This is in response to a request for interpretation submitted by the Central Service Area, on behalf of Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center, regarding JO 7110.65, Paragraph 2-1-1c, ATC Service, and Paragraph 10-1-1d, Emergency Determinations.
In an emergency situation, do these paragraphs allow a controller to issue a clearance to an aircraft that will result in a loss of separation?
The answer is yes. If an emergency has been declared, and the pilot requests a clearance, paragraph 2-1-1 provides authorization to issue a clearance that may result in a loss of separation. While a clearance issued during an emergency may result in a loss of separation as defined in JO 7110.65, it may not be issued if it will result in an unsafe situation.
It is important for controllers to understand that Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR 91.123) gives pilots authorization to deviate from ATC clearances during emergencies without prior approval.
In order to provide the best possible service to aircraft in distress, it is essential that controllers understand the needs of the pilots before taking action. This understanding is critical in determining the appropriate course of action to mitigate potential risks to aircraft in the system.