Section 4. Air Traffic-Specific Environmental Guidance and Requirements


Air Traffic personnel need to consult with all appropriate Federal, state and local officials having jurisdiction over affected Section 4(f) resource when determining whether project-related noise impacts would constitute a use of those resources.

FAA Order 1050.1, Appendix B, provides guidance on matters relevant to Section 4(f). (See also Appendix 9, Noise Policy for Management of Airspace Over Federally Managed Lands.)


The types of undertakings listed in subparts a-e are presumed to have “no potential to cause effects” pursuant to 36 CFR § 800.3(a). When an action falls into one of these types of actions, it must be documented in the environmental record such as the Environmental Pre-screening Filter Tool or the project file. ATO is not required to consult when taking these actions. Once documentation is completed, then Section 106 obligations are concluded.

  1. Air traffic actions that decrease/reduce the times of use or dimensions of Special Use Airspace (SUA) and do not change the existing operations within SUA.
  2. Air traffic actions that change the controlling agency or technical descriptions of SUA and do not change the operations within SUA.
  3. Air traffic actions that do not change the location of existing flight tracks, do not lower altitudes of existing flight tracks, and do not increase the number of aircraft operations, concentrations of aircraft or aircraft types. Examples include but are not limited to: adjusting speeds at waypoints, adding/removing waypoints along existing flight tracks, overlays that replace existing conventional flight tracks with satellite based navigation, and increasing altitudes of existing flight tracks or SUA.
  4. Air traffic actions that do not introduce new aircraft, new types of aircraft, or air traffic where it does not currently exist. The proposed changes must pass FAA's noise screening using currently approved tools and methodologies, and do not introduce reportable noise. Such actions must move aircraft to areas already experiencing aircraft noise.
  5. Cancellation of flight procedures or routes when there is no planned replacement for them.
    The actions listed in subpart f are not undertakings and therefore are not subject to Section 106 obligations.
  6. New, amended, or deleted missed approach procedures to be published.
  1. Environmental Specialists need to know the process and requirements for environmental justice compliance.
  2. DOT Order 5610.2, Environmental Justice, requires analysis of impacts of proposed FAA actions to ensure that minority and low-income population groups are not disproportionately affected. Additionally, FAA Order 1050.1, Appendix B, paragraph B-1.5; Chapter 2, paragraphs 2-2.1.b(2)(a), 2-5.2.b, and Chapter 4, paragraph 4-1, summarize the requirements and procedures to be used in environmental impact analysis related to environmental justice, as well as other socioeconomic impacts and children's environmental health and safety risks.
  3. Environmental Specialists should identify who potentially benefits and who is potentially adversely impacted by the proposed actions, while noting impacts on specific subgroups.
  1. Community involvement is the process of engaging in dialogue and collaboration with communities affected by FAA actions. Collaboration means all parties taking responsibility to engage in meaningful dialogue with their counterparts. This includes making a genuine effort to ensure that the interests of all have been identified and as many as possible have been addressed before an outcome is determined.
  2. The FAA is committed to open dialogue with communities and regards community input as an important consideration in decisions that affect the airspace. Because the FAA must prioritize the safe and efficient operation of the National Airspace System, community involvement does not guarantee outcomes that satisfy everyone. However, decisions that take community input into consideration are more likely to reflect the collective public interest, receive broader community acceptance, and experience fewer implementation and post-implementation problems.


FAA Community Involvement Manual, February 2016, Section 1.1 “Background.”

