Flight Operations - FAQs

Sailplane in flight at the Academy
Why can't you take all departures further north, instead of turning some east over our neighborhood?
When our aircraft depart USAFA they are going out to various training areas located out east, as far north as Elbert; as far south as Yoder. Our routings are coordinated with several other airspace users and their respective requirements and procedures. Changes to our procedures have significant ripple effects on others. These routings are standardized in order to ensure all flight operations in the region are safely deconflicted and standardized to provide predictability. Additionally, our local traffic pattern requires a "cross wind" turn to the east to reach outside downwind.

Why can't the southern departures depart to the south and not over our homes? Or maybe the southern departures can bank east to fly over Interquest?
Air Force regulations require aircraft to reach certain altitudes (height above the ground) before making turns out of the area. Turning earlier than we currently do would not allow our aircraft to achieve that safe altitude before maneuvering east. Once again, it's important to realize that there are far more users of the local airspace than the AF Academy. Consequently, our procedures must not only ensure our safety as well as the safety or our surrounding community but also account for the responsible and safe shared use of the airspace w/ other users (e.g. commercial airline traffic. general aviation, Medivac helicopters, US Army aviation assets etc).

I have small children at home and their routines are being disrupted by your flying activity. Is it possible to begin your flying later in the day?
We are up against extreme heat conditions in the summer afternoons here. Because the temperature inside the cockpit increases as the temperatures outside increase, the earlier we can depart, the more likely we are to get our flying training accomplished, without having to bleed over into the weekends or later into the evening. The Cadets are engaged in a rigorous academic and extracurricular schedule, in addition to the Airmanship program. We have taken measures to mitigate the noise over neighborhoods between 0600-0700.

When you fly over Baptist Road, your pilots do not stick to that ground track. Is there anything you can do to ensure pilots are flying the planned route to reduce overflight over homes
Winds and other factors may contribute to minor deviations and there is a part of Baptist Road that weaves a bit approaching Rollercoaster Rd. The aircraft will most likely not follow that weave in the road and instead will stay slightly to the east. However, overall the pilots should be within a half mile of Baptist Road. We typically use major thoroughfares to provide geographic references for our pilots who are conducting Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flying operations and must rely on such references for proper, consistent, standardized, and safe navigation in the area. They are chosen due to the geographic and visual significance and in line with our efforts to minimize direct overflight of residential areas. Moving our routes to areas not currently inhabited does not assure we will have similar deconfliction from residential development in the future. Today, it is virtually impossible to depart the Academy Airfield without overflying some sort of residential or commercial development. By anchoring our routes over major thoroughfares like Baptist Rd, we ensure our routes remain deconflicted over the long term from other airspace users and minimize overflight of residential areas regardless of the future nature of residential development in the region.

What is the safety record of the Academy's flying training program?
Overall, the 306 FTG mishap rates are significantly lower than the rest of the Air Force. We pride ourselves in accomplishing our mission while being proactive about safety. The 306 FTG Flight Safety Team routinely meets with local military and civilian pilots and briefs key safety focus areas to our own pilots.

What type of training do the cadets receive to equip them to handle in-flight emergencies to avoid any major accidents?
The cadets receive 17 hours of academics, including how to handle the aircraft and knowledge of the systems. They also complete nine flights with experienced Instructor Pilots from various aircraft in the United States Air Force. Additionally, the cadet syllabus requires extensive review of multiple emergencies that cadets must accomplish correctly prior to being authorized to fly solo in the pattern. The training received by the cadets exceeds that required by the FAA for civilian pilots to solo. Finally, if the cadets don't meet the stringent requirements of the syllabus, they will not solo.

Before the changes in 2013, you were flying over less populated areas and you had many more patterns which lessened the impact on any one neighborhood. Why can't you go back to flying the old patterns and return to flying in the northern training areas?
The new patterns and training areas are simplified and predictable and were driven by changes to commercial arrival and departure procedures and ground tracks for Colorado Springs, Centennial and Denver. This, coupled with continued increased throughput for our powered flight program, makes it necessary to have more simplified and predictable patterns. Going back to the old way of doing business under the current circumstances increases risk and decreases safety significantly. Furthermore, we cannot go back to the old training areas because of the danger imposed by the additional FAA flight paths in the area.

Why can't you use the airspace over the Academy or to the west for this training activity
Our Airmanship programs consist of more than powered flight. We have the jump program and soaring, that utilize the airspace over the Academy in addition to powered flight. The Class D airspace is saturated and bordered by mountainous terrain, and we will not put our neighbors, instructor pilots, or cadets at risk.

You eliminated flying over Larkspur due to noise complaints. Why won't you stop flying over our homes?
The elimination of flying over Larkspur was entirely due to the FAA taking away our practice area in the north. It is merely coincidental that there were noise complaints in that area.

How low do you fly over our homes to the east of the Academy?
Under normal circumstances and based on the pattern layout and predicted aircraft performance, aircraft will usually be greater than 500' above those houses. There are certain altitude/performance constraints that must be met before aircraft can turn to the east. This occasionally results in deviation from the standard ground track, but is used to get the maximum ground clearance that we can. On very rare occasions aircraft might be lower than 500' due to any number of reasons, however at all times they will exceed FAA safety standards for aircraft in the takeoff phase of flight.

I've seen your airplanes rock their wings and have heard them rev the engine over my house. I feel like they are taunting us. Why else would they be doing that?
There are many reasons that an airplane would rock its wings. A wing rock can be used to help other aircraft in the pattern, or the tower, see the plane. Additionally, the pilot might use a wing rock to clear airspace before a turn or to check ground reference points. Throttle adjustments are a routine part of operating in the traffic pattern. In either case, the pilots are not intentionally trying to upset the community.

You've previously claimed that arrivals into Centennial airport in Denver have effected your operations. It seems like that airport is pretty far north and shouldn't have an impact on you. How is it an issue?
Though Centennial seems pretty far away when you're talking about driving up there, in reality it's only 36 miles north of the Academy Airfield. The FAA recently created two new arrivals into Centennial airport that cut through our northern practice area. One arrival in particular, The "SCARF 3" brought airplanes directly through our practice area at 9,000 feet MSL, which is an altitude we routinely operate at.