1. Clear your flight path. If heads down, ensure your wingman is looking for threats (other traffic). Sounds like common sense, but it's easy to get a "helmet fire" and spend more time looking in the aircraft than out ... especially with all the new gadgets in modern cockpits. Below 10,000 feet and/or anywhere near an air traffic area, your cranium should be on a swivel -- never focused inside the cockpit unless you have someone clearing for you.

2. Use flight following when on a cross country or returning to base from the range or military operating area. But don't count on air traffic control to save you. You should be the one with the most situational awareness.

3. Plan on civilians blasting through your operating area as a general rule of thumb, and have a plan for your knock-it-off.

4. Don't intercept civilian aircraft unless specifically directed. I know it's tempting, but don't. Besides alarming the other pilot, you're most likely violating your own training rules.

5. Speaking of training rules, Air Force Instruction 11-214 states to knock-it-off if "an un-briefed or unscheduled flight enters the working area and is detrimental to the safe conduct of the mission."

6. Use sectional charts for your mission planning.

7. Comply with the federal aviation regulations -- speed and airspace restrictions. Don't go blasting through Class B airspace after cancelling instrumental flight rules as you enter a low-level route.

8. Book your visual low-level route, and make your entry time.

9. Keep your situational awareness high. Know where you are at all times. Six years ago a fighter pilot had a mid-air with a Cessna. Why? The fighter pilot had no situational awareness on where he was and blasted right through Class B and C airspace for two large airports.

10. Report all close encounters via a Hazardous Air Traffic Report form. I'm positive there are many close encounters never reported. For our system to better accommodate civilian and military traffic, there needs to be data to substantiate the agenda to push for safety related issues.

-- Lt. Col. Edward Linch III