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Flying over the poles

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Flying over the poles

Old 5th Nov 2003, 07:14
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Spain
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Flying over the poles


I'm wondering about the number of air-routes currently being flown over the earth's poles. Is there any airline, either pax or cargo, operating a particular route over the North pole on a daily/weekly/monthly basis for example? I guess this one is more likely to be "air-crossed" due to greater population density in the "vicinity"...

As to navigation procedures, is there any special and general one to be observed?

Guatico is offline  
Old 7th Nov 2003, 01:38
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Why do it if it's not fun?
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Bournemouth
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Very surprised you haven't had any responses to this one yet. I'll give you what I know, and hopefully that will inspire someone who actually does it to add to or correct my post!

There are plenty of routes that go near to, if not directly over, the north pole. Many routes from Europe to western North America, for example. Take a look at a globe (not a map) and you'll see what I mean.

As for procedures, here's what I know from ATPL theory exams. Once you get close to the poles, you can't navigate with reference to "north" any more, because your desired heading will change very quickly. Instead, you use a "grid" system. You create a map of the polar area, and then draw a grid onto the map. The grid is usually oriented so that "grid north" is aligned with true north on the Grenwich meridian, but it doesn't have to be. Once you get close to the poles, you re-align your Direction Indicator so that it now points towards grid north instead of true north. You then navigate using this grid system until you're away from the polar region. At least, that's how it used to be done - I'm not sure how relevant this stuff is in these days of INS, IRS and GPS, but that's what we had to learn for the exams.

Now over to the professionals....

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Old 7th Nov 2003, 04:17
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The penny has dropped, so thats what a Polar Sterographic Map is used for .
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Old 7th Nov 2003, 09:01
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OpSpec B055 - North Polar Operations.

A. B055 provides for north polar flight operations authorization. Operators are required to gain specific approval to conduct north polar operations (in addition to FAA approval for flight in the area of magnetic unreliability (AMU), OpSpec B040). The north polar area of operations is defined as that area that lies north of latitude N 78°00’ (see OpSpec A002). OpSpec B050 must show the specific routes approved for these north polar operations.

B. Fuel-freeze Strategy and Monitoring Requirements for North Polar Operations. The operator may wish to develop a fuel freeze analysis program in lieu of using the standard minimum fuel-freeze temperatures for specific types of fuel used. In such cases, the operator’s fuel-freeze analysis and monitoring program for the airplane fuel load must be submitted and acceptable to the FAA. The operator should have procedures established that require coordination between maintenance, dispatch, and assigned flightcrew of the determined fuel freeze temperature of the actual fuel load on board the airplane.

C. Communication Capability. In accordance with §121.99 (Communications Facilities), the operator must have effective communications capability with dispatch and with ATC for all portions of the flight route. The operator must show the FAA the communications medium(s) that it intends to use to fulfill these requirements in the north polar north area.

(1) The communications medium used must meet FAA regulatory requirements and fulfill policy/procedures established by each Air Traffic Service (ATS) unit providing control on the route of flight. Anchorage Center publishes this information in the US Government Flight Information Publication Supplement for Alaska. Other countries publish ATS policies and procedures in their State Aeronautical Information Publications.

(2) HF Voice has been considered the primary communications medium in the Polar North Area; however, other mediums may be used in accordance with the applicable policy. For example, although HF Voice remains primary for communications with Anchorage Center, in areas where there is satellite coverage, SATCOM voice may be used as a back-up to communicate with ARINC Radio and in non-routine situations to establish direct pilot-controller voice communications.

(3) In areas of satellite coverage, controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) may be used for ATC communications provided the ATS unit has an approved capability. In addition, provided the capability is approved, HF Datalink may also be used to fulfill communications requirements with ATS units having the capability and with airline dispatch.

(4) It is recognized that SATCOM may not be available for short periods during flight over the North Pole, particularly when operating on designated polar routes 1 and 2 (see 8400.10, vol. 4, chapter 1, section 4). Communication capability with HF radios may also be affected during periods of solar flare activity. The operator must take into consideration for each dispatched polar flight, the predicted solar flare activity and its effect on communication capability.

D. Minimum Equipment List. The operator will amend their MEL for the items that must be operational for north polar operations. For ETOPS flights, all MEL restrictions for 180-minute operations shall be applicable. Prior to receiving FAA authority to conduct north polar operations, the operator will be required to amend its MEL for the following systems/equipment to indicate that they are required for north polar operations dispatch:

(1) Fuel quantity indicating system (FQIS) (to include fuel tank temperature indicating system);

(2) Auxiliary power unit (APU) - for two-engine airplanes (including electrical and pneumatic supply to its designed capability);

(3) Autothrottle system;

(4) Autopilot; and

(5) Communication system(s) relied on by the flightcrew to satisfy the requirement for effective communication capability.

