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Aviation Learning Center Document How to Avoid a Mid Air Collision - P-8740-51
Author: Federal Aviation Administration Date: Unknown
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Collision Avoidance Checklist
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Collision avoidance involves much more than proper eyeball techniques. You can be the most conscientious scanner in the world and still have an in-flight collision if you neglect other important factors in the overall see-and-avoid picture. It might be helpful to use a collision avoidance checklist as religiously as you do the pretakeoff and landing lists. Such a checklist might include the following nine items:

Check Yourself

Start with a check of your own condition. Your eyesight, and consequently your safety, depend on your mental and physical condition.

Plan Ahead

Plan your flight ahead of time. Have charts folded in proper sequence and with handy reach. Keep your cockpit free of clutter. Be familiar with headings, frequencies, distances, etc., ahead of time; so, that you spend minimum time with your head down in your charts. Some pilots even jot these things down on a flight log before takeoff. Check your maps and the special general and area notices in AIM in advance for restricted areas, oil burner routes, intensive student jet training areas and other high density spots.

Clean Windows

During the walk-around, make sure your windshield is clean. If possible, keep all windows clear of obstructions, like solid sun visors and curtains.

Adhere to Standard Operating Procedures

Stick to Standard Operating Procedures and observe the regulations of flight, such as correct altitudes and proper pattern practices. You can get into big trouble, for instance, by "sneaking" out of your proper altitude as cumulous clouds begin to tower higher and higher below you, or by skimming along the tops of clouds without observing proper separation. Some typical situations involving in-flight mishaps around airports include entering a right-hand pattern at an airport with left-hand traffic; or entering downwind so far ahead of the traffic pattern that you may interfere with traffic taking off and heading out in your direction. In most in-flight collisions, at least one of the pilots involved was not where he was supposed to be.

Avoid Crowds

Avoid crowded airspace enroute, such as directly over a VOR. You can navigate on VFR days just as accurately by passing slightly to the left or right of the VOR stations. Pass over airports at a safe altitude, being particularly careful within a 25-mile radius of military airports and busy civil fields. Military airports usually have a very high concentration of fast-moving jet traffic in the vicinity and a pattern that extends to 2,500 feet above the surface. Jets in climbout may be going as fast as 500 mph.

Compensate for Design

Compensate for your aircraft's design limitations. All planes have blind spots; know where they are in your aircraft. For example, a high wing aircraft that has a wing down in a turn blocks the area you are turning into. A low wing blocks the area beneath you. And one of the most critical midair potential situations is a faster low-wing plane overtaking and descending on a high wing on final approach.

Equip for Safety

Your airplane can, in fact, help avoid collisions. Certain equipment that was once priced way above the light plane owner's reach, now is available at reasonable cost to all aviation segments. High intensity strobe lights increase your contrast by as much as 10 times day or night and can be installed for about $200 each. In areas of high density, use your strobes or your rotating beacon constantly, even during daylight hours. The cost is pennies per hour - small price to pay for making your aircraft easier for other pilots to see.

Transponders, available in quick installation kits for under $1,000, significantly increase your safety by allowing radar controllers to keep your traffic away from you and vice versa. Now mandatory for flight into many high density airport areas, transponders also increase your chances of receiving radar traffic advisories, even on VFR flights.

Speak Up, Listen Up

Use your radio, as well as your eyes, When approaching an airport. If you are operating close enough to the airport in terms of altitude and location to be near traffic going to or from that airport, consider making a call to state your position, altitude and intentions. Find out what the local traffic situation is. At an airport with radar service, call the approach control frequency and let them know where you are and what you are going to do. At non-towered fields, listen to the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) to develop a mental picture of traffic around you.

Since detecting a tiny aircraft at a distance is not the easiest thing to do, make use of any hints you get over the radio from other pilots. A pilot reporting his position to a tower is also reporting to you. Your job is much easier when an air traffic controller tells you your traffic is "three miles at one o'clock." Once you have that particular traffic, don't forget the rest of the sky. If your traffic seems to be moving, you're not on a collision course, so continue your scan and watch it from time to time. If it doesn't appear to have motion, however, you need to watch it very carefully, and get out of the way, if necessary.

Scan, Scan, Scan!

The most important part of your checklist, of course, is to keep looking where you're going and to watch for traffic. Make use of your scan constantly.

Basically, if you adhere to good airmanship, keep yourself and your plane in good condition, and develop an effective scan time-sharing system, you should have no trouble avoiding in-flight collisions. As you learn to use your eyes properly, you will benefit in other ways. Remember, despite their limitations, your eyes provide you with color, beauty, shape, motion and excitement. As you train them to spot minute targets in the sky, you'll also learn to see many other important "little" things you may now be missing, both on the ground and in the air. If you couple your eyes with your brain, you'll be around to enjoy these benefits of vision for a long time.

See and Avoid

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