NAO 216-104: Management and Utilization of Aircraft

Issued 02/10/03; Effective 01/31/03


.01 This Order prescribes the policy, guidelines, and procedures for management and utilization of aircraft in support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Programs and states the membership and functions of the NOAA Aircraft Allocation Council (NAAC).

.02 This Order is a complete revision, update, and consolidation of two former Orders: NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 201-102, NOAA Aircraft Allocation Council, and NAO 216-103, Aircraft Operations Center Aviation Policies.

.03 The Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) was established under the Department of Commerce (DOC), NOAA, on July 27, 1983, to consolidate NOAA's aviation assets. The AOC was transferred to the NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations' (NMAO) predecessor organization on March 3, 1989.

.04 This Order governs the management and utilization of all aircraft activities within NOAA. Requirements for collecting and reporting utilization of commercial aviation services in order to comply with government-wide reporting requirements, and for serving as the point of contact for those who intend to use those services, are assigned to NMAO.


Refer to Appendix A for definitions of terms used in this Order.


.01 NOAA aircraft are operated as public aircraft and, as such, are not subject to the Federal Aviation Regulations, except for those prescribed under the authority of Sections 307(a), 307(c), and 501 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, pertaining to the use of airspace, the control of air traffic, and aircraft registration, respectively. However, it is NOAA policy that aircraft shall be operated and maintained in accordance with all pertinent regulations set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center (AOC), unless a deviation from this policy is approved by the Director, AOC.

.02 No officer or employee is permitted to use or authorize the use of any Government-owned, operated, or exclusively used aircraft for other than official purposes (31 U.S.C. 1349(b)).

.03 All NOAA aircraft will be used in an effective and efficient manner for the conduct of approved Programs.

.04 NOAA will maintain a high level of airworthiness and employ appropriate aircraft operating standards to ensure optimum safety of flight. Only qualified and designated personnel will serve as NOAA pilots, navigators, flight engineers, crew chiefs, or other flight crew personnel.

.05 AOC will continually appraise requirements, use, safety, and operating costs of all NOAA aircraft.

.06 NOAA will use scheduled air carrier service for transportation of personnel and cargo whenever practical.

.07 Aircraft obtained solely for spares will not be subject to the aircraft acquisition process. Such aircraft will not be recorded as part of the active NOAA inventory. Any action to assign inactive aircraft to flight status will be subject to the aircraft acquisition approval process.

.08 Assignment of aircraft to NOAA Programs will be made when it is determined by the AOC that the aircraft will be operated in accordance with this Order and AOC policy.

.09 NOAA-controlled inactive aircraft will be disposed of when there are no further Program requirements within NOAA. Disposal of NOAA-owned inactive aircraft will be in accordance with Federal Property Management Regulations.

.10 Registration and Identification of Aircraft.

a. NOAA-owned aircraft will be registered with the FAA. The Certificate of Registration will be displayed in the aircraft in accordance with FAA requirements.

b. All NOAA-owned aircraft will display markings as required by FAA Regulations for registered aircraft of the United States. Exceptions may be allowed by the Director, AOC.

.11 Persons on board NOAA aircraft are limited:

a. to those whose presence is required for mission performance or who are associated with that mission;

b. to officers and employees of the U.S. Government traveling on official business;

c. to Members of Congress and employees of Congressional committee staffs whose work relates to NOAA Programs;

d. to non-U.S. Government employees with crew member status or a scientific reason for being on the flight who are engaged in activities that enhance accomplishment of a NOAA Program (e.g., personnel of cooperating state, county, or local agencies or universities; representatives of foreign governments; and contractors' representatives); and

e. For NOAA aircraft that do not have FAA airworthiness certificates, only crewmembers or other persons aboard the aircraft whose presence is required to perform, or is associated with the performance of, a governmental function are allowed on board such aircraft as defined by FAA Advisory Circular No. 1-1 on Government-owned aircraft. The Director of NMAO shall be responsible for complying with this requirement. NOAA's General Counsel for Ocean Service (NOAA/GCOS) should be consulted when questions arise as to the interpretation of the FAA requirements.

.12 The incidental transportation of persons not meeting the conditions of Section 3.11 of this Order is permitted on a space-available basis provided it is not prohibited by regulation and it does not affect the official use of the aircraft.


