So there are always a lot of military aircraft flying around. And there is a lot of what we call “Special Use Airspace” we have to know about. The military uses big chunks of the sky here. There are different categories of airspace. Some of it we are prohibited from ever entering; these usually surround “sensitive” military ground installations. Some of it is restricted pretty much all the time. Others are just “Military Operating Areas” or “Alert Areas," where we know to be on the lookout for military planes and helicopters.
Enroute Charts at SkyVector.com
If you right-click on the little snippet of map above, it'll open up a portion of the FAA aeronautical ("Sectional") chart we pilot use. You can scroll in and out. You'll see a bunch of odd-shaped boxes bordered in either blue or magenta. These are all the special-use airspaces. By zooming out a bit, you can see that northwest Florida and south Alabama are just about covered with them.
As you can see, the different airspaces are "clearly" depicted on our aviation charts. But here, where so many different types of airspaces often overlap, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which is which and what type of airspace you’re in, and whether or not you should be there. It can be a challenge. It takes some diligent studying of the chart to make sure you don’t go astray. Communication with ATC is vital. The military doesn’t take incursions into “their” airspace lightly.
Destin, Florida is a popular vacation spot. Its little airport gets lots of traffic. Unfortunately, it sits smack-dab in the middle of the Eglin Restricted Areas. Graciously, the military has given us a couple of corridors through which to get there. We can get in and out, but we must talk to Eglin Approach and we must have a clearance in advance.
The north-south corridor takes us over an old training airport called Field 2. It's a big place. There’s not much going on now, although I imagine that it was hopping back during the Viet Nam days. Perhaps it dates back to the Korean War or earlier? On the ground is an old Lockheed C-130 Hercules that probably should be in a museum somewhere. Also there are two old F-4 Phantoms. These airplanes seem to be in an almost-flyable condition. However the runways are not maintained so it would be pretty tough to fly them out. I don’t think they ever will.
It's not a great picture, but I don't like flying too low over these facilities, especially if they are still in use, as Field 2 seems to be - although for what, I have no idea. (The curved thingee in the lower-left corner of the picture is the defogger vent of my helicopter.)
When you fly low, as we helicopters do, you can miss seeing the big picture. I'd flown up and down the corridor a couple of times before noticing something odd. Just south of Field 2 is a site that is now used as a gunnery range for tanks. However, it is a little unusual.
As you can see, it is very clearly in the shape of an arrow, and it must have been cut that way deliberately. It even shows up well Google Maps.
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I suspect that the field was originally made and used during WWII. (The buildings at the point of the arrow are fairly recent.) I have no idea where it might have been leading Air Force pilots. It does not seem to point “at” anything. The city of and airport at Crestview, Florida are well to the left of the point.
Of course, maybe it is just a gunnery or some sort of bombing range that just happens to have been carved out of the trees in the shape of an arrow. Maybe somebody knows.