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Training Tip: For MOA information

You plot the direct course for a VFR cross-country and find that it crosses the widest expanse of a large military operations area. Can you fly through it? (Yes.) Should you?

Photo by Chris Rose.

That’s a judgment call to be made on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes mixing in with an MOA is unavoidable, making it crucial for a pilot to be thoroughly briefed and mentally prepared.

MOAs are a form of special-use airspace. They come in all shapes, sizes, and frequency of use—in some cases by high-speed military aircraft—so the navigational considerations they can impose on a flight route make MOAs a good laboratory experiment in aeronautical decision making for you.

What goes on in MOAs is described in Aeronautical Information Manual section 3-4-5, and as most student pilots who have paid attention to their ground school lessons on airspace know, VFR pilots are not forbidden entry but should “exercise extreme caution while flying within a MOA when military activity is being conducted.”

Basic information about an MOA’s activity schedule and which agency “owns” (controls) the airspace is given in the information panels of sectional charts. But as the AIM notes, MOA status “may change frequently. Therefore, pilots should contact any FSS within 100 miles of the area to obtain accurate real-time information concerning the MOA hours of operation.”

If the MOA is active and you decide to push through—MOAs overlie some airports, or perhaps flying through is preferable to flying over inhospitable terrain outside it—it is recommended to contact the listed controlling agency for flight advisories before proceeding.

AOPA reported May 27 that it may become easier for pilots to receive the latest information on MOA status under a congressional mandate for the FAA and the Department of Defense to deliver the real-time status of SUA and MOAs to properly equipped cockpits soon. 

Also, a recent update to AIM section 3-4-1 gives guidance on how to check for uncharted temporary MOAs and temporary restricted areas in notams, on the FAA’s SUA website, and other resources.

If staying updated on the status of MOAs strikes you as complicated, you’re not alone. After steering a VFR pilot away from a temporary MOA that was “hot” from 6,000 feet to Flight Level 200, an air traffic controller vented safety concerns in an Aviation safety Reporting System filing, recommending additional controller training on the subject “so I will be better prepared” to help pilots stay safe.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Training and Safety, Flight Planning, Student
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