Updated scheduling information on military use of restricted areas and other special-use airspace (SUA) is now available on the AOPA Web site. As a result of a collaborative effort between AOPA and the FAA's Air Traffic Procedures Office (ATP-200), AOPA members now have access to the same data from FAA's Special Use Airspace Management System (SAMS), which is used by the FAA air traffic control command center.
The new service will help AOPA members avoid unnecessary and time-consuming detours around such airspace, which is often reported as active by FAA flight service stations even though no military activity is actually taking place. It is available in the members-only section of the AOPA Web site.
The service is currently in a 90-day operational live test. The FAA is seeking AOPA member feedback on the usefulness of the data and method of presentation.
The near-real-time SUA information includes many restricted, warning, and alert areas, military operations areas (MOAs), and some military refueling tracks. The information is updated every six minutes from the FAA's Special Use Airspace Management System.
"This initiative is a big step toward solving a long-standing problem for many AOPA members," said Melissa K. Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic services. "The FAA's Air Traffic Procedures Office should be applauded for their efforts in making this information available to the GA community."
Bailey pointed out that although the new AOPA Web information site is a large step forward in timely SUA data for GA pilots, the timeliness of the data depends on how quickly military and FAA controlling agencies responsible for a specific piece of SUA input the information.
AOPA also cautioned that not all controlling agencies provide SUA schedule data. "If a particular SUA is not listed, don't assume that it is 'cold,'" said Bailey.
AOPA members have for years complained about large detours either required or advisable around SUA reported as active by FAA flight service station briefers. But AOPA discovered that FSS briefers are required to work from schedules developed by the military far in advance, in some cases months or even years ahead. As a result, at least some SUA is actually used very little of the scheduled time.
To minimize unnecessary long detours for GA pilots, AOPA has been pushing for more efficient use of military SUA and more timely dissemination of SUA scheduling information. In a few cases where SUA has been added or changed, AOPA has been able to have contact radio frequencies or telephone numbers for the controlling agency printed on aeronautical charts.
"The controlling agency is still the best source of real-time information," she said. "But in the absence of any telephone contact numbers, this new AOPA Web service is an excellent preflight tool."
In the long term, AOPA will integrate the SUA scheduling information with AOPA's Airport Directory Online for more convenient preflight planning.
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association was founded in 1939 to help keep general aviation flying safe, fun, and as affordable as possible. More than 58 percent of all active pilots and three quarters of GA aircraft owners are AOPA members.