A group of pilots just bought this block of airspace in the South Pacific

1 million square miles of airspace, to be exact.

The Island of Clipperton, somewhere north of Tahiti and west of Galapagos, is a mere 3 square miles. Tiny. But the airspace that it owns is huge.

And now, a group of pilots has taken control of it. The 4000 or so members of OpsGroup have been granted custody of the Clipperton Flight Information Region by the Department of Civil Aviation. In an unprecedented move, management of the airspace has been delegated by the State, to the users.

According to a Press Release from the Clipperton Government, “Since
1958, there has been no service to aircraft in this part of the Pacific. Despite previous talks with a number of foreign governments, dating as far back as 1967 when we negotiated with the Soviet Union, we were unable to find the right partner until Flight Service Bureau provided us with the knowledge and expertise of OpsGroup. Through this, we are able to provide a service that would otherwise not have been possible. Clipperton is now back on the map with the Clipperton Oceanic Control Area (OCA)”.

The Wikipedia entry for the airspace tells of some interesting history: “Clipperton Oceanic was inaugurated on November 17th, 1937, working the Pan American China Clipper as its first contact, and operated from a small wooden building on the main part of the island. Antennas were constructed at Lae Beach and by all reports from early crews, easily readable in most conditions.”

Flight Service Bureau, in an article about the move, writes: “There is no requirement for PBCS, RNP, ADS-B, ADS-C, GNS, GNSS, HLA, MNPS, RLAT, RLON, SLOP, or any of the other exponentially increasing acronyms that operators struggle to keep up with. No LOA’s, no slots, no delays. And no ramp checks. There are no Notams. Although it is large, it’s a simple piece of airspace, and that allows for a simple approach.”

Juergen Meyer, a Lufthansa A350 Captain, and a long standing OpsGroup member said: “We’ve seen enough. Ercan (the Cyprus based Turkish ATC centre) doesn’t officially exist, yet you have to call them every time. French Guyana seems to have abandoned their ATC centre. Several African countries have outsourced their entire Permit Department, meaning you have to pay extortionate amounts just to secure a routine overflight. Greece and Turkey continue to hijack the Notam system for a diplomatic war. CASA Australia, like many others, continues to publish absolutely unreadable Notams, endangering safety. Nobody dares to enter the Simferopol FIR. The French ATC service is on strike more often than they are not. Libya lies about the security risks at their airports. Egypt and Kenya refuse to publish safety information because it would harm their tourism.”

The Clipperton Flight Information Region (FIR), source: http://www.dca.clipperton-gov.co/
The Clipperton Oceanic Control Centre, 1958. Source: http://www.dca.clipperton-gov.co/

The article goes on to state that “FSB have also banned Ramp Checks within the region, a practice where pilots are taken hostage by the local Civil Aviation Authority during routine flights, and held accountable for the mistakes of their company, not being released from the ordeal until they submit with a signature.”

Operationally, there are two new airways, UN351 and UN477, with 8 associated waypoints. HF is provided on the South Pacific MWARA Network, on the same frequencies as Auckland, Brisbane, Nadi, and Tahiti — 5643 and 8867 will be the primary ones.

Flight plans should be addressed to NPCXZQZX and NPCXZOZX. Although only HF is required to enter the airspace, CPDLC is provided and the AFN logon is NPCX. To begin, only a Flight Information Service is provided; no alerting, SAR, or Air Traffic Control service is part of the agreement. The rest is detailed in Clipperton AIC 03/18.