Overtaking Air Canada 767 with 1000 ft difference in altitude.
Dear Captain Lim,
This morning I was on a flight over Europe. Whilst flying over Germany, another plane flew by us so close that I could see clearly the co-pilot's head and could almost work out the registration on the rear end of the aircraft. I don't want to name either of the two carriers because maybe it was a legitimate distance.
I spoke to the Captain as I was exiting the plane and he knew the other aircraft I was referring to. I agreed with him that the two planes were on different levels, but I didn't agree that they were a few miles apart.
How on earth could I see the co-pilot and see the registration if we were a few miles apart?! And I don't even have the best eyesight! I'm a very frequent flyer and have never flown so close to another plane before.
Just wondering what your opinion would be.
If the plane were as close as you have described, it would have triggered the TCAS, Traffic Collision Avoidance System and warned the pilot to manoeuvre the plane immediately if they are at the same level. As you did not feel any drastic avoidance action, it was well within the safety limit. Besides, they only need a height separation of only 1000 feet if the planes are flying below 29,000 feet.
In my opinion, the plane may look close to you in the air, the captain is more experienced to judge the safety distance of any traffic around him. In fact, he would have seen the plane on his instrument screen long before you have noted it!
Anyway, at the point of overtaking each other, they are only 1000 feet apart vertically – less than a quarter mile apart!
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