Section 2. Emergency Assistance

  1. Start assistance as soon as enough information has been obtained upon which to act. Information requirements will vary, depending on the existing situation. Minimum required information for in-flight emergencies is:
  1. Aircraft identification, type, and transponder.
  2. Nature of the emergency.
  3. Pilot request.
  1. After initiating action, provide the altimeter setting, and obtain the following items or any other pertinent information from the pilot or aircraft operator as necessary:
  1. Aircraft altitude.
  2. Fuel remaining, in time.
  3. Pilot reported weather.
  4. Pilot capability for IFR flight.
  5. Time and place of last known position.
  6. Heading since last known position.
  7. Airspeed.
  8. Navigation equipment capability.
  9. NAVAID signals received.
  10. Visible landmarks.
  11. Aircraft color.
  12. Number of people on board.
  13. Point of departure and destination.
  14. Emergency equipment on board.

Provide assistance on the initial contact frequency. Change frequencies only when there is a valid reason. Advise the pilot to return to the initial frequency if unable to establish contact.


If deemed necessary, and if weather and circumstances permit, recommend the aircraft maintain or increase altitude to improve communications or surveillance coverage.


If an aircraft operating under VFR requests assistance when it encounters, or is about to encounter, IFR weather conditions, determine the facility best able to provide service. Advise the pilot of the reason for the change, and request the pilot contact the appropriate control facility. Inform that facility of the situation. If the pilot is unable to communicate with the control facility, relay information and clearances.


When an ELT signal is heard or reported:

  1. Notify the appropriate ARTCC.
  2. Solicit the assistance of other aircraft known to be operating in the signal area.
  3. If the ELT signal report was received from an airborne aircraft, attempt to obtain the following information and relay to ARTCC:
  1. Aircraft position and time signal was first heard.
  2. Aircraft position and time the signal was last heard.
  3. Aircraft position at maximum signal strength.
  4. Flight altitude.
  5. Frequency of the emergency signal (for example, 121.5, 243.0, or 406).
  1. Attempt to obtain fixes or bearings on the signal and forward any information obtained to the ARTCC.


Fix information, in relation to a VOR or a VORTAC (radial distance), facilitates accurate ELT plotting by the RCC and should be provided when possible.

  1. In addition to the above, when the ELT signal strength indicates the signal may be emanating from somewhere on an airport or in the vicinity, notify the on-site Technical Operations (Tech Ops) personnel.
  2. Air traffic personnel must not leave their required duty stations to locate an ELT signal source.
  3. Attempt to locate the signal source by contacting adjacent airports not already checked by other ATC facilities. Forward all information obtained and action taken to the ARTCC.
  4. Notify the ARTCC if the signal source is located and whether the aircraft is in distress, plus any action taken or proposed for silencing the transmitter.
  5. Notify the ARTCC if the signal terminates prior to location of the source.


  1. The ARTCC serves as the point of contact for collecting information and coordinating with RCC on all ELT signals.
  2. Operational ground testing of ELT has been authorized during the first five minutes of each hour. To avoid confusing the tests with an actual alarm, the testing is restricted to no more than three audio sweeps.
  3. Portable, hand carried receivers assigned to air traffic facilities (where no Tech Ops personnel are available) may be loaned to responsible airport personnel or local authorities to assist in locating signal source.
  1. When information is received from any source that a bomb has been placed on, in, or near an aircraft for the purpose of damaging or destroying such aircraft, notify the operations supervisor, specialist-in-charge, or facility manager. If the threat is general in nature, handle it as a suspicious activity. When the threat is targeted against a specific aircraft and you are in contact with that aircraft, take the following actions as appropriate:


  1. A specific threat may be directed at an aircraft registry or tail number, the air carrier flight number, the name of an operator, crew member or passenger, the departure/arrival point or times, or combinations thereof.
  2. Suspicious activity is covered in FAA Order JO 7610.4, Chapter 7, Procedures for Handling Suspicious Flight Situations and Hijacked Aircraft. Military facilities would report a general threat through the chain of command or according to service directives.
  1. Advise the pilot of the threat.
  2. Report the threat to the DEN ATSC at (540) 422-4423/4424/4425. If unable to contact the DEN ATSC notify the TSA/TSOC directly at (703) 563-3400.


Operations supervisors are expected to notify the appropriate offices, agencies, and operators/air carriers according to applicable plans, directives, FAA Order JO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, or military directives.

  1. Ask if the pilot desires to climb or descend to an altitude that would equalize or reduce the outside air pressure/existing cabin air pressure differential. Obtain and relay an appropriate clearance considering minimum en route altitude, minimum obstruction clearance altitude, minimum reception altitude, and weather.


Equalizing existing cabin air pressure with outside air pressure is a key step which the pilot may wish to take to minimize the damage potential of a bomb.

  1. Handle the aircraft as an emergency, and/or provide the most expeditious handling possible with respect to the safety of other aircraft, weather conditions, ground facilities, and personnel.


Emergency handling is discretionary and should be based on the situation. With certain types of threats, plans may call for a low-key action or response.

  1. Obtain and relay clearance to a new destination, if requested.
  2. When a pilot requests technical assistance or if it is apparent that such assistance is needed, do NOT suggest what actions the pilot should take concerning a bomb but obtain the following information and notify the operations supervisor or specialist-in-charge who will contact the DEN ATSC or TSA/TSOC as explained in subparagraph a2 above.
  1. Type, series, and model of the aircraft.
  2. Precise location/description of the bomb device, if known.
  3. Other pertinent details.


This information is needed by TSA explosives experts so that the situation can be assessed and immediate recommendations made to the pilot. The TSA explosives experts may not be familiar with all military aircraft configurations but can offer technical assistance which would be beneficial to the pilot.

