If you have ever been on a plane, you might have seen a place in the distance, or wondered how far a plane can actually be from another without causing any trouble.
There are lots of rules and regulations when it comes to aircrafts, which are often in place to make sure that every situation is as safe as possible.
But how far away does another plane have to be in order to maintain a safe distance? This is something that we are going to explain in this article to help give you a better understanding of the regulations that are in place.
Do Planes Ever Crash Into Each Other?
Planes do sometimes crash into each other, but it is very unlikely. A mid-air collision is an accident that involves two or more aircrafts that come into unplanned contact during a flight. This is very unlikely to occur due to the rules and regulations that are in place, but it can happen in rare circumstances.
If something like this were to happen, it would likely be due to a miscommunication, mistrust, error in navigation, deviation from flight plan, lack of situational awareness, or lack of collision-avoidance systems.
This is really rare and does not happen often due to the large amount of open space that is available. If something like this were to happen, it would most likely be at an airport, as this is where there are more aircrafts in one space.
The first ever recorded collision between two aircrafts was in Milan, Italy, on the 3rd of October. René Thomas and Captain Bertram Dickson collided, but both pilots survived the incident. However, one of the pilots was so badly injured that he never flew again.
How Close Can Planes Fly Next to Each Other?
The distance at which two commercial aircrafts have to be apart will vary depending on the different phases of flight and the altitude at which the plane is. The vertical and horizontal distance will also be different, and the rules might differ between regions.
A commercial aircraft that is flying below 29,000 feet will need to maintain a vertical separation of at least 1000 feet. If they are flying higher than this, then the distance will increase to 2000 feet, unless they are in an airspace where Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum applies. This allows aircrafts to fly with a vertical distance of 1000 feet between them.
Aircrafts can cause something that is called wake turbulence, which can affect other aircrafts that are flying the same track at the same altitude. So, the horizontal separation will need to be much greater than the vertical separation. In a controlled airspace, the required horizontal distance between aircrafts is the same altitude as 5 nautical miles, which works out to be slightly more than 9 kilometers.
On departure, air traffic controllers will need to place aircrafts much closer to each other than they would be during flight. So, within the terminal area air space, horizontal separation decreases to 3 nautical miles.
How Do Planes Avoid Hitting Each Other?
The majority of modern large aircrafts will be fitted with a traffic collision avoidance system, and this is designed to try and prevent any mid-air collisions. This system works based on signals that are provided by aircraft transponders, which will alert pilots if there is potential for a collision with another aircraft.
A passenger aircraft is not permitted to be used if it does not have a traffic collision avoidance system in place. It is basically a simple radio system that will help to keep the sky safe, and it will constantly transmit its identifier via radio.
As well as this, it will transmit other important information, like altitude, speed, and direction. If something does go wrong and the two planes could be in danger of colliding, the two systems will work together to find a solution.
If an aircraft’s TCAS picks up a signal from a different plane, it will stay in contact with the other aircraft to work out how far away from each other they are based on the time that it takes to receive a response.
Planes will usually follow a path, sort of like a road, as flights will be directed at different altitudes, ensuring that two crossing planes will never be at the same altitude. This helps to ensure that an accident does not occur. It will also work out which direction the transmission is coming from, and will determine if an unsafe situation is approaching. The pilot will then be able to keep an eye on the situation.
Air traffic controllers have radars and computer systems which work to help them keep planes away from each other when they are descending, climbing, or changing route. Of course, people will make mistakes sometimes and equipment has the potential to fail, so accidents can still happen.