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.

  1. The USAF Technical Application Center (AFTAC), Department of Energy (DOE), or other U.S. Government agencies will use aircraft with the “SAMP” call sign to perform aerial sampling/surveying of suspected foreign or domestic nuclear, chemical, or hazardous material contamination. A planned aerial sampling/surveying schedule is established by the USAF. Although sampler/survey aircraft are flight planned to the suspected area of airborne 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/surveying of the airborne contamination whose exact location and altitude distribution cannot be accurately predicted.
  2. The sponsoring agency will notify ATC facilities of the “SAMP” aerial sampling/surveying mission prior to departure.
  3. ATC facilities must report any issues associated with “SAMP” aerial sampling/surveying flights to the Domestic Events Network (DEN) Air Traffic Security Coordinator (ATSC).
  4. The Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) must issue a nuclear debris report as an ATCSCC numbered advisory if such report is received from AFTAC, DOE, or other U.S. government agencies.


FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 2-1-4, Operational Priority.
FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 2-4-20, Aircraft Identification.
FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 9-2-17, SAMP Flights.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Search and rescue actions for flights conducted under due regard provision are the responsibility of the parent organization.

The U.S. Air Force Reserve (AFRES) 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53WRS) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) are responsible for flying weather reconnaissance/research missions. 53WRS aircraft conducting these missions will utilize the call-sign “TEAL,” and aircraft from NOAA 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 season missions are flown in support of the National Winter Season Operations Plan (NWSOP). The NWSOP states the 53WRS and NOAA AOC will:
  1. Ensure the appropriate ARTCC(s) has access to the Winter Season Plan of the Day (WSPOD) prior to the mission:


The WSPOD describes the mission and includes, for example, type aircraft call sign, departure airfield, and route of flight.

  1. Coordinate the mission directly with the ARTCC(s) upon receipt of the mission tasking:


The 53WRS and NOAA AOC are responsible for coordinating airspace access directly with DoD for missions on the U.S. east coast.

  1. File a flight plan as soon as practicable prior to departure time:
  2. Request a NOTAM by filing directly with the U.S. NOTAM office:
  3. Coordinate dropsonde instrument releases with ATC prior to release and broadcast on 121.5 and 243.0 to advise any traffic in the area of the pending drop:


  1. A dropsonde is a cardboard cylinder weighing less than a pound, that has a parachute attached, and is used for collecting weather data.
  2. ATC responsibilities pertaining to dropsonde releases are described in FAA Order JO 7110.65, paragraph 9-2-20, Weather Reconnaissance Flights.
  1. TEAL or NOAA flights may request the Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordinator, All Hurricanes (CARCAH) to relay an en route clearance request to the ARTCC if the flight is unable to contact ATC.


ATC responsibilities pertaining to clearance requests via CARCAH are described in FAA Order JO 7110.65, paragraph 9-2-20, Weather Reconnaissance Flights.

  1. ATC will provide TEAL and NOAA aircraft priority handling in accordance with FAA Order JO 7110.65, paragraph 2-1-4, Operational Priority.
  1. These reconnaissance/research missions are flown in support of the National Hurricane Operations Plan (NHOP) and in accordance with:
  1. The Memorandum of Agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center (AOC), U.S. Air Force Reserve Command 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (WRS), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Organization (ATO) in Support of the National Hurricane Operations Plan; and
  2. Associated letters of agreement.
  1. Prior to an NHOP reconnaissance/ research mission, the 53rd WRS or NOAA AOC will:
  1. Provide the Mission Coordination Sheet to the appropriate ARTCC and the ATCSCC at least one hour prior to the mission.


The Mission Coordination Sheet describes the reconnaissance/research mission and includes, for example, the aircraft call sign, departure airfield, and route of flight.

  1. Submit a request to the appropriate ARTCC for a Weather Reconnaissance Area (WRA) NOTAM at least one hour prior to the mission.
  2. File a flight plan as soon as practicable before departure time.


Providing the Mission Coordination Sheet does not pre-empt the mission commander's responsibility to file a flight plan, nor does it constitute an ATC clearance.

  1. The ATCSCC must:
  1. Review the Tropical Cyclone Plan of the Day (TCPOD) by 1830 UTC.
  2. Activate the Hurricane Desk, if required.
  3. Review the Mission Coordination Sheet and prepare a public Flow Evaluation Area (FEA) based on the latitude/longitude points specified in the Mission Coordination Sheet when a mission is scheduled to be flown. The FEA naming convention is the aircraft call sign. Modify the FEA when requested by the affected facilities.
  4. Coordinate with the impacted ARTCCs as required, and designate a primary ARTCC when the reconnaissance/research flights are expected to operate through airspace managed by multiple ATC facilities.
  5. Assist ATC facilities with traffic flow priorities if the hurricane reconnaissance/ research flight will impact terminal traffic.
  1. The ARTCC(s) must:
  1. Review the Mission Coordination Sheet.
  2. Coordinate with all impacted ATC facilities within their area(s) of responsibility;
  3. Coordinate with SUA Using Agencies in accordance with WRA Letters of Agreement (LOA), unless other coordination procedures are established by an agreement.


An example of an agreement containing other coordination procedures for SUA is the LOA between Washington Center, New York Center, Boston Center, Jacksonville Center, Air Traffic Control System Command Center and Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, Virginia Capes that defines coordination and control procedures governing the use of SUA operated by FACSFAC VACAPES.

  1. Issue the WRA NOTAM, as applicable.


Any questions about the WRA NOTAM should be directed to the ARTCC that originated the NOTAM, not CARF.

  1. Relay any operational concerns to the ATCSCC for further evaluation and coordination.
  2. When designated by ATCSCC as the Primary ATC Facility, ARTCC responsibilities include:
  1. When necessary, coordinate with the Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordinator, All Hurricanes (CARCAH) and aircrew(s) on flight plan specifics.
  2. If the mission profile changes, coordinate with the ATCSCC for FEA modifications, ensure other affected ATC facilities are aware of the change.
  3. Advise the ATCSCC and other affected ATC facilities of any mission cancellation or delay information received from the flying unit.
  1. Should it become necessary for ATC to contact a TEAL or NOAA flight and all other methods of communication are not possible (e.g., direct radio, New York Radio, San Francisco Radio, aircraft relay), CARCAH may be requested to relay messages to/from the aircraft. CARCAH may phone the appropriate ATC facility to authenticate the request.
  1. Requests to change any portion of the NHOP or MOA must be coordinated with ATO System Operations Security.

Diplomatic clearances that authorize foreign state aircraft (military or non-military) to operate in U.S. territorial airspace for a specific time and purpose are approved by the U.S. State Department. Foreign state diplomatic flights are non-priority. Contact the FAA System Operations Support Center (SOSC) (202-267-8276 or email with questions or issues concerning foreign state diplomatic flights.