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Here's What You Need To Know About Flying Through MOAs

While VFR flight through Military Operations Area (MOA) doesn't require any clearance or communications, it's not really the best idea. Here are some tips to handle MOAs safely.

What To Know About MOAs

MOAs are places where military training occurs. As a VFR pilot, you can fly through an active MOA without talking to anyone. However, we recommend that you don't, because it can be hard to see military traffic when they're "turning and burning" at high rates of speed.

But with proper planning and communication (and flight following), flying VFR through a MOA can be a relatively normal occurrence.

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Finding Them On Your Sectional Chart

MOAs have a magenta hatched border, and they're labeled starting with the MOA name, followed by the letters "MOA". In the example below, "LEMOORE A MOA" is the highlighted MOA. MOA subdivisions may be identified by a suffix consisting of a number, letter, cardinal point, or the terms "High" or "Low," (e.g., Moody 1; Gamecock B; Tiger North; Smoky High).

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You'll find MOAs all across the country. Some are used more than others, which is why it's always a good idea to pick up VFR flight following when you can. When military aircraft are active in the MOA, it's best to give them a little extra room!

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When Are MOAs Active?

If you look on the side of your VFR sectional, you'll find the details of the MOA, including:

  • MOA Name
  • Altitudes (MSL)
  • Time of Use (Local)
  • Controlling Agency
  • Communication Frequency

    If you're using ForeFlight as an EFB, you can find MOA information simply by tapping and briefly holding your finger on the airspace itself. Click "details" next to the name of the MOA to find out everything you need to know.

Is The MOA "Hot"? Flight Service And Center Control Can Help

Just because MOAs have a scheduled active time, doesn't necessarily mean there are military aircraft in them making them "hot". The best way to figure out if a MOA is active is to call Flight Service or Center. They can let you know if there is scheduled activity, or if there are aircraft actively operating in a MOA.

How do you ask? Just call up Center or Flight Service on their frequency, and ask if the MOA you're near is active. It's that simple!

Can You Get An IFR Clearance Through An Active MOA?

According to AIM 3-4-5, "Whenever a MOA is being used, nonparticipating IFR traffic may be cleared through a MOA if IFR separation can be provided by ATC. Otherwise, ATC will reroute or restrict nonparticipating IFR traffic."

In the real world, it's rare to get an IFR clearance through an active MOA. The best plan of action, if you're filing IFR, is to route around any MOAs on your flight.

Temporary MOAs Exist

According to the FAA, Temporary MOAs are designated to accommodate the military's need for additional airspace to periodically conduct exercises that supplement routine training. When existing airspace is inadequate to accommodate these short-term military exercises, temporary MOAs may be established for a period not to exceed 45 days. On a case-by-case basis, Airspace Regulations and ATC Procedures Group may approve a longer period if the proponent provides justification for the increase.

Once a temporary MOA is approved, the military is responsible for publicizing the exercise within 100 miles of the affected airspace.

MOAs In Class G Airspace

MOAs may be designated in Class G airspace. Using agencies and pilots operating in such MOAs should be aware that nonparticipating aircraft may legally operate IFR or VFR without an ATC clearance in these MOAs. Pilots of nonparticipating aircraft may operate VFR in Class G airspace in conditions as low as 1 statute mile flight visibility and clear of clouds.

Because of this, the FAA requires MOA operations conducted within Class G airspace to be signed off with a letter of agreement between the controlling and using agencies.

Do You Have Any Interesting Stories?

Have you ever flown through a MOA and spotted military aircraft? What interesting MOA stories do you have? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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