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These heavily travelled routes are used by aircraft travelling between North America and Europe, flying between the altitudes of 29,000 and 41,000 feet inclusive.
Entrance and movement along these tracks is controlled by special Oceanic Control Centres air traffic controllers to maintain separation between airplanes.
Air traffic controllers responsible for the Gander FIR are based at the Gander Oceanic Control Centre in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Using a NAT Track, even when they are active in the direction an aircraft is flying, is not mandatory.
A typical routing would be: DCT KONAN UL607 EVRIN DCT MALOT/M081F350 DCT 53N020W 52N030W NATA JOOPY/N0462F360 N276C TUSKY DCT PLYMM.
Oceanic boundary points for the NAT Tracks are along the FIR boundary of Gander on the west side, and Shanwick on the east side, as depicted on the charts above.
North Atlantic Tracks, officially titled the North Atlantic Organised Track System (NAT-OTS), is a structured set of transatlantic flight routes that stretch from the northeast of North America to western Europe across the Atlantic Ocean.
They ensure aircraft are separated over the ocean, where there is little radar coverage.
The day prior to the tracks being published, airlines that fly the North Atlantic regularly send a preferred route message (PRM) to Gander and Shanwick.
To make such efficiencies possible, the routes are created twice daily to take account of the shifting of the winds aloft and the principal traffic flow, eastward in North America evening and westward twelve hours later.
The first implementation of an Organised Track System across the North Atlantic was in fact for commercial shipping, dating back to 1898 when the North Atlantic Track Agreement was signed.
The primary purpose of these routes is to allow Air Traffic Control to effectively separate the aircraft.
Because of the volume of NAT traffic, allowing aircraft to choose their own co-ordinates would make the ATC task far more complex.After World War II, increasing commercial airline traffic across the North Atlantic led to difficulties for ATC in separating aircraft effectively, and so in 1961 the first occasional use of NAT Tracks was made.