E. Training. The following requirements must be addressed in the approved training program (part 125 certificate holders are not required to have an approved training program):

(1) QFE/QNH (airport altitude settings)[See AC 91-70, Oceanic Operations] and meter/feet issues are required for flightcrew and dispatcher training. See Advisory Circular (AC) 120-29, Criteria for Approving Category I and Category II Landing Minima for FAR 121 Operators, as amended, for information in regards to cold temperature effects on altimeters.

(2) Training requirements for fuel freeze strategy and monitoring requirements. Maintenance, dispatch, and flightcrew training (special curriculum segments).

(3) General route-specific training on weather patterns and aircraft system limitations.

(4) For diversion decision-making, the roles and responsibilities must be addresses for providing airplane systems capability information to dispatch and flightcrew in order to aid the PIC.

(5) Flightcrew training in the use of the cold weather anti-exposure suit.

F. Long-range Flightcrew Requirements. The following long-range flightcrew issues need to be addressed by the operator:

(1) Rest plan submitted to the POI for review and approval.

(2) Multicrew flight proficiency issue needs to be addressed in the training program.

(3) The progression of the delegated PIC authority as designated by the operator. This does not mean that there can be more than one PIC on a flight who is responsible for the safe operation of the flight under 14 CFR part 121, §§121.535, 121.537, and ICAO Annex 6, Part 1, Chapter 1, Definitions, and Chapter 4, Flight Operations, section 4.5.1.

G. Dispatch and Crewmember Considerations During Solar Flare Activity. The operator must be aware of the content of AC 120-52, Radiation Exposure of Air Carrier Crewmembers, and provide crewmember training as stated in AC120-61, Crewmember Training on In-Flight Radiation Exposure.

H. Additional Required Equipment for North Polar Operations.

(1) Except for all cargo operations, expanded medical kit to include automated external defibrillators (AED) (See AC91.21-1A, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft).

(2) A minimum of two cold weather anti-exposure suits will be required to be on board the aircraft so that outside coordination at a diversion airport with extreme climatic conditions can be accomplished safely.

I. En Route Polar Diversion Alternate Airport Requirements. Operators are expected to give definition to a sufficient set of alternate airports for polar diversions, such that one or more can be reasonably expected to be available in varying weather conditions (AC120-42A provides additional guidance for two-engine airplanes). The flight must be able to make a safe landing, and the airplane maneuvered off of the runway at the selected diversion airport. In the event of a disabled airplane following landing, the capability to move the disabled airplane must exist so as not to block the operation of any recovery airplane. In addition, those airports designated for use must be capable of protecting the safety of all personnel by being able to:

(1) Offload the passengers and flightcrew in a safe manner during possible adverse weather conditions;

(2) Provide for the physiological needs of the passengers and flightcrew for the duration until safe evacuation; and

(3) Be able to safely extract passengers and flightcrew as soon as possible (execution and completion of the recovery is expected within 12 to 48 hours following diversion).

J. Recovery Plan for Passengers at Polar Diversion Alternate Airports. All operators conducting polar operations must submit to the FAA a recovery plan that will be initiated in the event of an unplanned diversion. The recovery plan should address the care and safety of passengers and flightcrew at the approved emergency airport, and include the plan of operation to extract the passengers and flightcrew from that airport.

(1) The operator should be able to demonstrate its ability to launch and conduct the recovery plan on its initial application for polar route approval.

(2) The operator must maintain the accuracy and completeness of its recovery plan and diversion airport database at least annually.

K. Validation Requirements for Area Approval for Polar Operations. The operator will be required to conduct an FAA-observed validation flight in order to receive authorization to conduct polar operations. As part of the validation, the operator will be required to exercise its reaction and recovery plan in the event of a diversion to one of its designated en route alternate airports. Adequate and timely coordination must be made so that the FAA coordination necessary to have an FAA inspector in place at the selected emergency airport can be made.

(1) The inspector will witness the effectiveness and adequacy of:

(a) Communications;

(b) Coordination;

(c) Facilities;

(d) Accuracy of NOTAM and weather information; and

(e) Operability of ground equipment during the simulated diversion.

(2) The exercise of the operator’s reaction and recovery plan may be completed prior to the validation flight.

(3) AFS-200 will give favorable consideration to a request by the operator, through the POI, to conduct the validation flight in a passenger revenue status only if the operator’s reaction and recovery plan has been previously demonstrated to the satisfaction of FAA.

(4) If the operator elects to demonstrate its reaction and recovery plan as part of and during the validation flight, the flight cannot be conducted in a passenger revenue status. The carriage of cargo revenue is permissible in this case, and is encouraged, for airplane weight and balance purpose.

L. Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem (PTRS) Requirements. Upon completion complete a PTRS Data Sheet, FAA Form 8000-36, and enter the appropriate PTRS activity code 1326 (Operation Specifications-Original) or 1327 (Operations Specifications-Revision) and, if required, 1314 (Observe Route Proving flights) to document your action. Place OPSPBO55 in the National Use field of the transmittal record. Significant comments (if any) should be annotated in Section IV of the PTRS form
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