traffic goes on the NAT system.


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