rondon9898

Atlantic and EROPS procedures

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Hi folks,

I'm loving my long hauls in the new Jumbo. I fly very often between Europe and US , and am keen to learn more about any procedures or considerations I should be fulfilling at the preparation stage and when entering Atlantic airspace. Apart from possibly entering equi-time points into the FIX page and keeping an eye on the weather at suitable diversion airports, are there any other procedures I should be completing before or entering the Atlantic? I always get the feeling that I'm missing something when I do oceanic ops in the 747. Or is it just exactly the same as ordinary intra-continental flying? Monitor fuel/level/winds at each waypoint, keep an eye on the weather, do tank-eng when the inner tanks deplete and Robert's your mother's brother?

Cheers folks

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Hi John,

apart from ETOPS, there are also Nat tracks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Atlantic_Tracks) for routes, and ocanic clearance and position reports (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanwick_Oceanic_Control). You might be interested in Vatsim's cross-the-pond event (

). You just missed it, the next will be in October, but this is as real as it gets behind an office desk :)

Peter

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There's nothing particularly 747-specific that you wouldn't do normally on a flight with limited diversion options -- it's not quite as critical as on a twin because you don't have to worry about EROPS until you get beyond 180 minutes from a suitable diversion airfield in a quad, although it's obviously always prudent to know what your options are should an immediate diversion become necessary for any reason (as I say, just as you ought to on any flight over a sparsely-populated region). Worth using the FMC FIX page to plot some range rings around suitable airfields for situational awareness, pop in your ETPs etc  

Otherwise it's pretty much the same as for other types entering the MNPS region: do a full IRS alignment before departure, make sure the necessary nav systems are operating and in tolerance and carry out the normal MNPS route/waypoint crosschecking procedures before entry -- crosscheck the clearance and waypoint lat/longs and tracks/distances against with the OFP and the FMC (remember -- GPS provides fantastic accuracy, but if you put the wrong waypoint in the box all that means is that you will very accurately follow the wrong track).

Squawk 2000 30 minutes after entry. Approaching each waypoint you should double check that the next waypoint is correct, the distance and track matches up and so on. Overhead, record time and fuel, ensure that the next waypoint sequences correctly and the aircraft turns on to the next track correctly. It would also be normal to have plotted the route on a North Atlantic Plotting Chart before departure -- about 10 mins or so after passing each waypoint, you can then use the FMC POS REF page to take a 'snapshot' of current lat/long and plot this on the chart to confirm correct tracking. Consider SLOP (Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure) -- the idea is to try and randomise the lateral positions of aircraft along the track (again, GPS means that modern aircraft now can fly a selected track exactly, to within a few metres -- counter-intuitively, this actually increases the risk of collision -- SLOP is designed to try and introduce some random distribution of aircraft around the centreline). You can offset either 0 (i.e. no offset), 1 or 2NM right of track - you don't have to tell ATC or get clearance, just do it (again, the idea is for it to be random, so you can come up with your own method of randomising whether you offset or not and if so how far -- flip a coin, perhaps etc -- also consider any other traffic in front or behind you (it may be wise to offset out of the wake of a preceding aircraft, for instance).

You'll be flying constant Mach, so remember to set this in the VNAV CRZ page (not by speed intervening on the MCP) in order to ensure your FMC predictions are accurate. Likewise, I would set STEP SIZE to zero and if necessary enter any step climb on the other side of the track manually (/FLxxxS) to give me a sensible FMC vertical profile and fuel prediction.

Otherwise that's pretty much it -- others may chime in with further detail. Ask yourself enroute -- do you know where you would go right now if you had a medical emergency or a fire on board? Do you know the published NAT MNPS contingency procedures for diversions, weather deviations etc? Where are the other tracks in relation to you? All fairly normal long-haul stuff, but still worth considering.

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Good summary Simon, only thing that comes to mind is selection of alternates.  My favorites are CYQX Gander (or CYVR Goose Bay if I'm further North) and EINN Shannon (occasionally BIKF Keflavik)... I keep current charts for these and am aware that operators have their preferred alternates where the operations planning includes what to do with 200 people, food, blankets, getting a relief plane there etc., at a location that might have a smaller permanent population than number of souls on board.

