Using ATC to Check the Status of a MOA

Is it safe to fly through a Military Operations Area (MOA)? It depends.

A pilot named Drew recently asked me if I had any advice about how to contact ATC to check the status of a MOA. Here’s what I told him.

Show Resources

Yankee 1 and 2 MOAs. (Click to see larger version.)

Yankee 1 and 2 are controlled by Boston Center.

Aeronautical Information Manual

3−4−5. Military Operations Areas

c. Pilots operating under VFR should exercise extreme caution while flying within a MOA when military activity is being conducted. The activity status (active/inactive) of MOAs may change frequently. . . Prior to entering an active MOA, pilots should contact the controlling agency for traffic advisories.

d. MOAs are depicted on sectional, VFR Terminal Area, and Enroute Low Altitude charts.

Update. 11 January 2017

An Example Supporting the FAA’s Guidelines on Use of Call Sign

via email set on 5 Jan.:

“Hi Jeff,

I wanted to weigh in on the debate about whether or not to include your make and model in an abbreviated callsign. Just the other day, I was inbound to Palo Alto tower, and there was another aircraft in the pattern with a very similar sounding callsign. The only thing that saved us from getting confused was that he was in a Skyhawk and I was in a Cherokee. It’s a good thing, since at one point I was #2 for landing and he was #1. Including the model in my callsign may very well have saved me from making a bad mistake.

So my vote would be to keep the make and/or model.

Thanks, Ian”

Your Question of the Week

When flying VFR, and using ATC’s radar advisory service, otherwise known as flight following, you are free to change altitudes at will. A controller will remind you altitude changes are at your discretion as long as you advise the controller before changing altitudes. Here’s your question. Under what circumstances can a controller restrict your altitude even though you are flying VFR? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find the answer to this question along with a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Cavanaugh January 4, 2017 at 2:47 pm

I can’t remember when ATC has told me to change my approved VFR Flight Following altitude once enroute (ATC does issue heading changes frequently). In all cases ATC has either dictated a temporary ceiling while climbing to my planned altitude which is rare or once I announce my intentions to begin decent to my destination ATC will issue a “not to descend” below a certain and then issue subsequent approved descent altitudes. Very rarely will ATC keep you at an altitude above your vertical descent plan that will make it impossible to land at your destination. But it has happened !!
Rob, So Calif.

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ErikB June 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Nice lesson on inquiring about MOA status. Just a minor correction on the geography: the Yankee 1&2 MOAs are over the White Mountains in NH, while the Green Mountains are in VT.

Also, in the many times I’ve been hiking in those mountains, if it’s a weekday, I have just about always witnessed military flight activity, for at least a little bit of the day. In my mind, the NOTAMs’ language about them being “always active during the week” is an intentional blanket (or “CYA”) type statement. I’m sure no one wants to have to plan ahead and get NOTAMs out there for all of the specific times they would be hot. I agree that the best thing for a GA pilot is to never assume either way, but simply ask, as was discussed.

p.s. Often the planes I saw up there were the A-10s that used to be based in western MA. Pretty cool to be hiking on the Franconia ridge, and looking DOWN on a handful of warthogs flying through the valley a few thousand feet below!

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