Finally -- Notams on 'lights-out' military training flights

August 23, 2005

Finally - Notams on 'lights-out' military training flights

F-16 viewed through night vision goggles

Here's another first. You can now get notams on "lights out" nighttime operations in military operations areas (MOAs). That's something AOPA has been pushing for ever since the FAA said the Air Force could turn off aircraft navigation and anti-collision lights when flying night vision goggle training missions in a limited number of MOAs.

Earlier, AOPA had convinced the Air Force to adopt other safety measures, including continuous radar monitoring of the airspace and a requirement to cease lights-out flight if a civilian aircraft enters the MOA.

And AOPA and the Air Force cooperated to create " Mission: Possible - Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace," a free course in the AOPA Online Safety Center with an emphasis on lights-out training and its impact on civilian flying.

Now, whenever you get a preflight briefing, you will get a notam alerting you to lights-out training near your proposed flight path.

What? We didn't before?

"Well, yes and no," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "Because of an internal FAA issue, the notams were issued only through the Department of Defense notam system, which does not talk with the FAA's system."

That was all well and good for pilots who check the DOD notam Web site, but it wasn't much help for pilots relying on FSS to alert them of the notam.

Finally, after some AOPA pressure, including a meeting with the Department of Defense last May, the FAA has resolved its internal issue. The agency just published new guidance (a "genot" in bureaucratic speak) requiring the issuance of a D-notam for lights-out operations. (D or "distant" notams are distributed throughout the entire FSS system.

For more information on what you might encounter at night, see " Military Lights-Out Training in MOAs."

August 23, 2005