Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Making History

Edwards AFB opens up their restricted airspace for a first-ever Lakebed Fly-in

Midair Collision Avoidance

There are many areas of the country surrounded by military airspace—mostly in the form of MOAs, training areas, military training routes (MTRs) and restricted areas. VFR operations are allowed in and around many of these areas, but every pilot should recognize that operations in active military airspace are extremely risky. Remember that military training or flight test aircraft are probably moving at very high speed—often in excess of 500 knots. Studies have shown that if you’re on a collision course with a closure rate of 600 knots, there’s no way to avoid a collision if you see each other any closer than 1.5 miles apart. At that distance, you’re only nine seconds away from each other. Even if the military aircraft pulls 7 G’s and you pull your maximum rate turn away from each other, you’ll collide. Keep in mind that two miles is about the maximum distance where a typical GA aircraft can be spotted in ideal daylight conditions. That gives you only about three seconds to spot each other and do something about it. And don’t forget that some of the most modern military aircraft may not even have a pilot on board. This is an issue to take seriously, and the Air Force provides some good safety tips:

• Squawk a transponder code. That will allow controllers and military pilots to more easily see you on radar.
• Talk to a controller. Contact center or a base controller (like Joshua Approach in the case of Edwards) for flight following. They can warn you of traffic in the area and let the military folks know your position.
• Be visible by turning on your lights. Lights can increase your visibility by a factor of five, making you visible at 10 miles instead of two.
• Be predictable by flying at proper hemispheric altitudes and by using recommended VFR flyways.
• Avoid complacency! Keep your windows clean, constantly scan for other aircraft and recognize that if another aircraft isn’t moving in your field of view, you’re on a collision course.

To learn more, Edwards offers a wealth of valuable information and safety tips at:


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