The NTSB this week completed its investigation of two fatal midair crashes that occurred in 2015, and on Wednesday they issued a Safety Alert (PDF) urging pilots to make use of cockpit technologies that can help them to see and avoid other aircraft. The alert reviews the two recent crashes as well as two earlier ones, and notes that in each case, the pilot had access to technology in the cockpit that may have helped avert the crash if it had been utilized. The traditional “see and avoid” practice has “inherent limitations,” the NTSB said, including aircraft blind spots, operational distractions and human error, which “leave even the most diligent pilot vulnerable to the threat of a midair collision with an unseen aircraft.” In both midair accidents last year, the pilots were talking to ATC.
On July 7, 2015, a Cessna 150 that had just departed from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and an F-16 Air Force fighter jet on a training mission collided. An air traffic controller advised the F-16 pilot that the Cessna was a potential traffic conflict. The F-16 pilot was not able to locate the Cessna until it was too late to avoid the collision. The two occupants of the Cessna were killed; the F-16 pilot ejected and survived. In its probable-cause report issued this week, the NTSB determined that the probable cause of the crash was the air traffic controller’s failure to provide an appropriate resolution to the traffic conflict.
On August 16, 2015, a North American Rockwell Sabreliner inbound for landing at Brown Field Municipal Airport in San Diego and a Cessna 172 that was practicing landings at the same airport collided. The four occupants of the Sabreliner and the sole occupant of the Cessna were killed. A cockpit visibility study revealed the fields of view of both pilots were limited and partially obscured at times. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the air traffic controller’s failure to properly identify the aircraft in the pattern and to ensure control instructions were being performed.
The Safety Alert to pilots — Prevent Midair Collisions: Don’t Depend on Vision Alone — is available online (PDF). The NTSB also has postedits report, its safety recommendation report and the accident reports. A series of video animations of the two accidents, which includes several besides the two posted here, are posted online.