  1. When a bomb threat involves an aircraft on the ground and you are in contact with the suspect aircraft, take the following actions in addition to those discussed in the preceding paragraphs which may be appropriate:
  1. If the aircraft is at an airport where tower control or airport advisory service is not available, or if the pilot ignores the threat at any airport, recommend that takeoff be delayed until the pilot or aircraft operator establishes that a bomb is not aboard in accordance with 14 CFR 121. If the pilot insists on taking off and in your opinion the operation will not adversely affect other traffic, relay an ATC clearance.


14 CFR Section 121.538, Aircraft Security.

  1. Advise the aircraft to remain as far away from other aircraft and facilities as possible, to clear the runway, if appropriate, and to taxi to an isolated or designated search area. When it is impracticable, or if the pilot takes an alternative action, such as parking and offloading immediately, advise other aircraft to remain clear of the suspect aircraft by at least 100 yards if able.


Passengers deplaning may be of paramount importance and must be considered before the aircraft is parked or moved away from the service areas. The decision to use ramp facilities rests with the pilot, aircraft operator, and/or airport manager.

  1. If you are unable to inform the suspect aircraft of a bomb threat or if you lose contact with the aircraft, advise the operations supervisor or specialist-in-charge to contact the DEN ATSC to relay pertinent details to other sectors or facilities, as deemed necessary.
  2. When a pilot reports the discovery of a bomb or suspected bomb on an aircraft, determine the pilot's intentions and comply with pilot's requests insofar as possible. Take all the actions discussed in the preceding paragraphs which may be appropriate under the existing circumstances.
  3. The handling of aircraft when a hijacker has or is suspected of having a bomb requires special considerations. Be responsive to the pilot's requests and notify the operations supervisor or specialist-in-charge. Apply hijacking procedures in accordance with FAA Order JO 7610.4, Sensitive Procedures and Requirements for Special Operations, Chapter 7, and if needed, offer assistance to the pilot according to the preceding paragraphs.

When you receive information that an emergency landing will be made with explosive cargo aboard, inform the pilot of the safest or least congested airport areas. Relay the explosive cargo information to:

  1. The emergency equipment crew.
  2. The airport management.
  3. The appropriate military agencies when requested by the pilot.

Take the following actions upon receipt of a pilot request for the location of the nearest explosive detection K-9 team.

  1. Obtain the aircraft's identification and position; advise the operations supervisor or specialist-in-charge of the pilot's request.
  2. Relay the pilot's request to the FAA Washington Operations Center (WOC), (202) 267‒3333, and provide the aircraft identification and position.
  3. The WOC will provide the nearest location. Have the WOC standby while the information is relayed to the pilot.
  4. If the pilot wishes to divert to the airport location provided, obtain an estimated time of arrival (ETA) from the pilot, and advise the operations supervisor or specialist-in-charge.
  5. After the aircraft destination has been determined, provide the ETA to the WOC. The WOC will then notify the appropriate airport authority at the diversion airport. In the event the K-9 team is not available at this airport, the WOC will advise the air traffic facility and provide them with the secondary location. Relay this to the pilot concerned for appropriate action.

When a pilot reports an in-flight aircraft equipment malfunction, take the following action:

  1. Request the nature and extent of any special handling desired.


14 CFR 91.187 requires the pilot in command of each aircraft operated in controlled airspace under IFR to report as soon as practicable to ATC any malfunctions of navigational, approach, or communication equipment occurring in-flight. This includes the degree to which the capability of the aircraft to operate IFR in the ATC system is impaired and the nature and extent of any assistance desired from ATC.

  1. Provide the maximum assistance possible consistent with equipment, workload, and any special handling requested.
  2. Relay any special handling requested or being provided to other specialists or facilities who will subsequently handle the aircraft.

If an aircraft declares a state of “minimum fuel,” inform the facility to whom control jurisdiction is transferred to of the minimum fuel problem and be alert for any occurrence which might delay the aircraft en route.


Use of the term “minimum fuel” indicates recognition by a pilot that the fuel supply has reached a state whereupon reaching destination, any undue delay cannot be accepted. This is not an emergency situation but merely an advisory that indicates an emergency situation is possible should any undue delay occur. A minimum fuel advisory does not imply a need for traffic priority. Common sense and good judgment will determine the extent of assistance to be given in minimum fuel situations. If, at any time, the remaining usable fuel supply suggests the need for traffic priority to ensure a safe landing, the pilot should declare an emergency and report fuel remaining in minutes.


The 32 CFR 245 Plan for the Emergency Security Control of Air Traffic (ESCAT) outlines responsibilities, procedures, and instructions for the security control of civilian and military air traffic under various emergency conditions. When notified of ESCAT implementation, follow the instructions received from the Joint Air Traffic Operations Command (JATOC), ATCSCC, ARTCC, and/or DEN ATSC. FSS specialists must participate in tests except where such participation will involve the safety of aircraft.


  1. To ensure that ESCAT actions can be taken expeditiously, periodic ESCAT tests will be conducted in connection with NORAD exercises. Tests may be local, regional, or national in scope.
  2. During ESCAT tests, all actions will be simulated.


FAA Order JO 7610.4, Chapter 6, Emergency Security Control of Air Traffic (ESCAT).


Notify the operations supervisor or specialist-in-charge of aircraft/pilot activity, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations that are considered suspicious, as prescribed in FAA Orders JO 7610.4, JO 7210.3 and JO 7210.632.


FAA Order JO 7610.4, Para 7-3-1, Application.
FAA Order JO 7210.3, Para 2-1-30, Reporting Suspicious Aircraft/Pilot Activities.
FAA Order JO 7210.3, Para 2-1-33, Reporting Suspicious UAS Activities.
FAA Order JO 7210.632, Appendix A, Mandatory Occurrence Report Criteria.