Close Calls: Only Seconds to Spare PDF Print E-mail
Written by Anthony Nalli   
Thursday, 24 February 2011 10:05

This month’s close call comes to us from the West. The Wild West, as it turns out; well, on one day, anyway.

Our pilot begins, “My FL210 (True Flight Cheetah) and Zaon XRX saved my rear the other day. It was a beautiful, gorgeous day as I was sliding along in my Cessna T210 on the west side of Seattle. The corridor of airspace under the ‘Class Bravo’ can be quite busy. After a month of rain, weather like this brings out everyone. So, flying along at 2,000 feet, I was picking up traffic all over the place. I had mainly been spotting traffic visually, with an occasional glance at the beeping screen in the FL210.

“Most of the traffic was on my right, closer to the Seattle and Puget Sound areas. With quick glances to the left, I’d be looking into the blue-and-white backdrop of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. All clear that way. My Zaon tracks up to 10 targets, displaying the three closest threats, and, at the time, all in my alert zone were to the right. It was a zoo over there!”

Our pilot continues, “Another glance left still showed me clear, or so I thought. As the targets on my right became history, the XRX gave off another beep. At just about the same time, my scan to the left picked up a white flicker.

“To my 11 o’clock appeared a Symphony, all white with small blue striping, emerging at high speed from my Olympic Mountains backdrop. I instantly leaned right as the other guy, 50 feet higher and maybe 1,000 feet to my left, stayed the course. I looked as we passed and surmised that the guy in the Symphony never even saw me. I checked down at my switches, and, yes, my pulse lights were on, as were my strobes.”

Our pilot could only assume that the Symphony pilot was heads-down, maybe working his panel. Claims our pilot, “It would have been a high-speed mess of falling airplane parts. My Zaon was the split-second warning that saved me.”

Our pilot concludes, “It was just very bad luck that he was so easily camouflaged by the Olympic white-and-blue color scheme. To have a small, fast, head-on target – well, that’s just one of the hardest to spot. Thanks, Zaon, and my FL210; both paid for themselves in one flight.”

Based on these details, it seems apparent that the portable collision avoidance system (PCAS) XRX was tracking the Symphony as one of its 10 targets. As the distance between the Symphony and our pilot’s Cessna was closing, the priority of the Symphony increased until it rapidly became the primary target. With the two aircraft closing in at a rate of approximately 285 knots, there would have been 25 seconds to impact at two miles separation, and just 12 seconds to impact at one mile. In this case, our pilot’s evasive action was the difference between a close call and a tragedy. There certainly wasn’t very much time to spare at all.

When it comes to layered flight safety, every little bit helps. Our pilot explained how he used pulse lights and strobes, a careful lookout, and collision-avoidance technology in combination to avert a potential disaster. Add radio calls, and maybe even flight following, and you’re doing about as good as can be.

Fly safe(r).

From the September 2010 issue of Cessna Owner