The FAA has ordered an immediate halt to opposite-direction arrival and departure procedures at airports serving commercial passenger traffic, pending review of the procedures used at individual facilities. The move potentially affects air traffic at 544 airports operating under a Part 139 certificate, though such clearances are typically issued only on request.
FAA officials gave AOPA and industry representatives an initial briefing on the topic Aug. 7. The suspension of opposite direction arrival and departure procedures follows a July 31 incident at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in which an inbound commuter flight was cleared to approach at roughly the same time clearances were issued to a pair of outbound flights headed into the same airspace. The apparent mistake is under investigation, and FAA officials have emphasized that the flights were never on a collision course. According to an Associated Press account, the two aircraft at closest approach were separated by 800 vertical feet and nine-tenths of a mile laterally, less than the 1,000 vertical feet and 3.5-mile lateral separation required.
A review of each airport’s air traffic control procedures will likely require about a month to complete, officials said. The FAA has asked pilots with questions to contact their local control facility.