Airspace standards are referenced in the NWCG Standards for Airspace Coordination, PMS 520.
Fire Traffic Area (FTA) Protocol
Firefighting aircraft follow a communications protocol known as the FTA, which is a 12-mile radius from the center point of an incident. UAS are typically launched and recovered from inside the FTA. UASPs must follow this protocol before the aircraft is launched.
- All wildland fire incidents, regardless of aircraft on scene, have an FTA. Reference the FTA diagram and find more information in NWCG Standards for Aerial Supervision, PMS 505. The airspace surrounding an incident is managed by the aerial supervisor who must implement FTA procedures. If an incident has an active TFR in place, FTA rules apply to the TFR, and clearance from the controlling aircraft is required prior to TFR UAS operations. If aerial supervision is not on scene, the first aircraft on scene will establish the FTA protocol.
- The FTA is a communication protocol for firefighting agencies. It does not pertain to other aircraft who have legal access within a TFR (medevac, law enforcement, media, Visual Flight Rule [VFR] airport traffic, or Instrument Flight Rule [IFR] traffic cleared by the FAA).
Key components and procedures of the FTA include:
- Initial Communication (ICOM) Ring: A ring 12 nautical miles (nm) from the center point of the incident. At or prior to 12nm, inbound aircraft contact the ATGS or appropriate aerial resource for permission to proceed to the incident. Briefing information is provided to the inbound aircraft by the aerial supervision resources over the incident (ATGS, ASM, and HLCO).
- No Communication (NOCOM) Ring: A ring 7nm from the center point of the incident that should not be crossed by inbound aircraft without first establishing communications with the appropriate aerial supervision resource.
Three Cs of initial contact: Communication requirements and related actions to be undertaken by the pilot of the inbound aircraft:
- Communication: Establish communications with the controlling aerial supervision resource over the incident (ATGS, ASM, HLCO).
- Clearance: Receive clearance from aerial supervision prior to proceeding with UAS operations. The inbound pilot will acknowledge receipt of clearance or hold outside the NOCOM ring or on the ground, until the clearance is received and understood.
- Comply: UAS aircraft will comply with clearance from aerial supervision resource. If compliance cannot be accomplished, the UAS will remain on the ground until an amended clearance is received and understood.
- UAS departing incident airspace must follow assigned departure route and altitude. Aerial supervisors must establish/deconflict routes for departing aircraft through or away from other incident aircraft operations.
- UAS flights by accredited news representatives within a TFR shall adhere to current FAA policy.