Retired Chief Master Sgt. Tom Miller from the Nellis Airspace Management Office give a briefing on Mid-air collision avoidance on June 20, 2019. (Photo: Tommy Perez)
KINGMAN – About 20 pilots attended a seminar at the Kingman Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 765 hanger Thursday night.
Tom Miller and Rich Johnston, members of the Nellis Airspace Management Team, presented an hour-long informational lecture on Mid-air Collision Avoidance (MACA) for civilian aircraft operating near Military Operation Areas (MOAs) in Las Vegas.
Participants watched several videos of Air Force cockpit video recordings of civilian aircraft coming dangerously close to fast-moving military jets. These situations could have resulted in the loss of life. During the event, Miller encouraged pilots to communicate with Nellis Control.
According to the 57th Wing Safety, Nellis Control provides enroute air traffic control services in the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) and is available to provide traffic advisories through the Military Operation Areas in the vicinity of restricted airspace.
“The United States Air Force’s mission is to fly, fight, and win. 75 percent of all ordnance dropped by the Air Force is dropped at Nellis,” said Johnston.
According to the Nellis Air Force Base website, a training facility for U.S. and allied pilots, Nellis AFB conducts different training missions to make sure their pilots are combat ready. Red Flag and Green Flag are two of the base’s major aviation training exercises. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise designed to expose a pilot to their first 10 combat missions. Green Flag provides the pilots with air-to-ground training at the U.S. Army National Training Center in Fort Irwin (Barstow), California.
Red Flag training can include any aircraft from an F-35 to an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. Any military aircraft can operate in the MOAs in complete blackout conditions, with no navigational lighting. This makes it impossible for civilian aircraft to see or identify any other air traffic.
Miller said near-misses between civilian and military aircraft are rare, with only two incidents last year.
“With today’s equipment and the anti-collision equipment, it tells me a lot of information, a long time in advance,” said Miller. “There are so many tools out there, that if it happens, it’s usually going to be somebody who turns on their transponder at the last minute and doesn’t give me time to do anything.”
Miller also said the Nellis A.F.B. Airspace Management Office conducts about nine mid-air collision avoidance briefings a year and visits every airport within a 100 miles of the NTTR to provide information to the airport fixed-base operator (FBO) for local pilots.
Las Vegas is also home to McCarran International Airport. It ranks in the top ten busiest airports in the United States. McCarran has more than 366,000 commercial flights a year, along with daily military training flights. These conditions can make navigating challenging for the average private pilot.