Section 2. Operations

  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 inflight emergencies is:
  1. Aircraft identification, type, and transponder.
  2. Nature of the emergency.
  3. Pilot's desires.
  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.


Orient an aircraft by the means most appropriate to the circumstances. Recognized methods include:

  1. Radar.
  2. NAVAIDs.
  3. Pilotage.
  4. Sighting by other aircraft.

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


When an aircraft is considered to be in emergency status, alert the appropriate control facility, and forward the following information as available:

  1. Facility/sector and position calling.
  2. Nature of the emergency.
  3. Flight plan, including color of aircraft, if known.
  4. Time of last transmission received, by whom, and frequency used.
  5. Last known position, estimated present position, and maximum range of flight of the aircraft based on remaining fuel and airspeed.
  6. Action taken by reporting facility and proposed action.
  7. Number of persons on board.
  8. Fuel status.
  9. Position of other aircraft near the aircraft's route of flight, when requested.
  10. Whether an ELT signal has been heard or reported in the vicinity of the last known position.
  11. Other pertinent information.

If a VFR aircraft requests assistance when it encounters or is about to encounter IFR weather conditions, 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.


If necessary, plot the flight path of the aircraft on a chart, including position reports, predicted positions, possible range of flight, and any other pertinent information. Solicit the assistance of other aircraft known to be operating near the aircraft in distress. Forward the information to the appropriate control facility.


When an ELT signal is heard or reported:

  1. Notify the ARTCC, who will coordinate with the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).
  2. If the ELT signal report was received from an airborne aircraft, attempt to obtain the following information:
  1. The aircraft altitude.
  2. Where and when the signal was first heard.
  3. Where and when maximum signal was heard.
  4. Where and when signal faded or was lost. Solicit the assistance of other aircraft known to be operating in the signal area for the same information. Relay all information obtained to the ARTCC.
  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 RCC and should be provided when possible.

  1. In addition to the above, when the ELT signal strength indicates the transmitter may be on the airport or in the vicinity, notify the on-site technical operations services personnel for their action.
  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 checking all adjacent airports not already checked by other ATC facilities for the following information:
  1. Can ELT signal be heard?
  2. Does signal strength indicate transmitter may be on airport?
  3. Can attempt be made to locate and silence transmitter?
  4. Advise the results of any action taken. Forward all information obtained and action taken to the ARTCC.
  1. 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. Request person who located signal's source to attempt to obtain ELT make, model, etc., for relay to RCC via the ARTCC.
  2. Notify the ARTCC if the signal terminates prior to location of the source.


  1. The ARTCC serves as the contact point for collecting information and coordinating with the RCC on all ELT signals.
  2. Operational ground testing of ELT has been authorized during the first 5 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, handcarried receivers assigned to air traffic facilities (where no technical operations services personnel are available) may be loaned to responsible airport personnel or local authorities to assist in locating signal source.

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 current position, and advise the person in charge of the watch of the pilot's request.
  2. Relay the pilot's request to the FAA Washington Operations Center, AEO-100, (202) 267-3333, and provide the aircraft identification and position.
  3. AEO-100 will provide the nearest location. Have AEO-100 standby while the information is relayed to the pilot.
  4. If the pilot wishes to divert to the airport location provided, obtain an estimated arrival time from the pilot, and advise the person in charge of the watch.
  5. After the aircraft destination has been determined, provide the estimated arrival time to AEO-100. AEO-100 will then notify the appropriate airport authority at the diversion airport. In the event the K-9 team is not available at this airport, AEO-100 will advise the air traffic facility and provide them with the secondary location. Relay this to the pilot concerned for appropriate action.


FAA Order JO 7210.3, Para 2-1-12, Explosives Detection K-9 Teams.


When a pilot reports an inflight equipment malfunction, take the following action:

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


14 CFR Part 91.187 requires the pilot in command of each aircraft operated in controlled airspace under IFR MUST report as soon as practical 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 air traffic control system is impaired and the nature and extent of any assistance desired from air traffic control.

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

If an aircraft declares a state of “minimum fuel,” inform any facility to whom control jurisdiction is transferred 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.

  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 supervisor 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. Facility 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.
  2. Suspicious activity is covered in FAA Order JO 7610.4, Chapter 7, Hijacked/Suspicious Aircraft Reporting and Procedures. Military facilities would report a general threat through the chain of command or according to service directives.


FAA Order JO 7610.4, Chapter 7, Hijacked/Suspicious Aircraft Reporting and Procedures.

  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.
  1. Advise the pilot of the threat.
  2. Report the threat to the Domestic Events Network (DEN) Air Traffic Security Coordinator (ATSC) via (844) 432-2962 (toll-free). If unable to contact the DEN ATSC notify the Transportation Security Administration/Transportation Security Operation Center (TSA/TSOC) directly at 703-563-3400.
  3. 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 (MEA), minimum obstruction clearance altitude (MOCA), minimum reception altitude (MRA), 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 supervisor who will contact the DEN ATSC or TSA/TSOC as explained in a2 above.


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

  1. Type, series, and model of the aircraft.
  2. Precise location/description of the bomb device, if known.
  3. Other details which may be pertinent.
  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 pilot ignores the threat, recommend that takeoff be delayed until the pilot or aircraft operator establishes that a bomb is not aboard.
  2. 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 impractical 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.


Passenger 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 your supervisor to contact the DEN ATSC for relay of 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 his/her 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 supervisory personnel. Apply hijacking procedures in accordance with FAA Order JO 7610.4, Special Operations, Chapter 7, and if needed, offer assistance to the pilot according to the preceding paragraphs.
  1. 32 CFR 245 Plan for the Emergency Security Control of Air Traffic (ESCAT) outlines responsibilities, procedures, and instructions for the security control of civil and military air traffic under various emergency conditions.
  2. When notified of ESCAT implementation, follow the instructions received from the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC), ARTCC, and/or Domestic Events Network (DEN) air traffic security coordinator (ATSC).
  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. FSS must participate in tests except where such participation will involve the safety of aircraft.
  3. 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 controller-in-charge of aircraft/pilot activity, including Unmanned Aircraft System (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, Suspicious Aircraft/Pilot Activity -Application.
FAA Order JO 7210.3, Para 2-1-30, Reporting Suspicious Aircraft/Pilot Activities; Para 2-1-32, Reporting Unauthorized, Hazardous, or Suspicious UAS Activities.
FAA Order JO 7210.632, ATO Occurrence Reporting, Appendix A, Mandatory Occurrence Report Criteria.