View Full Version : Very near miss in Texas....!!

2nd May 2010, 23:09
Reported in the Aviation Herald...

Incident: Southwest Airlines B737 at Houston on Apr 28th 2010, near collision with a news helicopter
By Simon Hradecky, created Sunday, May 2nd 2010 16:53Z, last updated Sunday, May 2nd 2010 17:06Z

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700, flight WN-1322 from Houston Hobby,TX to Baltimore,MD (USA), had been cleared for takeoff from Houston Hobby Airport's runway 12R and had just rotated when the crew spotted a helicopter ahead and above them and took evasive action, the helicopter crew reacted as well and took a sharp right turn away from the runway. Both aircraft completed their flights safely.

FAA spokeswoman Lynn Lunsford said, that the news helicopter (call sign "Sky 2") had been cleared to takeoff from the south ramp in direction north, but took off to the south before turning north. The Southwest Boeing 737 was cleared to depart runway 12R followed by a left turn to the north. As the helicopter approached the runway, it passed above and ahead of the Southwest 737. The crew of the Southwest 737 saw the helicopter first and slowed their climb allowing the airplane to pass underneath the helicopter, the crew of the helicopter turned hard right away of the runway. Preliminary radar data suggest, that the helicopter was at 200 feet AGL, the 737 at 100 feet AGL with a minimum separation of 100 feet vertically and 125 feet laterally.

Incident: Southwest Airlines B737 at Houston on Apr 28th 2010, near collision with a news helicopter (http://avherald.com/h?article=42af43cf&opt=0)

2nd May 2010, 23:55
had just rotated when the crew spotted a helicopter ahead and above them and took evasive action

Astonishing! and nicely done. :ok:

3rd May 2010, 00:18
Both crews did what was required to avoid a conflict. Sounds like both had it under control. I know I downplay near misses but if you are visually in contact avoidance usually isn't that difficult.

Say again s l o w l y
3rd May 2010, 00:22
What the crews did to avoid a collision isn't the issue. It's how the situation came into being that matters.

A crew in an IFR aircraft fortunately catches sight of a far smaller one and takes action promptly. Good on them for keeping a good lookout, but it could easily have been a far nastier situation. I hope they bought lottery tickets on the way home.

3rd May 2010, 00:28
Sorry, but visual contact or no, having to (see and) avoid right at rotation is what I would call difficult! :eek:

3rd May 2010, 00:39
looking for traffic at rotation is part of the job.

I know a guy in a DC9 at ORD ...cleared for takeoff...someone else screwed up and he had to rotate prior to Vr to jump over the offending jet. He made it. Got an award...good guy.

So do your job.

Loose rivets
3rd May 2010, 00:40
This business of helicopters being near to the end of runways during fixed-wing takeoffs used to leave me a tad annoyed. I'd role with TECAS images, having been assured, and sometimes reassured, that all was well. Didn't like it one little bit. Still, the warning concentrated the mind.

Didn't these guys have any electronic warning?

3rd May 2010, 01:03
I agree, quite obviously, that keeping a good look out in all flight regimes, is critical - and that's how I was trained. To expand a bit on my previous (and agreeing with Rivets), I just think that it would be difficult at 100AGL in a jet to 'avoid'....no real room to maneuver - but especially with a helicopter....it's a small target and it doesn't act like an airplane does. I did a lot of flying at airports with helicopters of all kinds, and they DID have a tendency to 'hang around' over the thresh holds. IF everyone is following their clearances AND the rules, all is well. In this case, the chopper followed the avoidance rule of breaking right....but....:eek:
The question remains though....WHY was he there? If I understand it correctly, he was cleared from the south ramp for a north bound departure...but instead, departed south and THEN went north bound. I would think that this would have screwed up the timing/spatial positions that the tower controller had when he gave T/O clearance to SWA and the chopper...??
Not being an ATCO, I'm just guessing....perhaps HD or others could enlighten...?

3rd May 2010, 07:05
Sounds like the chopper didn't behave quite as ATC anticipated?

His dudeness
3rd May 2010, 07:18
Q is, was the chopper driver made aware of the traffic taking off? And vice versa?

Had a similar situation once, whilst the chopper did was he was supposed to do, still its not so nice to get that "traffic,traffic" just after rotation. The chopper was cleared for takeoff on a different freq and flew parallel to the rwy and the guy working with me didn´t tell it.
I really would have liked to be made aware of it. (was in a single hand flown Citationjet)

Buy one get one free
3rd May 2010, 07:32
Well done the 737 crew.

The difficulty is rotating towards the normal pitch attitude of 17.5 degrees, escape the ground as you pitch through say 12+ degrees, and then having done so, lowering the nose to reduce the climb angle.

Good CRM between PF & PM. The CVR once / [if ?] released will be quite interesting.

Rapid TOI from ATC me thinks.

eastern wiseguy
3rd May 2010, 07:37
Sounds like the chopper didn't behave quite as ATC anticipated?

