When the National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) first proposed including instrument approach procedures (IAPs) for military airfields in the civilian publication two years ago, AOPA enthusiastically endorsed the idea. It took a lot of coordination, but the effort paid off with the latest NACO IAP publication.
"Approximately 750 Department of Defense approach procedures are now included in the civilian publications," said AOPA Manager of Air Traffic Heidi Williams. "That's a real boon to general aviation for a number of reasons, not the least of which is safety."
"In the past, pilots who wanted the extra safety benefit of having approaches for military bases in case of emergency had to buy and carry a separate publication," said Williams. "Now that they're included in the civilian NACO publications, pilots can be even better prepared for the unexpected."
Publishing the military procedures also opens training opportunities, especially in congested airspace. Military bases in busy airspace are often underutilized while their civilian counterparts struggle to handle the flow of traffic. Publishing the military procedures and permitting civilian aircraft to use them for training could ease the burden at overtaxed civilian facilities while giving tower operators at the military bases an opportunity to keep active during otherwise quiet times.
A label on the front of the NACO publications reminds pilots that military fields are open to civilian pilots "only with prior permission or in an emergency." Pilots may make low approaches to military fields simply be obtaining clearance from the tower, but actually landing on a military base requires civilian pilots to obtain permission ahead of time.
"The National Aeronautical Charting Office and their defense counterpart, the National Imaging and Mapping Agency, deserve a lot of credit for developing this initiative and then following through," said Andy Cebula, AOPA's senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "Both safety and efficiency within the National Airspace System stand to benefit from the availability of this information."