The Airprox Board assessed 23 incidents during its January meeting, of which seven were drone/uav reports and sixteen were aircraft-to-aircraft incidents. Of the latter, a definite risk of collision was assessed for five events (one Category A and four Category B). ‘Two involved aircraft joining the visual circuit… which reinforces the need to fully understand the various join types, adhere to procedures, and watch out for others joining the circuit who you may not have heard on the radio,’ says the Board. The other main themes discussed this month were: poor airmanship decisions (nine); late-sightings/non-sightings (five); and three incidents involving simple conflicts where neither pilot was fully aware of the other.
Both of the circuit joining incidents ‘involved a combination of pilots pressing on when uncertain of the position of the other aircraft; assuming another pilot would do something he did not in the end do; pilots not following join procedures (thereby denying others situational awareness of where they might be); and confusion over radio calls that were either missed, or not representative of what the pilot was actually doing,’ says the Board. ‘As we have seen before, and especially at airfields with air-ground only, the visual circuit relies heavily on people being predictable (or clearly stating their intentions if they cannot be); robust lookout at all times; thinking about potential conflict points (and especially with respect to non-radio or radio-fail aircraft); and clear communication of intentions.’
The Board’s ‘Airprox of the Month’ was one of these joining incidents, a Category A involving a Piper Twin Comanche and a Van’s RV-9 that were both joining Runway 27LH at Shobdon. The RV-9’S pilot was joining from the south and conducted an overhead join as he stated on the radio. The Twin Comanche initially wanted to join effectively crosswind from the north but agreed also to conduct an overhead join when requested by the AFISO. But the twin’s pilot then reverted to a crosswind join rather than flying through the overhead, and the two aircraft came into proximity near the upwind threshold. ‘The Twin Comanche’s pilot was of course perfectly entitled to join crosswind, but should have made his revised intention to do so clear to all, and should have avoided the RV-9,’ says the Airprox Board’s report.