Ed Rombauer's Safety Corner
SEE OR NOT TO SEE--THAT IS THE PROBLEM.
I know thatís not what Shakespeare wrote but the bard never had to look
for flying objects several thousand feet in the air.
We are talking about seeing and avoiding other aircraft on a very
clear, sunny day, as well as on a not-so-nice cloudy day. In a controlled
test of seeing other aircraft in clear VFR conditions, pilots saw only 56
per cent of the traffic in their vicinity, which means that 44 per cent
were never seen. Now in my
estimation, near 50-50 odds on missing other aircraft is not a ďgood
thingĒ. The reason that
aircraft are not falling out of the sky all around us, of course, is that
the airspace that we fly in is very large and we can go for a long time
not looking out of the windscreen before running into another aircraft.
However, if you donít look outside you will never know when the
long time becomes a short time and you become another statistic.
For those who like statistics, about 2 per cent of the yearly
aircraft accidents involve mid-air collisions.
we know that we are not going to see all the traffic all the time the
trick is to know when and where to look.
So I might suggest that you be especially vigilant in areas where
there are a lot of aircraft. Since airplanes tend to hang out around airports, this is
also the place where the most mid-airs occur.
Looking for other aircraft starts before take off where the pilot
(and passengers) should scan not only the approach end of the runway for
landing aircraft but the departure end as well.
Also, check whether this is an intersecting runway (itís never
good to meet a fellow aviator at the intersection).
After departing look up, thatís were that fellow will be on his
go-around because he was too fast and you were slow. When returning and you are within five miles of the airport
(especially uncontrolled) get every eyeball in the airplane looking for
traffic. Use your radio,
better too many calls than not enough; besides, more radio calls might
make Joe Weakender think that the entire Warbird squadron is coming in to
land and push him to get out of the way.
Also, I like to use my landing lights when in the traffic pattern.
of the tools for collision avoidance were learned years ago and have
slowly melted away, such as sector scanning, S turns, and proper radio
procedure. Two things to
avoid in VFR flying are fixation and complacency. While you are staring at your instruments, adjusting your
engine, things are happening outside and while you sit there daydreaming
about the good life, the three dimensional world around you is constantly
changing, hopefully not for the worse.
None of this is brain surgery; it just requires a little thought
and practice. After a winter
of less flying than weíd like itís easy to concentrate on the things
inside but itís the things outside that will get you.
out for that bug on your windshield, it may be my airplane!
Ed. Rombauer, Safety Office