Good reviews on Broadway performance of a play that tells the story of the people of Gander playing surprise hosts to dozens of big heavies that had to divert there on 9-11... good story.

 

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Great summary Simon.

And don't forget for entertainment the air to air 123.45 oceanic frequency. This is a good source of laughter at times crossing the pond.

Besides nav accuracy checks, RVSM checks, getting oceanic clearances, etc., it is good to review the North Atlantic Orientation Chart 1/2. This is actually a pretty good read, as long as you have good magnifying glasses.

Plotting is good to do if you have never done it before, and like "Simon says", no pun intended, know what you are going to do if a diversion off the track is necessary and a descent below MNPS airspace to head for an alternate. It is all even more acutely heightened when you are in a 2 engine jet.

I just remember coming out of London, being threaded up to your cruise altitude, you had compressed time to get everything done before entering oceanic airspace. Out of New York, much more leisurely...

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Absolutely excellent reply Simon and has given me much more to think about (and do!) when entering the Atlantic. In fact, I'm going to take your post and create a small checklist with it until I'm fully au fait with all of these considerations.

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Nice summary Simon ! I was actually researching the additional FMC inputs for those types of flights. You are mentioning ETPs and range rings, is there anything else ? What value do you use to display range rings ? 1 hour OEI ? If so, how much would that be ?

I read somewhere that you also need to crosscheck the FMC position with navaids before losing navaid coverage. i.e enter SHA VOR in the NAVRAD + FIX page then compare the radial and distance. Both need to agree within a certain limit.

I guess that's the nav accuracy checks you're talking about Alexander ? By the way, I subscribed to your videos, awesome job !

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Glad to have been of assistance ;)

2 hours ago, FreaK said:

You are mentioning ETPs and range rings, is there anything else ? What value do you use to display range rings ? 1 hour OEI ? If so, how much would that be ?

The LRC cruise speed OEI is around 480 KTAS (i.e. essentially no different to AEO!). So you could use that, but as I say that particular number isn't really all that relevant to a quad -- personally I'd just put rings of sufficient radius to be able to grab my attention on the ND. @Captain_Al may have some thoughts of his own? Remember you are limited (in real life at least) to a max radius of 511NM (long boring story about the fact that 2^9 is the numeric processing limit of the processor used to run the B747 FMC).

2 hours ago, FreaK said:

I read somewhere that you also need to crosscheck the FMC position with navaids before losing navaid coverage. i.e enter SHA VOR in the NAVRAD + FIX page then compare the radial and distance. Both need to agree within a certain limit.

Always a good idea -- probably not strictly required these days with GPS but it never hurts...

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6 hours ago, FreaK said:

Nice summary Simon ! I was actually researching the additional FMC inputs for those types of flights. You are mentioning ETPs and range rings, is there anything else ? What value do you use to display range rings ? 1 hour OEI ? If so, how much would that be ?

I read somewhere that you also need to crosscheck the FMC position with navaids before losing navaid coverage. i.e enter SHA VOR in the NAVRAD + FIX page then compare the radial and distance. Both need to agree within a certain limit.

I guess that's the nav accuracy checks you're talking about Alexander ? By the way, I subscribed to your videos, awesome job !

Thank you Sam, glad you like them. Yes, the nav accuracy checks were accomplished before Coast out to ensure accuracy of the nav system prior to entering ETOP's airspace. Many airlines will also have you record the check on some sort of Long Range Nav checklist, plotting chart, or flight plan, however they chose to do it.

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8 hours ago, rondon9898 said:

Absolutely excellent reply Simon and has given me much more to think about (and do!) when entering the Atlantic. In fact, I'm going to take your post and create a small checklist with it until I'm fully au fait with all of these considerations.

Anyone that is interested, if you go to SUBSONIC , scroll to the bottom of the page under Radio Transmit, and click Email Captain Al, I will send you 3 items we used to use at a now defunct airline, so there is no proprietary information I am giving out.

