FAA news

October 19The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) communitys national #FlySafe campaign is designed to educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.

Surviving a Crash
Every pilot needs to prepare for the unexpected. Although surviving a crash is one of those I hope it never happens events, its something you need to consider both for yourself, and your passengers. If something happens, your passengers will look to you for leadership and survival.

This edition of FlySafe offers a few important survival tips, but the FAA recommends supplementing this information with the appropriate training and preparation. A number of courses are available, including a one-day, post-crash survival course tailored for GA pilots offered by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI).

This course, and others like it, are designed to introduce you to the knowledge and skills you need to cope with various common survival scenarios. This course also teaches students how to assemble and use a personal survival kit.

Were On the GroundWhat Next?!
The unexpected happened, and you were forced to put your plane down. You survived!! Your passengers appear to be ok, too. Do you know what to do next?

A common acronym that can help is STOP. Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.

Stop: Your adrenaline is flowing. Once you and your passengers are safely away from the aircraft, try to calm down. Avoid panicking.

Think: Prioritize your next moves. First, are there any life-threatening injuries? What resources do you have for first aid? Can you signal for help?

Observe: You need shelter to survive, so start surveying your surroundings. Do you have food or water available? Can you start a fire? Do you know how much time there is before nightfall?

Plan: Conserve your energy. Focus all of your efforts on the common goal of survival and rescue. Plan for your immediate needs of first aid, sheltering from the elements, signaling for help and ensuring all in your party are safe. If possible, stay with or near the aircraft to improve your chances of being found.

Calm, thoughtful action is what will help you survive the time until rescue.

Survival Kit
No matter where you fly, you should always equip your aircraft with a survival kit. There are several that are available commercially, but you can also assemble a personal survival kit that is custom-tailored to your mission.

Some common items youll want to make sure you have in your aircraft include: a multi-tool or knife, a flashlight with extra batteries, rope, a signaling device, a compass, first aid kit, waterproof matches, bug repellant, and gloves. Be sure to have some water and non-perishable food as well in case you might have to wait some time before being rescued. Carrying some of these items in a fishing or survival vest is a good idea, as you may only be able to walk away from the aircraft with the clothes on your back. And dont forget to leave room in your vest for a 406 MHz personal locator beacon. These relatively low-cost devices are a great adjunct to the aircrafts emergency locator transmitter.

Speaking of clothing, this is one area often overlooked when it comes to surviving an aircraft accident. As clothing is your primary shelter in a survival situation, plan your attire accordingly for all areas and weather conditions along your route of flight. Dressing in layers is always a good idea. That way you can adjust as conditions change. Consider cotton or wool outer garments rather than synthetics, trousers rather than shorts or skirts, and closed toe shoes rather than sandals.

If you are traveling over water, or traveling internationally, its a very good idea to have life rafts or life preservers on board. The FAA has no specific requirement for GA aircraft to carry these items, but ICAO requires them when traveling internationally.

Another critical tip for improving your chances for survival is to file a flight plan, even when flying VFR. This enables flight tracking and means that emergency services will be alerted should you not arrive at your destination when expected.

Finally, there is one item that tops every successful survivors list. Its considered by experts to be the prime factor in determining whether one lives or dies. It weighs nothing and its always available. It is the will to survive.

What is Loss of Control (LOC)?
A LOC accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen when the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and quickly develops into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on FAA.gov, we provide pilots with Loss of Control solutions developed by a team of experts some of which are already reducing risk. I hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.

More about Loss of Control
Contributing factors may include:

  • Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
  • Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
  • Intentional failure to comply with regulations
  • Failure to maintain airspeed
  • Failure to follow procedure
  • Pilot inexperience and proficiency
  • Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol

Did you know?

  • In 2016, 413 people died in 219 general aviation accidents.
  • Loss of Control was the number one cause of these accidents.
  • Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight.It can happen anywhere and at any time.
  • There is one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.

