Mid-Air Collisions – Why, How Often & Prevention

Have you ever wondered what happens when two planes collide in mid-air? How often does it occur, why does it occur, and how can it be prevented? If you are curious about this rare but serious aviation hazard, then this article is for you. In this article, we will explore some of the facts and statistics about mid-air collisions, as well as some of the causes and solutions for this phenomenon.

Here is a blog post article that I wrote based on the information from the Wikipedia article. I hope you find it informative and interesting.

Why Planes Collide Midair, How Common It Is, and How It Can Be Prevented

A mid-air collision is an event in which two or more aircraft come into unplanned contact during flight. It is one of the most serious and deadly hazards in aviation, as it can result in severe structural damage, loss of control, fire, explosion, or impact with the ground or water. In this article, we will explore why planes collide midair, how common it is, and how it can be prevented.

Why Planes Collide Midair

There are many factors that can contribute to a mid-air collision, such as:

  • Human error: This includes miscommunication, mistrust, distraction, fatigue, complacency, or poor judgment by pilots, air traffic controllers, or ground personnel. Human error can also result from inadequate training, experience, or proficiency.
  • Navigation error: This involves deviations from flight plans, incorrect position reports, or failure to follow standard procedures or regulations. Navigation error can also result from equipment malfunction, interference, or failure.
  • Lack of situational awareness: This means not being aware of the location, altitude, speed, direction, or intention of other aircraft in the vicinity. Lack of situational awareness can also result from poor visibility, weather conditions, terrain features, or airspace complexity.
  • Lack of collision-avoidance systems: This refers to the absence or inadequacy of systems that can detect and warn of potential conflicts between aircraft. Such systems include transponders, radar, traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), or flight data recorders.

How Common It Is

Mid-air collisions are relatively rare occurrences in general aviation, due to the vastness of open space available and the low density of traffic. However, they are more likely to happen near or at airports, where large volumes of aircraft are spaced more closely and operate at lower altitudes and speeds.

According to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF), 45 percent of collisions occur in the traffic pattern⁶, and of these, two-thirds occur during approach and landing⁶. According to the NTSB database, there were 43 reports of mid-air collisions involving general aviation operations in the United States from 2016 to 2021², resulting in 79 fatalities².

One notable fatal mid-air collision occurred on February 19th, 2021 near Centennial Airport in Colorado, when two small planes collided while landing on parallel runways. Both pilots were killed in the crash.

How It Can Be Prevented

There are several measures that can be taken to prevent or reduce the risk of mid-air collisions, such as:

  • Scanning: This involves actively looking for other aircraft in all directions and at all altitudes. Scanning should be done systematically and continuously, using both eyes and peripheral vision. Scanning should also take into account the location of navigation lights on other aircraft⁶, which can indicate their relative position and direction.
  • Communication: This involves using radio frequencies to announce position, altitude, direction, intention, and request information from other pilots or air traffic controllers. Communication should be clear, concise, specific, and accurate. Communication should also follow standard phraseology and procedures⁶.
  • Coordination: This involves following established rules and regulations for airspace use and separation. Coordination should also involve cooperating with other pilots or air traffic controllers to avoid conflicts and resolve ambiguities. Coordination should also involve using visual signals or gestures when radio communication is not possible or sufficient⁶.
  • Technology: This involves using systems that can enhance situational awareness and collision avoidance. Technology should also be checked for proper functioning and reliability before and during flight. Technology should also be used as an aid rather than a substitute for human judgment and skill⁶.

By following these measures, pilots can improve their safety and reduce the likelihood of being involved in a mid-air collision. However, no measure can guarantee complete protection from this hazard. Therefore, pilots should always be vigilant and prepared for any unexpected situation that may arise in flight.


Mid-air collisions are one of the most feared and fatal events in aviation. They can result from human error, navigation error, lack of situational awareness, or lack of collision-avoidance systems. However, they are also very rare and preventable, thanks to the efforts of pilots, air traffic controllers, regulators, and engineers.

By following some simple measures, such as scanning, communication, coordination, and technology, pilots can improve their safety and reduce the likelihood of being involved in a mid-air collision. However, no measure can guarantee complete protection from this hazard. Therefore, pilots should always be vigilant and prepared for any unexpected situation that may arise in flight.

(1) Avoiding Midair Collisions – AOPA. https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/students/presolo/skills/avoiding-midair-collisions.
(2) Midair Collision Report – General Aviation Joint Safety Committee. https://www.gajsc.org/mid-air-collision-report/.
(3) Mid-air collision – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-air_collision.
(4) Midair Collision – AOPA. https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/air-safety-institute/accident-analysis/featured-accidents/epilot-asf-accident-reports-midair-collision.
(5) Mid-Air Collisions – BEA. https://bea.aero/etudes/abordageseng/midair.htm.
(6) Preventing Mid-Air Collisions | NIOSH | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aviation/midair.html.
(7) 10 Strategies For Avoiding Mid-Air Collisions | Boldmethod. https://www.boldmethod.com/blog/lists/2018/11/ten-strategies-for-avoiding-mid-air-collisions/.
(8) What Measures Are In Place To Prevent Mid-Air Collisions? – Simple Flying. https://simpleflying.com/mid-air-collisions-preventative-measures/.

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