Midair applicable to gyroplanes.

Vance

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I found this early analysis of the Watsonville Mid Air collision August 18 to be particularly applicable to gyroplanes and low time pilots.

I feel that Richard McSpadden did a very nice job of offering advice on how to avoid conflicting flight paths.


A fast twin Cessna 340 was making a ten mile straight in at high speed and a Cessna 152 was remaining in the pattern making all the proper radio calls.

The Cessna 152 turned base despite the twin reporting a three mile final and turned final despite the twin reporting a one mile final.

I find it disquieting that most of the comments on the video are about who had the right-of-way rather than how to avoid a midair collision.

Three people are dead, and in my opinion both pilots were doing common maneuvers and making common mistakes.

Being aware of the speed differences of various aircraft is critical to making good aviation decisions.

As a flight instructor I try to teach learners to make a mental picture based on the radio reports on the common traffic advisory frequency being aware that many pilots give poor radio.

One of the things I like to do is to have the client point out traffic at the non towered airport based on the CTAF so they get a better understanding of what good radio is and identify pilots who are not giving good radio and being on high alert.

Giving poor radio at a towered airport gets an admonishment from ATC whereas poor radio at a non towered airport may get you killed.

Who had the right of way does not matter to the dead.

I heard a rumor that the Cessna 152 tried to go around and offset to the right apparently forgetting the FAAs guidance on overtaking aircraft. Each aircraft that is being overtaken has the right or way and each pilot of an overtaking aircraft shall alter course to the right to pass well clear. I would offset to the left for this reason.
 
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TyroGyro

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When I am on downwind and hear anybody calling final, and I can't see them, I respond with "extending downwind" and keep on flying until I see them pass going in the opposite direction. Gyros are slower than most other aircraft, and it would be potentially suicidal to duck in front....

I also carefully visually check and verbally say out loud "clear final" before turning final from base, irrespective of whether I've heard anything on the radio or not.
 

WaspAir

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The right-of-way discussions in the video comments are not surprising given that the rules were established to prevent collisions and compliance by all parties should keep everybody safe. It's an easy starting point when trying to make sense of a tragic event. Attributing blame is also probably a natural reaction when the news includes the report that the straight-in 340 was at such a speed that it would have needed a drogue chute to get down and stopped on that runway.

I have flown an A&S18A on that runway many times. Even a Pitts at its typical approach speed can be enough to warrant a change in plan there. Extending downwind to become number 2 is the simplest choice. If already on base when the closure rate is recognized, not crossing the path is the better response, so an early turn to an offset, upwind go-around works. At that particluar airport, a gyro pilot also has the choice of landing short on intersecting runway 27 (the intersection is near the approach end of 20 and gives you the better part of 1000 feet to use before crossing) to stay clear of faster airplanes . You can fly a base entry to 27 that keeps you outside and below the downwind for 20.
 
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N962GT

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That's an excellent reminder to all gyroplane pilots, that OVERTAKING aircraft are to pass to the right, while slower aircraft should be moving out of the way to our left. But then...what happens at an untowered airport (e.g. KCUB here in "Cola") where there is a standing order to NEVER turn towards the residential side of the air field below 1500'?
 

Abid

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When I am on downwind and hear anybody calling final, and I can't see them, I respond with "extending downwind" and keep on flying until I see them pass going in the opposite direction. Gyros are slower than most other aircraft, and it would be potentially suicidal to duck in front....

I also carefully visually check and verbally say out loud "clear final" before turning final from base, irrespective of whether I've heard anything on the radio or not.

10 miles out is not final unless you are a 747
10 miles out is not even the pattern even for a twin. It's a lazy arse GA pilot who does not want to follow the recommendation to enter midfield downwind at a 45 to join the pattern when there is other traffic in the pattern.
Sometimes people are practicing an approach and will do missed and the onus is on them to communicate with traffic in the pattern and practice their approach safely.
This 340 guy was way too fast to be practicing anything logical and way too low way too out.
This reminds me of a Flight Design accident in Nevada where the 912iS Lane A light came on, Dynon EFIS recommended to land the airplane at the closest safe airport. The guy (a high time fixed wing pilot) flew to an alternate airport, was so freaked out that he flew an approach really fast to the runway, floated almost past the runway, did a go around at the end of the runway, turned crosswind, stalled and spun in from 100 feet. Somehow remained alive even though he was hurt. Then he proceeded to sue everyone from the manufacturer to engine maker to Dynon. Always someone else's fault.
 
