There I Was - Lessons Learned - #1

By Bill Watson, CFI


It was a cool crisp morning. The airport was not busy. A student and I chose to depart the pattern to the Northwest. As usual we called the tower and requested our Northwest departure, we were approved as requested.


On this particular day, just after we had taken off, I heard some chatter on the tower frequency. A business jet was given clearance to depart. As we turned right along the Revlon Slough, I looked down the runway and saw that a business jet had taken off and looked like he was about to run us over. The tower probably thought the business jet was going to climb quickly, but this particular jet jock chose to stay low to the ground and go for maximum speed.


This put the student and I on a collision course with the jet at 300 feet high, off the end of the runway.


My mind wondered if the tower purposely planned this teaching opportunity for us. I asked the student to do a left-hand 360 to delay our flight path. I seriously doubt the jet jock ever had any idea we were there. When we completed our 360, our flight path led us directly through the jet's wake. The bumping wasn't that bad but did confirm that we were indeed on a collision course with that business jet.


The tower had cleared us to cross that runway and then cleared the business jet to take off down the same runway. There was never any collision avoidance guidance offered by the tower to either of us pilots. The radio remained completely silent.


To this day I'm convinced the tower had no idea of the disaster that was avoided. As we finished crossing the runway, my first thought was to thank the tower for their support. Before I keyed the mike, I thought better of it - not wanting to have my thoughts recorded on the tower's communication log and all the ruckus that would have caused. Thankfully, it is not often that the tower shoots a jet at us.


The lesson learned here was "look both ways" when you cross a street indeed holds true when flying. You must always check for aircraft when crossing any runway centerline.