by Jonathan M. Stern
I had a harrowing experience with a student, but it had nothing do to with his performance. I was in the right seat instructing him, and he was wearing a hood that restricted his vision to the instruments. When he asked a question about the instrument approach chart, I looked down at it and counted to three. When I looked back up, I saw nothing but the wheels of another plane in the windscreen. I didn't have time to panic. I only had enough time to instinctively shove the control yoke forward and dive underneath the other airplane. To this day, I have no idea what type of airplane it was or whether its pilot ever saw us.
In the earliest days of powered flight in the United States, the big sky worked to prevent mid-air collisions. The big sky still prevents many mid-air collisions, but the number of airplanes flying by the 1950s made the big sky a far less reliable separator of airplanes.