  1. Therefore, ATO personnel should reference the following materials to determine the type and extent of community involvement, if any, for a project or action:
  1. FAA Order 1050.1
  2. FAA Community Involvement Manual (CIM)
  3. FAA Air Traffic Organization Community Involvement Plan (ATO CIP)
  4. FAA Community Involvement Performance Based Navigation Desk Guide (CIPDG)
  5. FAA Order JO 7400.2, Appendix 10, FAA's “Community Involvement Policy” statement.
  6. FAA Scenario-Based Guidance for Community Engagement.
  1. Community involvement should be considered early in the project development process. Note that the type of community involvement (workshops, airport meetings, roundtables, presentations, etc.) must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  1. Environmental Specialists must ensure that projects that do not have independent utility are not separated into smaller components (segmented) in order to avoid analyzing the overall impact of the project. A project has independent utility when it can reasonably satisfy the agency's purpose and need for the project even if no other project (or related portion of the project) is implemented. In contrast, projects are connected actions if they would not exist without the other project. Environmental Specialists should ensure that a project does not involve actions by multiple FAA LOB/SOs. Connected actions, as defined in FAA Order 1050.1F, Paragraph 2-3.2 (b)(1), must be considered together to prevent dividing a project into several smaller actions, each of which might have an insignificant impact when considered in isolation, but that taken as a whole, could have a substantial impact.
  2. Environmental Specialists must ensure that cumulative impacts are appropriately addressed in all EAs or EISs for air traffic actions.
  1. Cumulative impacts are those that result from the incremental impact of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions, regardless of what agency (Federal and non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions.
  2. Cumulative impacts may result from individually minor, but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time. (See FAA Order 1050.1, paragraph 4-2.d (3) and also “Considering Cumulative Effects Under the National Environmental Policy Act (1997).”)
  1. According to FAA Order 8260.3, United States Standard for Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS), a DVA is an area established to avoid obstacles.
  1. A DVA is used by air traffic control (ATC) radar facilities to allow the radar vectoring of aircraft below the minimum vectoring altitude (MVA), or for en route facilities, the minimum instrument flight rules altitude (MIA).
  2. A DVA consists of designated airspace associated with a departure runway where the use of the applicable departure criteria, specified in FAA Order 8260.3, and this order have been applied to identify and avoid obstacles that penetrate the departure obstacle clearance surface (OCS).
  3. Avoidance of obstacles is achieved through the application of a sloping OCS within the boundaries of the DVA. Since a sloping OCS is applicable to climb segments, a DVA is valid only when aircraft are permitted to climb uninterrupted from the departure runway to the MVA/MIA (or higher). A DVA is not applicable once an aircraft's climb is arrested.
  1. Since DVAs generally do not define a specific route to avoid potential obstacles, this type of action is not considered a major Federal action under NEPA and therefore, FAA Order 1050.1, paragraph 2-1.2.b, Advisory Actions, applies.
  2. In accordance with FAA Order 1050.1, paragraph 2-1.2.b, the establishment of a DVA could result in subsequent action that may be subject to NEPA. Facility and Service Center specialists working on these subsequent actions must consult with their environmental specialist to determine if that action is subject to NEPA. (See questions in paragraph 33-2-1.)
  1. According to paragraph 28-1-1, Definition, a National Security Area (NSA) consists of airspace of defined vertical and lateral dimensions established at locations where there is a requirement for increased security of ground facilities. Pilots are requested to voluntarily avoid flying through an NSA. When it is necessary to provide a greater level of security, flight in an NSA may be temporarily prohibited pursuant to the provisions of 14 CFR 99.7, Special Security Instructions.
  2. In accordance with paragraph 28-2-1, NSA Proposals, NSAs do not require environmental analysis; therefore, this type of action is not considered a major Federal action under NEPA, and FAA Order 1050.1, paragraph 2-1.2.b, Advisory Actions, applies.

In accordance with paragraph 21-1-9, Environmental Analysis, prohibited area and alert area designations are actions that are neither permissive nor enabling, and therefore, environmental assessments or statements are not required when designating these areas.


Records retention must be in accordance with the appropriate paragraph(s) in FAA Order 1350.15, Records Organization, Transfer, and Destruction Standards.


Although Chapter 10 of FAA Order 1350.15 contains Air Traffic-specific information, guidance for retention of environmental documentation is contained in that portion of the order specific to the Airports Division.