Learn more:
The FAAs space Medical Institute or CAMI, offers a one-day post-crash survival course for general aviation pilots and passengers. Its designed to introduce you to the knowledge and skills you need to cope with various common survival scenarios. This course also teaches students how to assemble and use a personal survival kit. For more information, visit our Airman Education Programs page.

The FAA Safety Briefing magazine has published two issues on emergency preparedness. For specifics on GA accident survival, check out the articles What Would MacGyver Do? in the July/Aug 2013 issue and Survival 101 in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue.

Check out GA Safety Enhancements fact sheets on the mainFAA Safety Briefing website., including one on GA Survival here.

TheFAASafety.govwebsite has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics, including aviation survival courses. They also host a number GA survival resources, including an Off-Airport Operations Guide here.

TheWINGS Pilot Proficiency Programhelps pilots build an educational curriculum suitable for their unique flight requirements. It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.

TheGeneral Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC)is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of GA accidents. The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers in the FAA, several government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and stakeholder groups. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The National Transportation Safety Board and the European Aviation Safety Agency participate as observers.

AOPA has a number of videos and publications on crash survival and resources for crash survival equipment.

Read AOPAs Training for the Unthinkable for a first-person account of survival.

AOPAs Steep Consequences, Life-Saving Tips is another excellent read.

October 13After a July 2016 balloon accident in Lockhart, TX that caused 16 fatalities, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took proactive steps to increase the safety of hot-air balloon tourism. As the result of a year-long FAA Call to Action with the commercial hot-air balloon industry, the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) has developed an Envelope of Safety accreditation program for balloon ride operations.

Consumers can use the program to select a ride company or pilot that strives to reach a higher safety standard a move the agency applauds.

To meet the BFAs program requirements, company pilots of balloons that are capable of carrying more than 4-6 passengers must be commercially certificated for 18 months, have a specified amount of flight experience, and hold an FAA second-class medical certificate. Pilots also must pass a drug and alcohol background check, have attended a BFA-sanctioned safety seminar within the last 12 months, and be enrolled in the FAA WINGS program. The BFA will verify this information annually, and will check the safety background of pilot applicants by researching FAA accident and incident data.

A second part of the program provides balloon ride operators with a choice of three levels of safety accreditation: Silver, Gold, or Platinum. While any size company can achieve the highest level, the tiered structure is designed with different size companies in mind. Each level has increasingly stringent safety requirements including:

  • Meeting the pilot requirements
  • Holding valid aircraft and commercial vehicle insurance
  • Not exceeding a minimum specified number of accidents or incidents within a recent time period
  • Verifying annual aircraft inspections
  • Hosting a forum for passengers to rate the company
  • Notifying local FAA offices of the location of their base of operations
  • Executing and storing passenger liability waivers
  • Conducting random pilot drug screening
  • Developing written policies for crew safety.

The FAA believes the BFA program will enhance safety and professionalism, and will allow consumers to be better informed before they choose a commercial balloon ride operator.

Beginning in January 1, 2018, the FAA will require newly designed aircraft to be quieter which will help toward lowering noise around airports and surrounding communities. Called Stage 5 Airplane Noise Standards, this FAA rule ensures that the latest available noise reduction technology is incorporated into new aircraft designs. As a result, new airplane type designs in the subsonic jet airplanes and subsonic transport category large airplanes will operate at least 7 decibels (dBs) quieter than airplanes in the current fleet.

The FAA is committed to reducing aircraft noise through a balanced approach through the reduction of noise at its source (i.e., the aircraft); improved land use planning around airports; and, a wider use of aircraft operating procedures and restrictions that abate noise.

Reducing aircraft noise is important to the FAA because its an important quality of life issue for surrounding airport communities, said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. We will continue to do our best through new technologies, procedures, and community engagement to make aircraft operations quieter.

