North Atlantic Skies

Have never seen this before … AAL had a Sat pic of it at night showing some 500 airplanes out there at once. I have flown this thing going to and from Europe more times than wish to think about and its a very structured system with some severe consequences for violations. There are similar systems in the Pacific and enroute to the far East but this one is probably the most congested. The 6 tracks are changed every 12 hrs approximately utilizing best winds and least turbulence for fastest crossing. All the E bound traffic goes at night .. and trks are labeled U thru Z, the most southerly! During the day everyone goes W and trks are A thru F … 60 miles apart with airplanes stacked at  1000 ft vertically and 12 minutes apart. The vertical allows faster airplanes to pass above and below one another .. a 747 for instance flys at about .85 + and the 767 say at .80. Altitudes are 28,000 thru 41,000 inclusive and the ones you see criss crossing in this video are either above or below those … like the Concorde for instance flys much higher and faster so not fit into the system and some corporate jets as well go much higher. Are mandatory position reports at way points all the way over including altitude and ride reports. 3 min is max allowable variation off flight plan at any position reporting point … to maintain separation when coasting in on either side. There are entry points on each side of the system, one for each track for coast in … on time too!

25 miles off course or variation of more than 3 minutes will get you a $100,000 fine (Canadian currency btw) payable by the Capt of said craft. 25 miles might sound like a long  way but at .8 mach which translates to 8 miles/min only takes 3-4 of those precious minutes. Do it twice and the carrier gets thrown out of the track system!

Have to admit this is a pretty cool video … but flying it is a lot more work for the cockpit! There are basically 3 clearances, so east bound it a domestic, atlantic and european …. vs one for domestic and all have to an tell you many stories about what goes on out there but might negatively influence your desire for a European vacation so like Vegas .. whatever happens stays!

An eerily fascinating video illustrating every airline crossing of the Atlantic in a twenty-four hour period.

Play at full screen… (OACC stands for Oceanic Area Control Center) NATC = North Atlantic Track Control

North Atlantic Skies from NATS on Vimeo.

Every day, between two and three thousand aircraft fly across the North Atlantic between Canada, the United States and Europe. Airspace across the North Atlantic is divided into six Oceanic Control Areas (or OCAs). These OCAs are controlled by Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) working at different locations in different Countries.

NATS, working with the IAA (Irish Aviation Authority), is responsible for providing the air traffic control service to the Shanwick OCA. The IAA service is provided from Shannon in Ireland, and the NATS service provided from Prestwick in Scotland (hence ‘Shanwick’).

The Shanwick OCA is the busiest of all North Atlantic Airspace regions. It is often referred to as ‘the gateway to Europe’ and around 80% of all North Atlantic Air Traffic passes through it, demonstrating the strategic importance of our Prestwick Centre and UK airspace.

This visualization shows Transatlantic traffic over a 24 hour period taken from a day in August last year and shows 2,524 flights crossing the North Atlantic, of which 1,273 pass through the Shanwick OCA. At our busiest periods in the Summer, traffic can peak at 1,500 flights a day passing through the Shanwick OCA.

Find out more on our blog:

This entry was posted in Airspace Safety, ClancyJG International, Oceanic Control Areas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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