Midair on Landing

May 9, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

It’s been said many times that the most likely place for a midair collision is on final approach. Looks like it happened again last week where two Cessna 172s got together at a non-towered airport in McCall, ID. The weather doesn’t appear to be problematic and unfortunately, there were fatalities. It’s too early for specifics as to who did, or didn’t, follow procedure or whether it was just a simple failure of see and avoid.

Picture this: You’re on short final and focused on the touchdown zone. The late afternoon sun is in your eyes but with sunglasses and the visors down, it’s manageable, or so you think. The other aircraft, also on final, is just ahead, below and to the right. It might have been visible half a mile back but now is blocked by the cowl. The right seat passenger is looking at the end of the runway, just as you are. The radio is quiet or there is chatter from other aircraft in the pattern but not the collision aircraft. Everything is completely normal until….. you get the picture.

Here are some imperfect suggestions. Traffic patterns, and especially final approach, are a high risk collision area. Never mind how much time is spent there (This applies to CFIs especially) you should be on HIGH alert. The better the weather, the more uncomfortable you should be, because there are more aircraft flying. The other time to be very alert is when nobody is around except that one other aircraft unknown to you. Practice a sterile cockpit – only flight-critical discussion. This is not the time to be discussing the size of the houses. Do enlist everyone on board to look for other aircraft.

There are many time-proven procedures to review in ASF’s Safety Advisor on operations at non-towered airports. There’s more to this than meets the eye ( pun intended) .

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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One Response to “Midair on Landing”

  1. Brian Norquist Says:

    Page 9 of “Operations at Untowered Airports” still shows flying over the field
    at TPA. I thought the FAA was not approving this procedure. My instructor
    said it’s dangerous.

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