Much of international flight operations is knowing what to expect when you are out and away from the familiar territory of “Home Base USA”. This becomes an exercise in sorting the wheat from the chaff, or urban legend from current procedures and requirements. The real tuff part is that with our notoriously short pilot attention span coupled to a vast amount of data sources, this becomes a planning chore that is often overlooked or given over to planning services and manual writers. Not the best practice nor is it a recipe for continued success.
Here is a relatively short description of where to look for information vice “Data” and a recommended reading list to become the informed consumer of service providers and international procedure training.
“Freedom of the Seas” is a principle of international law. It stresses freedom to navigate the oceans. This dates from the 17th century: national rights were limited to a specified belt of water extending from a nation's coastlines, usually three nautical miles, according to the 'cannon shot' rule developed by a Dutch judge in the 1600’s. All waters beyond national boundaries (3nm) were considered international waters. As of May 28, 2008, only two countries still use the three-mile limit. This is where the 12 mile boundary is defined for the start of the “High Seas”. Title 14 CFR part 91.703 stipulates that you are bound by ICAO Annex 2 if you operate your U.S. registered aircraft outside the United States over the “High Seas”.
Plus, in all cases U.S. registered operators are required to comply with:
- 91.117c 200KIAS below Class “B”
- 91.127 Control Tower Operations
- 91.129 Class “D” Operations
- 91.131 Class “B” Operations
And these US regulations in so far as they do not conflict with the national regulations where you are operating
- 91.307b Parachute Operations
- 91.309 Glider Operations
- 91.323 >TOGW AK Operations
- 91.131 Foreign Ops in USA
- 91.705 MNPS
- 91.706 RVSM
In all cases, § 91.703 requires that you follow the rules of the countries that you overfly and those in which you intend to land. If the part of 14 CFR under which you operate conflicts with the rules of the country you are operating over/in, you must follow the rules of that country.
This AC is laid out to provide a guide for the planning and executing flight operations through oceanic and remote continental airspace. Information related to international operations in specific locales has been removed from this AC due to its transitory nature.
Regional Resource Guides
These supply region-specific information has been incorporated into the North Atlantic (NAT) Resource Guide for United States Operators, West Atlantic Route System, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Resource Guide for U.S. Operators, and Pacific Resource Guide for U.S. Operators.
The links within this resource guide are provided as a service to help you easily find pertinent information. The validity of the links is re-checked quarterly. Documents and other information may change between updates. Information provided by non-FAA sites should be considered strictly “for information only.” You should confirm the accuracy of all such non-FAA information against official FAA documentation.
FAA Chart Supplements
These contain data on public and joint use airports, seaplane bases, heliports, VFR airport sketches, NAVAIDs, communications data, weather data, airspace, special notices, operational procedures and an Airport/Facility Directory of all airports shown on Enroute Charts. Seven volumes cover the conterminous United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. There are also supplements that cover Alaska and the Pacific Island Territories.
Beginning 26MAR20 the Chart Supplement publications will have significant changes to Vol/Back pages between the A/FD section and the Airport Diagrams section. The removal of duplicative information found in the back matter is the result of various compliance initiatives regarding content and information. Please refer to active Charting Notices for specific entries being changed or removed.
Inside the Northeast Chart Supplement, thee are details on the North American Route Program, NRP. This is a joint FAA and NAV CANADA program, the objective of which is to harmonize
and adopt common procedures, to the extent possible, for application to random route flight operations at and above FL 290 within the conterminous U.S. and Canada. The end goal of allowing all international and domestic flight operations to participate in the NRP throughout the conterminous U.S., Alaska, and Canada. Flights may participate in the NRP under specific guidelines and filing requirements:
- Provided the flight originates and terminates within conterminous U.S. and Canada
or for North Atlantic international flights operating within the North American Route (NAR) System.
A trial to remove the NAR flight planning requirement started in January 2020. Departures from several North American cities (CYYZ, CYUL, KORD, KDTW, KMSP) will have the ability to optimize their routings to the OEP. Optimized routings can only begin from points within the Boston ARTCC, Moncton FIR airspace or both. Once inside the Boston ARTCC/Moncton FIR area, random routings to the OEP will be permitted.
The Notices to Airmen Publication (NTAP)
hosts the electronic version of the printed publication Notices to Airmen, published every 28 days. This will be discontinued effective June 18, 2020; the last NTAP will be published on May 21, 2020. Effective June 18, 2020, Information from the International and Graphic Notices sections of the NTAP will be transferred to the new FAA NOTAM Search website.
FAA ORDER 7930.2S, Notices to Airmen “NOTAMs”
A NOTAM is a notice containing information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means. It states the abnormal status of a component of the National Airspace System not the normal status.
NOTAMs indicate the real-time and abnormal status of the NAS impacting every user.
