Military bases are often veiled in mystery. Civilians are seldom granted access, mainly due to the risk of confidential information leaking out, but also to keep the base as organized as possible. With that in mind, you might have wondered if it’s possible to land a civilian aircraft on a military place.
So, can civilian aircraft land on military bases? Yes, in some cases! There’s a small chance that you can schedule a landing at military bases weeks or months in advance. There’s a better chance of landing at a military base if there’s a problem with your plane and you need an emergency landing. Otherwise, military bases are reserved for the military.
Military bases house members of the American military and are used to store advanced weaponry and heavy equipment. Because they’re government-owned and run, they have expansive security measures in place for safety.
The Security Measures at Military Bases
Security measures at military bases are rather intense. You often need prior approval before arriving at the gates and must show some form of valid government ID to even drive onto the base with a car. Even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be allowed access.
Yet, aircraft are even more of a threat. The airspace above some military bases is sometimes even considered “prohibited” or “restricted.” That means you’re not even allowed to fly over the base at all. So, you can forget about that impromptu landing on a military base!
But, What Happens If You Do?
When an unknown plane suddenly touches down on a military base, commanders on the base are on high alert. So, expect a very long process where you’ll have to prove who you are and that you’re not a threat!
Depending on how many people are on board, you might spend hours being questioned by security personnel and encounter bomb and drug-sniffing dogs. Expect to spend a lot of time trying to explain yourself and why you thought it would be a good idea to land on a military base.
There have been several cases in recent years where large passenger planes have accidentally landed at military bases instead of civilian airports. So, it’s not unheard of, but it definitely doesn’t minimize the threat perception.
Reasons You Can Land at a Military Base
There are a few reasons you might be able to land on a military base. For one, some military bases have joint use agreements. That means, as long as you get prior approval (PPR) from the commanders, you can apply to land on the military base at least three days in advance.
Of course, you might also be able to land on a military base if you’re experiencing issues on board and need an emergency landing. There are also some policies in place that allow military members to land civilian aircraft with prior approval.
A joint-use agreement is usually between a local airport and a military base, typically an Air Force base. These agreements allow military bases to host their own “civilian air terminals” with the assistance of an airport.
But, don’t just expect to be able to land at one of these bases however you please. There’s a lot of paperwork that you’ll need to fill out and you need to be approved.
So, what are the regulations?
- Prior Permission Required (PPR). In most cases, you need to apply to land at the base at least 72 hours before the scheduled landing. There’s likely a phone number you’ll need to call to get your control number.
- Random searching might be conducted. All airports have the right to search your bags, but military bases are even higher security. So, don’t be surprised if your luggage is searched upon landing.
- Landing fees. The fees are minimal for most bases, usually between $40 and $60. But, you also might incur extra fees if you plan to keep your plane on base for an extended period of time.
Submitting the application in a timely manner is the most important thing you can do. Make sure you understand the rules and regulations set forth by the military base.
What About Emergency Landings on Military Bases?
An emergency landing is sometimes referred to as an unauthorized landing, meaning you didn’t get any prior approval first. In most cases, you need to notify the base prior to the landing to notify them of your upcoming arrival.
However, it must be a genuine emergency. Basically, it has to be something that makes continuing the flight extremely dangerous to those on board, on the ground, or passengers of other nearby planes.
This might include technical problems, medical emergencies on board, or severe weather approaching.
So, what happens when you need to make an emergency landing?
- Clearing landing space. Since time is of the essence and civilian and military safety is at risk, those on base will take any precautions necessary to give you some space to land safely.
- Associated fees. You won’t be charged an additional landing fee, but there are some charges you might incur. Anything you damage on the base or supplies you need while there will cost you.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the safety of your passengers and those on the ground. Performing an emergency landing at a military base is less than ideal, but it’s an option if you have none others left.
Member of the Military
Though they still need prior approval, members of the military are allowed to land personal aircraft at military bases. However, you do have to be a current member of the military with a valid military ID card. You’ll go through the normal prior permission process.
Prior Permission to Land
Even if a base doesn’t have a joint-use agreement, you still might be able to land with prior approval. However, you’re going to need to have a pretty good reason as to why you have to land on their military base instead of at a normal civilian airport.
This usually doesn’t go over well and there’s a pretty good chance that your reasoning will be rejected. But, it might be worth the try if you really want to land there.
Following the Protocols
So, you technically can land on a military base, but you really need to make sure that you’re doing it right. This isn’t a free-for-all and military bases should always be your last resort.
Getting permission prior to landing is the most important thing you need to do. This request needs to be submitted several days in advance, but some military bases prefer weeks or months in advance.
Even if you do have an emergency landing on the horizon, you need to notify your air traffic controllers of such. Let them know that you need to land immediately and where you plan to land. That way, they can notify the base and allow them time to prepare for the landing.
For the most part, you shouldn’t expect an unapproved landing at a military base to go over well. The U.S. military has very strict regulations when it comes to airspace and using its airfields for anything other than military purposes. However, you might be able to land on a military base if….
- There’s a joint-use agreement between the base and a local airport, though you do need to fill out the necessary paperwork and pay the landing fees.
- There’s an emergency on your flight (technical, medical, or weather) and you need to immediately land
- You’re a current member of the U.S. military and you’ve received approval to land on the military base