Being safe is key

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Walt Koelln
  • 94th AW Safety
As the new wing Chief of Safety, I wanted to introduce myself to you and say how gratifying it is to know and see the seriousness with which our military tackles safety in general. It's rewarding to witness our military's determination to not only learn from our past mishaps, but to also be proactive in the "stop it before it happens" arena. 

Two programs initiated by the Air Force Reserve Command exhibit this safety "prevent defense" mentality. One is the Air National Guard's a Mid-Air Collision Avoidance Web site, and hot off the press is AFRC's new program called "Close Call." 

Both military and civilian aviators, and safety professionals around the country, will find the value of this tool immeasurable. As military aviators, the joke has always been if you want us to understand something, then brief us with lots of pictures, lots of colors, and big, easy to understand words. Well, for MACA, the ANG nailed it with

While primarily designed for civilian pilots, allows military flying organizations to populate the database with regularly flown routes, low-levels, operating areas, airdrop run-ins and drop zones, bomb runs and ranges, etc. The more information uploaded, the better the tool becomes. 

As you'll see when you access the site, it looks, acts, and feels a lot like the popular Google Earth. You can zoom in to a particular city, state, or region, select military bases and operating areas, overlay low level routes, and even take a look at locations of reported midairs and near-midairs. 

Thankfully, we've had no midairs, but there are near-midairs in our metro area, and you can roll your cursor over the near-midairs, click, and review the FAA report.
And while you're snooping around, don't forget to take a look at DoD military members, who are involved in aviation planning, scheduling or are pilots can sign up to participate in the Joint Low Level Deconfliction Tool (JLLDT). is a tremendous teaching tool when visiting nearby airports and briefing civilian pilots. Anyone can access the website for planning purposes, and the midair and near-midair selection in the menu offers an added level of information that can't be so easily accessed anywhere else. This website is a must in any unit MACA pamphlet being handed out to pilots, FBOs, and airports. 

Here are former AFRC Vice Commander Maj. Gen. Poulin's comments about this program:

"Commanders, it is with great pleasure that I announce the Air Force Reserve Command's new self-reporting system known as Close Call. Under Close Call, all military members will be encouraged to anonymously report any event or observation that they feel identifies a potential hazard to flight, ground, maintenance, weapons or driving operations via an internet web link. A similar system is currently being utilized by 74 airlines and is a proven means of identifying safety "focus" areas. This new system is an attempt to take Air Force Safety program from its traditional reactive role and create a new proactive paradigm that eliminates mishaps before they occur."

"So what is a Close Call? A close call is an unplanned incident that does not cause personal injury or property damage; but under different circumstances could have done so. Experience with close call reporting systems has shown that timely review of close calls can provide valuable diagnostic information for insight into a system's vulnerabilities and help in the identification of areas for system correction or improvement.

Experience is our best teacher. Sharing our own mistakes help others learn and understand what happened. This can help avoid making this same mistake again.

"As part of the campaign to launch this program, AFRC Safety will be sending posters to all of the Wings to advertise the system. Please post these in prominent areas. I want all AFRC commanders to support Close Call and to urge their personnel to become acquainted with the web site and to use it regularly."

You can read more about the program in June's issue of the Citizen Airmen. Similar programs in commercial aviation have been credited with reducing mishaps by 65% since the late 1970's. It's time the USAF started using this time-tested method of mishap reduction and prevention! 

Can we proactively prevent mishaps? The military has decreased mishaps but the question now is can we do even better? According to AFRC Flight Safety, proactive prevention programs like "Close Call" are the only avenues that truly have an impact at this point. 

Now the only way left to find out is to use these programs, know your threat ahead of time, check your six and be a good wingman. Be safe.