This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
International regulators have agreed to suspend the North Atlantic Datalink Mandate (NAT DLM) for three months to provide more flexibility for traffic that flies through the region during the Covid-19 crisis, NBAA reported. Approved by the partners in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s North Atlantic System Planning Group, the NAT DLM is waived through June 30.
The mandate requires aircraft to be equipped with FANS 1/A controller-pilot datalink communications and ADS-C (contact) equipment to transit through the North Atlantic tracks from FL290 to FL410. The FAA has issued Notams on the waiver.
“The deepening Covid-19 crisis is an extraordinary situation that requires consideration of all options that would benefit NAT operators while maintaining the safety of operations,” ICAO said. “While acknowledging that the level of FANS 1/A datalink equipage in the NAT is very high (around 95 percent), due to the current significant reduction in traffic levels, most of the aircraft fleets are currently grounded, it is also recognized that there may be situations where, due to this crisis situation, aircraft operators may need to dispatch non-DLM compliant aircraft to operate in the NAT.”
Declines in traffic are significantly increasing chances of a flight being cleared as requested, ICAO further said, adding, “Dispatchers and pilots should be encouraged to file and request their optimal profiles at all stages of the flight.”
NBAA praised the action. “NBAA is grateful to the FAA and the North Atlantic System Planning Group for recognizing the urgency of the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, for facilitating the movement of essential cargo across the Atlantic, and for ensuring that those who need to get home to the U.S. can do so quickly and safely,” said Brian Koester, NBAA director of flight operations and regulations.