.01 The NAAC comprises the following personnel.

Contributing Members:
Executive Secretary:

Chief, Program Services and Outsourcing Division, NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations

.02 The Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere shall decide matters unresolved by the NAAC.

.03 Except for those instances where the Under Secretary shall exercise policy guidance, the NAAC shall exercise the following authority within NOAA:

a. direct the allocation of base funded NOAA aircraft time to support Line Office priorities in furtherance of NOAA's overall programs;

b. approve annually Aircraft Allocation Plans (AAPs) and any subsequent, significant deviations from AAPs;

c. resolve conflicts concerning aircraft allocation or other programmatic issues;

d. approve the replacement, disposition, and acquisition of NOAA aircraft as required to meet agency objectives, together with the funding responsibilities for operations; and

e. monitor the efficiency and effectiveness with which aircraft support NOAA's programs and, as appropriate, take actions for improvement.

.04 The NAAC shall meet at the call of the Chairperson.

.05 NAAC members unable to attend scheduled meetings shall designate alternates with full authority to act in their stead.

.06 At least five (5) Contributing Members must be in attendance to constitute a quorum. In the absence of a quorum, emergency matters shall be referred directly to the Chairperson.

.07 Observers or their designees should attend all meetings.

.08 In the absence of the Chairperson, the duties shall devolve upon the other Contributing Members in the order listed in Section 4.01 of this Order.


.01 The Director, NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations (NMAO), has overall management authority for NOAA aircraft and shall:

a. issue the Annual Call for NOAA aircraft time requests;

b. administer the Aircraft Working Group (AWG);

c. oversee NOAA aircraft utilization reporting methods and procedures;

d. provide centralized assistance to Program offices in obtaining commercial aviation services (CAS);

e. approve proposed base funded AAP changes that have concurrence of affected Program offices; and

f. refer proposed base funded AAP changes lacking unanimous agreement of affected Program offices, plus other proposed AAP changes the Director deems appropriate, for consideration and/or resolution by the NAAC.

.02 The Chief, Program Services and Outsourcing Division (PSOD), through staff of the PSOD or in his/her capacity as NAAC Executive Secretary, shall:

a. oversee administrative support for the NAAC and the AWG;

b. evaluate, in concert with AOC's Program Management Staff, requests for aircraft support in order to determine the most appropriate match of aircraft resources to support requested projects;

c. convene the AWG to develop draft AAPs;

d. provide interface between NOAA and other Federal agencies to meet aircraft related needs;

e. maintain current and accurate AAPs throughout the covered cycle;

f. develop and maintain a listing of alternative sources of aircraft and assist in locating available aircraft that suit the needs of NOAA users;

g. advocate aviation safety to NOAA Line Offices by recommending available aviation safety training for employees flying on CAS; and

h. maintain and report cost and utilization data for NOAA's use of CAS in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and General Services Administration (GSA) requirements.

.03 The Aircraft Working Group (AWG) comprises the NAAC Executive Secretary, a representative from AOC's Program Management Staff, and one representative from each Line Office appointed by its respective Assistant Administrator. The AWG provides the NAAC with recommendations and assistance to support its functions. To accomplish this, the AWG shall:

a. consider prioritized requests for aircraft time developed by each Line Office and aircraft maintenance schedules prepared by AOC; and

b. develop draft AAPs for consideration by the NAAC.

.04 The Director, Aircraft Operations Center (AOC), shall:

a. maintain operational authority over NOAA aircraft to ensure safe, efficient, and effective use of resources;

b. provide logistical, technical, and administrative support necessary for the successful accomplishment of NOAA aircraft schedules;

c. approve changes to aircraft schedules in conjunction with Program Managers, provided the general intent of the original allocation is not significantly changed;

d. represent NOAA on external and interagency groups in the area of aircraft management;

e. approve, by waiver, deviations from policies regarding the qualifications of pilots and other crew members as set forth in the AOC Flight Operations Manual;

f. review current aircraft requirements and associated costs on a continuing basis;

g. administer policy and guidelines for the management and use of NOAA aircraft and aircraft facilities, budgets, personnel, etc.;