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BEN S

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Fixed wing bus drivers are always taight to fly the centerline.
Gyro pilots can use any approach vector while on final to set up into the wind.
I always fly over the lights infield and check for traffic behind before making the last turn into the wind.
I was in a schools 172 and the tower got confused because they cleared another of the schools 172s to final.
Student missed us by about 15 feet!
Never trust the tower or other pilots!
 

schmoe90

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I always ass-u-me a long straight in final is a fast mover and extend my downwind. So, when it's been a Citation and I've extended downwind, everything's fine. But when it's a 172, I'd end up on a 5 mile final behind them, so I leave the pattern and do a rejoin.

I'm never in that much of a hurry, and our gas bill is cheap (I chatted with a King Air pilot as I extended downwind to let him get out in front of me just this weekend - he reckoned he was burning about 35gph just sitting waiting to get onto the runway.)

The problem with the Watsonville accident (from what I've seen) is that the 340 wasn't on final - he was coming in at an angle, so extending downwind you'd actually be flying almost straight at him :( I'd hope to have seen him on ADS-B, as his radio calls were... let's say "imprecise."
 

WaspAir

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There's a very big ridge of high terrain aligned with the straight-in approach path toward runway 20, which you are unlikely to cross below about 3000 feet msl in a fixed wing, and you must then do a descent to WVI's coastal elevation of about 160 ft to touch down, over about 5 miles of distance. The descent may have encouraged excessive speed if planned poorly.
 

Vance

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That's an excellent reminder to all gyroplane pilots, that OVERTAKING aircraft are to pass to the right, while slower aircraft should be moving out of the way to our left. But then...what happens at an untowered airport (e.g. KCUB here in "Cola") where there is a standing order to NEVER turn towards the residential side of the air field below 1500'?
With all the airports I have dealt with and in the guidance I have been given by my FSDO; safety takes priority over noise abatement procedures.
 

Vance

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10 miles out is not final unless you are a 747
10 miles out is not even the pattern even for a twin. It's a lazy arse GA pilot who does not want to follow the recommendation to enter midfield downwind at a 45 to join the pattern when there is other traffic in the pattern.
Sometimes people are practicing an approach and will do missed and the onus is on them to communicate with traffic in the pattern and practice their approach safely.
This 340 guy was way too fast to be practicing anything logical and way too low way too out.
In my opinion the 152 pilot should not have turned base in front of an airplane on a three mile final or final in front of someone on a one mile final no matter who had the right of way. He is the pilot in command of his aircraft and it is his job to deal with reality.

I feel the reality is that there will always be people making a straight in approach to a non towered airport with traffic in the pattern.

I have seen pilots put themselves at risk to teach someone a lesson in airport procedure and feel this is not a risk worth taking.

It amazes me there are not more midair collisions.
 

Vance

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There's a very big ridge of high terrain aligned with the straight-in approach path toward runway 20, which you are unlikely to cross below about 3000 feet msl in a fixed wing, and you must then do a descent to WVI's coastal elevation of about 160 ft to touch down, over about 5 miles of distance. The descent may have encouraged excessive speed if planned poorly.
Thank you for sharing your local knowledge and experience.

I have found Watsonville challenging at times.
 

Vance

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I recall early in my piloting experience I was more concerned with getting the words of a radio right than listening to what was being said.

It takes practice to give good radio and listening and comprehending is an important part of that.

If I am confused I always ask.
 

Vance

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The problem with the Watsonville accident (from what I've seen) is that the 340 wasn't on final - he was coming in at an angle, so extending downwind you'd actually be flying almost straight at him :( I'd hope to have seen him on ADS-B, as his radio calls were... let's say "imprecise."
That is an excellent point schmoe90.

