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Table of Contents
The Best of the Boneyard
Pima Air & Space Museum
The T-Cart
Taylorcraft Restored
A Family Blow Up
The 69th Battalion
The $100 Hamburger
Crosswinds Grill, Las Cruces, NM
Back To Basics
Operating at Icy Airports
Hangar Flying:
Midair Collision Avoidance
SWAV News Update

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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172
See and Be Seen
Midair Collision Avoidance
by Michael Magnell
Once again, midair collisions appear to be on the rise. As general aviation is finally awakening from its long slump, more aircraft are taking to the sky. Unfortunately, along with this increased flight activity comes greater potential for midairs. Of course the risk is greatest in high-density air space, but collision avoidance should be a high priority everywhere. There are several things general aviation pilots can do to make themselves more visible to others, and thereby distance themselves from the probability of being involved in a midair.

Aircraft lighting is first and foremost on the list of midair collision avoidance tools. Airlines consider lighting so important that their operations manual makes it mandatory that every exterior aircraft light be on while operating below 18,000 feet. As a retired major airline captain, I can empirically say that after many years and flights descending into busy airspace, spotting general aviation traffic called out by ATC radar was a near impossibility! Over ninety percent of the time we never saw the little machines. But once in awhile a conscientious general aviation pilot would be showing a landing light, and we would see the traffic immediately.

A landing light on an aircraft makes it many times more visible, day or night, than otherwise. Wing tip strobes are also good, and a large triple flash beacon-type strobe with more candlepower is even better. Strobes should definitely be on at all times during flight, while landing lights should be on in high density areas (i.e., airports, VORs, reporting points, etc.).

Showing a landing light during the day has an additional benefit. An FAA study during the 1970s concluded that turning on a landing light cut down on bird strikes. So, to avoid aerial collisions of all types, use that landing light for more than just night touch down. Light bulbs are cheap insurance.

An often-overlooked consideration for improving your visibility, and thereby reducing midair potential, is the airplane’s paint scheme. When United Airlines went to their latest paint job, the airline received numerous complaints from their own pilots and others that their planes are hard to see. The airline’s CEO said he never gave that aspect a thought when he decided on the blue and gray combination. Oops! When it comes to paint schemes, bright colors are best. Stealth colors may be pretty, but they can also be hazardous to your health. Obviously I’m not suggesting rushing out and repainting your aircraft (unless you were looking for an excuse anyway), but visibility is certainly something to consider when that time comes.

A more immediate and highly effective collision avoidance tool is one we pay for every time we buy a gallon of AV gas — the ATC system. The major airlines know how important using ATC is, and have mandated that all of their flying be done on an instrument clearance regardless of weather conditions. I’m not advocating anything as arduous as all general aviation flying be done IFR, but when controller assistance is available (i.e., VFR flight following, traffic advisories, etc.) it should definitely be used. You will be easier to see if other pilots know where to look. As pilot in command, you have a responsibility to use everything at your disposal to ensure safe flight.

Of the three techniques discussed to increase your visibility to others, the one single easiest, cheapest, and smartest thing any pilot can do to lower their risk of being involved in a midair is to use their landing light. In congested airspace this single point of light can mean the difference between life and death, pure and simple!
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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.