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Preventing Midairs Between Sailplanes and Heavy Ai

Today we can not deny that parts of the airspace are crowded. Particularly around terminal airspace (Classes B and C) we find more heavy aircraft operations than ever before. We find more airline activity dedicated to moving more people more quickly and more economically. We can't deny these facts or the safety challenge they represent to recreational forms of aviation such as soaring!

As glider pilots, we are proponents of the "See and Be Seen" principle. We don't always carry radios, and we don't have to carry transponders except in Class A or B airspace. If we want to protect our right to fly in certain airspace and our privilege to carry less sophisticated navigation and surveillance equipment than other forms of aviation, we are going to need more vigilance and more responsibility in sharing airspace with our commercial brethren. At a recent meeting of the General Aviation Action Plan Coalition in Washington, SSA (along with other associations) was directly challenged by FAA Administrator Hinson to "Find a way to achieve a goal of NO MIDAIRS". Later in the meeting Hinson stated, "If you (general aviation societies and associations) don't find a way to do this, we will find it for you". In 1997 that is a fact, not a threat.

The purpose of this letter is to raise our levels of consciousness of this problem. It is also to lay out a method for each local soaring operation to develop ways to reduce conflict in areas of glider / heavy aircraft interface. Finally, it is to enlist everyone who reads this letter to think and act to reduce conflict which could lead to that worst of catastrophes - a collision between a glider and a commercial or military aircraft.

Please take a look at the suggestions attached, appoint an airspace chairman and do your best to work as a team with FAA in your area to share airspace and reduce or eliminate potential conflict. Develop a plan to reduce the threat of collisions of all kinds (and don't forget to continue vigilance to keep gliders from colliding with other gliders!). SSA is working with FAA and Congress to protect our rights. Let's make sure we work together within SSA to promote safety and share airspace responsibly.

Finally, let SSA know what works for you in your area. Call the office in Hobbs or call Jim Short of the Government Liaison Committee evenings (Central time) at (630) 963-9813.


Appoint a club member who is aware of the approach, departure and enroute patterns of other categories of aircraft within 30-40 miles of your normal soaring areas. This member could be an IFR rated power pilot, an airline pilot who is familiar with sailplane flight routes as well as ATC procedures, or a glider-only pilot who just wants to get involved.


Start by diagramming the busy corridors in which heavy and high speed (i.e., commercial, military or business) aircraft operate. For instructional purposes, these diagrams could be made on sectional charts or on other maps which are illustrative for glider pilots flying locally or cross-country. The diagrams should show, among other ideas:

Approach and Departure routes for commercial (or high activity) airports.

Altitudes at which aircraft typically operate on these routes. Busy IFR intersections and reporting points, VOR's and other hazardous areas, such as parachute jumping zones, known aerobatic practice areas, etc. Typical glider operating areas and cross-country routes. Conflict and danger areas for soaring operations.


Hold regular briefings as part of ground schools, area checkouts or local safety meetings, to make sure that everyone flying at your site, knows of the danger areas. Seek input from everyone present at your meetings, For starters, discuss these topics:

Areas and altitudes to avoid to relieve potential interface with high speed metal.

How to reduce conflict when flying through danger areas on cross-countries.

The absolute need to adhere to standard cloud clearances and possibly even double them in high traffic areas. Adherence to other traffic and airspace responsibilities.

What areas should be avoided in times of reduced visibility.

Published and observed changes in the large aircraft approach/departure behavior.

How glider pilots can report traffic to each other on glider frequencies.

How gliders in some areas can contact Approach Control when a need arises.

Then disseminate the results of these meetings in mailings and newsletters. Post your maps showing areas of potential conflict on your club/airport bulletin board. Concentrate on traffic procedures and collision avoidance during Biennial Flight Reviews. Plan a briefing on local and cross-country soaring operations for local FAA Air Traffic personnel. Build a team relationship with ATC personnel so you can work together to alleviate problems before they occur. Take ATC personnel for glider flights so they know what we do.

Finally, let SSA know what you are doing and how successful you are. Let's have a forum, based on your ideas, in SOARING magazine and on the internet. Let's work together to save our skies through safety, education and responsible use.

Posted: 10/1/2001 By: General News

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