The FAA has given the final stamp of approval to the special-use airspace data now available on AOPA's Web site.
The online system, available to AOPA members, is linked to the FAA's Special Use Airspace Management System (SAMS). It provides near-real-time information on military flight activity in military operations areas (MOAs), restricted areas, and other special-use airspace (SUA). Data is updated every six minutes.
AOPA and the FAA's Air Traffic Procedures Office started the service on April 27 as an operational test. During that period, the FAA and AOPA asked for pilots' evaluation of the new service. The response was highly favorable.
"It's about time we had good access to this information," wrote one pilot. "The [Web] page is a great start and has been badly needed," commented another pilot. "Standard FAA briefings do not include information on SUA and pilots must specifically ask for that information."
"Excellent!" enthused yet another. "A few more of these and I may have to install a computer and phone line in my hangar."
Pilot response was so positive that the FAA gave AOPA early approval to permanently display SAMS data on the AOPA Web site.
The data service helps AOPA members avoid unnecessary and time-consuming detours around special-use airspace, which is often reported as "active" by FAA flight service stations even though no military activity is actually taking place.
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.
Not all controlling agencies are currently providing SUA schedule data, but the FAA said those agencies have been notified and that the FAA will ensure that the data is being provided. However, if a particular SUA is not listed, pilots should not assume that it is "cold."
Pilots should also note that, while the online SUA schedule data is a useful flight-planning tool, at this point it does not legally replace direct contact with a flight service station or the controlling agency.
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 58 percent of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.