Like flying in general, there is nothing particularly hard about transatlantic flying, but there are a lot of important details.
We think of flying to Europe as a trip over the water, but that's not very accurate. My last trip from Claremore, Oklahoma to Paris was 4,515 miles. The longest distance over water was 467 miles, 10% of the trip, and the total distance over water (excluding spans less than 50 miles) was 1,470 miles, only 1/3 of the trip.
|Across Lake Superior||94 nm||2.1%|
|Across Hudson Bay||255 nm||5.6%|
|Southwest of Baffin Island||74 nm||1.6%|
|Canada to Greenland||236 nm||5.2%|
|Greenland to Iceland||344 nm||7.6%|
|Iceland to U.K.||467 nm||10.3%|
|Total Over Water||1,470 nm||32.6%|
|Total Trip||4,515 nm|
- Operations Manual
- Before You Go
- On the Ground
- Flight planning
- What's the difference?
- HF Radio
- Survival and Forced Landings
- Some Country-Specific Rules
- Some Airports
- Goose Bay, Canada (CYYR)
- Iqaluit, Canada (CYFB)
- Qikiqtarjuaq, Canada (CYVM)
- Ilulissat, Greenland (BGJN)
- Aasiat, Greenland (BGAA)
- Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (Sondre Stromfjord) (BGSF)
- Nuuk, Greenland (BGGH)
- Narsarsuaq, Greenland (BGBW)
- Reykjavik, Iceland (BIRK)
- Vagar (EKVG), Faroe Islands
- Glasgow, Scotland (EGPF)
- Stornoway, Scotland (EGPO)
- Spitzbergen/Svalbard (ENSB)
- Comments, Criticism, and General Harrassment
Click here for a copy of the North Atlantic International General Aviation Operations Manual. It may be worth doing an internet search to see if this is the latest version. This one is the 3rd edition, version 2.1.
This manual is worth reading. It clarifies some equipment and regulation questions, and has some good information on weather, flight planning, clearances, and communications. Here is the first paragraph of the flight planning section:
Maybe someone has had trouble crossing the Atlantic VFR.
Before you go to Europe, you'll probably need to buy, borrow, or rent some stuff. The technical term for this is "hunting and gathering." Here are some things you might need. Let me know if you notice anything I left off this list, because it's what I'll use next time I fly to Europe.
There are a lot of life rafts available for general aviation. They seem overpriced, which is a natural occurrence in aviation, but they are still a lot cheaper than your traffic avoidance system or weather radar. Here's a good review of general aviation life rafts:
The Winslow rafts seem to be good:
Here's one place you can take a course and rent a life raft and immersion suit (a.k.a. survival suit):
Should you wear an immersion suit in the air? Some companies and insurance policies require it. At 27,000 feet, though, you should have some time to put it on in the event of an engine failure. What about a failure on climb out or approach? That's something to consider too. In other words, Idunno. I normally don't wear one in the air, but have it readily accessible.
You can rent immersion suits at various places around the internet. There are a lot of different types, but make sure it is a real immersion suit, or survival suit, and if you have the opportunity to use it, don't forget to close off the seals and zip it tight.
In 1998, a private pilot flying a Cessna 206 from the Azores to St. Johns, Newfoundland encountered unexpected headwinds. He realized he didn't have enough fuel to make it, so he landed in the water near an oil rig, 300 meters in from the oil rig's supply boat. But he didn't zip his suit, and died as a result. Here's the NTSB report:
According to Canadian aviation authorities, the pilot advised Gander Approach Control Center that he was encountering strong headwinds, and that he did not have sufficient fuel to make it to St. John's. A search and rescue aircraft was in the area, and suggested the pilot try to ditch in the vicinity of the Hibernia oil rig. The pilot ditched near the platform in heavy seas. He survived the landing, but perished as a result of the icy water.
According to a representative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the pilot ditched about 300 meters in front of the oil rig's supply boat. The boat came alongside, and the pilot requested a line be thrown to him. The pilot was wearing an exposure suit, but it was not zipped up. The line was thrown, but the pilot did not respond to it. Two crewmen from the supply boat descended a rope ladder, and attempted to pull the pilot up in 40-foot seas. However, the weight of the pilot and the water in the exposure suit in the high seas made recovery impossible. The crew was finally able to secure the pilot with netting, and brought him onboard. The crew gave the pilot CPR for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, while transferring him to the oil rig. The pilot was eventually transferred to a hospital in St. Johns, but was never resuscitated.
Some PLBs advertise a GPS Interface. This is not the same as a built-in GPS receiver. With ACR Globalfix PLB, for example, you have to run a wire from the PLB to a GPS while you're flying in order for it to know where you are. The McMurdo/Pains-Wessex Fastfind Plus has the GPS built in, so you don't have to worry about it until you're on the ground (or water). Most PLBs are somewhat waterproof. The FastFind Plus costs about $850, but hurry! The price may drop any day now!
On my last trip across the Atlantic, these were not FCC approved yet. Now they are, as of July 2003, and next time I go I'll have one. You can find them at aviation, marine, and backcountry shops.
Satellite phones are available. I don't consider this necessary equipment like the PLB, but it would be fun to play with one sometime. There are two popular satellite phone companies, Iridium and Globalstar. Iridium is a little more expensive with a little less voice quality, but it has truly global service. Globalstar doesn't work out in the middle of the ocean, for example, so I probably would opt for Iridium. Satellite phones work best outdoors.
