Military restricted areas (RAs) are used for many activities; any of which could be very hazardous if you accidentally stray into these areas without a clearance when they are active. RAs are marked on visual terminal charts (VTC), visual navigation charts (VNC) and in the en-route charts and en-route supplement Australia (ERC and ERSA).
RAs are either active at set times as per ERSA and charts, or by NOTAM. A number of these areas can be activated at very short notice so you must always ensure you have up-to-date information about their status.
In order to assist with shared use of airspace, all RAs have been allocated an ‘RA status’. This will give an indication as to the likelihood of obtaining a clearance to fly through restricted airspace. NOTAMs may be issued to indicate changes to the RA status, and should always be checked prior to flight planning.
Conditional Status RA1: Pilots may flight plan through the RA and, under normal circumstances, expect a clearance from ATC.
Conditional Status RA2: Pilots must not flight plan through the RA unless on a route specified in ERSA GEN FPR or under agreement with the Department of Defence, however a clearance from ATC is not assured. Other tracking may be offered through the restricted area on a tactical basis.
Conditional Status RA3: Pilots must not flight plan through the RA and clearances will not be available.
The procedure for getting a clearance for these areas is the same as that for getting a clearance into civil class C airspace. You will need to call the appropriate frequency as per ERSA but you should have a backup plan if a clearance is not available. Remember if in any doubt as to the conditional status of an RA, assume RA3 and avoid.
If you have questions about military RAs, first consult NAIPS and verify the RA status or, if airborne, ask ATC or Flightwatch. If still unsure drop into your local flight school and speak to an instructor.
Above all, brief yourself well, always carry up-to-date charts and do not rely on GPS as your primary navigation tool.