Handling Head-On Approaches

It's important to think quickly when the unexpected happens.

Tip Runway

Tip Runway

** Photo by Tim Forbes/Forbes Photographer**

A scary incident at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh yesterday highlights the need for quick thinking when the unexpected happens. First, here’s the story: The pilot of a Van’s RV set up for a nicely stabilized approach to Runway 9 and made a decent landing – the only problem was that the wind was out of the west and all the other arriving traffic was landing on Runway 27. The controllers handled the situation calmly, instructing the RV and another airplane landing in the opposite direction, a Piper Tripacer, to go around.

Sometimes at non-towered fields it’s hard to tell which way to land when the wind isn’t favoring a particular runway. That can lead to precisely the same type of situation as “Wrong Way Charlie” in his RV at Oshkosh. The question is, what should you do in such a case?

Obviously you’ll want to think about going around, but if the other airplane also decides to abort the landing, two airplanes are now on a collision course right over the airport. Thankfully, FAR 91.113 supplies us with some guidance. When two aircraft are approaching head on, each pilot should alter course to the right. So rather than flying a straight out go-around, in this case you would sidestep to the right and monitor what the other guy is doing, just in case he decides for some reason to go to his left.

FAR 91.113 also states that on landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right of way, meaning that if you are turning base and see an airplane that is on final lower than you, you should give way by breaking off your approach.

Of course, if you land the wrong way at Oshkosh, it’s a good bet someone from the FAA will want to talk to you – and you just know there will be YouTube videos capturing the wrong-way landing for posterity.

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