Dear fellow Navigators and other Aviators,This unique photo was taken of a Boeing 777 Navigation Display (ND) near the north geographic pole. Ponder that this is a two engine airplane flying deep into the Arctic. Due to communication limitations and restrictions on two engine airliners, such a commercial flight would have impossible a decade ago. What makes it possible now is something called ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) and high speed Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC). The reliability of the engines has been significant along with improvements in ancillary system. In addition, communications are no longer are flights dependent upon third party HF communications relay; e.g., Santa Maria, Santa Maria, this is Air Force 15186 over. Instead flights communicate with ATC by high speed HF data link. That s right folks, HF as in shortwave radio. The DOD and top end corporate operators can afford high cost satellite options, but for the airlines HF data link is the best cost option. Just imagine what the computer has done for predicting HF propagation and tracking aircraft position.
The Boeing 777 has three Inertial Reference Systems feeding into the Navigation Display you see in the photo. These laser gyro IRS s are updated by GPS. Suddenly the navigation options are almost unlimited. However, parts of the South Pacific are still forbido for two engine aircraft.
You might ask where is this 777 heading? This flight is enroute from Toronto to Hong Kong eastbound. That is correct eastbound which implies tailwinds. The photo was taken northeast of Alert after having passed over Thule, Greenland. The next waypoint is 87N 40W which is 91 miles ahead. After 87N40W the next waypoint is Aberi Intersection (N87-30 W032.00) directly north of Spitsbergen. Passing Aberi the 777 enters Murmansk Oceanic Control Area and proceeds NW-SE diagonally across Russia and China (PRC). The purple dots at the top of the navigation display are radar returns off pack ice. Note the circled triangle at the 360 degree marker that is the north geographic pole. You my navigator friends will surely note the Grid Hdg of 067 degrees. I suspect the Flight Management System (FMS) is using grid heading logic at this point. At 502 kts they are whizzing through meridians at an incredible rate. The GPS in the bottom corner denotes a GPS update to the IRS navigation system. What incredible technology. Curt Lemay would lose himself over this.
Of course the Russians have no reservations about accepting over flight fees.
Photo credit: Karl Sorenson