Archive for March, 2008

Goose, It’s time to buzz the tower

Friday, March 21st, 2008

So said Maverick in Top Gun when he took an F-14 on a famous low-altitude, high-speed pass that landed him in Commander Viper’s office. The tower chief’s comments to Viper went something like, “One of your snot-nosed jet jockeys blew by my tower at over 400 knots. I want some butts.”

Last month a newly delivered Boeing 777 made a low pass at the Boeing factory airport in Renton,Wash. The aircraft was less than 30 feet agl and clocked above 270 knots. It was a sight to behold. Big noise, big dust, big wind, massive power—awesome! Truly a spectacle! A video immediately appeared on YouTube, and the story goes that the senior captain at the controls was fired shortly afterward. Sounds like somebody got some butts! It’s also rumored that the airline bought the video to have it removed.

Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Airspace incursions are always a bad deal. Getting into Class A, B, C, or D airspace without proper blessing is problematic. But you can double your trouble if you bust an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) or a prohibited area. Several recent ADIZ incursions have once again raised this as a potentially thorny GA issue.

The ADIZ used to be just around the edges of the country. But leading up to the war in Iraq in 2003, Washington, D.C., got its own ADIZ. Couple that with the nearby Camp David prohibited area (P-40), the presidential weekend retreat in central Maryland, and you couldn’t pick two more sensitive areas in which to foul up. At the very least, when somebody just nicks the edge, there will be a mandatory call to the FAA and likely a hearing with an inspector. If the flight gets any deeper into forbidden territory, a full military escort to a nearby airport for “debriefing” is inevitable.

An ADIZ bust can be really bad for pilots, their aircraft insurability, and their aviation career prospects. And it’s just as bad for GA’s image. Unfortunately, lawmakers and the security community always think about ways to further restrict our access to airspace.

May I offer a simple solution that doesn’t involve physical, psychological, or financial pain? In the interactive courses section of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Web site, there is a free program, open to ALL pilots, called “Know Before You Go”. It’s a thorough review of all airspace, temporary flight restrictions (which can pop up literally anywhere), and the two high-security areas mentioned above.

All pilots need to know where they are in relation to sensitive airspace, even when you’re “certain,” that the flight path will not be close. Feel free to fly VFR on nice days, but do consider the security airspace. It’s not weather sensitive.

That’s my observation—what’s yours?

  1. I fly IFR regardless of weather to avoid “security airspace” issues.
  2. I know the airspace rules and comfortably operate VFR.
  3. What’s an ADIZ and where can I get one?
  4. I don’t fly anywhere near any ADIZ or prohibited areas.