You can rent an Iridium 9505 phone, the newer more water-resistant model, for $90/week or $190/month, plus $1.80/minute usage. You can buy one for about $1500, with $33/month plus $1.50/min charges. I haven't shopped around for prices, so you might be able to get it cheaper.
I usually carry a handheld aircraft radio in case the ones in the plane quit working.
Mode S transponders are now required for IFR flight in most or all of Western Europe. An ELT with 406 mhz capability is also required in Europe. Canada has delayed its requirement for a 406 mhz ELT, but it would be a good idea to check on it before you fly into Canada.
In Europe 8.33mhz
VHF channel spacing is required above FL195, and will be required below FL195 before long. You might want to check on this before you go if you cannot set your radios to 8.33mhz channel spacing..
You can apply online here:
2. Eight red signal cartridges and a means of firing them.
3. A signal sheet (minimum 1 x 1 M) in a reflecting colour.
4. A signal mirror.
5. A compass.
6. A knife.
7. A sleeping bag with weatherproof inner lining or a rescue blanket per person.
8. Four boxes of matches in waterproof container.
9. A ball of string.
10. cooking stove with fuel and the accompanying mess tins.
11. 2000 calories of food per person.
During winter conditions and when flying over the icecap the following shall additionally be carried:
12. A snow saw or snow shovel.
13. 40 hours of candles.
In Greenland and some places in Europe, line personnel are not allowed to touch Prist so you have to operate the Prist can while they fuel the plane. Prist is bad for you, so it's a good idea to wear gloves. I've had 1 or 2 out of 10 cans of Prist not work. Even though I'm not the most elegant Prist handler in the world, it may be a good idea to take some extra.
In April 2005, the European Union raised insurance requirements at LOT. Greenland, Iceland, and Norway also instituted the same rules. The values they use are in SDRs, which are essentially an imaginary currency invented by the International Monetary Fund. Here's where to find today's exchange rate:
Here are the liability insurance requirements for aircraft flying in most of Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. The liability insurance has to include war and terrorism. The dollars are based on the SDR exchange rate of July 31, 2005.
|MTOW (kg)||MTOW (lb)||SDRs||U.S. Dollars
|500 or less
||1,103 or less
|501 to 1,000||1,104 to 2,205||1,500,000||$2,177,790|
|1,101 to 2,700||2,206 to 5,954||3,000,000||$4,355,580|
|2,701 to 6,600||5,965 to 14,553||7,000,000||$10,163,020|
|6,601 to 12,000||14,554 to 26,460||18,000,000||$26,133,480|
|12,001 to 25,000||26,461 to 55,125||80,000,000||$116,148,800|
In addition, insurance of 250,000 SDR or $362,965 per passenger is required. I'm not sure whether this includes the pilot. In a plane with a maximum takeoff weight of 2700 kg or less, individual countries may lower the passenger insurance requirement to 100,000 SDR, or $145,186. I think Greenland lowered it to zero for noncommercial flights in planes with 2700 kg or less MTOW.
I haven't had the privilege of getting insurance for a transatlantic flight since they changed the rules, but I have heard from a few people who found it impossible. Here are the details of the insurance rules:
Flying to Europe, you may find airports with an FBO or ground handling company similar to FBOs at U.S. airports. In fact, there is a Signature at Paris Le Bourget. But a lot of smaller airports and some larger ones don't have FBOs.
In these you buy fuel from the airport, or from a fuel company at the airport. Weather and flight planning us usually available somewhere at the airport, whether it's the tower, a Met Office, or a room with a fax machine.
At many airports in Northern Canada, there is no FBO. Sometimes you buy fuel from the airport, and sometimes from and independent fuel supplier. You can phone in a flight plan, and at some places fax it or talk to the people in the tower. The smaller airports don't have tower controllers, but many have a local FSS in the tower, or some equivalent. They provide traffic advisories, open and close flight plans, and will tell you where to park if you ask.
At uncontrolled airports in Greenland there are AFIS people in the towers that seem similar to the Canadian local FSS people. They can help with the weather, flight plans, etc.
You can get Canadian charts at
The Canada Flight Supplement is similar to the U.S. Facilities Directory, but for all of Canada. It has some additional info, too. Canadian Air Pilot 1-7 (CAP1 through CAP7 (CAP6 is the French version of CAP5)) have instrument approach procedures. Enroute Low and High charts are IFR charts. A WAC chart is nice to have when flying over unfamiliar area.
You can also get these at Jeppesen or Sporty's.
IFR charts for Greenland, Iceland, the Azores, and the Faroe Islands are included in the Jeppesen Atlantic Trip Kit. It also has country specific regulations, entry requirements, and airport information.
You can also download approaches and airport information for Greenland at
Some of the towns in Greenland have changed from Danish names to Greenlandic names in the past few years. Some changes are more gradual than others. For example, the capital of Greenland is Nuuk. You'll find Nuuk in the Jeppesen Airport Directory of the Atlantic Trip Kit. However, you won't find any approach plates for Nuuk. They're listed under the old Danish name Godthab. Sondre Stromfjord is the Danish name for Kangerlussuaq, and Jakobshovn is the Danish name for Ilulissat.
