Avoiding collisions – a monthly update from Director UK Airprox Board giving some learning themes for recreational pilots.

The November 2017 meeting saw the Airprox Board review 18 aircraft-to-aircraft incidents and 14 aircraft-to-drone incidents.  Of the aircraft-to-aircraft incidents, 9 were assessed as having a definite risk of collision (2 x Category A (providence) and 7 x Category B (safety much reduced due to serendipity, misjudgement, inaction, or late sighting). 

This month’s dominant theme involved procedures: inadequate or incomplete procedures; not following procedures/instructions; or not using available procedures.  There were 7 incidents overall where either pilots or controllers could have done better by following extant processes to reduce risk; failure to integrate in the visual circuit or flying ill-advisedly close to active ATZ/Glider Sites accounted for a further 6 incidents; and poor controller coordination or late/no  Traffic Information accounted for 6 others.  The remaining causes were a general mixture of late/non-sightings, poor planning, misperception of geometry, inaction on detecting a conflict, or simple concern about the proximity of another aircraft in what were ultimately determined to be situations where normal safety standards and procedures had pertained (Category E risk).

One plea from the Board
: if you are involved in a close encounter then please do report it on the radio to ATC.  We’ve had a number of recent incidents were pilots have only reported Airprox a few days after the event – by the time we get to trace the other pilot valuable recordings and memories are lost.  By calling it on the radio, ATC are triggered to file a report and save any recordings, and the other pilot may also be prompted to jot down some notes and save any maps/data logs etc. 

My Airprox of the month this month involved one of those Category E risks.  Although, by definition, Category E represent normal operations, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to learn.  Airprox 2017166 involved an EV97 crossing the Edinburgh approach path in front of an A320.  Although the EV97 pilot had contacted Edinburgh for his crossing, he didn’t fully follow the controller’s instructions and ended up needlessly reducing separation with the A320; if ATC give you specific routing then follow it.  Similarly, if ATC asked you to expedite your crossing what would you do?  Many pilots would simply pour on some coals to go faster, but ATC will be expecting you to also turn so that you cross at 90° to the approach path so as to clear it as soon as possible.  Although that wasn’t specifically the issue in this Airprox, it’s worth bearing in mind when planning your routing: don’t hang around near approach paths/feathers, cross as expeditiously as possible.  Full details of the incident are at in the ‘Airprox Reports and Analysis’ section within the appropriate year and then in the ‘Individual Airprox reports’ tab.