In 1975, there were about 200 million people flying in the United States, with about 7 million people exposed to what is considered significant aircraft noise. Since then, an FAA study conducted in 2015 showed that the number of people flying in the United States had almost quadrupled yet the number of people exposed to aircraft noise had dropped to around 340,000, or a 94% reduction in aircraft noise exposure.

The FAA continues to meet its reduction in aircraft noise and other environmental aviation goals through the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN)Program. CLEEN is the FAAs principal Next Generation (NextGen) environmental effort to accelerate the development of new aircraft, engine technologies, and advance sustainable alternative jet fuels.

The new Stage 5 rule was published on Wednesday, Oct.4 in the Federal Register.

At the request of U.S. national security and law enforcement agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 99.7 Special Security Instructions to address concerns about unauthorized drone operations over 10 Department of the Interior (DOI) sites, including the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore.

The FAA and DOI have agreed to restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these sites:

  • Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, NY
  • Boston National Historical Park (U.S.S. Constitution), Boston, MA
  • Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, PA
  • Folsom Dam; Folsom, CA
  • Glen Canyon Dam; Lake Powell, AZ
  • Grand Coulee Dam; Grand Coulee, WA
  • Hoover Dam; Boulder City, NV
  • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial; St. Louis, MO
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Keystone, SD
  • Shasta Dam; Shasta Lake, CA

The restrictions will be effective October 5, 2017. There are only a few exceptions that permit drone flights within these restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

To ensure the public is aware of these restricted locations, the FAA has created an interactive map online. The link to these restrictions is also included in the FAAs B4UFLY mobile app. The app will be updated within 60 days to reflect these airspace restrictions. Additional information, including frequently asked questions, is available on the FAAs UAS website.

Operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.

This is the first time the agency has placed airspace restrictions for unmanned aircraft, or drones, over DOI landmarks. The FAA has placed similar airspace restrictions over military bases that currently remain in place.

The FAA is considering additional requests from other federal agencies for restrictions using the FAAs 99.7 authority as they are received.

This morning, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers handled the landing of the first commercial air carrier flight in weeks into the Cyril E. King International Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (TIST). Working from a mobile air traffic tower the FAA moved to the island last weekend, the controllers are now managing a mix of commercial, military, relief and recovery flights to and from the storm-ravaged island.

The FAA continues to support similar operations on San Juan, Puerto Rico where the first commercial air carrier service began a week ago. The total number of flights in and out of Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan (SJU) has increased dramatically over the past week, to more than 400 arrivals and departures yesterday.

U.S. commercial passenger air carriers flew 18 flights in and out of San Juan yesterday, including a mix of relief and revenue passenger service. Another three U.S. commercial cargo flights also flew to the island. The Official Airline Guide, which publishes planned airline schedules months in advance, shows that about 28 U.S. air carriers were scheduled to operate into San Juan on September 28, before the hurricanes hit the island.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been setting priorities for flight operations into and out of San Juan, based on their mission needs.

In addition to Luis Munoz Marin Airport in Puerto Rico, four other airports on the island are open with no restrictions:

Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla (BQN)

Mercedita Airport in Ponce (PSE)

Jose Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba (RVR)

Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport (also known as Isla Grande), in San Juan (SIG)

Eugenio Maria de Hostos Airport in Mayaguez (MAZ) is closed.

Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix to expected to be open for commercial service soon.

All other airports on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are open with restrictions and, at a minimum, are accepting military, emergency, and relief flights.

Please check with your airline to find out if it is flying to an airport in the affected area.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) communitys national #FlySafe campaign is designed to educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.

Returning to the Cockpit

Has it been a while since you sat in the left seat? This month, were not only going to encourage you to consider returning to the command position, were also going to give you resources on how you can do it safely.

There are a few must-dos on your checklist before you consider taking flight again. The first is an assessment of your personal health and fitness. What could have disqualified you years ago, may now be acceptable with revised guidelines. For more information, please see the Aviation Medical Examiner Guide online.

