“Looking for Traffic”

Went to the airport this afternoon to watch, and listen to, the pattern. I find it very instructive to hear the different radio calls and responses, I hear things I like and try to use in the future, and sometimes I hear things that I make a note not to say in the future.

But one phrase started to bother me – looking for traffic. All too often it seemed to be an automatic response with no real conviction that the pilot really cared. Now that is no doubt a little harsh but on about 3 or 4 occasions a pilot on final was to be told traffic holding in position, departing before arrival. The response – looking for traffic. I don’t know how you can’t have that traffic in sight, its right where you’re looking right now.

Preliminary NTSB Report

This week the NTSB published the premiminary report on last week’s fatal mid-air collision over San Diego. It doesn’t really reveal much other than to confirm that the two planes took off within a minute of each other, both heading to the same nearby field.

Preliminary information supplied by the Federal Aviation Administration indicates that the Cessna 172RG was issued a takeoff clearance at 1638, and was subsequently handed off to the Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility. The Cessna 182Q had been in the traffic pattern at Gillespie performing touch-and-go landings and takeoffs and departed the traffic pattern at 1638 southbound toward Brown Field. The airplanes collided about 2,300 feet mean sea level (msl) approximately 3 miles south of Gillespie.

At first I had surmised that the 182 simply caught up with the 172 and didn’t see it but an eyewitness report confirms that they collided head-on, instead:

A witness, a professional airline pilot, … noted two airplanes were flying at an estimated 1,800 feet msl. One airplane was flying southwest bound, the other was flying east. The airplanes were in the Gillespie Field class Delta airspace when the airplane flying eastbound impacted the airplane flying southwest bound. The eastbound airplane impacted the right side of the southwest bound airplane.

A terrible accident, no doubt about that, but a reminder that see and avoid applies at all times whether VFR or IFR. Be extra vigilant when working near busy airports. We all know it, just need to make sure we all do it.

Nasty Mid-Air Collision

Yesterday two planes collided near the airport from which I fly, killing all occupants of both planes. A third plane may have been involved in the accident and is missing from the airport. The accident happened over a fairly dense population area but fortunately no body was seriously injured on the ground. There is a chilling picture in the San Diego Union Tribune article showing one of the planes falling out of the sky in flames. Too early of course for the NTSB report but once again we are reminded to be extra vigilant when operating close to an airport.
Update: Re-reading the articles I’m going to speculate that the 182 caught up with the 172 after take-off and didn’t see it. When I was getting my high performance endorsement in the 182 I was shocked at just how quickly we caught the proceeding traffic and, more alarmingly, how quickly we lost sight of it in the pattern. Of course the media is notoriously crap at reporting the facts, especially in an aviation accident, so it could all change in a day or two.

Managing Threat

In the wake of the overrun accident at Chicago’s Midway airport, I found the following interesting PowerPoint presentation about managing threat when landing. Whilst it’s focussed on commercial operations (I have a hard job stabilising the 172 at 180 kts on approach!) I still found it interesting reading.

In other news, I’m off to Laughlin today, weather looks good for the trip. Not sure if we’ll show up as the trip will be made VFR but maybe you can catch us on FlightAware.com this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Also, I’ve been playing with my GPS and GoogleEarth maps and should get my first map out of this trip.

Local Plane Crash

Sad to report that a local pilot was killed on Tuesday in a nearby town. The pilot was the sole occupant of the plane which seems to have struck a tree or utility line. Its too early for the NTSB preliminary report but the following extract from the local newspaper sadly says it all.

A witness driving a tractor near the scene of the crash, who later found out the man killed was a family friend, provided some insight.

The witness, who asked not to be identified, said sometime after 4 p.m. he saw the small plane flying “out of the southwest” about 100 yards above the ground.

The witness said the plane then “made a shot to the southeast,” adding the pilot didn’t seem to be having problems but was performing maneuvers.

The witness said the plane was flying close to the ground and then seemed to hit something — possibly a utility line or a tree — but he could not tell.

When the collision occurred, “one wing went one way and the plane went down,” the witness said.