Five FAA representatives visited Creech AFB, Nev., last month to see first-hand the 432nd Wing’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles and learn about the capacity of these UAVs to operate safely in the national airspace (NAS). The Air Force, along with the Defense Department overall, seeks more access to the NAS for UAVs since fleets of these aircraft are rapidly expanding and there is limited availability for them in restricted airspace both for training and operational missions. Robin Badger, second-in-charge of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Center at Salt Lake City, said the visit provided valuable insights on the future impact of the UAV mission and “how it may affect air traffic control operations.” Wing officials reinforced the case that these UAVs really aren’t “unmanned” at all, but rather safely operated at all times by highly trained crews. Further, for air traffic controllers, these aircraft “will look and sound just like” any manned aircraft, with their strobe lights, transponders, and comparable radio capabilities, said Lt. Col. James Clark, 432nd Operations Group deputy commander. And, the Predators and Reapers would follow a pre-programmed flight path and behave predictably until recovery in the rare instance that they would lose a satellite communications link with their human controllers. (Includes Creech report by 1st Lt. Kevin Milgram)