h. provide the interface between NOAA and elements of DOD and other Federal agencies for the coordination of interagency agreements, and seek other agency's support to serve NOAA's aircraft related needs;

i. obtain the required clearances from foreign government(s) through the Department of State for NOAA aircraft operations abroad (the Director, AOC, will advise NOAA offices and Programs when approvals have been obtained from foreign government(s));

j. coordinate annual meetings with Program Managers to jointly review possible means for improvement in operational support;

k. develop policies governing the management of NOAA aircraft, standard operating procedures, aviation personnel, and related matters;

l. perform technical assessment and evaluation of proposed acquisitions, classifications, assignments, and dispositions of NOAA aircraft;

m. review and evaluate the adequacy of facilities and the procedures for aircraft operations and maintenance;

n. develop and maintain current information on AOC aircraft operations and related budgetary and cost data;

o. support the NAAC in assessing current and future operational requirements and evaluate the effectiveness of NOAA aircraft to meet those requirements;

p. maintain liaison with other government agencies and the private sector on matters pertaining to aircraft operations and maintenance; and

q. provide authorization for personnel with official flight duties to perform, operate, or travel on NOAA aircraft.

.05 AOC's Program Management Staff shall:

a. provide cost estimates for NOAA aircraft support of projects;

b. work with Program/Project Managers on programmatic and logistical requirements and on development of Project Instructions for NOAA aircraft; and

c. prepare aircraft schedules based on approved AAPs.

.06 NOAA Line Offices shall each:

a. designate a representative to the AWG;

b. consolidate and prioritize requests for aircraft time in response to the Annual Call and forward the Line Office's prioritized package to PSOD by the specified due date;

c. ensure procedures are in place so that all obligations and costs associated with CAS, as defined in Appendix A of this Order, are classified as Object Class Code (OCC) 2332; and

d. ensure that NOAA Form 56-56, Commercial Aviation Services Report, is completed in accordance with requirements.

.07 Program Managers requiring aircraft support shall take the following actions.

a. Upon recognition of the need for aircraft, submit a NOAA Form 56-48, Request for Aircraft Support, to PSOD.

b. Upon issuance of the Annual Call, prepare a NOAA Form 56-48 for each request for NOAA aircraft time and forward to the AWG representative in accordance with instructions for the Annual Call.

c. Coordinate with NMAO and AOC on projects that will utilize aircraft in accordance with the following:

1. draft project protocol covering the scientific and technical aspects of field work, and forward to the AOC Program Management Staff for comment as early as practical;

2. supply resources necessary to install, operate, and maintain special equipment aboard aircraft;

3. complete and submit customer satisfaction evaluations; and

4. participate with the AOC Program Management Staff in pre- and post-project briefings.

d. Coordinate with PSOD if CAS will be used and complete a NOAA Form 56-56 in accordance with Section 8.02 of this Order.

e. Cooperate with NMAO on budget initiatives to acquire enhanced NOAA aircraft capabilities to support future Program requirements.

.08 Acquisition offices shall ensure that requests for CAS include an NMAO-assigned clearance number and that OCC 2332 is used to classify all CAS costs. As awards are made, acquisition offices should provide PSOD with a copy of each obligating document.

.09 Finance offices shall monitor CAS-related documents for proper use of OCC 2332 and shall provide CAS disbursement information upon request of PSOD.


.01 Annual Call of the Director, NMAO.

Each winter, the Director, NMAO, issues the Annual Call for NOAA aircraft time requests in order to initiate NOAA's recurring process for scheduling planned use of NOAA aircraft. Program Managers requiring aircraft time shall complete NOAA Form 56-48 and forward it to their AWG representative in accordance with the instructions for the Annual Call.

.02 Line Office Prioritization.

Each Line Office (LO) prioritizes its aircraft requests, eliminating all internal LO conflicts in scheduling for the upcoming fiscal year. There are two prioritized listings developed by the LO: "base funded" and "non-base funded" (see definitions in Appendix A). Prioritized information is forwarded to PSOD in accordance with instructions for the Annual Call.

