Traffic data on your moving map display has a lot of benefits! Yet, like many flight instructors I subscribed to turning it off during maneuvering flight on training flights. The debate of having the data helps versus, there is a lot more of a distraction when the data is displayed will rage on for years.
I do think there is a balance, but the traffic data is not the sole source of information on traffic in the area, that responsibility falls to our eyes as pilots, and seeing and avoiding other traffic.
But during a recent flight I did run into a situation where having traffic information not only was a big help, but also improved our group experience! On a cold December day I flew with five other pilots in three airplanes from Massachusetts to Maine for a late breakfast. I’ve made many such flights for food whether as the sole ship or as a member of a group of airplanes. But this was the first time I’ve done so with traffic information in the cockpit.
My friend Peter has a Stratus receiver in his Piper Cherokee and I’ve connected to it with my iPhone and iPad Mini previously, but never while flying with a group of planes. On this particular day I was using a suction cup mount with my iPhone and had ForeFlight displaying our flight track and the traffic information from the Stratus. While our navigation was done by reference to landmarks and our collision avoidance was the result of constant and consistent visual scanning of the sky around us, being able to see our friends made for a great game of follow the leader!
On the way North Peter and I were #2 behind Tom & Mitch and ahead of Jim & Kelly. We watched as our altitudes remained roughly the same and we maintained roughly 2 to 4 mile spacing during the trip of follow the leader as we weaved our way around the Boston Class Bravo airspace and the Manchester Class Charlie airspace, opting to use an air-to-air frequency to keep in touch with each other during the flight.
It was fun to watch the game of follow the leader play out and to see the results of the wind on each others’ ground speeds as we made various turns along the route… The screen shot above shows our “invasion” of the Sanford airport as we fanned out to make our entries into the traffic pattern before landing in the same order as our follow the leader flight up.
On the way back we did the same thing, this time Peter and I were in the chase plane, number three of the pack. I’ll take credit for thinking ahead on this one… Jim’s hangar is right next to Peter’s and I knew if we arrived back at the airport before Jim, which we would if we flew ahead of him, he’d be blocked on the one-way taxi lane to his hangar. So we thought way ahead and let Jim and Kelly go before us, as predicted the beat us back and didn’t have to wait to get to the hangar.
I never would have thought having the traffic information would maker group flight more fun… But I really believe it did! Not to mention the constant overhead view of our group ensured we didn’t have to worry about the plane behind us catching up!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9