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    « Cessna’s First Lady Rose Pelton Talks about Learning to Fly in Her SkyCatcher | Main | New NTSB 830 Rules May Increase Reports of Near Mid-Air Collisions »


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    I'm not so sure this was simply a "loss of separation". I read the jet pilots' statements that said the Cessna was belly-up to them in a very hard left turn getting away. It sounds like a late ATC attempt to get the VFR traffic to take responsibility AND it seems like the only reason the planes were "only" separated by a few hundred feet was because the jet was leveling off(TCAS) and the Cessna was agressively banking away. I would guess that but for both these actions, the outcome might have been much closer.


    I may be wrong here, but FAA 7110.65J (7-2-1) says that visual separation can only be used if another approved method of separation is assured before and AFTER the application of visual separation. 7-9-4, which refers to separation in Class B airspace also makes reference to 7-2-1. The controller may still be at fault because other approved methods were not assured after the visual separation was applied. I also have to agree with Thomas... the Cessna was in a hard turn to avoid the 777 and from the ATC audio, it sounded as if the United pilot was shaken up a bit. This incident may have turned up worse.

    Max Trescott

    Thomas, I don't know how close the aircraft came either. I agree, it seems highly likely the controller made a late traffic call.

    Fernando, I referred to FAA 7110.65J before writing the post. Then I phoned the supervisor's desk at NorCal approach, which handles the SFO Class B, to confirm how they handle visual separation. He told me that once it's established there is no minimum distance required between aircraft. Given his position, I assumed he was correct. If he's not, then we really have a big problem.


    Once Visual Separation has been established planes can be INCHES apart,it is the responsibility of the pilot to maintain separation.


    Perhaps he was late, but the Cessna did not seem perplexed when acknowledging the avoidance instruction. The United pilot sounded confused even before she took off (goofing the call sign saying triple and not heavy). Hearing how flummoxed she was with a TCSA alarm, I am glad it was not an engine fire alarm. Why don’t we wait until all the data is in before saying the controller made an error?


    The very least they need to investigate it. I know some airline/aviation geeks like me like to get close and video an airliner. There's a 787 landing video online where the guy got pretty close to it while it was coming in. Maybe that pilot in the cessna did the same thing.

    Course, then again what the heck is a cessna lurking around the departure end of an airport in Class B? Usually here in KSLC they make you transition above the touchdown zone not the departure end of the runway...I guess San Fran doesn't do that?

    They (FAA) probably need to rethink the transitions in and out for VFR aircraft, sort of a north and south transition because there's no way no reason a VFR/IFR Cessna should be in the path of the departure end of a runway. That's my .02


    It seems probably material to note that in addition to the reporting requirements of the United company rules, an immediate incident notification is also required to be made directly to the NTSB, per the 3/8/10 revisions of NTSB 830.5, whenever the ACAS issues a conflict resolution, as it seems to have happened here. Really enjoy the blog - keep it up!

    Max Trescott

    Pathfinder, I agree the United Captain did flub her callsign on takeoff, though I attribute that to pilots having multiple callsigns a day--I don't think that's uncommon. She's clearly upset later. I don't think I said the "controller made an error," though with what data there is it seems plausible. Given that both pilots followed all instructions, it's not obvious how they may have been at fault other than a general catch-all such as 91.13 Careless or Reckless Operation.
    Matthew, the Cessna wasn't lurking.I don't believe it's hazardous to fly along Hwy 101 as the Cessna was doing. Probably a 100 planes a day do that and I'm not aware of any prior conflicts. Most departures are off Rwy 1L and 1R and arrivals are on 28L and 28R, none of which conflict with 101 transitions. When they do occasionally launch a heavy off 28L or 28R, they usually tell the small planes to turn to a heading of 280, to parallel the departure aircraft, or to cross overhead the field. Both work fine, though neither was used in this case.
    Winstonc, you make a great point. I wonder if the new NTSB 830 rule will lead to many more of these kinds of notifications. If they do, we're going to see a lot of these stories in the press, at least until they figure out that trying to pedal these stories every day doesn't increase their ratings. Of course if it does....


    As long as the controller isn't required to use any method other than visual seperation, I think the pilot of the 182 is at most fault. He confirmed that he had a visual of the 777 and that he would maintain visual seperation. Assuming he never lost sight of the departing 777, why did he let himself get close enough to have to make a hard banking turn to avoid colliding with it?

    Max Trescott

    Alan, No question, the C182 pilot could probably have done more sooner to avoid the B777. However, he followed every instruction he was given. The controller is required to keep the aircraft apart at least 500 feet vertically and 1.5 miles horizontally. If he uses visual separation, the aircraft have to stay that far apart until he completes the communications with the aircraft that result in establishing visual separation. The planes may have been closer to that when the controller issued the instructions establishing visual separation.

    John P

    As a 3000 hour Mooney pilot, I will acknowledge that it can still be difficult to judge the speed and path of another aircraft when told to maintain visual separation. Particularly large planes appear to be flying slower than they are (it's a real, visual miscue... it's why big ships look like they're going slowly when doing 30 knots), so it's possible the Cessna pilot thought all was well for a few seconds before realizing a potential danger.


    If the timeline above is correct it appears that two minutes elapsed between the takeoff clearance and the call that the 777 was out of 500.


    She may have flubbed the callsign, but that `aint a prob, she asked ATC IF that was her traffic - she also said that shae had a TCAS - given that both pilots especially the Cessna were fully aware of each other then it was SAFE visual seperation - and, of course, at that proxi it would indeed set the TCAS for a TA (which should not really be an RA for that stage now should it?!?!?! - no, quite. So, El Capitaina of the triple 7 heavy has 1/. Not been sure if her traffic was HER traffic due to her call. 2/. Has responded to a TCAS when it was the only instance where you would not. 3/. She was obviously holding it all together but not quite - she may have been in the mindset that all would be laid out for her Heavy departure - not the case. She had traffic so she would have to be aware of that traffic in every pictorial way possible - she should have then continued - as she was airborne already - and flown tactically, there would be no time to go comms with ATC she should just have flown very visually indeed, if she was not sure of HER traffic.
    All of the above is deleted if the Cessna traffic, were NOT visual, or they were so lax as to make there passing behind too late or were simply not paying attention. If, if, the Cessna was indeed filling up her windowscreen with its belly then this is fault of the Cessna - who should have known better and taken action sooner, like when the ATC told him to pass behind the 777 - ATC could have vectored the Cessna out of the way of the triple - but to have a Cessna pass behind a Heavy triple is folly anyway due to wake turbulence - all in all; The ATC should have held the triple 7. This would have given Mrs. Captain time to be super ready. This would have enabled ATC to get rid off the Cessna. The Cessna pilot would have appreciated the need for a vector out of there. There would then have been less risk of any wake vortex for the Cessna.
    Job done. Instead of rushy, rushy, rushy.


    ATC should have held the heavy at the threshold. ATC shouold have given the Cessna immediate vectors away from the proposed flight path of the heavy. This would have given time for the Captain to settle in before departure. This would have avoided the Cessna having to pass behind a triple 7 risking vortex. (big time) This would have prevented Mrs. Captain from going 2 way with ATC asking confirmation of her traffic when she should have been flying tactically. Hindsight is an easy thing. "Hold position would have been fabulous. Mrs. Captain was not ready for THIS. Mr. Cessna was slow. Mr. ATC assumed both pilots would visually seperate. TCAS caused a stir which in this situation TCAS should be TA any way - so if TCAS was RA - the triple would be jumping about all over the place at 500 and in an obvious area of intense traffic.

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