Military Pilots Ask For Some Space
While pedestrians have the right of way, you don’t see many sticking their arm out and marching across a freeway. Likewise, military pilots who use military operating areas to hone their skills and get a little afterburner time are asking that civilian pilots understand the kind of screeching halt their presence in MOAs can cause. “You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money,” retired F-16 pilot Lt. Col Fred Clifton told AVweb in a podcast interview last week. Clifton also noted such interruptions eat into already-scarce flight time by fighter jocks thanks to military cutbacks. Similar sentiments have been expressed by forum contributors to AVweb’s blog, the AVweb Insider, in which Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli also pleaded for some consideration for the fighter operations.
Clifton explained that if civilian aircraft cross an MOA during an exercise, the drill has to be stopped and the aircraft have to fly in circles, wasting fuel, while they wait for the plane to get out of the way. Of critical importance, said Clifton, is that civilian pilots find out if the MOA is active before crossing. If it is active, it’s best to fly around or even cut a corner (corners aren’t usually used by the fighters because they need too much room to turn). The lively dialogue was sparked by a podcast interview with California Pilatus PC-12 pilot Patrick McCall who complained that he and another aircraft were intercepted and shadowed at close range by an F-16 in the Gladden MOA in Arizona. The FAA and military are looking into the allegations. Clifton said he’s intercepted civilian aircraft in MOAs and says it can be done without undue hazard to either aircraft because military pilots are trained to fly at close quarters. “Was it aggressive? Yes,” he said. “Was it hazardous? No.”