You can also buy the charts directly from Iceland:
Airport information and approaches for Iceland are available online at
Don't bet on a GPS overlay for every approach. Once I flew into Reyjkavik and was given an NDB approach to runway 19. There were two different NDB approaches for 19 in the Jeppesen book, but only one on the Garmin 530. The one I was given (A or B, I forgot which) was the one that was not in the GPS. I was wondering why they would assign me an NDB approach when there's a perfectly good ILS on 19, but then I figured out that there was another plane on the ILS approach, and they could get me in a lot faster behind him on the NDB approach.
I've noticed other procedures missing occasionally from the Garmin outside the lower 48 states, too.
The approach procedures are listed alphabetically by airport, So if you get a trip kit for Europe and the Mediterranean, you'll carry a lot of approach plates you don't need if you only visit central Europe.
Jeppview is a good option, but it's only available by subscription, and costs quite a bit more for just one trip than the paper charts. Jeppview is a Windows program with a data subscription. You can use it to print off the approaches airport information that you need without carrying a box full of paper approaches. There are some other computerized IFR charts available, but I don't know anything about them.
If you use digital approaches, it may be a good idea to get the Airport Directory, Air Traffic Control section, and Entry Requirements on paper.
If you use one of the Jeppesen Europe Trip kits, you'll need to get the high altitude charts separately if you plan to fly above FL200 (or maybe FL245).
For flight planning, I use Jeppesen's FliteStar with international data. There is probably a lot of other software available, but since I already have this I'll probably use it until it quits working. Flight Plan Pro is supposed to be a good flight planning tool for Europe.
Within Canada the Canadian FSS will ask you the questions on the form when you call them, although it goes faster if you can read off the information. Beginning with the Canada/Greenland leg and until you get back to Canada, you'll need to fill out a flight form and have it faxed in, or file it on the internet. Here's a sample ICAO flight plan, with directions.
Here's a blank:
On the internet, http://www.eurofpl.eu is an excellent flight planning site you can use from Canada to Europe. It provides weather, flight plan verification and submission, and a good nav log that considers the winds aloft. It is a big timesaver.
In southern Canada they are used to Americans trying to use only /G as the equipment code, but farther north you'll need to use something like SGR/C, which means Standard nav/com, GPS (or GNSS), RNAV (or RNP), and Mode C transponder.
In Europe, you can add Y (SGYR/C) for 8.33mhz channel spacing, but you'll need to find the option on your radio. The Y means something different in Canada. On the Garmin 430 and 530, turn the big knob in the lower right to the AUX menu, then turn the small knob on the lower right to the last position. The last item is "COM Configuration," where you can set the channel spacing. You can check it out on the simulator:
Two radios with 8.33 mhz channel spacing is required to fly above FL195 in most of Europe.
In the true airspeed field, remember knots is N270, not K270. K270 means kilometers per hour, and causing you to be off on your time enroute, and that will bounce your flight plan. Flight level is F270, not FL270.
Over the ocean, you'll need reporting points so the controllers can maintain separation. It's surprising how many planes make the route Canada-Greenland-Iceland-U.K. The "standard" is to report every 10 degrees of longitude, but if you're in a slow TBM or PC12, they might ask for a reporting point at 5°.
Going from Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq, you might file the route
LOACH 59N50W SI
LOACH is an intersection at the edge of Canadian airspace. 59N50W is how to write a lat-lon in your flight plan. SI is Simiutaq, an NDB in Greenland southwest of Narsarsuaq. Here's the town of Narsaq in January. (I originally thought this was Simiutaq, but I goofed):
It's not a bad idea to setup your GPS so that NDBs, VORs, and small airports are displayed at large scales. The first time I flew into Narsarsuaq, I was cleared to Sierra India, but I couldn't find it because there was nothing on the GPS and it was about 45 miles from the airport. Luckily, the controllers in that area are very nice and competent.
In addition to the routing, on overseas flight plans you need to give an estimated enroute time for all the waypoints. You do this in field 18, "Other Information", something like this:
EET LOACH 0052, 59N50W 0207, SI 0241
The "0052" means you expect to cross LOACH at 52 minutes after takeoff, and "0207" means you expect to cross 59N50W at 2 hours 7 minutes after takeoff. The EET is the time since takeoff, not the time since the last waypoint.
At each waypoint, you're required to give a position report. If your time is going to be more than 5 minutes off, you're supposed to let ATC know the new estimate (UTC) for the next waypoint. Don't forget to consider the expected winds aloft in your time estimates.
The airway system in Europe is really complex, with separate airways for different flight levels, strict rules about where you get on and off the airways, and one-way airways. There are roughly 8,263 rules about which airways can be used at what altitudes between which waypoints.
When you file a flight plan, it's sent to Belgium for approval. If you file it wrong, it bounces back. Sometimes they'll correct it, but usually it will just be rejected. If you can't figure it out after two or three tries, you might be able to get someone to call Belgium and get you a routing that works.
You can use a couple of web sites to validate and submit flight plans and save a lot of time. The easiest to use is EuroFPL:
It is an excellent flight planning site you can use from Canada to Europe. It provides weather, flight plan verification and submission, and a good nav log that considers the winds aloft.
