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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. 

The majority 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 

AJR-X3 is taking the lead on the reconciling of the FAAO1900.47. Numerous subgroups are in progress to compile various changes to the overall order including: OCP Design, Baseline Operations Metrics, OCP Training, OCP Refresher Training, Support Facility Requirements, and Relocation Procedures. These subgroups will present their findings and determinations to a Change Action Group (CAG) for the next steps in rebuilding the order that governs contingency operations throughout the NAS. Mr. Wright participates in all these subgroups and has been invited to participate in the CAG that will be formed.  

OCP Rebuilds  

Rebuild activity this month was completed with Boston Tracon (A90), Chicago Tracon (C90), Southern California Tracon (SCT) and Albuquerque (ZAB) and Houston Center (ZHU). The field teams are working to standardize the OCPs and bring them to compliance with the 1900.47F. At the start of May, Los Angeles Center (ZLA) and Atlanta Center (ZTL) will begin their rebuild activities. Mr. Wright works with the Facility Representatives of the impacted facilities and their support facilities to ensure that all the necessary bargaining unit representatives can participate in the review and discussion process.  

Short Term ARTCC Outage Contingency 

Short term outage 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. A 3-day workgroup was convened to discuss the short term ARTCC outage routings. These routings utilize the concept of non-communication, non-surveillance airspace. While this concept is somewhat used in the oceanic areas and in the less populated parts of the world, this is new to the NAS and the major airlines are very concerned about its legality and safety. NATCA Safety and NATCA Requirements (Chrissy Padgett and John Murdoch) are assisting with this effort as well. The parties are developing procedures for using these operations and insisting that proper training be brought to the workforces on both sides of the mic. Pilots and controllers must be trained and given the opportunity to retain proficiency with these procedures if they are to become a part of the NAS framework.  

Divestment Policy 

The AJR-X group is planning to initiate discussion with AJT on the concept and policy of airspace divestment in Q3 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.  

International Contingency 

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 likely be the LoAs between Cuba and Houston Center (ZHU) and Miami Center (ZMA).  

There are also efforts beginning to secure the resources necessary to utilize the WJHTC (Tech Center) facilities as back-up sites in the event of an outage of the oceanic capabilities of New York Center (ZNY), Anchorage Center (ZAN), and Oakland Center (ZOA). This effort is just beginning and will be worked alongside NATCA ATOPS rep, JT Lenhart.  

OCL Level 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.  

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