It's finally here. Now with a click of your mouse, you can find out whether any special-use airspace (SUA) - restricted area, military operations area, military route, or warning area - anywhere in the country is going to be "hot."
Now you'll know where the fast-movers are and whether you can take that shortcut through the MOA or restricted area.
This month, the FAA finally brought every single controlling agency into the fold, something AOPA has been pushing for since 2001.
It's called SAMS (special-use airspace management system), an online database of what airspace the military is actually using. It updates every six minutes, and the schedule is accurate at least 24 hours in advance.
If you've flown much at all around MOAs or restricted areas, you know that the military actually uses them only a small fraction of the time that they are charted to be active.
You also know that flight service frequently can't tell you if the area is actually in use. That's because flight service isn't the "controlling agency"; air traffic control usually is. And while ATC always has the most current info on the status of SUA in its airspace, ATC wasn't required to share that data with flight service.
That's why SAMS was created. And that's why AOPA worked so hard to get online access for you. The only problem was that ATC still wasn't required to input data to SAMS, and some centers didn't.
That's all changed. Now everybody is playing, and everybody who has access to the Internet can get real-time data. The FAA has even created a very handy map page that graphically displays the SAMS info.
Sadly, the folks who can't get the SAMS info are flight service station specialists - most of them don't have ready access to the Internet. But that should change when Lockheed-Martin takes over in October and installs new equipment.
And if you want to learn more about special-use airspace and how it affects your flying, check out " Mission Possible - Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace," an interactive training course, and the Sporty's Safety Quiz - Special-Use Airspace, both in the AOPA Online Safety Center.
August 22, 2005