EuroControl, the European ATC, has a web site that will do a flight plan validation for you:
Then, under IFPUV, select "Structured Editor." (They recently changed the site to make it more cumbersome to use.)
You put in a flight plan, and it tells you what is wrong with it. It's a little cryptic, but with trial and error you can eventually find a flight plan that's acceptable. Then it will go right through when you file it. There may be a lot of waypoints and airways in a European flight plan.
If you validate a flight plan one evening, then decide the winds are better at a different altitude the next morning, you might want to validate it again because the same route may not work at other altitudes.
Sometimes when your flight plan is accepted, it comes back with a time slot, and you have to wait for a while before you leave. This is more likely to happen near a large town.
You don't have as much leeway with the departure time in Europe as you do in the U.S. If you miss it by more than 30 minutes, you will probably have re-file your flight plan.
If you fly into a smaller airport, check the hours of operation. Most airports in the U.S. are available for takeoff and landing 24 hours a day, but this isn't true in Europe. A lot of airports there have limited hours of operation.
Here is a good site for IFR flying in Europe:
The route through Iqaluit is as close from Oklahoma as Goose Bay, and Ilulissat, Greenland is a really interesting place to visit. The "destination" in Europe of most of these plans is Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow is a popular GA entry point into Europe.
At Goose Bay, Reykjavik, and Glasgow, the FBOs handle a lot of private planes crossing the Atlantic. They'll get the weather for you, help you with the flight plan, and file it. In Greenland, you can usually talk to the people in the tower for weather and flight plans. They've always been very helpful to me.
One thing to remember -- Greenland is closed on Sunday. All airports in Greenland are closed on Sundays and Holidays.
Some routes (not guaranteed):
Goose Bay, Canada to Narsarsuaq, Greenland:
CYYR LOACH 59N50W SI BGBW
Goose Bay to Reykjavik, Iceland:
CYYR LOACH 59N50W 62N40W 63N30W EMBLA BIRK
(1340 nm -- check wind and weather! You may be able to divert to Narsarsuaq or Kulusuk, Greenland if the winds are bad or the weather is bad in Iceland.)
Iqaluit, Canada to Ilulissat, Greenland
CYFB 67N60W BGJN
Iqaluit to Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland
CYFB 65N63W SM BGSF
Iqaluit to Nuuk, Greenland
CYFB 64N60W 64N55W BGGH
Qikiqtarjuaq, Canada to Reykjavik
CYVM 67N60W 67N50W 66N40W 65N30W GIMLI BIRK
(1050 nm, plus 30 if you have to avoid a military area.)
Sondre Stromfjord to Reykjavik
BGSF PEVAR MASIK DA 65N30W GIMLI BIRK
Nuuk to Reykjavik
BGGH 65N40W 65N30W GIMLI BIRK
Ilulissat to Reykjavik
BGJN 68N40W 66N30W HEKLA BIRK
Narsarsuaq to Reykjavik
BGBW 62N40W 63N30W EMBLA BIRK
Reykjavik to Glasgow
BIRK ALDAN RATSU UN610 STN UN615 GOW EGPF
(The airways beginning with U are upper level airways for altitudes above FL245.)
You should be able substitute Keflavik for Reyjkavik in these flight plans, but I've never been to Keflavik. Reyjkavik has fast, helpful service, and there is a large hotel and restaurant 100 yards from where you park the plane. You could also stop at Stornoway in the U.K., which is at the STN VOR. They advertise for transatlantic GA business, but I've never been there either.
St. Johns, Canada to Santa Maria, Azores, Portugal
CYYT 4750 4545 4340 4135 KOLIT LPAZ
(1376 nm, no possible diversion airports until Corvo or Flores at 1053 or 1059 nm, and they are VFR only with no customs. I have never gone this way, but cancelled plans to once because of weather. HF radio is required on this route.)
Santa Maria to Lisbon
LPAZ DOKAS 38N20W GUNTI UZ21 BUSEN LIS
(You usually need a valid flight plan with airways in Europe.)
Here's a transatlantic route from Iqaluit, Canada to Stornoway, Scotland with the longest leg 382 miles. However, from BGSF to BGKK and on to an alternate (either back to BGSF, BGBW, or BIPA) is 675, 682, or 663 miles.
CYFB, CYVM, BGSF, BGKK, BIKF, BIHN, EKVG, EGPO
When you look at alternate airports in a transatlantic flight, look carefully at the weather. Also consider which airports may be used to divert to in the case of an mechanical or weather problems. What if the landing gear loses hydraulic pressure and drops, reducing fuel economy? If there is a cabin pressure loss and you have to fly at lower altitudes, how far can you go?
Things like this are not major considerations in flight planning in the U.S. where the airports are 30 miles apart, but when the nearest airport is 200 miles away or more, options and extra fuel are nice to have. Do you know the most economical power settings on your plane? Better yet, do you know where to find them in the POH?
There may be a icing at the lower altitudes.
Weather is available at most airports. Be sure to check the winds aloft, destination TAF, and alternate TAF. Be sure you have enough fuel to land at an alternate -- they are not close to one another in Greenland. Of the nine Atlantic crossings I've made, I diverted to alternate airports in Greenland three times because of weather.
