North Atlantic Systems Planning: Celebrating six decades of aviation progress


In 1965 the ICAO Council established the North Atlantic Systems Planning Group (NAT SPG) as the first regional planning group. They were responsible for continuously studying, monitoring and evaluating the air navigation system in light of changing traffic characteristics, technological advances and updated traffic forecasts. Safety is one of the NAT SPG’s core business functions and as such, they are committed to developing, implementing, maintaining and  continuously improving strategies and processes to ensure that aviation activities take place under a balanced allocation of organizational resources. The NAT SPG works to achieve the highest level of safety performance and meet regional safety objectives that are in line with national and international standards, the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) and the Global Air Navigation Plan.

NAT SPG Objectives

The objective of the NAT SPG Member States is to maintain and, where possible, improve the agreed safety standards in all activities supporting the provision of air navigation services in the region:

  • All involved States are accountable for the delivery of the agreed level of safety performance in aircraft operations in the North Atlantic Region.
  • Safety in the NAT Region is managed through the organization and activities of the relevant implementation and oversight groups established by the NAT SPG, in coordination with the nonmember States and observers, to achieve its Safety Objective.

Guiding Principles

To achieve these objectives, the NAT SPG acts to:

  • Clearly define all accountabilities and responsibilities for the provision and delivery of safety performance with respect to the provision of air navigation services and participation in the NAT SPG and its contributory bodies;
  • Support safety management activities that result in an organizational culture that fosters safe practices, encourages effective safety reporting and communication, and actively manages safety within the NAT Region;
  • Share safety-related data, knowledge and expertise with concerned stakeholders;
  • Disseminate safety information and NAT operating requirements to stakeholders;
  • Establish and implement hazard identification and risk management processes in order to eliminate or mitigate the safety risks associated with air navigation services supporting aircraft operations in the North Atlantic Region;
  • Establish and measure NAT Region safety performance against agreed safety standards; and
  • Continually improve our safety performance through safety management processes

The Sixtieth Meeting of the North Atlantic Systems Planning Group (NAT SPG/60) was held from 25 to 28 June 2024, in Paris, marking a significant milestone in the history of international aviation collaboration. Chaired by Mrs. Hlin Holm, Head of Air Navigation Services at the Icelandic Transport Authority, the meeting was supported by Mr. Nicolas Rallo, ICAO EUR/NAT Regional Director, along with other ICAO staff.

For nearly sixty years NAT SPG has continuously monitored and evaluated air traffic control service provisions in the NAT to ensure alignment with best practices, technological advancements, and changes in air traffic. Reflecting on this legacy, Mrs. Holm stated, “For six decades, the NAT SPG has ensured safe and efficient air navigation over the North Atlantic, transforming it into a model of efficiency and reliability.”

Mr. Rallo added, “For six decades the NAT SPG has been a shining example of what can be achieved through cooperation among States. With ICAO providing the framework, the NAT SPG brought together Member States, Navigation Service providers, international organizations and other partners to shape the future of aviation in the North Atlantic region. Together, we will ensure a bright and sustainable future for aviation in the North Atlantic and beyond.”

Among their historical achievements, the NAT SPG has been a global innovator, introducing significant advancements in the NAT region such as Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM), performance-based separation (PBCS), and space-based ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast). These aviation firsts have considerably enhanced air navigation, safety, and efficiency over not only the North Atlantic, but the globe.

Looking to the future, the NAT SPG has established a NAT Vision which will focus on delivering enhanced safety, sustainability and resilience in aviation and integrating new entrants into the North Atlantic system, including commercial space operations, hypersonic, supersonic, and high-altitude operations. “As we look into the future, our focus must remain on sustainability and resilience in aviation. I am confident that the NAT SPG will continue to lead the way, harnessing the power of cooperation and innovation to overcome challenges and seize opportunities,” declared Sean Patrick, Chair of the NAT Implementation Management Group (IMG). “

Enhancing safety remains paramount to the NAT SPG and this year will see the introduction of the removal of all oceanic clearances within the NAT, an initiative that is expected to drive further safety improvements. Jennifer Kileo, Chair of the NAT Safety Oversight Group, added “As we look beyond 2024, the NAT region remains committed to advancing safety, efficiency, and sustainability in air traffic management. Through collaborative endeavors and innovative solutions, the region is poised to overcome challenges, to realize its’ vision of an optimized and seamless airspace environment”.

Alda Miranda, Chair of the NAT Economic, Financial and Forecasting Group (EFFG), remarked, “As we move forward to face future challenges, the NAT SPG is committed to ensuring safe, efficient and sustainable aviation operations through informed decision-making, strategic planning and cost-effective management of the aviation system.”

The NAT SPG/60 concluded with a renewed commitment to its goals, ensuring that the North Atlantic aviation community is well-prepared to tackle future challenges while continuing to set standards for global aviation excellence. Congratulations were extended to the chairs, vice-chairs, rapporteurs, and experts who have supported the NAT SPG over the decades.

For more on the NAT SPG’s six decades of achievements, watch the NAT SPG 60th Anniversary video.