Improving awareness of shared airspace

On Saturday 17th November USAF Flight Safety Officers from RAF Mildenhall and representatives from six east-of-england gliding clubs met to discuss how we each use our shared airspace, to improve mutual awareness and help avoid potential conflicts. Three USAF personnel briefed more than 30 glider pilots on the training missions that the USAF’s CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor and MC-130J transport aircraft conduct in Class G Uncontrolled Airspace in their Special Operations role. Gliding representatives then presented an outline of cross-country gliding, including a video showing Open Glider Network tracking of cross-country gliding in the East of England on the “Day of the Decade” on 21st June.

There was useful and extensive discussion of the times when gliders and Mildenhall-based military aircraft could find themselves at similar heights and locations. As a result of these discussions, the Mildenhall squadrons may start using RASP soaring forecasts to help them understand which of their training missions coincide with good cross-country soaring weather. Meanwhile, the gliding representatives learned that NOTAM’d USAF parachute jumping from MC-130Js over RAF Mildenhall & the Sculthorpe Training Area (NE of RAF Marham) can include high-altitude free-fall jumps (so-called High-Altitude, Low-Opening, or HALO jumps). These involve parachutists being dropped from as high as 10,000 ft, and they will jump over a scattered (3 to 4 Oktas) cloud layer if they have a direct view of the landing area below them – so clearly glider pilots would do well to avoid these NOTAM’d exercises.

After lunch the USAF representatives spent an hour observing the winch-launch operation at Gransden Lodge. All attendees felt the event was very useful, and will aim to repeat it in the future for the benefit of new USAF squadrons rotating through RAF Mildenhall.

Thanks to Andrew Watson for arranging the event hosted by Cambridge Gliding Centre.