With Hurricane Ida barreling toward the US Gulf Coast, the FAA has issued an Airspace Coordination Area NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) for pilots and drone operators in Mississippi and Louisiana. This NOTAM will remain effective until Sep 1, 2021.
The special notice aims to support a safe environment for aviation operations, including ongoing disaster response and recovery flights within the Hurricane Ida Airspace Coordination Area (ACA), whose exact coordinates can be found here.
Hurricane Ida and aviation hazards
Pilots flying in the ACA are advised to exercise extreme caution due to the presence of numerous flight operations engaged in disaster response and recovery efforts, with the FAA warning that these aircraft may need to make sudden and unexpected changes in direction, speed, and altitude.
As such, Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) may also be established over major metropolitan areas and other critical locations within the ACA.
Further, the FAA warns that Hurricane Ida damage may create potential aviation hazards, including the disruption of normal air navigation services such as air traffic control, navigation aids as well as explosions and fires that may result in smoke plumes.
If any aviation hazards are observed, pilots are advised to immediately take necessary precautions (including avoiding the hazard and advising other aircraft in the area) and then provide the position (lat/long) and description of the hazard to ATC, if possible.
Drone pilots: Remain clear of search and rescue activities
More specifically, drone operators should avoid flying in the ACA altogether unless conducting an active disaster response or recovery mission. Additional coordination and pre-approval may be required to operate in any established TFRs, according to the FAA. Drone operators should also review all other applicable federal aviation regulations, specifically those including Certification of Authorization (COA) or waivers.
Remember, drone operators who interfere with emergency-response operations can face penalties that may exceed $20,000. 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. You must allow first responders to save lives and property without interference.
However, you may contribute to emergency relief with expedited approval through a Special Governmental Interest process by submitting an Emergency Operation Request Form with your existing Remote Pilot Certificate or existing COA to the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at [email protected].
In the meantime, you may check for possible changes in the NOTAM here.