Special Use Airspace discussion

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
Military Training Routes (updated due to another incident):

The other week, I was flying a low level along VR-239. Cruising at 480 KIAS and 500 AGL, I was doing the standard clock/map/ground as I navigated along and around the terrain on the route. Coming around turn point 4, I happened to spot, by luck, a Cessna 177 doing what appeared to be turns on/around a point at low level.....standard training. Glad I spotted him earlier, and no problem making a deviation around him, but had I not spotted him, it could've been a close call or worse. He was likely concentrating on his airwork, as I was mainly concentrating on map/ground, so it's even more luck that one of us spotted the other. I don't know if he ever saw me, but I doubt it, since I was at his 6-7 o'clock when I first spotted him, and lagged around his six to pass him by a good margin as he completed his left turn.

IMO, practicing airwork in a MOA or along a known MTR, anything where training is going on and full attention can't be maintained to the outside, is potential trouble waiting to happen.

Military Training Routes are usually never in "military-only areas" such as Restricted Areas, etc. As military pilots, we train like we fight; and if that means a 450 knot low-level ingress to a target, then that's what we do. There's a reason that MTRs in the USA are depicted on Sectional Aeronautical Charts and the US AP-1/B chart; that's so civilian pilots can plan around them, and either avoid them, or be able to be VERY heads-up if they must fly near them. When I say "must fly near them", I'm referring to some MTRs which come within (due to terrain) some small private, uncontrolled airstrips, such as those near ranches, etc. In these instances, civilians need to go in/out of these fields, and knowing the status of a particular MTR near you is important.

It's perfectly legal to fly through/in MOAs and along MTRs, but that's not the question. As you know, in VMC, it's everyone's responsibility to see and avoid.

But here's a good example of the problem: In the A-10, I had no radar for my low-levels, my only separation ability comes from the Mk.1 eyeball. Keep in mind, though, that I have a multitude of cockpit tasks going on while tooling along at 300 AGL/360 KIAS. First, eyeing terrain to make sure I'm doing my job of pilotage correctly (ie- matching terrain features with what's on my map to make sure I'm going the right way), avoiding hitting the ground/power lines/near rocks/far rocks, keeping track of my timing per leg [if I'm going for a specific TOT, or Time Over Target], keeping track of my other aircraft in my formation, insuring my weapons panel is set correctly [such as setup change from air-air to air-ground], going over and over in my mind what the attack plan is [formation, role, weapon, timing, attack axis], and being ready to flex to a different plan if the first one gets screwed up [such as unplanned threats pop-up], and maintaining overall SA over the operation; all while moving at 300 AGL/360 KIAS; and all this in addition to trying to see and avoid. Truth be told, we really expect (hope) that civilian pilots won't be in our path because they HAVE done the necessary pre-planning for their flights. Even in radar equipped fighters, the pilot isn't sitting with his head in his scope while tooling along at low level, so he may not notice civilian hits on his scope. In addition, some radars are even programmed to negate hits below certain airspeeds, in order to reduce the scope clutter. Also, at the speeds mentioned, I'm moving @6 miles/minute (A-10), or 8-9 miles/minute (other fighters); a Cessna 152 would probable be visibly detectable for only a couple of seconds before I flashed past it. Point? Everyone practice the best see-and-avoid they can; but also civilian pilots should be aware of where Military Training Routes are and, preferably, avoid them. Military pilots should know what their route structure is, and remain within it.

PHX airspace (among others) is getting more and more crowded, that's part of the reason for the closure of Williams AFB. And I fully understand that airspace is getting smaller and smaller; hell, most of the state of Arizona is Special Use Airspace of some sort, just look at the PHX sectional. Hopefully, even as this happens, GA and military can still co-exist without conflict.

MD
 

Ophir

Well-Known Member
I was just thinking of a flight I had from Lousiana to New Mexico. It was 7.1 hours and about two hour on and IFR flight plan (.5 hours IMC). When I got into Farmington I had to just lay down a rest, I was really tired from being "on" the whole time. I could imagine having your work load and keeping it up for hours at a time.
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
Had another close pass with traffic, this time a PanAm Seminole, while entering VR-239 Pt. A north of PHX the other day.

As airspace gets busier and busier, see and avoid becomes that much more important.
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
[ QUOTE ]
Had another close pass with traffic, this time a PanAm Seminole, while entering VR-239 Pt. A north of PHX the other day.

[/ QUOTE ]

I think the biggest problem with our training areas (I generally fly in the SE practice area) is the unwillingness of students/CFIs to spread out.

A perfect example is the NW area.

It's literally five minutes (if not less) from DVT and two MAJOR schools.

Students and CFIs alike don't want to go any further because it would take more time to transition which translates into more money spent for the student and potentially less time for the CFI (longer flights mean fewer per day, etc.). There is plenty (well at least more than we think) of space in the PHX area if people are willing to move around a little bit.
 

Wolverine

New Member
The problem is that there is not much space on the north side of the PHX area. The NE is virtually unusable because of the houses that have sprung up out there. Ground reference maneuvers are impossible in the NE - it's guaranteed that someone will call the FAA if you're flying maneuvers at 1000' AGL. There's mountains to the north, mountains to the east, Luke and Glendale to the west, and it's a waste to fly 40-50nm each way to the SE area. I like to go to the west, but even that is getting stretched out to Wickenberg. Or up near Black Canyon City, but that's near an airway.

