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Distracted Crew Narrowly Avoids IFR Traffic

An instructor and student on an IFR flight were distracted by an ATC traffic advisory. Ironically, the traffic caused a near mid-air collision. Here's what happened...

ASRS Report: Altitude Deviation

The following report was filed to NASA ASRS in December, 2017, after an instructor and their student experienced a near mid-air collision (NMAC) under IFR...

The instructor and student were climbing out on a standard instrument departure (SID) when instructed to climb to 4000 ft. ATC advised that there was traffic at 12-1 o'clock, 1000 ft above their altitude. While watching for that traffic, the student accidentally climbed through the assigned altitude and came dangerously close to the other aircraft. Their near miss was enough for ATC to get an alert and issue a pilot deviation. They were given a phone number to call when back on the ground.

Geoff Collins

Traffic Advisory Leads To Traffic Conflict

What started as a normal traffic advisory by ATC, led to this near miss because the student and instructor focused all of their attention on spotting the aircraft above them. It's relatively normal to have traffic just 1,000 feet above you under IFR, so it's likely the crew over-emphasized the traffic risk.

Ironically, the sustained focus on the traffic above them nearly led to an accident. This near miss could have been avoided through a better scanning technique, and dividing attention between multiple tasks. It's easy to get caught staring outside for traffic, when you should be equally focused on flying the airplane.

Had the instructor and student simply leveled off at their assigned altitude, there wouldn't have been a traffic conflict.

Jeppi 94

Have you ever been distracted by a traffic warning from ATC? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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