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Old 09-30-2012, 01:36 AM
dabney dabney is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: valencia, ca
Posts: 234
Default Almost Bought the Farm Today!

It was a beautiful day for flying in Southern California today. Visibility was 50 miles, negligible wind, some high Cirrus clouds, moderate temps. For those familiar with SOCal flying I will describe the route that nearly ended tragically for me.

I planned a flight from Agua Dulce (L70) to Fullerton (KFUL) (distance 46nm and 18 mins) in my RV6A to pick up my daughter for a weekend visit and some flying. Between those two airports there is a mountain range, Burbank Class C airspace, and the outer rings of the LAX Class B airspace and a couple of airports with Class D airspace. I studied the LAX TAC chart and plotted a route that would keep me north of the Burbank Class B airspace which would take me to El Monte airport (KEMT). After passing KEMT with the top of the Class D at 2600 I could turn direct to KFUL and descend under the floor of the Class B airspace which is 4000 ft along that route. I had my chart on my lap and was watching my G496 as a crosscheck for airspace boundaries. For the flight up to KEMT I was monitoring SoCal approach but not talking to them. When I passed KEMT I descended to 3500 on a heading of about 155 and after listening to FUL ATIS switched to FUL tower. I was about 8 miles out.

Suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye on my right. A Citation jet passed over my plane so close that I heard a loud 'whoosh', the sound of the disturbed air followed by the whine of the two jet engines. I had no time to take evasive action, it was over in a second or two. It did not appear the crew of the Citation jet saw me as they were in a steep climb and took no obvious evasive action. Holy smokes! I estimated the vertical separation at 100 feet. My first thought was it would have been over so fast I would not have felt a thing. I looked over my left shoulder to see the jet climbing like **** NE bound. My next thought was how did that just happen? Was I inside Class B airspace? Where did that jet come from? I checked my position. I was exactly where I intended to be below the 4000 foot floor of one of the LAX Class B outer rings. My altitude was 3400 not 3500. I had strayed from my intended altitude of 3500 by 100 feet and that may have saved my life!

If there had been a midair the NTSB would say that I had failed to see and avoid other traffic as required under VFR flight. I have been going over this NMAC now for eight hours wondering what I did wrong and/or what I could have done differently to prevent such a close encounter.

Before I go into that part, I contacted SoCal TRACON to find out where that jet came from and to report the NMAC. The controller I talked to gathered the details of where, when, heading, altitude, speed, etc and said he would review the radar tapes and get back to me. Within an hour I got a call back and he confirmed that the radar tapes showed a vertical separation of 100' and less then 2/10 mile horiz separation. I did a little math and determined the 2/10 mile horiz separation was about 2 to 3 seconds. The Citation jet had just departed from EMT on Rwy 19 on an instrument departure. I have been to KEMT many times and never saw a jet there and did not know the Rwy was long enough for jets. After flying Rwy Hdg to 1500 feet the jet turned NE bound and that is where our flight paths crossed at about 90 degree intercept. The jet was flying the IFR departure as instructed.

What went wrong? What could I have done differently?

1. As I passed over KEMT though above their airspace I could have monitored EMT tower. My plane has two radios. I might have heard the takeoff clearance for the jet and perhaps the direction of flight.
2. I could have monitored the SoCal Approach frequency for that area and I might have caught the radio traffic between the jet and SoCal App. I was monitoring SoCal App earlier in the flight while near Burbank airport but discontinued as I descended and approached my destination.
3. I could have requested flight following from SoCal for my entire flight though I know from past expereince that at that altitude in that area below the Class B they often cancel flight following due to poor radar coverage and/or workload. The SoCal TRACON controller who investigated the NMAC indicated radar coverage was poor in that area that low.
4. I could have done a better job of scanning for traffic. I was not looking inside the cockpit prior to the NMAC and given this jet's climbing flight profile I may not have seen him climbing toward me from below. I have taught classes on scanning, I know the limitations of the eye, I strive to maintain eyes outside but today I failed to detect a imminent collision threat in time.
5. I could invest in a traffic collision avoidance system to assist in identifying other traffic threats. I have tried the XAON portable system and was not that impressed but it is better than nothing. I checked into Garmin's active traffic system for general aviation aircraft in the past. For about 9-10,000$ you can purchase one of these systems. Now that there is ADS-B traffic available with the proper equipment I will check into buying that system.

I almost died today and it made a big impression on me. It was pure luck that I survived. I posted this overly long thread to share that story to illustrate how fast things can go wrong. We all know that the age-old "see and avoid" has some limitations particularly in busy airspace and under certain atmospheric conditions.

I have been flying in the SoCal area for over 20 years and I have always felt the greatest risk on every flight is NOT an engine failure, fire, instrument or equipment failure. It is a MID-AIR collision. There are an awful lot of aircraft of all types, many airports, complicated airspace, student pilots, foreign pilots, overloaded pilots etc.

I will be investing in a traffic collision system ASAP and cost is not a factor any longer.

