Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Rules to Live By

Safety Spotlight: Collision Avoidance

Piper Cherokee 180 over Maryland.
Reproduction of this image prohibited without written permission on photographer's invoice stating rights granted, and payment in full of said invoice.
Zoomed image

Keep these points in mind:

Collision avoidance is a basic responsibility of every pilot flying in visual conditions. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the threat of a collision in the air or on the ground.

  • Know your route, frequencies needed, and pertinent information for your departure and destination.

  • Fold charts and preset navigational aids to maximize scan time. Program avionics and GPS on the ground to minimize heads-down time in the air.

  • Anticipate where you may find high traffic/high workload areas. Avoid these areas if possible or plan on being extra vigilant during those phases of the flight.

  • Equip. If you operate an aircraft without radios or transponders, consider installing them to enhance your safety. Regulations require that aircraft equipped with transponders must have them on during flight in controlled airspace.

  • Educate passengers during the preflight briefing—explain basic scanning procedures and have them assist in spotting traffic. Explain FAA radar advisory procedures, so they can help locate traffic called by ATC.

  • Communicate when flying in controlled airspace. At nontowered airports, begin announcing your position when 10 miles out.

  • Use sunglasses that block UV rays to help protect your vision and reduce eye fatigue. Red/yellow spectrum lenses make it easier to see through haze.

  • Observe proper cruising altitudes and traffic pattern procedures. Announce your position at nontowered airports. Recognize that not everyone follows the rules.

  • Improve your traffic scan by cleaning bugs or other contaminants off the windshield that can block an aircraft from view and make it more difficult to focus properly. During climbout, make S-turns for improved forward visibility. At a safe altitude, use cruise-climb airspeeds to get a better view over the nose.

  • Do a belly check when coming off an extended turn or when turning from base to final.

  • Use aircraft lights to help other pilots see your aircraft. Use your landing light on approach, departure, and climbout—especially within 10 miles of any airport.