Editorial Jun 2005 - Catalina Island (KAVX) - Right Lane Traffic
Stay to the RIGHT of the common traffic lane!!
On a joy-ride with a good friend of mine, we learned another great lesson...
Staying just in the center of the lane that others use to come or go, puts you in line with every potential head-on collision.
So stay to the right!
A simple concept when driving along on the highway that's clearly marked by double-yellow line down the middle and white on either side, you can SEE you're on the wrong side. But not 3000ft in the air. So imagine a one-way street that you could pass both ways. For us pilots, that's the airways, and VOR radials, and many other routes that we navigate for confidence of getting to our destination. ...but works BOTH ways.
Sure enough as this story goes, we take off departing Catalina and climb out over open water a good way out. Heading out the 022° radial from VOR SXC on airway V21. My good friend in the PIC seat happens to look down for a few seconds to investigate some forgotten light switch or radio setting, and of course out the blue (literally) is another small plane coming head-on.
Let me tell you, even at small plane speeds, two planes coming head-on at a combined speed of 200+kias (230+mph) leaves little to no time to react, and his head was buried in the dashboard, not even looking. (And no, your life does not flash before your eyes at such a moment.)
“Flying is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror.”
Lucky for us the opposing traffic spotted us first and veered off to the right as he should. A rough guess would estimate less than 200ft as we passed each other. Not just a close call, but a shit-in-your-pants lesson I shall never forget.
But the simple precaution that would have averted such a close call to disaster, would have been to keep us just a half mile or more to the right of the traffic lane others are incoming on.