In the air, you can request the current weather at your destination. It's a good idea to do this while you can return to your departure point, and again while you have plenty of fuel to divert to an alternate. It's also important to watch the wind and ground speed carefully. The forecasts are usually pretty close, but not always. An additional 50 knots of headwind can use a lot of fuel. This is all common sense, but it's more critical where the airports are much farther apart.
This satellite image from 2003 is a good example of a low pressure area near Iceland.
The low pressure is centered between Narsarsuaq and Reykjavik. You might have strong headwinds or strong tailwinds depending on whether it happens to be north of south of your route when you fly across it. The system lies completely in the ocean so there would be no weather reporting to give its precise location -- only pireps and satellite photos a few hours old. If you only checked the TAF and METAR for your departure and destination airports, you wouldn't have a clue that the low is there.
Here are some weather sources on the web:
Winds and temperature aloft for the North Atlantic:
Greenland forecasts (non-aviation):
Canada weather and notams:
International TAFs and Metars are now available at ADDS:
There are several aviation weather sites for Europe:
Visibility is usually in meters instead of miles, and the altimeter setting is in millibars. A millibar is the same as a hectopascal, or hPa. In this Metar, the visibility is 8000 meters and the QNH (altimeter setting) is 1030.
EGFF 152350Z 36004KT 8000 SKC 02/01 Q1030
Sometimes you see CAVOK, which is Ceiling And Visibility OK, and NOSIG, which is NO SIGnificant change in the weather.
When you look at the Metar and TAF, be sure to check the date and time. Many smaller airports in Europe stop reporting weather when they are closed, so the most recent Metar may be several hours old, and sometimes even a day or two old.
There are several differences you encounter flying to Europe, some more important than others. Here are a few:
- You have to request engine start with the local controller or AFIS outside of the U.S. and Canada. This also applies to uncontrolled fields when departing IFR (I or Y flight rules).
- 8.33 mhz channel spacing on your radio is required about FL195 in Europe.
- Altimeter settings are in millibars or hectopascals (hPa).
- When you file an IFR flight plan, it is sent to Brussels and then returned with approval or rejection, and possibly a time slot. You should wait for the approval before you climb into the plane.
- When flying over the ocean, you're required to make position reports at least every 10° longitude. It
goes something like this:
"Iceland Radio, N3251E, position"
Then, after a go-ahead,
"N3251E reports 65 North 40 West at 1421, flight level 270, estimate 63 north 30 west at 1523, next is Embla"
I usually set one of the fields on the GPS to keep the current UTC. Then I make a note of the ETA shortly before I pass a waypoint, in case the frequency is busy and I can't report it for a little bit.
- In the U.S. and Canada, the transition altitude from feet to flight levels is always 18000'. In Greenland, Iceland, and Europe, it varies from country to country, and sometimes from airport to airport (at higher altitude airports or airports near mountains). It's usually a surprise the first few times I get assigned something like flight level 80. The transition altitude is on the approach plates and airport information.
- The standard VFR squawk code in most of Europe is 7000. In Germany it's 0021 at 5000' (or 3500' AGL) and below, and 0022 above 5000' (or 3500' AGL). Crossing the Atlantic, you should leave your transponder on and squawk 2000.
- Air-to-Air frequency over the ocean is 123.45.
- On an IFR flight plan in the U.S., you are almost always cleared to your destination. Crossing the Atlantic, the oceanic clearance is separate from your domestic clearance. Make sure you've got clearance before heading out across the ocean.
- Flying between countries in Europe, sometimes you're cleared to a VOR or waypoint near a border, and you get further clearance when you're close. If you don't get further clearance, you should ask for it, and hold if necessary. I think there has been a program underway to provide full clearances at the beginning of the flight.
- Radar Information Service is available in the U.K. This is similar to flight following in the U.S. I'm not sure if it's available in the rest of Europe.
- Magnetic declination can be very high in the north. In Ilulissat, Greenland, for example, it's 39.5°. Some approaches in the Arctic use True headings instead of Magnetic. This can be very important. If you see a capital T on after the degrees in the approach plate, that means True heading instead of Magnetic. Some approaches that use true headings have the word "True" appended to the approach name.
- CAVOK = Ceilings and visibility OK.
- QNH = Altimeter setting, millibars
- Radar identified = Radar contact
- "Control" and "radar" are used instead of "center" and "approach."
- Line up and wait = Taxi into position and hold.
- I'll call you back = Standby
- 123 decimal 45 = 123 point 45
- Sometimes they abbreviate call signs using 4 digits: "four twenty one echo," instead of "2 1 echo."
- Beginning in Canada, use November instead of or in addition to your plane type: November 8421e, not Pilatus 8421E. November is for U.S. planes. Sometimes the ATIS asks for the aircraft type on initial contact.
- What is your estimate for ??? - When will you be there, UTC.
- Traffic pattern = Circuit
- Backtaxi = Backtrack
- Registration = Tail number
- Runway 08 = Runway 8
- Squawk Ident = Ident (This is trivial, but I have responded "Say again" more than once...)
- Don't forget the universal radio phrase, "Would you please spell the identifier?" Use a pen.
In addition to engine starts, cold weather can affect gyro operation and landing gear. Occasionally, after a long, cold flight, ice crystals can form somewhere in the strut. This can cause a slow leak and a flat strut the following morning. Warming it up and inflating it should fix the problem. I've heard of this happening on small jets. On a very cold day, if you don't heat up the gyros, some of them might not run for a while after you startup.
