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Keeping clear of conflict – new Airprox prevention guide for GA pilots

  • Airspace conflict video aims to tackle growing problem
  • Annual GA incidents up 50% in a decade
  • Late/non-sightings main cause 
  • Paying attention to lookout, and avoiding distractions are quick wins 
  • New technical solutions also provide effective situational awareness of other aircraft

A new campaign to cut the number of Airprox incidents involving general aviation (GA) pilots is being launched today by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) – the specialist body responsible for assessing airspace conflicts. While annual incidents involving commercial aviation have been steadily declining over the last decade, those involving GA have increased by over 50% in the same period.

An Airprox is a situation in which a pilot or air traffic controller thinks the distance between two aircraft has been reduced to such an extent that safety has been compromised and a mid-air collision become possible. Not counting incidents involving drones, new figures from UKAB indicate that in 2016 there were about 145 such incidents involving GA aircraft, nearly three per week on average. Of those so far investigated, 51 were assessed as ‘risk-bearing’, where a definite risk of collision existed.

The highly experienced members of UKAB meet on a monthly basis to provide feedback, insights and recommendations concerning the factors that influenced Airprox incidents, including the performance of pilots and controllers. Their work is entirely focused on improving aviation safety, both civil and military, and not on apportioning blame.

UKAB data indicates that GA Airprox numbers generally increase in spring and early summer, as better weather arrives and many pilots start flying again after a winter lay-off. As a result though many pilots may well be rusty with their see and avoid techniques.

In an effort to reduce the number of GA Airprox this spring, UKAB has developed comprehensive guidance for pilots, based on a thorough analysis of hundreds of incidents it has previously assessed. Focusing on six core actions pilots should adopt to avoid an airspace conflict, the advice is being made freely available in a range of formats.

Launching the campaign, UKAB Director, Steve Forward, said: “While significant progress has been made over recent years to reduce the number of Airprox incidents involving commercial aircraft, the same cannot really be said of private flying. If GA is to enjoy similar safety gains then pilots need to concentrate on their airmanship skills, make sure they understand correct procedures, avoid distractions and keep a good look-out. Mid-air collisions are one of GA’s major safety risks and we at UKAB are absolutely focused on driving down the number of incidents we currently deal with.”

“It’s clear from studying numerous Airprox incidents over a number of years that look-out and prioritisation of cockpit tasks are the two key areas that GA pilots should focus on to up their game. There are also some effective and relatively inexpensive electronic systems now on the market that can help by cueing pilots to other similarly equipped aircraft, and these provide real gains in enhancing situational awareness of nearby aircraft.”

The six core actions UKAB highlight are summarised as:

  • Eyes – lookout and develop a robust scan technique.
  • Ears – communicate by talking/listening on the radio to make your intentions clear and maintain situational awareness of others.
  • Foresight – fly defensively, with vigilance, courtesy and consideration for others (aka airmanship).
  • Insight – review your understanding of ATC services, rules of the air, circuit patterns and procedures.
  • Advertise – make your presence known through conspicuity measures (electronic and visual).
  • Prioritise – time-share cockpit tasks and avoid distractions compromising your lookout.

A short video animation captures the key parts of the guidance, which UKAB is urging all current PPLs and students to view. Further detail on each core action is also available at airproxboard.org.uk as well as in UKAB’s annual safety magazine Airprox. GA flying schools and clubs throughout the UK will also be targeted with new guidance material, including a poster and flyer.

UKAB said it will be monitoring the success of the campaign over the coming months through the number of reported incidents.

Notes to Editors:

  • UKAB assessments are made by a panel of highly experienced pilots and air traffic controllers, both civil and military, all acknowledged experts within their fields of aviation. Their expertise covers commercial air transport, general aviation and military flying (both fixed wing and rotary), along with civil and military air traffic control.
  • UKAB does not apportion blame or liability and has no legal powers: its sole aim is to enhance flight safety by assessing what happened in terms of ‘cause’ and ‘risk’ and then raising awareness of the findings within the aviation community. Where appropriate, UKAB can make specific safety recommendations for changes in procedures or, for instance, the introduction of new equipment.
  • Names or operators’ identities are not published. Disidentification is a deliberate policy to encourage open and honest reporting.

For further information contact Richard Taylor on: 0207 453 6025

More information is available on the UKAB Website www.airproxboard.org.uk