May 2008 Issue

Gladden MOA Mess

A recent episode involving two civilian airplanes in an active military operations area should be a reminder there are times we really shouldn’t be there.

The military operations area, or MOA, is the Rodney Dangerfield of special use airspace (SUA): It doesn’t get any respect. Part of the reason few pilots pay much attention to whether a MOA is hot or not is VFR operations are allowed—at our own risk—in an active MOA. This is much different from a MOA’s more-serious brethren, the restricted or prohibited areas, or even the temporary flight restriction. That doesn’t mean punching through an active MOA is a good idea. In late March, two civilian pilots found out the hard way that what goes on in a MOA probably should stay there. Online sister publication AVweb.com was on this story like a wet blanket—including a podcast with one of the civilian pilots and another with an F-16 driver—and the story generated a lot of comments from rank and file pilots. Many of those comments evidence some misunderstandings of MOAs and SUA: What kind of operations is the military engaged in, anyway? Are civilian aircraft endangering themselves or military pilots by entering? Under what rules, if any, is the military operating when in a MOA? As often is the case in an online discussion, these and other questions got thrown about with no clear answers. But we’re here to help make sense of it all.

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