Tuesday 21 May 2013 14:37 UTC
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I recently had the closest to a mid air collision I ever want to experience! Chugging along at 3000ft minding my own business and with a TS from a LARS operator. I had spotted a couple of contacts called by the ATCO and had a good look because the ATCO had then said "Late or no warning of traffic due density of traffic keep a good look out"
I then turned to my passenger (a student PPL) to cross check our position from his reading of the chart when a PA28 flashed past from left to right straight across the nose. So close that I would have clearly read the reg if it had been in my field of view long enough.
As it was I only barely registered it (no pun intended)
He plainly hadn't seen me and I certainly didn't see him.
I've racked my brains as to what could have caused us to fail to see each other. From my point of view I'd just scanned the area he came from and I can only conclude that his profile more or less head on was so thin I just didn't see it. Conversely I was pretty much broadside to him with strobes going etc. so I should have been more visible?
Looking out, a TS, I can't see what else I could have done, but any thoughts as to ways I might improve look out would be very welcome.
I have no criticism of the ATCO by the way.
If you were both flying at similar speeds (you didn't mention the type you were flying) then you would have been at 45 degrees aspect to each other rather than head/side on.
Other than keep looking, wingtip to wingtip and up/down as you do so there is little to suggest.
Presumably since the radar controller didn't make any mention of that traffic at all it cannot have been squawking. Nothing you can do about that but a salutory lesson to all.
SQUAWK MODE CHARLIE - ALWAYS.
Two things to bear in mind:-
a) concentrating on visually acquiring traffic already called can distract you from seeing the other (vital) traffic.
b) the one that is going to hit you is stationary relative to your point of view, and therefore much harder to spot!
Glad that it was a near MISS and you are here to type about it.
There are two ways to argue with a woman.
Neither of them work!
I had a moment recently which reinforced that point. Flying out of Biggin, I got to Sevenoaks when someone else coming in called also at Sevenoaks at the same altitude as me. Looking around, I saw an aircraft at the same height as myself over the other side of Sevenoaks coming in. At this point I did not stop my lookout per se, but I definitely relaxed. Suddenly straight ahead of me I clocked a twin heading towards me. I went down and he went up so no harm to either of us but I definitely learned something from that little encounter!
(I'm a very low-hours PPL, still learning all the basics btw!)
I suspect it's happened to a lot of us, all of whom have then sharpened up our scans. I think the most disconcerting I have had was in the front of a Super Cub over Cowes when returning to the mainland during my Tailwheel training. I spotted a Navajo coming the other way about 150ft above with quite a high closing speed. We were a bit below so there was no need to take avoiding action but it happened so quickly as to be a bit of a shock. The reason this was particularly disconcerting was when I read a bit an from an online forum printed in a rival of this fine magazine by an instructor who was in the back of a Super Cub and met a Navajo coming the other way at high speed. Sounded like it had unnerved my instructor as well but I suppose he had seen it later than I had, being sat in the back!
Yes - this happened to me a few weeks ago after receiving traffic information. As I was focusing in one spot trying to find the traffic, suddenly something else popped out right in front of me crossing my path.
I thought there was a Short Term Conflict Alert mechanism in the radar room which triggers when two aircraft are on a collision course? Or does that only work when flying inside controlled airspace/the ATZ?
Personally I cannot see how my own lookout will be any better than the controller's view, who can see the bigger picture where there is radar coverage. If given the situation, I would either "Request vectors for traffic avoidance" and if that is not available, leave the vicinity and fly another route which is less busy.
I would be extra vigilant for a good lookout if the controller mentions limited alerts due to traffic density. Any passengers in the aircraft can assist with the lookout as well.
The thing that still bugs me is the knowledge that I may not realise how close I have been to an aircraft that I have never seen. When under basic service and ATC nevertheless advise of traffic near and closing, a lot of the time I don't see it, even when told where to look. After a while I assume they must have missed me..............
IMHO that is a dangerous move - it could be very easy to forget to reset it correctly. Far better to have the correct setting - and then simply set 200 ft lower / higher on your altimeter.
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