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  #1  
Old 10-22-2012, 08:05 AM
Mike D's Avatar
Mike D Mike D is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 456
Default Transitions near airports

Great flying day here in TX, so everyone and their grandma was out flying.

This led to some closer than I like "near misses". All were around the edge of class D airports where one plane was heading to the field and the other was just scooting outside the airspace so they did not have to call in. All were at or near 1500 ft AGL. One was a high wing flying through our gaggle of 4 planes and the other was me flying about 100 ft above a tight formation of -8s. The scary part is, it was the big blue sky, not skill, that kept an accedent from happening.

I do scan the sky's, but on both insidents the plans were approaching from perpendicular angles. In the incident where I flew over the formation, I was really busy transitioning into approach to a very busy airport. ATC was calling out traffic, dealing with the folks who didn't have a clue, and giving clearances to multiple planes coming to land. The tower never called out the formation flight as traffic to anyone, but it was not her job, nor did she have time. They also never showed up on my EFIS as traffic. And I only saw them when there was nothing I could do but pray. The formation was not higher because of a class B shelf at 2K and they did not call the tower because of ATC being so busy. So in no way do I blame anyone here.

The other incident we were scooting between tall towers and a class D, with a class B above. The cessna flew right through our gaggle, only missing us due to luck.

So maybe the question here is, what should you do when transitioning a very busy airspace? Do you scoot outside and say nothing? Do you give a wider space? Stay at odd altitudes? Any ideas on how to be safer in these types of situations?

What about formations (loose or otherwise) in busy airspace? Is it better to stick together and have all eyes outside, or should you break up, all transponders on, and everyone for him/herself?

thoughts?
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  #2  
Old 10-22-2012, 08:35 AM
FlyArmy FlyArmy is offline
 
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Location: AZ
Posts: 187
Default

Lots of options. Depending on where I was going, I would climb and go through the class B with flight following. If I was just buzzing around turning avgas into noise just for the sake of it, I would go somewhere less busy. If I was converging on someone in any case, I would use rules of the road, climb, descend, or 360 for spacing. If I am near class D, I would either request to transition thru it or at least monitor the freq and listen to the activity for SA. ATC is there for a reason, and we pay their salaries. I don't understand why so many people choose not to talk to them. If they get too busy, I'll give way and discontinue FF, if they don't tell me first.

As for formations, a very loose formation can be harder to see all aircraft than a tighter one. A pilot may intend to pass behind the trail aircraft, but mistake which aircraft is the trail aircraft in a loose formation. One squawk of a tight formation seems (anecdotally) easier for ATC to see on their screen. That said, lead's eyes should be scanning, everyone else should be focused on the formation and most likely wont be scanning unless there are two on board.
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  #3  
Old 10-22-2012, 09:05 AM
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Lemmingman Lemmingman is offline
 
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Location: McKinney, TX
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I learned to fly at Grand Prairie Texas and rented there for quite awhile afterwards. The area around this class D can get quite busy. Like you described, especially on those wonderful days when everyone was flying.
In the area there was KGKY and KGPM which are very close to one another. At the time GKY was not towered. To the SE there was a group of TV towers and between the TV towers and the class B was a "squeeze", or relatively narrow corridor, for transiting aircraft to fit safely between the towers and the B. I was able to get FF about 25% of the time, and frankly, I had been told by the guys at Forth Worth Center on a tour that the airspace get so crowded sometimes that it doesn't help much. Eyeballs are better.

Here is what I did on those nice days. In the time I was training I got a sense for where to expect traffic from. So extra time scanning those areas sometimes paid off.
I gave GKY a wide berth and made my altitude something odd (2200 or 1700') which I know saved my bacon more than once.
I monitored CTAF for GKY and tower for GPM until I was well south of the area. I had only one REALLY close call but I'll bet I had over a dozen uncomfortable calls.