An HF radio is a high frequency radio, which means it operates at a lower frequency than your regular aircraft radio, which is VHF or very high frequency. An HF radio generally has longer range and more static than a VHF radio.
Do you need one to fly to Europe? Not if you can communicate with ATC on VHF. Here are some maps showing VHF coverage across Greenland and Iceland. These were valid in 2002.
VHF Coverage at 10,000 feet
VHF Coverage at 20,000 feet
VHF Coverage at 30,000 feet
Two routes are approved for non-HF flight across the Atlantic.
1. Iqaluit - Sondre Stromfjord - Keflavik - ALDAN - 61N 10W (RATSU intersection) - Benbecula
2. At FL250 or above: Goose Bay - Prins Christian Sund (or Narsarsuaq) - Keflavik - ALDAN - 61N 10W (RATSU intersection) - Benbecula.
An HF radio is considered standard equipment in Greenland. If you don't have one, you should note "negative HF Radio" in the "Other Information" section of your flight plan. I'm not sure whether you should still use the S in the equipment type after you've made this notation. In Greenland, an HF radio is required for transiting planes unless VHF coverage is available for the legs flown.
The North Atlantic (NAT) regulations say "Subject to prior arrangement, VHF only flights may be made via Canada/Greenland/Iceland/Europe, provided that the Shanwick OCA is avoided." I think notation in the flight plan may satisfy the prior arrangement, but I'm not sure.
If you have access to an HF radio, it's much better to have it because there will likely be some holes in VHF coverage, depending on your route.
If you install an HF radio temporarily for the transatlantic crossing, you should have the proper form 337 or equivalent paperwork showing that it is a legal aircraft modification. Sometimes they check for this in Iceland.
Here's the official HF Management Guidance Material for the North Atlantic.
HFGuidance.rtf or HFGuidance.pdf
There are schools on how to survive ditching. Unfortunately, I haven't been yet. Here are some references.
If you decide to land in the ocean, try to land parallel to the swells. On top of a swell is best, in order to keep a wingtips from digging in and cartwheeling the plane. Gear should be up. There is some debate on flap usage. It's best to land slow, which favors full flaps, and its best to land with the nose at a slightly high angle of attack to prevent the plane from flipping onto its back, which favors no flaps. I think I'll use flaps if I am ever have the chance to try ditching. If it's night, you can use the radar altimeter to level off at about 60' or so.
There is not a huge difference in survival rates between landing in trees or landing in the water. Both are pretty good. Landing on smooth snow is even better.
Check the entry requirements in the Jeppesen charts, if you have them. Most countries only require a flight plan for non-commercial flights. In most countries, including Canada and the U.S., you have to land at an Airport of Entry on your first landing in the country. Those are listed in the airport directories.
When you arrive at an airport of entry, Customs may be there to meet you. At some airports you can fill out a declaration and drop it in a box.
In Canada and the U.S., you have to call Customs ahead of time. There is a big fine in the U.S. if you forget this. In Canada, you call 1-888-CANPASS from the U.S, or one of these numbers if that doesn't work:
Lansdowne: (613) 659-2391
Hamilton: (905) 679-2073
Windsor: (519) 257-6471
Victoria: (250) 363-0222
Here are details:
The U.S. Customs Guide for Private Flyers has a list of airports you can normally use to clear customs:
private_ flyers_1.pdf or private_ flyers_1.rtf
If you want to speed the process in the U.S., you can get a Customs Decal for your plane before you leave:
You can also fill out your customs form before you land. Here's a copy:
https://eapis.cbp.dhs.gov at least 60 minutes before you take off to leave or enter the U.S. They require information for the crew and passengers on board. This system is called the Advance Passenger Information System, or APIS, and the notification is called a "manifest."
The web site is up to government usability standards, so the registration process is quite cumbersome. You might want to register early to make it quicker to submit the manifest when you leave.
If you're leaving from a place with no internet access, you'll have to submit the manifest beforehand. You can submit a departure or arrival manifest as early as you want, so long as the people and dates are correct. After you submit a manifest, you are supposed to get an email reply that tells you that you're free to go, or if "additional steps are necessary."
If you divert to the U.S. in an emergency, are supposed to to notify Homeland Security via internet 30 minutes before arrival, although this might be tough to accomplish in a private plane with no internet capability.
If you decide to leave earlier or later than you specified on your APIS manifest, it's no problem as long as the date is still correct. There is no way to view, modify, or delete a manifest that you've submitted. If you need to add passengers, you can submit another manifest. You don't need to do anything if some passengers on the manifest don't make the trip. If you cancel the trip, it's a good idea to contact U.S. Customs and let them know.
More information on the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS):
apis_guide.pdf (U.S. Customs Link - this may be more up to date.)
Many uncontrolled airports in Canada have local FSS stations. They are not controllers, and they don't tell you what to do. They provide traffic information and airport advisories, issue clearance, and close flight plans. You are required to talk to them when you're within their airspace. This isn't a problem during IFR flight, because you're told to contact "Iqaluit Radio" or whoever at the propert time. In VFR flight, you need to call them up before you're within the Mandatory Frequency zone, usually 5-10 mile radius 3000' high.