  1. Environmental record-keeping should receive special attention at the field facility level. If an action requires preparation of an EA or an EIS, the Service Center Environmental Specialist must maintain the Administrative File. The Administrative File is important in the environmental process because it is a compilation of all the information relied upon by FAA in the decision-making process.
  2. Since some environmental projects may extend over several years, the Administrative File becomes a history of events. In the event of a legal challenge, the Administrative File will be used to develop the Administrative Record. The Administrative Record will be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals to determine if the FAA complied with the requirements of NEPA. The data and documentation contained in the File can also be used to initiate any subsequent environmental studies.
  3. Field facility personnel must consult with their Service Center Environmental Specialist to obtain guidance on what should or should not become part of the Administrative File. Regional counsel or AGC-620, as appropriate, should also be consulted on this. Federal court rules provide that when an FAA action is challenged in court, the agency has 40 days to compile the Administrative Record, make necessary copies, and file an index to the Record with the court. Therefore, it is preferable to begin development of the Administrative Record by maintaining an accurate Administrative File from the earliest stages of a project, instead of waiting until a lawsuit is filed.
  1. Appendix 1. Environmental Study Process Flow Chart.
  2. Appendix 2. Special Use Airspace Aeronautical Processing Flow Chart
  3. Appendix 3. Special Use Airspace Environmental Processing Flow Chart
  4. Appendix 4. FAA Procedures for Processing SUA Actions Summary Table
  5. Appendix 5. Air Traffic Initial Environmental Review (IER)
  6. Appendix 6. Sample Categorical Exclusion Declaration.
  7. Appendix 7. FAA/DoD Memorandum of Understanding.
  8. Appendix 8. FAA Special Use Airspace Environmental Processing Procedures.
  9. Appendix 9. Noise Policy for Management of Airspace Over Federally Managed Lands.
  10. Appendix 12. Community Involvement Policy.

The following guidance memorandums (memos) and emails have been incorporated and therefore cancelled.

  1. ATA-1 Memo dated January 17, 2001, Change in Air Traffic Noise Screen Policy (Federal Register/Vol. 65, No. 235/Wednesday, December 6, 2000/Notices, p. 76339).
  2. ATA-300 Memo dated September 15, 2003, Altitude Cut-Off for National Airspace redesign (NAR) Environmental Analyses.
  3. AJR-34 Memo dated August 21, 2009, Environmental Guidance for Actions Involving Propeller-Driven Aircraft.
  4. AJR-34 Memo dated August 21, 2009, Guidance Regarding the Number of Procedures for Noise Screening.
  5. AJV-1 Memo dated December 15, 2010, Guidance for Conducting Environmental Review of Proposed Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Flight Procedures.
  6. AEE-400 Guidance Memo #1 dated December 20, 2010, Clarification of CATEXs 311g and 311i for Procedural Actions; FAA Order 1050.1E.
  7. AEE-400 Memo #2 dated January 10, 2011, Guidance on Preparing Focused, Concise and Timely Environmental Assessments.
  8. AEE-400 Guidance Memo #4 dated March 21, 2012, Guidance on Using AEDT2a to Conduct Environmental Modeling for FAA Air Traffic Airspace and Procedure Actions.
  9. D. Warren email dated March 23, 2012; In accordance with FAA Order 1050.1, National Security Areas (NSAs) are considered Advisory Actions and do not require environmental analysis.
  10. D. Warren email, dated May 8, 2012, CATEXs for Departure.
  11. AJV-114 memo dated July 17, 2012, Interim Guidance: Using the Lateral Movement Tests (LAT Tests) for Noise Screening of Air Traffic Actions.
  12. AJV-11 memo dated January 4, 2013, Authorized Use of the MITRE Noise Screening Guidance Document, dated December 2012.
  13. D. Warren email dated March 11, 2013, Diverse Vector Areas (DVAs).
  14. AJV-0 Memo dated March 21, 2013, Signature Authority and Process for Environmental Findings and Decision Documents Related to Performance Based Navigation and Airspace Redesign.
  15. AJV-0 Guidance Memo dated September 19, 2013, Implementation of the Re-engineered Environmental Review Process for Instrument Flight Procedures: FAA Order JO 7400.2J.