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Sat, Apr 28, 2018

FAA Changes ATC Guidelines For Formation Flights

Clarifies Language And Outlines ATC Responsibilities

The  FAA has issued a notice outlining controller responsibilities regarding formation flight join-up and clarifies controller responsibility during formation flight break-up. The language regarding pilot responsibilities during formation flight was also changed to language currently published in FAA Order JO 7610.4, the Pilot Controller Glossary (PCG) and in ICAO Annex 2. The notice cancels and replaces N JO 7110.747 with revised language which updates FAA Order JO 7110.65, 2-1-13 Formation Flights, in order to clarify ATC responsibilities and to give guidance to ATC facilities and the service centers.

According to the notice, ATC is directed to control formation flights as a single aircraft. Separation responsibility between aircraft within the formation rests with the flight leader and the pilots of the other aircraft in the flight. This includes transition periods when aircraft within the formation are maneuvering to attain separation from each other to effect individual control during join-up and breakaway.

Controllers are advised to support formation flight join-up when all of the following occur:

  • Requested by any participating pilot.
  • All participating pilots concur.
  • Each of the participating pilots reports the other/s in sight.

If multiple single aircraft request to join-up, multiple formations are joining as one, or aircraft are joining an established formation, obtain confirmation of required items listed in 2-1-13. a, from the lead aircraft.

  • After join-up, aircraft beacon code assignment will be determined by formation type.
  • For a standard formation only the aircraft acting as the lead will squawk an ATC assigned beacon code. Ensure all other aircraft squawk standby.
  • For a nonstandard formation, each aircraft should squawk an ATC assigned beacon code.

Controller discretion allows aircraft in a nonstandard formation to squawk standby if operationally advantageous.

According to the FAA, since the original publication of the Air Traffic Control Handbook 7110.65 on January 1, 1976 there have only been two updates to the formation flight paragraph. The first occurred on April 1, 1979 in FAA Order 7110.65A, Change 5, when language was removed from the main paragraph and added back as two separate notes.

The second change was the addition of the RVSM information on August 4, 2005 in FAA Order 7110.65P, Change 3. Over the years the exact meaning of the language in this paragraph has caused confusion. In addition to formal interpretations being issued in 1995, 2001 and 2017 there have been numerous requests for clarification and guidance from facilities and the service centers regarding different aspects of the paragraph.

(Source: FAA. Images from file)

FMI: Full notice


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