Helicopter transitioning into wind before a turn north perhaps?.ATCO unaware of the whole picture.....these and other items will be considered when the INVESTIGATORS get going...until then it is all speculation.

Well done for retrieving what sounds like a nasty event.

mary meagher
3rd May 2010, 07:54
See and avoid still comes in handy, even if ATC is in "control". Not always easy to anticipate what a helicopter is going to do next. Wycombe Air Park mixes up all sorts, you need eyes on stalks.

3rd May 2010, 09:06
Perhaps an ATCO working in the USA could enlighten me?
Assuming the report in the avherald was accurate (I know, I know, early days, investigation barely started etc), is it normal to clear someone for departure across the flightpath of another a/c also cleared for takeoff?

Because it reads like that's what happened, here.
Any a/c departing N from the South ramp will cross runway 12, by the look of it. If the intention was to cross the helicopter before the Boeing commenced the roll, why not wait until that was a fait-accompli before clearing the Boeing to go, or at least provide traffic info once it looked like it was going to work?

ATC Watcher
3rd May 2010, 14:49
Without a proper airport diagram showing where the helicopter was parked, what was the clearance issued , and what was the actual flight track , the you are all speculating widely .
Normally heli routes do not interfere with dep/arr normal traffic ( low and perpendicular) clearances to x active are done by TWR controller, and a normally buildt controller will not allow a x during a take off.
there is something more ,( as usual) I'll wait until I see the R/T transcript and see the track .
For the SLFs here asking about " electronic protection" : helicopters are not required to carry TCAS and in any case TCAS RAs are disabled at those altitudes.

3rd May 2010, 14:58
For the SLFs here asking about " electronic protection" : helicopters are not required to carry TCAS and in any case TCAS RAs are disabled at those altitudes.

Thus showing you the calibre of the most of the posters above you!

Am surprised this thread is still here.

As SAS says:

A crew in an IFR aircraft fortunately catches sight of a far smaller one and takes action promptly.

No heroics or superpowers involved with this - just luck.

3rd May 2010, 18:16
With winds probably from southeast there's no surprise a heli wanted to depart facing that direction. From the diagram one could assume that the intention of ATC was to get him behind the 737, maybe also behind the threshold, but it didn't work out that way - that's the reason for traffic information.

3rd May 2010, 22:27
Sounds like both had it under control.
Nothing of the kind! Sounds like a nice, and lucky, one by the B737
looking for traffic at rotation is part of the job.
And if you see any conflicters there's been a screw up!

Been there, done it and subsequently used foul language on the RT. It is not normal and I'd suggest the airport may have to review their procedures.

3rd May 2010, 23:46
In the US see and avoid is the rule once airborn. It works really well. It works at all altitudes from lift off to cruise. Electronic help came just recently but it shouldn't be your collision avoidance system. Looking out the window and doing what makes sense is the best way to avoid a midair. Electronics will not avoid conflict more than your eyeball. Most of the near miss reports recently would be solved by looking out the window. Quite a simple concept but so accurate. Remember constant bearing, decreasing range and how that can ruin your day? Change the constant bearing and all will be fine. Usually turning behind the conflict fixes everything. I went through a long career of flying using this technique and believe looking out the window is the best way to retire with no incidents. It worked well for me.

3rd May 2010, 23:52
"Thus showing you the calibre of the most of the posters above you!"

Piper pilots and people who call helos "choppers."

4th May 2010, 01:32
calling a helicopter a chopper is just fine. and flying planes made by piper is just fine too.

I prefer piper to cessna, and I prefer douglas to boeing. and I don't like snobs in aviation.

4th May 2010, 04:10
This always sounded like a cop-out to me.

Well if I'd seen 'em I'd avoided 'em!

I know it is meant to get your head out of the cockpit, but I've had some really close calls over the years even when I thought I was being vigilant. I swear I can still remember every near miss clearly.

“Failed to See and Avoid”…..seems a rather short sighted statement IMO. Like an accusation for not being able to do the impossible.

5th May 2010, 04:07
It's not impossible. My closest encounter was over Long Beach airport going to LAX at 3,000 ft. I was looking at my approach plates to get the approach control frequency when I noticed the windshield getting darker. I looked up and was nose to nose with a single engine aircraft, I was flying a Cessna 340. I knew if I pulled up and turned and he did the same direction there was no time to fix it so rolled inverted and when he saw me and rolled away I paralleled his wings to pass 50 ft below him. I knew it wasn't the FAA way to do it but knew once inverted I would not hit him because I could pull down harder than he could push down. We are boaters and are constantly using similar tactics to avoid conflict. The constant bearing, decreasing range, reminds me of parallel approaches to the west at SFO. Most of the time everybody knows how to line up so it works out fine, sometimes it doesn't.

5th May 2010, 04:15

What a complete load of garbage, go back to your MS Flight Sim.