Even the radio is of limited value sometimes. The biggest challenge, and the one of my biggest pet peeves today, is people calling wrong VFR way points. People calling that they were "over the marina at 2000'" and they couldn't be because I was "over the Marina at 2000'". Inbound traffic for GKY calling "over the Hypermart" which took me 2-years to figure out that they meant WalMart...whose building had been Hypermart 10-years earlier (and it isnt on the chart). The point of all this is that you cant even trust people to give accurate information on the radio. If I am in doubt I ask the person for clarification.
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  #4  
Old 10-22-2012, 09:44 AM
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DanBaier DanBaier is offline
 
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A couple of thoughts -

If flight following is available - a great resource.

I am always a little surprised how much people will fly on the 500's - 1500, 2000, 2500 etc. Very few seem to fly at 2700 or 2300. You can hold altitude just as well, and below 3000 AGL, you get to choose whatever you want. I wish I could say that over the past 40 years this was a waste of time - but there are perhaps a half dozen times where I think it helped.

Dan
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  #5  
Old 10-22-2012, 11:05 AM
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YellerDaisy YellerDaisy is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike D View Post
So maybe the question here is, what should you do when transitioning a very busy airspace? Do you scoot outside and say nothing? Do you give a wider space? Stay at odd altitudes? Any ideas on how to be safer in these types of situations?

What about formations (loose or otherwise) in busy airspace? Is it better to stick together and have all eyes outside, or should you break up, all transponders on, and everyone for him/herself?
I tend to avoid the busier airspace simply because I find it to be a hassle. This means that I zip around the outskirts and don't talk to anyone (generally) but eyes are wide open. When above 3000' AGL, I attempt to fly the "correct" +-500 altitude. That said, I am out west and, these days, rarely come near the busy environment that you are talking about (by design).

Re: formations. I much prefer a real formation over a "flying near each other" type of enroute gaggle that some folks use. It's hard enough to keep your eyes on the handful of planes that you know are there never mind unknown traffic. Part of lead's job is to watch for traffic - obviously he/she can miss something just like anyone else. However; a two-ship (or more) is easier for other traffic to see so that's a plus.
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  #6  
Old 10-22-2012, 11:49 AM
humptybump humptybump is offline
 
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Like some others here, I tend to flight plan around major airspace rather than thru it.

There has been discussion in another thread about avoiding the approach/departure routes.

I would like to find is a chart that graphically depicts the SIDs and STARs for airspace so I can also route well around, over, or under those. Anyone know of such a chart or depiction ?
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  #7  
Old 10-22-2012, 03:27 PM
NM Doug NM Doug is offline
 
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I don't know how what percentage of "relevant" traffic we never see, but I would imagine it's significant. It's not uncommon for me to get a traffic advisory when talking to an ATC radar facility...and then get "no longer a factor" a little later without ever having seen the aircraft (or only seeing it later).

I like picking up flight following when I can, and I would rather be talking to ATC than not when I'm near any relatively busy airspace. I feel that even a non-radar tower can benefit from knowing where I am and what I'm up to, if I'm near the class D.
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  #8  
Old 10-22-2012, 03:48 PM
designerX designerX is offline
 
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Default which traffic technology?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike D View Post
They also never showed up on my EFIS as traffic.
Curious.. what technology were you using? (ADS-b, TIS, PCAS?)

Glad you're safe.
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  #9  
Old 10-22-2012, 05:56 PM
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Mike D Mike D is offline
 
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Thanks for the responses.

I am using a Zaon XRX. (PCAS).

I generally depart my home class D at 1300 and approach at 1700. (class B at 2K)

Guess there is not much that can be done except keep an eye out. Well at least I will be watching my 3's and 9's more. Live and learn.

Any other ideas or is this just something we must just accept?
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  #10  
Old 10-22-2012, 07:36 PM
Wayne Gillispie Wayne Gillispie is offline
 
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Location: USA
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Default We fly over it all

at 8500-13500 and hardly ever see anyone. When down low we just keep our 8 eyeballs scanning especially close to airports. I hardly hear or see anyone if the wx is marginal vfr or windy either. Pick your risk and be careful.
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