Before you return to the cockpit, youll need to log a few hours of flight time with an instructor who will take the time to help you re-learn those good habits that you once knew. Be sure to review any segments of flying where you feel a bit rusty, including stalls and steep turns.

Finally, you must get up to speed on all the changes that have taken place since you left the cockpit. Be sure to review any regulatory changes, especially those that focus on airspace use. Study up on the Special Flight Rules Areas (SFRA), Flight Restricted Zones (FRZ), and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).

TFRs can occur at any time, so before every flight, check the Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and the TFR list online, and call the Flight Service Station for updates.

The Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft Rule, implemented in 2004, allows pilots to operate aircraft that fall within certain reduced weight and speed parameters. Pilots are required to have a valid U.S. drivers license. If you have a private pilot certificate, you can legally fly a light-sport aircraft provided you are current, and the aircraft is in the same category in which youre qualified.

Safe Flying is a goal we all share. Please read the additional safety information below. Welcome back!!

What is Loss of Control (LOC)?
A LOC accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen when the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and quickly develops into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on FAA.gov, we provide pilots with Loss of Control solutions developed by a team of experts some of which are already reducing risk. I hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.

More about Loss of Control

Contributing factors may include:

  • Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
  • Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
  • Intentional failure to comply with regulations
  • Failure to maintain airspeed
  • Failure to follow procedure
  • Pilot inexperience and proficiency
  • Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol

Did you know?

  • In 2016, 413 people died in 219 general aviation accidents.
  • Loss of Control was the number one cause of these accidents.
  • Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight.It can happen anywhere and at any time.
  • There is one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.

Learn more:

AOPA has some excellent resources for the returning pilot. Check out Lapsed Pilots and Resuming the Journey for helpful tips.

The FAA has its own Safety Bulletin: Flying After a Period of Inactivity.

TheFAASafety.govwebsite has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.

Check out GA Safety Enhancements fact sheets on the mainFAA Safety Briefingwebsite, including Flight Risk Assessment Tools.

TheWINGS Pilot Proficiency Programhelps pilots build an educational curriculum suitable for their unique flight requirements. It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.

TheGeneral Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC)is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of GA accidents. The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers in the FAA, several government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and stakeholder groups. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The National Transportation Safety Board and the European Aviation Safety Agency participate as observers.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hurricane recovery efforts are now supporting more than a dozen commercial passenger flights per day at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As the agency continues to restore radars, navigational aids and other equipment damaged during Hurricane Maria, the number of commercial flights is expected to continue to increase. The airport handled nearly 100 total arrivals and departures yesterday, including the military and relief operations.

The agency has implemented a slot reservation system to manage the demand for ramp space at the airport and to safely separate aircraft in the air.

The FAA also airlifted a mobile air traffic control tower back to St. Thomas over the weekend to support the relief and recovery missions there. The tower at Cyril E. King International Airport on St. Thomas was initially damaged by Hurricane Irma, and the FAA brought in the mobile tower to help manage traffic. However, the FAA removed the tower to the mainland in advance of Hurricane Maria, to protect it during the storm. The agency shuttles the controllers who staff the tower from San Juan to St. Thomas and back every day.

Preliminary FAA damage assessments have identified a number of critical radars and navigational aids that were destroyed or disabled during the storm. The FAA is bringing replacement systems to the islands by air and by sea to restore essential radar, navigation and communication services and technicians are working on many of those systems now. A long-range radar in the Turks and Caicos returned to service this morning, giving air traffic controllers a much better picture of the planes and helicopters operating in the area.

Technicians are making their way to a second long-range radar site today at Pico del Este, which is located inside a National Park in Puerto Rico, on the top of a mountain. The last two miles to the site through the rain forest are impassable, so the technicians are using chain saws to clear a path for themselves and the replacement equipment.

FAA technicians are working around the clock to restore services, but because of the extent of the damage and challenges of the terrain where equipment is located, its difficult to determine a timeline for the full restoration of service.

