Air Force withdraws MOA ‘lights out’ petition following AOPA opposition and 1,000 negative comments
The U.S. Air Force has withdrawn its proposal to fly unlighted aircraft at night in military operations areas (MOAs). AOPA has strongly opposed the proposal since the association first uncovered it in April 1999.
“Our common goal is safety,” said Phil Boyer, AOPA president. “When general aviation and the military share airspace, it’s only common sense that all aircraft be as conspicuous as possible so that all pilots can ‘see and avoid.’ The Air Force has done the right thing for safety.”
An Air Force source told AOPA that the petition was withdrawn because the military “wants to be responsive to user concerns and is committed to working with the flying public to assure safety.”
The Air Force had petitioned the FAA in October 1998 for a blanket exemption to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.209 (which requires all aircraft to have lighted position lights when operating between sunset and sunrise) in order to conduct night-vision equipment training. Contrary to federal guidelines, the petition was not published for public comment.
After AOPA brought the proposal to light, the FAA did solicit public comment. They got an earful.
AOPA has learned that the FAA received more than 1,000 negative comments, most citing safety concerns for VFR aircraft flying at night through MOAs.
The Air Force is now working to redefine their night vision training requirements. One possible alternative to flying “lights out” is to use a night vision imaging system that allows pilots to use night vision goggles yet keep aircraft position lights illuminated.
AOPA also reminded the military that lights-out operations could be conducted—without endangering general aviation—in the more than 375 restricted areas encompassing tens of thousands of square miles of U.S. airspace, rather than in MOAs, which remain open to air traffic during military use.
The 355,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world’s largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation’s pilots are AOPA members.
November 4, 1999