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Regulatory Updates
due to Coronavirus

For the most up-to-date information and news from FAA regarding the Coronavirus, please visit the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update.

Regulatory Updates

  • Exemption for Transporting Cargo on Airplane Seats
    The FAA issued an exemption that allows U.S. airlines to carry cargo on seats in airplane cabins when no passengers are being transported. The FAA determined the exemption would reduce the chance that movement of critical cargo would be interrupted as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. To exercise the exemption, airlines must submit a letter of intent and receive specific authorization from FAA, and observe a number of conditions and limitations. The exemption is effective through Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Exemption for Certain Air Ambulance Personnel
    To ensure the continuity of air ambulance operations, FAA is granting an exemption to the timeframes (PDF) for completing recurrent training and testing requirements for certain air ambulance personnel. Operators must fulfill specific requirements to exercise the relief offered in this exemption.
  • Relief for Certain Persons and Operations during the COVID-19 Outbreak
    The FAA has published a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) that provides regulatory relief to a wide range of people and operations affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. The relief applies to pilots, crew members and other FAA certificate holders including some drone pilots who have been unable to comply with certain training, recency-of-experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the outbreak. It also provides relief to certain people and pilot schools who are unable to meet duration and renewal requirements, including extending the validity period of FAA medical certificates. FAA has developed FAQs (PDF) to help explain the regulatory relief.
  • Temporary Control Tower Hour Adjustments

    To ensure the continued resiliency of the air traffic control system amid the COVID-19 pandemic, FAA is planning to temporarily adjust the operating hours of approximately 100 control towers nationwide (PDF). Making these adjustments allows for continued safe operations throughout the national airspace system while minimizing health risks to our workforce. The FAA plans to begin making control tower hour adjustments on Monday, April 27 and complete the process within about a week.

    These facilities have seen a significant reduction in flights, especially during the evening and nighttime hours, since the pandemic began. Adjusting the operating hours will further protect our employees and reduce the possibility of temporary tower closures from COVID-19 exposures by ensuring enough controllers are available to staff the facilities during peak hours. It also will enable us to allocate difficult-to-source supplies where they are most needed.

    Most of the towers are historically closed at night, during which time the radar facility with oversight assumes the airspace. The FAA expects the adjustments will not have any operational effects. The agency plans to begin adjusting facility hours later this month.

    The FAA will continue to monitor traffic volume at all of these facilities and may make future adjustments to operating hours as appropriate.

    The FAA previously took steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in air traffic control facilities by establishing separate teams of controllers that stay together throughout the duty week.

    Q1: How did FAA decide on these operating hour adjustments?

    A: The FAA has seen a significant reduction in traffic at these facilities and reviewed a number of factors to determine where adjustments were most appropriate and could be implemented while maintaining safe and efficient operations. Criteria considered included: hourly aircraft counts and safety during non-towered times; air carrier, air taxi, and special operations; ability of the workforce to social distance and reduce exposure; savings of supplies; and infrastructure constraints. The FAA will coordinate with stakeholders before making any final decisions.

    Q2: What is the criteria to return to normal hours or how will you decide to restore the hours at these towers?

    A: The FAA will continually assess the operating environment throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA will ensure there is adequate staffing to meet traffic needs. As operational traffic counts and our resource factors associated with COVID-19 change, FAA will make appropriate adjustments consistent with the agency's mandate to operate the NAS safely and efficiently.

    Q3: Is it possible that some of these locations will continue on adjusted hours permanently?

    A: Temporary adjustments to operating hours during this COVID-19 public health emergency are not intended to be made permanent.

    Q4: How will DOD/National Guard, medevac, or other specialized flights operate in these circumstances?

    A: The FAA considered known special operations in selecting locations for operating hour adjustments. FAA facility operating schedules have always varied throughout the NAS. During the hours that a control tower is closed, DOD, National Guard, and other aircraft will receive services by the overlying radar facility as they do today according to existing FAA procedures. The FAA will continue to facilitate these special operations and will meet the needs of these operators.

    Q5: How are you ensuring the highest levels of safety continue?

    A: The FAA is working collaboratively with the aviation industry to ensure the highest levels of safety continue where the agency adjusts facility operating hours. The FAA's safety tools and programs are fully operational and are continually monitoring the NAS. Additionally, we are working with each airport sponsor to understand and evaluate any consequences. The FAA will continue open communication and outreach with industry at all levels to ensure safety remains everyone's priority.

