It is never too late to learn and confirm with modesty that you need help wherever you can take it.
We are not alone. I am sure I heard this one in a sci-fi movie. A funny thing happened on the way to Sedona Airport (KSEZ) last week. We were flying VFR at 10500 over the western edge of Iowa. The previous day we had to work IFR through a rather extensive cold front that was about to dump yet more precipitation over our sorry home in Montreal. It was time to make the PA-30 work out it’s newly overhauled right engine.
I always call ATC and request flight following. The excellent service they provide is a must, an added bonus, in my view. Last spring they got us out of nasty bind with an immediate left turn to avoid a non reported traffic climbing in class C airspace Around Norfolk Virginia.
But bear in mind this service under VFR is offered on availability of resources. There is no mandatory necessity to provide separation for VFR to VFR traffic. The seen and be seen principle applies: keep your head out!
This said, I offer personal free of charge traffic spotting training to my favourite passenger. 2 sets of eyes are better than 1.
I also adhere to technology. Technology boosts human capacities immeasurably and that is why ADS-B was installed on the PA-30. Yes, in 7 months it will be mandatory South of the 49th if one is to fly in more or less economic great circle. Regardless, the inflight weather availability is worth every penny invested. The third set of « bionic eyes » afforded by the traffic function is a hidden gem.
So here we are 10500 feet minding our own business over what is certainly one of the greatest expanse of land with no features save the canadian arctic in the Winter! That is when the traffic alert came cracking in the headset: « Traffic 1 o’clock, high »! Yicks, incoming at 10800’, yes 10800 and level. Alternating landing lights on, evasive turn initiated. The visual contact confirmed that the traffic was altering course North (his left, avoiding us by a « comfortable » mile.
What was he doing at that altitude? What about that West track / East track thing? The chap was out to lunch where he should have been either at 11500 feet or 9500 feet. The controller never called, being busy on another frequency.
Approaching the rocks East of Alamosa (KALS) on a track of 240 we were connecting the oxygen to prepare the climb to 12500. Sure enough, misery loves company, simultaneously, the controller calls at the same time as the traffic alert system. « Traffic 10 o’clock same altitude and closing, I strongly advise a climb ». Come on ! Another dyslexic pilot? Yep we climbed.
In the end no matter how hard you try, the eyeballs can’t be perfect. How many traffic did I miss over the years? I begin to understand. Ignorance is not bliss. The more I fly, the more I am exposed. ADS-B? Anytime. In my book, the cost of safety is worth the investment. The “machine” just paid for itself in one day.
By the way, if you wonder where to fly, KSEZ should be definitely be on your bucket list. Standby for more on this!