Operational Readiness/Contingency Operations
Kevin Wright is the Article 114 Representative to the Operational Readiness Group (AJR-X).
Background: AJR-X is the directorate established to develop, maintain, and exercise contingency planning and readiness. The primary aim of AJR-X is to build contingency into the culture of the NAS. The directorate is composed of three divisions (X1, X2, and X3). X1 manages and maintains the order concerning Contingency Operations (FAA JO1900.47). X2 does facility Operational Contingency Plan (OCP) rebuilds and other projects related to domestic contingency, including COVID operations and hurricane operations planning. X3 interacts with international ANSP’s for negotiations of procedures and contingencies in the oceanic airspace. It is also responsible for the development of exercises and training requirements for OCPs.
Large TRACONs and ARTCC’s are the focus of current Operational Contingency Plan (OCP) rebuilds. These rebuilds will bring the OCPs of these large facilities in line with the 1900.47 order and ensure that the plans are viable and serve a useful purpose to the bargaining unit when they are needed.
Due to the COVID pandemic and resultant travel restrictions, most of the meetings with AJR-X have moved to a virtual platform. ZOOM and telcons are the primary means for meeting and discussing the projects and initiatives that are in progress. Much of this work is just starting to take hold in this way and progress is beginning to be seen. The following projects are in progress:
FAA Order 1900.47 Contingency Operations
FAAO 1900.47F Chg1 is currently in review for implementation. The primary addition from the recently enacted 1900.47F is the reintroduction of the requirement for contingency plans to allow for a specific percentage of operational resumption within 24 hours. The 90% threshold had been used before and is being reintroduced to the order.
Operational Contingency Plan (OCP) Rebuilds
Rebuild activity this month is ongoing with Atlanta Tracon (A80), Chicago Tracon (C90), Northern California Tracon (NCT) and Albuquerque (ZAB). The field teams are working to standardize the OCPs and bring them to compliance with the 1900.47F. At the start of March, Southern California Tracon (SCT), Boston Tracon (A90), DFW Tracon (D10) and Houston Center (ZHU) will begin their rebuild activities.
COVID routes and their place in the framework of national contingency have become a hot button topic. The airlines and other industry users are raising concerns that the FAA short term outage planning is lacking and inconsistent. These stakeholders are beginning to elevate these concerns and further actions are being explored.
Safety Risk Management (SRM)
The AJR-X group is planning to initiate two SRM panels in Q1 of CY2021. The first will look at airspace divestment and assumption at the support facility level. We are considering how to leverage a discussion of controller certification into this discussion to allow for the answers to be given to the facilities when they are preparing plans for airspace divestment. This has been a long-time challenge for Contingency Planning in the NAS. The second SRM will focus on the “COVID routes.” The non-surveillance and non-comm procedures need to be examined for hazards and risks to the NAS if the need to include them in further contingency use arises. The airlines are concerned about pilot/aircraft certification for these procedures and the workforce is concerned about training and general safety. These procedures were created for short term low volume use due to COVID closure but may be extended in their application if the SRM bears out their acceptability.
The International office in X3 has raised concerns that many of the contingency plans with the international ANSPs reside in the regular LOA between affected facilities. Due to the sensitive nature of contingency plans, they are For Official Use Only which is a different classification from a regular LOA and has different distribution requirements. As a result, they are looking at taking the opportunity to segregate contingency operations from existing LOAs when those documents are opened for negotiation. First on the list for these activities will be the LOAs between Cuba and Houston Center (ZHU) and Miami Center (ZMA).
Operational Contingency Level (OCL) Determination
There is a workgroup within AJR-X to determine new definitions for the OCL levels. What the group is finding is that the various parties to the OCL classifications have different needs. They are working to decide how to create a system that addresses the knowledge needs of not only the facility or facilities involved but also of the industry users, airports, and the upper levels of the FAA.