Aircraft Polar Route Operations

>> Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Polar Route Operations

A. Introduction

1. New cross-polar routes connect eastern and interior regions of North America to Asian cities via Polar Region which provides an attractive shortcut to Asia (Polar 1, 2, 3 and 4).

2. The advantages are obvious; it reduces the flight time, increase the payload and also there is the absence of turbulence.

3. Polar routes operate under extreme temperatures in the Artic environment where suitable and alternate airports are limited.

4. There are many major Airlines operating the polar routes, notably United, Continental, Northwest, Delta, Air Canada. Air China, Russia KrasAir and Cathay Pacific.

5. The following should be considered when conducting polar routes operation:
A) Regulatory guidance
B) En route alternate airport
C) Cold fuel management
D) Communication and navigation

B. Regulatory guidance

1. Obtain info from local authority and FAA on the specific requirement to conduct polar operations i.e. approval and to provide flight plan – Flight Ops

2. Prepare the Airline Recovery Plan for unplanned diversion that address the care & safety of crew at the diversion airport and provide the plan to transport crew from that airport – Flight Ops

3. Prepare the Long Range Flight Crew Rest Plan and a clear progression of pilot-in-command authority – Flight Ops

4. Liaise with Boeing to develop a Fuel temperature analysis and monitoring program – Engineering

5. Verify that acft is fitted with effective communication system i.e. VHF(Voice and data link), HF(Primary) & SATCOM (Back-up) – Engineering

6. Amend Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL) to indicate the following equip/systems are required for north polar operations dispatch – Engineering
1) FQIS (include fuel tank temperature indicating system)
2) Auto-throttle system
3) Autopilot
4) Communication systems i.e. HF and VHF (Voice & ACARS), (SATCOM – backup system)

7. Conduct training for flight crew and maintenance on Polar Route Operation (i.e. QFE, QNH and meter altimetry, cold temp alt correction proc, fuel management proc, weather pattern and cold weather anti-exposure suits) – Flight Ops and Engineering

8. Ensure a minimum of two (2) cold weather anti-exposure suits to be on board the acft – Engineering

9. Conduct an DCA-observed validation flight in order to receive authorization to conduct polar operations – Flight Ops

10. In the event of any emergency landing for aircraft flying over substantially uninhabited land areas in polar conditions are likely to be met MCAR scale V, which requires the following:
1) One survival beacon radio apparatus,
2) Marine type pyrotechnical distress signal
3) 100 gm of glucose toffee tablets for each 4 persons on board
4) Half liter of fresh water in durable containers for each 4 persons on board
5) First aid equipment
6) One stove suitable for use with acft fuel for every 75 persons
7) One cooking utensil in which snow or ice can be melted, two snow shovels and two ice saws
8) Single or multiple sleeping bags
9) Artic survival kit

C. En Route Alternate Airports

1. Flight Ops to identify the alternate airports along a routes which must have
a capability such as airplane can land safely at the existing runway, diverted airplane can be cleared from the runway, crew are able to deplane in a safe manner, facilities near the airport and recovery plan can be executed and completed within 12 to 48 hrs after diversion – Flight Ops

D. Cold Fuel Management

1. Verify that MD-11 is fitted with fuel temperature probe located in the outboard compartment of tank no 3 and in the horizontal stabilizer tank and Low Fuel Temperature indicator is displayed on Display Unit – Engineering

E. Communication and Navigation

1. Polar route operations require VHF and HF systems to communicate with ATC. SATCOM should be considered only as a backup as it is not available above 82 deg north latitude.

2. Aircraft entering Russian airspace on Polar 1 and Polar 2 are controlled by the Murmansk ATC center near the Finnish border and those entering Polar 3 and Polar 4 are under Magadan’s watch located in Russia’s east coast.

3. GPS and IRUs provide navigation over the polar route. Aircraft is recommended to equipped with dual GPS and triple IRUs; which is fitted on MD11.

i) Aero Magazine of Oct 2001
ii) OPSPEC B055 on North Polar Operations in the Air Transport Operations Inspectors Handbook Order 8400.10, Volume 3
iii) Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR)


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