The twin reported ten miles to the east making a straight in for runway 20.

Local knowledge would reinforce that the twin was flying across the downwind.

There is also a mountain in the way of extending the downwind very far.
 

Abid

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In my opinion the 152 pilot should not have turned base in front of an airplane on a three mile final or final in front of someone on a one mile final no matter who had the right of way. He is the pilot in command of his aircraft and it is his job to deal with reality.

I feel the reality is that there will always be people making a straight in approach to a non towered airport with traffic in the pattern.

I have seen pilots put themselves at risk to teach someone a lesson in airport procedure and feel this is not a risk worth taking.

It amazes me there are not more midair collisions.

Yes I would not have done so but I would also have been muttering what an arsehole inside. Just because you have a twin does not mean you should be doing what he did. It is a VFR flight, join the pattern in a standard way if there is traffic in the pattern. This was only one aircraft in the pattern. At Zephyrhills we will have 3 to 4 aircraft in the pattern and some idiot will call straight in from 8 miles out VFR. I know what I am calling that guy in the cockpit. I am sure others are too.
The 340 guy was completely wrong both in recommended procedure to enter and also incompetent coming in at 180+ knots on a 3 mile and even 1 mile final. Who does that. He does not know what he was doing with his aircraft that day. You want to drop altitude reduce power not increase speed so close to an airport.
 

Vance

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Yes I would not have done so but I would also have been muttering what an arsehole inside. Just because you have a twin does not mean you should be doing what he did. It is a VFR flight, join the pattern in a standard way if there is traffic in the pattern. This was only one aircraft in the pattern. At Zephyrhills we will have 3 to 4 aircraft in the pattern and some idiot will call straight in from 8 miles out VFR. I know what I am calling that guy in the cockpit. I am sure others are too.
The 340 guy was completely wrong both in recommended procedure to enter and also incompetent coming in at 180+ knots on a 3 mile and even 1 mile final. Who does that. He does not know what he was doing with his aircraft that day. You want to drop altitude reduce power not increase speed so close to an airport.
The 340 guy won't do that again.

No matter who is at fault they are all dead.

It is my observation that many pilots feel a straight in is acceptable and even what a "real pilot" does.

I am not likely to change their minds with any method available to me.

I feel the 152 pilot made several serious errors.
 

Abid

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The 340 guy won't do that again.

No matter who is at fault they are all dead.

It is my observation that many pilots feel a straight in is acceptable and even what a "real pilot" does.

I am not likely to change their minds with any method available to me.

I feel the 152 pilot made several serious errors.

FAA can change their mind. Instead of suggesting and recommending the right way to do it, they can mandate it to be done correctly when traffic is in the pattern.
 

Philbennett

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its a good illumination of why its good to put the effort into knowing what is expected and having a plan. Its also aligned to why I take issue to the off piste "flying like a gyro pilot..."
 

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In my opinion, the real issue was not the 340's 5-mile final, it was that he was bizarrely way faster than his 160 kt Vfe and 140 kt Vle airspeeds. Witnesses report that he collided with his his flaps and gear up! Even if the 152 hadn't been on final, it was impossible for the 340 to have landed on a 4501' runway from that 180kt short final approach with flaps and gear up. I've no idea what he was thinking, except maybe for some hot-shot fly-over.

When I first heard that a Cessna 340 and Cessna 152 had a mid-air on final, I immediately suspected a high-wing/low-wing visibility issue. I am surpised that CFII Richard McSpadden didn't mention that factor. I loaded a Bing map of the area, and overlaid the 340's positions on it from McSpadden's plot of the 340.

