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North Atlantic Traffic - Flexibility For Aircraft Operators

01 Apr 2020

IAA provides flexibility for aircraft operators on the North Atlantic during COVID-19 crisis

ICAO accommodation for non-DLM (data-link mandate) compliant aircraft on North Atlantic routes  

Safety on these routes is not impacted and remains the priority at all times 

The Irish Aviation Authority and its colleagues in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have agreed to accommodate those aircraft, without the full Data Link Mandate (DLM) technology, to fly efficiently across the North Atlantic.  This development is designed to facilitate critical air cargo supplies at this time, including foods, medicines and other emergency supplies.   

The short-term accommodation of non-datalink compliant aircraft will not impact on the high safety levels on the North Atlantic. Instead, it offers more flexibility to aircraft operators when planning their North Atlantic operations in the evolving COVID-19 crisis.   This includes flexibility regarding the type of aircraft that can fly on the North Atlantic, which will assist in maximising cargo supplies.

95% of the aircraft already have the necessary data link equipment and will continue to operate as normal. However, those non-DLM compliant aircraft, previously required to fly at a lower level and on a different and less efficient flight plan, will now be accommodated in the core airspace. 

Mr Peter Kearney, IAA Chief Executive, said that the ICAO North Atlantic Systems Planning Group (NAT SPG) which the IAA is a member, agreed the accommodation for a period of three months, commencing today 1st April. 

“Due to the significant reduction in traffic levels and fleet capacities, the COVID-19 crisis may require aircraft operators to dispatch non-datalink compliant aircraft to operate in the North Atlantic. This agreement ensures that they will now be able to operate efficiently and effectively, without compromising safety”.

“In addition, dispatchers and pilots of all aircraft can now request their optimal route, flight plan step climbs, pilot requested cruise climbs and speeds. Due to the decrease in traffic caused by the COVID-19 crisis, there is a significantly higher chance of flights being cleared as requested,” he said. 

The IAA has been working hard ensure that aviation contributes to the national effort in Ireland to combat COVID-19.  Aviation is a key link in the supply chain and this measure will open that supply chain for Ireland and the rest of Europe.  In addition, the IAA’s air traffic management and aviation regulatory services remain fully open at this time.  Aviation will play a key role in the response to COVID-19 and also in the global recovery in due course.    

The ICAO North Atlantic structure continues to monitor the rapidly evolving situation with the aim to proactively identify and implement additional measures to help the global aviation community to safely and efficiently pass through this airspace in these times of crisis.

Representatives of the NAT SPG member States include Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States.

Further information on the IAA and the COVID-19 crisis can be found at our dedicated page https://www.iaa.ie/who-we-are/covid-19 


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