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ADSB and Mid-air Collisions

Juan Brown recently did a video on a mid-air on a lake near Coeur D’Alene Idaho and some of the things he said are not exactly correct. I’d like to correct the record here.

Juan is a little loose in the way he is using the term “uncontrolled airspace”. What he means is that the pilots in the area aren’t talking to Air Traffic Control (ATC). Normally airspace that is below 1200′ from the ground is Class G which is uncontrolled. However, in this case, the northern end of the lake is in the approach path for an instrument approach to Coeur D’Alene airport so the airspace above 700′ is Class E. Class E is controlled airspace but it is unlikely that ATC can communicate with pilots in that remote area with mountains all around. The only real difference is that visibility and distance from clouds is greater in Class E than Class G—but that isn”t an issue in this case.

I’d also take exception to his categorization of air tours as a ”Loophole”. It’s a regulation just like any other. Air tour operators need a Letter of Authorization from their local FSDO which spells out when and how they can conduct operations. They are limited to 25 miles from the takeoff airport and may not make any other stops. Pilots are required to meet the same licensing standards as Part 135 charter pilots and the operator must have a drug and alcohol testing program in place.

He’s also a bit confused about when ADSB-Out is required. There is actually very little airspace where ADSB-Out is required. Basically it is required above 10,00′ MSL and within 30 miles of the largest airports—think big airliner hubs like LA, Seattle, Atlanta. It is also required near smaller airports that have a lot of airline traffic. Spokane is the nearest airport where it is required. Otherwise it is not required within hundreds of miles of the lake.

Whether the Beaver having ADSB-In would have made any difference is a matter of opinion. I suspect not. It depends on a lot of factors. Getting an alert from an aircraft not equipped with ADSB-Out requires a signal relayed from an ADSB ground station to the aircraft with ADSB-In. I don’t know if this remote location would be covered but given its remote location in the mountains, I doubt it. Even if both aircraft were equipped with ADSB-Out and either an iPad with ADSB-In or built-in ADSB-In it would still be difficult to say for sure whether it would have made any difference. With the amount of traffic over the lake it would be difficult for the pilot to respond to all of the alerts that they would be getting. It might have made a difference, but I suspect not.

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