By William Murray
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 20, 2008 - General aviation officers and military safety officers are using an interactive Web site created and run by the Air National Guard to help eliminate midair collisions and close calls. Each year, on average, there are 30 midair collisions and thousands of near midair collisions internationally, and the number of unreported close calls in the United States alone may be much higher, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
In 2005, a military training aircraft collided with a civilian crop duster, resulting in destruction of both aircraft and the death of the civilian pilot. Following that tragedy, the Air National Guard created the SeeAndAvoid.org Web site portal to help make the skies safer for pilots and passengers.
Adopted for use throughout the Defense Department in 2006, the SeeAndAvoid.org portal offers a centralized, credible Web site for civilian pilots and military safety officers. The site offers reciprocal information and education on airspace, visual identification, aircraft performance and mutual hazards to safe flight, with the ultimate goal of eliminating midair collisions and reducing close calls.
The portal features an easy-to-use graphical interface that permits aviators to locate reported midair collisions and near midair collisions on a Google-driven map, and then directly link to the FAA or National Transportation Safety Board official report on the incident.
"Open communication is paramount in aviation safety," said Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan, combat fighter pilot and the creator and program manager of the SeeAndAvoid portal. "We built this portal to communicate vital information that saves lives."
The Defense Safety Oversight Council funded the portal to help to reduce accidents in the military.
"One general aviation pilot in Arkansas told us that the SeeAndAvoid site helped him avoid flying across military low-level training routes where he had been having near-misses for years," Vaughan said, "As that pilot told us, without this information, the question was when, not if, he was going to collide with a fighter jet."
General aviation pilots, by and large, use the Internet to get their most important flight planning information, such as weather, Notices to Airmen – known in the aviation world as NOTAMs -- and routing. The SeeAndAvoid portal provides key information for flight planning, as knowing where military operational flying areas are and how to avoid that airspace is crucial to a safe flight.
For military safety officers, SeeAndAvoid.org provides the opportunity to create a Web-based midair-collision-avoidance educational and public-outreach program. The site integrates and links with related sites such as FAA Special Use Airspace, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's Air Safety Foundation, and others to create a comprehensive online flight-safety community.
The Air Force's Air Combat Command joined as a major contributor in 2007 and promotes the Web site internationally. Efforts to integrate a new FAA deconfliction program will provide further value to military pilots under a new low-level deconfliction project jointly sponsored by the FAA and DoD.
The goal is to eliminate midair collisions and reduce close calls through continuous flight safety and proper flight planning, officials said.
SeeAndAvoid.org allows users to find and link to all existing military mid-air collision-avoidance programs on a single Web site, while also enjoying new access to information from government agencies and military bases that previously did not have Web-based content.
By promoting information exchange between civilian pilots and the military flight safety community, SeeAndAvoid.org provides one-stop shopping to help all pilots safely share the skies.
(William Murray is a public affairs specialist with the New Media directorate of American Forces Information Service.)