Gross Navigation Errors Continue to Plague North Atlantic Crossings

 - March 19, 2012, 4:00 PM
The North Atlantic tracks are where many gross navigation errors occur.

Gross navigation errors (GNEs) continue to occur on North Atlantic crossings, many of them committed by business aircraft, according to Anita Trotter-Cox, president of Assessment Compliance Group. She spoke on the subject at NBAA’s International Operators Conference in San Diego last week.

GNEs fall primarily into two categories, both of which would be absolutely unacceptable of aviators in domestic U.S. airspace. In one, the pilots fail to inform air traffic control about a problem encountered that requires a route or altitude change. In the other, the pilots input the route they filed into their FMS, rather than the route ATC assigned.

Trotter-Cox said, “It really comes down to poor cockpit procedures, and a failure to keep track of the flight on a plotting chart. Pilots have become entirely too complacent about their use of technology and also fail to regularly attend international training.”

Despite the vastness of North Atlantic airspace, some errors reported over the past 12 months were simply frightening. Trotter-Cox said in one GNE, a Falcon 900 heading to Europe at FL 370 was, “Cleared [by ATC] 54/20 [lat/long] DOGAL BABAN.” The crew acknowledged, but actually flew via “DOGAL then BURAK,” some 50 miles off course.

In another instance, a westbound A330 was “Cleared 62/30, 63/40, 62/50, 61/60.” The pilots actually flew over a point “63/50,” some 60 nm north of where they should have been, without saying a word to ATC