When you fly VFR in Canada, you're supposed to monitor 126.7. That's the common FSS frequency. You can usually get weather updates there, too.
In Canada, VFR flight plans are required for non-local flights.
If you carry a gun into Canada, you have to register it and pay $75 Canadian when you enter the country. Handguns require a special license.
Here's Canada's equivalent to DUATS:
Here's some more information about flying in Canada:
Canadian regulations require the following for transoceanic flight:
- IFR rating and equipment
- HF Radio?
- Life Raft
- Hypothermia Protection
- Survival Gear for Canadian Aircraft
- 10% additional fuel beyond IFR requirements.
Here are some of the Canadian regulations:
On an IFR flight you are automatically handed off to AFIS, but the AFIS controller is not really a controller -- AFIS only offers information like the local FSS in Canada. If you make a local VFR flight in Greenland, you should stay in contact with AFIS in the TIZ.
In Greenland you have to contact AFIS or tower to request engine start.
Regulations and Approaches for Greenland are available in AIP Greenland at:
One thing to remember -- Greenland is closed on Sunday. All airports in Greenland are closed on Sundays and Holidays. And Greenland has quite a few holidays:
You can land in Greenland during those days, but you have to pay a few hundred dollars for the employees to come out and open the airport for you. Once I was able to land in Ilulissat on a Sunday when another plane had opened the airport, and I only had to pay a little extra. Greenland airports also close (I think) at 5:00 local time. If you come in late, you get to pay extra.
At Narsarsuaq and Kulusuk (and also the Vagar in the Faroe Islands), there are "state minima." These are minimum ceilings and visibility for approach and takeoffs. You can get the state minima in the Greenland AIP, section 22 in the airport information:
Vagar, Faroe Islands
This is pretty important for Narsarsuak. The landing IFR state minima are 1500' / 6000m there. VFR state minima are 1500' / 8000m. If the weather is below state minima, you cannot shoot an approach and have to divert to another airport. Make sure you have plenty of fuel. I think this also makes illegal the practice of descending over the ocean and flying up the fjord to Narsarsuaq when the ceiling is below 1500'. IFR night minimums for landing at Narsarsuaq are 3000' / 6000m. I don't think this is noted on the approach procedures, except to say the airport has state minima. Landing (IFR) is allowed after dark but takeoff is not.
There are some power lines that cross fjords in Greenland. They have lighted masts, but they span thousands of feet. It's a good idea to be aware of their location. There are three in Southern Greenland near Narsaq south of Narsarsuaq, and two near Nuuk.
In the future, an HF radio may not be required in Greenland if you have a satellite telephone which can be used in-flight. Until then, you can email the Danish CAA (SLV) to request an exemption from the requirement of carrying HF.
Here are some regulations for flying in Greenland airspace:
3.1 Radio and navigation equipment
b. The radio communication equipment shall consist of at least one VHF and one HF transceiver.
Note 1: The mentioned requirements (items a. and b.) are considered fulfilled if the ability to conduct two-way communication is established during radio propagation conditions which are normal for the route.
Note 2: For transiting flights the HF equipment is not required if full VHF coverage is available for the leg(s) flown.
c. All aircraft shall be equipped with a radio compass (ADF).
3.2 Emergency radio equipment
4. Equipment to be Carried on All Internal Flights and on Certain Transiting Flights
4.1 Signalling equipment
b. Two signal flares of the day and night type.
c. Eight red signal cartridges and a means of firing them.
d. A signal sheet (minimum 1 x 1 M) in a reflecting colour.
e. A signal mirror.
f. An electric hand torch.
4.2 Survival equipment
b. A knife.
c. A sleeping bag with weatherproof inner lining or a rescue blanket (Astron) per person.
d. Four boxes of matches in waterproof container.
e. A ball of string.
f. A cooking stove with fuel and the accompanying messtins. During winter conditions and when flying over the icecap the following shall additionally be carried:
g. A snow saw or snow shovel.
h. Per person: Candles with a burning time of about 2 hours. The minimum shall be not less than giving a burning time of 40 hours.
i. Tent(s) for all on board. If dinghies are carried, the tent(s) need not be carried.
Note: It is recommended that a rifle and the necessary ammunition be carried in areas where polar bears can be expected. The personal clothing should be suitable for the climatic conditions along the route to be overflown.
4.3 Emergency provisions
4.4 Maritime emergency equipment
To say that the Greenland ice cap is barren is an understatement.
Minimum IFR flight level across the Greenland icecap can be as high as FL140. The minimum IFR flight levels that are available is calculated from the 700HPA forecast with the MOCAs on the ATS-routes in Greenland. (MOCA in Greenland ensures obstacle clearance by 2.000ft, 22NM each side of track).
Flying into Greenland you might see a message concerning the GPS datum. For example, the Garmin 530 got this message flying into Narsarsuaq, Greenland: "Non-WGS84 wpt navigation BGBW."
I'm not sure how much that affects the accuracy of the GPS moving map, but there is probably some error.
In case you happen to get up around Thule, the THT VOR has been changed from magnetic to true north. This could cause some surprises if you didn't know, with a 66 magnetic variation.
This contains the General, En Route, and Aerodrome information.
Airport information and approaches for Iceland are available online here:
Vestmannaeyjar looks like an interesting place to visit. It's an island volcano that erupted not too many years ago.
