Air Traffic Organization Policy

JO 7210.3
Effective Date:
April 3, 2014
Subject:  Facility Operation and Administration

Section 3. DOE and Other Aircraft


DOE contracts for civil pilots to operate public aircraft to transport radioactive and/or high explosive materials within the conterminous United States. They will operate principally during daylight hours and, although they will be made in VFR conditions insofar as possible, an instrument flight plan will be filed and IFR procedures followed.


a. When transporting radioactive/high explosive materials, DOE flights will be identified by using the prefix “RAC” followed by the last four digits of the aircraft registration number.

b. The special characteristics of the cargo dictate that the flight be carefully planned along selected routes. Pilots may refuse clearances that require route or altitude changes.


In the event a “RAC” flight is involved in an accident, inform the STMCIC of the appropriate ARTCC so that he/she may immediately notify local and state rescue and law enforcement authorities of the accident and tell them that the flight was transporting radioactive/high explosive materials. The STMCIC must then notify the DEN air traffic security coordinator (ATSC), and the ATSC will notify the DOE Operations Control Center of the accident via urgent telephone call at (702) 295-0311. The STMCIC must be informed whenever a loss of radio/radar occurs en route or the flight is overdue at the destination. The STMCIC must then notify the OMIC and the ATSC, and the ATSC will notify the DOE duty officer.


a. Following a foreign nuclear weapons test, a planned arrival sampling schedule is established by the USAF. Although sampler aircraft are flight planned to the suspected atmosphere area of nuclear contamination, the aircraft are likely to require altitude and route changes which cannot be anticipated prior to departure. The purpose of those altitude and route changes is to permit direct contact with and sampling of the cloud debris whose exact location and altitude distribution cannot be accurately predicted.

b. To afford these operations optimum flexibility during in-flight profiles, ATC facilities must honor in-flight clearance requests for altitude and route changes to the maximum extent possible. If necessary, other IFR traffic may be recleared so that requests by sampler aircraft are honored. However, in no case must the separation minima outlined in FAAO JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, be compromised.

c. USAF aircraft engaged in aerial sampling missions must use the call sign “SAMP” followed by the last three digits of the aircraft's serial number.

FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 9-3-15, SAMP.
FAAO JO 7610.4, Para 12-4-3, Atmospheric Sampling for Nuclear Contamination.


a. Article 3 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Chicago Convention of 1944 includes the following:

1. This Convention must be applicable to civil aircraft and must not be applicable to state aircraft.

2. Aircraft used in military, customs and police services must be deemed to be state aircraft.

3. The contracting States undertake, when issuing regulations for their state aircraft, that they will have due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft.

b. Department of Defense and U.S. Customs Service have specified that one of the following conditions must be met for flight operations outside U.S. Domestic airspace which are conducted under the “due regard” or “operational” prerogative of state aircraft and not in accordance with standard ICAO flight procedures. Under these conditions the PIC assumes the responsibility for separating his/her aircraft from all other air traffic.

1. Aircraft must be operated in visual meteorological conditions (VMC); or

2. Aircraft must be operated within radar surveillance and radio communications of a surface radar facility; or

3. Aircraft must be equipped with airborne radar that is sufficient to provide separation from other aircraft; or

4. Aircraft must be operated within Class G airspace.

c. Search and rescue actions for flights conducted under due regard provision are the responsibility of the parent organization.


The Air Force Reserve (AFRES) 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53WRS) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) have responsibility for flying winter storm, hurricane, and tropical storm reconnaissance missions. When conducting these missions, aircraft from the 53WRS will utilize the call-sign “TEAL,” and aircraft from the AOC will utilize the call-sign “NOAA.” Due to the unique nature of these missions it is necessary to provide a degree of special handling to ensure that sufficient meteorological data is collected. The routes flown are dictated by storm movement, not traffic flows. The nature of these weather phenomena may result in very little time between the filing of a flight plan and the actual departure.


1. Winter storm missions are flown in support of the National Winter Storm Operations Plan (NWSOP). Routes will normally follow published tracks as delineated in the Winter Storm Tracks LOA between CARF and AFRES.

2. Prior to a NWSOP mission, the 53WRS Current Operations or the AOC Flight Operations Division must submit an Altitude Reservation Approval Request (ALTRV APREQ) for a published or adhoc winter storm track to CARF and include the following data:

(a) Mission call-sign.

(b) Estimated time over start fix.

(c) Storm track to be flown.

(d) Location of dropsonde release points.

