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Sun, Mar 05, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (03.05.06): Controlled Firing Areas

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow them to soar magnificently through it.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips. Remember... when it comes to being good pilots, we're all in this together.

Aero-Tips 03.05.06

I launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in 1987 (how’s that for an opening line?).

I was a Minuteman launch crew commander firing from Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Santa Barbara, California, down the Pacific test range to a very small target about 7500 miles away.

What’s that got to do with anything? Our launch was delayed briefly by an unauthorized lightplane entry into the Controlled Firing Area (CFA) associated with the airspace near Vandenberg.

CFAs are not charted, and you won’t hear or read about them in Notices to Aviators (NOTAMs).

CFAs may be activated in any airspace when live firing exercises are underway -- mainly artillery or missile tests or training. Part of the military’s mission involves secrecy, which is why it won’t advertise launch locations or times.

  1. Controlled Firing Areas contain activities which, if not conducted in a controlled environment, could be hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft (you don’t want to take a Maverick or a Minuteman through the wing).
  2. CFAs may or may not be fully contained within Restricted Airspace or Military Operations Areas (MOAs).
  3. The difference between CFAs and other Special Use Airspace is that the military must suspend activity when a spotter aircraft, radar or ground lookout position indicates an aircraft might be approaching the area. The intruding airplane will be permitted to transit the area (or be chased away by black helicopters).

And how’d the Minuteman launch go? If I told you I’d have to shoot you.

Aero-Tip of the day: Watch for really unusual activity in or near MOAs, or near restricted airspace. Luckily, when the missiles fly the military will be avoiding you.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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