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Home > Airways > Who is effectively "controlling" the airplanes when they are over the ocean?
Who is effectively "controlling" the airplanes when they are over the ocean?
Flying - Airways
Saturday, 31 December 2005 07:40

Hello Captain Lim,

Great Site! How do you find the time?

I am a private pilot and am fascinated with long-haul flying. When crossing the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean, have you ever relayed radio calls for small planes flying beneath you? Further, when you are flying across these oceans and are out of radar coverage, who is effectively *controlling* the airplane? From Honolulu to Narita, do the various oceanic centers take for granted that airplane B is where it says it is or is there some other form of tracking?

Thank you very much for your time!

Dean Cannon

Hi Dean,


Yes, I have relayed radio calls for small planes flying below me having communication difficulties.

When flying over the ocean and out of coverage of radars, most modern planes are either on VHF, HF or CPDLC (Controller Pilot Data Link Communication) contact with ground the controllers.

When logged onto the CPDLC, a modern plane with this facility is continually being monitored on the ground. One day, I remember being reminded by Melbourne Control (about a thousand miles away from our Boeing 777 in the air) when I had to immediately avoid a small turbulent cloud somewhere in the Australian Subcontinent. All of a sudden, I heard this, "Please advice when you are back on track" the moment I deviated slightly off course! (Well done Melbourne Control! It is nice to know that we were positively tracked all the time!)

In fact, when logged on, there are many data being tracked by the ground controllers ? e.g. the position, flight levels, heading, speed, time over a particular position, etc. This save the pilots a lot of time and trouble making position reports in very remote places, such as over the ocean or airspace that is out of range of any radio (VHF or HF) communication.

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