It's frustrating enough to first find a place to maneuver in. Then, we get forced farther out when someone starts manuevering in that same block of space we've been in for the past hour. [/rant]

btw: What's the official frequency for the SE? I hear some transmitting on 122.75, but I believe the official frequency is something else.
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
Had another close pass with traffic, this time a PanAm Seminole, while entering VR-239 Pt. A north of PHX the other day.

[/ QUOTE ]

I think the biggest problem with our training areas (I generally fly in the SE practice area) is the unwillingness of students/CFIs to spread out.

A perfect example is the NW area.

It's literally five minutes (if not less) from DVT and two MAJOR schools.

Students and CFIs alike don't want to go any further because it would take more time to transition which translates into more money spent for the student and potentially less time for the CFI (longer flights mean fewer per day, etc.). There is plenty (well at least more than we think) of space in the PHX area if people are willing to move around a little bit.

[/ QUOTE ]

I understand what you mean. And both myself and the Seminole were legal to be where we were. Both parties just need to keep their head on a swivel at all times. It would, of course, help if the CFIs would notice where the MTR route structures are on their sectional and generally try to stay a couple of miles either side of them. VR-239, specifically, the first point (A to B) starting at the north part of Lake Pleasant really isn't a low-level at all; the altitude is 4000' MSL to 7500' MSL, presumably for noise abatement crossing the towns of New River and Black Canyon City. Thereafter, the route drops down to 300 AGL from Pt. B onward. Again, it's legal for everyone to be in that airspace, that's not the problem, it's just congested. In fact, in the Special Notes of the DOD AP/1B book, note (k) states "Caution for extensive glider and general aviation activity in the vicinity of Lake Pleasant." So we know that GA is there; my question is whether the average GA pilot knows we're there too regards the MTR route. And again, that's why the light grey lines are on the sectionals. At least if everyone knows that everyone else is there, maybe vigilence will be increased somewhat.

Yesterday, the Seminole was pretty clear to me as it came from behind my rails on the forward windscreen in an opposite direction left bank (airwork I guess). Glad I was in a descent into the route structure at the time, because he was out of my vision behind the forward windscreen, and it could've been way worse; as is, he passed not too far above me (if they noticed me, I'm sure I filled their windscreen). Again, the onus in on everyone to see and avoid.

Just a reminder for all to keep up the vigilance.

MD
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
Everything North of the 60 (so that would be the NE/NW areas) are supposed to be 122.75. Everything south of the 60 (SE/SW) is 122.85.

What ticks me off are the morons who use those freqs as their personal comm for flights of two ore more A/C.
 

Wolverine

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
It would, of course, help if the CFIs would notice where the MTR route structures are on their sectional and generally try to stay a couple of miles either side of them. VR-239, specifically, the first point (A to B) starting at the north part of Lake Pleasant really isn't a low-level at all; the altitude is 4000' MSL to 7500' MSL

[/ QUOTE ]

I'll spread the word here at PanAm. 4000-7500' is the range of aircraft maneuvering over Lake Pleasant. I've seen 3-4 aircraft over the lake at the same time - a couple at 4000' and a couple at 6000-7000'. Are the military aircraft usually coming from the south, from Luke?

Good discussion MikeD, if we know what each other is doing, we can more easily look out for each other.
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
. Are the military aircraft usually coming from the south, from Luke?

Good discussion MikeD, if we know what each other is doing, we can more easily look out for each other.

[/ QUOTE ]

Luke actually owns VR-239, but we at DM use it too, as can any military fighter/trainer. Because of that, expect F-16 or A-10 traffic to be approaching from the southwest through west (vicinity of Sun City and Luke west towards Surprise and Wickenburg) for entry to Pt A; altitude range of 4500-7500 MSL. Pt A is just on the north shore of Lake Pleasant, as depicted on the sectional. Fighter jet traffic will be accelerating to 350-450 knots prior to hitting Pt. A in order to be able to hack the clock at the correct crossing the first point and entering the route, so opportunities to see and avoid become less and less. The Seminole that I almost connected with was at 5000' and I had been level at 5000' up until about 4 seconds prior to seeing him. I was even still talking to Luke Approach, but they never mentioned him (and the legal onus for lookout in VMC is still with the pilots anyway).

What are the boundaries, horizontal and vertical, of the areas Pan Am (and other flight schools) use out there, just so we can know the same. It seems like that chunk of airspace is popular to both of us, and if everyone doesn't get on the same page quickly, it's only a matter of time before a midair occurs.

Thanks for the frequencies, I'll make a habit of giving a call on VHF when in the area. Problem is, the A-10 is the exception, not the rule when it comes to radios. Few military fighters are VHF capable, they mainly operate on UHF.

MD
 

Wolverine

New Member
When it gets crowded in the NW, there will be a low-level (4000ish) aircraft on each the north and south ends of the lake and another one or two aircraft at around 6000-7000'. Personally, I stay between the mountains on either side of the lake. When on the south side, I center around the dam, when on the north I center around an area that is about 1-2nm south of your start point.

There are no set levels in the practice areas, it's up to the individual pilots. Some like 3500' over the lake, some like 4000 or 4500 or 5000'.

I talk to Luke approach when maneuvering in their alert area - it's always good to have another set of eyes watching! They are usually very good at pointing out traffic, time permitting of course.
 
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