Understanding special-use airspace

July 2, 2005

Understanding special-use airspace
AOPA Air Safety Foundation online course will help you avoid 'close encounters' of the terrifying kind

There is military airspace everywhere. Whether it's called restricted, prohibited, warning, alert, or military operations areas, (MOAs) it's all special-use airspace (SUA). What really lurks inside SUA, and when can you fly through it?

You'll find out if you take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's new online course, " Mission: Possible - Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace," created in partnership with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force.

A key part of the course explains the military's new "lights out" training, which permits high-speed fighters to fly at night, without lights in selected MOAs. Through video clips, you'll see what military pilots can see with their night-vision goggles. ( See a three-minute preview .)

More importantly, you'll find out what you can't see that may threaten your safety.

"Mission: Possible" is divided into three sections: a special-use airspace (SUA) tutorial and review, information on lights-out training, and a flight-planning scenario.

The tutorial takes pilots through the basics of SUA, including the ins and outs of restricted airspace, MOAs, and military training routes (MTRs).

In the lights-out training section, you'll learn about night-vision goggles (NVGs), which amplify small amounts of existing light, essentially turning night into day for combat missions. This allows military aircraft to fly without external lights, avoiding detection by enemy forces on the ground and in the air and making night emergencies more manageable.

For training purposes, the military will now be using select MOAs in addition to restricted and warning areas for the lights-out program. Since this initiative affects GA pilots - many of whom may regularly fly in MOAs throughout the country - the military is charged with civilian training. Through interactive graphics, video, and audio, the "Mission: Possible" course prepares GA pilots for this new wrinkle in the see-and-avoid scenario. The unique partnership between ASF, the Defense Department, and the U.S. Air Force is the first of its kind and a win-win situation for everyone in the night sky.

AOPA had opposed the military's initial plan for lights-out training in MOAs because it represented an unacceptable risk to civilian pilots. The association worked with the Defense Department to resolve safety concerns, eventually reaching an agreement limiting the number of MOAs where lights-out training can be conducted, and requiring an outreach program to educate GA pilots close to the affected MOAs.

The Air Safety Foundation course is part of that outreach program. "Mission Possible: Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace" will also be available soon as an ASF "Seminar-in-a-Box," an all-in-one kit designed to help local pilots conduct their own quality safety seminars.

February 7, 2005