Foreign Airspace In IFR Charts ‘Skeletonized’ In June 15 Release


Starting with the June 15 release, FAA enroute IFR charts, low and high altitude, will lack much of the customary flight information in foreign airspace bordering the U.S. The decision was announced in a May 23 Charting Notice and publicized by the FAA on Saturday in a safety memo to a subscriber list. The agency did the same thing, which it termed “skeletonizing,” for VFR charts earlier this year and is citing the same reason for expanding the effect to the IFR world.

“The FAA does not reliably receive foreign data with sufficient lead times to produce the foreign areas of FAA charts with the same robust, for navigation, content as within U.S. airspace,” the agency said in a statement. “Additionally, foreign aeronautical information is not supported by the U.S. NOTAM System.” Those who need the information for flying to or transiting Canadian, Mexican and Caribbean countries’ airspace that borders the U.S. will have to get detailed charts from the providers in those countries.

When the VFR charts were skeletonized, all that remained for foreign areas on the charts were major airports, NAVAIDs and airways. It’s not clear what will be left on the IFR charts. Some areas affected get a lot of U.S. traffic that is destined for U.S. destinations because the shortest way is to overfly foreign airspace. “Charted information in foreign areas is only provided for the purpose of orientation and transition to charts and publications of other countries,” the Charting Notice says. “This change will make clear that the intent of U.S. Charts for navigation within domestic airspace and that charts of other countries should be used within their respective airspace.” 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Sorry, but I find the attitude of “since we can’t guarantee everything we’ll give you nothing” approach does not enhance safety.

    • I’m going to defend the FAA on this one. The FAA has no jurisdiction over what other countries do regarding this issue. Just like no other country has jurisdiction over the FAA in US airspace.

      Your angst should focus on contacting NAV CANADA, Bahamian Civil Aviation Authority, Mexico’s Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil, or any other civil aviation agency.

      What are your options:
      1. Buy the charts for the respective countries just like foreign pilots need to buy US charts for flying in the US. (Let’s keep this symmetrical.) OR
      2. Buy Jepps.

  2. I’m wondering if these map sections of airspace that is not part of the contiguous US are “skeletonized” does that mean that US ATC will no longer have jurisdiction over that airspace? Examples would be Detroit approach controlling over Windsor, Miami and San Juan center over the Caribbean.

    • Two issues are involved: airspace jurisdiction and jurisdiction of ATC services.

      1. Charting decisions have nothing to do with who provides ATC services. In the case of Detroit/Windsor, there is a letter of agreement (LOA) between the FAA and TransportCanada that specifies who provides approach control services (Detroit, in this case.) I’m sure there are other LOAs along the US/Canada and US/Mexico borders.

      2. Typically, airspace is “owned” by the underlying sovereign country. However, most global airspace is international airspace – i.e., no one owns it. ICAO has designated Flight Information Regions (FIRs) and selected countries to provide ATC services in international airspace. For example, starting on the US east coast, New York Oceanic FIR provides ATC services in about one-half of the North Atlantic. On the north of NY is Gander Oceanic FIR, to the east, is Santa Maria Oceanic FIR (Azores), and to the south is Piarco FIR (and others). Another example is Miami Oceanic FIR provides ATC services over most of the Bahamas (except for Nassau FIR).

  3. Reminds me of those French maps after Chernobyl which showed radioactive fallout stopping at the country’s borders.

  4. In this era of modern electronic instant, reliable internet communications suitable and mandatory for EAPIS comm from foreign nations, and frequent Canadian overflights between Detroit and Buffalo, I would think that Sec. Buttigieg would know that information provided by NavCanada would be reasonable and reliable enough to use. Does this mean that we can no longer rely on FAA/NOAA charts to accurately depict the US border and are now exempt from reporting border crossing and ATC comm requirements?

    This is the FAA being silly and emphasizing that they really are here to help us, no matter what they say. Are they also going to stop at the US shore or 12 mile territorial limit even when the ADIZ and US Warning areas go outside that limit? Does the NTSB agree that no information is better than foreign information?

  5. Sure would be nice if the US and Canada were both ICAO members and could reliably share aviation data on a current basis! This even with the state of hostility between the US and Canada. (Viva Jepp for more data that will be stripped from US IFR charts)

    • Just in case this went over the heads of some readers, Scott Dyer is being sarcastic. The USA and Canada are members of ICAO and both are on the ICAO governing council.

  6. apparently no politician or unelected bureaucrat can personally profit off that information being available so its gone…..

    • Contrari-wise, politicians, un-elected bureaucrats and/or commercial business in said foreign countries can make a nice few C dollars or pesos on selling their navigational maps to pilots who overfly and want “accurate” data 😉

      Nothing like bilking “rich” ‘Merican pilots out of more money for the few minutes they may spend in foreign airspace.

      I’m normally one to give the FAA room, but on this one…that is an amazing BS answer since it would seem for decades that same information was just fine. This smells of politics and it sucks when politics/profit trumps safety (looking at you Boeing).

  7. So… As a Basic Med pilot, can I not fly the direct route from Detroit to Buffalo? Or is that only forbidden if I plan to LAND in Canada?

    • This is strictly opinion. BasicMed will not cut it to land in Canada because Canada (unlike other neighboring countries) does not recognize BasicMed. We would be subject to Canadian regulations just like a Canadian pilot is subject to FARs in US airspace.

      The issue of overflights in non-BasicMed airspace is more nuanced. Even if no landings are made in Canada, the answer, I believe, is still no. But the question would be: who would know? Nobody, unless there is an accident or incident. There is also the risk that the insurance might not cover any claims.

      Recently, there was a midair with four fatalities. The pilots of one airplane (both flying with BasicMed) were flying a Piper PropJet conversion in the flight levels. The midair occurred at the destination airport traffic pattern. It was an illegal flight; even if only a portion of the flight was illegal, the whole flight was illegal. (Can’t fly in the flight levels with BasicMed.)

      I can also envision that the type of medical certification had nothing to do with the midair; I’m wondering what the final NTSB report will say regarding medical certification. We’ll probably never know if the insurance company paid any claims.

  8. What does the U.S. NOTAM System have to do with foreign aeronautical charts? The NOTAM system has to do with short-term information that hasn’t yet appeared on published charts.

  9. So wrong! What we have here is a flight information barrier limiting knowledge placed by narrow-minded bureaucrats. Flight information should be facilitated and enhanced not limited.

  10. What they are doing & saying here with this long-ago announced change is that the flawed FAA’s data gathering bases, including the joke of a NOTAM system does not support adding & including & gathering and thus disseminating crucial information to users from other more robust countries aviation databases.

  11. This is a disappointing development. I haven’t flown to Canada for several years but I remember always having trouble getting updated Canadian charts and they were ridiculously expensive. Forays into lower BC were always made that much easier (and safer) by the fact that US sectionals had info up into those areas.