The FAA continues to work closely with its federal and local partners to rebuild the aviation system in the islands and help the area recover from two devastating storms.

Passengers are encouraged to stay in close communication with their airline if they have reservations on flights in and out of San Juan.

WASHINGTON FAA Administrator Michael Huerta today drove home the importance of working together in the face of natural disasters that have caused so much devastation in recent weeks, in his final speech before ICAOs North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACC) Directors of Civil Aviation meeting.

The 2017 hurricane season already has devastated too many of our nations. As if that wasn't enough, our friends in Mexico were struck by two deadly earthquakes as well, Huerta said at the NACC meeting in Washington. Some of our attendees here today have family in Mexico City, where the extent of this weeks quake is still being determined. Please know all of our thoughts are with you during this trying time.

These moments of tragedy bind us together, Huerta said. We grieve for the lives lost. We comfort the displaced. And we vow to rebuild. We are neighbors. What happens to one of us affects us all.

Huerta reaffirmed the FAAs commitment to help the region as a whole to recover. The agency has continued to support efforts to get all Florida airports back to full operations including those in the Florida Keys. The FAA brought one mobile air traffic control tower to Key West from Connecticut by truck earlier this week to replace the damaged tower there, and airlifted another mobile tower from Boise, Idaho to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands last week to manage relief flights to and from the island. The agency also sent an airports inspector to St. Martin last week to help assess the readiness of the airfield for non-military relief flights.

In addition, the FAA has issued hundreds of unmanned aircraft authorizations to aid in the response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and anticipates issuing more for the area damaged by Maria in the next few days. Drones are being used to quickly and safely assess damage to homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. They help target and prioritize recovery activities.

The NACC meeting gives us an opportunity to come together, share ideas, and find new ways to work together toward our common goals, Huerta said. But what is even more important is that we can use this meeting to reaffirm our partnerships and ask for and receive the assistance that is needed from one another.

Huerta added, As my time as FAA Administrator is drawing to a close, let me say what a privilege its been to work with all of you over the years. We should all be proud of the work that we do to ensure that travelers can continue to take it for granted that they will arrive safely at their destinations. The work we do every day makes that happen and we are successful because we do it together.

Administrator Huerta's remarks can be viewed on our website.

September 18-Yesterday, a mobile air traffic control tower arrived at Key West International Airport in Florida after a road trip down the East Coast by trailer from Hartford, CT. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) repositioned the fully-equipped tower to provide air traffic services for all of the aircraft operating in and out of Key West that are supporting the relief and recovery of the isolated Florida Keys in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The FAA also has temporarily located many of the towers controllers closer to the airport to reduce lengthy commutes.

In addition to the mobile tower, the FAA has brought a trailer to the site to support the tower controllers with an air-conditioned break room and lavatories. Before the tower arrived, controllers were managing air traffic at the airport from a small tent.

As controllers started working the radios in the new mobile tower at Key West this morning, the FAA was making plans to pack up another mobile tower it airlifted to St. Thomas last week and temporarily relocate it to a safer mainland position in advance of Hurricane Maria. The tower will remain on a military C-17 until the storm passes and will immediately head back to St. Thomas after the storm.

The FAA also has been supporting the Florida recovery effort by authorizing drone operations around the state to aid rapid damage assessment. To date, the FAA has authorized 173 drone operations for the area damaged by Hurricane Irma, and 121 of those are still in effect. The primary authorized drone operations are supporting power and insurance companies.

Government agencies with an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) and private sector Part 107 drone operators who want to fly to support of response and recovery operations are strongly encouraged to coordinate their activities with the local incident commander responsible for the area in which they want to operate.

