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Near Miss

by John M. White |

In yet another incident involving an air traffic controller, a United Airlines 777 departing San Francisco International Airport experiences a near miss with a Cessna 182 on climb out at 1,100 feet. Controllers were in contact with both aircraft, but allowed them to get too close as the Cessna 182 passed behind the departing Boeing 777. As the United flight, carrying 251 passengers and 17 crew members climbed enroute to Bejing, China, the aircraft's TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) commanded the 777 to descend to avoid the Cessna 182. The United pilots said the two aircraft came within 300 feet vertically and 1,500 feet horizontally from one another.
The ultimate responsibility for the aircraft's safety always remains with the pilot in command, so both the 777 crew and the pilot of the Cessna 182 were responsible for maintaining separation from one another, regardless of instructions from air traffic control. Aircraft Near Miss It is reported that the crew of the United 777 were not happy with the close proximity of the other aircraft, and radioed the controllers telling them "Okay, that set off the TCAS," followed by telling the controller "We need to talk." Clearly open and frank conversation between the pilots and the controller are in order. In an FAA study in 2001 the authors suggested that "The free flight concept, as described by the RTCA Task Force 3 (1995) suggests placing more responsibility on flight crews to maintain safe separation from other aircraft in the National Airspace System. This idea could potentially shift aircraft separation responsibility from air traffic controllers to flight crews creating a 'sharedseparation’ authority environment. Possible benefits include more flexibility to manage flight operations, plus improved safety through enhanced conflict detection and resolution capabilities, and redundant traffic monitoring procedures." You can download a copy of this report at "Shared Separation: Empirical Results and Theoretical Implications" and review their recommendations. A pilot's most valuable asset are his eyes, and protecting those eyes and using them for the "see and be seen" flight regimens we all operate in rely heavily on our ability to do so. This means using proper eyewear, such as non-polarized original aviator sunglasses , both for clarity, eye comfort and proper rest on long flights. Here again we do not want to blame controllers entirely as the final responsibility for the safety of an aircraft and its occupants are the sole responsibility of the pilot in command. This is essential to enforce because everyone can make a mistake, even an air traffic controller, but as pilots we must always protect the lives and safety of our passengers. What do you think? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect. — Captain A. G. Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance Group

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