July 10, 2020

The continued spread of COVID-19 has prompted the FAA to issue two Safety Alerts for Operators (SAFOs) recommending flightcrews and operators familiarize themselves with Oceanic and Terminal Airspace procedures for the closure of ATC facilities with little or no notice.

For operations in Oceanic airspace, the FAA encourages flightcrews to review guidance in the Aeronautical Information Publications for the countries where they operate as well as regional operational air traffic management contingency plans.

The FAA also provides operational guidance for the unexpected closure of an Oceanic ATC facility, including procedures on rerouting and broadcasting, and notes that “[d]ue to the unpredictable nature of a loss of ATC services as a result of COVID-19 impacts on ATS facilities, all operators and flightcrews should plan their operations anticipating a loss of ATC services at any point in the flight.”

Flightcrews should be especially vigilant to verify and adhere to the effective clearance received from air traffic service facilities, utilize applicable course verification procedures, conduct navigation accuracy, waypoint and 10-minute post-position checks, use strategic lateral offset procedures, ensure that the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, if installed, is operative prior to departure and ensure applicable contingency plans should be available in the aircraft, added the FAA.

Read the FAA’s SAFO. (PDF)

For continued operations in terminal airspace without an operating tower, the FAA recommends that operators review paragraphs C064 and C080 of the Operation Specifications. “While some operators commonly conduct operations at smaller airports where traffic is generally not a concern, unexpected closures of ATC facilities at larger, more complex airports certificated under Part 139 may present additional risk due to more numerous runways, complex taxiways, additional traffic and significant changes from normal operational conditions,” noted the FAA.

The FAA’s SAFO also provides recommendations for authorized instrument approach procedures, approved sources of weather information, supplementing air traffic advisories and, for Part 121 operations, additional safety requirements for instrument flight rules.

Read the FAA’s terminal airspace SAFO. (PDF)

“The impact of the pandemic is still very real, and in just the past week the FAA handled more than 30 COVID-19-related events, all with minimal disruption to the National Airspace System (NAS),” said NBAA Director, Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure Heidi Williams. “The FAA has shown a remarkable dedication to maintaining the NAS throughout this pandemic, and these SAFOs are another example of the FAA’s clear and transparent collaboration with industry to ensure we remain vigilant and operate safely and efficiently.”

NBAA has worked with FAA to keep the business aviation community informed on COVID-19-driven ATC outages and recently hosted an NBAA News Hours webinar that offered pilots and operators advice on handling ATC-Zero conditions.