2 Planes Collision:Prevention And Reality

Air travel means you can now conveniently travel around the globe without worrying about connecting multiple means of transport.

It’s comfortable and easy to book a flight from one place to another, but plane anxiety is common and it’s easy to panic while you’re in the air. So is it really possible for two planes to collide?

Though air travel is among the safest alternatives with several regulations to boost safety, two planes can collide in flight or on runways when landing or taking off. Plane crashes sound far-fetched and almost inconceivable. 

The article below will explain how two planes can collide so that you can better understand the subject and avoid plane anxiety the next time you fly. 

Is It Possible for Two Planes to Collide?

Though unlikely, planes can sometimes collide. Mid-air collisions involve at least two aircraft coming into accidental contact when in flight, whereas ground collisions often happen when a plane is landing or taking off. 

Thankfully, there are several regulations to prevent mid-air and ground plane collisions. These rules revolve around how far apart planes should be, how they should be cleared to land or take off, and even plane color.

Most people erroneously assume that mid-air crashes usually happen in poor weather or at night because of impaired visibility. However, in most cases, ground and mid-air crashes are linked to the following factors: 

  • Miscommunication
  • Errors in navigation
  • A lack of situational awareness
  • A lack of crash-avoidance systems in planes
  • Mistrust between air traffic controllers and pilots 

Another reason for a plane collision is sabotage. This is the terrifying reason because you have little control over the situation, which often happens without warning. The collision of planes through sabotage can happen through terrorism, military conflict, or pilot suicide. However, it’s best not to worry about this too much while you’re flying since it’s extremely rare!

How Many Times Have Airplanes Collided?

Mid-air crashes are not very common and have only happened 67 times. They are more common among personal use helicopters and small planes because these do not have professional air traffic control, lack specific controlled routes, and are often unaware of the other aircraft near them. 

The first recorded mid-air collision happened between September and October 1910 in Milan, Italy. Both pilots survived, but one never flew again. The first fatal mid-air collision happened in June 1912 in Douai, France

Two military planes crashed into each other killing both pilots. Several steps have been taken since then, including fitting all large aircraft with a TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) to avert mid-air collisions. The system is based on an aircraft transponder signal that alerts pilots if another plane is nearby.

The most recent recorded mid-air collision happened on November 12, 2022. It was between a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, there were six fatalities and no survivors in the collision, as both planes were destroyed on impact. The initial report on the cause of the crash noted that both aircraft were flying at the same altitude.

Check out this YouTube video that further explains how coillisions in Aircraft are prevented.

How Do Planes Avoid Each Other?

Planes avoid each other using a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), which sends a signal if another plane is nearby so that the pilots can adjust their altitudes to avoid a collision. 

Besides signals to avoid a collision, the TCAS transmits important information like direction, speed, and altitude so that planes near each other work together to find a solution that prevents a crash.

Planes often follow specified routes and are directed at different altitudes by air traffic controllers who use computer systems and radars to keep the aircraft a safe distance from others. Unfortunately, people might make mistakes, and machines can fail. Therefore, using TCAS and air traffic controllers does not entirely negate an accident – although it’s still unlikely!

How Close Can Planes Fly To Each Other?

The distance between two commercial planes will depend on their flight phases and altitudes. The rule for how far apart they should be will also differ among regions, and their vertical and horizontal distances will differ.

Commercial planes at less than 29,000 feet (8,839 meters) are required to maintain a vertical distance of more than 1000 feet (305 meters). The higher the altitude, the more vertical distance is needed between planes.

If the aircraft flies above 29,000 feet (8,839 meters), they should increase their vertical space to 2000 feet (610 meters) unless the airspace they are using has the Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum that allows them to maintain a vertical distance of 1000 feet (305 meters).

If aircraft fly at the same altitude, they can cause wake turbulence that affects other planes. As such, their horizontal separation should be more than the vertical separation. The required horizontal distance between planes at the same altitude in controlled airspaces is about nine kilometers or five nautical miles. This horizontal distance will be about three nautical miles within a terminal area air space.

Are Planes Safer Than Cars?

Planes are safer than cars according to accident statistics. The National Transport Safety Board, which investigates aviation disasters and tracks accidents, estimated that out of 100,000 flight hours, only 6.84 yielded a crash.

In 2022, there were four fatal air crashes, excluding helicopters and small planes, compared to thousands of road accidents and hundreds of train accidents worldwide. These include:

  • A crash near Guangzhou in March resulted in the death of all 133 passengers and crew.
  • An accident involving a DHL plane in April in San Juan where all crew members thankfully escaped with minor injuries.
  • A plane caught fire in May while taking off at Chongqing Jiangbei Airport with no fatalities.
  • A crash in May in Nepal’s Mustang region killed all 22 people aboard the plane.
  • A plane crash in June at Miami International Airport where the plane caught fire and had three people hospitalized with minor injuries.

Final Thoughts

From the questions answered above, you know that planes are safer than cars, but they can still collide, with a few incidents reported since the first crash between planes in 1910. 

Thankfully, there are several measures in place to prevent plane collisions. These include maintaining a safe vertical and horizontal distance between aircraft, following instructions from the air traffic controller, and using the TCAS.