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I was in a pop attack in the F-16 on a low altitude military
training route (MTR) in South Carolina. As I rolled in on the
target, I encountered a light aircraft directly in my flight path
and within a few seconds of collision. I immediately knocked off the
attack and aggressively maneuvered the jet to prevent a collision.
We were both legal," tells U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ned Linch,
an F-16 and RV-4 pilot and safety officer for the 12th Air Force in
Linch flew his RV-4
to the Oshkosh 2007 air show to promote www.SeeAndAvoid.org.
He distributed bumper stickers that said "Don’t Fly
Naked." "It’s an attention-getter as well as making a
statement that you should always consider military airspace when
planning your flights," says Linch. "If not, then you’re
flying without adequate preparation, basically naked."
both aircraft in Finch’s story were legal, it may not have been
the safest thing to do. However, Finch explains that there are ways
to navigate special use airspace (SUA) safely and even fly through
the airspace as we share the skies safely with the military.
military operating airspace (MOA) that some pilots leaving
AirVenture to the west may encounter is Volk Field. Volk Field is
directly west of Oshkosh in central Wisconsin (see picture).
Civilian aircraft frequently fly east/west along Interstate 90/94 to
the south of Volk Field, and east/west along highway 21 north of
Volk. Military aircraft conduct high speed, high performance
maneuvers in the SUA surrounding Volk Field. Both military and
civilian pilots must remain vigilant and ensure they "see and
avoid" at all times.
aircraft also frequently conduct "simulated flameout
approaches" at Volk Field. These simulated engine-out
approaches normally begin from 9,500 feet mean seal level (MSL) or
below. The aircraft execute a spiraling turn within 5 nautical miles
of Volk Field at a high angle of attack. When conducting successive
approaches, the aircraft execute near-vertical climb back to 9,500
Areas (MOAs in blue) and low-level training routes (red)
are depicted, along with other flight planning data, at www.seeandavoid.org.
pilots are not thinking about looking for traffic in an MOA.
"In a fighter, the ‘fangs’ are out as the pilot goes in for
the kill, in a military trainer the pilot is concentrating on flying
a perfect maneuver, and a bomber crew is striving to hit the target
on time," Finch explains. "Many times these pilots’
vision is focused on one thing, especially at high Gs, and clearing
the flight path for traffic is secondary to the mission."
general aviation pilots may assume most military aircraft have radar
or are in contact with air traffic control (ATC). Once aircraft are
in the confines of the MOA, they may not be monitoring a reliable
ATC frequency or they might be operating too low and/or out of range
of the ATC transmitter.
are several reasons you might fly through SUAs such as emergency,
fuel, and weather. Convenience is not a good reason. If you must
transit through, try to cheat toward the edges and clear/scan toward
the center. If you see a military aircraft, look for more, they fly
in formation. Air-to-air engagement is typically 5,000 feet above
ground level, so go low. Make sure to squawk, turn your lights and
strobes on, and communicate.
moving map displays are great navigation tools, but they have
increased the number of incursions in SUAs because more and more
pilots are flying direct to their destination without properly
flight-planning the route. Many times pilots fly right through MOAs
without situational awareness.
planning is the foundation for avoiding a mid-air collision. It’s
common to plan the shortest or most fuel-efficient route, but you
should consider a third option, the safest route for passage through
MOAs or SUAs. Here are some flight-planning tips to increase your
awareness of military SUA.
a free flight-planning website.
website for detailed information on all MOAs and SUAs throughout the
military websites for info on its mid-air collision avoidance (MACA)
We’ve reached the
end of another memorable AirVenture, and it’s time to fly home. As
important as weather, knowing where military operational flying
areas are and how to avoid that airspace is crucial to a safe
flight. So DON’T FLY NAKED!