20220818 midair Watsonville-4.png20220818 midair Watsonville-6.png


McSpadden's A/V callouts were out of sync. What he illustrated as the 340's "1-mile final" radio call was actually 1.9nm from the threshold of Runway 20:

2154:36Z 186kt 1325' AGL 1.9m from threshold
20220818 midair Watsonville-5.png


Below, the Cessna 340 was 0.85nm from runway threshold, and still hadn't seen the Cessna 152 in front of him. Why not? Because the high-wing 152 was already on final, at ~500' AGL, while the low-wing 340 was above him at 850' AGL. This had set up as a classic high-wing/low-wing mutual invisibility danger:

2154:57Z 181kt 850' AGL 0.85nm from threshold
20220818 midair Watsonville-2.png


Even if the 340 pilot had a stabilised approach at 110 kt with extended flaps and gear, this still could have risked a high-wing/low-wing visibility issue. Had I been that 152 pilot, and heard a 340 twin announce a 3-mile final, I'd have extended my downwind. The only thing I'd have maybe turned left-base in front of (and that's with full assent of the other pilot) would be a very slow Piper Cub (which seem to take forever if you're holding short). However, a (presumably 110 kt) Cessna 340 twin on a 3-mile final would be over the numbers in just 85 seconds! I would never have risked turning left-base in that scenario. I turn base no earlier than abeam another aircraft on its final.

"1 mile, straight in 20, looking for traffic on left base." If I as the Cessna 152 pilot had heard that, I would have immediately gotten out of the 340's way. The 340 never saw the 152, but the 152 had the 340 in sight. The 340's behaviour was outrageously bad, but it's a pity that the 152 didn't act more effectively to save his own life. "See and Avoid." He saw, but did not avoid. He declared a go-around, and thus probably pitched up into the descending (but not actually landing) 180 kt twin.

There has been much preceding discussion on the inadvisability of straight-in approaches at nontowered airports, and I've some thoughts on that shortly.
 
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Andino

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Whenever I'd prefer a straight-in approach to a nontowered airport (which is not busy, i.e., 0-2 planes in the pattern), I carefully monitor the CTAF 10+ miles out. Some may consider 2 planes in the pattern as "busy." Such can be busy if one or both of them would routinely turn final to cause a conflict. But, once I'm on a 5-mile (completely rejectable for a 45° entry to downwind) final, and one of the two planes has landed/exiting the active, and the other has just turned final, then my straight-in approach can safely dovetail behind them. This not only saves me time flying an unnecessary pattern, but I believe in that example is safer because I've both the other planes are visibly in front me (vs. working out a tighter sequence on downwind). It also keeps me out of the pattern with practising pilots, thus interfering less with them. My goal is to land; theirs is to stay in the pattern. To unnecessarily enter the pattern would complicate both of our goals.

So, from 10 miles out, if my straight-in approach seems feasible, I'll announce "One-Zero miles northeast, anticipate a straight-in full-stop Runway Two-Zero, traffic permitting." If nobody on the ground or in the pattern objects, I give 2-mile callouts for "__ mile final, Runway Two-Zero, full-stop." This has never caused any problems for others.

A couple of times a pilot helpfully offered to extend his downwind. (And, I've often done the same in reversed positions. I'm happy to spend another 20+20 seconds to save a straight-in pilot from 3-5 minutes in a box pattern. Pay it forward. What goes around, comes around, etc.) Once, I performed a right 360° a few miles out for separation from a downwind about to turn left base, and he appreciated that.

Only once did I hear a gruff reply about how busy the pattern was, and I neutrally repled, "As I said, straight-in approach, traffic permitting." It worked out fine, and it was also better for all us than my trying to squeeze in a busy downwind entry with them.

A straight-in approach to a nontowered airport can be legal, safe, and courteous. We are not automata flying a purely box-track pattern. Pilots must avoid complacency and non-supple thinking. We should talk to each other more, and sort out our own traffic. If we occasionally extend our downwinds for each other, much time will be saved for all every year.
 

TyroGyro

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Remember the old rubric.-

10% of your speed you will cover in distance in 6 minutes.

With a closing speed of at least 200 mph (one on final, one on downwind), and knowing the 340 was less than 5 miles away.

The 152 should have extended downwind for a maximum of 90 seconds [in reality, probably less than a minute], and avoided the accident.

90 seconds versus two dead.

No brainer...

Yet again, ADM, ADM, ADM....

 
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