FlightAware Discussions

Was this a near miss?

New here. On a flight last Sunday I looked out and saw another airliner just below us, really close going almost opposite direction. Since we were up around 30-35,000 ft. I thought this was very strange. We were just entering a solid high cloud layer and the other plane was just coming out of the cloud layer. I made a voice note on my phone of 9:52 am.(by my watch)
I looked up the graph of this flight on this site and saw that the plane dropped over 3,000 ft in the few minutes during this time. How unusual is this. It was Southwest flight 2706 from Hollywood, Fl. to Atlanta, 16 Mar 2015.
I called the FAA but they seemed uninterested.

That can be a surprise first time you see it. You have regular ‘near misses’ on an undivided highway with just a double line between you and oncoming traffic (which is much less safe than flying). Sky traffic flies in similar ‘lanes’, but in 3 dimensions. The altitude (flight level) change could have been a preplanned lane change or directed by air traffic control (ATC) who monitor traffic much more closely than your local highway police.

RVSM allows for as little as 1000’ of vertical separation between two aircraft; most likely what you saw was not abnormal at all.

Aircraft at cruising altitudes pass by other aircraft at 1000’ separation all the time, you just happened to see one of them and immediately thought something might be wrong.
Perfectly safe and normal, another plane passing by at 1000’ away looks a lot closer than it really is.
Lets see, a passenger who obviously knows nothing about aviation, sees something and has no facts to back anything up and calls the FAA, I wonder why they’re not interested?

Thanks everyone for your help. Except maybe Champdriver. With that last sentence he became an arrogant aviation snob.
I titled my post as a question, " was this a near miss" because I am not an aviation expert and don’t know the regulations. He seems to think that I am attacking the aviation industry, which by the way I greatly respect and admire for their excellent safety record.
In this “If you see something, say something” world I shouldn’t be chastised for asking a simple question. I thought that’s what this forum was for. Several people gladly shared their knowledge with me without rubbing their superior aviation knowledge in my face.
The only reason I called the FAA was because, after checking the graphs on this website I noticed that the sudden drop in altitude corresponded exactly with the time when I saw the other plane and wondered if this was indeed normal. The nice woman at the FAA directed me to the Flightaware website for information.

Thanks again to all of you who politely informed me about the 1,000 ft regulation.
Bill Broumas, Hamden, Connecticut

ctbadbilly, welcome to the forum. A thick skin and a sense of humour is always helpful, there will always be a snarky comment or two. You have to take the rough with the smooth. You posted a legitimate question from your perspective which, to others, was intuitively obvious. Remember, the difference between ignorance and stupidity is that one is curable :smiley:

Don’t let the words of one act as a barometer of the great people here on FlightAware. As I read his comment (before reading your last) I too thought that it wasn’t called for.
Everyone else answered your question accurately. Even sitting up front, to this day when I see a “heavy” coming my way a 1000’ below I get that WHOA! sensation. You know there’s plenty of clearance, but seeing something that large coming your way is quite the sight.

ctbadbilly, I would stack champdriver’s life on the fact that he is ignorant, not stupid, about many things.

While RVSM is used for a 1000ft separation in flight levels, minimum VFR vertical separation in Bravo and Charlie airspaces is at 500ft (AIM 3-2-3 and 3-2-4) and I sure have been in an “airline sandwich” with a jet 500 above me and 500 below me. Wife sitting next to me was not exactly happy to see those beasts that close but it was a non-event. “Maintain visual separation” are the magical words that allow a controller to defer the separation duty to pilots.
FWIW, airliners have traffic display in the cockpit and systems that watch out for other traffic (TAWS, TCAS etc) and provide audible warning and possibly a command to avoid collision with other traffic. (example: “Traffic, climb, climb”) Also, ATC is watching closely as well and they too have collision detection systems and if two aircraft get too close to each other, bells and whistles go off in the TRACON and climb/descent/turn instructions are issued to involved aircraft. ATC is watching and monitoring closely to enhance safety of air travel. No controller wants bells and whistles going off on their radar station.

As for Champdriver’s response, I see why some might find it upsetting but OTOH, I do not believe he was wrong. :slight_smile:
But us pilots, we must be smart and very confident in ourselves, otherwise we couldn’t be good pilots. So some of us show it in a not-exactly best PC way and can be pretty arrogant and cocky. It comes with the profession. I have a thick skin, I don’t care.

Blue skies!