Military, civilian pilots collaborate during mid-air collision avoidance seminar

  • Published
  • By Airman Ashlyn J. Correia
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 157th Air Refueling Wing Flight Safety office partnered with the Pease Development Authority, Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team and Port City Air to host a regional Mid-Air Collision and Avoidance, MACA, Seminar Oct. 24 at Pease International Airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The free seminar was held to bring military and civilian pilots from across New England together to focus on flight safety while facilitating discussion between the two communities in relation to MACA.

"This is the first time in history that we have gotten everyone together in New England to talk about mid-air collision avoidance," said Maj. Justin LaFrance, the 157 chief of Flight Safety. "The important thing was to get the military and other governmental agencies together with civilian general aviation pilots to talk about how we can use the same air space, use it safely and work together to prevent mid-air collisions."

The idea for the seminar came after an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, collided midair with a civilian Cessna C150 on July 7, 2015. After months of planning and organizing, the seminar was created with help from many civilian businesses and organizations.

Military pilots from the 157 ARW, 119th Fighter Squadron, New Jersey; 439th Airlift Wing, Massachusetts; 143rd Airlift Wing, Rhode Island; 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut; the N.H. Army National Guard, and Civil Air Patrol, along with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART) and the N.H. State Police Special Enforcement Unit, attended with civilian general aviation pilots and community members about the different aircrafts and common tactical maneuvers and approaches used near installations. The event was held with the hope that it would help them avoid a possible collision with a military aircraft.

According to Peter Mekelatos, the sales and marketing manager for avionics maintenance and parts at Port City Air, there were nearly 110 people in attendance at the event.

About 35 to 40 general aviation piloted aircraft flew to the event despite the low cloud ceiling in the area, according to LaFrance

Attendees asked questions about military operations and terminology and what they can do to help avoid a collision.

"Don't stay below us or behind us," said Maj. Emily Koziol, chief of Safety at Westover Air Reserve Base, when asked what to do around a C-5 Galaxy. "Were never going to see you."

Civilian pilots appreciated the chance to collaborate with their military counterparts.

"I didn't know the extent of military operation and the amount of conflict military operations can have with general aviation," said Maurice Regan, a pilot and a member of the Henniker Flying Club.

Attendees of the event were provided the chance to see military aircraft, like the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, F-16 Fighting Falcon, DHART and N.H. State Police helicopters and  up close on the flightline and ask members of the aircrew questions.

"It is our hope that we can use this as a benchmark for other units in the Air National Guard and [Air Force] Reserve, with a different unit hosting each year so that we can get a more wide spread emphasis on how different units across New England operate with the goal of promoting flight safety across the region," said LaFrance.