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Old Yesterday, 01:18 PM
Registered User
United States, CA, Los Angeles
Joined Feb 2010
273 Posts
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Are Spotters Effective ?

I have read some threads where people have seen mid-air collisions that happened while “spotters” were present with the pilot.

Obviously spotters range in ability, from pilots buddy with a backstage pass, to expert with years of experience spotting.

Can we hear some discussion of the question: Are Spotters Effective?
What have you seen for other people flying?
The spotters that you personally have worked with, are they any better or worse?

Thanks in advance
JD

I am sure this can be entertaining
but it is still an important issue with potential ramifications / consequences.
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Old Yesterday, 01:38 PM
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ChillPhatCat's Avatar
United States, NY, Syracuse
Joined Oct 2008
4,037 Posts
Are spotters effective at preventing mid-air collisions? Not really, the purpose of the spotter is really just to make sure that people aren't out on the runway when you're landing or if a plane might be headed for you... really just to help keep you and others safe while you are focused on the plane. It's very difficult to go a step farther and predict when a mid-air is actually about to happen, other than knowing the general vicinity of another plane... usually they happen so fast you couldn't shout "watch out!" before it's too late. That said, I've never seen an instance where having a spotter made things more dangerous... it seems like you're trying to find justification for flying alone... ?
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Old Yesterday, 01:48 PM
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Mike_Then's Avatar
United States, NC, Garner
Joined Apr 2001
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Our club rules dictate that you must fly with a spotter during AMA-sanctioned events, which are dictated by AMA rules. We do not use spotters on general flying days, but we are pretty good about calling out maneuvers to each other to warn the other pilots what we're up to. Each spotter is different, and perhaps I over-communicate, but when I spot for someone, I am constantly calling out the maneuvers of other aircraft in relation to the one I'm spotting for. I'll say, "He's above you", or "Stay high" or "He's converging on you at your altitude" for example. That's in addition to calling out the intentions of my pilot's aircraft... "landing" or "low pass from the right" for example. The idea is to let the pilot concentrate on flying his plane and let me worry about the other traffic.

Never have I been told to shut up or stop giving out info, so I must be doing something right.
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Old Yesterday, 02:28 PM
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Thomas B's Avatar
United States, TX, Fort Worth
Joined Jun 2000
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I think a good spotter can be quite effective in enhancing your situation awareness and thus reducing the chance of mid air collisions.

I also think some pilots have far, far better situational awareness than other pilots and they are definitely less likely to be involved in a mid air collision, whether a spotter is present or not.

Some pilots are 100% focused on their model and never even notice another model in the air, even when there is a close encounter. I think the pilots with better situational awareness are about 80-90% focused on their model and 10-20% focused on other aircraft in their "bubble" of airspace.

We all know that spotter "quality" varies wildly. They probably follow a bell curve distribution.....some really bad ones, a lot of average ones in the middle of the curve and a few out at the end of the curve with great skills and far above average situational awareness.

However, even a weak spotter is still really handy keeping you briefed on developing situations on the runway, with models and people on the ground, landing, or taking off.

I once was able to pull a pilot sideways a few feet while spotting for him, preventing him getting hit by an out of control model that lost heading on takeoff.

At crowded fly-in type events or at highly active flying sites, using a spotter is the way to go.
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Old Yesterday, 02:57 PM
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Xpress..'s Avatar
United States, CA, Alpine
Joined Oct 2007
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A good spotter is very effective. He/she is always supposed to be aware of runway activity, and that includes anybody that may be flying down low right over the runway. A good spotter pays attention to their pilots airplane, but knows where everybody else is. A spotter is not supposed to focus on their pilots airplane solely.

I don't fly with one at my club because we don't need one, but at events it's always mandatory.
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Old Yesterday, 03:51 PM
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United States, NJ, Browns Mills
Joined May 2005
1,917 Posts
If there's anyone else in the air, I spot for my wife and she spots for me. Even if there isn't anyone else flying a model, she and I both watch the area just in case a car or full-scale enters our area. Doesn't matter where we're flying, we never leave each other without a spotter.

The common error we see at events, etc., where spotters are required is the spotter watching his/her pilot's aircraft. A good spotter looks everywhere BUT at his/her pilot's aircraft. The spotter's duty is to see conflicting traffic, pedestrians, birds (vultures, hawks, and eagles are real concerns at our fields!), and so forth.

CD
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Old Yesterday, 04:22 PM
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Joined Oct 2010
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I've spotted for others at events, but I've never really gotten feedback on whether what I'm doing is all that effective for the person or not . I do my best to try to keep up a running commentary on where the other planes in the air are compared to my pilot's plane, and keeping an eye on anything that's going on. Nobody's told me that I'm talking too much, so that's probably at least as sign maybe I'm not doing too bad.

I'm sure having someone that you've spotted for or had spotting for you a lot is going to be more effective than just a random spotter, simply because they're going to get used to what you want to know when.

We generally only require them at our events, but some people will prefer to have one even during every day flying.
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Old Today, 06:18 AM
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leccyflyer's Avatar
United Kingdom, Aberdeen
Joined Sep 2000
12,628 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by JD-Slow-Thumbs View Post
I have read some threads where people have seen mid-air collisions that happened while “spotters” were present with the pilot.

Obviously spotters range in ability, from pilots buddy with a backstage pass, to expert with years of experience spotting.

Can we hear some discussion of the question: Are Spotters Effective?
What have you seen for other people flying?
The spotters that you personally have worked with, are they any better or worse?

Thanks in advance
JD

I am sure this can be entertaining
but it is still an important issue with potential ramifications / consequences.
That's a good suggestion for a topic

My experience of seeing (and having a couple) of mid-airs has been that they tend to happen just as often with just a couple of models in the air, than with lots of models in the air. That goes for outdoors and mid airs are rare events. Indoors they are inevitable and I've never been to an indoor meeting without there being multiple mid airs. I'm not sure a spotter makes any difference indoors.

Outdoors though, the big benefit of a spotter is in being able to take in all the peripheral stuff going on - someone retrieving a model from the runway, some full size traffic approaching from behind, a model in trouble, or as in the example above, a model that might hit the pilot.

That said I've not routinely flown with a spotter, other than at a fly-in, and then only occasionally. My long time flying pal has given up the hobby, but was a great spotter, particularly for maiden flights. During normal everyday flying, some of those benefits are available by just talking to one's fellow pilots on the field /pilot's box/flight line and keeping that communication clear. If I were fly at a big event then I'd certainly look to have a spotter. There is a very small likelyhood of that though.
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Old Today, 08:02 AM
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mcnowhere's Avatar
United States, OR, McMinnville
Joined Aug 2011
1,435 Posts
One thing I key on while spotting is "hearing" which I don't see mentioned yet. My pilot is focused on his plane and may not hear the calls low pass or landing etc. so I repeat or ask him. And it works the other way if I don't see a response from a other pilot to my guys call I will repeat it and maybe say his name. I try to stand between my pilot and the other pilot unless there is more then 2.
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