Improving Diversion Management- The Next Steps

ACI-NA recently met with senior officials from FAA’s Office of Airports and Air Traffic Organization to provide information regarding proposals to improve the management of diversion events.  Representatives from AAAE, Airlines for America, the Regional Airlines Association, and the International Air Transport Association also attended the meeting.

The five FAA proposals—which include airport contingency plans and an airport information “website”—were discussed at length during the Diversion Forum convened by Transportation. Secretary Ray LaHood on Nov. 30.  ACI-NA and AAAE provided comments regarding them in a letter to LaHood and former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on Dec. 5.

The meeting focused primarily on immediate actions the FAA plans to take to improve diversion management during the remainder of the winter season including airport participation in FAA planning and “diversion information teleconferences.”

FAA ATO plans to invite airports to participate in strategic planning and diversion information teleconferences as forecast and current operating conditions warrant.  As currently envisioned, the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., will ask airlines to provide a list of their likely diversion airports and it will send notifications to these airports of the need to participate in these calls as likely diversion events develop. Airports may also receive notification from local FAA air traffic control officials.

If the diversion event can be predicted (for example, forecast storm events), participation would start with an initial planning teleconference that would be held 24 to 48 hours the predicted diversion event. During this call, the FAA would brief participants about the predicted event (for example, when it is expected to impact airports, the predicted severity of these impacts to airports and airspace) and what steps stakeholders are taking to prepare for the impacts. This would be followed by a morning-of-event planning teleconference during which projected impacts and plans to deal with them would be refined. 

If the event is expected to be severe and/or widespread, the FAA would open up a dedicated conference line—termed the diversion information teleconference—for open communication among airports, airlines, FAA air traffic personnel, and other key stakeholders (including, Customs & Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration) to enable the real-time exchange of airport condition reports, facility and equipment availability, requests for assistance, and inability to accommodate additional diversions. This dedicated conference line would be monitored by Herndon staff that will help disseminate the information throughout the National Airspace System. This process would be similar in the event of unpredictable diversion events with the exception of the initial planning teleconference.

ACI-NA and AAAE will be working with the FAA to identify the airport points of contact that should be notified about these teleconferences. We will also be working to arrange a training webinar with FAA as soon as practicable to educate airport operators about how they can participate effectively in these FAA teleconferences.