They are an ETOP's and Long Range Checklist, a ETOPS tracking sheet for data that was checked and recorded that was on the back of the plotting chart, and a section of the plotting chart. I have no clue if it is still accurate or not, but you could print it out and use it for basic plotting if the coast out and coast in waypoints have not changed too much.. I could not fit the whole thing to scan unfortunately. 

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1 hour ago, wde12 said:

This is dense, but I found to be a great resource.

Thank you William, a very interesting look at ETOPS from 2009 and still pertinent.  Of course they brag on one page about the 777 being the first 180 min aircraft approved from the factory rather than building years of operational data.  As well they should,  Airbus fought hard to prevent this from happening for several years.  Airbus wanted to protect their A340 quad jet, but in the end the twins were destined to rule the airways.  I knew Midway Island in the Pacific and Ascension Island in the So Atlantic were used for ETOPS planning but not Shemya PASY, an active military base with an early warning radar system.  PASY and PMDY charts are available from the FAA, not LIDO. LIDO via Navigraph does have FHAW Ascension charts.  I've been guessing at a good N Japan ETOPS location and found RJCC Sapporo New Chitese thanks to this briefing.  I'll probably learn more the next time I dig into this gem.

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No problem. Shamefully, I wasn't aware of the applications to 3-4 engine birds until PMDG released the 744. But then again, learning this pretty much why we're all here, right? 

Funny you bring up RJCC. I also found this helpful in discerning adequate (or commonly used) ETOPS fields. In fact, one thing I've been trying to nail down are enroute alternates. There are a few BA pilots on Twitter I follow and they often post screenshots of their route from the EFB. For example, one A380 captain often flies routes to VHHH and WMKK.  The pictures often have enroute alternates pre-selected with the appropriate arc. At first, I thought it was BA dispatch's way of selecting ideal alternates with verified facility support and acceptable weather. After reading the powerpoint above - and learning that ETOPS doesn't mean "twin" - I realize that the alternates and their respective range rings were likely pursuant to ETOPS rules. Obviously, I could be wrong. 

Regardless, finding enroute alternates when planning a 744 flight in PFPX is a challenge. It's pretty automatic when it comes to selecting fields on a North Atlantic crossing. And it's definitely feasible on runs across the South Pacific given the lack of options. But finding enroute alternates for flights across Siberia, China, India, and parts of the Pacific like you mentioned, can be difficult. 

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6 minutes ago, wde12 said:

I also found this helpful in discerning adequate (or commonly used) ETOPS fields. In fact, one thing I've been trying to nail down are enroute alternates. There are a few BA pilots on Twitter I follow and they often post screenshots of their route from the EFB. For example, one A380 captain often flies routes to VHHH and WMKK.  The pictures often have enroute alternates pre-selected with the appropriate arc. At first, I thought it was BA dispatch's way of selecting ideal alternates with verified facility support and acceptable weather. After reading the powerpoint above - and learning that ETOPS doesn't mean "twin" - I realize that the alternates and their respective range rings were likely pursuant to ETOPS rules. Obviously, I could be wrong. 

Not really ETOPS as such -- remember that a twin must have ETOPS certification to operate more than 60 minutes from a suitable airport, which can very easily be the case over Africa and Siberia etc at night where otherwise suitable airfields may be closed.

However, in a quad you don't enter ETOPS operation until you are more than 180 minutes from a suitable airport, which is not really limiting at all over most of the globe apart from Antarctica and parts of the South Pacific. So from a legal point of view, what is an ETOPS route in a twin is not necessarily (in fact, likely not) one in a quad. In the 747 you can operate up to 180 minutes from a suitable diversion airfield with no special requirements at all.

Legal aspects aside, from an airmanship point of view on any long-range operation over remote and/or sparsely populated areas it is prudent to have some suitable diversion options planned out to cater for the eventuality of engine failure, depressurisation etc. Of particular concern in the 747 is finding airfields with runways/aprons wide enough/strong enough to bear the weight of the aircraft (especially an issue over South America).

