Mid-air collisions and the reverie of flight

Scott Spangler has recently noted on Jetwhine an interesting story that some readers may have also seen as a headline on the Yahoo homepage. According to the AP story under the headline of 3 Die After Planes Collide Over Florida, three people died when a homebuilt aircraft and a Piper collided in a clear and sunny sky over central Florida and Scott noted that the incident had all of the “who, what, when, and where” of a typical midair.

So what are the typical characteristics of a midair crash? A recent study of midair collisions by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed the following:

    • Most of the aircraft involved in collisions are engaged in recreational flying, not on any type of flight plan.
    • Most midair collisions occur in VFR weather conditions during weekend daylight hours.
    • The vast majority of accidents occurred at or near uncontrolled airports and at altitudes below 1000 feet.
    • Pilots of all experience levels were involved in midair collisions, from pilots on their first solo ride, to 20,000-hour veterans.
    • Flight instructors were on board the aircraft 37 percent of the accidents in the study.
    • Most collisions occur in daylight with visibility greater than 3 miles.

In the recent incident over the skies of Florida, Scott noted that reports of the accident mentioned that the destinations of both aircraft were unknown and a local sheriff was quoted as saying that: “There are a lot of unknowns right now.” However, Scott offered his own explanation:

But at the heart of the matter, these details are unimportant. The accident happened because the pilots surrendered to the reverie of flight.

Reverie is “dreamy thinking or imagining, especially of agreeable things; fanciful musing; daydreaming.” Pilots who steadfastly deny falling victim to it are, perhaps, saying more about their rectitude than their ability to maintain a hyper-aware vigilance during every second of every flight.

In other words, flying is both a fun and a serious activity that requires the complete attention span of a pilot. And although the chances of a midair collision are low, they can and do happen – especially if you surrender to the “reverie of flight” even for only a few seconds. 


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