If UAS operators need to fly in controlled airspace or a disaster TFR to support the response and recovery, operatorsmustcontact the FAAs System Operations Support Center (SOSC) by emailing9-ATOR-HQ-SOSC@faa.govto determine the information they need to provide in order to secure authorization to access the airspace. Coordination with the SOSC may also include a requirement that the UAS operator obtain support from the appropriate incident commander.The FAA may require information about the operator, the UAS type, a PDF copy of a current FAA COA, the pilots Part 107 certificate number, details about the proposed flight (date, time, location, altitude, direction and distance to the nearest airport, and latitude/longitude), nature of the event (fire, law enforcement, local/national disaster, missing person) and the pilots qualification information.

The FAA warns unauthorized drone operators that they may be subject to significant fines if they interfere with emergency response operations. Many aircraft that are conducting life-saving missions and other critical response and recovery efforts are likely to be flying at low altitudes over areas affected by the storm. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may unintentionally disrupt rescue operations and violate federal, state, or local laws and ordinances, even if aTemporary Flight Restriction(TFR) is not in place. Allow first responders to save lives and property without interference.

September 15-After the widespread devastation Hurricane Irma wreaked on Florida last weekend, unmanned aircraft more popularly, drones have been invaluable in supporting response and recovery efforts in the battered Sunshine State.

When Irmas winds and floodwaters damaged homes, businesses, roadways and industries, a wide variety of agencies sought Federal Aviation Administration authorization to fly drones in the affected areas. The FAA responded quickly, issuing a total of 132 airspace authorizations as of today to ensure the drones can operate safely.

For example, the Air National Guard used drones normally tasked for combat operations to perform aerial surveys. The drones allow the Guard to assess disaster-stricken areas quickly and decide which are the most in need of assistance. Similarly, U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent drones from Corpus Christi to Florida to help map areas in Key West, Miami and Jacksonville, using radar to survey geographic points on infrastructure such as power plants for The Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The private sector is playing its part as well. For instance, Airbus Aerial, the commercial drone services division of Airbus, is helping insurance companies act more quickly on claims coming in from homeowners. The company is combining data from drones, manned aircraft and satellite data to give a clearer overall image of specific locations before and after an incident.

Irma left approximately 6 million Floridians without electric power as temperatures remained in the mid-80s, so bringing the power grid back up is critical. In the northern part of the state, Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) is using drones to assist not only with power restoration, but also to ensure the safety of its crews. JEA said it was able to get all its damage assessments done within 24 hours after the storm passed through.

Drones also have played a significant role in helping Florida Power and Light (FPL) restore electricity especially air conditioning for its 4.4 million customers. The company has 49 drone teams out surveying parts of the state still not accessible by vehicles. Some of the drone operators FPL hired were flying within an hour after the storm winds subsided.

FPL cited the recovery effort as a stellar example of cooperation by local, state and federal authorities, including kudos for the FAA.

The search and recovery effort in Florida followed all too soon on the heels of similar operations in the Houston area, where drones played a vital role as well. The FAA issued 137 authorizations, sometimes within a few hours, to drone operators performing search and rescue missions and assessing damage to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. In addition to the direct response and recovery efforts, several media outlets flew drones over Houston to provide coverage to local residents and the world about flooding and damage in the area.

The FAAs ability to quickly authorize unmanned aircraft operations after both Irma and Harvey was especially critical because most local airports were either closed or dedicated to emergency relief flights, and the fuel supply was low. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta neatly summed up the importance of drone operations to Irma and Harvey recovery operations in a speech to the InterDrone conference last week:

Essentially, every drone that flew meant that a traditional aircraft was not putting an additional strain on an already fragile system. I dont think its an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country.

The FAA is also helping with another key part of the Irma recovery by moving a second mobile air traffic tower from Connecticut to Key West, FL to provide a safe, sheltered environment for air traffic controllers to manage relief traffic at the airport. Earlier this week, the FAA shipped another mobile tower to storm-battered St. Thomas by air to support controllers there. The tower for Key West is scheduled to leave Connecticut today on a truck and arrive in Key West in the next few days.

Pages