.03 NOAA Aircraft Allocation Plans.

a. PSOD accumulates the prioritized information from the LOs. Once submissions are received, PSOD compiles charts showing NOAA-supported initiatives and then adds all other NOAA Program requests for the upcoming fiscal year. LO-to-LO conflicts are identified on this working draft.

b. The NAAC Executive Secretary convenes the AWG. The AWG representatives review the compiled charts and collaborate with each other to resolve scheduling conflicts.

c. PSOD uses the results of the AWG efforts to produce two draft AAPs for the upcoming fiscal year: one for base funded projects and one for non-base funded projects.

d. The NAAC Executive Secretary forwards the draft AAPs for review by NAAC members.

e. The Chairperson convenes the NAAC. Utilizing overall NOAA priorities, the NAAC's Contributing Members resolve any remaining conflicts in the proposed AAPs.

f. PSOD prepares and distributes AAPs for the upcoming fiscal year.

g. For aircraft time requests that can not be accommodated by NOAA aircraft, PSOD assigns a clearance number for the use of CAS and offers assistance in locating a suitable provider.

.04 Modifications to Approved Aircraft Allocation Plans.

a. Approval authority for modifying the approved base funded and non-base funded AAPs is outlined in Appendix B of this Order.

b. PSOD maintains files of all changes to approved AAPs, including documentation justifying the changes.


.01 Advance Notice of Aircraft Time Requirements.

NOAA encourages advance notification of aircraft time requirements in order:

a. to provide the NAAC with greater flexibility to modify NOAA aircraft assets;

b. to permit AOC to plan maintenance and/or upgrades to existing NOAA aircraft in order to maximize availability in support of NOAA requirements;

c. to allow for early notice that NOAA aircraft resources will not be available so that requesters have more time to acquire capabilities from CAS providers; and

d. to increase the opportunities to combine or piggyback data collection efforts.

.02 Requests for NOAA Aircraft Support.

Requests for NOAA aircraft time are initiated by submission of a NOAA Form 56-48, Request for Aircraft Support.

a. Requests submitted during the Annual Call will be handled as described in Section 6. of this Order.

b. Requests not submitted during the Annual Call may be scheduled on a NOAA aircraft on a space-available basis. If the request will not be accommodated on NOAA aircraft, PSOD will assign a clearance number and offer assistance in locating a suitable CAS provider.

.03 Requests for Commercial Aviation Services.

a. Obtain Clearance. Clearance must be obtained from PSOD prior to entering into any arrangement that involves use of NOAA appropriations to pay for CAS, regardless of the procurement method (e.g., purchase order, contract, ISSA, bankcard, etc.). Program Managers should submit a NOAA Form 56-48 to PSOD. Upon receipt of the Form, PSOD will ascertain if there is a NOAA aircraft available and, if so, will advise the Program Manager. As appropriate, PSOD will assign a clearance number for the use of CAS and offer assistance in locating a suitable provider.

b. Exceptions. Emergency conditions may warrant actions contrary to the dictates of this Order. Emergency conditions consist of situations where death, serious physical harm, total loss of property, or major environmental damage is likely, but only to the extent that the action is immediately necessary in order to prevent or minimize harm. When situations warrant, the requester should obtain the CAS and, when the conditions permit, notify PSOD or leave a message for PSOD on its voice mail system (301-713-1045) detailing circumstances and providing contact information for a return call from PSOD. Followup documentation will be required.


.01 Classify CAS under OCC 2332. Object Class Code 2332 shall be used to classify procurement costs for all CAS acquisitions, regardless of the method of acquisition (e.g., contract, purchase order, bankcard, etc.).

.02 Report Cost and Utilization. Program Managers must submit NOAA Form 56-56, Commercial Aviation Services Report, to PSOD within 30 days of completion of the agreement, along with copies of purchase orders, contracts, or receipts. The reporting requirement applies to all methods of acquisition, including bankcard. The Program Manager should include the clearance number, as assigned by PSOD, on the NOAA Form 56-56 in order to ensure the cost and utilization data may be matched with the initial project request.


This Order supersedes NAO 201-102, NOAA Aircraft Allocation Council, dated February 3, 1993, and NAO 216-103, Aircraft Operations Center Aviation Policies, dated July 3, 1991.