Indeed it is generally decompression that is the most limiting scenario, and routes over high terrain (southern Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the Himalayas are the particular problem areas for routes from the UK to the Middle East and South East Asia) need careful consideration: obviously in the event of a decompression it is essential to get down to FL100 in the shortest possible time (i.e. before the finite supply of oxygen on board runs out), plus over the very highest terrain there may be drift-down considerations for the eventuality of an engine failure as well. Thus there are significant 'no go' areas over the highest parts of the Himalaya where it is simply impossible to meet either the oxygen or drift-down requirements (or both), and "escape routes" are planned which must be followed in the event of a decompression to get the aircraft away from the high ground and down to a lower level as soon as practicable (usually along the lines of -- if the failure occurs before point XYZ, turn round, descend to FLxx and route to XXXX airfield via such and such a route (and there may be further 'step-down' points along the route to enable descent to FL100 as the terrain becomes less of a factor) -- if the failure occurs after point XYZ, continue on-route, descend to FLXX, route via CDE, FGH etc to diversion airfield YYYY).

Of course, don't forget that all of the above is dependent on the weather/traffic/political situation at your various possible diversion fields being amenable...

There are an awful lot of things to think about and take in to consideration -- one of the things which makes long-haul flying such a fascinating pastime...!

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1 hour ago, skelsey said:

There are an awful lot of things to think about and take in to consideration

I found interesting in the briefing package the couple of screens showing data on reasons for diversions on ETOPS planned flights.  Most diversions are not in the ETOPS segments and most are not due to technical (engine, decompression, etc) reasons.  Most are induced by the passengers in the form of medical emergencies.

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16 hours ago, skelsey said:

Not really ETOPS as such -- remember that a twin must have ETOPS certification to operate more than 60 minutes from a suitable airport, which can very easily be the case over Africa and Siberia etc at night where otherwise suitable airfields may be closed.

However, in a quad you don't enter ETOPS operation until you are more than 180 minutes from a suitable airport, which is not really limiting at all over most of the globe apart from Antarctica and parts of the South Pacific. So from a legal point of view, what is an ETOPS route in a twin is not necessarily (in fact, likely not) one in a quad. In the 747 you can operate up to 180 minutes from a suitable diversion airfield with no special requirements at all.

Legal aspects aside, from an airmanship point of view on any long-range operation over remote and/or sparsely populated areas it is prudent to have some suitable diversion options planned out to cater for the eventuality of engine failure, depressurisation etc. Of particular concern in the 747 is finding airfields with runways/aprons wide enough/strong enough to bear the weight of the aircraft (especially an issue over South America).

Indeed it is generally decompression that is the most limiting scenario, and routes over high terrain (southern Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the Himalayas are the particular problem areas for routes from the UK to the Middle East and South East Asia) need careful consideration: obviously in the event of a decompression it is essential to get down to FL100 in the shortest possible time (i.e. before the finite supply of oxygen on board runs out), plus over the very highest terrain there may be drift-down considerations for the eventuality of an engine failure as well. Thus there are significant 'no go' areas over the highest parts of the Himalaya where it is simply impossible to meet either the oxygen or drift-down requirements (or both), and "escape routes" are planned which must be followed in the event of a decompression to get the aircraft away from the high ground and down to a lower level as soon as practicable (usually along the lines of -- if the failure occurs before point XYZ, turn round, descend to FLxx and route to XXXX airfield via such and such a route (and there may be further 'step-down' points along the route to enable descent to FL100 as the terrain becomes less of a factor) -- if the failure occurs after point XYZ, continue on-route, descend to FLXX, route via CDE, FGH etc to diversion airfield YYYY).

Of course, don't forget that all of the above is dependent on the weather/traffic/political situation at your various possible diversion fields being amenable...

There are an awful lot of things to think about and take in to consideration -- one of the things which makes long-haul flying such a fascinating pastime...!

Great info thanks. 

Again, I know it depends on a ton of factors. But your final line kind of goes to my original question. I wish I could find a source that provides a typical list of enroute alternates used. For example, the BA dispatchers that routinely put together the trans-Asian flights to VHHH etc. could probably tell you off the top of their head the alternates considered for extended operations. In other words, I look up the real flight, see if a real plan is available, and boot up FSX with that plane at the actual gate used. I wish I could figure out as much as possible the enroute alternate planning for that flight. It may simply be that the data isn't available and I have to combine my knowledge (or lack thereof :) ) with that of PFPX and see what I cam come up with. I'd prefer to step up my game though.  

