Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Randomness is good!

Many years ago while I was still working to get my instrument rating, I received a piece of advice from my flight instructor.  His name is Calvin Wilson and was to become Chief Engineer at Piper Aircraft in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.  He suggested I apply the concept of randomness to my aircraft's track and altitude.  The result of doing this would be a much lessened chance of having a mid-air collision with another aircraft.

After giving this idea considerable thought, I agreed with it and I applied randomness in all my flying in the years since receiving the advice.  I would deliberately not fly exactly on course staying a small distance to the left or right.   I would avoid flying exactly on my assigned altitude by flying either a little higher or a little lower.  It did not matter whether I was flying under instrument flight rules (IFR) or under visual flight rules (VFR) or whether I was in radar contact or not.

In 2004 the authorities recognized the value of randomness when they approved the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure (SLOP) to be used as a standard operational procedure while flying in the non-radar coverage oceanic airspace. China even approves the application of the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure when operating in radar contact 

As many aircraft today are navigating the North American Airspace using Wide Area Augmentation Service (WAAS) Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with a navigation accuracy standard of plus or minus one meter, applying randomness is even more important to prevent collisions. Another place to consider applying randomness is in the airport traffic patterns.  Many airports publish traffic pattern altitudes and I avoid flying the exact altitude published for obvious reasons.

Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure Movie
(four minutes 18 seconds)