To the Letter - Doing two jobs while flying
I have been flying VFR for more than 10years. I fly from the Buttonville Airport, and about one third of my flying time is spent below the floor of the Lester B. Pearson International Airport classC airspace. In these 10years, the most important lesson I have learned is that flying VFR is all (more than 90%) about looking for others who are having fun, as I am.
These days, I see more planes than ever before, though the number of flights and planes in this part of the country hasn't changed significantly in the last 10years. Even if one tries their best, they will probably miss a plane or two passing by too close; flying VFR takes a little bit of luck as well.
Here is one of my experiences: I am on the right base and the controller tells me, "you are number three, one is on the final and the other is on the left base," and I can't see either of them. Now, how is one going to see it in uncontrolled airspace, where a plane can come from any direction at a closing-in speed of up to 300ft/s? Despite all this, mid-air collisions are rare, thanks to the "third dimension," which is not available to highway drivers.
I am writing all this to discuss the job of the traffic-reporting pilot, who single-handedly flies the plane, observes the highway/city traffic, communicates with the base, and broadcasts the details of the traffic accidents, police car and tow truck arrival, lane closures, etc. Are these pilots from a special breed, or do they hold a special license allowing them to do two jobs at once?
Three years ago, here in Toronto airspace, one of those special pilots rear-ended another aircraft; fortunately, the contact was minor and both aircraft were able to land safely. As I recall, the occurrence report did not consider the fact that the pilot was doing two jobs, and that he didn't have enough time to watch for air traffic. The message should be clear: if you want to report highway traffic, hire a pilot; if you want to fly, hire a traffic reporter - these are two different full-time jobs.
For those interested in reading more about this accident, it was discussed in ASL3/2002, and refers to Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) file A00O0057. - Ed.
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