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FAA urges travelers, pilots, drone operators to prepare for Hurricane Dorian

FAA urges travelers, pilots, drone operators to prepare for Hurricane Dorian

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is monitoring Hurricane Dorian closely and preparing FAA facilities and equipment along the southeast coast of Florida to withstand potential damage so flights can quickly resume after the storm passes. Restoring air carrier service is critical to support disaster relief efforts.

Travelers

Airlines make decisions about their flight schedules. Flights can stop long before winds reach hurricane strength. Travelers should check with their airlines before heading to the airport for a flight to or from the southeast coast of Florida. The FAA does not direct or advise airlines about cancelling flights.

Airports in the area of potential impact make decisions about closing their facilities. In many cases, airports remain open and do not officially close even when flights have stopped. The FAA does not direct or advise airports to open or close.

The FAA maintains air traffic control radar coverage and provides service to flights for as long as possible. FAA control towers in hurricane-prone areas are designed and built to sustain hurricane force winds. Each control tower has a maximum wind sustainability, which can range from 55 to 75 miles per hour. When winds approach those speeds, controllers evacuate the tower cabs. At busy airports controllers remain in the building at a secure lower level, and are ready to go back to work as soon as the storm passes.

Ahead of the storm, FAA technicians protect communications equipment and navigational aids to the greatest extent possible to enable flights to resume quickly after the storm passes. FAA technicians test engine generators and ensure they are fully fueled so they can power equipment and facilities if commercial power fails. We switch to engine generator power before the storm in anticipation of commercial power failures.

After the storm, we assess damage to FAA facilities and navigational aids. We set priorities to quickly re-establish critical equipment. The FAA has equipment, supplies and people ready to move into the affected areas as soon as the storm passes to restore air traffic control facilities that may be damaged by Hurricane Dorian. Teams of technicians and engineers from other locations travel to the affected areas to assess damage and begin restoring equipment and facilities working closely with the local technical teams.

General Aviation Pilots

Standard checklists are even more important in and around severe weather. Be aware of weather conditions throughout the entire route of your planned flight. A pilot’s failure to recognize deteriorating weather conditions continues to cause or contribute to accidents. Be sure to check NOTAMs, Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), and Aircraft Safety Alerts before you go.

Check out the FAA’s Hurricane Preparedness Guidance.

Drone Users

Drone users should check NOTAMs and TFRs and avoid flying in areas where drones are prohibited.

Drone pilots must comply with FAA rules and should:

1. Avoid flying in the area unless conducting an active disaster response or recovery mission.

2. Be aware that the FAA might issue a TFR in the affected area. Be sure to check for active TFRs if you plan to fly.

3. Remember that you cannot fly inside a TFR without FAA approval.

Drone emergency operations and response:

• During a natural disaster, do not fly your drone in or around emergency response efforts, unless you have special authorization to do so. There are low flying aircraft as part of the storm response — mostly in low visibility areas. If you are flying, emergency response operations cannot.

• You may be able to get expedited approval to operate in the TFR through the FAA’s Special Governmental Interest(SGI) process as outlined in FAA Order JO 7200.23A. Submit an Emergency Operation Request Form with your existing Remote Pilot Certificate or existing Certification of Authorization (COA) — and send to the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC).

Don’t Be That Guy!

Be aware that significant penalties that may exceed $20,000 if drone operators interfere with emergency response operations. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may violate federal, state, or local laws and ordinances, even if a TFR is not in place. Allow first responders to save lives and property without interference.

If you are not certified as a remote pilot or do not already hold a COA, you cannot fly.

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