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FAA Issues Guidance for Commercial Carriers When an ATC Facility Closes

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Airspace System (NAS) experienced several unplanned ATC facility shutdowns, leaving the designated airspace uncontrolled or controlled by an enroute facility. The possibility of unplanned facility shutdowns continues to exist, whether related to COVID-19 or otherwise.

Operations Specifications (OpSpecs) may authorize an operator to continue operations in terminal airspace without an operating Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) or when the airspace is uncontrolled.  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. Thus, the FAA has identified safety recommendations for operators, flightcrews, and dispatchers/flight followers to consider when authorized to conduct such operations.

This particular Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) regarding Continuation of Air Carrier and Other Operations in Terminal Airspace when an Air Traffic (ATC) Facility with Responsibility for That Controlled Airspace Closes Unexpectedly may be found on the FAA’s website.