5th May 2010, 04:45
Actually I had the MS flight sim when I was flying 757/767's. It really helps on those 6 or 9 month checks, depending on the airline. It is a true story but if you don't believe it that is fine too. I was there so know it was. I also want you to know that I got the 30 hr add on course to get a rotorwing commercial rating. That makes me a chopper pilot even though that grinds on some people here. Note the guy who put down the post about the chopper? Some of us out here actually do what we say we do, some don't. For proof I can send you my retirement flight to TGU on a PM. Or you can accept my word. If monitors want to remove this post feel free because it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

5th May 2010, 05:03
Given the choice of a) working to always reduce the number of holes in the cheese or b) relying on pilots brilliant avoidance of cheese hole alignment, I'll go with option a)

5th May 2010, 05:48
How do you reduce the holes in the cheese flying single pilot looking up frequencies?

5th May 2010, 06:25

The reason some of us may find your story hard to believe is because if you noticed your "windshield getting darker", then there is no possible way for either of you to have done what you did simply because neither of you would have had time to do what you describe. What follows sounds like poorly constructed fiction. If the "getting darker" bit was creative licence, then let us know.

Pugilistic Animus
5th May 2010, 16:04
strange things happen in this business

mary meagher
5th May 2010, 17:09
Most close encounter stories improve with the retelling.

My own favourite: while airtowing a Royal Navy ASW19 over Weston on the Green, during a gliding competition duly NOTAMed etc etc, noticed a twin, presumably from Oxford, heading straight toward me. As per general practice, I turned right. HE TURNED LEFT! At this point, as no hope of outclimbing or going inverted, for that matter, I dived. Amazingly, the Navy pilot hung on, which is the correct thing to do if a combination needs to take avoiding action, presenting the opposition with one target (somewhat strung out) rather than two. He was intent on getting his money's worth, the full two thousand foot tow as specified by the rules.

It was nice to have him confirm my story to the Director.

5th May 2010, 17:57
Target aircraft doesn't need TCAS to be seen by own TCAS. It needs just a transponder squawking mode C.

TCAS looks at own radio altitude and assumes any targets reporting within 200 feet of ground are ON ground, so does not display them, let alone provide TA or RA alert.

Since the whirlybird was climbing, and only at 200', it would not have shown on SW TCAS.


5th May 2010, 18:43
either take someone at their word or don't. I can see certain sun angles, and positioning near LAX that would provide a shadow on the cockpit that might warn someone of something coming your way.

P51 guy is who he represents himself to be.

I encourage everyone flying to keep their lights ON for recognition and collision avoidance in all appropriate situations. the LAX VFR corridor is one of those places.

TAkeoff or landing at any airport is another place.

And as wonderful as TCAS is...NEVER stop looking out the window.

I remember a chapter in EK GAnn's book, "Fate is the Hunter"...he had to come back to LGA with 3 engines acting up due to faulty spark plugs...he landed the wrong way and another plane, a dC3 I think , had to get out of the way on his takeoff roll.

How many of you have banked before you rotated on takeoff? I have.

anyway...let's calm down a bit.

5th May 2010, 21:20
Fate is the Hunter was written before automation took over. Now it would probably be harder to find a crew like Sully to get that aircraft back on the ground or water without automation. Most crews today can still hand fly but how about in 10 years?

5th May 2010, 22:49
I don't know what drew my attention to that aircraft so assumed it was a change in brightness out the front windshield. Something made me look up. It was no more than 3 seconds away so one maneuver was all I had time for. I had just done a photo shoot for Private Pilot magazine for the cover 20 minutes prior off Newport Beach. If you don't believe it fine. It did happen though. It was in the mid 70's and I have one copy of the magazine here. Flying inverted isn't that hard if you don't do it too long in a standard category aircraft. Having taught aerobatics extensively doesn't make inverted flight any less controllable than positive G flight. I only state this to minimize the folks that will think rolling inverted is going to kill you for sure. It can if you don't pay attention. Know how airplanes work in all attitudes just in case it happens some day.

5th May 2010, 23:09
Oh I did practically the same thing in a C-182 rental quite a few years back. Looked up and HELLO! I was at 1800 AGL descending to pattern ALT and rolled it right over! Spin training but no further aerobatics at the time. I just kept on rolling and came out level at 800 AGL...! Albeit with about four pounds of seat stuffing up my rear!

Still gives me goose bumps.

5th May 2010, 23:50
Quite funny. See how spin control can save you?

6th May 2010, 01:24
More reportage here

News (http://www.neha.rotor.com/News/tabid/919/Default.aspx)
Incident: Southwest Airlines B737 at Houston on Apr 28th 2010, near collision with a news helicopter (http://avherald.com/h?article=42af43cf)


ATC Watcher
6th May 2010, 06:28
Starting to make sense now, but again better wait for the complete instructions/clearance ATC gave to the Helicopter.
Reading this, it could look like the clearance for the Heli was T/O to the north following parallel TWY then turn behind the 737 once RWYis cleared , but instead he took/off to the south followed TWY south and intended to turn left crossing the runway. But speculation.

7th May 2010, 00:30
Situational awareness is not just a buzzword!