Now don't get me wrong, I assign no blame to anybody who's been in a near-hit incident, you can take every precaution, and it can still happen. But that's no reason to be fatalistic. There are lots of things you can do. But let me backtrack a bit. Once, long long ago, when I was a low time private pilot in the UK, returning from a successful trip from the south coast, feeling pretty good, keeping my navigation log up to date, making sure I was avoiding restricted areas, Whoaa! What was that! A purple coloured aircraft, twin engined, diving and turning to my left, a near-miss (or near hit as I prefer to call them, after all we did miss). Didn't see him, until too late, clearly head on slightly lower and much faster than me. Maybe 200 ft laterally and 50ft below. Too close for me. What did I do wrong? Head in the cockpit too long? No TCAS in my little Cessna 152? I spent a lot of time looking into what could and should be done after that. Let's start with the obvious: 1) Keep your lookout going. Even in the circuit, I know it's a busy time but some people fly right through circuits oblivious of their existence. Day-time VFR lookout is simple: small segments of the sky say 10 degrees, concentrate on that sector (you're looking for any objects that tickles your eye-balls), then move on to the next 10 degrees. As one of my first instructors said to me "The plane that kills you comes from the side". He was a bit inscrutable, but I think he meant make sure your scan covers from 8 O'clock all the way to 4 O'clock, not just ahead and 30 degrees to the side. 2) Don't got heads-in. Every task in the cockpit can be broken down into small chunks giving you the opportunity to look out again. Even dialing frequency numbers can be broken down One- Look - One - Look - Nine - Decimal Nine - Look. You get the idea. 3) CRM is crucial. If you have an instructor on board, make sure they are looking as well, they probably are anyway. If you have a passenger on board, pay them to spot small aircraft at your level. Playing games on the Nintendo DS while you fly is a waste of two good Mark 1 eyeballs. Pay them one pound for every aircraft they see. 4) Get a traffic service, ATC load dependent of course, but sometimes a big distraction in crowded areas: "Traffic 2 O'clock , three miles, no height", usually means theres an airbus 10,000 feet above you, still it's better than not having the service. 5) Position reporting by you is especially important at lightly controlled airfields, such as in the USA where CTAF frequencies are for exactly this purpose. "Lakeland traffic, Cessna 3421 Zulu, down-wind for runway 21, Lakeland traffic". This tactic may not be much use if someone is just bombing through a zone, because they are probably not even on the right frequency. 6) Get TCAS. There are some very good cheap models out there, that warn you of conflicts. I like the G1000 warning system, where you can overlay the traffic on your moving map. This is a great system. I once 'watched' a conflicting aircraft fly below me and across. I knew exactly where it was (the TCAS told me) but I never once saw it. These systems are great. 7) Get an Instrument rating. This one obviously is a little harder to achieve, but the idea once you have an IFR flight plan someone else is also responsible for keeping legally mandated minimum distances from you to the next plane. 8) Don't fly at the same height as everybody else. Choose an odd altitude, Why fly at 2,000' when you can fly at 2,150' feet? If you look at the density of traffic at different altitudes in a VFR environment, you see a huge number of aircraft at 2,000' . Look slightly higher, the density of traffic is much lower. Again this doesn't help with circuit blasting. 9) Finally, I would recommend you read the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) or look at their website. It details events that were near hits and describes in detail what everybody did, when they did it. If you understand these events you can get into the mind set to avoid these events. Finally I would say collision avoidance is a major task of the VFR pilot, especially single pilot operation. As a low time pilot you may not have the capacity to keep your look out going all the time, but as you build up more experience more time can be allocated to lookout. As my instrument instructor said: "If your'e doing nothing on a single-pilot operation flight, you should feel guilty, look out, check something, what possible conflicts could there be". None of the above are foolproof of course, but lowering your chances of that scary moment happening are what it's all about.
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1 Response » to “Mid-air Collision Avoidance or how to avoid scary moments”

  1. SID NICHOLLS says:

    I have a comms related query. I shall be flying to Jersey CI in mid-September and will go via SAM VOR on the VFR recommended track (185 magnetic) to the “Mike Papa” beacon at Cherbourg. I am wondering who should I contact before reaching Fifty Degrees North (GARMI reporting point); is it Brest FIR or Deauville TMA 3. The reason for the query is that some years ago, the pilot I flew with contacted Jersey zone initially before we even reached 50 north and then (as far as my memory can recollect) made contact with either Brest or Deauville. Not a vital question, but it would satisfy my curiosity, and maybe save fiddling with comm changes. Answers please to the above E-Mail address. Thanks