Lady Luck in the Right Seat
Close Calls is a column detailing the “close call” experiences of fellow pilots. Determining a close call can be quite subjective but for our purposes here a close call will be any situation where a pilot suddenly realizes the presence of a nearby aircraft that they were otherwise unaware of. Personally, I describe a close call as “closer than I’d prefer.” I invite you to contact me at CloseCalls@PCAS.ca or 1-888-PCAS-123 (GTA: 416-225-9266) to anonymously share your stories. I will collect the details and prepare the article for Close Calls. The experience shared and lessons learned will be of benefit to all readers. Confidentiality will be assured and I will not use your name or aircraft ident without your permission.
This month’s Close Call comes from one of the many people I come across in cyberspace. There are many wonderful and informative aviation sites on the Internet. Many of them feature forums that allow you to obtain otherwise hard to find information and virtually chat with others sharing common interests. This story was shared with me on a forum and with the poster’s permission I’m sharing it with you exactly as posted.
“Some 18 years ago, I believe one of my student solo flights away from the circuit, I reported inbound. My transmission went something like this: ‘...tower, Alpha Bravo Charlie entering the zone from the west, one thousand five hundred, inbound for landing.’ The tower gave me the numbers, cleared me for left base and I replied. Shortly after my acknowledgment, I hear another radio call: ‘... tower, Delta Echo Foxtrot clearing the zone to the west at one thousand five hundred.’”
Interesting, I thought. Perhaps I should look out for that aircraft. We're both in Cessna 150s, so if we're head-on, it might be tough to see each other. As it turns out, it was all too easy to see each other. We were pretty dang close. I watched the other aircraft for a few fractions of a second to see if he was going to do something so I would know how to react. Nothing forthcoming. I decided I'd take action and, while watching the other guy very intently, I rolled my airplane to the left. At what I recall as seeming like the exact same moment, I noticed his aircraft rolling to his left as well. Good. We missed.
I thought about this while tying down my plane. What I did was wrong, under the aviation regulations regarding right of way. Both of us should have altered course to the right, not the left. Funny. If either of us did what we were supposed to do, we'd probably both be dead right now. I still don't know to this day if the other fellow saw me, but I firmly believe it would have been hard to miss me, based on how close we were. Chalk that one up to dumb luck between a pair of idiots, I suppose...”
Anthony here again. While this scenario ended up the way we prefer it is important to remember to comply with aviation regulations as they pertain to right of way. It is the universal understanding and application of these rules that make our actions relatively predictable. This is the key to a last-second evasive maneuver saving us rather than dooming us. It may have been possible that in this case pilot A observed pilot B alter course to the left and within a split-second instinctively did the same to avoid a collision. That’s quick thinking and great reflexes. Overall luck was on the side of both pilots that day a while back. That always helps a little too.
Anthony Nalli is the Director of Canadian Development, General Aviation Collision Avoidance and President of SciDac Corporation/PCAS.ca. PCAS.ca is dedicated to the implementation of affordable collision avoidance devices in General Aviation with a mission to eliminate mid-air collisions and dramatically reduce close calls. Anthony can be reached at CloseCalls@PCAS.ca, 1-888-PCAS-123 (GTA: 416-225-9266), and www.PCAS.ca