Think of your favorite chain restaurant. Maybe it’s your favorite because it is the one nearest you, makes great food, offers tremendous service, provides a comfortable atmosphere, or is priced right. Yet, when you visit a different location of that restaurant chain, it’s not the same. Despite similar atmospheres, service cultures, recipes, décor and pricing, the experience is different.
Global flight operations are the same. Despite ICAO acting as the global headquarters for airspace management—with its globalized operating standards, charting, language and structures—you’ll get a different experience flying in Asia than you will in Europe, both of which will vary from Australia. No one experience is better than the other. It’s just that the best ICAO can hope for is to set guidelines. The actual standards themselves are up to each airspace authority.
The Same, Yet Different
The nuances of each airspace authority are too numerous to detail here. However, we thought it worth sharing key operational insights from our own experiences, as well as reports we’ve received from crews flying in these regions:
- European—With more than 50% of North American BA travel moving to or from Europe, their already crowded skies are getting even moreso. If you want to get in or out of Europe’s population centers (London, Paris, Milan, Berlin, etc.), you’ll need a reservation. The trick isn’t just submitting a flight plan and getting your requested slot; it starts by knowing which airways are being regulated and when. What’s more, the confirmation, not the reservation, is what matters. These often don’t arrive until about four hours before your flight, regardless of when you filed. When your confirmation arrives, be ready for the possibility of edits or outright changes to your flight plan.
- Australia—A shared language helps flying in Australia feel like flying in the U.S. However, ADS-B is heavily replied upon because of the vastness of its sparsely populated midsection. If you don’t have ADS-B, plan to fly below flight level 290 (you can get a one-time exception) as you move about. Australia offers a list of preferred routes and publishes an updated version regularly. The challenge is finding a government entity that can supply you the latest version. It’s not that they’re unwilling as much as they may be a bit less organized than U.S. operators are used to.
- China—Nipping at Europe’s heels as the top BA travel destination from North America, Asia (specifically China) works harder than most to keep air traffic organized and monitored. As a result, ADS-B is more of a necessity, especially if you don’t plan to fly prescribed airways or below flight level 290. Speaking of flight levels, don’t plan to go above FL410. The region is also very strict about sticking to your flight plan; deviate, and you’re likely to get an earful.
- Middle East—The ever-changing geo-political climate of the Middle East should have every operator on alert when flying to, or crossing over, the region. Pay attention to changes in the region and don’t hesitate to change plans. Saudi Arabia requires unique vigilance. Specifically, the country expects required navigation performance (RNP) certifications to move around most airspaces because of traffic volume, parallel airways, and skies filled with a greater percentage of high-performing heavy iron than most.
- South America—The 2014 World Cup was an eye-opener for the forthcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Operators who flew into or around the World Cup host cities found many NOTAMs that were quite lengthy as well as new/temporary routings. A list of preferred routes was available, but not always easy to find. All indications are that operators should expect more of the same around the Olympics. Planning will take on extra importance as a result and trusted local handlers are available to help with ATC.
- Africa—The continent is perhaps most noteworthy for being a group of independently controlled airspaces. Lax airspace regulations in one country could be very strict in the next. Moving over or around the African continent will feel like a string of constant changes.
Despite ICAO’s best efforts at creating a homogeneous global airspace, it’s just not feasible. And while the standards for global flight operations are fairly straightforward, the differences can sneak up on you. The snapshot above is a glimpse at a moment in time. Operating philosophies, shifting cultural norms, the impact of technology and changing geo-political climates mean that operators are going to have to know as much about the culture they’re dealing with as they do the operating environment.
We can help. For up-to-the-minute insights into working with the various airspace authorities around the planet, contact Jeppesen’s International Trip Planning Service (ITPS). Every day, the planners and schedulers at Jeppesen ITPS help global operators and various airspace authorities work together for smooth operations. ITPS can provide you both the big picture advice and subtle nuances that will make a big difference in your next international flight. Learn more about Jeppesen ITPS by clicking here or calling (800) 553-7750.