On-the-Fly Mission Decisions Over the North Atlantic

In debriefing and reflecting on some recently completed missions, the Shepherd Aero team has been looking at the challenges that can arise without warning when operating aircraft across country borders, and the on-the-fly decisions that must be made collectively to ensure a safe conclusion to every flight.

Shepherd Aero recently brought an aircraft back from Europe to the United States via the North Atlantic, and we had planned for Bangor, Maine to clear U.S. Customs, which is a common stop for private aircraft crossing the North Atlantic due to its ideal location in the Northeast USA. However, in the descent into Bangor, our crew was directed to Burlington, Vermont by air traffic control as Bangor could not accommodate our flight. After our operations and dispatch team spent time working with the customs officer in Burlington, we found out they would not allow us to clear there due to COVID-19 restrictions, so we had to make yet another on-the-fly decision to change the destination again.

This time, it was Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, after running the flight profile, Boston was out of range for this particular leg and aircraft, so we had to re-plan AGAIN to make an overnight stop in Quebec City in Canada. There, our crew had a warm welcome from the local facilities despite our last-minute arrival. Ultimately, the extra stop in Canada was very much needed so both our crew and dispatch team could spend adequate time researching where to clear USA customs and ensure no further deviations.

Boston was still the next stop after a rest overnight in Quebec City. Once our crew finally made it to Boston, just when we thought we were in the clear, we had to deal with paying a fuel and handling bill roughly 4-5 times the cost what it would normally run in Bangor. Wow!

Despite all the challenges, the aircraft made it safely to its destination later that day, still on time AND on budget for our client.

All this to say, without Shepherd Aero’s expert team in control of this challenging mission, the end-result could have been much different. Our firm is here to make our clients’ aviation lives easier while delivering unmatched customer service.

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About the Author Derek Meyer