An increase in business aviation due to the pandemic has resulted in a crowded oceanic airspace between business and commercial flights. Business aviation crews are still familiarizing themselves with protocols of the airspace which is contributing to the communication gap. Continue reading below for four steps to bridge the aviation communications gap for seamless oceanic airspace communications.
Due to an increase in business aviation activity during the pandemic, traditionally commercial airspaces are becoming not only more congested, but they are being traversed by flight crews not as accustomed to the respective protocols of those airspaces. Specifically, the difference between aviation communications in a radar environment and the oceanic airspace. This has led to delayed communications between commercial and business aviators and air traffic control teams on the ground impacting voice connectivity and operations across the oceanic airspace.
“The consequences of sharing an airspace but lacking visibility into who is operating in that airspace can be massive,” warned Anthony Abate, Senior Manager NYC Communications Center at Collins Aerospace. Abate explained that because aircraft typically communicate via voice on high frequency (HF) or Satellite Voice (SatVoice) in the oceanic airspace controlled by the FAA, they are not communicating directly with Air Traffic Control (ATC) teams. Instead, those voice communications are supported by ARINC Radio Operations at Collins Aerospace Communications Centers and then relayed to ATC and Aeronautical Operational Control (AOC). This makes communication between flight crews and those communication centers pivotal to seamless operation across the airspace.
Because the commercial aviation communication protocols are new for many business aviation crews, it’s understandable that there is a learning curve to operating in different airspaces harmoniously. With this challenge in mind, Abate outlined a four-step checklist for any aviation crew, business or commercial, operating in the oceanic airspace:
- Confirm your radio frequencies and ensure that they are operating properly. Because radio frequencies are constantly in flux, it’s important that prior to the flight, the flight crew or dispatch center receive primary and secondary frequency assignments from the communications center based on geographic location and time of day. Updated frequencies for the Atlantic and Pacific regions can be found at www.radio.arinc.net.
- Ensure the functionality of your HF radio or controller–pilot data link communications (CPDLC) prior to departure or prior to entering oceanic and remote continental airspace. This ensures a reliable line of communication to the communications center team throughout the flight.
- Maintain a listening watch or selective calling (SELCAL) watch once airborne and outside the controlled airspace. This keeps your crew informed about the current state of the airspace. Additionally, communications over HF radio rely heavily on proper radio terminology and scripted reports, so it’s important to use the published guidance found in en route publications or the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). This way messages are delivered in the proper format and understood universally.
- Communicate clearly and often with your communications center team. In the event that you face any communication challenges, this team should be able to help your crew troubleshoot while also communicating with ATC. This allows them to inform other pilots in the airspace about any potential impacts to their journey, keeping the airspace safe and efficient.
“A strong relationship with your communications center operator is crucial in this new dynamic we’re seeing unfold in the oceanic airspace,” stated Abate. “The Collins Aerospace team is ready to assist new entrants into this airspace and educate them about communication best practices that come with the territory.”