Wake Turbulence Incident at Boeing Field

Hi everyone,

Thought this might be interesting to COPA readers from former Cirrus owner and pilot.


Just read your blog through to the end. Very well done, both the writing and the recovery :slightly_smiling_face: I suspect there’s more in you to express in words. Keep on writing!


Monica, I assume there was no wake turbulence advisory from ATC?

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Good (bad) story. Thanks for sharing. I fly out of BFI also. There have been a few times where a heavy Boeing is approaching or landing near me and it is always a bit a nerve wracker. Luckily I’ve never experienced what you did. Glad you are still here to talk about it.

P.S. Are you unwilling to share the name of your CFI?

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Monica, great write up and a great outcome. A learning opportunity for all.

Glad you both are safe.

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Second part I’ll talk about the investigation. He’s a remarkable pilot with his own version of the story to tell.


Thank you Sanjay!

Monica, great narrative and glad everything worked out.

You saw a huge airplane out the copilot’s window. So 3’o clock same altitude, high or low? Assume flying in the same direction to the longer runway?

Did you have him on ADS-B?

From my perspective, it appeared right next to me. But I didn’t have time to even process that thought before I felt the pressure of the elephants on the right wing and we were tumbling….

More to come…

I too had a wake turbulence incident with exactly the same fact pattern. The Boeing seemed to appear out of nowhere. Mine was much, much more benign but the intense interest the controllers had - and their request that I provide a full report - made me suspect this isn’t all that uncommon.

Interesting…when was yours?

About three years ago. Exactly the same scenario. Like you, at the very moment I noticed the other aircraft (Alaska Air 737, I think) I hit the wake. Just a big wing dip, followed by an easy recovery. I was lucky.

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Thanks for writing this and sharing your experience. Do you know if it was unusual attitude maneuver which saved lives? When ground is coming to you, bring back power, level the wings, climb, add power with right rudder.


Here’s the second part of the story:


“ I don’t know how best to convey the dangers of wake turbulence floating in from behind, which is a concept that feels especially scary when you don’t have eyes in the back of your head.”

Incredible story, Monica. What an eye opener and food for thought and prevention of future wake turbulence accidents. You made several points about your humility and even concern for retribution from the FAA but I’m struggling with your possible acceptance of partial blame from the FAA investigator (emphasis mine):

· Lack of situational awareness of the emerging wake turbulence hazard by Air Traffic Control, the heavy flight crew, and the Cirrus pilots;

· The hazard inherent in the proximity of the heavy aircraft plus the fact that the heavy aircraft would be above, overtaking, and adjacent to the small aircraft.

· Lack of corrective action to avoid the emerging wake turbulence hazard by Air Traffic Control, the heavy flight crew, and the Cirrus pilots

On one hand we’ve seen this kind of boilerplate language in almost every accident report we read, sort of like the accident wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t flying your airplane that day, etc. But unless I missed something I don’t understand how you could have been at fault for not looking behind you and “taking corrective action” for another airplane possibly following you to a different runway while at 700 ft on final approach. I sincerely hope you don’t blame yourself.

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I don’t think you missed anything and Monica and her CFI were zero percent at fault, IMHO.

I am not generally a FAA basher, but I do sense that because controllers are FAA employees, there seems to be an element of “protect our own”.

I’ve posted about this Reno wake turbulence fatality before. The tower controller failed to point out the second heavy, the highly experienced CFI reported the one that was called out in sight, and accepted the landing clearance. In the subsequent lawsuit, the judge went along with the faa (incorrectly IMHO) and dismissed the suit.


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This does seem like a case where ADS-B in would be very helpful. Seeing a B777 nearby on my ADS-B In would give me pause. I don’t actually know, does the Perspective show the type easily or do you have to dig to see it?

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I don’t know the answer on how Perspective does that but wouldn’t that be a great feature for foreflight? They could easily generate an alert in flight based on proximity and altitude.

I probably felt less pressure than anyone involved for the simple reason that my job wasn’t at stake and everyone lived.

Regarding blame, my hope was always that people would learn what they could and figure what changes needed to be made. In my report to the FAA, I said that the senior controller who spoke to me on the night of the incident said, “We all saw it, we were pulling for you, let us know what we can do for you and we want to learn as much about it as we can to prevent something similar from happening to anyone else.” Then he gave me his name and private number.

And then later, there was the connection between my doctor friend and the person who ran the flight test program for that jet for Boeing. A real person who was a dear friend to my friend.

Plus I thought my flight instructor was terrific and he saved my life, and he said at that big meeting something to the effect that “If there is anything I could have done better, I take full responsibility.”

So, part of it for me was that people stepped up in ways that were important and I wanted the focus to be on what could be better. I also have close friends who fly regularly into Boeing and I wanted the environment to be safer for them.

I’m not naive. I did think that if a catastrophe happened with all of the witnesses that were likely watching that day (given that it was only the second flight of Boeing’s newest jet), my name would be an asterisk in a story I wouldn’t be around to read.

I think I was always waiting for the official report to come out before I weighed in. But here we are, and I decided to share in a broader way.

I had hoped that a report would talk about the dangers of wake turbulence in a way that helped other pilots, and air traffic control procedures. I think the new approaches into KBFI are important, but I also think it’s important that we tell our tales.