AOPA learned tonight that the FAA is preparing to issue a notam warning pilots that military aircraft now have the authority to intercept and, if necessary as a last resort, shoot down civilian aircraft that enter restricted and prohibited areas without authorization. The FAA will also warn pilots that the new restricted and prohibited areas being created will not be shown on current charts.
Under the new authority, general aviation aircraft or airliners that enter restricted or prohibited airspace may be intercepted by military aircraft. If a pilot is approached by a military aircraft, he must follow the interception procedures in the Aeronautical Information Manual and comply with any instructions given by the military or FAA controllers. Pilots should attempt to establish contact with the intercepting aircraft or air traffic control on 121.5 MHz.
"AOPA has always opposed a 'no-questions-asked' shoot-down policy," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But in these extraordinary times, should an organization of responsible pilots oppose a policy that our government believes is necessary to protect national security?"
"AOPA will demand that the military take every possible precaution to preclude shooting down an innocent aircraft, including ensuring that interceptors can communicate on the VHF frequencies used by civilian aircraft."
In addition, more sensitive areas will now be protected by added restricted and prohibited areas. Those areas will likely include nuclear power plants and other key industrial assets critical to the national security.
As these new restricted and prohibited areas are added, it is absolutely imperative that pilots check all notams. If implemented as rapidly as AOPA expects, the new areas will not be shown on current charts nor be listed immediately in GPS databases.
"AOPA will provide information on new restricted and prohibited areas as soon as it is available," said Boyer. "And we will ensure that the FAA uses every possible means to make sure pilots have current and accurate information. The consequences of miscommunication now could be deadly."
AOPA has obtained an advance copy of an FAA questions and answers document to explain the new policy.