NOTAMs concern the establishment, condition, or change of any facility, service, procedure or hazard in the NAS. NOTAMs on non−Federal facilities that are not part of the NAS are not distributed in the FAA NOTAM system.
In NOV 2019, FAA established a single governing office for NOTAMS and aeronautical information. The FAA began to phase out the “Pilot Web” website on 14FEB20. Pilots can access NOTAMs through NOTAM search. By JUN 2020, all other feeds to NOTAM manager will be turned off creating a single technology gateway for entering, processing, and retrieving all NOTAM data. Here is a link to the new website: https://notams.aim.faa.gov/notamSearch/nsapp.html#/
As an alternate source Defense Internet Notam Service
NOTAMs have a unique language using special contractions to make communication more efficient. NOTAMs must have one of the following keywords as the first part of the text. A keyword is used to make it easier to sort and locate the specific data needed: RWY, TWY, APRON, AD, OBST, NAV, COM, SVC, AIRSPACE, ODP, SID, STAR, CHART, DATA, DVA, IAP, VFP, ROUTE, SPECIAL or SECURITY.
The FAA is working to make U.S. NOTAMs comply with ICAO standards. By JAN 2021, domestic NOTAMS will be in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) format. They'll also be sortable by "Q" codes, improving filterability in NOTAM Search. By 2022, an update of NOTAM Order 7930.2S to align it with ICAO requirements will be complete. All NOTAMs in the system will be published in ICAO format, including regulatory/Flight Data Center (FDC) NOTAMs. We will have a single NOTAM repository, with searching/sorting/archiving/filtering capabilities, and with single machine-readable and human-readable formats.
All Safety Alerts for Operators, SAFOs
A Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) is an information tool that alerts, educates, and makes recommendations to the aviation community. This community includes air carrier certificate holders, fractional ownership program managers and 14 CFR Part 142 training centers.
Each SAFO contains important safety information and may contain recommended actions. The information and recommendations in a SAFO are often time critical. A SAFO may contain information alone or a combination of information and recommended (nonregulatory) action to be taken voluntarily by the respective operators identified in each SAFO.
Information for Operators, InFO
Much like a SAFO, which contains critical safety information, an Information for Operators message contains valuable information for operators that should help them meet administrative requirements or certain regulatory requirements with relatively low urgency or impact on safety
International Flight Information Manager, IFIM
On November 14, 2014, the FAA discontinued the International Flight Information Manager (IFIM) web site.
ICAO Articles, Annexes and Documents
When operating in oceanic and remote continental airspace, here a few specific ICAO Articles recommended for review and understanding
- Article 1, Sovereignty.
- Article 12, Rules of the Air.
- Article 29, Documents Carried in Aircraft.
The 19 ICAO Annexes are also known as “Standards and Recommended Practices, SARPs”. You should be especially familiar with ICAO Annex 2 and whichever part of ICAO Annex 6 applies to your operation. Annex 6 Part 1 for all commercial operations (135 or 121) and Annex 6 Part 2 for International General Aviation, (Part 91 Ops)
Similar to FAA’s Advisory Circulars, ICAO’s Documents and manuals provide guidance and information intended to facilitate the uniform application of the SARPs. Here are some important documents to review prior to international flight operations.
ICAO Document #4444, Procedures for Air Navigation Services, Air Traffic Management.
PANS-ATM procedures complement the SARPs contained in ICAO Annex 2 and Annex 11 and specify, in greater detail than in the SARPs, the actual procedures Air Traffic Service (ATS) units apply when providing various services to air traffic.
ICAO Document 7030, Regional Supplementary Procedures
For each ICAO region, Document 7030 SUPPS provides detailed procedures designed to meet those needs of specific areas that are not covered in the worldwide provisions contained in the Annexes and Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS) documents. The SUPPS complement the statement of requirements for facilities and services contained in the Air Navigation Plan publications.
ICAO Document 8168, Procedures for Air Navigation Services, Aircraft Operations, Vol. I Flight Procedures.
PANS-Ops, Volume I, describes operational procedures for flight operations personnel. It also outlines the various parameters upon which the safety criteria in Volume II, Construction of Visual and Instrumental Flight Procedures, are based in order to illustrate the need for all operational personnel to adhere strictly to the published procedures in order to maintain an acceptable level of safety in operations.
ICAO Document #9613, Performance-based Navigation (PBN) Manual.
This manual provides practical guidance to States, air navigation service providers (ANSP), and airspace users on how to implement Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) applications, and how to ensure that the performance requirements are appropriate for the planned application.
ICAO Document #9869, Performance-Based Communication and Surveillance (PBCS) Manual.
This guidance material explains the concepts of Required Communication Performance (RCP) and Required Surveillance Performance (RSP), identifies RCP and RSP requirements applicable to the provision and use of ATS, and provides a basis for the application of RCP and RSP in a specified airspace.
ICAO Document #10037, Global Operational Data Link (GOLD) Manual.