  • FAA extends AIP Application Deadlines
    The COVID-19 public health emergency has affected airport sponsors’ operations and ability to meet the original 2020 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) deadlines. Therefore, FAA has extended deadlines to May 4, 2020 to give notice of intent, and to Monday, June 15, 2020 to submit the final grant application. The full notice is available in the federal register (PDF).
  • Drone Use for Response Efforts
    The FAA is enabling drone use for COVID-19 response efforts within our existing regulations and emergency procedures. Our small unmanned aircraft rule (Part 107) and Certificate of Authorization process allow operators to transport goods and certain medical supplies – including test kits, most prescription drugs and, under certain circumstances, blood – provided the flight complies with all provisions of the rule or authorization. The FAA also issues special approvals, some in less than an hour, for flights that support emergency activities and appropriate government, health, or community initiatives. The agency's Systems Operations Support Center is available 24/7 to process emergency requests. Safety is the top consideration as we review each request.
  • Flight Attendant Exemption
    The FAA issued an exemption (PDF) to help protect flight attendants from contracting COVID-19. The exemption allows flight attendants to relocate from the seats they would normally occupy so they can observe social distancing. It also excuses them from having to demonstrate the use of certain emergency equipment including life preservers and oxygen masks, allowing for alternative methods to inform passengers regarding the use of such equipment. Individual carriers must submit a Letter of Intent and be granted authorization by FAA in order to exercise the relief in the exemption, which runs through June 30, 2020.
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Airport Program
    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award approximately $10 billion in funds to commercial and general aviation airports from the Trump Administration's newly created Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Airport Program.

    The funds will provide economic relief to airports around the country affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The CARES Act provides funds to increase the federal share to 100 percent for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and supplemental discretionary grants already planned for fiscal year 2020. Under normal circumstances, AIP grant recipients contribute a matching percentage of the project costs. Providing this additional funding and eliminating the local share will allow critical safety and capacity projects to continue as planned regardless of airport sponsors’ current financial circumstances.

    Additionally, the CARES Act provides new funds distributed by various formulas for all airports that are part of the national airport system. This includes all commercial service airports, all reliever airports and some public-owned general aviation airports.

    Under this new CARES Airport Program:

    • Primary commercial service airports, with more than 10,000 annual passenger boardings, will receive additional funds based on the number of annual boardings, in a similar way to how they currently receive AIP entitlement funds.
    • All commercial service airports will receive funds based on the number of passengers that board aircraft there, the amount of debt an airport has, and the amount of money the airport has in reserve.
    • General aviation airports will receive funds based on their airport categories, such as National, Regional, Local, Basic and Unclassified.

    The FAA plans to make these funds available in April, and airport sponsors should work with their local Office of Airports field office.
    CARES Act Airport Grants — Frequently Asked Questions

  • FAA Announces Additional Pilot Medical Certificate Exemptions
    The FAA is granting an exemption that extends until June 30, 2020, the duration of medical certificates for certain pilots and flight engineers who conduct scheduled and on-demand operations outside the United States if those medical certificates expire between March 31, 2020, and May 31, 2020.

    COVID-19 is placing a severe burden on the U.S. healthcare system. Requiring pilots to undergo in-person medical examinations would further stress the healthcare system, and would increase the risk of transmitting the virus through personal contact between the doctor and the applicant. The FAA last week issued a policy stating it will not take enforcement action (PDF) against certain pilots or flight engineers who fly domestically with medical certificates that expire between March 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

  • Air Carrier Training Exemptions
    The FAA granted certain training exemptions to scheduled and on-demand air carriers due to the unprecedented circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The exemptions give operators grace periods for completing certain training and qualification requirements, and give crewmembers relief from having to don protective breathing equipment or oxygen masks in training, checking, or evaluation. The exemptions can be viewed at The docket numbers are FAA-2020-0291; FAA-2020-0292; FAA-2020-0307; and FAA-2020-0308.
  • Pilot Medical Certificates
    The FAA will not take enforcement action (PDF) against certain pilots or flight engineers who fly with medical certificates that expire between March 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020. COVID-19 is placing a severe burden on the U.S. healthcare system. Requiring pilots to undergo in-person medical examinations would further stress the healthcare system, and would increase the risk of transmitting the virus through personal contact between the doctor and the applicant.
  • Airport Slot-Use Waivers
    The FAA is extending through Oct. 24, 2020 (PDF) the temporary waiver of minimum slot-use requirements at U.S. airports to help airlines that cancel flights due to the Coronavirus. Under normal circumstances, airlines can lose their slots at congested airports if they don't use them at least 80 percent of the time. The FAA is waiving the 80-percent-use requirement for U.S. and foreign airlines that have affected flights. The FAA initially announced that the relief would be in effect through May 31, 2020.
  • Temporary Parking of Overflow Aircraft
    The global COVID-19 health emergency has led to flight reductions throughout the airline industry. As a result, FAA issued CertAlert #20-02 Temporary Parking of Overflow Aircraft (PDF) and CertAlert #20-03 Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Examples when Closing Runway(s) and/or Taxiways(s) to Temporarily Park Aircraft (PDF), for airport operators who are working with airlines on temporary parking plans for their aircraft. The CertAlerts contain a list of recommendations an airport operator should consider when making decisions for overflow aircraft parking. To maintain the highest level of safety, FAA is working with airport operators on the safety mitigations the operator puts in place for temporary parking of aircraft.
  • Airport Certification Safety Inspections
    The FAA's airport certification safety inspection oversight will continue during the COVID-19 health emergency. The airport certification safety inspectors will complete inspections as required by Part 139 and FAA Order 5280-5D (PDF). There is no impact to safety.

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