Appendix B. Standard Operating Practice (SOP) for Aircraft Deviating for Weather Near Active Special Activity Airspace (SAA)
The procedures listed below must be applied and contained in a facility SOP when aircraft deviate into and/or near an active or scheduled SAA:
This appendix prescribes the method and step-by-step process for handling aircraft deviations for weather near active Special Activity Airspace (SAA). The procedures are intended to work in parallel to the preventive procedures outlined in FAA Order JO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, subparagraph 18-2-4a.9, which must be applied when weather is scheduled to impact an active or scheduled SAA.
- In all operational facilities, the increase in traffic density and the need for the expeditious movement of traffic without compromising safety have emphasized the importance of handling aircraft deviations for weather in the vicinity of active SAA.
- The methods, and practices used for handling aircraft requesting or initiating deviations off of their filed route due to weather require time critical responses to the request or in response to observed course deviations. Major issues can occur whenever there is a heavy reliance upon reactive control actions when not performed according to this handbook and the procedures outlined in FAA Order JO 7210.3.
- Course deviations in areas near active SAA's increase the workload for specialists at the time of their request or observation. The intent of this SOP is to make the handling of the requested deviation or to correct the observed course deviation take place smoothly and to ensure a safe operation with a minimum amount of workload.
The following terms are important for a complete understanding of this SOP:
- Status Information Area (SIA). Manual or automatic displays of the current status of position related equipment and operational conditions or procedures.
- Special Activity Airspace (SAA). Airspace of defined dimensions as an Alert Area, Controlled Firing Area, Military Operations Area (MOA), Prohibited Area, Restricted Area or Warning Area.
- Deviations. A departure from a current clearance, such as an off course maneuvers to avoid weather or turbulence.
Using Agency. The using agency is the military unit or other organization whose activity established the
requirement for the SAA. The using agency is responsible for ensuring that:
- The airspace is used only for its designated purpose.
- Proper scheduling procedures are established and utilized.
- The controlling agency is kept informed of changes in scheduled activity, to include the completion of activities for the day.
- A point of contact is made available to enable the controlling agency to verify schedules, and coordinate access for emergencies, weather diversions, etc.
- An ATC facility may be designated as the using agency for joint-use areas when that facility has been granted priority for use of the airspace in a joint-use letter of procedure or letter of agreement.
- Unless clearance of nonparticipating aircraft in/through/adjacent to an active SAA is provided for in a Letter of Agreement or Letter of Procedure, any clearance issued to a nonparticipating aircraft must ensure separation from that SAA by the appropriate minima specified in paragraph 9-3-2.
- The specialist receiving a request for a route deviation in the vicinity of an active SAA cannot issue a clearance into the active SAA airspace, unless the provisions of Paragraph 9-3-4 of this handbook are applied. The FAA has no jurisdictional authority over the use of non-joint use prohibited/restricted/warning area airspace; therefore, clearance cannot be issued for flight therein without appropriate approval.
- If the specialist is able to coordinate approval for entry into the SAA from the using agency, a clearance to the aircraft complying with the provisions coordinated with the using agency can be issued; the specialist must notify the OS/CIC of this situation and of subsequent requests or deviations from other aircraft in the same area.
- Use of Code 7700 for aircraft deviations into active SAA is not encouraged, particularly in situations involving multiple aircraft. Positive identification of aircraft may be lost if an aircraft deviates from flight plan track, particularly in the event of a momentary loss of radar or other interruption in tracking.
If a deviation occurs that causes an aircraft to enter SAA the air traffic team must follow the procedures outlined below:
Attempt the following:
- Handoff the aircraft to the Using Agency and transfer communications; or
Point Out the aircraft to the Using Agency. The controller must:
- (a) Continue to provide safety alerts and traffic advisories, as appropriate, to the affected aircraft.
- (b) Continue to coordinate with the Using Agency until the situation is resolved.
- (c) Assist the aircraft in exiting the SAA.
If the handoff or point out is unsuccessful, the controller must:
- (a) If able, advise the Using Agency of the pilot's actions.
- (b) Provide safety alerts and traffic advisories, as appropriate.
- (c) Assist the aircraft in exiting the SAA as quickly as the weather allows.
- (d) Continue to coordinate with the Using Agency until the situation is resolved.
If no approval to enter the SAA is given by the using agency
- (a) The specialist must advise the aircraft requesting the course deviation, or deviating toward the SAA, the status of the SAA, and that no clearance can be issued permitting entry into the airspace or;
- (b) If an alternative course, which remains clear of the active SAA, is available, offer it to the pilot of the aircraft in question.
If the pilot of the nonparticipating aircraft exercises their discretion to deviate from that clearance
which ensures separation from an active SAA, and the track of the aircraft will not maintain the required
minima from an active SAA, controllers must ascertain if the pilot is exercising emergency authority:
- (a) If so, provide assistance and obtain information as provided in Chapter 10, Emergencies.
- (b) If not, provide appropriate pilot deviation notification as specified in Paragraph 2-1-26, Pilot Deviation Notification.