On January 26, 2018, our airport experienced its first-ever mid-air collision in the pattern.1 A Robinson R44 was practicing an instrument GPS approach on Runway 33. A Beechcraft A36 was on final behind the helicopter, and had the helicopter in sight. The two aircraft were talking to each other on CTAF.
Apparently, the helicopter paused at the end of his practice approach, resulting in this exchange:
Beechcraft: Are you stopping there, helicopter? Because I’m behind you and above you.
Robinson: Nope, I’m doing a missed. We’re going to go down here a few more feet and see how this [unintelligible] works, and then I’ll be gone on the missed. Peddling as fast as I can.
Beechcraft: Okay, passing overhead.
A missed approach requires an immediate climb on runway heading, so the plane should have expected the helicopter to climb. Rather than sidestepping the helicopter to safely get around it, he announced that he was overflying it. I surmise that the helicopter initiated the missed approach, climbed into the plane, and bent some metal.
Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. This could have ended much worse.
During the heavy flying for the Women of Aviation Worldwide event at FNL last week, there were only two close calls with non-participating aircraft among the hundreds of flights. These two cases ended without incident due to the alertness of the other pilots. Let’s remember to stay alert in the pattern and communicate clearly with each other.
Bye bye, DUATS
Funding for DUATS (Direct User Access Terminal Service) has been terminated by the FAA. May 16 is slated as the last day of operation, unless the funding picture changes between now and then.
DUATS began operation in 1989, the year I started my flight training. I remember connecting to the service with my super-fast 9600-baud modem. The two providers (CSC and DTC) evolved over the years, adding web page access, decoding to English, and weather graphics.
FAA dropped DTC in 2015, after LMFS (Lockheed Martin Flight Service) took over the Flight Service Stations (FSS), and renewed CSC on a year-by-year basis. When CSC ceases operation, LMFS will be the only briefing game in town. (Note that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s AviationWeather website has additional valuable weather resources.)
The ForeFlight iPad app moved from DUATS to LMFS for its weather briefings and flight plan filing a few years ago, but still allows access to DUATS if you’ve entered your credentials. Since DUATS is going away, now would be a good time to open Foreflight, click the More tab at the bottom, and click Account on the left. If the CSC DUATS line on the right shows your account number, click the account number and then click Sign Out at the top.