This is an excerpt from a report made to the Aviation Safety Reporting System. The narrative is written by the pilot, rather than FAA or NTSB officials. To maintain anonymity, many details, such as aircraft model or airport, are often scrubbed from the reports.
I was performing landing training with a student. On the upwind leg of the landing pattern there was a garbled call on the radio, which sounded like somebody asking about traffic. I asked calling aircraft to repeat. The aircraft came back and asked if there was any traffic. I responded “one aircraft in the traffic pattern currently on upwind.”
My student and I saw the traffic at our 2 o’clock traveling in the opposite direction to us, parallel to Runway XX, which we had just taken off from.
We continued to fly our pattern, left downwind followed by a left base. We made our traffic calls on downwind and base. When we were on base we heard a call saying Aircraft Y base to final. We looked around and could not see another aircraft, so proceeded with caution. We turned final and called the final, still looking for the traffic but did not see anything.
We landed and at the end of our landing roll we saw a Cessna exiting the runway. The Cessna did not have a functioning rotating bacon or white tail navigation light. The green navigation light was functioning.
The pilot of the other aircraft got on the radio and said “so you landed while we were still on the runway.” I responded with “Do you know that your beacon and your white light are out, we could not see you.”
The other pilot again said, “you landed while we were on the runway.” I asked “did you hear that your lights are not working, we did not see you and you were not making radio calls?”
The other pilot followed up with a rude response so I did not engage him any further.
I wanted to tell him that ZZZ has a left pattern to Runway XX and he had followed what seemed to be a right pattern, without a functioning beacon or white light and not making radio calls.
Primary Problem: Human Factors
Pilot dude says
OH–one more comment. To the guys who think you should be able to see an aircraft on the runway, etc.
Sometimes they blend right in, don’t they? More than once I can see them on radar (iPad), and tower is calling the guy out, say, short final, and darned if I see them right away.
They blend into the background, sometimes; some colors are worse. And if there is not much movement, it’s like “Where IS he?!” Sometimes.
So I could see landing with a guy on the concrete, oh yeah, but I’m not saying it is something I do, or have done, either. It just could happen, easy.
Pilot guy says
Uncontrolled airports are sometimes OUT of control. Guys entering the pattern every which way, non-standard radio calls; love that “Please advise” call, or “Last call” call.
Ha! I said call call.
scott k patterson says
If you can’t see an airplane on a runway half a mile away you probably shouldn’t be flying or driving.
To the people making comments about not seeing the plane versus seeing that the beacon/nav lights were not illuminated: I’d suspect that after the landing roll, and perhaps when the aircraft turned, they could then see it.
Obviously the pilot (A) hanging out on the runway did not expedite his exit from the active runway and was looking for an excuse to be belligerent. Those talking about aircraft radios discount the fact that Lights Out clearly was not monitoring his. Had he been, he could have announced, “Expediting exit from runway”, which would have let the second plane (B) know he was there. Doesn’t sound like he communicated clearly – if at all.
Tom Curran says
So…can two airplanes legally be on the runway at the same time…day or night?
I believe the aforementioned aircraft spacing ‘requirements’, by Category, come from the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Procedures Manual (3-10-3), and apply to operations at controlled airports.
But what are the regulatory requirements for minimum aircraft spacing at Nontowered airports?
Lacking any reference in Part 91: Are specific aircraft separation distances for Nontowered airports defined, or even mentioned, in the AIM or AC 90-66B?
I think the answer is “NO” (?),
and the only regulatory guidance is provided by your own interpretation of 91.13 Careless & Reckless, and 91.111 Operating Near Other Aircraft…and what you determine to be “well clear”.
WK Taylor says
Again, this article omitted a critical ‘bit’ of data… relative darkness, IE: sunset, twilight, late/dark night, moonlit night, pre-dawn, sunrise, etc. Also RW marking light illumination is all relative to RW width and light intensity.
‘Nav Lights on’ switch automatically turns on the the green, red and white position lights. The RB/Strobe anti-collision lights and interior/instrument lights are on a separate switch. Duhhhh.
Part of preflight procedures, my CFI [dad] pounded into my head… was… for ANY flight that might be ‘near/into darkness’… was to VISUALLY verify operation of each position [RGW] light, the anti-collision lights, taxi/landing lights and the cockpit/instrument/cabin lights, IE: Master-ON, lights ON, Visually VERIFY each in-sequence. OH YEAH… VERIFY that spare/emergency flashlight was available and working. OH YEAH… VERIFY that alternator/generator/battery were on-line and showing ‘normal’ during start-up/taxi-out.
Sadly, many drivers… and pilots, too… think their lighting is less consequential than other vehicles lighting… after-all, “they can see just fine”…
NOTE. All lights degrade-to-failure over-time: incandescent, strobe, LED, etc. VERIFY that the lights are NOT JUST WORKING… but that they are at NORMAL intensity! Weak, flickering and off-color light out-put is less-than-useless… it provides a false sense of security/compliance.
Good observation WK. The report indicated the conditions were VMC 10 mi vis ceiling 3600 at dusk. From the report, it appears only the green nav light was working.
I always have all my lights on as a standard practice, day or night. I always found it amazing how an airplane can disappear into the background. I learn this as a student following another plane in the pattern that I couldn’t see at a towered field. I finally saw him when he turned base. You can’t avoid what you don’t see.
I guess the pilot who landed second has never flown at an airport where there were aircraft without electrical systems; meaning no radios or lights.
The final check I make at 100 to 200 feet above the runway is to make sure the runway is clear.
scott k patterson says
Interesting, can’t see an entire airplane in front of you….but could have seen that tiny little marker light. That’s like my little red 18 inch square flags so people won’t run into the 12 foot wide and tall yellow bull dozer I’m hauling….lol
WK Taylor says
OK Scott… a single green [nav?] light on the RW… without either the red or white nav lights or the beacon visible. Hmmm, so what is the orientation is the aircraft…?
Facing away from us [right-wing to our right]? Facing towards us [right wing to our left]? Right wing towards us [looking straight onto the wing-tip]?
Also any idea how far way it is?
A single visible nav-light provides no orientation cues or distance estimation cues to any outside traffic.
Rick Dean says
Presuming the runway was over 3000 ft long, there is/was no problem. For category I or II aircraft only 3000 ft of separation is needed on the runway for an aircraft to land when another aircraft is on the runway.
You should have said your call sign, and WHICH RUNWAY YOU WERE UPWIND ON.
Dale L. Weir says
A common mistake that I hear often, is to use the term “Upwind leg” when they are actually on “Departure” (AIM 4-3-2). Correct phraseology is important…
I had an uncle who, when approaching an intersection at night would turn off his light, so he could see any other traffic. 😕
Ken T says
He turned off his landing/taxi light. NOT his position lights, I’m sure.
It was a car and he turned off all the lights
Rick Desn says
Interesting, MikeNY. Seems that if everyone turned off their lights at all intersections, then no one would see anyone…?
(Of course, turning off your lights after you see someone so you don’t blind them is pretty much a good thing).
Luckily it was a rural area. Also he believed in the computer simulation method of accident avoidance of diving fast to limit the possibility of an accident. That is so reasonable….not
scott k patterson says
Assuming motor vehicle, that was standard practice when I was in Korea…’60s. That’s the reason pulling towards you on turn signal lever turned headlights off Japanese cars.