The GOLD Manual addresses data link service provision, operator readiness, controller and flightcrew procedures, performance-based specifications, and post-implementation monitoring and analysis. GOLD provides guidance and information concerning data link operations and is intended to facilitate the uniform application of ICAO Annex 2, Annex 10, and Annex 11; the provisions in ICAO Document #4444; and, when necessary, ICAO Document #7030.
ICAO Document #10038, Satellite Voice Guidance Material.
This document is intended to maximize the operational benefits of Satellite Voice (SATVOICE) implementations by promoting seamless and interoperable SATVOICE operations throughout the world. The document provides guidance and information concerning SATVOICE communications for aeronautical use.
It is important to understand the primacy relationship between the various ICAO documents. For example, ICAO Annex 2 details loss of communications procedures, which it points out you are expected to follow unless amended by regional agreement. In this case, you would then need to review ICAO Document #7030 to review the loss of communications guidance for a specific geographical area. Use this same method to research the difference in Oceanic/Remote contingency procedures in a particular region.
ICAO NAT Document 007, North Atlantic Operations and Airspace Manual
This document provides information for aircraft operating agencies, pilots, and dispatchers planning and conducting operations in or above the North Atlantic High Level Airspace, NAT HLA. It also offers guidance to the State regulators responsible for the approval/certification/licensing of such aircraft operators, pilots, or dispatchers.
North Atlantic International General Aviation Operations Manual (NAT IGA)
General Aviation (GA) operators flying below NAT HLA should pay particular attention to Chapter 17, Flight Operations Below the NAT HLA, of NAT Document #007. Information in the North Atlantic International General Aviation Operations Manual (NAT IGA) was incorporated into ICAO NAT Document 007 in 2013. Much of the information previously included in the NAT IGA has been updated and included here. The NAT IGA is no longer maintained as a separate document.
NAT Ops Bulletins
These are used to distribute information on behalf of the North Atlantic Systems Planning Group, NAT SPG. The material contained therein may be developed within the working structure of the NAT SPG or be third party documents posted at the request of a NAT SPG Member State. The NAT OPS Bulletin Checklist is available at
Aeronautical Information Publication
Each ICAO state is responsible for developing an Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) that contains information on air traffic, airports, NAVAIDs, special use airspace, weather, and other information. An AIP will use one of the five official ICAO languages and may not be in English. Most AIPS will have at least an English language translation available through an on-line translated version. Not all AIPs’ are free, some states charge for the publication either electronically or in hard copy print. Expect to find three parts to an AIP.
Part 1 is “General” information such as the name and contact information of the publishing authority and of designated authorities concerned with the facilitation of international air navigation, civil aviation, meteorology, customs, immigration, health, en-route and aerodrome/heliport charges, agricultural quarantine and aircraft accident investigation. Differences to applicable ICAO documents are found here as is the regular amendment interval: and the service to contact in case of detected AIP errors or omissions. A record of AIP Amendments and Supplements to include a checklist of AIP pages is found in this part.
A pilot can find a description of the general rules and procedures for visual flight rules and instrument flight rules as applied within the state. One can also determine the service responsible for the provision of telecommunication facilities, navigation facilities, meteorological service responsible for the provision of meteorological information, search and rescue service and charges for aerodromes or air navigation services.
Part 2 is “Enroute” information. This is where to find a description (text and charted) of ATS airspace classes, a statement concerning the criteria on which holding, approach and departure procedures are established and publication of arrival/departure procedures. Detailed descriptions of FIRs, UIRs, and TMAs, including ATS ROUTES described as High, Low, Area Navigation routes or Helicopter routes are published here.
A pilot can find a description of ATS surveillance services and procedures including SSR operating procedures and ADS-B operating procedures. This is where the air traffic flow management system’s structure, service area, service provided, location of units and hours of operation, service responsible for provision of information on applied ATFM measures, flight plan requirements; and slot allocations.
The Enroute part of the AIP will contain a complete statement of interception procedures and visual signals to be used with a clear indication of whether ICAO provisions are applied and if not, a complete presentation of differences. The publication of appropriate procedures to be applied in case of unlawful interference or Air Traffic incidents will be found in this part. Any hazards such as military exercise training areas, air defense identification zones or bird migration areas will also be described here.
Part 3 is “Aerodromes” and has detailed information on Aerodromes and Heliports. Description of the State’s general conditions under which aerodromes/heliports and associated facilities are available for use including civil use of military air bases. Information in bother text and graphical form on the Aerodrome geographical and administrative data, Operational hours, Handling services, Passenger facilities, Rescue and firefighting services, Seasonal availability, Aprons, taxiways and check locations/positions data, Surface movement guidance and control system and markings, Aerodrome obstacles, Meteorological information provided, Runway physical characteristics and declared distances. This is the place to find local traffic regulations, noise abatement procedures and flight procedures