Ghosts at Five and Seven O'Clock

Key FAA and Department of Defense (DOD) officials met April 10 in Washington, D.C., at a meeting that ALPA arranged to discuss procedures used by the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) and the FAA when F-15 or F-16 fighters are called upon to intercept a civilian airliner.

Though the parties failed to see eye-to-eye on some issues, they agreed on three goals:

1. Reduce as much as possible the need for the DOD to launch an intercept on a civilian airliner. The DOD and the FAA need to coordinate with other aviation interests on better ways to communicate information to prevent or call off unnecessary intercepts (for example, most F-15s donít have VHF communications radios).

2. Modify DOD intercept and airspace rules. The FAA and NORAD agreed to meet on May 13 in Colorado Springs for a "roll up the shirtsleeves" working meeting to try to resolve some of these issues.

3. Refine some of the actual procedures used by interceptor pilots. This will probably involve changes to the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual, Air Traffic Controllerís Handbook, and other FAA documents.

First Officer Tom Walsh (Delta), one of the two pilots representing ALPA at the April meeting, reports that the subsequent May 13 meeting between NORAD and the FAA led to a tentative memorandum of understanding between the two parties that will tighten up existing intercept procedures. NORAD and the FAA have scheduled another meeting for June 25 to continue their work on this important issue.