October 3, 2008
A Cessna 172 and an Air Force F-16 fighter collided south of Tampa, Florida, yesterday afternoon at about 4 p.m. The accident, just outside of the Tampa Class B and near the beginning of a low-altitude military training route, killed 57-year-old Jacque Olivier, a flight instructor, charter pilot, and AOPA member. The F-16 pilot ejected safely.
According to the preliminary accident report, the Cessna pilot had been receiving VFR traffic advisories from the Tampa Tracon. The pair of F-16s from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia had just been cleared onto a visual military training route (MTR).
"We cannot speculate about the cause of this accident," said Bruce Landsberg, AOPA Air Safety Foundation executive director, "but we want to remind pilots of the hazards associated with MTRs."
Military training routes are depicted on sectional charts with a gray line. The route names begin with either VR (visual route) or IR (instrument route). Military aircraft are permitted to exceed the 250-knot speed limit below 10,000 feet when cleared onto an MTR. In fact, the rules for VR1098 near Tampa permit aircraft to fly as fast as 580 knots between 500 and 3,000 feet agl.
"Pilots should be aware that they can encounter high-speed military aircraft at low altitudes outside of military operations areas (MOAs) and restricted areas," said Landsberg. (ASF is now offering its latest safety seminar, "Collision Avoidance," at locations across the country. See the Web site for schedule information.)
AOPA's Vice President for Air Traffic Melissa Bailey noted that it is difficult for pilots to obtain information about activity on MTRs. "We've been pushing the FAA and the military for years to make real-time information on military flight activities available to civilian pilots."
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