When tensions escalate in disputed areas, the FAA tends to restrict civilian air traffic around those areas, forcing them to fly less direct routes that cost more in time and burn fuel.
The Airlines Pilots Association, a union that represents FedEx pilots along with other pilots at other carriers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the action. FedEx did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
background: FedEx applied for the capability in 2019. It does not yet have any A321 models but suggests how the company should approach its future fleet. Friday’s notice outlines the proposed technology and seeks feedback. Because the system is outside the scope of the FAA certification design, the notice said, it requires approval of a special requirement. The infrared system must meet the airworthiness standards of the Federal Aviation Administration.
It is not uncommon for aircraft flying on sensitive paths to have additional defensive measures. The Israeli company El Al, for example, has anti-aircraft missile technology on board its commercial aircraft. The VC-25, known as Air Force One when the president is on board, has electronic and infrared countermeasures to jam or divert incoming missiles.
There have been surface-to-air missile accidents that have hit both cargo and commercial aircraft that have been passing through hostile areas over the years. In 2003, an Airbus DHL Express freighter was hit in the left wing by a shoulder-fired missile, paralyzing its hydraulic system shortly after take-off from Baghdad in Iraq. The three-member crew was not injured in the accident.
Recently, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by more advanced military-grade surface-to-air missiles on take-off from Tehran, Iran, in 2020, killing all on board.
This technology was previously tested on some cargo jets in 2008.
What then: The FAA said a “new or unusual design feature” could only apply to the A321-200, unless the company applies for supplemental certification to upgrade other models. The proposed special case will be published in the Federal Register on January 18, with comments open for 45 days thereafter.