(Los Angeles World Airports)

FAA Working With U.S. Airports to Prepare for COVID-19 Vaccine Arrivals

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided planning considerations to assist the nation’s airports to facilitate the safe and efficient transportation of COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Airport operators have a unique role in the transport of vaccines to the American public,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Each airport is different, and we are here to support them and make sure they have the information they need as vaccines move through our nation’s transportation network.”

Airports should consider the following aspects of their operating environment to ensure they are fully prepared for aircraft carrying COVID-19 vaccines. This includes both those airports identified for shipments that will transition at airports as well as those that may serve as alternate/divert airports, even if they will not be a primary destination for aircraft carrying COVID-19 vaccines.

Considerations include:

  • Aircraft rescue and firefighting coverage. Part 139 certificated airports will generally have adequate personnel and equipment for aircraft transporting COVID-19 vaccines.  However, some aircraft used for vaccine shipment may be larger than the aircraft used for passenger-carrying flights that typically serve that airport. Therefore, an airport operator may opt to have extra aircraft rescue and firefighting coverage available.
  • Adequate snow removal equipment and procedures. The airport operator may consider having additional equipment and personnel available to assist with timely snow removal operations, to clear runway(s)/taxiway(s) for aircraft transporting vaccines.
  • Adequate aircraft parking areas. Airport operators may want to coordinate with other users so that appropriate parking locations to support the type(s) and numbers of aircraft involved are available for vaccine transport aircraft when needed.
  • Coordination with local air traffic control facilities. Airport operators should work with their local air traffic control facilities before and during any vaccine transport flight’s movement on the airfield. 
  • Priority access to the airfield for freight vehicles. Airport operators may consider landside vehicle control and a possible staging area for freight vehicles awaiting their cargo to quickly and safely move shipments of COVID-19 vaccines off-airport.
  • Engagement of federal security and local law enforcement. Airport operators should consider advance coordination with the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and/or local law enforcement, as necessary for security needs, minimizing customs clearance delays and inspections, and vehicle traffic control.

In addition, the FAA has issued a Safety Alert For Operators (SAFO) for safely transporting larger than typical quantities of dry ice to maintain cold temperatures required by some vaccines during shipment. The SAFO explains how increased volumes of dry ice, a hazardous material, can be safely managed. 

A further SAFO has been issued, which provides interim health guidance from the CDC that air carriers and crew members should be following during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The FAA updated this SAFO to align with the latest CDC guidance, including the definition of close contact.

Read the considerations at the FAA

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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