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Training and Safety Tip: Military aircraft should not surprise you

An essential aspect of preflight planning includes familiarity with the airspace along your route. Even if it’s the airspace near your home airport, around which you fly regularly, you still need to check the airspace before every flight.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

For example, special-use airspace (SUA) may be present. This type of airspace includes areas where restrictions exist, and some are only active at certain times. It’s up to you as the pilot in command to be aware of those areas, follow the rules, and make safe decisions when operating near and in the airspace. That includes deciding to avoid the area if that’s the safest course of action.

Military operations areas (MOAs) are one type of SUA. They contain operations such as military training activities, which could take place at high speeds close to the ground. Examples of activities conducted in MOAs include, but are not limited to, air combat tactics, air intercepts, aerobatics, formation training, and low-altitude tactics. Military aircraft are permitted to fly at speeds greater than 250 knots below 10,000 feet msl in MOAs. IFR traffic may be routed around the MOA, or through it if ATC can ensure separation of aircraft. VFR traffic is permitted in these areas, but pilots should exercise extreme caution if choosing to fly into an MOA.

As part of preflight planning, you should verify whether the MOA will be active during your anticipated time en route. That information is located on the panels of VFR sectional and terminal area charts and IFR en route low altitude charts; it can also be obtained through electronic flight bag apps. Those resources will provide the MOA’s altitude limitations, the times of activity, the controlling agency, and the frequency on which to contact that agency.

Some MOAs will list their time of operations as “intermittent.” In those cases, review notices to air missions or contact the controlling agency directly to obtain the most up-to-date information. Also, contact any flight service station within 100 miles of the area to obtain accurate real‐time information concerning the MOA hours of operation. Before entering an active MOA, contact the controlling agency for traffic advisories.

ASI Staff

Kathleen Vasconcelos

Kathleen Vasconcelos is an instrument-rated flight instructor and a commercial pilot with multiengine and instrument ratings. She lives in New Hampshire.
Topics: Training and Safety, Student, Flight School
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