Under Secretary of Commerce for
Oceans and Atmosphere

Appendices A & B (see below)

Office of Primary Interest:
NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations
Aircraft Operations Center
Program Services and Outsourcing Division

Appendix A to NAO 216-104

Appendix A


Aircraft - Light or heavy, single or multi-engine airplanes and helicopters.

Bailed aircraft means a Federal aircraft owned by one executive agency, but in the custody of and operated by another executive agency under an agreement that may or may not include cost-reimbursement. Bailments are executive agency-to-executive agency agreements and involve only aircraft, not services.

Base Funded means that a NOAA Program utilizing a NOAA aircraft is funded from the Aircraft Services Line Item Appropriation and competes with other Programs for the available dollars to support aircraft flight hours. The NAAC is the governing body that determines annually which Programs are allocated the available flight hours.

Chartered aircraft means an aircraft that an executive agency hires commercially under a contractual agreement specifying performance and one-time exclusive use. The commercial source operates and maintains a charter aircraft. A charter is one form of a full service contract.

Commercial aviation services (CAS) include:

(1) aircraft leased for exclusive use or lease-purchased with the intent of taking title;

(2) aircraft chartered or rented for exclusive use;

(3) aircraft and related aviation services (i.e., "full services") contracted for or obtained through an inter-service support agreement (ISSA) for exclusive use, regardless of the length of the contract or agreement; or

(4) related aviation services (e.g., services of a pilot, or aircraft maintenance, but not for the aircraft) obtained via commercial contract or ISSA, other than for support of NOAA aircraft.

- - Note: Official travel on scheduled air carrier is not a “commercial aviation service.”

Federal aircraft means a government aircraft that an executive agency owns (holds title to) or borrows for any length of time. When an executive agency loans or bails an aircraft that meets the criteria for Federal aircraft, that loaned or bailed aircraft is still considered a Federal aircraft in the owning agency's inventory.

Full service contract means a contractual agreement through which an executive agency acquires an aircraft and related aviation services (for example, pilot, crew, maintenance, catering) for exclusive use. Aircraft hired under full service contracts are CAS, not Federal aircraft, regardless of the length of the contract.

Government aircraft means a Federal (i.e., owned or borrowed) aircraft or a commercial aircraft hired as a commercial aviation services (CAS) aircraft.

Inter-service support agreement (ISSA) means any agreement between two or more executive agencies in which one agency consents to perform aviation support services (i.e., operating an aircraft and providing other aviation services or providing only services) for another agency with or without cost reimbursement.

Leased aircraft means an aircraft hired under a commercial contractual agreement in which an executive agency has exclusive use of the aircraft for an agreed upon period of time. The acquiring executive agency operates and maintains the aircraft. Leased aircraft are hired as CAS.

NOAA aircraft - For the purposes of this Order, NOAA aircraft means an aircraft that NOAA owns (holds title to) or borrows for any length of time.

Non-Base Funded means that a NOAA Program pays for its flight hour requests on NOAA fleet aircraft with Program dollars.

Rental aircraft means an aircraft hired commercially under an agreement in which the executive agency has exclusive use of the aircraft for an agreed upon period of time. The executive agency operates, but does not maintain, a rental aircraft.

Appendix B


1. Base Funded Aircraft Allocation Plan:

a. Changes that must be approved by the Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere:

- schedule and platform changes where other Programs are impacted and consensus is not reached

b. Changes that must be approved by the Director, NMAO:

- reallocation of significant unused base hours from one Program to another

- significant allocation changes agreed to by all affected Programs

c. Changes that may be approved by the Director, AOC:

- all other changes not listed above may be approved by the Director, AOC

2. Non-Base Funded Aircraft Allocation Plan:

a. Changes that must be approved by the Director, NMAO:

- selection of competing NOAA/other agency Programs

b. Changes that may be approved by the Director, AOC:

- all other changes not listed above may be approved by the Director, AOC

It is understood that the following are not changes in allocation:

- lost time due to weather or breakdown of aircraft or instrumentation

- lost time due to emergency response to hurricane or other requirements

- lost time due to major aircraft maintenance/repair requirements

All changes to base funded and non-base funded allocation plans will be documented by PSOD and maintained on file there as an update to the original, signed Aircraft Allocation Plan. Documentation will include each affected party's concurrence.