Here is a good site with a map of the Icelandic official airports and landing strips in Iceland.
Here is a Google Earth file of the airports:
NAT001-7thEd.pdf or NAT001-7thEd.doc
A lot of NATO countries come to Goose Bay for flight training. It's a big airport. The runways have arresting cables.
Goose Bay has an ILS approach.
Iqaluit has one long runway with no parallel taxiway, and quite a bit of 737 traffic. Once the Queen of England's A-310 was there when I flew in. We had to wait until she left the airport before we could land. Here's her plane, in Iqaluit:
Even the royal Airbus had to taxi up to the pumps for fuel.
The Iqaluit terminal building:
Iqaluit has an ILS approach.
Qikiqtarjuaq is a handy fuel stop of you plan to overfly Greenland.
There is an NDB approach with a 1979' AGL minumum. The airport is down in an inlet with mountains on three sides. The runway is 3800' gravel, but it is in good condition (as of 2003). The approach into Qikiqtarjuaq uses True headings instead of Magnetic. There is a 45 degree magnetic declination at Qikiqtarjuaq, so this is very important.
On the ramp at Qukiqtarjuaq
Go to the tower for weather and flight planning, and talk to other airport people about fuel.
Ilulissat has NDB/DME approaches with 800' and 640' AGL minimums. The PAPI lights are 5.1° and 5.6°, really steep. This is so the Dash-7's can land on the 845m (2772') runway. There can be icebergs up to 790 feet high on the approach to runway 26. Here's a view of the approach into Ilulissat. You can see the runway just beyond the town.
It's a couple of miles from the airport into town, but they have taxis and the Hotel Arctic has a van.
Many of the Greenland airports are next to the ocean, and can get pretty windy. On my first transatlantic trip, we diverted to Nuuk from Narsarsuaq because of weather. A few days before, a new PC12 on delivery was blown into a building during a storm. The airports have concrete weights they can put under your plane to tie down. I'd recommend it if you're staying over.
Turning final into Nuuk:
There is a small ski slope next to the Nuuk airport:
Note! There are two power lines across fjords east of Nuuk.
1. The lowest point is 384 MSL, with a 1510' mast at 64 06 42N 051 14 41W and a 3337' mast at 64 04 10N 051 11 31W. The span is just over mile at 5370 feet.
2. The lowest point is 246 MSL, with a 1651' mast at 64 10 21N 051 34 50W and a 748' mast at 64 09 46N 051 31 58W. The span is 2643 feet.
The 130-knot approach (NDB DME-2 Rwy 07) into Narsarsuaq has a minimum of 1,790' AGL. The 160 knot approach is not listed. On marginal days, it is possible to descend through a hole in the clouds over the ocean or down the fjord and fly up through the fjord. I think this would be pretty dangerous, though, unless you're very familiar with the area. It is really hard to tell which fork to take flying up the fjord, and the wrong fork could be a fatal error. This would be much worse than a software fatal error. Note! There is now a power line across the fjord at Narsaq, with a 1912-foot span, ranging from 922 to 196 MSL. Coordinates are 60 53 07N 046 01 02W (922-foot mast) and 60 52 09N 045 59 56W (233-foot mast). The power line continues to the east and crosses two more fjords with spans of 2643 and 3599 feet. Details of these are at
Don't depend on your moving map to show you where the water is. I have seen islands hundreds of feet high off the coast of Alaska where the Garmin showed only blue water. In addition, you may see odd GPS messages like this pop up on your way into Narsarsuaq:
There is a noise abatement procedure for takeoff at BIRK. It's no big deal, but they expect you to know it.
Reykjavik has two NDB approaches to one runway, but the Garmin GPS has only one (last time I checked.)
There may be some stiff handling charges at BIRK for after-hours service. If you plan a late night arrival, you might want to consider nearby Keflavik (BIKF).
Spitzbergen is at 78° north latitude, north of Norway. If you go there, you need to get written permission from CAA in Oslo ahead of time (email@example.com). In addition, you should call the Svalbard/Longyear airport just before your departure with your ETA and get permission to land. I think this is to help insure separation from the airlines in the non-radar environment.
The airport is in the town of Longyear, and is called Longyear airport. The island is called Spitzbergen, and the group of islands is called Svalbard.
Jet fuel is available at the Longyear airport, but it would be a good idea to call and make sure ahead of time. There is normally no avgas, but you can have a few barrels shipped in ahead of time (for a price).
Svalbard is considered part of Norway, but you still have to land at an Airport of Entry going from Svalbard to Norway.
From Bodo to Svalbard is about 675 nm. According to the Garmin, it is off the edge of the earth.
You may get a warning on the way to Svalbard that the magnetic heading is unreliable. You can use the Bjornoya NDB as an intermediate waypoint to backup the magnetic headings. Bjornoya is a small island between Spitzbergen and mainland Norway.
If you hike around Svalbard, you should rent a guide or a gun for protection from polar bears. Be sure you can outrun your guide. At 78° north, you can find amazing fossils of tropical plants.
I've left out St. Johns, Santa Maria, and Keflavik because I haven't been there yet. If you have any other airports to add, or any info on these airports, email me a note.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org unless the purpose of your email is to change the size of my body parts or to sell prescription drugs. If you run across any mistakes, let me know and I'll get them fixed.