(e) Requested altitude(s) if other than

(f) Any requests to deviate from published routes.

1. The passing of this data does not pre-empt the mission commander's responsibility to file a flight plan, nor does it constitute an ATC clearance.

2. A dropsonde is a cylinder shaped 18-inch long metal weather sensor, weighs 3 and 1/2 pounds, and has a parachute attached. The flight will release dropsondes at pre-designated points along the published track. The aircraft commander will want to follow a specific pressure gradient (as opposed to altimeter setting of 29.92) when flying these missions. The correct pressure for dropsondes release is normally found at altitudes between FL290 and FL310. These dropsondes are configured to fall at an average rate of 1,000 feet per minute.

3. Flight between departure airport and ALTRV ingress point, as well as between ALTRV egress and destination airport will be via normal flight plan filing.

3. CARF must pass this information to impacted facilities and upon receipt of this data, appropriate facility personnel must ensure that the information is properly distributed to all control positions involved.

4. Requests to permanently change a published winter storm track or drop site must be coordinated with CARF and impacted facilities. Requests to change any other portion of the NWSOP must be coordinated with System Operations and Safety.


1. These missions are flown in support of the National Hurricane Operations Plan (NHOP). Prior to a hurricane/tropical cyclone reconnaissance mission the 53WRS Current Operations or the AOC Flight Operations Division will contact the ATCSCC, and provide the following data:

(a) Mission call-sign.

(b) Departure point and estimated time of departure.

(c) Approximate route(s) to be flown.

(d) Requested altitude(s).

(e) Any special requests.

The passing of this data does not pre-empt the mission commander's responsibility to file a flight plan, nor does it constitute an ATC clearance.

2. The ATCSCC must:

(a) Upon receipt of hurricane reconnaissance mission data, conference the affected ARTCC TMUs and distribute the mission information.

(b) Assist field facilities with traffic flow priorities if the hurricane reconnaissance flight will impact terminal traffic.

3. ARTCC TMUs must:

(a) Upon receipt of hurricane reconnaissance mission data, ensure that they are distributed to appropriate facilities in their jurisdiction.

(b) Relay any operational concerns to the ATCSCC for further evaluation and coordination.

4. Should it become necessary to contact a TEAL or NOAA flight and all other methods of communication are not possible (e.g., direct radio, ARINC, aircraft relay), the Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordinator, All Hurricanes (CARCAH) may be requested to relay messages to/from the aircraft. You may receive a phone call from CARCAH to authenticate the request.

5. Requests to change any portion of the NHOP must be coordinated with System Operations and Safety.


a. The ATCSCC CARF must be the FAA coordination unit between the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and field facilities for all OPEN SKIES operational information. This includes initial notification and follow­up information on each mission that requires priority handling.

OPEN SKIES flights that require priority handling are located in FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 9­2­22.

b. ARTCCs/CERAPs/HCF must designate and advise the CARF of a focal point within that facility for OPEN SKIES information.

c. Advance scheduled movement information of OPEN SKIES aircraft received from the DTRA will be forwarded by the CARF.

d. Upon initial notification of a priority OPEN SKIES flight, the affected ARTCCs/CERAPs/HCF must inform all SUA­using/scheduling agencies along the route of flight and any other facility/agency it deems necessary within their area of responsibility of the flight path and possible deviation path of the aircraft. A letter of agreement is required between the using agency and the controlling agency for Open Skies (F and D) aircraft to transit active SUA.  When Open Skies (F and D) aircraft transit SUA, an ATC facility must provide standard separation services at all times.

OPEN SKIES flights will not deviate from approved route of flight without ATC clearance.

FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 9-2-22.c1(a)(1), Open Skies Treaty Aircraft.

e. The air traffic manager of each facility through which the priority OPEN SKIES aircraft transits must ensure that a supervisory specialist(s)/CIC monitors the aircraft while in the facility's airspace. The supervisory specialist(s)/CIC must monitor the movement of the priority OPEN SKIES aircraft from the flight's entry into the facility's airspace until the flight exits the facility's airspace to ensure that priority handling, separation, control, and coordination are accomplished.

FAAO JO 7110.65, Subpara 2-1-4n, Operational Priority.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 9-2-22, Open Skies Treaty Aircraft.

f. Air traffic facilities must notify the CARF (540­422­4212/4213) and DTRA Operations (703­767­2003) immediately in the event of any incidents or problems generated by OPEN SKIES aircraft.

g. The CARF must immediately notify System Operations Security/Strategic Operations Security for resolution of problems or incidents, if necessary.

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