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Sun, Jul 23, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (07.23.06): Another Kind Of Interception

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.")

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.

Aero-Tips 07.23.06

Since shortly after September 11, 2001 US pilots have obsessed about air interception procedures -- knowing that in this post-9/11 world busting airspace and violating procedure can get you on the business end of an F-16's gunsight.

Long before that dark day there was another air intercept procedure in place that remains to this day -- airborne intercept and escort for purposes of search and rescue

Go find it

The concept of airborne intercept and escort is based on the Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft establishing visual or radar contact with an aircraft in difficulty, providing in-flight assistance, and escorting it to a safe landing. If the flight goes down SAR operations can be conducted without delay. For most incidents, particularly those occurring at night and/or during instrument flight conditions, the availability of intercept and escort services depends on the proximity of SAR units on alert for immediate dispatch-usually military aircraft (including Coast Guard and National Guard assets).

In limited circumstances other aircraft in the vicinity of an aircraft in difficulty can provide these services. Air Traffic Control (ATC) might ask a pilot in the vicinity of an aircraft in distress if he/she is willing to intercept and help another aircraft, and provide vectors and direction if the request is accepted.

Note: This works in 9/11 context also. I know the pilot of a civil aircraft who was asked to intercept an unknown aircraft in the Washington DC Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) -- probably the only time in history a little red Beech Bonanza provided aerial defense of the US capital by intercepting and escorting away what turned out to be a military helicopter that strayed into the ADIZ without clearance.

Come find me

If a pilot in a declared emergency asks for an escort, SAR coordinators will [emphasis FAA] take steps to intercept and escort that aircraft. Pilots declaring an urgent condition, but not an emergency, may be intercepted under unusual circumstances.

Escort will normally be provided to the nearest suitable airport. The pilot can refuse escort if the reason for interception is the pilot's emergency -- not a security violation. If the pilot receiving escort services continues onward after reaching a safe airport, or decides not to divert, the escort aircraft is not obligated to continue.

Aero-tip of the day: There's another type of intercept procedure that can help you in an emergency…and that you may be asked to perform to help another pilot.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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