 

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1 hour ago, wde12 said:

I wish I could find a source that provides a typical list of enroute alternates used.

I think this would depend on the operator, the time of day, the agreements at the potential airports, the weather, the aircraft type, and even the dispatcher.

Things you can easily consider on your own without trying to look for data that isn't really out there:

  • Will the performance of the aircraft be adequate for that airport (is the runway long enough)?
  • Will the weather be reasonable? This is subjective, obviously, but keep in mind, if you're in a hurry, the last thing you'd want to be doing is flying an approach to mins and potentially go missed.
  • Could the time of day create a hazard to the operation?
  • Are there agreements between you and the airport operator? Granted, this isn't a go/no-go call while in the air, but if you're planning on a potential diversion point, if two adequate airports are near each other, you may bias toward the one that you have an agreement with. As an example: Flying ATL-FRA and you need to divert while near Washington DC. You have other flights out of IAD, but none out of BWI. BWI may be slightly closer to you, but IAD is somewhat larger, and would likely accommodate you a bit better since your airline has an operation there.

At its base, just filter fields based on a particular runway length. Next, consider how close they are to your route, and then some of the factors above. Some random island in the Pacific may have a perfect runway, and be right on route, but can it handle 500+ passengers, and does it have adequate medical facilities?

I'm sure the various operators keep a list of approved fields, but I doubt they're public, and I doubt it's very fixed for any given period of time. Even different times of year carry changes in diversion fields out over the water given the shifts and strength of the jetstream.

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11 hours ago, wde12 said:

Great info thanks. 

Again, I know it depends on a ton of factors. But your final line kind of goes to my original question. I wish I could find a source that provides a typical list of enroute alternates used. For example, the BA dispatchers that routinely put together the trans-Asian flights to VHHH etc. could probably tell you off the top of their head the alternates considered for extended operations. In other words, I look up the real flight, see if a real plan is available, and boot up FSX with that plane at the actual gate used. I wish I could figure out as much as possible the enroute alternate planning for that flight. It may simply be that the data isn't available and I have to combine my knowledge (or lack thereof :) ) with that of PFPX and see what I cam come up with. I'd prefer to step up my game though.  

 

As Kyle says, the things to take in to account are runway length (and, as I mentioned earlier, strength) -- these two factors in particular limit the possibilities for a B747 quite a bit to start with.

Add in political/security considerations (again this will obviously depend heavily on the airline, where they are based and their own security assessments) and this will further reduce your options.

From what's left -- as Kyle says, there are commercial considerations (i.e. does the airline have locally-based staff (for instance if it is an existing destination on the airline's network) -- or, for instance, does a sister airline or fellow alliance member have a presence?), and weather.

At the planning stage, one would use "planning minima" -- in other words, if the airfield has a CATII/III approach then the forecast should be CAT I or better, if only a CAT I ILS is available then the forecast should be sufficiently good to permit a non-precision approach with the forecast ceiling at or above MDA/H, and if only a non-precision approach is available then the forecast visibility should be 1000m or more better than that required for the approach plus forecast ceiling at least 200ft above MDA/H, and finally if only a circling approach is available then the forecast needs to be at or above the circling minima. Don't forget to check the NOTAMS in case the ILS is unserviceable etc...

Once airborne, of course, all this goes out the window and you work to the actual conditions.

If you have the real flightplan to hand then en-route alternates are commonly entered in the remarks field under RALT/.

BA to HKG, SIN etc used to (when the Jumbo went there!) use places like Ankara, Baku, Kolkata, Delhi, Bangkok etc quite regularly on the flightplan.

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On 4/4/2017 at 10:40 PM, downscc said:

I found interesting in the briefing package the couple of screens showing data on reasons for diversions on ETOPS planned flights.  Most diversions are not in the ETOPS segments and most are not due to technical (engine, decompression, etc) reasons.  Most are induced by the passengers in the form of medical emergencies.

Yes, quite -- just goes to show the incredible reliability of modern jet engines (and aircraft!).

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