Question: Near Mid-Air Collision (Commercial Flight)


Today, Dec 20th, I was on a flight 20-30 min after take off I looked out the window to see a passenger plane, about the size of an AB 330 (I’m no expert), it was flying close. It instantly appeared to be closer than any other jet I’ve seen over 30k feet. It isn’t easy to determine distance in air, but my best guess was that it was 1-3 miles away. It seemed at the same altitude. After appearing to be standing still, it quickly closed the gap. We were heading south, slightly southeast…the other plane was heading west, southwest. at first it wasn’t clear if it was parallel to us or not, but that question was quickly resolved when the plane quickly crossed our path, what appeared to be no more than 1,000-2,000 feet above us and perhaps 1,000-2,000 feet in front of us. The other plane probably crossed our path at an angle of around 60-70 degrees.

I’m no expert, but that has to be way closer than accepted. I’ll even grant my projections of distance might be off, but I would bet a lot of money this plane was less than 1 mile from us and probably closer to 2,500 feet. I could read the letters and see into the windows.

Question: How can I find out the details of this other plane? Also, I’d like to report this, whom should I contact first? FAA? Airline? Other? I need to know how close this plane was and if it was as close as I’m sure it was, then what went wrong…


Several miles of lateral separation or 1000 feet of vertical separation is normal.


What you are describing is perfect IFR separation. Doesn’t matter how far away (horizontally) the other aircraft was as long as it was 1000ft above or below you. From the ATC Handbook, 7110.65:

Section 5. Altitude Assignment and Verification


Separate instrument flight rules (IFR) aircraft using the following minima between altitudes:

a. Up to and including FL 410- 1,000 feet.

b. Apply 2,000 feet at or above FL 290 between non-RVSM aircraft and all other aircraft at or above FL 290.

c. Above FL 410- 2,000 feet, except:

  1. In oceanic airspace, above FL 450 between a supersonic and any other aircraft- 4,000 feet.

  2. Above FL 600 between military aircraft- 5,000 feet.


Relax, nothing went wrong and there’s nothing to report.
Jets crossing 1000’ above look deceivingly closer than the 1000’ separation between the planes, but rest assured everyone’s where they’re supposed to be.
I see this all the time at work and even to us up front, it always looks closer than what it really is.


They really need to start putting “Objects are FARTHER than they appear” in every window on commercial aircraft.



Good One! :laughing:


It is referred to as RVSM (Reduced Vertical Seperation Minimums), which is currently 1000’, rumors are it will be reduced to 500’ with NextGen, but we’ll see. Anyways, the aircraft are under strict maintanance practices when working on any navigational equipment inside and outside the aircraft, sort of like maintenance for ETOPS certified aircraft, but RVSM is required to be maintained for any aircraft operating above 29,000’ and below 41,000’.