The Ohio Air National Guard has increased the buffer zone separating a military flying area and commercial airspace since an incident in April during which an F-16 pilot from Toledo flew above the authorized airspace over southwestern Ohio and near the path of a commercial flight.
A statement issued yesterday by the air guard's 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport said the April 8 incident occurred when the lead pilot in a flying exercise "lost situational awareness during a maneuver and climbed above his ceiling." The second pilot in the exercise advised the leader that they were flying too high and both aircraft immediately descended below the 28,000-foot "ceiling" at the Buckeye Military Operating Area.
The fighter jets came close enough to an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight, bound for Atlanta from Cleveland, to activate the latter's proximity warning alarm while it flew at its authorized altitude of 30,000 feet. The commercial flight, with 58 passengers and four crew, took no evasive action and continued to its destination without further incident.
The air guard's statement said the fighter jets were flying at the top of their authorized airspace because of rough air at lower altitudes. In addition to enlarging the buffer zone between military and commercial airspace, the guard required the two pilots to complete "additional training" and conducted a campaign to re-emphasize safety procedures throughout the 180th.
"Safety is paramount in designing and fulfilling the training missions the 180th Fighter Wing performs," Col. Mark Bartman, the unit's commander, said in the statement.
He said he could not recall a similar incident having happened in the Buckeye operating area and that work will continue to avoid any repetitions.