The FAA this week granted an Air Force petition to conduct night-vision flight training operations (lights out) at and above 18,000 feet msl in aircraft without lighted position lights. This activity will occur in Class A (positive control) airspace, where ATC can ensure an equivalent level of safety for non-participating aircraft. Many AOPA members are familiar with a related Air Force petition, still under review by the FAA, which requests similar relief for lights-out operations at lower altitudes in some MOA airspace. Currently "lights-out" training is conducted within restricted areas.
In November 2001, AOPA submitted comments to the pending proposal and is working with DoD officials in the Pentagon to ensure safety for nonparticipating general aviation operators. "AOPA's goal is to make sure radar coverage is provided in all MOAs where the activity occurs and that training is terminated any time a nonparticipating aircraft enters the MOA." According to AOPA Senior Vice President Andrew V. Cebula, "AOPA also recommends a combination of VHF communications, toll-free hotlines, and Web sites be used to give pilots scheduled and "real-time" activity. These measures are necessary to ensure an equivalent measure of safety," according to Cebula.