View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, January 27, 2003
While I was out at the OLE weekend, where they make you climb poles, walk tightropes, and get lost in the woods, two small planes collided over northwest Denver. All aboard both planes died, although, thankfully, nobody on the ground was killed. What's truly horrible is that this was an eminently avoidable crash.

The Denver Post has done a fine job covering the crash, and their reporters had the sense to look at the aeronautical charts for Denver. The Piper, the southbound plane, was not in the suggested airlane. This was not illegal, just very unwise. In fact, he was flying head-on into oncoming traffic.

I had this happen to me once last Spring when I was flying some visiting friends over Denver. I had requested flight following from Denver Center, and since it was a Sunday, and traffic was light, they were able to help. I started to get a little nervous when they said that I had "southbound traffic at my altitude, at 12 o'clock." The guy was flying in my lane, in the wrong direction, at the wrong altitude. He was flying perfectly legally, and could have gotten all of us killed, had I not gotten warning from ATC. Either he misread the chart, or just didn't care.

While I understand that some people like to get out of their suggested lanes to avoid traffic, I think these lanes ought to be manadatory. If you've got a choice between traveling with traffic and traveling head-on against it, I don't think you've got much of a choice at all. It's easier to see traffic, and you've got eons more time to pick it up. If this requires the creation of some other class of airspace, so be it. On the whole, fast-moving Moonies will have to slow down for slower Cessnas, or pick a different altitude. At least they'll live to fly next Sunday.

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