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Minimum separation violation? KLM73J/DLH21A

Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:08 pm

I hope this is the right place to post about a specific situation on an individual flight, as I am new to the forum.

Yesterday, I was on flight KL1763/KLM73J from Schiphol to Frankfurt. About 10 minutes before touchdown (~9:20 local time) we were in the clouds when I saw another airliner emerging from below/ahead of us on our right hand side which seemed to be awfully close. The other plane seemed to be climbing from below our altitude, roughly at an about 70 to 80° lateral angle, crossing our flight level before passing over/behind us.

Looking at ... J/22df66bb, I'm guessing the other plane was LH1181/DLH21A. I don't have access to the altitude data and I have never tried interpreting data from Flightradar, but I was wondering whether this was a violation of separation standards. The manouver seemed odd to me because at the moment the other airliner crossed our altitude level on our right hand side my girlfriend and me could easily spot individual windows, wheels and landing gear. We guessed it to be at best 500 m away. (I am aware that distance is very difficult to judge in these conditions, though.)

It seems to me they were using runway 07L and either 07R or 07C at the time for landings and the planes crossed paths to reach their designated runways but my common sense doubts that this was a normal situation.Then again, I have only half-knowledge about aviation from Skybrary and Wikipedia so I am not quite sure what to make of this.

Could anybody elaborate on what might have happened there, in terms of the legality of the maneuver?
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Re: Minimum separation violation? KLM73J/DLH21A

Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:33 pm

1,000’ of altitude separation looks close at us up front and certainly to you in the back. If you were in and out of cloud, very unlikely you can perceive the horizon and judge altitude separation.
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Re: Minimum separation violation? KLM73J/DLH21A

Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:36 pm

If there was an incident it'll pop up on something like avherald. But considering it kept climbing past it doesn't look like TCAS was even triggered.

And being able to see the plane shape is still pretty far, I've had landings where you could recognize the people in the window seats if you knew them.
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Re: Minimum separation violation? KLM73J/DLH21A

Tue Nov 19, 2019 3:33 pm

While I've passed through FRA as a passenger a few times I do not know what type of operation they run there, meaning if they are able to run dual simultaneous arrivals or not. What it sounds like from what you experienced it appears they are capable of that type operation.

Here in the U.S. while conducting dual/triple simultaneous arrivals you may have runways center lines separated by 4,300', in some cases slightly less which in broken or overcast sky conditions you'll see the occasional aircraft to the parallel runway in and out of the clouds while on approach. The standard 1,000' of separation used during turn on to the final approach course is maintained until the aircraft establishes on the glide path and starts decent of the approach. You may have seen the other aircraft being vectored to the other runway and maybe even cross under or over you as they may do when landing on the other runway depending on where they came from.

On larger aircraft the nose up attitude you see on the other aircraft off your side would make it appear to be climbing when in fact they are making the approach as you are doing.

Difficult to explain, but hope this helps some.
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