Av Hazard publicizes safety and operational concerns to help prevent accidents but it works only if we hear from you. Use the postage-free Av Hazard card to describe the hazard and return it to Pro Pilot. To obtain an official FAA review send NASA an ASRS form. For immediate action, call the airport, FBO, ATC, FSDO or the 24-hour FAA Safety Hotline at 800-255-1111. Note: Telephone numbers for all US Towers and ARTCCs are published in Ac-U-Kwik and Pilots Express Airport/ Heliport/FBO directories. To report safety concerns outside the US, contact ICAO HQ at 514-954-8219 or via fax at 514-954-6077. ICAO has worldwide telephone and fax numbers to expedite Av Hazard reports to civil aviation authorities.
On Jun 18, 2008, while departing in a GIV out of VCV (Victorville CA) off Runway 35 on an IFR flightplan (Class D airspace), we received an RA climbing through approximately 1000 ft to avoid a UAV. We had to take evasive action to remain clear of the hazard in controlled airspace for which we had received no advisory. There was a published Notam that UAVs might be operating, but when we queried the tower as to why we were not advised of the traffic, they said Joshua Approach Control was responsible for separation.
However, we were never advised to contact Approach Control until well after the traffic conflict-and while in class D airspace with an operational control tower. Joshua Approach Control advised that Victorville Tower was responsible for separation. Everyone points the finger at everyone else! I was under the impression that being IFR in controlled airspace usually kept 2 aircraft from occupying the same airspace at the same time. This is an accident waiting to happen, and neither controller seems to understand who is responsible for traffic separation.
__ ATP, Gulfstream IV
- Whether we like it or not, unmanned aerial vehicles are here to stay. UAVs are finding a home in both the military and commercial aviation. Industry and FAA are struggling with how they will be integrated into the National Airspace System. On the up side, most air systems have a complete array of avionics including TCAS and can "see" other traffic. UAVs fly anywhere from a few hundred feet to beyond 30,000 ft. In the situation at VCV, though, the tower should have given the reporting pilot separation advisories-not expected another sector of ATC whom the pilot is not even talking with to keep the 2 aircraft apart. This has been forwarded to the FAA hotline.
Advanced cockpit complacency
The number of incidents due to pilot complacency with advanced cockpits is on the rise. Both helicopters and airplanes are enjoying cockpit upgrades with glass MFDs and GPS. In one incident, a helicopter pilot found himself very relaxed with a brand-new helicopter complete with a sophisticated navigation system including EFIS and GPS. With a total of 1 hr under his belt, the pilot proceeded to enter Class C and D airspace without authorization.
The complacent attitude was partly caused by a beautiful day and poor situational awareness due to over-reliance on the avionics package installed. Another incident occurred when 2 pilots decided to fly a glass-cockpit-equipped aircraft to a destination with excellent weather. Since the weather was so good they did not pull the paper charts out. After arriving at the destination and observing traffic at the uncontrolled airport, they entered a downwind leg. The pilots thought it was unusual not to hear any radio traffic on the Unicom but did not think much of it.
They turned final only to see an aircraft take off from the runway, again with no radio traffic. Finally, someone came up on the Unicom frequency and told them to contact the tower. The aircraft had just come out of maintenance where everything had been updated. Apparently, the update did not "take." The old version dated from before the tower began operating and the airport diagram was magenta on the GPS display. The paper charts showed the airport as blue with the correct tower frequency, which they had on board but did not refer to.
There are at least 3 things pilots can do to decrease the chances of unintended airspace problems.
First, they must receive proper training on their aircraft's systems and then practice and stay up with these advanced systems. Increased technology can place a higher demand on pilots, especially single pilot resource management. Most VLJs are single-pilot aircraft capable of high-altitude flight and high speeds. Pilots must have mastery of the cockpit to be able to keep up with the aircraft.
Second, they must use the systems to their advantage and maintain strong situational awareness through precise navigation throughout their route. This includes knowing how to operate all the features on their aircraft and not turning off features that can keep them out of hot water. Third, pilots shouldn't place all their faith in the avionics-they're only as good as the information placed in them.
Without a current database, avionics cannot provide all necessary information or be used for IFR navigation. And pilots should never rely too much on automation or lose the ability to "just fly the airplane." We should always know the answers to the important questions "What's it doing now?" and "What's it going to do next?"