John Ewing has recently written an interesting post on Aviation Mentor about a topic that is not written about very often: How to avoid fast moving military aircraft activity. He began his post by noting an incident that involved an Air Force F-16CG colliding in mid air with a Cessna 172 over Florida. The Air Force pilot was able to eject from his aircraft with only minor injuries but the Cessna pilot was not so fortunate and he ended up loosing his life.
John then wrote about the following three keys to safely sharing airspace with fast moving military aircraft:
- Understand what is regulatory and non-regulatory airspace. This includes special use and other airspace.
- Know where military aircraft are scheduled to be operating.
- Recognize the limits of "see and avoid.”
John also wrote more in-depth about the limits of “see and avoid” and he noted that most traffic collision avoidance is accomplished using this technique. However and in the case of the collision between the F-16 and the Cessna, the closure rate between the two accident aircraft was just over 20 seconds between the time that ATC received a conflict alert and when the impact occurred.
Ironically though, the biggest single factor that caused the collision was that it occurred inside Class C airspace where the Cessna pilot least expected to encounter fast moving fighters. In fact, the F-16 was involved in a training exercise and was actually off course by several miles. In other words, you should always be prepared for the unexpected when you are up in the sky.