If you have any comments (good or bad) or suggestions I welcome them.
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:53 AM
rv7boy's Avatar
rv7boy rv7boy is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Austinville, Alabama
Posts: 2,494

Thanks for sharing your experience, Doug. I'm glad you are still alive to share it with us. I nearly had a mid-air with a Learjet several years ago while in the pattern at Pryor Field (KDCU). The Lear was descending to land at Huntsville and IMO should have been at or above 2000 MSL (Class C) but he was clearly lower. An instructor was with me, and it scared him, too. But I don't think my near miss was as close as yours.
Glad you can tell us about it.
Don Hull
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:54 AM
BHunt BHunt is offline
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Wichita Falls, TX
Posts: 315

LL #3 is big, I think. No reason not to atleast request Flight Following. Obviously, don't bet your life on FF, but use it if you can. I had a Lancair almost hit me while I was on a Radar Trail ILS into KLUF. He entered our SATR without establishing 2 way comm with approach. We passed co alt w/in 50 feet of each other. So it irritates me when people don't talk to approach.
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Old 09-30-2012, 02:00 AM
johnny stick johnny stick is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 301
Default sorry to hear

Sorry to hear about your near mid air. Flying in LA has its drawbacks. I have been flying in the LA basin for 20 years and have been close to others, but never as close as you. When I fly with my kids, I only fly a G1000 with TIS. It is amazing how much traffic is out there that can't be seen. I find that looking for traffic below the horizon over LA is nearly impossible. I also only fly the established recommended VFR routes. This way others know where I am expected to be even if I do not see them. Also, I always use flight following. If they dump me at least I tried. Your story made me aware that IFR traffic is not looking out the windows, and I need to watch the KEMT area due to poor radar coverage. After reading this, I will be more careful near departure ends of runways. Thanks for posting; I learned something today. And glad you are still with us.

By the way, what do you think is going to happen when Long Beach gets it's class C? Scary to think.
2016 dues paid since 2008
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he travels the fastest who travels alone-Kipling
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Old 09-30-2012, 04:13 AM
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panhandler1956 panhandler1956 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ohio
Posts: 1,686

Wow! Thanks for sharing that! Mid-air/catastrophic structural and fire are the leading things that make my skin crawl.

I agree with your assessment. #4 sticks out for me because with our canopies, I guess I hoped we would see threats like this sooner. I need to do a better job scanning for traffic.

As stated, SoCal is really really congested.
Brent Owens
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Columbus, OH
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Old 09-30-2012, 05:08 AM
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f1rocket f1rocket is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Martinsville, IN
Posts: 2,344

If it's any consolation for you, many of us have been there as well. Even here in the wide open Midwest, I've had two close calls in 20 years of flying. I can relate to how shook up you feel. Sometimes, there isn't anything you can do about it. I think some of the latest traffic avoidance hardware is a good investment.
Randy Pflanzer
Greenwood, IN
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Old 09-30-2012, 05:26 AM
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rv8ch rv8ch is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: LSGY
Posts: 4,315
Default TIS and other tools

Thanks for sharing the story. Flying over or near any airport, you are at risk of a faster airplane climbing into your belly - there is no way you will "see and avoid". Just hope to be seen, or if your traffic alerting system is working, take evasive action.

I try to use whatever is available - TIS or Zaon - and while useful, they often scare the cr*p out of me when I see how much traffic is out there that I can't get a visual on.

Perhaps with LED technology there will be new ways we can make our aircraft more visible.
Mickey Coggins
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:37 AM
Bob Axsom Bob Axsom is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 5,685
Default That can be an intense area

I flew the space from Orange County/John Wayne to El Monte twice a day for 15 years commuting for work in our Piper Archer II as well as a common over flight route returning from the north. Citation Jets did use El Monte on extremely rare occasions and it was a big deal each time it happened. It may come as no surprise that I disagree with all of the "prevent the possibility of a mid air collision in this area at all cost" talk. Loss of freedom and opportunity is not something I am willing to sacrifice for the illusion of safety. When a class C area for Long Beach was proposed 10 or 15 years ago I wrote a comment defining my daily commute and the strategies and tactics used to deal with the airspace. I don't know how the process went but the Long Beach Class C didn't happen. Many changes have occurred in the LA basin airspace in the past 30 years and every one has reduced the ability to use that airspace by the average private pilot. Your flight plan seems reasonable to me. In that area the the low level traffic below the approaches into LAX is dominated by El Monte traffic, traffic on V186 and traffic following the 210, 60 and 605 freeways. The frequency to monitor is the El Monte Tower and the traffic hot spots are over the freeways and over the Rose Hills cemetery on the hill at the intersection of the 605 and 60 freeway. I often gave El Monte a call to let them know I was passing over their class D airspace and/or monitor that frequency until reaching Rose Hills. Then I would call SOCAL Approach and in preparation for entering the SNA Class C airspace. Prior to the Cerritos disaster and the resulting complete reclassification of all airspace and the institution of BFRs I would monitor Fullerton and call Orange County Tower outside the SNA Airport Traffic Area and my contacts with Coast Approach were strictly for IFR operations. Someone once said something like "when you give up freedom for safety you end up with neither" and I agree with that thinking. Now with shrinking numbers of pilots we need more restrictions? There is a message there someplace about generations and frame of mind. There is a simple way to deal with an alternate risk of transportation and that is to drive to Fullerton.

Bob Axsom

Last edited by Bob Axsom : 09-30-2012 at 06:46 AM.
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:52 AM
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turbo turbo is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Stuart, FL /Hartford, CT/Virgin Gorda,BVI
Posts: 3,175

what doesn't kill us will make us stronger. i am sure your experience will help you and others change there ways on this subject.

i have been flying behind the small zaon for years now and am satisfied it helps identify traffic and also helps the passengers become expert traffic spotters.

your angels were on call that day. you must be doing something good in life.

thanks for your input, now what can we do about those pesky B1 RDS out there?
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Ed D'Arcy
RV6-A 5,300+ hrs, R-44 1,600 hrs, Helicycle traded for 33 FFR coupe, 300 young eagles flown
Stuart, Fl / East Hampton,Ct / Virgin Gorda, BVI - villa sold.
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Old 09-30-2012, 07:01 AM
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Walt Walt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 6,345

After a NMAC (with a slow moving Cessna) in our busy DFW area, I bought a Garmin 330 and added TIS to the 696, one of the best upgrades I ever did.

I am now installing ADS-B as it became officially active this month in this area. These are not a cure-all, but they are pretty darn good at giving you traffic warnings that are coming your way!
Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

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