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Waypoints on the route are identified by named waypoints (or "fixes") and by the crossing of degrees of latitude and longitude (such as "54/40", indicating 54° latitude, 40° longitude).A ‘random route’ must have a waypoint every 10 degrees of longitude.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.
Therefore, most operators choose to file a flight plan on a NAT Track.
The correct method is to file a flight plan with an Oceanic Entry Point (OEP, then the name of the NAT Track, e.g.
Entrance and movement along these tracks is controlled by special Oceanic Control Centres air traffic controllers to maintain separation between airplanes.
The primary purpose of these routes is to allow Air Traffic Control to effectively separate the aircraft.
In 1965, the publication of NAT Tracks became a daily feature, allowing controllers to force traffic onto fixed track structures in order to effectively separate the aircraft by time, altitude, and latitude.
In 1966, the two agencies at Shannon and Prestwick merged to become Shanwick, with responsibility out to 30W; according to the official document "From 1st April, 1966, such a communications service between such aircraft and the said air traffic control centres as has before that date been provided by the radio stations at Ballygirreen in Ireland and Birdlip in the United Kingdom will be provided between such aircraft and the said air traffic control centre at Prestwick or such other air traffic control centre in the United Kingdom as may from time to time be nominated".Each route is uniquely identified by a letter of the alphabet.Westbound tracks (valid from UTC to UTC at 30W) are indicated by the letters A, B, C, D etc., where A is the northernmost track, and eastbound tracks (valid from UTC to UTC at 30W) are indicated by the letters Z, Y, X, W etc., where Z is the southernmost track.Air traffic controllers responsible for the Shanwick flight information region (FIR) are based at the Shanwick Oceanic Control Centre at Prestwick Centre in Ayrshire, Scotland.Air traffic controllers responsible for the Gander FIR are based at the Gander Oceanic Control Centre in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.Because of the difference in ground speed caused by the jetstream, westbound flights tend to be longer in duration than their eastbound counterparts.