The FAA has approved a scaled-back proposal for the U.S. Air Force to conduct "lights-out" night training flights in military operations areas (MOAs). But that approval incorporates safety recommendations pushed for by AOPA.
The safety recommendations include specific procedures that the military will follow to minimize the risk of collision between general aviation aircraft and military aircraft flying without position lights. Military aircraft need to fly without lights for pilots to train using night vision systems.
While AOPA objected to the initial proposal because of the potential safety hazard to non-participating general aviation aircraft, the Department of Defense worked closely with the association staff to resolve these concerns.
"The initial Air Force proposal was too broad in scope and did not provide adequate mitigation for the lost "see and avoid" capability of non-participating general aviation aircraft," explained Andy Cebula, senior vice president of government and technical affairs.
"While AOPA understands the training requirements of the U.S. military, we felt it was imperative that AOPA's recommendations be adopted before the revised petition was granted. We appreciate the response by the military to our safety concerns."
The AOPA recommendations adopted in the FAA's approval of a petition for exemption include requirements for continuous radar coverage, for the military to cease operations and turn on external lights when a non-participating aircraft enters the MOA, and an ongoing educational outreach program to the general aviation community and airports in close proximity to "lights-out" MOAs.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation proposed and is currently working with the military to create a MOA education program, which will include "lights-out" operations. ASF is looking to establish an online program as well as a Seminar-in-a Box.