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Avoiding Traffic

Source:, Featuring Bob Martens

Subscriber question:

"How can I reduce the risk of mid-air collisions…especially at non-towered airports?"
- Nick L.


"Flying is full of distractions. And as humans, we only have so much capacity. But from a priority perspective, what could be more important than not hitting another airplane?

I remain amazed that with all our technology, we still continue to experience mid-air collisions.

avoiding traffic

One of the saddest scenarios I'm familiar with was a gentleman flying a Cessna 172 at his own airport who died when he was struck from above and behind on final approach by an aircraft which entered the traffic pattern on a high right base.

While this pilot never saw the other aircraft and didn't feel the need to look on right base, the aircraft that killed him was in his field of vision both on downwind and base leg HAD HE BEEN LOOKING FOR HIM. Yes, he could have saved his life had he been more actively scanning for other aircraft.

Our heads literally must be on a swivel. We have so many blind spots in any aircraft that we must proactively be looking outside whenever possible.

Another mid-air collision occurred on short final when a student pilot struck another aircraft from above. Neither aircraft ever saw the other! Nobody died so I got to talk with both pilots. The student pilot was pretty busy just trying to fly a good pattern while the other pilot admitted to being real busy pointing out landmarks to his passengers.

Do we let our radios do our clearing for us? Do we assume that by announcing our intentions everyone else will stay out of our way? Remember, there is no requirement to even have a radio at non-towered airports.

Obviously, operating at or near an airport is our most vulnerable time for a mid-air collision, but complacency at any time could cost us our lives. Brief all passengers to help out but as pilot in command, avoiding other aircraft is a top priority. Treat it accordingly!"

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